What were the living conditions in Berlin?
We were freezing. We wore just a worn-out dress. We wrapped the thin blanket we were given around our bodies and used it as our winter coat. In this manner we walked every day to and from work. The walk was a few miles each way. On our way, we would meet the people who worked the day shift and they would ask us, “What’s for supper, what’s for supper?” In Berlin I contracted typhus.
We remained in Berlin for a few months before there were selections again. This time we were transported to Bergen-Belsen.
There was a boys’ camp and a girls’ camp headed to Bergen-Belsen. From the boys’ side small pieces of paper were slipped over to our camp with family names written on them. The girls did the same. I sent my name over and I received a slip of paper in return with our family name written on it; however, I didn’t know which brother was in the boys’ camp and who had sent it to me.
In Bergen-Belsen the scene was horrific. We walked on dead bodies that were strewn all over the ground. There was nothing to eat. We were given a little bit of black coffee in the morning — it was more like tinted water. Some of the bread was poisoned and many people died from it. I was so weak from typhus that I couldn’t even stand up to go to the bathroom.
Did you know when it was Shabbos or Yom Tov?
Sure, we knew, but there was nothing we could do. While in Plaszow part of our job was opening the graves in the cemetery. One time I found a siddur on top of a grave and I took it back with me to my barrack. We took turns using it.
Can you tell us about liberation?
One day we were told that the Germans ran away and we were free. We were liberated in Bergen-Belsen by the English. At that point we were not getting any kind of sustenance; we were dying for a little water. We waited for it to rain so that we could drink the rain water. I didn’t want to drink rain water; I felt that if it was bashert for me to live then I would live. When we heard that we were allowed to go out and get water we were overjoyed. The American soldiers brought canned food and chocolates. Many people overate and got sick. Our stomachs could not tolerate the food and drinks that we were being given. Many, many people were sick with typhus.
We were then taken to a DP camp in Bergen-Belsen, where we waited for family members who had survived. One day an English soldier came to the boys’ camp in Bergen-Belsen with an offer to take anyone who wanted to the girls’ camp in Bergen-Belsen to look for surviving relatives.
My brother Tovia (Teddy) was among those who came. He went from barrack to barrack searching for me. When he walked into my room I immediately recognized him. We were both speechless!
We decided to return home. We got onto a train and began our journey home. When we reached Pressburg we had to disembark, for the railroads had been bombed and were now totally destroyed. I could not even stand up I was so weak. Seeing my condition my brother took me to a rehab to recuperate.
One day Tovia went out and met an acquaintance from our home town. The man informed him that he had been home and met another one of our brothers who had come home searching for surviving relatives. Tovia decided to return to Ujhel.
Upon returning to our town we were reunited. There were very few Jews who had come back home. The gentiles living there were very anti-Semitic and were sorry to see that we were alive. I knew that I could not remain in Ujhel.
We returned to a DP camp in Germany, where we registered and hoped to receive visas enabling us to emigrate to the U.S. I had a half-sister who was living in the United States. With siyatta diShmaya, in 1946 we were privileged to receive the needed papers.
What message can you impart to today’s generation?
It is so many years and I still cannot believe what happened. As much as we retell it, it will never be enough. The Germans did not get the punishment they deserved.
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.