Mrs. Etya Kleinman (Part IV)

After this selection, where were you taken?

The group of 500 girls was taken to the Sudetenland on the side of Germany. Here there were bunk beds with two levels, 22 girls in a room. There was a group of five sisters. One night we woke up to hear screaming. The youngest sister stole a piece of bread from the oldest sister and said to her, “You lived already, now I want to live!”

It was winter time; we didn’t have adequate shoes anymore. We worked 12 hours a day in the factory, making planes for the war. My sister and I were in two different shifts. When I worked during the day she worked at night. We became weaker and weaker and weaker. We received just one slice of bread in the morning before we went to work. We walked a half hour each way to work.

One day while at work I got a large cut on my finger from the machinery. One of the guards took some paper and wrapped up the finger. He escorted me back to the barrack but the next morning I was back at work. Baruch Hashem, it healed without getting infected.

Every time there was a delivery of food to the camp my sister managed to get food and bury it in the earth to be taken out at night. Pesach came and my sister wouldn’t eat bread. She took out potato peels that she had buried in the earth. I did it for a couple of days and then I had to give up. She managed to pull through the whole Pesach.

There were 500 women on one side of the camp and 500 men on the other. We were separated by barbed wire. The little bit of food we had, we threw over to the men’s side because they were dying off; they were much weaker than the women. In return, the men threw over small scraps of paper with the words of the Haggadah written on them.

At the end of April, many new people were brought into our camp. On May 7, a guard approached us and he informed us that there were mines underground in the exact spot where our bunkers were standing. He urged us to run out of the camp and save our lives, for the mines were set to explode any second. He begged us to testify for him to the liberators that he helped us. We ran out of the camp to the nearby meadows.

Can you tell us about liberation?

On May 8, 1945, the Russians arrived and gave us a little bit of bread. The Germans fled, leaving empty houses. We entered these houses and took whatever was available. We changed our clothing for they were full of lice.

We remained there a few days when my sister contracted typhus. The bridges had all been bombed so there were no trains running. We requested of the Russians that they give us a horse and wagon to get to the train station. My sister lay in the wagon, hardly living. When we arrived, we found papers with names of people who had survived. We added our names to these papers as well. Then we boarded the train headed to Czechoslovakia.

Two young men dressed in Czech uniforms arrived. They said they had come from Israel to help people. They took us to a hotel in the mountains of Switzerland. We remained in the hotel for two weeks; we were given food and clothing. My sister was taken to the hospital. I had to leave her there for a few weeks to recuperate. Together with the other girls from my town, we decided to return to Kerestir and see what was doing there.

A few months prior to liberation I told my sister Toby that I had a dream. In the dream, we went home and the only things left in the house were the baking pans from challos and sefarim that my father had written — that were ready for distribution — hidden in the attic.

to be continued

These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.