Mrs. Perel (“Pola”) Schulkind (Part IV)

As told to Zeesy Silberberg

What are your memories of Auschwitz?

In Auschwitz, we had to get up at 5 or 6 a.m. and stand for hours in perfect rows of five. We were counted and then counted again. Rarely a day would go by without a few girls being shot, hanged or selected to be sent to the gas chambers.

Our meals consisted of a small piece of bread in the morning after roll call and then a bowl of watery soup in the evening.

Every day we would come to roll call only to again see people being selected, sent to the crematoria and replaced like cheap spare parts.

I slept on a board with some bits of straw on it. There were three or four boards attached to the walls, from floor to ceiling. Between five and 10 girls slept on each board.

On December 25, the Nazis did not work, so the morning counting was not held in the center of the camp but rather inside the bunks. That morning, as we stood on line, my cousin Eda Goldstoff fell backward into my arms. People would just drop like that sometimes. One minute they would be talking to you, and the next second they would keel over.

I caught Eda and held her up until the Nazis left. They didn’t realize I was propping her up.

She was obviously close to death. I was desperate to help her. I laid her in her “bed” and ran to a woman I knew in Auschwitz who was a nurse. Clara was an old friend from Bochnia. I asked her if she could get me a bit of jam for my dying cousin. Clara replied that her own sister had just died of starvation. She had had nothing to give her and now she had nothing to give me. I returned to find Eda’s neshamah had left her body. At night the bodies were picked up and tossed into a wheelbarrow as if they were garbage.

What was your “job” in Auschwitz?

My job every day was to finish the bullets that would fill the guns of the Nazis. We would take the caps and fit them onto the bottom half that was filled with gunpowder. If it didn’t fit, we would bring it to the men who would mold it to make it fit.

Once when I came over to the men’s work table, I heard somebody softly call my Polish name.

“Pola!”

I turned around quickly and recognized the cousin of a friend from Cracow. I paused in my work to look at his familiar face.

He asked, “Pola, what do you have to eat?”

I told him how little I was eating.

He had contact with some Poles outside the camp, who would occasionally throw food over the fence to him. He began sharing this with me.

I made friends with a girl named Edja Wasserlauf, from a wealthy family in Cracow. Edja was suffering terribly. Her neck was covered in sores that were oozing pus. She went to the hospital and they told her there was nothing they could do; it was caused by the lack of basic vitamins, the lack of food. I shared with Edja my little stash that I received from my friend’s cousin, and her neck healed.

There were five girls whose job it was to fill the grenades with powder by hand. The girls secretly collected powder and then handed it over to a few daring boys. They were scheming to burn down two crematoria. They planned it carefully down to every detail, the girls who collected the powder and the boys who would set the blast.

Right before the blast was set to take place, word leaked to the Germans.

They made the girls pay in the most horrible scene that I was ever forced to witness and can never forget. We were all made to stand in the center of the camp and watch the hanging of the five girls. A boy who had attempted to dig a hole under the gate of the camp to escape was also publicly hanged.

to be continued


These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.