After the able-bodied girls were selected, we were marched to a large open area to have our heads shaved and our arms tattooed with numbers. My number was A6889. We were given showers and a striped prison uniform and selected for work. When I asked, “When am I going to meet mommy?” I was told, “Do you see the smoke from the chimney? That is where she is.” Need I say more?
Then we were selected for work. I was one of the many girls assigned to work at the Brezsinka railroad area, where all the luggage of the Jews arriving daily was piled up — valises, bundles, packages and personal belongings, which were all confiscated from the Jews and were now the property of the Germans.
We were ordered to separate the clothes, shoes, pocketbooks, silver, jewelry, etc., into bins and baskets. We tore open garments, coats, suits and jackets to look for valuables. With tears in my eyes, I did as I was told. I was hoping to find my mother’s jewelry but it was like looking for a needle in a haystack.
At 5 a.m. the roll call began. We were chased out of the barracks each morning and lined up to be accounted for. At this point, some of us who could no longer take the misery of Auschwitz went to the high electrical wires (which the Gestapo had put up to keep us from escaping) and were electrocuted.
One morning, while I was saying Modeh Ani, an S.S. guard noticed and demanded to know what I was mumbling. (He suspected that I was cursing.) The girl standing next to me quickly answered for me. She said to the S.S., “She’s reciting a poem.”
Did you walk on the Death March?
On January 18, 1945, I and my two sisters, Susie (Charny) and Edith (Esther Devori), together with thousands of others, were taken on the Death March leaving Auschwitz. All we owned was a cotton dress, a blanket and wooden clogs. Anyone who sat down on the wet ground to rest was shot dead by the S.S. guard. The roads and ditches were full of dead bodies of young people who could not survive the march.
Those of us who made it through the entire Death March finally arrived, half-dead, to Ravensbrück. We arrived late at night. There were dead bodies strewn all around. I cannot describe what I saw and felt; it was above and beyond despair.
As the Allied army was advancing, the Gestapo still had time to transport us to one more camp. Barely alive and starving, late one night I snuck out of the barrack in search of some discarded potato peels or anything I could find in the garbage can of the officer’s kitchen, to ease my hunger. Suddenly an S.S. soldier caught me and began screaming, “Verfluchte Juden, cursed Jews” and he beat my skinny, frail body mercilessly. I don’t know how long I lay there in pain and agony until I managed to crawl on my hands and feet back to the barracks.
Can you tell us about liberation?
On May 2, 1945, our camp was finally liberated. We looked like frightened human skeletons. After regaining some strength and health, we began searching for surviving family members. We wandered through Poland, Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. We heard that one brother was alive and searching for us.
Arriving at our town, we found five gentile families living in our house. They were not happy to see us return. We heard stories of survivors who returned to their own homes only to be killed by the gentiles who had occupied them and now feared the Jews would reclaim their property. Still frightened from our recent Holocaust experience, we did not even enter our house. Instead, we left in a hurry for Budapest. My newly married brother managed to find us and his wife in Budapest.
What message can you impart to future generations?
It is very painful to speak, write and relive all these cruel, inhumane experiences, but I think it is necessary and important, as fewer and fewer of us Holocaust survivors are still alive.
Where was the pope? Where was the president of the United States? Where were all the intellectual people of the world, who allowed such atrocities to take place?
We daven daily to Hashem that He should keep us safe and healthy. We hope our tefillos will be accepted by Hashem and He will grant us our pleas.
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.