As told to Mrs. Chaya Feigy Grossman
Please describe some of the horrors of Auschwitz.
When we first arrived in Auschwitz they shaved our hair. We were each given a number. My number was 13,770. They promised us over and over again that we would see our families. Then we were told to undress and take showers. Each person was given a dress. Some were long and some were short, others were too wide or too narrow. They took us to the barracks and we were assigned beds. Sixteen girls to a bed, eight girls sleeping in each direction.
I was very pale. My sister tried to pinch my cheeks all the time to bring some color to my face. Whoever looked sickly was pulled off the line. Whoever looked strong enough to work was allowed to live.
Twice a day we had to go to the appel platz, where they counted us. Every morning we saw a lot of people outside the barracks, dead. Then they brought carriages and threw the dead bodies inside. The carriages were not being pulled by horses but rather by people. They took the bodies to the crematorium and burned them.
Once or twice a week, we were taken to the showers. The showers were always freezing cold. Then we were forced to run naked to the next area to get a dress. We had no underwear and of course, no coats.
What kind of food were you given to eat?
Twice a day they gave us something called “soup.” There were some meat pieces in there as well. It must have been horse meat. Everyone stuck their hands in and took whatever they could get. Somehow, we survived.
While I was working in the factory, there was a man who must have been the watchman at the door. Once a week he used to come inside the factory and throw down a slice or two of bread to me. He would say, “Dora, Dora, take it!” He was very careful that nobody should see him doing this or we would both be punished. I would share the bread with my sisters.
This watchman would take me to clean the area where the SS ate their meals. When the guards left, I would pick up all the food from the floor and take it back to the barracks, to share with my sisters. Sometimes my sisters would also sneak in there, to get food.
Many times we tried to preserve our pieces of bread. We would divide one piece and save the rest. We saved it and saved it and when we were ready to eat the bread, we discovered that it had been stolen.
My fiancée was a tailor in a different section in Auschwitz. He got a piece of bread twice a day that was divided into 12 parts, to be shared amongst 12 people. Twice a day they got some kind of cereal soup as well. My fiancée survived too.
What type of work were you forced to do?
On Rosh Hashanah we were taken to other bunkers in Gerlitz. Then we were sent to work at an airplane factory. We went every morning, whether it was snowing or cold. Our shoes were made of hard wood. My sister worked at a machine. We worked there until after Pesach. Since my fiancée was a tailor, he was taken to the SS camp along with two other tailors, to make uniforms.
Can you describe the death march and the period right before liberation?
When the Nazis heard that the Russians were coming, they began marching us further into Germany. The snow was very heavy. We had to walk 20 kilometers. Our shoes were made of wood and we had no coats. We were extremely weak. People died on the way. The German guides who walked with us wore hats and coats and were dressed just right.
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.