Shaya Fried (Part IV)

How long did you remain in the brick factory?

After three weeks of living under these conditions, in March of 1944, we were deported. We were hurled onto cattle cars. There were no bathrooms, no water, no food — nothing at all, just 250 people and their belongings.

On the first morning after being loaded onto the trains, we arrived in Kashau. Kashau is close to Poland. We realized at this point that we were leaving Hungary. We passed the Munkataber labor camp. The people who were working there said to us through the small window at the top of the cattle wagons, “If anyone can escape, they should. We will help you survive.” I probably could’ve squeezed through the window, but my mother would never have let me go. Little did she realize what was in store for us.

Upon arriving in Kashau the gendarmes left and the S.S. took over. There was a small timeframe of two or three hours when no one oversaw us, but we had nowhere to go. When the train began moving again, we traveled for three days, headed to Auschwitz.

Can you describe what greeted you upon your arrival in Auschwitz?

We arrived in Auschwitz on a Friday morning. When the doors opened we saw people dressed in what seemed to us like pajamas. The S.S. began screaming, “Raus, raus!” We were instructed to leave all our belongings inside, and we were to get out immediately.

I had my tefillin with me, which I didn’t want to leave. I took them with me. One of the Polish prisoners who had been there for some time came over to me and pointed upward. In his heavy Polish-Yiddish accent, he said to me, “You want to burn with the tefillin?” I immediately dropped my tefillin. I realized later that he had saved my life.

We were greeted by the face of Mengele. We understood immediately what was happening. As we passed in front of Mengele, he pointed with his finger to the right or the left. My mother and my sister were sent to the left. My father, my brother and I were sent to the right. We arrived at the area where they accepted the new arrivals. Here there was a young Jewish commander. We surrounded him and begged him to tell us what was going on. He answered us. “Do I have to tell you? Can’t you see for yourselves what is happening? I am here for two years already, and there is one thing you should know: that if you end up leaving Auschwitz, you are lucky. If you remain in Auschwitz, your life is not worth living.”

We were still talking when suddenly an S.S. appeared and called the young Jewish commander to the side. The S.S. told him to empty his pockets, which contained some razors and pencils. The S.S. didn’t scream at him or reprimand him. He just rolled up his sleeve and took his number. The S.S. closed his notebook and said, “Ich kum gleich tzurik (I’ll be right back).” This Jewish commander, who was all of 17 years old, remained very calm as he explained to us what was going to happen.

“The S.S. will go to the office, he’ll find my number and cross it out. Then he will return and take me out and around to the other side, where the crematoria are found. He’ll put a bullet to my head and it will be over.”

And then he said to us, “I am from Lodz,” and he told us his name. “If eventually you are liberated and you meet someone from Lodz, please tell them my name and my yahrtzeit.”