From the Ghetto Lodz To Auschwitz 

Biographical Episodes

by Victor Breitburg 

Victor, a survivor of the Lodz ghetto and Auschwitz, is one of "The Boys," a group of several hundred young camp survivors sent to England in 1945 and 1946. Their experiences have been immortalized in Martin Gilbert's acclaimed book, "The Boys: Triumph over Adversity," published in 1996. Victor arrived in England with the Windermere group and lived in the Cardross Hostel in Scotland. He emigrated to the United States in the late forties and has maintained contact with "The Boys". He is actively engaged in Holocaust education and is held in high esteem by the educational authorities in New Jersey. '45 Aid Society Web Site

 

Life in The Ghetto 1943:

Thank God once again we survived the winter.  So many people died last winter from freezing and malnutrition; they had nothing left to fight with.  Spring brought some warmness and the Green leaves on the trees were trying to talk to us “Wake up and spread your wings.  But wings are hanging down next to our bodies and there is no strength to left.  We looked at our sun if it was a goddess of pleasure and the winter as it was the devil.

The life in the ghetto was not improving even our hopes are starting to wane this war was supposed to have lasted only for a couple month and now we are already are in our third year.  Continuously people are being sent out from the ghetto on the pretext that they are going to be resettled.  The speeches of Chaim Rumkowski chastising us that we are not working hard enough is falling on deaf ears.  We are working 10 hours day and we give as much as we can muster, but seems it is not enough.  Once again our ration were cut and we just don’t have enough left in us to work any harder.  The Jewish police sometimes forget that we are also Jews.  Sometimes I think that the Chairman Chaim Rumkowski and his henchmen think that the war will last forever.  They are on the borderline of being collaborators with the Germans. 

Still people were falling in love, getting married, and what was not understandable how is it possible that they brought in children in this dismal world.  Everyone tried very hard to forget the dead and being happy that at least they survived.  And hopping for a better tomorrow.


My father looked sick. 
He lost a lot of weight and his cloth was barely hanging on his body, also He is starting to miss work and sleeps a lot.  What is scaring me most that sometimes he coughs up with blood, and he limps on the right side where he was wounded in the beginning of the war. My mother gives more food to my father more than his ration, but I guess it is not enough.  Every once a while I feel that my father is looking at me like he was evaluating me.  Most of the time we had our Sunday’s off.  I was always enchanted to listen to my father telling us about the First World War.  And now I was repeating those stories to Felek my brother.  How proud was I when I saw my father marching in his uniform on the Polish Independence Day.  The gleam in his blue eyes and smiling looks was saying I am a Jew and I am an officer in the Polish army.  My mother was a remarkable woman, she did miracles with stretching our rations and kept reminding me to that I have to teach the children how to read and write.  My mother came from Kaminsk.  I don’t think that they had a public school there.  She never learned how to read Polish and most of the language that was spoken in our home was Yiddish. But, her master in the knowledge of the Yiddish language was masterful.  She always read books and we always were treated to a story before we went to sleep I am seventy-four years old and some of the stories are still living in them.

Our yard is adjacent to one of the oldest cemetery in Lodz.  Every once in while I climbed over the brick fence to the others side.  I find some peace there.  Normally I would bring a book with me to read.  From all the places a cemetery gave me a peace and solitude.  When I would read, and found myself forgetting where I was.  I was where the story of the book was; there was a land where humans are treated the way they should be. 

In all this chaos, we in the ghetto established an underground trade school, symphony, and a theater.  We pray and observe our religion what we were taught for thousands of years

I am sixteen years old and I never went out with a girl, and wondering what it would feel like.  I had a crush on a girl her name was Gisela who lived in our building, but she did not know that I even existed. Once she tried to converse with me but my tongue got twisted that she walked away laughing.  Within a couple months her parents, and Gisela was evacuated, to so- called resettlement to another part of Germany.  Later on we learned that they all perished in Chelmno gas chamber.  

Within a couple weeks I turned over the soil on my little plot and planted my first tomatoes, finally Spring was here.

Several of our former neighbors came to visit my father, they sat and reminiscent about the prewar times. 

Sala Finkelstein, who was a friend of mine since I was six years old.  She was two years older than I was and when I started to go to school she used to help me out with my homework.  She heard that my father was sick and she came to see us.  I was surprised to see how she changed from a little scrawny face-freckled fifteen year old girl there was standing a beautiful woman.  “How are you Shlomo?”  She asked me.  Before I had a chance to answer; my mother chimed in.  He is wonderful and a lot of woman in our building would like to adopt him.  My face turned red, and tried to deny but the more I said the worse it got.  I will never forget how both of them were laughing.  After a while the laughter subsided and I was angry that I became their spectacle.  Sala turned around and took my hand and she led me out to the yard and said “remember we never joke about people who we don’t like.”  We talked for a while about what was going on in the Ghetto.  She told me that she has to see somebody in the neighborhood and she will see me next Sunday.  Sala always was nice to me, I guess that she felt towards me like a brother she never had.  Since then I saw Sala of and on, and I always was delighted to see her on Sunday most of the factories were off and one day in the week we tried to live as normal as we could.  Sala showed up early afternoon.  “Can we go same where private?”  Sala asked “Can you climb” I asked?  She nodded and I put up the ladder against the wall and motioned her to start climbing.  She started to laugh “If I climb first you are going to be able see what I am wearing under my dress.  I never gave a thought but it would have been nice.  I founded waiting for me and we both sat down on a tombstone.  She started crying “what is the mater Sala?  I asked I did not expect that.  “ I miss you, Motek.  Moishe and the yard and the way we lived” and she continued reminiscing. She reminded me of the story how we all tried to teach my mother’s chicken how to fly.  At this point we started to laugh and we forgot chaos all around us.  The sun started to set and the curfew was in abut hour we decided to leave.  She took me around and kissed on lips.  Once again I felt that my face was turning red and I kissed he lightly back.  She gave a surprised look and started to laugh “Shlomo one of this days I am going to teach you how to kiss,” Sala said.  I saw hone more time but she did not see me, I hid because I was dirty from the bag of sawdust I was caring.  I never saw Sala again.

After the war I tried to find her but she was not on any lists of people who survived.  Her name was
            Sala Finkelstein
            11 go Listopada 58
            Lodz Poland

 

Friday June 18 1943 

Around 12 noon my mother arrived at my place of work at the Tishler Resort and asked the guard that it is imperative for her to see me.  I was summand to the Commissar Mr. Terkeltaub.  I was not surprised, because in the past he used to send me for some errands to do to different factories.  He looked very somber and advised me that my mother is waiting for me at the guardhouse.  Mr. Terkeltaub gave me a permission slip to leave the factory and also told me and if I needed anything he would help.

I knew that my father was not feeling well for the last couple of days and I summarized that he might have to go to the hospital.  I met my mother at the guardhouse and we hurried home.

On the way home, my mother told me that my father did not go to work.  He felt too sick.  It did not take long before we arrived home.  He was sleeping.  I walked over to him, took his hand, and asked him how he felt; all I felt was a slight squeeze on the palm of my hand.  For the first time it dawned on me that this man, my father is dieing.  How is it possible?  Yes, he lost some weight, and for the last couple months there were some traces of blood in his phlegm.

My mother brought over some soup and told to feed my father.  I propped him up, and I took a spoonful of soup and put it to his lips.  He gently pushed it a way.  I was afraid if I forced it into his mouth he might gag.  Once again I was holding his hand, and once again I felt the squeeze.  I looked at my mother, and she motioned me to sit there and hold his hand.

I looked at him.  There was a man who had so much life in him, how he used to love to ride horses, swim, and tell stories from the First World.  He served in the Polish cavalry and he was wound at Tarnepole near the Ukrainian border.  For that he received a medal for valor.  What I could not understand is that, his medal stated that he served from 1918-1921.  Then in 1918 he must have only been sixteen years old.  We had a picture sitting in full uniform on cavalry horse hanging on the wall.  How proud and handsome he looked.  Here I was sitting and there was my father dieing he was loosing his battle at 41, and at sixteen I am also fighting for my life too. 

I felt that he loosened his hand; I tried to feel if there was a pulse.  At the same time I felt the hand I held became waxy.  I tried to talk to him and then I looked at my mother, she was quietly sobbing.  She took me around and quietly said; “and now you will have to say Kaddish for whole year.”  I sat there motionless looking at him.  Is this all what life is?  Just a while ego he was squeezing my hand and now he looked like he was sleeping with the eternal sleep.  I shivered even though it was June the shiver was fear.  How dare you to die, why did you give up.  I kept looking at him as I was trying to transmit my thought to him.  Once again I took his hand and held it for while looking at his face.  Yes, his face was pale and rigged, the eyes and his cheeks were sunken and the outline of a skeletal head.  His suffering is over but we must survive. 

Within a couple of hours some men came to our house They laid my father on a portable table, washed him, and put tachrichim and his talit (burial cloth) on him.  And was ready to be buried.  They positioned that his legs were facing the door.  The sunset on the horizon and my mother lit the candle to welcome the Sabbath

Somebody notified my place, because Mr. Terkeltaub sent over two burial boards with a permission note to stay home for the coming week.

Next day my father was buried at Marshinsky Cemetery plot number 512. At the grave I said Kaddish for the first time.  Present were all the families we had in the Ghetto including my father’s brother Moisho and his wife Ruchel and many others.  Came over, he took me around and said “you have to take care of the my brother’s family and if you need any help come to me.”  For the first time I kissed him because truly I felt lonely.

I said Kaddish up to January 1944 and then I stopped, when my mother asked me why did I stop, I told her that when you say Kaddish you are glorifying God and not the person who died.  I told her that I would pray for my father in my own way. 

Since then I refrain to say Kaddish and the Ulainu, because I have to bow my head to the almighty.

August 15, 1944 

At the mid of July rumors were going around that the Ghetto is going to be resettled. Most probable like it was in the past, they will weed out some more people and everything will stay the way it was in the past.  All through the past five years, the Germans demanded to hand over people to work outside the ghetto.  1943 was quit a peaceful year but all this changed in June 1944 when an order of a resettlement were given They wanted 10,000 and in the past Rumkowski bargained down to over 7000 people and once again everything went back to normal. Usually some of the people got a notification of resettlement, their ration card were withdrawn.  Afterwards they reported to the railroad station and were sent out and we never were heard from them again.  We never thought that anything would happened to them than go to work outside the ghetto.  After the Ghetto went through a cleaning, we who were left went back to work.  The same time normally we got new arrivals from other part of Europe to fill in the void in the labor market.

Somehow this was not the same as in the past; this time we were at the lowest count of the population in the Ghetto.  When the ghetto closed in April 1940, the population was approximately 160,000 people, but as the population thinned down, the Germans resettled other people from other part of Europe to fill the gap in the labor force.  But this time it was different our total population were down to 75,000 and this included women and children who were not able to work.

I met the commissar off the place were I worked Mr. Terkeltaub and asked him whether the rumors were true.  I always was on good term and the door to his office was always open for me.  He selected me to be a runner.  When a German commission came to the Ghetto inspect our factories, they first stop was at the metal factory.  We were told when the inspection going to be and he made sure that I would be there.  When the inspectors showed up, I picked up a couple of sharpened saws and went back to our factory to notify the commissar that the inspectors will show upwithin a hour.  Of course this gave us time to prepare materials and to show how efficient we are.  But this time I met him by chance on the street outside the factory. "Mr. Terkeltaub, what is happening with all the rumors about the disbanding of the Ghetto?”  I asked.  " Yes, beginning of August, we are going to dismantle the factory and ship all equipment to Germany.”  He said.  I asked him one more question.  "Are we going to go with the factory to Germany?”  "Victor, don't believe what they are saying, hide yourself and your family because the Russian liberation will be here soon, and more I than that I can not tell you.”  I was astounded at his frank answer.

I came home and I told my mother and advice her to get the family together.  The coming Sunday my aunt's Sheindle, Regina, and my uncle Moshe assembled in our house.  I told them what Mr. Terkeltaub told me.  Each of our families had small children and the totals with the adults were eleven including the children.  My aunt Sheindle said that she had the ideal place for our purpose.  All of us went over to her apartment and after removing a couple boards we saw there was a large cellar.  I voiced my opinion that the Germans will look for cellars.

"Climb down and remove the metal plate, and you will see a sub-cellar.  The people who lived here previously used to store perishable food for their grocery place,”  my aunt Sheindle said.  I removed the metal plate and climbed down.  My uncle Moshe and I climbed down and lighted a candle and we carefully started to observe the large underground pit.  We were standing about twelve feet below the floor level, what we felt was the cold and musty smell.  "Well we have a job to prepare our selves before we send anybody down.”  My uncle said.  We also noticed that there were free standing shelves.  My uncle suggested that we should dismantle the shelves and build a floor so we can bring down some bedding.

We must have some food for at least for five days, by that time they would have gone past our area.  We all thought that this was only another resettlement, after the beast had his bellyful and than like in the past we will return to work.             

But it was not as it was in the past, the Germans started to divide the Ghetto into section and a curfew was established.  Streets that every resident had to report to the railroad station for the purpose of resettlement.  We had just enough time to get to my aunt’s building.  She was already waiting for us.  The sub cellar was ready and we did some practice how fast we can run down and slide the hatch over the opening over the sub-basement.  So far my uncle Moshe and his wife did not show up and this worried me.  We were able to get the eight people down less than two minutes that was good.  I decided to test it out and told everyone to watch out for me.  I walked out and within a couple minutes I returned.  The room was empty.  I made believe that I am looking for them and didn’t take me too long to spot where the opening was to the basement.  I lifted the three boards and try to see if a German would have noticed the sub-basement.  I called out everyone to come out and I felt that I have missed something.  I felt like a big shot, I felt that everyone was listening to me.  “That plate which covers the sub-basement hast to be camouflaged.  Once again I was thinking how clean the Germans are, and what will prevent them from looking any farther?  “Take an old straw mattress and put it over the plate and we have to set up that somebody was sleeping on it, and that person was sick.” My mother said.  Of course we are going stage for whoever is going to look down.  We brought down a mattress, and some blankets.  We also took some old medicines and put in on a wooden box next to the mattress.  If this wasn’t enough, we found a candle, and we lit it until it was half burnt down and then we extinguish it.  I lay down on the mattress to create that somebody slept there, and then in privacy some of us urinated on the mattress to create a sickening smell.

For the next couple days we were watching for our turn to be told to report to the station.  Within the next couple days the round up started.  As soon we spotted the German SS with the Jewish police approaching our area down we hid in the pit.

We were wondering why they didn’t search the building we were in.  We did not have to wait long; with in a couple days the area was bristling with Germans and Jewish police.  They went through every apartment, knocked on the walls, and looked for hidden places.  All of us were holding our breath including the children.  In that pit were in hiding my aunt Shindal and her daughter Reizel who was 15 years old.  Our family my mother and my sister Sara Kaila who was 4 years old my brother Felek (Favel) 12 years old and myself.  My aunt Regina with her 3-year-old son who also was named after my Grand-father Shloimo Vigdor.  I don’t remember whether my uncle Moshe and his wife ever showed up. 

We never realized how cold and wet that under ground pit was.  After a while the cold and wetness got to you.  Worst of it all we only had food left to last us only two more days, and we spent more time now in hiding. 

We heard them opening the floor and shining down and next we heard them swearing like we expected and they left.  We did not dare to leave our hiding place for fear to get caught.  As the days progress the children were getting sick and the coughing were progressing from the children to the adults. 

This was the fourth day and the inspection of the German SS did not subside.  My mother turned to very quietly and said; ”I don’t think we have a choice Sarah is very sick and if we don’t give up she most will probably die.  We all climbed up.  It was already dark, but we did not dare to light a candle for fear that somebody might spot us.  Sarah definitely had fever and her face had a yellowish hue.  “Sarah is sick therefore tomorrow we are going to give ourselves up.  They promised that we are going to Germany and they need our labor.  The war is coming to an end and they let us live for five years why would they want to kill us now?  We will not divulge your hiding place so you are safe.”  My mother said.  I was hoping that somebody would try to stop us.  I did not object because there was not any choice, Sarah was sick and we must get help for her.  I saw in their faces the pain and fear, they were wiling to share what ever they had, but they had no right to stop us.

The next day we gave ourselves up.  The German SS encountered us and asked where the others, we told him that there are no others.  He looked at Sarah and told the Jewish policeman to escort to the railroad, and when we get there let the doctor look at this poor child.  I seems we were not thinly once who came to the conclusion that is safe to leave the Ghetto. 

When we arrived at the station there were several columns of people to be loaded on the trains.  Every one had the look and uncertainty what is going happen next.

Jewish policeman escorted us to a hut which had a Red Cross marking on it, a doctor came The out wearing a white gown, and looked at Sarah.  He went back in and came out caring a cup.  The doctor gave some milk and honey to Sarah, and she eagerly drank it all down.  I thanked the doctor for his help.  He interrupted me; “When you get to the destination you are going to, make sure this young child sees a doctor.”  Once again I tried to thank him but he brushed me off.  “Stay on the line, go on to the train, and don’t forget what I told you.”  “Now get on the train.”  I almost felt grateful to him.  Maybe there are some nice Germans, maybe because he is a Doctor.  I looked at Sarah and some color came back to her face.  She smiled weakly at me.  As always she brought a smile back from me.  I took her from mother; she was beautiful and helpless.  She had beautiful blue eyes and curly blonde hair.  Yes, she definitely was a Breitburg.
 

Good by Lodz, August 15th 1944: 

We joined the line to get on the train.  As our turn came, we each received a loaf of bread.  Jewish policeman assisted my mother into the train.  When mother was in; Felek, my brother, and I climbed aboard.  It took awhile until the train was filled up, and then I heard the door slam close and a latch locked us in.  I looked around and tried to count how many people were there on the train.  I was surprised when I finished counting there were only sixty odd people. 

We must have been the last ones; therefore, we had little more space than the people in the other train.  We did not move for about two hours.  Then the train slowly started to move.  Within a couple of minutes Lodz was behind.  There was a great silence.  We feared what was ahead of us.

Goodbye Lodz, I felt that we would never come back once we will leave Poland and enter Germany.  After the war we will try to go to America.  They promised us that we are going to Germany because factories are there, and they needed us as workers there.  It made sense, because for the last four years we produced for the army whatever they needed.

Lodz was so well organized that we felt we are indispensable to the Germans we made their shoes, socks, pants, sweaters.  Shirts etc.  What they did not know; was that we could have produced twice as much as we did.  We were the first Ghetto in Poland to be established and the last one to be disbanded in Europe It is only a resettlement for us, and somewhere we would have to start all over again.

Somebody on the train asked that we should all pray for our safe arrival.  Everybody stood up, and prayer reverberated throughout the train.  It wasn’t a prayer; it was more a plea to God for mercy, and for his children of Israel, and for our deliverance to safety.  We all felt that the train was picking up speed.  We were wondering where our destination is going to be.

We must have been traveling for several hours, with some stops to permit other trains to pass.  We observed east bound trains were army trains and the west was the Red Cross trains.  We knew that the Germans were having heavy casualty on the eastern front.  They were losing the war.  Are they winning on the western front, is this why they needed our help?

We stopped for the night and every one settled to sleep.  We still had bread, and there was a barrel of water, which was left for us on the train.  If we had to go to the toilet we put up a little curtain and through a crack in the floor we fornicated down into the railroad rails.  The mood on the train improved with everyone’s thoughts; if they wanted to kill us then why take up such a valuable train.

We must have stopped a dozen times.  Every time we stopped, we stood there for hours.  This was the third day.

All of sudden there was a commotion.  We went through a gate and the train stopped.  There was a silence, and we knew we had arrived.  Everyone put on their backpacks and waited the doors of the train to open up.  I was able to hear my heart beating.  I was not at ease at all, and my lips were trembling.  My mother took us around told to stay together, and if for some reason we would be divided we, should not forget that our meeting destination will be by her sister in Brooklyn.  She kissed us.  I hugged my mother.  I said nothing is going happen to us, we are going to stay together.  I took Felek’s hand but he pulled away: Felek said “ Take care of Sarah I am twelve years old and am able to help myself.”  I smiled at him.  He certainly is growing up.  I was surprised at his reaction.  He turned out to be such good-looking kid.  Once again: he is a Breitburg; blond and blue eyes, and I am a cross breed between the Wajnmans and Brajtburgs.  How hard was the waiting for the door to slide open.  We did not know what to anticipate.  I felt that moment we should all pray to the All Mighty.  “Please let this end, this nightmare for us, so that one day we might return to the Promised Land and serve you for eternity.”
 

Birkenau, August 18th 1944:

Abruptly the door slid open, “out of the train now!”  “Make it fast!”  The men in prison uniform shouted.

We hurried off the train, I looked around, and I saw that S.S. storm troopers with dogs surrounded us.  A chill went through my body, what is happening? 

“Women and children to the right and men to the left!” was the next command. 

I decided to stay with the family.  I am not yet a man.  I am only seventeen years old.

“Go with the men I will take care of the children” my mother said.  We promised each other that we are we are going to stay together, “I want to go with you,” I begged.  No, you have to go with the men, please go,” Before I had a chance to answer a man grabbed me by my arm and pushed me towards the column where men were. 

“Listen to your mother and go with the men”

Who is he to tell me where to go?  I turned around I did not see my mother or my siblings.

All right I will go for now with the men, but the minute I settle I will find them that was my thought about my family.  There are too many people to fight for now, but nothing will stop me from finding them.

“Move fast move fast!”  The men in stripes were screaming at us.  Whistles blowing, dogs were barking, men were pushing not knowing where to move, it reminded me of a cattle round up.

“Why are they all screaming at us?”  ”What is happening here?” 

Are we walking in a trap?  My mind was racing in every direction.  I was looking to escape, to no avail; the SS and their dogs surrounded us.

I found myself in front of a German officer.  He wore, a black uniform and brown shirt with SS insignia, he pointed a horsewhip at me pointing that I should go to the left.

I was like a robot, no more arguing, or thinking just obeying.  Do what you are commanded to do.  I did not walk I ran to the building where other men were assembled.

“Take your cloth off, and hung them up.”

Your clothes has to be disinfected!” we were ordered.

“You’re going to be inspected and afterward you are going to take a shower.  I never gave any thought at to how are we going to get our clothes back because we were told that our clothes had to be tagged with our name, therefore, after the shower we would get our clothes back.

Once again we lined up for an inspection, and once again a SS officer was pointing to each person whether he should go to the right or to the left.  When my turn came he pointed to the left.  I hesitated for fraction of time maybe I should go to the right?  All the people who were selected to go to the right looked sickly and most probably they will wind up with the family compound.  Once again he pointed at me that I should go to the left.  “Mach du shnel (make it fast),” he barked at me.  This time I moved to the room where there were showerheads from the ceiling.  Within couple minutes the room filled in with rest of the selected men and we all.  We were waiting for the water from the showerheads to go on.  The doors were closed, and we were standing naked in total darkness waiting.  It felt like eternity.

“They are going to kill us.”  Somebody shouted

“They are playing a game with us.”  Some body else said. 

Again the doors opened up, some more people came in, once again the doors closed, and this time the water came down from the showerheads.  We all felt relieved, and we washed ourselves in total darkness.  A couple of minutes past and the doors opened up and there were standing the striped uniformed camp inmates with sticks and yelling at us.  Get out fast!  Another group is coming in, and as you run they kept hitting and swearing at us.  I was too fast for them to be hit, but many had red marks all over their bodies.  I could not understand all this brutalities from other inmates.  Finally I came over to long table where there were piles of clothes.  Some other inmates were there they looked at you and thru some clothes at you.  I grabbed a pair of pants, a jacket, and a pair of shoes.  The pants were slightly too long, the jacket was fine, but the shoes were tight.  I went over to him and politely asked if I could exchange them.  “Get away you Jew,” he said in Polish.  I stood up to him,  “you should know better” I said to him while looking straight at him.  For a while there was a stand off.  A German soldier happened to pass by “ Vas is los?”  (What is the mater?)  The German asked.  Before the Polish inmate had a chance to say anything I spoke first.  How am I supposed to work with these shoes when I cannot even put my feet in them?  Am I supposed to cut off my toes?  .  I must have looked funny.  I was standing, holding my pants it should not fall off wearing a jacket and holding a pair of shoes that anybody could have seen it that it was to small.  “Go over to the pile and pick up a pair of shoes,” the German said.  I immediately thanked him, but that was not the end he also pointed where pants were.  “Go and exchange those stupid pants” Like lighting I was on the top of the pile pants I picked the best I could find.  The German looked at the Polish inmate with the same hate as they normally looks at Jews.  I knew that somehow I have to make peace with the Pole.  While he was handling out cloths again approached him “what do you want now?”  I want to apologize for the misunderstanding.  “You got guts” he smiled, I reached out and we shook hands.  To tell the truth I was scared for the consequences, with my apology and shaking his hands I felt the crises passed. They herded us into a wooden barrack.  On each side there were rows of bunks, three levels high.  After we all were in, a whistle blew, and we were told to line up on each side by.  A tall heavyset man with a whip in his hand came in and looked around.  I am the Capo of this barrack.”  What I am going to tell you I will only repeat once.  You are shit; you are vermin, a cockroach, and an ant.  So if you don’t want to die you better do what I tell you.  I don’t care if you live or die.  In the morning you hear a whistle: you get up and wash yourselves.  You are going to get some bread and a piece of margarine and when you hear another whistle you step outside You are going to stay in three rows with your hats on.  When The German officer comes over to our barrack you will hear my order “hats off,” and all of you will take your hats off at the same time understood?  You are going to be counted, and we call this an Apel.  And now you are going to practice all of you, taking the hats off at the same time.  Later when you hear the whistle you step outside for the Apel.  By the time the Apel was called, and we stood for attention, until we were counted we were totally exhausted.  We have not eaten since the evening before and now we were standing in line for our supper meal.  Each of us got a round deep metal plate, and we were told to keep it.  One of the camp trustees poured some watery soup with three pieces of potatoes floating on top.  I was assigned with other five young boys to sleep on the top part of the bunk bed.  There were some blankets there; as I was the first one to go up I grabbed one and covered myself, and did not take long before I was fast asleep.  A sharp whistle awoke me from my sleep.  “Out of the beds and get outside for the Apel,” the Capo screamed.  I did not need to get dress, because I fell asleep with all my clothes on.  I asked where is the latrine and is there any water to wash there.  I was directed to got a couple of barracks away and you will find the latrine and water to wash there.  It did not take me to long before I was ready.  We were standing to be inspected and counted.  Even though it was in August it felt chilly, where are we?  I was questioning.  Are we somewhere in North Germany?  I don’t remember how long we were standing for the Apel.  All I remember is that the sunrise of new day appeared in the sky.  It must have been about five o’clock in the morning.

Once again we got a slice of bread a piece of margarine and some kind of liquid to drink.  I did not dare to ask if this is what we are going to eat till the evening.  We were given the freedom to walk around but we were told not approach the electric fences.  I walked outside and for the first time I was trying to evaluating where we were.  There were two rows of concrete post spaced approximately ten to fifteen feet apart.  Eight rows of barbed wire were strung.  Each wire was fastened to a china holder.  There were elevated post with strobe lights, and each post had two SS soldiers with revolving machine guns.  Each post distance was within visual range from post to post.  Signs were also were posted to be aware that the wires are electrified and any one approaching the fences will be shot.  No way can anybody escape from this place; what are we doing here?   Whatever is going on here I have to find out first where are they keeping the women and children.  No matter which trustee I asked, no one could give me an answer.  This was going on for a while until a man stopped in our barrack and inquired about a particular person.  “Are you from Lodz” I asked “ Yes,” he answered, “I am looking for my son “ he said, “This is the last barrack left then,” He did not finish his sentence.  “  Can you tell me where are the women and children barracks are?  “  I asked.  I felt that I had caught him by surprise.  “ Did you come yesterday with the transport from Lodz?’  He asked“ I came with my mother, and with my twelve year old brother and a four and half year old sister,” I said This time I saw that the men’s face softened up and he had tears in his eyes.

Come here,” he said.”  Do you see the smoke above the barracks?”  “  Don’t answer me, just listen to me, one hour after you arrived they were all gassed and cremated.”  And my son also was on this train.  At this point he just turned away from me still murmuring they are all dead. 

All I could comprehend was the word dead.  It’s impossible he wants to scare me they promised us we were good workers and they needed us.  Maybe his son is dead but not my family.  I tried to find some hope, but to no avail.  I was trying to fool myself with false hope.  I run to the barrack to ask the Capo if this was true.  As I entered the barracks and looked at the other inmates I knew that the man told me the truth.

All I wanted to do was to find a place and to think, and when I found that place I just could not sit.  I promised my father; if something is going to happen to him I will protect the family.  Why did I give in to my mother to leave the hiding place?  Would we have been better off if we were all killed together?  Why did she push me away to go with the men?  At that point I spoke to God; why did you spare me?  Please take me I don’t care if live.  I don’t remember what happened for the next couple days until a man spoke to me “if you will die then Hitler succeeded therefore you have no choice but to live.”  Maybe somebody is alive don’t say Kaddish yet.”  Yes he was right I would refuse to say Kaddish until I would find a witness who saw them die.  (Kaddish is a prayer for the dead.) 

I grieve for them, but now I wanted to live.  Yes the man was right and I must thank him, I have to survive.  I looked for the man but I never found him again.  We did not work that gave us more time to mourn but, the nights were the most awful In the darkness of the night you hared sobs all around.  Sometimes I climbed down from my bunk, found one or two people, and tried to console them.  I tried to give them some false hope, maybe not all of them perished.  Don’t say Kadish yet.  We all have to pull ourselves together and look good, just in case there would be another selection.   

Within a week there was another selection.  All the young boys, my age, and a little younger were told assemble on front of the barracks.  There were three rows, approximately 150-200 standing on attention waiting for a selection to what?  Are we going to be selected to go to work?  Or are we selected to the gas chamber?  No matter what they are going to tell me I would not believe them any more.  We were brought to attention, and we heard the command “hats off!” and our hats come off our heads in unison like one. 

Once again a tall lanky SS officer with a medical insignia was looking us over a slight smile.  This time I stood straight and looking at him straight in the eyes.  After a while with his hand pointing at the person started the selection.  This time we were told to step forward of the line.  He has selected approximately fifty boys and the rest he dismissed.  

“You were selected to work.  You will be treated better and you will be getting some better food.  I did not a believe a word he said, didn’t the doctor at the Lodz station that as soon we arrived at our destination to see for medical help for Sara, and did she go.  Now the Germans are going to treat us better?  I don’t believe you any more.   

Follow me, and we followed him.  We came to a barrack and we were told to line up in a single line.  As I entered there were three inmates at a table.  “Tell me your first name, last name, and date of birth and where did you come from?”  After I gave him all the information he wanted, he turned me over the next inmate.  “Put out your left arm!”  This time it was like a command.  He grabbed my arm, twisted till my back of my arm was facing him.  I was not able to see what he was doing, all I was able to feel that a needle was pricking at my skin.  “You number is B 7568” the inmate #2.  I looked at the back of my lower arm and there was a tattoo B 7568.  Again I was motioned to go to inmate #3.  “Sit down and don’t move” at this point inmate #3 grabbed my head and begun to cut off all my hair on my head.  “Now you ready to take a shower, get going” I could help it I quipped back at him they will have to wait until I have my dinner.  For the first time I heard somebody laugh, and so did I.  After the shower each of us got a uniform with some patches.  “You have saw them on the right side of your jacket, the number patch goes on top and the red triangle with the point facing to the bottom and the yellow point facing up.”  There weren’t any explanations given to us.  Soon we found out by ourselves the red meant we are communists and of course the yellow meant we are Jews if I needed to be reminded.  To all our surprise we got a pair of so socks and a pair of underwear.  I retained my shoes I did not feel to go through another hassle.  We dressed ourselves and we looked quite decent.  The pants and the jacket fitted pretty well, and we got something, which looked like a beret type of hat.  And once again I started to laugh “ we looked like the prisoners from the American movies.  Every part of our clothes had whit and dark blue strips running vertical.   

We marched for some time till came to a gate; where we were turned over to an officer with two other camp inmates who were waiting for us I noticed that on the gate there was a sign 

"ARBEIT MACHT FREI (WORK MAKES YOU FREE)"
AUSCHWITZ

They marched us over to a two story red brick building.  We walked up to the second floor and to our amazements we saw rows of three high single bunk beds.  Each bed had a blanket neatly tucked in under a straw mattress.  The floor and room was clean and it had even windows which some were open.  “This is block 12 and you are going to stay for a while.  Here are the rows of bunks and you better remember to keep as clean as you see now.  I am the Capo of this building and I have whip, so if you don’t want to meet my whip just obey my orders” here are some needles and cotton and make sure that you saw on your patches and make them perfect.  When you hear the whistle make sure you walk down for the Apel.  And remember I don’t take any nonsense!”

After the Apel we met some of the old timers who built those buildings in the early forties.  We were warmly welcomed and what surprised me that there were so many Christians among them.  During the day all we did was cleaning whatever we were told to do.  At nights was a different story, the horrors what we went through was getting worst.  I used to be half awake in the up middle the night and talking and fighting with my mother.  I kept repeating the same sentence, “I want to go with you.  Normally one of the boys put me back to sleep.  

After two weeks we were divided and were told that we are being sent to different labor camp.  Once again we were faced with the fear of the unknown.

 

Buda agriculture camp -- an Enclave of Auschwitz:

We came late in the afternoon and were taken to one of the two barracks there.  We were met by the Capo.  And once again were told the rules and what they expected of us.  Somehow there no threats like the in the prior camps.  He spoke to us in German and explained that we are going to be divided to different details.  He asked whether anyone of us has any experience in agriculture.  I was the only one who raised the hand.  With a skeptical voice he asked what experience I had...What I noticed that he had a red green insignia that meant that he was a German.  I took my hat off and in a straight unafraid voice explained my experiences with horses.  After he finished he showed us were our sleeping bunk beds are.  It was the same as it was in Auschwitz, each one we got one part of a tree tier bunk bed.  I always picked the upper deck for one reasons; it was warmer there.  It seamed that they expected us because all our bed-bunks were next to each other. 

By late in the afternoon the rest of the inmates marched in, I saw them going directly to the pump, working in twosome they washed and got ready for the Apel.  Within half an hour we heard the whistle and everyone was standing in line to be counted.  The Capo reported that everyone was there.  Our hats were off and the counting began.  The SS officer and recording soldier were counting, but when he came to our group of boys he stopped nodded his head like a greeting.  I thought that I was mistaken but it was confirmed later on that he really did.

When the Apel was finished and we all returned to the barrack we were surrounded by the inmates wanting to know when and were we came from.  Short time later food was brought in and every one was standing in line for our evening meal.  To my surprise we got our normal portion of soup but there was some vegetables and some meat, too finish off we got a nice slice of bread with a piece of margarine.    After everyone was finished a short Jewish inmate came over carrying a violin and started to play.  “We want to welcome” he said you.  When the violist finished then another inmate started to sing, and this was on until the light went out.  What I noticed that the men were wearing different color patches, and mostly inmates were not Jewish.  What I summarized that we are in a political barrack I was wondering who are the inmates in the other barrack.  When I asked who is living in the other barrack I was told that only Hungarians.  When the whistle blew it was still dark.  I jumped down from my bunk and run outside to wash myself and then returned to the barrack, I made my bed, stood in line I got my slice of bread with margarine and got ready to go out for the Apel.  I noticed a men next o our bunk that he still did not eat his rationed of a piece of bread instead he was kneeling and praying.  I approached him and asked him to get ready for the Apel.  “Thank you son” don’t worry I will be ready, he said. 

As the down appeared the whistle blew and all stepped out for the Apel.  I noticed that on the other side of the double wires were couple other barracks.  To my astonishment I saw some woman were also assembling for an Apel.  I guess I missed them yesterday.  They looked like little boys, hair cut off; their uniform was flat like they did not have any breast.  I could not help but staring at them.  They were shaved by their Capos.  I also noticed that woman in SS uniforms counted them.

After the Apel I was assigned to a group and marched to work with them.  As I figured I was assigned to work at a stable.   

“You are the one who knows how to work with horses” The inmate who was in charge asked,  “Yes sir,” I answered.  We have horses which some officer’s ride, “How would you saddle this horse?”  The stable Capo asked me.  I felt good because I knew the answer.  “Sir, you would not saddle this horse, because this horse is draft horse and they are a special bread of horses for heavy work,” I answered.  “Well you know something about horses but don’t bluff too much what ever you don’t know I will teach you.”  I remained silent; I recognized that sometime silence was gold.

For the next couple days I worked as hard as I could.  I was cleaning the stable, brushing the horses and after the returned from the field I made sure that the horses drank enough water.  “Hey Szlamek (that was my name in Polish) come here!” the Capo called.  I felt a shiver going down my spin; I saw how he whipped an inmate for no reason at all.  What did I do wrong.  I took my hat off and did not say anything.  “Come with me and he took me to the corner of the last stall in the stable.  This is a special horse, which belongs to a SS captain officer.  He rides this horse three to four times a week.  He loves this horse but he does not like people, and this horse as mean as he is.  You have to take care of this horse.  Every morning you brush him feed him and then take him to the water basin water him and then dry him.  Make sure he does not smell from the other horses.  I will tell you when the officer wants to ride; you are going to saddle up the horse and wait outside for the officer to arrive!  When he arrives you take your hat off and hold the stirrups until he sits comfortable, and then hand the stirrup to him and move away fast; or he purposely will run you over.”  That was some order the Capo gave me I honestly I was scared.  I had a mean horse and a mean officer, what will be next.   

It was some time in September and once again I heard the sweet voice of the Capo summering me like I was going to a firing squad.  Come here!  I run over to him and my best voice I said; Yes Sir what did I do wrong?  Did you finished with the morning choir?  “Yes” I answered.  You are going out to help a man to plow the field.  It is one of your horses.  You will guide the horse and he will plow.  The SS soldier will take you there, take the wagon, and pick up the plow and the inmate; SS soldier will take you both to the field.   

I was already tired, the Apel was at four thirty this morning why are they rushing us this morning.  A thought went through my mind are we really going to plow a field?  What is the reason to plow when they will never gain the fruit of our work? 

I felt tense, I did not tell the other inmate but I made up my mind, I was much stronger then when I arrived, he is only one soldier and if he will goes for his rifle I am going to jump him.  The SS soldier was sitting next to me.  My heart was beating and I felt what ever is going to be I am ready.  “Dus ist eine sheine tag”(it is a nice day) the soldier said.  I nodded back to him “Stop das ist der feld”(this the field).  I unhitched the horse, while all the time I was standing on the other side of the horse and eyeing the soldier.  We hooked up the plow and proceeded to plow.  I introduced myself to the other inmate: my name is Shloimo Vigdor but they call me Szlamek.  He was a Hungarian Jew from Bud-Pest.  “Stop” das ist shoen gnug!” the SS soldier told me to unhitch the horse from the plow and hitch it to the wagon.  The SS soldier told us that we can rest for while.  We sat down on the wagon and we noticed that the sun was starting to set on the horizon.  We plowed for approximately six hours and at that point we, and the horse were dead tired.   

Yom-HaKippur 1944  

I felt as I was in a trance looking at the beautiful sunset to be awakened by the melody of Yom Kippur.  The Hungarian chanted the prayer of Kol Nidre.  After a while we were ordered to start to drive back.  Before we started to drive the Hungarian said:  “You see the field we plowed and you heard me chanting the Kol-Nidre.”  “Yes” I replayed,  “Well this is Erev Yom Hakipur and we turned over the soil which were covered with a grayish substance, those were the ashes from the crematorium.  Maybe it was right for me to be here, maybe token of those ashes were of my wife and my two small children, as we were turning over the soil I buried them” At that point quietly he started to recite the Kadish with tears coming out of his eyes.  As we were driving back the SS soldier asked me what is wrong with the Hungarian.  “Tonight is the beginning Of the High Holy Day and he is missing not being home,” I said He arrived to Birkenau sometime in June and went through the same rites as I did.  We both communicated in Yiddish.  When we arrived back at the stable we just had enough time for me to give water to the horse and bring him to his stall.  As we were walking the Capo asked me whether we finished plowing the field?  “No, we did not because the SS soldier told us to stop, and we left the plow over there” I said.  Then tomorrow you will have to go back.  “Sir we just turned the soil over to caver up the ashes from the crematorium, can you get somebody else” I asked with a pleading voice.

“This is a concentration camp and you are going back.  His face turned red with anger and he made sure that everyone heard it.  Next day I started my normal routine, but he did not send me back to plow the field to cover up the ashes from the crematorium.  For the next couple days I could not shake off the terrible feeling that I walked on the ashes of thousands of Jewish remains.  Sadness engulfed me, and once again I question my own existence.  Why was I chosen to live and so many went to the right and perished in the gas ovens.  Even the Capo noticed that since I came back I never smile or pushed myself.  About twenty inmates were working at the stable, most of them old timers in camp.  Working in the stable I was able to organize some food as they always brought in some vegetables for the horses.  Normally on Sunday we worked a half-day and the other part of the day we used to wash our own laundry.  When the choir was done some of the inmates entertained us.  The violinist played, then we had an opera vocalist who sang some arias from different operas.  The couple hours were quit entertaining, but like everything it had to come to an end and we started all over next day.  September was at an end and we felt the chill in the air.  It was Monday; we all knew what we had to do.  I cleaned out the two stalls.  Put some fresh straw, brushed and took them out to the trough to drink and then put in some fresh hay and barley for them to eat.

I was told that the SS captain is going to riding and I should get ready his horse.  Immediately I saddled up his horse.  It was a beautiful stallion but he was hard to manage, there was certain meanness to this horse.  I took him out to the trough to drink some water before he will be ridden.  Suddenly I felt that is something is happening, he was trying to get away from me.  Before I was able to contain him he stood up on his hind legs, but I was holding with both my hand on the horses bridle.  I was not about to let go and to be trampled by this horse.  And there I was up in the air and still holding on to the bridle.  The Capo and the SS captain including several inmates were finally able to subdue the stallion.  I was trembling not knowing what to expect next.  I did not know what precipitated this outburst.  I heard the SS captain yelling at somebody and when I turned around and I noticed the unmerciful beating of an inmate with his horsewhip.  After a while the screaming of this inmate stopped, he just was laying in a puddle of blood.  I was a witness how a man was beaten to death.  Well was I not warned that we are nothing, whether we live or die it dos not make a difference.  The captain turned away from the beaten man took his gloves off and through them on the ground and went away.  ”What happened here” I thought that I was the culprit.  The man should have known better than walking with a mare in heat, but you just learned how to fly.”  I did not see any humor when I just saw a man beaten to death. 
 

The Miracle:     

Couple days later I developed a toothache and was brought to the veterinarian.  As for a veterinarian she certainly was a beautiful woman.  When she touched me I started to shiver.  “I am not going to hurt you,” she said with a smile.  A lot did she know that it was not the fear of hurting me, I was seventeen years old, and this was as close as I ever was to a woman.

She packed my tooth and told me to wait outside until we all are going to go back.  I thanked her with a thought that I am going to have some more tooth aches.

I was waiting outside when I saw some pigs and men walking with pails with hot potatoes.  This must be good place to work I thought to myself.  As I was thinking I noticed the SS captain passing in front of me.  Immediately I took off my hat: “Sir my grandfather used to have a pig farm.”  I said.  “I have some experience with pigs” He recognized me from horse stable, but did not say anything and walked away.

The same evening the Capo after the Apel assembled some of us (the boys) and told us not report to the regular work, we are going to work in the pig farm.  I told a couple of boys who were assigned what a bonanza was just given to them.  I also warned them about the captain, and told them about the incident with horse and the inmate.  “Remember what the Capo in Birkenau said; we don’t have any value, so watch yourselves.”  In camp I befriended two boys who must have came with the same transport as I did.  Somehow I felt a certain kinship to them and they felt the same about me, their name were Yulek Zylbeger and Adek Wasercjer   It was only six weeks since the doors of the train opened up.  I have to live the way the man said.  He was right; if I will die then nobody will remain from our family.  “No, you are not going to win this time because I am going to survive.”  I certainly learned a lot, mainly how to hate.  But one thing my mind could not comprehend, how do you murder children?

Next morning after the Apel we were led to the pig stable.  I felt very nervous, what made me say that I had experience with pigs.  The only thing I knew about pigs, when my uncle refused to let me play with my football, because the football was made out of pigskin, I will have to observe what chores with pigs people are doing. 

We stood on attention and waited to be told what is expected of us to do.

Achtung!  Immediately our hats came off our heads as an elderly German sergeant appeared.  He stood for a while and looked at us, as I also was wondering what is going through his mind?  “You are going to cook potatoes for the feed for the pig.  “  Watch yourselves, you are going to cook five to six hundred pounds of potatoes per day.  You will cook the potatoes until this pool is full.  You have to fill the potatoes in layers.  After each layer of potatoes you will cover them with a layers of straw.”  The sergeant said.  At this point he turned us over to two Greeks from Salonica.  We were divided into groups.  Yulek and I we were chosen to cook the potatoes.  The next two had to wash potatoes before we cook them, and the rest were given choppers to chop the potatoes.  As the potatoes were brought to us we filled them in a twenty-four inch round by five feet high steamer.  We closed the lid and opened the valves and we expected that the steam would do its job.  We immediately walked away to the next steamer.  When we finished the last one we returned to the first one.  The Greek shut off the valves released door on the bottom and the first batch of potatoes rolled down to the wheelbarrow.  The other Greek picked up the wheelbarrow and deposited into the pond.  Once again we started the operation all over again.

I was amazed the speed we were cooking, and after we emptied the steamer I kicked a couple potatoes on a side.  The Greek did not say anything matter of fact whenever I bent down to pick up a potato he and a wheelbarrow were blocking me.  Yulek not only he ate but he tried to put some in his shirt for later on.  I warned him not endanger himself.  He chuckle about it “who is going to miss some potatoes here” and dismissed my warning.  Slowly through the next couple days the pond kept filling in.  Meanwhile I kept observing how the people are working with the pigs.  As I suspected Yulek got caught filling his jacket with potatoes.  He was taken into the shed and meted out twenty lashes on his body.  Late on the same day we were told that we were not needed there any more and to report back where we worked before.  Well, it was nice while it lasted; I just wished it had lasted a little longer.  As we were ready to depart and standing in marching orders the Captain appeared.  He was looking us over and over, sudden he was pointing at me to come forward.  My heart was beating so strongly that I was afraid that he might hear it.  I took off my hat and stood straight facing him.  “You are coming back tomorrow and report to me” Yavol Her Capitan, I turned around went back to the line where I was standing before.

Yulek for the next couple days could not sleep on his back.  I kept putting on some wet rags to sooth his pain.  All through out this ordeal, he warned me not to remind him that I warned him.

The next day I reported with other men to the pig stable.  The first assignment was to round up a couple of marked pigs, and loaded them on a wagon.  With a loud scream the pigs must have known that they are going to be slaughtered.  I shuddered; at the scream of the pigs it was like the cry of little children.  Is it possible that we all incarnate of different beings?  As the day progressed the Capo gave me the dirtiest jobs.  I understood that, I am new and I did not care, as long I was able to organize some extra food. 

Adek become my camp partner and because I had food at the pig stable I was able to shared some of my food with him.  He and the rest of the boys did not fare as well as I did.  After they came back from work and we had to stand for the Apel they looked tired and worn.  Sometime we were standing for hours to be counted.  Standing at attention, with the cold wind and rain trashing at us, and finally the count begun.  They did not care.

Finally I was assigned to stalls where some of the sows were ready to furrow.  I was told the normal litter was from six to eight at a time.  Here I was I become a midwife to hogs.  Besides delivering them I also was taught to cut part of the fangs that they would be forced to chew.  I tattoo their ears with numbers for identification purpose.

I must have been good because nobody was checking on me.  I used to go pick up some left over food from the SS mess hall, picked up milk to be mixed with the feeds for the young hogs.  When I brought in the food nobody was watching me and I helped to the best food but I still had to be careful.  Slowly my body started to fill in and because I did do a lot of physical work I even started to develop muscles.  One day I was sent out with a wagon to pick up potatoes and other vegetations.  I was not guarded because it was within the confines of the camp.  After picking up a full load I turned around towards the pig stable.  I stopped when some inmate with a wheelbarrow had to cross the road.  There were about fifteen of them and the looked like skeletons.  Slowly I pulled the horse back and made believe that I had a problem.  I walked over to the SS guard and if I can have a prisoner to help me with the load.  The SS guard did not tell him, with rifle but he chased over to him.  E was one of the Hungarian’s from the other block.  I told him that was nothing wrong with my load but I am going to drop some potatoes and beats into the ditches they were working.  Everything worked out fine, every time I shifted my weight a couple of potatoes and beats rolled down the ditch.  What I did not count that I nearly lost more than I intended to loose.  I was not rushing myself to go back because the Captain was out riding and I picked up a smaller load because I felt that the horse was tired.  Everything would have been all right if would have gone ridding but he did not.  “Where were you and how come the load is so sparse?”  The Captain in a very settled voice asked.  I told what I prepared to say about the shift but he did not buy it.  He took me into the shed and told me to bend over.  “ I want you to learn to how to count starting now count.  With the horse whip he started to whip me, one, two, three and so on till I came to fifteen at that point he kicked with his ridding boot in my behind and I fell flat on my face.  Well, I guess that my profession as a pig farmer is over.  I did not understand I ached but it was not as painful as it should have been.

How many did he give you; they all wanted to know, “fifteen “ I replied, and to prove it I removed my shirt.  “  All we see are some red marks, he certainly did not hit you too hard” they said.  I was surprised myself. 

Next day I reported back to my station like nothing did happened.

The cold weather sat in and certainly the winter snow will soon follow.  We all shuddered when the first snow fell knowing what to expect.  Some of the boys came back from work; they could not open up their hands from the cold frosty water trying to retrieve fish from drained lake.  Winter was never a friend to us, all it meant that we now he had to endure some more pain.

We heard that the crematorium and the gas chamber were blown up.  What a pity that it did not happen before we came

Pretty soon Christmas will be here and maybe will get some extra food.  We all feel that the war is coming to an end, but how many more lives are going to loose?  It is Christmas evening and some of the none-Jewish inmates are singing some Christmas carols.  We all felt the holiday spirit taking over the block.  Some times before the light were shut the young SS Office came in, we all jumped off to our feet and stood at attention.  He called us to get close together.  “I came to wish you all a happy Christmas and I hope that the next year you all will be free and I mean all of you.  I want to shake your hand and wish you also a happy New Year.  We were astounded to hear those words from a German SS officer.  Came New Year morning about fifty of our inmates were selected, including yours truly to go to the female camp.  We did not know what to expect but we washed and wanted to look as presentable as we could.  They escorted us to a hall and there were women as nervous as we were waiting for us.  In front of the female line there was standing a tall SS woman, “You are going to dance but don’t get to close” the SS woman in a cordially voice said.  At that point a man started to play the piano and slowly the men stated to drift over to the female inmates.  I was standing on the side, I did not know how to dance, and I was to shy to hold a woman next to me.  Every once in a while a man got a little too close to his female companion the SS woman used to tap the man on his head.  I felt that tears were coming to my eyes what a horrible site this was, two zombies looking at each other with a far away look; how the past used to be.  At the end we all stopped dancing and to listen to some renderings from Mozart and Bach, and ending with a song which I will never forget “ Mir Fahren cu America.”  (We are going to America)  A lot did I know that his prediction would come to me?

Fifteen days later as the Russian’s were approaching Auschwitz was disbanded and we marched towards Germany.
 

Epilogue:

If I gave anybody a mistaken an idea that my time in Auschwitz was a bed of roses, it is certainly mistaken.  There was not a moment that I forgot who I am and what I meant to them.  I was lucky to be in the right place in the right time.  There was always the fear and remembering losing within one blink of eye my mother and my siblings.  Through my luck I was able to help to share some of food my food with Adek and some other.  In the story of “The Ray of Hope” I am continuing the march and riding open train in mid-winter to Buchenwald, Rhemsdorf, and finally to be liberated on May 8th, 1945 in Rhemsdorf.

 

Victor Breitburg
Levittown, New York
E-mail: victorsb@aol.com

Also by Victor Breitburg:

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