Shaya Fried (Part V)

As told to Mrs. Chaya Feigy Grossman

Did you remain in Auschwitz?

Our transport was lucky, and we were sent to another camp. Those who stayed in Auschwitz received numbers on their arms.

We were exhausted from three days of traveling and starvation. When we were finally given something to eat, I couldn’t touch what they called food. Then there was tzeil apel, when we were counted. Anyone who didn’t stand as straight as they were told to was beaten up. There were three tiers of beds in the barracks. We were told to leave our shoes at the bottom. Then an S.S. appeared and switched a pair of shoes. The owner of the shoes started to scream, “It’s mine! Don’t take it!” The S.S. dragged him down and beat him until he couldn’t bear it anymore and he died.

We were 50 people lined up five in a row, 25 on each side, with an S.S. in between, waiting to be told where to go. Suddenly the man in front of me spotted an apple on the floor. He looked around and saw that the S.S. seemed busy, so he quickly bent down to pick it up. A young S.S. noticed and came running over. He withdrew his gun and in a split second he shot him in the head. Then he called for help to take the dead man out and commanded me, “Oiftraiten — move forward!” My father and brother were right behind me, but I got so nervous that I started to vomit. The S.S. was furious and took out his revolver. He pointed it at me, when suddenly a group of S.S. appeared; one of them took hold of his hand and said, “Luz em dorch, aza yunger bocher.” Let him go, he’s a young boy.

When I moved up I found myself in the row ahead of my father and brother. The group was then split onto different trains and I was separated from them. Once during the time that we were separated I got a message through another prisoner who had seen my father, that he was still alive.

The camp that I was taken to was not as bad because there were no S.S. People were not tortured or shot randomly. There were 500 people, all from Hungary, in this camp. The commandant and the officers were mostly of the Wehrmacht Police. The Police were older people who had been on the front but could no longer serve due to age. Each day they would take us out to work and wait for us. They never checked up on us.

The lagerfeirer gave a speech, and he said, “My job is to make sure the work gets done. If you do the work and there are no problems, and I don’t have to stand over you and watch what you are doing, then I will do what I can for you, too.” If anyone stole a potato, he received 10 lashes on his back.

We left for work at six o’clock in the morning and returned at six o’clock in the evening. Upon returning we received a slice of bread and soup and then we were sent to the barracks. We didn’t hear from anyone until five o’clock in the morning, when we were awakened. My job was not too difficult. The situation there was bearable, and it was possible to survive.

In January, however, things changed. Selections were being made to go on to another camp. The weather was below zero, the snow was high, and all we had were wooden shoes. I had a small wound on my foot and I really didn’t want to go. I headed for the doctor and put in a request that he confirm I was sick. I refused to go. I remained in this camp a little longer until we were taken to a different camp which was one of the worst camps around.

Our rations were a third of what we were given in the first camp: a sliver of bread, and what seemed like water instead of soup. The cleanliness in the first camp was impeccable; here, the lice were falling from the ceiling. When I first arrived, I was weak but in good condition. I wasn’t like a skeleton. I had an uncle and his two sons who arrived there from a previous camp where the conditions were horrific. They themselves were in terrible condition. I begged the boys to come with me to work but they didn’t have the strength.

to be continued

These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.