On the following day, those who were left behind were chased out of the barrack. We had no choice but to leave. We walked and walked and walked, until we found a train. We boarded the train which was going very slowly. We traveled for a day, when finally the train stopped at a station called Tzella. On top of the station were soldiers with anti-aircraft guns. Any airplane which passed overhead was shot down.
We remained there quite a long time. One day we saw a plane shot down; there were dead soldiers all over the place. The people on our train began jumping out but I had no energy to jump out along with them. I said to my father, “You go and I’ll find you later.” Suddenly a thick piece of metal hit the train and I quickly jumped off. There was a large grassy area where I began running. Next to me ran a Russian, in front of us there was a German guard running, carrying bread under her arm. The Russian caught up to the guard and hit her over the head with a metal club. She fell down and died. He grabbed one loaf and I grabbed another loaf. I was starving; I hadn’t eaten in days. I went around the area until I found my father. He could barely swallow the bread that I gave him.
It was a very large area with many people wandering around. We thought we were free, but a half hour later we were surrounded by young German boys holding long guns, directing us to the left. Anyone who failed to move when they were told to was automatically shot. Under strict orders we began walking until we came to a highway. There we were lined up with guards on both sides of us and we began to march. We passed town after town. Although the guards didn’t allow us to get water, the people of the town didn’t pay any attention to them. They saw we were prisoners and they gave us water to drink. Once our mouths weren’t so dry we were able to eat a slice of bread.
We walked about an hour and a half before arriving at an area with a big tower. The sign read Bergen-Belsen — one of the worst camps. Upon entering the camp we saw dead bodies lining the grounds. Bergen-Belsen was known as an extermination camp.
Can you tell us about the conditions in Bergen-Belsen?
My father sat down and began to contemplate what was going to happen there. In our group were five very religious Hungarian Jews. They had been together with us through Auschwitz and Buchenwald. They, too, sat down on the floor and began to cry.
There was no food at all to be gotten. I spotted a group of Danish Jews who had been rounded up to be shipped back to Denmark. I requested to go along with them but I didn’t have any identification papers.
I found red beets and promptly filled my pockets with them to bring back to my father. Returning to him wasn’t so easy. I had to climb over wires. Suddenly a large beet fell out of my pocket and a man jumped up, demanding that I give him some of the beets that I had. For a couple of days we had something to eat and we recharged a little of our energy. About a half year later I met this man in Sweden and I introduced myself. He apologized profusely for having fought with me about some beets.
Hundreds were dying of typhus. One day I said to my father, “Let’s take a walk at the edge of the camp where there aren’t dead bodies.” We actually had nothing else to do besides drag out the dead bodies. As we were walking, we heard two people speaking Hungarian. They were a doctor and an engineer who originated from Budapest. I barely said good morning to one, and he offered his opinion: “From this place no one is going to leave alive.” He refused to accept my view that tomorrow we could be free. I tried to encourage him to have some hope. We continued on our walk. On the way back, as I passed the rock they had been sitting on, I found these two men sprawled out — they were no longer alive. They had no faith to hold on to.
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.