My father was sent with the old, sick and disabled, who were taken off the line and put into a separate group, because he had a cast on his foot. My father asked the S.S. to allow him the chance to say good-bye to his children. They allowed him this opportunity. They must have realized that he was someone special. My younger brothers were sent to the crematoria.
Four sisters from my town were standing together. When they saw me they couldn’t imagine what a young girl was doing there all alone. They told me to come and join them as the fifth one in their row. We didn’t know what our fate would be but they assured me that we would stay together.
Together with a whole group of girls, we were taken to a building where we all sat down on the floor. Our clothing was confiscated and they shaved off our hair. We were each given a number as ID. Then we were given a small piece of bread. I couldn’t even eat that; I was used to my mother’s delicious food — she was a real balabusta. The sisters tried very hard to make things easier for me. If they had a fruit or vegetable they would switch with me. For a few days I couldn’t eat. They tried convincing me to eat what we had for fear that I would have no strength left. Eventually I had no choice and I nibbled away at what I was given.
What were the living conditions in Auschwitz?
Temporarily, I was allowed to remain with these four nice sisters, but it was just a short time before we were separated. We were each assigned to a barrack. In this barrack we slept very close to each other; this did not afford us any rest. Each morning we were woken very early and chased out of the barrack. Here we stood with our hands raised for appell — the counting process.
How long did you remain in Auschwitz?
From Auschwitz we were taken to Plaszow, a camp near Cracow, Poland. There we worked in a salt mine carrying very heavy sacks of salt. This work had no purpose at all, other than to torture us. The salt ate away at my skin and I got an infection. I was sent to the hospital to have the infection cared for. I was privileged to stay there for two days, which for me meant two days off from work.
Living conditions in Cracow were not much different. We slept 20 girls to a room; I was the youngest one there. We had bunk beds with three levels; I slept on the top level. There was a board on each level which we used as a mattress. We couldn’t shower or wash ourselves. The living conditions were indescribable.
We stood in line for our food rations. Those of us who had a bowl were given soup. It was so unappetizing that I could not swallow it, so I traded with my lagershvester for some bread. If someone was missing during tzel appell, those present would suffer; they would line us up and shoot every eighth girl in the row.
I remained in Plaszow for a few months and then selections were made again. (Each time a change was going to happen they announced a new selection of people.) I was selected. We traveled in cattle wagons back to Auschwitz and from Auschwitz to Berlin.
What type of work were you given in Berlin?
I was sent to work in an ammunition factory, working on an assembly line. There were two shifts of girls — a night shift and a day shift. I worked the night shift. Although there was no one from my town there and I had no relatives, we all became good friends.
One time while at work I burned my hand. A German officer came over to me and warned me that if I was asked what happened, I should not tell, because I will be sent straight back to Auschwitz. He said he had a daughter my age and therefore could sympathize with my pain. (There were still a few Germans who were humane.)
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.