As told to Mrs. Chaya Feigy Grossman
Can you describe ghetto life?
After Pesach we were taken to the ghettos. We were in the ghetto for five weeks, until Shavuos. We were allowed to go home at certain times to get clothing and food.
Some people went out to work. I worked in a factory that made woven gloves. My husband worked as a tailor.
The ghettos were a torture. As soon as we arrived there, they shaved off the beard and peyos of my father and brother. We lived 15 families to a house. We slept on the floors, but at least we were together.
Where were you taken when you left the ghettos?
On Erev Shavuos we were ordered out of the ghettos. We marched to the train station and from there, we were transported by cattle car to Auschwitz.
We traveled for three days. We weren’t given food. We ate whatever leftovers we were able to carry with us.
When we arrived in Auschwitz, they opened the wagons and we were let out. The old people were sent in one direction and the young people were sent in the other. If someone had a young child, the child went along with the mother.
My older sister had said that the girls would take care of my mother, and my brother should take care of my father. When my father was sent to the gas chambers, my brother wouldn’t let him go alone, and so they were killed together.
We had to leave all our belongings right there, by the trains.
When we arrived we were ordered to undress, and they shaved our heads. We were then told to shower and we were each given a dress; I was given a very long dress. I was so ashamed of the way I looked. I imagined how I would feel if my fiancée saw me like this … so pathetic. What would he think of me? So I ripped off the bottom part of my long dress and I put the extra material on my head like a kerchief. But then, one of the people in charge came by and saw what I had done, and I was whipped for my actions.
I once asked one of the girls in charge, “When will I see my parents and the rest of my family?” She answered: “What do you think that smoke is? Do you think they are baking bread? No! They are burning people!”
When were you separated from your family?
My sisters and I were split up. Three sisters were sent to a different camp. Once, there was no water in the section of Birkenau where we were working. The rule was that we had to take a shower with freezing cold water. Since there was no water, we were transferred to Auschwitz to take showers. There we found our other three sisters. We kissed and hugged each other. When the S.S. saw us together, they sent the dogs to attack us, and the dogs almost killed us. This was the last time I saw my sisters during the war.
What were Shabbos and Yom Tov like?
We knew when it was Shabbos and Yom Tov. On Pesach we were very careful. We didn’t eat the bread. Instead we took the bread and traded it for shoes, sweaters and jackets, since it was very cold. Sometimes we were able to trade it for some soup. We knew when it was Yom Kippur and we didn’t eat anything. Actually, it was easy to fast, because we were so used to fasting.
To be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.