On April 11, 1945, you were liberated in Buchenwald by the U.S. Army. What happened to you after the liberation?
I was ill with typhus and lay in the hospital until Erev Shavuos. When I was released, I was told that there was a shul in one of the barracks. That Shavuos, I davened with a minyan.
After Shavuos, I wanted to find my sister Sala, who I knew had survived the war and was now living in Reichenbach. I got myself to Weimar, which was about four miles from Buchenwald, and I registered with the people in charge there. I got double vouchers for food, an apartment that had belonged to a German Nazi, 500 German marks for spending money and vouchers for clothing. I was also given a letter for an optician to make me a free pair of glasses.
I stayed in Weimar until three weeks before Rosh Hashanah when I heard that there was a group going back to Poland from Buchenwald. I wanted to go along, so I went back to Buchenwald, where I met up with a few Jews and thousands of Poles. I managed to get on the last vehicle. In Gerlitz, we had to wait all day because the roads were full of military vehicles. It was night when we once again continued and we traveled for two days until we reached Posen in Poland. Then, in Katowice, Polish men ordered us down to check our documents. Even though our documents were in order the Poles confiscated them and threw us into a cellar overnight. In the morning, a Polish soldier released us and gave us back our documents.
It was a Friday morning. I was nervous to stay in Katowice, so I took a train to Yavozne. There, I met a cousin who directed me to the home of Shlomo Boruch Reigler, with whom I had been interned at Kittlitztrebben.
When I arrived at his house, Shlomo Boruch was overjoyed to see me. He took me somewhere to bathe before Shabbos and I stayed with him until Sunday morning. Then, I caught a train to Chrzanow, my hometown. When I got home, I knocked on the door of our house and it was answered by a Pole who threatened to kill me if I ever dared to return. My grandfather’s house was totally in ruins. I found only one cousin who had survived.
On my third day in Chrzanow, I met a Jewish Russian soldier who was traveling to Reichenbach and agreed to let me come along. There, I met some Jews who told me where my sister Sala was staying. I did not want to shock her, so I walked around outside the house for a while until one of my cousins noticed me through the window and recognized me.
She started screaming, “Avraham is standing outside!” Everyone in the house came running out, hugging and kissing me: my brother Motel, my sister Sala, Hania Abromowitz, who later married Motel, my brother-in-law Yerachmiel Barber and his brother Yossel. A few days later, my older brother, Shlome, arrived, too.
Shlome and I traveled together to Petersvalde, where a friend of ours, Moshe Bucksbaum, lived. He had buried our father in the camp in Groditz. He took us to the cemetery, where there were many mass graves. He was able to find our father’s grave because he had marked the place in a certain way. Our father was buried with seventeen others in the same grave. We had a German monument-maker engrave a stone marker in Hebrew with our father’s name and the date he died.
During all the years of the war, and all the camps you went through, were you able to keep any Yiddishkeit?
Every morning, I made sure to put on tefillin before going out to work, even if it was still dark outside. One day, I was caught by a Jewish kapo. He tore off the tefillin from my head, threw it away and beat me black and blue. However, that night when I returned from work, I found my tefillin once again.
On the first night of Pesach in Gross-Moslowitz, I was walking around the camp and noticed a group of Jews from Sosnowiec sitting together in a corner conducting a Seder. I joined them. They even had koshered a pot for Pesach. That was the only Pesach in my years in the camps that I did not have to eat chametz.
When I was sent to Gerlitz, I found my cousin Dovid Elimelech Barber and a few other young Bobover chassidim. We tried very hard to stick together as much as possible. On Shabbos, we worked only half a day. In the evening, we would wash for shalosh seudos and quietly sing some zemiros. We would remind each other of divrei Torah that we had heard from the Bobover Rebbe, zt”l, and reminisce about Shabbosos with our families and friends.
How did you keep your emunah strong?
While my father was still in hiding, I still had a little hope. When I heard that he had been taken away, I lost my will to live. At work, I was constantly beaten because my work was not satisfactory. When I got back at night from work, I didn’t even bother washing. However, after a few weeks, I realized that I was not doing the right thing. I had to pull myself together and never lose my bitachon.
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.