We were taken to Zaltsveidel where we worked in a factory, manufacturing ammunition. Each day we walked to and from work; it was a long strenuous walk. For one week we worked the day shift and the following week we worked the night shift, so that our bodies would not get used to it. I worked in the office. My job was to watch that no mistakes were made on the manufacturing machines. As much as possible we helped each other and we tried to sabotage. I watched my sister carefully to make sure that she wouldn’t fall over onto the machine from exhaustion. My second sister worked in the kitchen. On Shabbos they would cook for the soldiers. She would try to bring home some warm food for me. I put this food away because I didn’t want to eat food that was cooked on Shabbos. She tried to help as many people as she could.
During the night shift we were very, very tired and we would try to go down to the bathrooms for a rest. The Germans constantly came down to check. Anyone who was caught there was beaten. One time I went down; this time I truly needed to use the bathroom. Just at that moment an SS came down and I got my beating. When I came up I was so red and terribly bothered because I was innocent.
When we arrived back from work we were given a black coffee and then we went to sleep. We were not allowed to sleep for too long. We were sent to clean the yard and then to clean the barracks and the bathrooms.
There was one German officer who was very decent. Once the people in the camps decided to do something special for her to show their appreciation. From bread and margarine they created a cake. One girl who was handy took the corner of her blanket and created a stuffed animal. When the officer saw what we had done for her she was overcome with emotion.
What were the sleeping and eating conditions?
We had bunk beds three stories high without a mattress, just a plank of wood. There were 12 girls to each bed with six sleeping in each direction. There was one blanket to cover us all. Whoever slept on the end never had enough blanket to keep her warm. They were always complaining.
Food was brought to us in an oversized pot. We were not given any sort of plate or bowl. We drank directly from the pot. Everyone scrutinized the person whose turn it was to drink, making sure that no one was taking more than her allotted share. Sundays were considered special as we were given farina to eat. On these days we would sing quietly to ourselves. We tried to keep our spirits upbeat. Once a week they took us to shower and disinfect our clothing.
We remained in Zaltsveidel for one year.
Did you know when it was Shabbos or Yom Tov?
Yes, we knew. There was an older woman in Zaltsveidel who had a siddur. She kept track of the calendar for us. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we cried bitterly. When I went to work on Shabbos I never put on the lights or the machinery myself. We washed before we ate bread and we bentched when we were finished.
It was Yom Kippur and although we had to go out to work, nobody ate anything. They brought us soup but no one touched it. There was one woman in the camp who was a Polish prisoner and she wanted some soup, but they wouldn’t give her. She was told that when everyone gets food at night she would get too.
Can you tell us about liberation?
In the town where we were stationed there were many non-Jewish prisoners. They informed us that the war was almost over and we should be ready even in the middle of the night for liberation. In the distance we heard fighting and shooting and we knew liberation was close by. One day the Germans suddenly disappeared.
We were liberated in Zaltsveidel in May of 1945 by the English and taken to a DP camp. Here they gave us money and told us to go to the neighboring German homes which were now deserted and take whatever we wanted.
During liberation some of the Germans pleaded with us to vouch for them by telling the English that they were innocent. They were very scared.
We were in a D.P. camp for many months.
Did you have any relatives who survived the war?
Yes, one brother who was sent to Munkatabor and one brother who was in hiding in Romania survived. When they came home there was no one home so they went to a town in Romania where they were able to do business. They settled there.
I went to Czechoslovakia with my sister. After the war my sister found her husband and we came to the United States.
Did you ever return to your hometown?
I never returned. I felt that I wanted to remember my hometown the way I left it when times were good. Over the years I’ve heard that they made a park in the area where our home was situated.
What message can you impart to the next generation?
Never give up. Always ask Hashem for help. We saw unbelievable nissim, including the fact that I came home and was able to lead a normal life and raise a beautiful generation.