Mrs. Esther Klien – Part II

You were 14 years old when you arrived in Auschwitz. What happened to you there?

We were told to leave our packages and get off the train. Then came the selections. I was the only one of my family sent to the right.  I noticed my mother and the rest of my siblings on the other side and I tried to go over to them, but Mengele sent me right back. I tried again, but my mother saw what was happening and she motioned to me to go back to the right side. I had taken along with me some cheese that I had held in my hand for three whole days; I quickly pressed it into my mother’s hand, hoping that it would keep her from starving. I can still see her small hand waving at me.

I didn’t have any relatives with me nor did I know many people. I asked the block superintendent when I would be able to see my mother and my siblings. She pointed up to the smoke and said, “Your family is there.” I thought to myself that didn’t make any sense — she didn’t know what she was talking about. How could it be? I was sure it was not true.

We were taken to the washrooms to be disinfected. They shaved our hair and we were given one dress. We were told to take shoes; if you found a pair that fit you were happy, if not you had to make do with one that didn’t fit. I had a number tattooed to my arm.  My number is 13457.

We slept on very narrow bunk beds three stories high. Twelve girls slept on each level. Each morning, we were called out for tzel apel, after which we were given to eat. We were given one large bowl without any spoons.  We passed around the bowl for everyone to take a sip. At first I couldn’t do it, but very quickly I learned to tolerate it.

Very soon after we settled into our blocks there were selections.  They needed people for work. I was selected in December and taken to Bergen Belsen.  Compared to the conditions I had endured until then, Bergen Belsen was like a hotel. Each girl received a coat, shoes, a towel, a blanket and a cup. In the morning, we were given coffee to drink; instead, I used it for negel vasser.

Another girl and I took our towels, cut them in two and made them into socks. During tzel apel the S.S. guard noticed what we had done and we were selected out of the group and sent to the punishment block. There, we were made to uproot trees from the ground during the snow and frost. It was murderous work.

Then, there was a selection again. I was chosen for a group sent to Magdeburg, where bombs were made. My job was to separate the good bombs from the rest.

I was in Magdeburg for about four months. The work and the living conditions were half decent compared to what we were used to. We even had hot water with which to wash. We worked a 12-hour shift; a night shift and a day shift, alternating by week.

Toward the end of the war, the Nazis pretended that they were trying to save us from the invading armies. They took us out for a walk across a bridge, intending to blow up the bridge and us with it, but that didn’t work. Then one day, when we arrived back at camp after work, it was deserted of S.S. guards. Men from Buchenwald came and told us we were free. But suddenly an S.S. officer and guards arrived and lined us up in a straight line. He stood in front of us with his pistol drawn. We were still, because we never imagined that we would come out of the war alive. But then the guards dropped their guns and fled. The next day an S.S. commander arrived and announced, You are free, you cursed Jews.

That was our liberation. We went up to the S.S. kitchen and took the hot food that was being cooked for the guards, since all the guards had fled.

Once you were liberated, where did you go?

We were liberated by the Russians, but they were after us and it was very hard. We left the camp and came to a town near Magdeburg. I knew that I had an aunt who was still in Leordina and so I decided to return home to Romania. It took about two weeks and I arrived home in the end of June.

A neighbor had been able to save a box containing a becher and some of my mother’s tichelach. She gave them to me and I still have this becher today.

One day, a man told me that my father was in Klausenburg. He had told my father that I was home. “But I have to tell you” the man said, “that your father is crazy. Your father still thinks there is a G-d, and he keeps Shabbos. He will arrive here a day later than expected to see you, because he wouldn’t travel on Shabbos.”  I was so happy to hear this. My father arrived that Tuesday. From the labor camps, he had been sent to Buchenwald, where they starved him almost to death. He was liberated by the English.

My father was still a young man of 46 years old and I wanted him to remarry.  I got married also and I went with my husband back to Bergen Belsen to find his sister.  When we got there, she, too, had married.

I was even zocheh to have my father at my oldest son’s wedding.


 

These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.