Mrs. Henchie Stark (Part III)

You mentioned you clearly saw the Yad Hashem in everything. Would you share some examples?

One night, about fifteen of us hid in the haystacks. In the morning, the soldiers searched, as usual, but did not find us. After they left, however, one soldier came back and discovered us. He said, “I don’t understand how you weren’t found.” We all answered at once, without hesitation, “It’s because we have a G-d!”

His reaction was, “Oh, yes? Let’s see what your G-d can do for you.” He put us on a wagon to take us back to the others, but by nighttime he still hadn’t found them, so he left us on a farm; and we were on our own.

Did you know when it was Shabbos and Yom Tov? What did you do about kashrus?

We couldn’t keep track of Shabbos and Yom Tov at all. However, before we were separated, my father said to us, “Don’t worry about kashrus and eat what you have to. The only thing I ask of you is that, if you survive, please — ich vill nur a Yiddishe dor. Children, you are allowed to eat treif, just please stay frum.” My sister and I tried very hard to keep this in mind, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to eat treif. In Auschwitz, the soup was made with horse meat. We didn’t eat it. We tried to eat only the bread.

Everyday we got a small glass of water. Since we were frum girls, we kept some of it to wash negel vasser.

We knew Pesach was in April. I didn’t want to eat chametz on Pesach, so I didn’t eat any bread. Instead, I collected potato peels and that’s what I ate.

Would you describe the period right before the liberation?

We were deep in Germany and the Russians were approaching. We had to avoid them, too, so as not to be captured. One night, we were outside, alone in the dark, and I said to my sister, “I feel like someone is attacking us.” I turned and saw a Russian soldier about to pounce on me. I don’t know where I got the courage, but I poked my fingers into his eyes. We ran. He chased us, screaming, “I’ll get you!” But because I had hurt his eyes, he couldn’t see and we escaped.

Suddenly, another man came up to us and asked, “Are you Jewish?” He was a Jewish soldier and promised to protect us. When it was time for him to leave, he found a non-Jewish lady and told her to hide us from the Russians. He warned her that if anything happened to us, he would shoot her. The woman was afraid and hid us upstairs in a bedroom. When soldiers came to look for us, she insisted that we weren’t there. But we had heard the soldiers coming and we had an idea that was obviously hashgachah directed by the Ribbono shel Olam. We opened a window, so it would seem as if we had jumped out, then we hid under a bed. The plan worked: They came upstairs, saw the open window and left.

After the liberation, where did you go?

We went back to Satmar. My sister’s husband survived the war as well and came looking for her there. We found nothing but four walls. I sat down and cried. I had cousins in Satmar who had false non-Jewish identification papers; they were never taken away. We stayed a short time with them, then the Joint gave us money and we traveled to Prague.

What would you tell children today?

Children — appreciate your parents, your family. We were so young and we had no more parents or siblings. Everyone suffered. I would tell children to thank the Eibershter for all the good that we have.

These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.