Kaufering

I got up and I said, “What is going on?” And somebody said, “Just quickly look out.” And we looked out and all the SS were standing in roll call. And we were standing in there and watching and when the roll call was over, our old man, he was an old Lithuanian, he came in and he said, “Well girls, we are going to leave you here, the Americans are in Wolfratshausen, they are going to take you over, ’bye ’bye, all the best.” And the Germans marched out, and we were left. Well, the Russians, instead of going to open the gate, and they went, and the first thing they went, they went straight across the road to the beautiful villas where the SS used to live, and they went in and broke up the most beautiful pianos and chandeliers and it looked a mess. And we were sitting there waiting for the Americans, meanwhile we were hungry, so Rochelle, we decided, “Come on let’s go and get some food from somewhere.” They said, “Where are you going?” We said, “We are just going somewhere, to the villages, for some food.” So we went, her and I. There isn’t a soul anywhere. And as we were going out from the camp we had to go through a little wood, and we found all the SS uniforms, these soldiers had in their rucksacks their civil clothes and when they left us they changed and disappeared, so the wood was a very small sort of a thing, and we went across and there was a farm here, and we said “Let’s go here”, and everywhere the white flags were out, flying, so we knocked at the door, and somebody came to the window, an old lady, and then the husband, and they saw two women, so they opened the door and we told them that we were sorry to disturb them but would they have something to eat because we were awfully hungry, and she said, she was very scared that some man was behind us, so they pulled us in and said, “Come inside”, and they said well we haven’t got much but whatever we have we will give you. And we went in and we sat down and they asked us where we are from, what we are doing here, and we said “We are prisoners”, and they said “What kind of prisoners?” And I said, “We are Jews.” And one looked at the other, you know some of them knew that the Jews disappeared and there weren’t Jews all over in places like that, maybe they had no idea, and I turned round and I had the red cross on my coat, and they brought us a big bowl of potato salad. And we sat down to this and we ate, and they just looked at us, and I said, “That could we take some of this because she has got two sisters and I have got a sister.” So, she brought some bread out and she brought some potatoes out and we put it in our bags and we said thank you very much and we went. We went to the next place, and we got some more potatoes, and by the time we both had a bulging potato and we said, “Come on, let’s go back.” And as we were going we saw forty soldiers marching, and as I look at them, they were Hungarians, I recognised their uniform and their things … I said to Rochelle, “Look who is here?” in Hungarian. And this chap stopped and he said, “Hungarians?” I said, “Yes, what are you doing here?” says I. He said, “Well we went home for a holiday, we had a month off, and when we came back we knew that it was over so they didn’t want to go out to the front, so they came to this village and the villagers kept them hidden.” Forty of them. I said, “Where are you going now?” Well I went to Wolfratshausen to tell the Americans that we are here, and they said we are to go back to our village and they will come to see to us. So I said, “Where are the Americans?” And as I was saying that there was this jeep going round and there was this American star on it. Well, we started running into the camp, and by the time we got there were two big tanks there, and the inmates were on the tank and they were giving chocolates and all sorts, but never mind, Brocha and I had about 210 potatoes so we had what to eat, and we were free. That is how it happened. Unbelievable. How did you feel? Oh, you felt euphoric. I mean to begin with, you really felt euphoric. It took a couple of days until you realised what had happened, and as the days went past you saw that there were very few of us alive and communities and families were wiped up, wiped out, and it didn’t feel very good, one got depressed and guilty, why me … why did I survive and why didn’t so and so survive. Altogether it was a strange existence, it didn’t happen over night.

We were still in our civilian clothes, we still had our documents with us and we had to surrender everything, and we got blue striped prison uniforms which looked like pyjamas. Now I had to surrender all my documents, all my papers, all my pictures, and until then I was still a person, I still had an identity in the camp in Lithuania. Here I got a number, sewn into my uniform and I had to surrender every picture, every paper I had, but apparently the German prisoner, he was a German criminal, who searched me, apparently he had some compassion because he took my mother’s picture and asked me, “Is that your mother?” And I said, “Yes, that is my mother.” “Well I will give it back to you, you had better keep it.” But everything else was taken away, but unfortunately just at that moment an SS supervisor was passing by, he took the picture and rebuked him, “You can't do that, he might still imagine he is a human being.” He took the picture and tore it up, so that was the last documentation I had from home.

Now the camp system again was more favourable to certain people than to others, the privileged people were perpetuating their privileges. It is very strange how once you get into a privileged position the pressure from the other privileged people and the drive is to keep all the privileged in the same group, so the ones who were better off in the ghetto became also privileged people in the concentration camp in Sanciai, and they had better jobs and better positions, and they were usually in kitchen jobs, or kapo supervision jobs, which was always easier than any other jobs. Well, we came to Germany [Dachau], the order was already more or less a pecking order was already established when we came. However, it was like a miracle, the people who were privileged in the concentration camp in Sanciai [Kovno], got kitchen jobs and cleaning jobs in that new concentration camp, and they were again privileged. So it was self perpetuating, the caste system, to have a charmed life, and it meant in a camp like ours it meant extra rations, it meant easier work, and it wasn’t an extermination camp, not like in Auschwitz, anybody could be killed, a privileged person had a good chance of surviving in this German concentration camp, if he hadn’t to do concreting and didn’t have to do the heavy work involved in building those underground factories.

Now as far as socks were concerned, there weren’t any, so what we did, we cut up army blankets which we were given to cover ourselves. We cut a piece off and we made foot wrappers, that was warm enough and it helped, but it was very risky, because Kirsch, our Lager Kommandant discovered what we were doing and he accused us of sabotaging army property and that was punishable by death. So he took as an example five prisoners, and they were hanged in front of the whole camp, and their bodies were left to hang for 24 hours as a deterrent.

The last day in April we slept in a little wood, it was snowing, and by the time in the morning we woke up we were coved with snow and we were wet through, but we were so exhausted that we slept through this snow blizzard. We woke up and I was completely stiff, Josh had to pull me out, and it was a sunny morning, so I went out of the wood to get some sunshine. No guards, we were alone. In the distance I saw a Russian prisoner of war and he announced that overnight the guards disappeared, and he said the Americans are due any time. Well, we heard a rumble and we quickly hid in the bushes just in case they were the retreating SS troops, but as we looked out we saw a few vehicles, and the first one had the French tricolour, so I realised that these are allies, must have been a reconnaissance group, they approached us and they looked at us, “Where do you come from?” I had to explain in French what we were, and my first words to him were, “Du pain s’il vous plait.” Some bread please. And they gave us chocolate, stupid it was. Anyway they fed us, and they took us to the place for displaced persons.

 
 

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