What happened upon your arrival in Auschwitz?
The whole camp was transported during the night to Auschwitz. When we arrived, they couldn’t decide what to do with us. Should we be sent to the crematorium or somewhere else? So in the meantime they put us into a barrack in Birkenau. Each barrack housed about 100 people. Each barrack had a man in charge. It took about six weeks until they decided that we would stay there. We were each given a number on our hand. My number was B-1630. Here they were free to do with us as they pleased. We saw right away that the situation was not good.
Every block had a blockalteste — the person in charge. Some of them were Jewish. I remember one of them in particular; his name was Pikus.
There was a Volksdeutsche in charge of my barrack. He requested of me that since I was a tailor I should make a head covering for him. Somehow I managed to and he was very pleased. The next time he asked me to do some painting for him. I managed to make paint from lead that I dug up from the ground. I even managed to color the paint using brown stone. He was very pleased with me the second time, too.
There was a tzell appell again and this time the SS in charge wrote down my name. I was their best worker. I was treated a little bit better and I didn’t have to stand in line by tzell appell.
In October of 1945, we were put into Zigeuner lager. This was a temporary barrack used to house us until we were transported to Dachau. We weren’t given any food.
About two or three days later, they came around to collect people to work in the Dachau camp. A thousand of us were taken on the transport. We were given one piece of bread to share among a group of people. We were also given soup made from grass. I couldn’t take it into my mouth. One time I hid my piece of bread in my pocket to eat with the black coffee that we were given in the morning. When I tried to retrieve it I found that someone had stolen it out of my pocket. I was devastated! I couldn’t understand how someone could do this kind of thing. I was selected by the Pfeifer group. Every day we walked 8 km to work in Mull Verke and 8 km back to our barracks. There, our job was to carry cement back and forth. We had no shoes. I wrapped my feet in newspaper to keep them from freezing. I had a ripped coat as well.
Typhus broke out in Dachau. The people lay in bed without clothing, covered just with a blanket. There were lice running all over them. The people were very sick and many, many died.
In Dachau, I washed my clothing in the rainwater to try to keep myself clean.
One day I tried to escape. I ran to a German farmer and he brought me back to the Germans. The Germans were preparing to hang me when they heard bombs falling and they ran away. The only possible answer is that Hashem was obviously watching closely over me. I hid for a few days under the barracks and I was saved again.
Did you walk in the Death March?
At this point they began lining us up for the Death March. The plan was that all the Jews who were left would die. But b’chasdei Hashem I, together with another man named Abelsky, escaped onto a transport that was passing by. We were saved! I never walked in the Death March.
While on this transport, a bomb fell on the wagon I was in. Everyone on that wagon was killed besides the two of us. We were climbing over dead people to escape. From there I walked until I came to a place called Kafering. There, I found a warehouse that sold building materials. About 20 feet from there was a farm with a bench outside. I sat down on this bench and a man came out to inquire as to what I wanted. I informed him that I was a Frenchman looking for work. He took me in and gave me a room in the loft.
Downstairs, where he stored all the supplies, SS men were hiding. At first I was afraid to go out, because although I saw Americans already, I was nervous that the Germans might return.
Where did you go once you were liberated?
In May of 1945 I left and went to a place called Penzin near Lansburg. Somehow I got myself a room to sleep in and I went out to people’s farms looking for food. I found a job washing clothing for the American army at army base AP1160. After five or six weeks I was promoted to a regular job in PX for the American army. I helped many young girls find food and shelter as well.
to be continued…
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.