Mr. Michael Buchinger (Part III)

On Erev Yom Kippur there was a repeat performance. There was a building nearby with an opening in the window. I noticed raw potatoes sitting on the window sill. I stuck my hand through the opening and began removing the potatoes, one by one. I then noticed someone preparing a fire and I approached him and asked him permission to use his fire in exchange for some potatoes. It was Erev Yom Kippur and I was determined to do anything in my power to ensure my ability to fast.

Suddenly word spread that officers were approaching and everyone had to clear the area. All the boys were assigned to one area and again selections were made. The German officer held a wooden stick; anyone whose head did not reach the stick was sent to the left and the rest were sent to the right.

Naturally I was not tall enough and I was sent to the left. The boys in my group began crying; they were terribly frightened. Suddenly, I noticed boys running to the line on the right and I decided to follow. The officer had a big dog and when the dog noticed me running he jumped on me and then continued on to the next boy who was also trying his luck to escape. About 40 boys successfully ran over to the right side.

We were told to stand five in a row. I grabbed a rock and stood up on it to make myself look taller. A kapo came by and selected the boys that were standing on the four sides of me; bchasdei Hashem I was not chosen. The boys who were selected were taken on Motzoei Yom Kippur to the gas chambers.

I knew that I must somehow escape. On Chol Hamoed Sukkos I saw that they were preparing a big transport to leave. My cousin and I quickly jumped onto the wagons. Suddenly Mengele appeared. He had never come to the camp before. He looked around and singled me out. He pulled out a rubber stamp from his pocket, stamped my hand and immediately sent me back to the camp.

I went back to the building, where I began to cry. One of the boys there showed me that the stamp could easily be rubbed off. Suddenly I saw that the whole transport was headed towards the clothing storage room and they were each being given a coat for the winter. I recognized the man who was distributing the coats; when he heard my name he gave me a coat too. Now I looked like the rest of them so I rejoined them on the transport.

On Chol Hamoed we left the gates of the camp. I knew that I was not free, yet I still had a feeling of relief. We walked toward the train station. The trains were not the typical type used for transports. Each car held 30 or 40 people, with special rooms in the front designed nicely for the guards. We were given bread with salami and margarine. We traveled for two days and two nights. In the middle of the night we were all awakened and ordered off the train. We began walking until we saw lights coming from the camp of Kaufering —a part of Dachau. There were four parts and we were taken to Kaufering #4.

The management was made up of a large group of Hungarian Jews. In the morning I found the building where the kitchen was located. I went in and found a large pot of potatoes. I began stuffing my pockets when I noticed a German coming toward me. I turned around and continued walking, just waiting to hear the gunshot, but he didn’t say a word. When I arrived home I cooked the potatoes over a fire that someone else had made and this is how I enjoyed Simchas Torah.

The following day we were called to assemble. We were assigned to our jobs. Each day we went to work by train. I worked at a construction site with thousands of other people. There were Jews arriving from all over.

One night, upon our arrival home, one man was missing. The next day when we arrived at work and the Germans recounted, they found the correct number. It was obvious that this man had stayed in the fields all night. They made us all bend over and they felt each man’s pants to see which man’s pants were wet from sitting out in the field.

One Friday afternoon, while at work, I needed to use the bathroom. I turned to my master and told him. There was a big building in that vicinity that was used when there were heavy rains. It was the end of November and quite chilly already. I went inside the building to use the bathroom and once I was there already, I decided to stay a bit and warm up. The Jewish man who was in charge did not want me to hang around there, but I was persistent and he gave in. It was Friday night and I began to say Lechu Neranenah. I knew that he would not allow me to remain there much longer, so I found a bench in a corner and I crawled beneath it and hid. In the meantime I fell asleep.

Suddenly I awoke, and from a distance I heard the words of Lecha Dodi being sung. I thought I must be dreaming.It was the night shift from the Kovno ghetto.I quickly got up and realized that I probably missed my train to work. The man in charge warned me to go tell the Germans, for if I were caught the punishment would be worse.

As I approached the meeting spot I saw the train beginning to pull out. I hailed it to stop. A German officer came off with his gun drawn and questioned me.He yelled at me to get on. I was sure he was going to shoot me, but he didn’t.


 

These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.