Concentration Camp Child Survivor
I don’t know if you know, but Majdanek was one of the first camps that was established near Lublin. It was a ‘Final Solution’ camp. They had all the crematoria & everything… The Americans did this unbelievable thing. They took us to a place called Bad Gastein, in Austria, right at the border with Italy. The American Army rented out all the hotels & put us in the hotel, which meant that we didn’t live under tents. We actually lived in - in rooms. Teachers came to teach us Hebrew, to prepare us to go to Palestine. We had food…not wonderful food, but we had food. We had heating. Marvellous. So the place was beautiful. I can’t tell you how lovely Bad Gastein is if you don’t know it. Absolutely beautiful. In the summer it’s high mountains but it’s green. The houses are magnificent. It’s a spa place. In the winter it got all magic—covered with snow. Icicles hanging everywhere, beautiful. After 4 years in the camp it must have just looked magnificent. The American Army would come into the town & see us, & give us things: chewing gum, tinned milk. They'd also give a little bit of money. My mother bought a little bit of material & made clothes for me. In fact she kept two of the coins, the dollars, in her wallet for a worse day. A day she really will need it. She never spent them. We—I’ve still got them.
My mother had another child, an older child, born before me. When we were in the camp they separated children from mothers but because I was so young they said I can stay with my mother. She told the story, not to me directly, but to my son when he grew up, that one day, some of those Nazis that were in charge of the camp got drunk. They went into the barrack where there was about 8 children, very young children, & they killed them all. They killed them by- Some with their hands & some by taking them by their feet & throwing them against the wall. And… [sighs] I mean when my son told me this, I don’t know really how my mother survived this. I mean obviously she lost all her family in the war. So how my mother survived these events, I don’t know. How she survived the knowledge of my father’s dying, not knowing that he'd died but seeing his boots on somebody else’s feet… I mean, I don’t… Some of the stories that she told Benjamin [Ruth's son], she never did tell me. She kept me with her all the time. When there was the the roll call she would put me under the bench & then she would go out, stand near German women, women that were not Polish but were there for other reasons. She thinks that that probably helped her not to be selected. So it was each time, it was hoping that she wouldn’t be selected. Hoping she can go out & do a little work & bring back a little scrap of food. So I understand that, having survived such horrors. Who wants to talk about it? You really want to forget about it.
I didn’t really have a feeling of hardship, apart from being hungry all the time. My grandmother was working in the kitchen. Every so often she stole a carrot for me. My mother had a manicure set. She was doing manicuring to other people in the camp. They gave a little bit of their stew. A little bit extra for her, for doing the nails of these people. These are silly things that I remember. Not the- Not the serious things. We were allowed to to learn to read & write & to play with clay. So it wasn’t as bad as some other factories. & places. Apart from the starvation. We slept in straw. You could see these bedbugs. Big, big things, moving about. In the straw. Our hair was full of fleas. I remember things like that & a lot of itch. But basically this was still a better place than some of the people went through in these horrendous other camps. Yes, we children, we certainly had a better time than some other children where they were just taken and killed.
We were supposed to go to Auschwitz but we didn’t, & that saved our life. Because most of the people, all the Jews in Szeged they were all exterminated except the people on our train. That’s as much as I know. The train was very traumatic. The soldiers were very rough, pushing more & more people into this carriage. Just awful. It must have been quite long, because we were very thirsty & had nothing to drink. This terrible smell, because people had to go to the toilet.
I remember the Russians coming into Theresienstadt. I remember that very clearly, because we were standing in the street. And by that time I think the Germans must have fled. And they were coming in trucks. And they were throwing off the trucks pieces of chocolate and pieces of bread. And all the things we haven’t seen - in years. And we were absolutely over the moon, grabbing what we could. And they said that we were free to do what we wanted and that was unbelievable.
And then we had to leave this camp because I think the Russians were advancing. So their- the- the Austrians or Germans, I don’t know who were looking after the camp, were moving us all the time to- towards Theresienstadt. And I remember walking quite a lot. And it was winter and cold. And I remember walking through woods and there were planes coming and dropping bombs. And I remember that we had to lie down. And my mother put her head over my head. And she said, “If we have to die, then we have to die together.” That’s another little thing that I remember.