Mrs. Etta Flam (Part II)

How long did they keep you confined to the brick factory?

We were in the brick factory for two or three weeks. Then freight trains which carry cattle on them were brought into town and selections began. There were three selections. My family was taken in the second selection. My older brothers were away in yeshivah. They were taken away and I never heard from them again.

About 70 to 80 people were crammed into each train. We weren’t given any food and there was no bathroom. The children were crying, the babies were screaming. I sat squashed in a little corner. I could not bear to look at my mother and my sister [who was] holding her newborn baby of barely three months.

[On the train,] we were not told our destination. Sometimes they would laugh and say that we were being taken to a place with beautiful gardens where we would enjoy ourselves and have plenty of food.

We traveled under these horrible conditions for three days. People were screaming, “Water, water!” But no one paid any attention. The Germans stood outside, guarding us carefully.

What greeted you as you disembarked from the trains in Auschwitz?

When we arrived in Auschwitz, we came down from the trains, worn out and tired. Mengele was standing there and barking at us, sending people either to the right or to the left. The Polish people working there kept urging everyone to go to the right.

My mother must have realized immediately what was happening. She grabbed the baby from my sister’s hands and sent her to the right. My sister was crying, she did not want to leave her baby but my mother insisted. I was 14 years old and I wanted to go with my mother. My two older sisters who had been sent to the right pulled my arm, urging me to go to the right, too. I had one little sister Shifra, whom I wanted to pull along with me, but suddenly she got loose and darted back to be with my mother.

I watched my mother walking away with the two children and saw my father holding the hand of my little brother; he was such a cute little boy of just eight years old. I saw them walking; walking toward the crematorium. Of course that was the last time that I saw them. The vision is clear, I will never forget it.

When the Polish people told us that they were going to kill all those who were sent to the left, we laughed at them. We were sure they were crazy. They had been there for five years before we arrived. They told us to look at the fire and see how our parents were being burned. We thought they were just being cruel or they were just ignorant, they didn’t know what they were talking about.

Once you were separated, what kind of treatment did you receive?

Those of us who were sent to the right were taken to the bath houses where our hair was shaved off. They took away all our clothing and we were given showers to disinfect. We were given a long dress and wooden shoes. We were given a number, but it was not tattooed onto our hand. We were then taken to a barrack.

There were bunk beds set up in the barracks. We slept six girls to a bed; six on top and six on the bottom. I slept with my two sisters and three other girls. We were not given blankets; we were freezing. On that day we were not given anything to eat.

The following morning the guards woke us early. We were told that Mengele was coming to count us. The weather outside was frigid. We stood outside in a summer dress, no hair to keep our heads warm and no stockings on our feet. We stood in rows of five across for four hours until Mengele completed the counting session. Mengele went past each girl who was standing there. He had a tremendous dog which he used to threaten us.

As Mengele went past, he studied each girl. If there were any blemishes or he deemed her not capable enough, she was thrown off the line and sent to the gas chambers. The girls knew what their fate was, but their emunah was so strong that they would sing Ani Maamin as they were being driven away.

When Mengele was done, we were sent back to the barracks and given a piece of black bread. My sister took the bread and cut it into pieces so that it should last us the whole day. A large bowl of soup was brought in; each person was given one chance to sip from the bowl.

After the so-called breakfast we were taken to work. Our work consisted of carrying bricks from one end of the field to the other — busy work.

We walked to work each day from Auschwitz to Birkenau; about an hour’s walk each way. On the way, in the distance we saw water dripping and we begged them to please allow us to take a drink but they flatly refused. One girl went out of the line and she took a sip of water; she was shot on the spot. We remained in Auschwitz for two months.