In 1944, you were deported with your family from the ghetto in Siget. Where were you taken?
We were taken to Auschwitz. When we arrived, the older people were barely alive anymore. There were Polish Jews there to help us get off the train. They already had been in the camps for a long time. When they saw us crying, they yelled at us.
“Why are you crying? You lived well for the past four or five years, while we suffered here in the camps. Did you try to help us or did you think you would escape the torture? Can you smell the burning flesh? You, too, will burn like that very soon.” It was Gehinnom. I never imagined that I would survive or live to see generations of Yiddishe children.
We were ordered to form a line and wait for further instructions. Mengele arrived to make his selections. Anyone who looked like they were healthy and able to work was sent to the right. Anyone holding a small child was immediately sent to the left. My sister was holding her eight-month-old baby, so she was sent to the left with all the older people and the young children. My 13-year-old sister was supposed to come to the right with the rest of us but when she saw my mother being sent to the left, she escaped to the other side to be with her. We waved good-bye. I never saw my parents again.
We were taken to the washrooms where our heads were shaved and our clothing was confiscated in front of the Nazi guards. It was so embarrassing. We were sure that we were going to be gassed in the showers and die al kiddush Hashem, but suddenly we heard water coming down — it was a real shower. Afterward, we were given striped dresses. We all looked identical without any hair. I was standing right next to one of my sisters and I didn’t recognize her.
We were taken to our barracks and each girl was given a piece of bread that was to last her all day. We were starving, so we ate it early in the morning and we had nothing else to eat all day. People were so hungry that even the nicest girls went around stealing bread from each other.
At five in the morning, we were ordered to get up and get out of the barracks. We stood outside in straight, orderly rows of five across. We were given one cup of coffee to divide among each row of five girls. The first girl barely had a chance to lift the cup to her mouth before the next in line was clamoring for it. The girls who had been spoiled at home couldn’t make it there; in order to survive you had to fight for your life.
We each had a number tattooed on our arm. My number is 7850. Those of us who got a number were happy, because it usually meant the Nazis were not planning to kill you right away.
After the coffee, we stood in a long line. On either side of us stood rows of girls who were forced to play beautiful music. We marched like soldiers, right, left, right left. Once, my sister moved the wrong foot at the wrong time and the guards set their dogs on her. We walked a very long way to work. We had wooden shoes, which made it even harder. We worked in fields, digging ditches with our bare hands. I was very thin and my hands were full of blisters from the work. I was in a lot of pain but I was afraid to say anything, since we knew that anyone sent to the hospital never returned.
I can’t imagine how I survived. I had a very wonderful older sister who took very good care of me. Many times she gave me her own portion of bread instead of eating it herself.
We were in Auschwitz for nine months.
In December 1944, the Germans knew that the Russians were near. Trains were brought in and we were transferred to Bergen Belsen. It was very, very cold. We had only leg coverings made of paper to keep us warm. When we arrived in Bergen Belsen, we were so ill. Many, many died from extreme exhaustion and starvation. The rest were sick with typhus.
Would you tell us about the liberation?
One day, the Germans simply disappeared. The English arrived and announced on loudspeakers that we were free, but they were scared to enter the camp for fear that they would catch typhus as well. Instead, they dropped food and supplies into the camp from airplanes. People were starving and many of them overate. They got sick from the food and died.
Eventually, we regained some of our strength and that’s when we finally began realizing all that we had lost.
What did you do after the liberation?
Before we were taken to Auschwitz, my sister had been engaged to be married. We found her chassan’s name on a list of survivors and we heard that he was looking for her. We went to Munkatch, where they found each other and were married. Then we continued on to Siget. We found a distant cousin living in our house. I had a brother and another sister who had come home as well.
I was married in Siget. Then, in 1947, we tried to get to Israel as refugees but we ended up in Cyprus. My daughter was born there. I never imagined that I would raise such a beautiful generation from which I have such tremendous nachas.
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.