As told to Mrs. Chaya Feigy Grossman
Please describe the Death March.
On this walk, unbeknownst to us, we were going to Bergen-Belsen. We marched for six weeks. We were fifteen hundred girls. The first night we slept in the snow. They had nowhere else to put us. We lost a lot of girls on the road. When we passed a farm, the Germans put us into the horses’ stables to sleep for a short time. Some of the kinder farmers would boil some potatoes for us.
I became a crook. I would check out what the pigs and chickens were given to eat and immediately stole whatever food they had. We had no showers, we had no water.
Bergen-Belsen was no picnic. Whoever had survived was shriveled and worn out. When we arrived we were placed in barracks. There were no beds or chairs. Everyone sat on the floor. My sister and I were lucky — we had a wall to lean on. There was practically no food. A whole day we waited for the two or three ounces of food that we might be given. We never knew if and when it was actually going to be distributed. People were dying in masses. Even those of us who survived did not look human. One day we found out that they had poisoned the bread and poisoned the water. They wanted to kill us all at once.
When did you begin experiencing liberation?
In April of 1945 we were actually liberated. It was Pesach, but it didn’t make any difference to us, because we had no food to begin with, let alone chametz. We were liberated by the English. They created hospitals in their army bases, but they didn’t have any real medical equipment. I had a terrible burn on my hand but there was no one to care for it, although they tried. They gave me a sponge bath, disinfected me, wrapped me in a blanket, and transported me to one of their make-shift hospitals.
We were given very little food because they were scared that we would get sick from it. All we got was a little bit of oatmeal.
And then the dreaded happened: I contracted typhus. We were many girls in one room, but we were too sick to help each other. I missed my mother and my sisters terribly. I had miserable headaches. I couldn’t even get a compress because the water was contaminated.
Finally, after all these weeks of lying in the bed covered only by a towel, we were each given a pair of pajamas. Once I had something to put on, I was able to get off the bed and sit outside a little, to alleviate my terrible headaches.
The way it turned out, someone informed me that my sister was in a hospital right near me. A woman who was going to that building was going to tell her that I was lying in a bed close by. When my sister came, we did not recognize each other at all, since we both looked so disfigured. We were transported to a home close by with six other girls and we were going to be transported to Hungary. I wanted to go home.
We went on a train that had no seats, no windows and no doors, but it was packed! It took about a week of traveling before we arrived in Budapest. When we got there we found a big school building that had been turned into a D.P. camp. There were mattresses on the floor and those were what we slept on.
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.