Can you tell us about liberation? (Cont.)
I dragged myself to the electric gate of the camp and saw that it was open and unguarded. This was the gate I marched in and out of every single day for 13 months. Seeing it open made my heart pound with excitement and sheer joy.
Now and then, when we would go out to work, we would pass a house that radiated warmth and light from within. I would imagine myself inside it. Now I entered the house and called out, “Heil Hitler,” but there were no Germans left. They had all escaped. The house was empty. They had exchanged their uniforms for civilian clothing and disappeared.
I took their porcelain plates one at a time, broke them and threw the pieces out of the window. This was my revenge. When I realized that the gate was open and there was no one around to shoot me and nothing to electrocute me, I walked out and in spite of my tiredness, fever and typhus which engulfed me, I set out to look for bread, which I finally found. The bit of real bread in my mouth tasted like sheer heaven.
Can you tell me how you were reunited with family and friends?
I was transported to Prague, where I began receiving medical care. I had water in my lungs, which had to be removed through a painful procedure. I was put to sleep. When I woke up, I saw my cousin Zloti standing next to me. I don’t know how she found me in the hospital.
Zloti worried about my health and feared for my life. She watched over me and made sure I was fed very slowly. There was a wonderful doctor who guided the inexperienced nurses and I was well taken care of.
I have no idea how long I was in the hospital. In those days, a watch had no value. The goal was to survive, to just keep going.
When I left the hospital, I was at a loss as to where to go. I went out into the street and looked for someone who could lead me. By chance I came upon Rav Sheinfeld, a man I knew from the days before the churban. He was holding the hand of a young child. It had been a very long time since I had seen a child. From sheer emotion I started to cry in the street. He saw me and took me home to his house. I still had symptoms of typhus, but this man saved me when I had no idea what to do next. This good man told me that his mission was to find Jewish orphans and provide sponsors for them. Some of them he would move on to London with the help of the Joint.
Rav Sheinfeld gave me a white suit to wear and in that I went to shul. Everyone was dressed in black; I felt very embarrassed. The Rebbe noticed my shame and came over to me to comfort me. He told me I was a tzaddik. I felt his warmth and support. I felt he knew me and understood what I went through. He promised to help me.
I had an aunt, Gittel, but I had no idea where she was or if she was even alive. The Rebbe started to search for my aunt. It was clear to him that he would find her since she lived in Arad. It is known that the Jews living in Arad were fortunate because their ruler, Antonescu, loved money more than he hated Jews. The Jews of Arad who were affluent were able to buy their freedom. They added to his personal coffers. Because of that, my Aunt Gittel and my Ostreicher grandparents survived the war.
Rav Sheinfeld searched for her and was able to locate her. My Aunt Gittel immediately arrived and took me home to her house, where she lived with my grandparents.
My grandfather had a large home. I especially remember the beautiful structure of the entrance. I rested and became stronger until I was ready to leave; I was ready to start my life, to rebuild and start over.
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.