Mrs. Etya Kleinman (Part III)

The next day we were transferred to another barrack, C-19. The Blockalteste was a Polish woman who was in the camps for four or five years already; she was nice but very tough.

The pair of shoes that I had was made of foam and a nail went into my heel. My foot got infected and it was getting progressively worse. My heel was full of pus and I couldn’t get off the bed. This Blockalteste came over to me and advised me that if I didn’t get up the SS will have me taken away. With no other choice they lifted me up and I went out to tzel appell at 4 a.m.

Can you describe the living conditions?

The beds had three levels. On each level slept 12 girls; six on one side and six on the other side. There was only one blanket to share. Those who slept in the middle were the luckiest because they were always covered.

My sister saved the meager slice of bread she was given each day for three days. She traded it with a soldier for his canteen of water. There were a few middle-aged women with us who were so weak they could barely stand up. She held onto the water and in the mornings and evenings she would give them each a little water.

The nights were very cold, but the daytime temperature was very, very hot; our skin was peeling from the sun. I said to my sister, “Toby, give me some water. I feel like I will faint.” She answered me, “No, you didn’t faint yet.” This is how we measured who was worthy of water and who could still hold out.

The tzaros continued. At one point we felt that being alone would have been better because to watch each other was very, very hard. We watched a girl who worked in the kitchen take some excess potato peels and try to throw them over the barbed wire that surrounded the camp, into the men’s camp. An SS guard was watching and he made this young girl watch as he punished her mother for the daughter’s misdeeds.

There was a woman who was expecting, but her condition went unnoticed. She gave birth surrounded by the Blockalteste on one side and the SS on the other side. The SS wrapped the baby in paper and took it away. The woman was instructed to get up for tzel appell immediately after. Watching these people suffer was terrible.

Body lice began to spread throughout the camp. Some got very sick from the lice, others contracted hepatitis. My job was to carry heavy, very large pails of oil to smear the bodies of those who were covered in boils.

Can you describe the process of tzel appell and selections?

We stood five in a row waiting to be counted. We started out with hundreds but when Mengele began making his selections, the group became smaller and smaller.

My sister was heavier than I and she still had flesh on her body. She was always selected to work. I, who was much thinner, was sent to the left — to the crematorium. Those who were selected to work were taken immediately out of the gate. The rest of us had to stand and wait. I would just walk away, find my sister, and somehow I was able to remain with her.

On October 8, 1944, 500 girls were taken to the showers. We were told we had to get ready to relocate to another camp. We didn’t believe that it was a real shower; we were sure we were going to be gassed.

We were sent to the “B” lager. We had no idea for how long this was going to be. We were there for two weeks and finally Mengele showed up. Again we had to strip off our clothing. From the 500 girls, only three were selected; I was one of them. They put a big “S” on me, which stood for “shvach” (weak). My sister motioned to me to pinch my cheeks and make them red, to give me a healthier look. Then a miracle happened. Mengele came back and looked us over again. He then pushed us back into the line of the 500 girls.