Six hundred people were taken from Szombathely to the town of Sopron about 30 or 40 miles [away]. I think that Szombathely was a very large town and the gas chambers couldn’t handle so many people at one time, so they transferred some of the occupants to a smaller town. My sister stayed together with the family that she had been working for and was taken to Auschwitz together with them. When they arrived in Auschwitz she was carrying a child for this family. It was assumed that the child was hers and she was sent with the child straight to the gas chambers.
Our group remained in Sopron until Wednesday. Wednesday night we were shoved into cattle cars, about 70 people in each car; the doors were slammed shut and locked. On Thursday morning I found a tiny opening from which I was able to peek out and I noticed my cousin in the next cattle car. I was able to speak with her for a moment. There was an elderly man in the cattle cars with me, who informed me that based on the direction in which the train was headed it seemed to him that we were heading towards Auschwitz. Friday morning we arrived in Kashau. Kashau was a border town. At this point the Hungarian police handed the trains over to the Germans.
The trains kept going. Friday afternoon we saw a sign which read Sanz. The older people on the train begged everyone to daven to be me’orer rachamim. Shabbos morning we passed a sign which read Katowice. The train began backing up and I immediately noticed the barbed wires.
What greeted you upon your arrival to Auschwitz?
As we descended from the train I recognized a girl from my hometown. The German soldier standing guard made sure I understood that I was not to speak to anyone.
We were then led to the area of selections. The boy standing near me asked one of the workers, “Is this the final place? Should we say Shema Yisrael?” To which he replied, “Yes, this is it.”
Mengele was standing there directing people to the right and left. I was, baruch Hashem, sent to the right. We were taken into a large building and instructed to undress and put all our belongings in a pile from which we would later retrieve them. We were sent to the washrooms and from there we were taken to the other end of the building where we were given striped clothing to put on. From here we were marched to our camp, called the Tzigeiner Lager. The camp was packed with people, as the Hungarian transports were arriving very quickly, one after another.
The management kept changing. When I first arrived the camp was under Hungarian Jewish management. I must say they weren’t the finest people and they began giving orders. We were informed that we were in a concentration camp and anyone who didn’t obey orders would be punished severely. We were instructed to hand over all gold or silver still in our possession. When we asked what happened to our parents, we were told to look at the rising smoke coming from the ashes of our parent’s bodies. This was the welcome that we received on the Shabbos of Shivah Asar B’Tammuz.
I found an older cousin from a different town in this camp and we stuck together.
There was a group of German gypsies in the camp. One night we heard yelling and screaming and we found out that they were deporting all the gypsies; they were getting ready to liquidate the Lodz ghetto and they needed the space.
I and some others went towards the gates where the transports were unloading and we yelled to the Yidden who were just arriving to give the small children to the elderly people so that they themselves would be spared and sent to the right, to the work camps, instead of being sent to the left, to death. We did this for quite a number of days.
There was a man who had a pair of tefillin. There were lines and lines of people who had tremendous mesirus nefesh. These people waited for their turn to put on tefillin and say Krias Shema, then quickly removed the tefillin before the Germans could catch them. There was a chassidishe boy who would say to me on Friday night, “Let’s put my piece of bread and your piece of bread together. This way we’ll have lechem mishneh.”
It was Elul and the Lodz ghetto was completely liquidated. They began bringing German and Czechoslovakian Jews from Theresienstat. There was a man we met in this camp, who warned us to try and get away, because on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur they have a sport where the soldiers kill people. I had a friend there — Rabbi Meisels, who is presently the Rav in Seagate; he worked in the kitchen. On Erev Rosh Hashanah he promised to bring home from the kitchen some extra potatoes. He told me to wait for him in the afternoon in the adjoining room. While waiting for him I suddenly heard the ringing of a bell and when I peeked out, I saw Germans pacing back and forth. I knew that I had to escape quickly.
I sneaked around to my building. As soon as I came there I saw the boys divided into two groups with German soldiers swarming around. I didn’t know which line to join. I begged the Ribbono shel Olam to help me make the right decision as I quickly jumped into one of the lines. Immediately the other group was led away by guards and locked into a building. On the second night of Rosh Hashanah they were all taken to their deaths.
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.