When did you begin feeling the pressures of war?
My brothers were taken away to the Munkatabor (labor camps). My oldest brother, Moshe Hersh, was married and lived with us in the town of Chust. He left his wife and four sons behind when he was taken away to the labor camp. My father, who was 64 years old, was considered too old to be taken for labor.
My oldest sister was married with one child and lived in Munkacs. Her husband passed away and three weeks later her baby daughter died too. She was left alone. My father insisted that she come back home to Chust and live with us.
Did you spend time in a ghetto?
In 1944, the Hungarians sent a representative to the town to check out the situation, but we didn’t think much of this episode. On a Motzoei Shabbos, soldiers arrived and informed us that on Sunday morning we should be ready and awaiting deportation. We could never have imagined what was yet to come.
Sunday morning, Hungarian soldiers arrived and chased us to the large shul in our town. We remained locked inside the shul for a few days before we were lined up and transported to the ghetto.
We were quite lucky, for our house was situated within the ghetto walls. We weren’t given any food; we survived on whatever we had in our house. Three or four families were assigned to each house. My aunt and her family, along with others, moved in with us. There was barely enough floor space to sleep on. We spent our day cleaning the ghetto.
We remained in the ghetto for six weeks, before the ghetto was liquidated. Then we were stuffed into cattle wagons. The wagons were filled beyond their capacity. My parents and my two sisters, along with my sister-in-law and her four boys, were all together with me. We traveled for three days and nights. We weren’t even given water to drink. There were children and babies crying and screaming. The situation was unbearable. People had no strength left to talk.
What greeted you upon your arrival in Auschwitz?
When the train stopped, we couldn’t even stand up; we were so weak and stiff. Polish prisoners in striped clothing came up to us and told us to give the children over to the elderly people. We didn’t understand what they were talking about but we listened to what we were told to do. There was no time to ask questions.
There were no steps; we had to jump down from the wagon. This wasn’t a pretty scene for my mother, who was not young. We parted from my mother and the children, thinking we were going to see them later after we were taken to work.
There were four of us and then one younger girl joined our group. We were told to undress and they shaved off all the hair from our body. We were then sent to shower and given a rag to wear as clothing. As we were no longer recognizable, we were so scared of losing each other. We began screaming: Mali! Reizy! Sura! Hennya! It was frightening!
We were then led to a block where the barracks were located, hungry and tired. We were assigned to a bed with three levels. Twelve girls slept on each level; six in one direction and six in the other. When one girl wanted to turn, all six girls had to get up, because there simply wasn’t enough room. Every girl had to lie on her side or there wouldn’t have been enough space for six girls. Slovakian Jewish girls were the Blockaltester. They had been taken four or five years before us.
We were given a slice of bread which was barely edible, but we soon realized that we had better eat it because this was to be our food for the next while.
We were each assigned a number. My number, which is tattooed on my arm, is A12873.
We remained in Auschwitz for six months before being transferred to a different work camp in Leipzig, Germany. There, the living conditions were better. Although the boards which were considered beds were on three levels, only one girl slept on each level. We did not have to share it with anyone. There was an official dining room, where we stood in line for food. There were tables and chairs and we were each given a plate and a spoon.
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.