Rabbi Avraham Langer – Part V

By 1942, you had been in Auschwitz and a number of other camps. What happened to you then?

On Erev Rosh Chodesh Shevat, 1943, the Grosse-Sarne camp was abandoned and we were transferred to Gross-Moslowitz. It was a miracle that this change came about when it did: If we would have stayed in Grosse-Sarne even a few more weeks, I don’t think any of us would have survived. At least in Gross-Moslowitz, I felt I was living. We were given one slice of bread for three people, good soup and horsemeat every day. The work was very hard, but at the end of the day we were given a good meal: bread with margarine, jam, honey and even cheese. Twice a week, we were given salami. In addition to that, I received packages of dried bread from my uncle, Yecheskel Langer, who was in the Bochnia ghetto. I never learned how he found out where I was.

One day, I got a suitcase sent to me by my father. When I opened it, I found warm clothing, sefarim and a letter. My father wrote in the letter that the frame of the suitcase was made very well. From those words, I understood he had hidden something inside the frame. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I pried it open and found 200 deutschmark. The first thing I bought was a loaf of bread for 25 marks. The rest of the money, I hid in the pocket of my pants. When I went to sleep that night, I put my pants under my head. In the morning, they were gone.

At six in the morning we were ordered to gather in the central square. When the Jewish kapo came in yelling at me to get out and line up, I told him I had no pants to wear. He beat me with a stick. I went out and lined up. The German overseer was counting us. He saw me standing there, half-dressed, shivering from the cold, and yelled at the kapo to bring me a pair of pants.

That was the last time I heard from my father. My father had been hiding in the bunker that we had built in Kishanev. The last transport from there was on the 13 of Adar, 1943. The second day after the transport left, which was Shushan Purim, he came out of the bunker. When he realized that he could not find even one Jew, he understood that this was the end. He gave himself up. They sent him to a camp called Groditz, where he perished exactly a year later on Shushan Purim, 1944. My brothers who were with him in Groditz told me what transpired.

After Sukkos 1943, the Germans liquidated all the work camps and started transferring us to concentration camps. I was sent to Kittlitztrebben. The camp commander was worse than a wild animal. I saw him kill tens of young men.

One day, I discovered a pile of tefillin that had been confiscated. I took a set and hid them in my pants. When I got back to the barracks, I hid them in my straw bed. Each day, before going to work, I put on them on and said Krias Shema. Many others, even from other blocks, came to our barracks to put on tefillin.

I got sick and was sent to the infirmary. I had been there a few days when Bobby Rimner, my old friend from Gerlitz, came in and saw me. In this camp, he was in charge of dividing up the work. He told me I had to leave the infirmary right away. He knew that every second week S.S. men from the main camp, Gross-Rosen, would come to the infirmary to select patients to send to the Kozel gas chambers. Bobby went into the offices and spoke to the doctor. A few moments later, the doctor called my number, 25213, and told me to return to the barracks. Later on that night, Bobby came to my barrack to tell me that the next morning, when we would gather to be counted, he would ask if anyone in the group was an electrician and I was to volunteer immediately. The next morning, I did as Bobby had instructed. I joined a young man from Prague who was an electrician by trade and worked with him. That was the best place to work.

In the bitter winters of January and February 1944, hundreds of young men perished. One day, a young man from our camp escaped. A Pole caught him and turned him over to the Germans. He was hung and we were forced to stand witness.

To be continued.

These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.