|Voices of the Shoah
HOME for Voices
TEXT TRANSCRIPTS of all audio on set
BIOGRAPHIES of all speakers
TIMELINE of the Holocaust
GLOSSARY of Holocaust related terms
|ALL AUDIO ON VOICES TRANSCRIBED BELOW|
Volume 1, Tracks 1-2
[John Rauch] Its almost like youve lived on borrowed time, a time that really wasnt yours. In one sense, your life could have ended, but it didnt.
[Abe Cheslow] Sometime I go to Dodger stadium, and I look around, and I figure what would happen if the government suddenly decided to take the Episcopalians or the Baptists or the Mexicans, or there was an announcement, All Southern Baptists go to Exit 15? Its incomprehensible how you can take everybody that I see and just wipe em out.
[Siegfried Halbreich] In school they asking me, Do you have nightmares? I said, Nightmares, dreams, I never do because I live with it, day and night.
[Sonia Meyers] They killed all my mothers family. They killed my one and only sisterthat I can never forgive them. They killed my husband, who never had a chance. He was 21-years-old, a wonderful person, and they killed all his family.
[Cesia Kingston] Why did they take away? Why couldnt my kids have a grandma and grandpa and uncles and aunts and cousins? Why?
Who had the right to take away their lives?
[Rauch] And so it gives you kind of a strange feeling on life. That this is like a special given time.
[Narrator] Hello. My name is Elliott Gould, and welcome to Voices Of The Shoah. The Shoah was the attempted annihilation of all Jews in Europe during World War II. Voices Of The Shoah includes interviews with people who survived this attempt and tell us their story. They will talk of times prior to the troubles, when life was hopeful and memories bright. They will tell us of more difficult timesof the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, being thrown from their homes, and put into ghettos. They will also tell us of incomprehensible horrors of the death campspain, starvation, and a loss of human dignity.
Voices Of The Shoah is accompanied by a book, which includes discussion questions, a time line and overview of the Shoah, photos, detailed maps, and a comprehensive index and glossary.
All the voices you will hear, with the exception of my voice, are voices of those who lived through the experiences they describe. These are firsthand stories, from the people who directly experienced the beauty of peaceful life before World War II and the cruelty, indifference, and terror of war as World War II and the Shoah gathered steam.
Volume 1, Tracks 3-7
LIFE BEFORE THE SHOAH
[Rauch] My name is John Rauch. I was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1930.
[Meyers] I was born in December 6, 1921, in Kalnias, Lithuania.
[Kingston] My name is Cesia Kingston. I was born in Lodz, Poland.
[Shlomo Berger] My name is Shlomo Berger. I was born in a small town in PolandKrosno, on October the 28, 1919.
[Halbreich] My name is Siegfried Halbreich. I was born November 13, 09.
[Jack Kagan] The Jewish community settled in our place in 1484: 14,000 people living in the town, 7,000 Jews.
[Berger] Inside the town, practically all Jews. All little stores, all little tailor shops, and barber shops were all Jewish.
[Meyers] My father was an Orthodox rabbi. My mother was a business woman because somebody had to make a living.
[Kingston] In our home was stressed education, so all I had to do was really bring good grades, and I had no other worry in my head.
[Meyers] We had family gatherings every Friday and Saturday. On Friday night after we ate, we always sang zmirot . . . Im going to cry. I cant sing it anymore. I . . . that . . . its too painful to sing. Its painful to sing those songs.
Our meals never really got finished until about 10, 11 oclock at night because my father was, on Friday night he was the king. He was the king most on Passover, but definitely on Friday night.
Life was beautiful, really. I would say that in Kovno, I did not feel any anti-Semitism, because we just never were around non-Jewish people.
[Berger] We lived right next door to the school, and I was a very late sleeper. And I never used to get up from bed before I heard the bell. When I heard the bell ringing, I used to jump up from bed and run into the school, and at the first intermission, I used to come home back for breakfast.
My parents were Orthodox Jews. I became more modern, and we just strayed from the religion. In the house we used to wear kippahs, but going out we already took off our caps.
We wanted to be just like anybody else. We lived in a country where we were second-grade citizens.
[Kingston] We went to Hebrew school. Our main language was Hebrew. Like geography, arithmeticeverything, everything was in Hebrew. My father dreamed of making me a lawyer and go to Israel. Education, education, education. Yah. This was the most important thing always, even in the ghettostudy, study hard. My sister was a good student, too, and they always said this is the only thing nobody will take it away, not even Hitlernobody. Study, study. And we did.
[Halbreich] I was not so interested in studying. I was interested in playing soccer and tennis. See, I was a very well-known athlete, and this part of me I would say, ascribe it to my survival.
My grandmother used to live in Oswiecim. Later on, the Germans they changed the name to Auschwitz. We knew the city very well because when we were in high school during the summer vacation, my older brother and myself, we went to Auschwitz, and we lived with our grandmother. We had a good time. In Auschwitz I would say, 90 percent were Jews. We stayed there the vacation. We went swimming in the river in Auschwitz. This is where the former military camp was. This was actually Auschwitz, the concentration camp. The Germans in 1940 changed it to a concentration camp.
[Kingston] Summer vacation was just pure joy. We went bicycle riding and playing with all the kids from school. I went to private Hebrew Jewish school. Next to it was the German youth house, and when the boys play ball, and the Germans grab the ball, we were afraid to go and get it back. I stayed within my friends from the class. I didnt venture very far away. I was always protected.
[Rauch] My dad used to listen on the shortwave radio to Hitlers speeches. Jewish life just seemed to go on. It was as though it were happening in some remote, distant place.
[Vera Schaufeld] Until Hitler came I think we were very . . . my father was a very patriotic Czech, and there was equality for Jews and for everybody, really believing that everything was all right. I grew up very secure in mainstream Czech life.
[Anonymous] You asked how I occupied myself. This was it: visiting relatives, playing, going to school, skating on Saturdays, visiting Grandmother on Sundays. Ive got a photo of my mother, father, grandfather, the Sunday before I came to England, and we look so innocent; were sitting in a cafe, the trees are in bloom, its midsummer, my mothers got a 1930s dress on and a smart hat. You wouldnt think anybody had a care in the world, and I was about to get on the train in order to have my life saved. My grandfather was shot in the street a few months later, and my parents went to concentration camps and got killed. And to look at us, you wouldnt have believed anything was happening.
Volume 1, Tracks 8-16
ANTI-SEMITISM and HITLERS RISE TO POWER
[Narrator] Following World War I, Germany experienced massive inflation and unemployment. The country had to pay war reparations, which pushed it into economic and social chaos. Hitler promised to solve these problems; he promised jobs and stability, and his solutions gave desperate German people hope for a more stable future. They went along with Hitler and let some of his anti-Semitic policies slide. In 1933 Jews made up less than one percent of Germanys population, yet, in speech after speech, Nazi leaders led by Adolf Hitler maintained that the Jews were secretly everywhere, controlling everything. In 1933 the Nazi party takes power in Germanydemocratically, in an election.
[Berger] While we were going to school we were second-class citizens, and we used to fight all the time with the Polish kids. The Poles, they could smell a Jew from a mile away. When we were young, we used to have bicycles on the road, took off our caps just like any Polish kid. Kids used to run out from their houses and used to call, Dirty Jews! and throw rocks after us. They didnt even know us, but they knew we are Jews. We were dressed just like them. We were acting just like them. Naturally, there were some of them that they were decent and that helped, but without the Polish collaboration Hitler could not accomplish what he did.
[Halbreich] After bar mitzvah, I laid tefillin every time, and I do it up today. I promised in the camp that if I survive, I will lay tefillin, and I do it till now.
Polish anti-Semitism. There were pogroms, beating up people in the streets, in Poland.
We were already hardened, but I never gave up. For instance, we had the kibbutz. Friday night we had services. We sang songs, and all of a sudden came the Poles and broke the windows, broke in, and beat people. The police came only when it was too late. I said, Next week we do the same thing, but we will be outside, hidden, and when they come we will attack them. And they came, and we beat them up, and from that time no more. There was peace.
[Narrator] With the support of German society and Adolf Hitler, Nazis boycott Jewish businesses, set up the first ten concentration camps, burn books considered a threat to Nazi beliefs, ban Jews from working in government, ban Jews from being doctors in the National Health Service, ban Jews from teaching in public high schools and from studying in public high schools and universities.
What you will see in the next testimonies is how slowly, ever so slowly, from 1933 through 1938, like a cloud approaching overhead that becomes a storm, Jews and many other quote undesirables lost all forms of freedom.
[Rauch] By that time, we really began to feel a sense of isolation, a sense of being an outcast. And when the kids who used to be friends would taunt you, and there were certain cliché catchphrases that all the kids picked up from the environment, like filthy Jew, dirty Jew, hook-nosed Jew. Kids, some of them, didnt even know what they were saying. It was just a popular thing to say.
My mother took me to Hitlers birthday parade in Vienna cause I was such a pest and nuisance cause all my friends got to go, my former friends, and they got to form this cordon along the streets, and everybodys all dressed up, its like a big festive thing. Thats the only real rally, quote unquote, I went to. This was the big cheese coming to town. Saw him between other peoples legs, but I saw him. Well, you know, you had a feeling this person must be somebody extremely important. I mean its like a Cecil B. DeMille movie seeing Caesar entering. You got the feeling this is a person of that stature. I should have been his assassin, but too young. I had the opportunity, I had the motive, but I didnt have the means!
[Fischl] I had sometimes the invitations to the big official balls in Vienna, where it said at the bottom, We would prefer non-Jews or something like that. On two invitations. And when I got them I used to say, You send me this invitation. You know I am Jewish. Why do you send me this invitation? And he says, But you arent the Je . . . No, we invite you because we want you there.
[Berger] Nineteen thirty-five: university admission for Jews was completely eliminated. So my father said to us, Kids, you have no other choice. You got to learn tailoring. It will save you from two things: youll never get rich, and youll never starve. So I started to learn tailoring. And we were four brothers; we were all working in the shop. And we became very successful.
[Eugene Heimler] You could smell the war around us. The relationship between myself and non-Jews became rarer and rarer as the time went on, because I think that they did not feel so safe to befriend the Jew. Also, it was not encouraged by the Jewish people either; we were not sure whether they were not spies for the police. All the suspicions begin to come about.
[Rauch] One of the Nazi myths was that Jews never did any physical work, and that Jews were sucking off the fat of the land, and so they would love to find Jews, especially Jewish women with fur coats and men with business suitspeople who used to be bankers, and people who used to be lawyers and rabbisand force them to do this menial work on the theory that we used to be maids in your homes, and now we have a chance to see you cleaning up our city.
[Narrator] In 1935 the Nuremberg laws were put into effect, which took away Jews basic freedoms. Not many could envision at that time that Nazis would attempt to murder all Jews, but one law after another was added. Eventually, 400 anti-Jewish laws would be written. Unfortunately, countries outside Germany, including the United States, had quotas which strictly limited Jewish immigration, leaving Jews who did not make the quota with no place to go for freedom. Jews became increasingly desperate.
[Ilse Sinclair] I think I never went to bed without saying, Please, God, get me out of here. We knew that we would be killed. How we would be killed we had no idea; I suppose we thought we would be lined up and shot, because we knew of people who had never come out of concentration camps. We knew of people who had been killed. I mean there were more and more people one knew who were never seen again.
Volume 1, Tracks 17-18
EFFORTS TO ESCAPE
[Anonymous] And as things got worse and worse, my mother realized that the whole family had to be got out. My father was an extremely nice manthey both werebut I think she must have been the sort of go-getter of the two, and she decided that heaven and earth had to be moved to get us out. She did all the form filling and all the queuing. And she ran from office to officeand I have a record of all thisand the door closed in her face, and she banged on the door, and she tried and tried and tried. And the fact I know that she made all this effort to save my life has been a big influence on me.
[Rauch] My family was working feverishly to get visa to America.
[Berger] By 1939 we were going to go, our whole group is illegal immigration to Palestine to fight the British. I was full of life, full of desire to go and do that. They used to call me the fascist because I was wearing a uniform, but my parents were too much involved making a living. They were not involved in any politics.
[Kingston] We were still in summer vacation. There were placards all over the city that opening of school years was postponed for one week. Didnt bother me. We were happy. I mean, one more week of vacation. We did not think much about, because how I visualize war was soldiers from two opposing countries will fight, but of course they wouldnt do anything to us. We are young, we are kids, we are not politically involved. No. What can they do to us? This was in 1939, end of August. In September, the war broke out.
Why didnt you leave? Thats the question my son all the time. Hes an immigration attorney. You couldnt. They didnt let you. You couldnt. You just couldnt.
Everybody was running away. They say that men, they should run. My father went with my cousin. Hes a few years older than I. He took him, and they went towards Warsaw. And I remember my father came back, my mother said, Why did you come back? Everybody goes to Warsaw. He said he was on the way he saw, I remember like now, he saw a couch, and on the couch was a woman with two children, and the house was burning, and my father said, Oh my gosh, I left my wife and four children. Where am I going? And he came back.
[Schaufeld] I can remember very clearly the day that England came into the war. I know that I had just had a letter from my parents saying that they were hoping to go to Holland. I can remember going upstairs into my bedroom, and crying, because I said, Oh, war has started, and my parents wont be able to come, and I wont see them. And Mrs. Fair saying, Vera, you are a very selfish little girl. It means a great deal more than this. It means that our boys will have to go into the army and all this, and you are a very selfish girl to be crying about yourself at a time like this.
[Narrator] March 1938, Hitler annexed Austria to Germany: 500,000 people of Vienna lined the streets to welcome the Nazis, and all German laws were now applied to Austria. At the end of 1938, Kristallnacht: 150 synagogues destroyed; 7,500 businesses looted; 30,000 Jews rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Four months later, March 1939, Germany takes Czechoslovakia. On September 1st, 1939, Germany takes Poland. Two days after that, England and France declare war.
Volume 1, Tracks 19-22
[Berger] Nineteen thirty-nine, Friday, September the 1st, about 5 oclock in the morning, we wake up and there is bombarding the whole city. We thought that this is the Polish Air Force are doing exercises. Germany attacked Poland. They demolished the Polish planes. They demolished [an] oil refinery, and within an hour we find out that we are at war with Germany.
An order came out from the Polish military authorities. All young people have to retreat to get into the Polish army. So my younger brother and I and a group of other boys, we started to retreat on foot, and as we were going, the German planes kept attacking us. We walked for about 150 kilometers. Finally, we see that the German tanks are outrunning us. We start to go back. During our walk back home, we heard about the big massacres. The Ukraines were a minority in Poland, and the first thing they did is they helped them kill the Jews. And when we came back, we started to realize what is happening. We justwe had to be afraid to go out in the streets.
[Kagan] The conversation in my home between my father and my uncle, Moishke, was Why do we have to run? They are used to work. They are not just business people; so they will take us to a camp. They wont kill us. What for? We are not members of any party whatsoever. To leave our home and to run somewhere, to search for a piece of bread and to risk our life, there is no reason for it.
[Berger] Orders came out that all Jews have to wear white arm bands with blue Magen Davids. Anybody that is not going to be caught without wearing an arm band will be shot. Jews had to go out to work, shovel snow, cleaning the roads, working in the airport without being paid, without getting anything.
[Halbreich] The Germans start to register us: All Jews, young men, from 18 to 45, on a certain day you come to the rail station, and you will go to work for us. The day before the transport supposed to go, I said, Im not going. I took a friend of mine, dressed up, got on the train, went through south Germany, through Austria, to the Yugoslavian border. And here we got out of the train full of German military. Not one asked us who we are. We were very well dressed. And here, right from the train, we go up in the mountains, we marched all night with suitcases. We saw the border lights, and there comes this Yugoslavian soldier. We give him to understand we are Polish officers.
They took us down to the border garrison, and here the officers interrogated us.
Where do you want to go?
We want to go to France to join the Polish legion to fight the Germans.
They said, Oh, you can go where you want to.
They give us a Yugoslavian soldier to lead us through the station. He was a German spy. And instead to take us to the station, he took us to the border and handed us over to the Germans. They arrested us. They took me with the guard on the train . . . A big gate, on top a sign: Arbeit Macht Frei, Labor makes you free. Sachsenhausen. And this was in October 39.
And this way I became not only Jew, but the first Pole in a German concentration camp.
[Berger] I left for a city called Tarnov, and that was 1940. There used to be a Gestapo officer in our town. His name was Becker. He used to come into the Judenrat and say, I need three Jews now. One of them with a shovel. He used to take them down to a field. The guy with the shovel, he told him to dig a grave. He was to shoot the other two, and then he shot him to get him to the same grave. Every day was worse. We were not people anymore.
Volume 1, Tracks 23-30
LIFE IN THE GHETTOS and MASS EXECUTIONS OF JEWS
[Kingston] Rumors were going that theyre going to build a ghetto. Well, you know, we school kids, whatd we know about ghetto? Middle Ages. They not going to make it. Its not Middle Agesits 20th century. They not gonna do it. I mean, no. What is a ghetto? What do you mean? Theyre going to put us where? But let me tell you, they took this street, that street, you have to go, you have to go. You went, and thats it. We went to the ghetto.
We were allocated one little, small room for six people; 160,000 people in one-and-a-half square miles. All Jews160,000 Jews, surrounded by barbed wire, German soldiers with machine guns, and guards with dogs.
[Berger] So it came August 9, 1942. It was on a Sunday morning. An order came out, placed all over on every house and through the Judenrat that all Jewsall9 oclock in the morning, Monday morning, they have to come up to the marketplace for registration. You can take with you 25 pounds of luggage, and to leave all the houses open. Anybody that will be caught will be shot. Panic started. They started to run. One started to run to the other to try to find out, and nobody knew whats going on. The Judenrat wouldnt say anything. The Jewish police wouldnt say anything. My friends wouldnt say anything. Nobody knew what was going to happen. My parents were still home. We were still four brothers, my sister and her husband, and two girlstwo children, one of 12 and one of 8. Some Jews went into hiding. Took a chance. Our whole family came out to that marketplace for registration. Everybody had to line up and wait.
By 10 oclock, trucks started to come. The Ukraine SS circled around all the people, made a ring all the way around. They started to separate old people and the rest of the people. They loaded up about ten trucks of old people, which included my father, and they drove away. Must have been about four, five hundred people, and within two hours, they came back empty. We found out later that a mass grave was prepared about 15 kilometers from us, in a forest. They took all the Jews over there, and they mowed them down with machine guns and killed them all there in this grave.
The German prepared one street, which was about 10-to-12 houses. They fenced it around on both sides, and this is what they would be calling the ghetto.
At nighttime, everybody that survived that registration was brought back into the ghetto15 in a room, 20 in a room, laying on the floors on boxes, one on top of each other. This was supposed to be our life. Next day in the morning they came, and they picked us up to go to work. My mother and my sister and the kids were still standing at that marketplace with another thousand or more people, and at nighttime they marched them to the railway station. They accumulated a full trainload, 180 to a car, locked them up. We didnt know what happened with them; they didnt know what happened to us.
The trains left, east. My mom, my sister, and a lot, a lot of relatives, a lot of family, they took them to Belzec. Belzec was not a concentration camp. Belzec was just, they had crematoriums, they came in there, they gassed them, they burned them. I dont know anybody that came back from Belzec.
[Rose Groves] I never forget the joyful Friday nights, when my father came home from the synagogue and my beautiful mother . . . Often I thought, Why do they want to destroy this very beautiful family life? When we were in the ghetto I thought to myself, Were never going to have more. We didnt hurt anybody; my mother was a gentle, loving person. Her main hobbies in life was her garden.
One day a Hungarian person with some German SS entered the house, and we were marched out of the house. And some Gentile people, who were living in the next house, were calling out, you know, Good riddance of the dirty Jews. And we were marched in the middle of the road to the ghetto.
[Ruth Foster] And in rows of five or six we had to march towards the ghetto. In front of us walked a young couple. The mother had a little child on her hand, and the father an infant on his arms. And one of the SS men came over to this child and said, Would you like a sweet? The child was frightened, and the mother tugged on her arm as to say, Answer him. So she said, Yes. Open your mouth, and he shot right through her mouth, and the child dropped dead on the mothers hand, and she had to leave it there.
And my father, who was a soldier in the first World War, said, I thought we were coming here to work, but I have never expected anything like this. So we drudged along; it was quite a long march in this cold, and we came to the Riga ghetto.
[Meyers] In one room, we were six people. They gave enough space, like in a casket, so what we did is we hung curtains from the ceiling to get privacy.
A piece of bacon was a big thing because you melted it, and you had something to fry, and eggs were very valuable.
People would trade stockings, silk stockings, risk their lives when they take off their yellow stars and trade with the Lithuanians.
I didnt have anymore a family. All I had is a mother-in-law. She was wonderful to me. We even were together in the concentration camp. She just didnt make it in the end.
Somehow, I always had a little extra piece of bread, and I would tell her, How come I still have bread? She would say, Cause I know how to slice it real thin. I think she cheated, that she gave me more than what she kept for herself. Because of her, really, I am alive.
[Kingston] My mother gave birth to this little one in November of 1940. Jewish people usually give names after a dead person in the family who lived long life, and my father said, Uh-uh, Im gonna give her the name Hadassa, which in Hebrew means hope. She was the apple of our eyes; we just adored this little girl.
We had boyfriends. We started looking at boys, yes, and after the curfew we met in the courtyard, you know, because you couldnt go in the street, and we all talk about the things we gonna do after the war, and the war would end very shortly. We were sure of it. The stomach will be full, and everybody will have enough work.
[Meyers] Most of the people that are alive are people that were lucky, one way or the other. I had a few things. Number one, I spoke good German. I also looked like a German, and I was not very bad-looking. Fortunately, all those things were very lucky for people to remain alive.
I know what youre going to ask me: if I was ever raped. No. And, matter of fact, there were some girls that decided to be nice to a German guy because so her mother could remain alive, or her sister. To rape a Jewish woman or to have sex with a Jewish woman meant to be killed.
[Berger] We had a friend whose name was Nagel. He worked in a German store, and he had connections with a printer, making stamps for the Gestapo. He made up a counterfeit stamp, and he made false documents, Polish documents for me, for my brother, for him, and for somebody else over there. And we decided when the time comes, we are going to run away. One day he comes in, and he saysand that was first part of December 1942and he says, Something is happening.
He says, Too many Gestapo from all towns are coming in. We decided that we are not going back to the ghetto. Were going to hide overnight to see what is going to happen.
I ran out to the Pole that had our shop. I came into his house, and I says, I got to sleep over here tonight. He didnt want me to, but I almost forced him into it. I says, Ill sleep in the attic. The rules were if anybody that will hide a Jew, will be shot.
In the morning he goes to town and comes back two hours later, and he says, The ghettos surrounded. They killing the Jews. They taking them out. Theyre liquidating the ghetto, and I want you to leave.
I says, Im not going to leave now. Not at daytime.
He says, Im going to throw you out.
You throw me out, and Im going to tell them if I get caught that you hid me overnight. I blackmailed him. Got dark. I went through the fields to the next little village. No baggage, no luggage, nothing. Just that little piece of paper. I went to the train, bought a ticket, and I boarded the train.
[Meyers] Bad rumors travel fast, and we heard that the ghettos are being liquidated. And then, of course, came the day that they killed all the children. I was that day in, like, a hospital. I hurt my foot, and I got an infection, and I was in one of the barracks. A week before, Eichmann came, and he said he wanted to know exactly how many children are in this camp because they dont get enough milk, so he would bring a cow. And so he counted the children, and a week later two trucks came, and the children were playing, and they took all the children, put them in trucks, and none of us ever know what happened to the children. In the night, when the women came from the work, and the children were not at the gate, I still can hear their screams. Their screams.
When I was freed, I worked a short time in a place where they killed cattle and sheep, and every time the sheep cried, I could hear the mothers screaming when their children were taken.
[Kingston] We fought to keep our sanity. Surprisingly, in ghetto, there were a lot of books. The lady who had the library before the war, she brought it to the ghetto, and we used to, you know, pay a little bit and take out books and read. If you read, you forget the hunger. We made amateur theaters, tap dancing, singing, just anything to try to keep the sanity.
But we had hope. We were young. Of course they will come. Somebody will come. The whole world couldnt die on us. We tried to meet and talk about Israel, about anything, just not about the hunger.
[Fela Bernstein] You lived on like a . . . on a volcano, you know, you think youre going to blow up any minute, because your stomach is so full of nerves, from fear, and they emptying out the building, and the Gestapo standing in the streets with dogs. The trams are ready for our building, next-door building, cleaning out. And we still laying there in the quiet, and we hear all this going on, the shouting and the yelling, and its getting quiet. We think everybodys gone, we can hear the trams, chuck chuck chuck away . . .
But there left standing on the opposite side, by the church, the Gestapo and the SS. They come back in the courtyard, and they start ripping down the sheds, and that very big . . . the iron bar going across with a big lock, and they ripped that off with crowbars. And, of course, when they come in, they see us all there. We were discovered.
But there was about 700 or 800 people were hiding, and we were amongst those people. And when they come in they had these big . . . I dont know what it was, truncheons or wooden sticks. They made us come out, and we all went out on the street; we stood outside the buildings. And one of them was strolling up and down and looking at us lot, and he says, Who is the oldest Jew here? So, of course, he saw this man with a beard, he took it for granted hes the oldest Jew. Youre the oldest Jew. Was that your idea, about hiding? Whack! Whack! He hit him so.
Volume 1, Tracks 31-39
DEPORTATION TO LABOR AND DEATH CAMPS
[Kingston] Couple days later they came to our apartment. I start screaming, Mother, theyre going to kill us all. You can hear the Germans. Theyre going to kill us! And with the dogs. Till today, I wouldnt pet a dog for no money in the world. And my mother said, What should we do with grandma?
My mother said, If I wouldnt be able to walk, would you leave me? I said, Of course not! Youre my mother! Thats not even a question. She said, But you know that she is my mother. We didnt know what to do with grandma. My mother and my aunt went over to grandmas bed, and then they dressed her, and we walked to the railroad station.
They squeeze you in cattle cars. There was not such a thing as 60 people or 80 people or 90. They just pushed you in. They said to take so many, so many kilos in a suitcase, your private belongings, and be sure to put your name on iteverything deception. There was a pail of clean drinking water and a pail for toilet facilities. It was August; the heat was unbearable. The pail with the drinking water was gone in five minutes, and the other one was overflowing. A lot of people suffocate and just gave up, and you put them on the side. There were not too many children, but if there was a child, it was sitting.
Finally, they unbolted the cattle cars. You know, cattle cars are higher. They didnt give you a stool to go down, just jump down, so a lot of people fell down, and it looked like Dantes Hell. The German running with the big dogs, screaming, Schnell! Raus! [Quick! Get out!] And the lights! This I remember distinctly even when I was in the United States already yearswhen I saw those big lights, they scared me.
They said, Leave those suitcases, belongings where you are. Just go like that.
My sister was a very pretty girlblonde, blue eyes. She said, Where am I? Tell me, have mercy in your heart! Tell me where am I!
One man said to her, I cannot tell you, but not a nice place.
He said, Give away the baby, and she has a chance to live.
We said, Ma, give away Hadassa. She will go in front of us with another little girl of about eight-years-old, Kosha. She will take care. Come with us, Ma. And the little one held on to my mother like chains.
My mother said, No, Ill go with the baby and with my mother, but you try to survive and stay together. And we went to the left. And I cried. And I cried very loud. I wanted my mother.
[Barbara Stimler] When we got to Auschwitz, which I didnt know it was Auschwitz, I did not know nothing about it; I did not know about concentration camps, I did not know what was going on at all. When we got there they told us, Raus, raus, raus! They start separating women from men. Cries. It was just terrible. The husbands were from wives, the mothers from sons. And it was left and right, left and right. I went to the right, they told me to go to the right, the SS men.
And can you imagine the screams, the . . . the mother was going to the left, the daughter was going to the right; the babies going to the left, the mothers going to the right, or the mothers went together with the babies . . . Oy, oy! I cannot explain to you the cries and the screams and tearing their hair off.
[Kingston] In front of us was the infamous Dr. Mengele. He said, Quiet! No screaming. Sunday is the family day. I said to my sister, I dont care what day is today. How long can it be to Sunday? Not longer than six days. We went quietly because we have Sunday, and what can you do? You couldnt say, I want to go! And we were ushered in a long auditorium and told to strip naked and hair shaved all over, and had a shower, a real shower with the soap. And after your hair is shaved, and they give you a funny dress, no shoes, no underwear. We did not look human, and that was their purpose, to make us subhuman.
This was Auschwitz, but we didnt know Auschwitz. Even if they would tell me, I didnt hear of it. I didnt know where, what, and nobody knew. And there is a sign, big sign, Work Makes You Free in German. So we are young, were going to work, and Sunday is the family day.
I did not know that there were crematorium[s] in Auschwitz when I was there. After the war when I went with my daughter, I said, How could I be so stupid not to see it, not to know? That they are . . . I saw why: Auschwitz is 19-square-kilometers big, so maybe my block was very far away, and I didnt see.
[Edith Birkin] With this unbelievable situation of people being . . . you could smell, you could smell these people being burnt. All the time you smelt this . . . it was a little bit like you know, when people used to boil glue, it was the bones that smelt like glue.
[Groves] I closed my eyes, and I made a vow, that whatever theyre going to do to me I want to survive, I dont want . . . Ill never let these people kill me, becauseI couldnt . . . Why, why, why, why? Why are they doing this? And so many of us. I mean, there were a thousand people to one block, and there were 30 blocks in that enclosure. Now, I was standing with my sister and other friends at the wire fence, when all of a sudden we recognized a boy from our town on the other side.
And I said, Hello Miki. Miki, whats happening? Whats going to happen to us?
He said, Just dont scream, dont cry, and stand straight like a pole. They have gassed our parents in the crematorium.
I said, What is a crematorium? And he told me that we have no more, our parents have been killed the first night, and he is working there, and you may not never see me again. And this . . . this is what they deny today, that it didnt happen. But it did, as two weeks later, I and other friends of mine were taken to the crematorium, to clear away the things. We had to clear away the clothes and whatever was in there and put . . . and dig . . . and . . . And that went on for quite some time, working outside the crematorium, taken out in the morning and going back at night.
[Meyers] In the concentration camp, we were digging trenches for German soldiers. Our group was 1,200 women.
We slept on straw, ten women in one tent. And it was cold, and in the morning our hair would freeze to the tent. And we used to laugh at each other because we had maps on our, excuse me, behinds, because every morning when the whistle blew, we had to jump out of our tent and if you didnt get out fast enough, then you got 25 beatings on your behind. And the Germans were very thorough. The one place they didnt follow us was in that rest room, which was, of course, on the field, an open space. Its just that it wasntthe air wasnt very good there.
[Halbreich] They beat us up, and they chased us around. Then you return from work. At night you stretch out on the straw sacks, but they dont let you rest. They coming through the doors, through the windows with water hoses. They spray you, regardless if its summer, winter. They step on you. There was no rest. We always were prepared to accept something cruel, and every SS man had his specialty. So when we saw an SS man coming, we were prepared already, and many people died. We couldnt resist the Germans. They were heavily armed, and we had no arms, and we were undernourished.
In the morning before we went out, always 10, 15 we assembled. No sidurim, no prayer books, no nothing, but we prayed by heart. There were people who knew it by heart. People were watching, we shouldnt get caught because they would have killed us for it. We knew every holiday. We didnt have no calendars. When our holidays came, we got the special treatment. The Germans, they knew, Oh, tomorrow you have Passover. We will give you Passover. They took away the food. Oh, New Years! We show you what New Years means. We know everything.
They chained us together on the train. And we traveling, traveling. I look out of the window at the stations we passedlooked so familiar to me. Closer, closer to my hometown. An hour later we stop. I look through the window. Auschwitz. So after three years being in other two camps, we didnt even know that other camps existed. We had no communication, no newspaper, nothing. And heres Auschwitz. And I know every building.
They tattooed us right away. But not everybody was tattooed; they made selections. And they selected the sick ones, the old ones, and the children right away to the gas chamber, to Auschwitz II, to Brzezinka, to Birkenau. Only the people who were still capable to perform some kind of work were tattooed.
[Meyers] And every morning we would walk to the fields. And I would put my shovel on my shoulder, and I would entertain the womenI would sing. And of course the most popular song was . . .
I cant sing. Anyway, see this song, Zol Nicht Camele, I cant sing it because . . . But then I would sing funny songs, like I would sing. The Nazi would say, Yah, yah, das ist sehr gut [that is very good], because when I would sing, we would walk faster.
All of us were hungry and cold and frozen. We were barefooted, and it was snow, but luckily I didnt lose any toes, I didnt lose my feet, and Im still dancing.
That was my very favorite song because I would mimic the Polish accent. The Polish Jews speak different, and the women would start laughing instead of crying, and I guess this was also helpful for me.
Very often when we marched home, that same guard would pull me out and would say, The women cry. Why dont you go in the front and sing? It was hopeless. The good guards used to tell us, Why are you suffering? In the end, we anyway have to shoot you all.
[Narrator] The Germans periodically rounded up Jews in the camps where the weakest would be chosen for death.
[Kingston] You know they were quite often selections. They told you to strip naked in front of the Germans, and if you had the smallest blemish, you were not good.
[Meyers] They put my mother-in-law in the bad line. I couldnt let her go by herself. I just got in.
And this old guard said, What are you doing here?
I said, My mother is here.
He hit me over the head, and he took me out because he said, We need good workers, which, in a way, really saved my life. I had mixed feelings, you see. I wanted to go with her, yet I also was afraid. The pull for life is very strong.
Volume 2, Tracks 1-6
[Narrator] There are many instances of resistance in the Shoahprior to World War II, in the ghettos, and even in the death camps. The resistance ranged from spiritual resistance to active armed struggle, from underground organizations within ghettos and camps to partisan fighters in the forests.
[Halbreich] Auschwitz Buna, this is Auschwitz III. The majority of the inmates were Jews. The SS asked us about our professions, and I said, Im a pharmacist.
He said, Tomorrow you start to work in the hospital.
So I, in Auschwitz, never worked anymore, physically. My work, my activities in the camps was only to work against the Germans.
We slowly took over the management. We had, for instance, Jewish kapos, Jewish barrack elders in the office, assistants, secretaries. We had mostly Jewish doctors and nurses. When you come to work in the hospital, you do your job. You treat the people as good as you can. There was no prescriptions, I had 30 to 35 people laying, on pneumonia.
The SS man, the administrator who was responsible for the hospital, once in a while put on my table 12 sulfa tablets12 is enough for one person a dayso what I do with 12? I have so many people. So we decided we have to give it to the young ones, so I turn to him, I said, You gave me for one person, but I have another two or three young ones I would like to help. He could take out the gun and shoot me for the question! He walked out, went to the SS camp, and after maybe one-and-a-half hours, I see I have here more tablets, so I could save another two, three. He didnt talk that much, but he was a decent man.
We tried everything just to cheat them to save lives. This was our purpose.
[Trude Levi] Already by the second day we had an organized sabotage group. At each point there was one person, one key person, to ruin the grenade. The first step was, the leaving out of the sulphur from the mixture. That was in the laboratory, up in the filling room, when there was no control. The next one was damaging the ring of the grenade. I dont remember every step, but one of the steps was, to damage caps, to not tighten the caps too much.
If there was control, and you couldnt put it through, then you managed to make a sign, so that the next person knew that they had to do damage to the grenade. And so I was the last one in the chain, and my job was throwing the grenades in a way that the caps got damaged. And I learnt it quite quickly, so that I am quite sure that after a while there was hardly ever a grenade which managed to come through, slip through, in a decent condition, in a usable condition.
[Berger] There came an order from the German labor department that all people that dont have no jobs have to register to go to Germany to work. And the Poles did not want to go to Germany, so they run away to the forest, and I went with them. And thats, whether I like it or not, I became part of the partisan group in the forest.
[Narrator] Partisans were underground fighters who resisted after their countries were overrun and occupied by the Nazis. Shlomo Berger became part of a Polish secret fighting group. This partisan group was made up of non-Jews, and because the members were anti-Semitic, Shlomo had to keep his Jewish identity hidden.
[Berger] Most of the time we were not so active. Everybody thats over there tried to survive and wait for the time that times will change. There were local people there. They had hidden arms. They got their rifles out and their guns, and everybody was given a rifle, and whenever we had a chance, we used to mine the railroad tracks when we saw a military transport. We used to mine it, and whatever we could get out of these transports. We knew guys that used to be army people. They knew how to make small bombs, and we could put them under the railroad tracks, and we left. We were hiding. We picked places that there was a turn around that you cant see when you are coming, and usually these trains were very little guards with them. This way we had ammunition, we had arms, we had all kinds of things, but basically we did not get involved in combat with the Germans. We tried to be nuisances. We knew the forest like our own hands, so they could never catch us.
I pretended to be a Pole. Nobody knew that I was a Jew. Anytime they were talking about Jews, they said, The only good thing that the Nazis did is that they killed the Jews. These same Poles that had trouble couldnt stand the Jews.
We were in these forests till the 29th of March, 1944. By March 1944, the Russian Army advanced, and we joined up with the advancing Russian Army.
[Narrator] There were other forms of resistance. Amazingly, in the camps and ghettos of World War II, some continued their religious observance.
[Halbreich] Two years in Auschwitz during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I organized religious service. In my barrack, in the reeducational camp, we were between 15, 20 menall day we prayed. Lighted candles. We had one doctor. See, here I break down. Doctor Jonah Silver. He came from France, from Strasbourg. He know to daven everything. We had another, Doctor Yunikover. He was a lawyer from Breslau. He knew the whole Humash by heart. It was very dangerous that wed be caught. The young people, I told them to watch. They pretend they are working, and then somebody would come from the SS nearer; they would immediately call attention to it.
[Kingston] One day I fainted. It was cold, miserable. One lady had extra sweater, and she gave me. She rubbed my hands and said, Fight it. Fight it.
Towards the end of November, I went to one of the girls. She was the youngest. A red-headed girl, not more than 12, 13. The reason she lived so long because she was very tall for her age.
I said to her, I think todays the birthday of my little sister. Let me celebrate with you. Let me share my bread.
She look at me, and she say, Cesia, I dont want your bread, but if you want to celebrate with me, bring me water to wash myself.
I went over to this lady that I knew, and I said, Give me some water for her, and she gave me a cup of water. I ran with this cup of water like it would be most prized possession you ever saw, and I gave it to her.
She looked at me with such glassy eyes, and then she said to me, Cesia, I didnt mean water like that. I meant water all over my body, all over my face, all over.
I said, Oh, of course. This you will have right after the war, but take it. Of course she took it, but you know what? Next morning she was dead. Next to me she just gave up. Didnt want to fight it anymore.
I am an optimist. I believe. I believe strongly. Must be end of the war. My gosh! Its coming already! I was six weeks in Auschwitz. After six weeks, they send us out.
Volume 2, Tracks 7-12
DEATH MARCHES and LIBERATION
[Narrator] By November 1944, America and other Allied Forces were successfully storming through Europe, and German leaders saw the inevitable end. Nazi officials ordered the destruction of all records and all campsan attempt to hide as much evidence of the atrocities as possible. Camps were evacuated, and hundreds of thousands of people were marched toward Germany.
[Kingston] One day they camethis was already January 45cold, slippery, muddy, every good thing. They said they going to liquidate the camp, and they want we should go on the march. And they knew that the Allied Forces are coming; we didnt know.
And I said to my sister, I am not coming, no matter what you will say.
And she said, All right, if youre not going to go, I wont go either. We both going to die. They going to abandon the camp, and we will die as simple as that.
And I couldnt let it be on my conscience, so I said, OK. I went over to the girls, and I said, Come on. If I can do it, you can, too. Come on.
She look at me. She said, No, but you know what? I have something of great, great value, and I want to give it to you.
And I said, No, keep it, because after the war you will need it.
She said, No, its too late for me. And I thought, what could she have? She had to have something little. And she produced the smallest little piece of soap you ever saw in your life. She said, In a free world, you have to be clean. Take it. We embraced, and we cried for a long, long time, and I never saw her again.
We had to march. So my sister is older; she gave me her shoes, and she took some old shmattes from rags and wrapped like everybody else. It was January 1945. It was so slippery and coldno food, nothingthat if you slipped, you couldnt get up. There was no way in heaven you could get up.
[Birkin] The Russians were advancing again, and we had to get out of the camp. They didnt let us there to be liberated, so we had to go on the so-called death march. You had to keep up, because if you fell down they shot you.
[Stimler] Its snow, and you are walking, walking. No food, no nothing. And when we were resting, we just flopped on the snow. The snow was building up on the shoes. It was just terrible.
[Kingston] We were already starving for five years. At the beginning, they shot you right on the spot, but after the while, why waste a bullet? Let them freeze to death. And we walked for days and days. When the Germans got tired, we stopped, and then we couldnt get up. Thats why they called the death march.
[Levi] All my energies were concentrated in going on, in holding on as long as . . . I mean if you already felt that this was the end of the war. I thought, well if I got through until now, now I dont want to die anymore.
[Kingston] Lo and behold, we come to the port. We saw boats. Real boats. Shnell, raus! Raus! Fast! So we went.
We pushed ourselves on the boats, like sardines. My two cousins, all my friends, everybody. It was a air raid, end of January, and the Germans with the machine gun, with the dogs, run to the bunkers. I pinch my sister, and I said, They are human. Take a look. Theyre afraid. They left us on the boat.
One of my girlfriends said, I am not staying on the boat. I am coming down.
So 14 of us, we went down. I, my sister, two other sisters, and we lay down to sleep, we said, for the rest of our life. We wanted sleep. When we got up, the boats were gone. We were heartbroken. Our chance to the free world, to Sweden, Switzerland, but we didnt know that the boats had holes in the bottom. In an hour and a half, all of them were drowned. My two cousins and all my friends. All of them drowned.
[Meyers] We marched four days, and I think in four days we probably made a whole four miles. My girlfriend and I were horse number one, and we just tied ourselves to the rope, and we were dragging the sleighs. The guard said, and those were his words, he said, Children, Im leading you to your freedom. He knew that we will never make the Alps because we just didnt have the strength. Each time somebody died, he would stop to bury the dead.
Suddenly, it was like tohu vavohu. Everybody was running. Germans were running, guards were running in all directions. There were some barracks, they were deserted, and he told us to lie down in those barracks, and lie flat.
Suddenly, there were two Russians, and believe it or not, one of them was on a white horse, like you say Moshiach. We crawled out on all fours from the tents cause we couldnt walk, and we were crying. And he said, You are free! Why are you crying? We were crying because we really couldnt believe it we were free.
[Foster] We heard distant shooting. Quite a few of us panicked inside this barn. We thought they come and shoot us; they must have shot already others. And the noise came nearer and nearer, and as we then dared to go out we saw all our guards, the SS women and Schultz, being shot. They had to stand in a circle, and the Russians just didnt ask any questions, and they shot them. Whether anybody was decent or not, they are shot. So that was the hour of our liberation.
[Birkin] We were always imagining that when we are liberated we are going to be dancing, and kissing themand I dont think they wanted to be kissed by us, to be honest! We didnt think of it that way, we didnt think we were so dreadful, you know, but to them we looked absolutely awful, of course. But all we wanted to do was to lie down and be allowed to be ill.
[Groves] As I was lying on the floor, almost dead, covered in sores, I saw this terribly . . . it seems to be a gigantic tank coming through the gates and hearing a terrible bang, and seeing the German guard falling on the floor, dead. He was shot. This huge tank looked . . . looked like it was reaching up the heaven, it was so big this tank.
And an American soldier came off there, and he just picked me up like a piece of paper and said, My child, whats wrong with you?
I said, I dont know, but put me down. I saw for the first time, face to face, a man who was colored, and the gentleness of this person . . . You know, I said to myself, well, I dont often say a prayerin Auschwitz I did say once, If they say theres a God its not trueI just said a prayer in my own way, Thank God . . . that they didnt do to him . . . what they do to my race, and this is the Gods truth. I came out on my fours, I was free, and I sat down, and I said to myself, Now what? No mother, no father, no sister, no brother, but Im free. And I said, Ive got to survive.
Volume 2, Tracks 13-20
POSTWAR SICKNESS AND RECOVERY: LOOKING FOR A FUTURE
[Heimler] We heard on the radio that the war was over, which was on the 8th of May, 1945. I went alone out onto a field. I lay down on the warm earth and began to cry, and it was the first time that I had a terrible sadness about the people I lost. And came a young girl, anything between 15 and 18. She saw that I still had my uniform on, so that people would know who I am, that I am not a Nazi or anyone like that. And she knelt down and embraced me and kissed me like a sister. She was very sweet. And these were the first normal human words that I have had.
A number of people from the camps, they heard that in the forest nearby there were some SS men were hiding. And they went to hunt them with guns, and they invited me to go as well. I could not do that. And at the time I thought, Is it a weakness? Is this a strength? Am I soft-headed? Because these murderers deserve anything. I couldnt do it. Later on I thought about it, and I havent regretted it. Even to this very day I feel that I couldnt adopt the same approach to them as they have to us.
[Berger] By 1945 I came back to my town. I looked around. There were about 25 Jews there. Survivors that came back home. The Zionists were transporting Jews from place to place to get them out of Poland. Nobody wanted to remain in Poland. I came into the committee in Krakow, and I knew the girl that was in charge, and I look at the very beautiful girl thats standing right next to her, so I made a date with this girl, and I said, Im going to marry this girl. She was also a survivor. I decided that its time to leave. I took a group from Krakow to Krosno, including her.
We made up some papers, prepared myself concentration camp uniforms. Everybody was wearing the striped uniforms. We went, our whole group, to the train. We were going to Czechoslovakia. In the train, I tore up all my documents, all my pictures, and I put on a concentration camp uniform. We all became Greeks, going home from the concentration camps to Greece. I changed my name to Shlomo Harari. Harari is like Berger. We came to Czechoslovakia. We were traveling in these open trains. People were coming out. They brought food, clothes. We changed the clothes. We came into Hungary. We are in a town thats called Debrecen.
The 8th of Mayfiring, shooting, music, bands playing. Germany capitulated. The war ended. We are free people now. About a week, we got married. I met her the first part of May. We got married the 18th of May.
[Meyers] We were freed by the Russian Army. A lot of people who were freed by the Americans died from overeating. We were not that lucky. We didnt get much food. We were starving even after we were free.
[Birkin] They did establish hospitals, and I went to hospital because I had typhus. And people around me were dying. I could see the look on their faces. I knew when they were going to die. And I refused to look at myself in the mirror. I said, Im not going to look in the mirror, because if I see that I am that ill, Ill die just of the fear of it.
There were German doctors and nurses still looking after us. I remember a German doctor coming, and he looked at me, and he told to these Germansthat was in the eveningShe wont last till the morning, about me. And I said to myself, Thats what you think. That really gave me strength. I was very frightened, I can tell you, but I refused to go to sleep because I thought Im not going to wake up. So I used to stay up every night and slept during the day. Oh, I just sat up and I wouldnt go to sleep, and I even tried walking around.
[Narrator] After liberation, many survivors hoped to find family with which to build a new life. Unfortunately, for most that was not to be. Two-thirds of European Jews were killed in the Shoah. Thousands of Jewish communities no longer existed. Jewish life in Eastern and central Europe was essentially gone.
[Birkin] All I remember is just walking out of that station and walking through Prague on my own. A lot of strangers all of a sudden. Of course the first thing I did was to go back to where I used to live. I dont know what I was expecting, but obviously there was no one there because they were all dead.
There was an office in Prague where you had lists and lists of people who came back, and I went to see these lists every day, hoping somebody would come back I knew, but none of the family came back at all. So I just remember walking around Prague being absolutely devastated, feeling that, you know, I was alone in the world. The hope was gone. Because until then, one had hope: that there would be a small group of people one knew, some relative, some friends, and one would start life again in a community, get married, have children, and . . . carry on. But there was absolutely nobody there whom I knew. I was seventeen.
[Kingston] Oh, we thought, Were going home. Everybody will be alive. Any Pole what you met on the way and asked, Oh, all of them are alive, he said, Go back to your hometown. They are all, all back.
We came back to Poland. Nobody was alive. I went to school in Poland. Back to school. Yah. So I was the only Jewish girl there. They were saying like this: Thank God Poland is without Jews! Thank God! We dont need them. And I was scared, so I dropped out.
We lived on the second floor. Downstair on the first floor was the young girls and boys on the way to Israel, right after the war. I knew most of them. I knew most of the young girls between 16 and 19, 18. Then 1946 was the pogrom in Kielce, and they kill them all: 42 girls and boys. They cut off their heads.
I said, Im not staying one day here. Not a half a day. Im leaving. Those all were young survivors from the camps.
[Halbreich] In Sachsenhausen, I stayed two years. Then one year in Gross-Rosen, two-and-a-half years in Auschwitz, and the last three months in Nordhausen. So all together, five-and-a-half years. The war ended. The Americans marched in. The second day, I joined the American Army as an interpreter and as an investigator, right the next day when the Americans came, because nobody could communicate with them. I still remember English from high school.
With this friend, with this prosecutor from Poland, I worked with the War Crimes Commission for one-and-a-half year, helping preparing the trial for Nuremberg.
We asked them, Could we go from camp to camp and collect records? And we took trucks, and we went from camp to camp and took every piece of paper, the records, because the Germans kept very good records. But not only about the prisoners, but about themself, too. In fact, when we went to the barracks, SS barracks, we removed from the beds the names of the SS. This is proof!
In 46 I came to the United States. In 46 started the trial of Nuremberg. I was not at the trial. It gave me some satisfaction. Later on, I was called from United States three times to be a witness at the Sachsenhausen trial, the Auschwitz trial, and the Gross-Rosen trial.
[Meyers] The Communists, the first thing they did is took away three factories. Since I spoke good German and good Russian, I became the manager from one of the big salami factories, and this was my beautiful revenge over the Germans. They were horrified of me. They called me Kleine Shefi, Little Boss. I was only 24. They were our, more or less, our prisoners, even though they were free to go home. But to work in our factory meant life.
At night when they left, they steal a salami. But I knew how to look. I ask the big chief to give me a Jewish boy as a helper, and I volunteered to stay at the gate when the Germans were going home from the factory, and I would walk back and forth, and I could tell by the face whoever was hiding something, and I would drag them out of the line.
And I would say, Search him! One man got on his knees, and he kissed the toes of my shoes, and he begged me to let him work, and I said no.
And then one of my friends said, If you walk out of there, maybe hell kill you.
I said, I dont care.
The pleasure of telling him no, you cannot work here because he was stealing a few salamis, I said, I think that brought back my sanity. I could do anything I wanted. I could put him in prison. I could . . . but it was just the satisfaction: Take their work card and tear it in as many pieces as I could, and that would make me happy.
And then they would cry, and they would say, This is the food I have to bring.
I said, You at least remain alive, but when you people found something that we were bringing home, you killed us.
After a month, I couldnt do it anymore. One day I came home, and I was crying.
My girlfriend said, Whats the matter?
And I said, The pleasure of being mean is over. I cant do it anymore. I dont want to do it anymore.
I knew I was free. After this I was. My husband, who also found out that I was in Berlin, sent for me. With help, we escaped Berlin into Munich, and Munich was the American zone.
Volume 2, Tracks 21-28
A NEW LIFE IN AMERICA and A SURVIVORS PHILOSOPHY OF WAR
[Narrator] Most survivors left their birthplaces for a new home in a new countryusually that meant Palestine or America. The transition was difficult. Most lost their entire families; they had to learn a new language, fit into a vastly different culture. They possessed nothing except memories and the desire to start life anew. Most considered themselves as having two birthdays nowthe day of their birth, and the day of their liberation.
[Rauch] My father was never the same. He was never the same person who came to America as the person that I remember two years before. A lot of the wind got knocked out of his sails. In Vienna he had a certain stature among his friends, a certain standing in the community, and when he came to America all those things meant nothing. He was very literate in German. Didnt mean anything cause nobody wanted anyone to speak German or to read German. The people in America were beginning to hate all things German. He had to take on very menial jobs. It really changed his personality.
[Halbreich] I will tell you, in spite I was already free, but still I feel a certain pressure. I didnt feel liberated. What liberated? Wheres your family? All is gone. My sister I found in Germany. She went to Israel, to Palestine illegally, and she has a daughter. It is very hard to adjust. My relatives, they were extremely good to us. They tried so hard. Every day, every evening, parties and parties, and people came from the town, from Cleveland, to meet us.
How are you? And questions like, How do you like America?
My gosh, I said. What what what kind of question? I just came in here, Im just from the boat! What do you ask, How do you like America!
And then, Oh, we suffered, too. We had rations on meat, on sugar, and this went on for weeks.
Finally, I said to my wife, I cannot take it anymore. Its too much. I dont know where I am! I want peace. I want to settle down and start to work and find myself.
So I sat down with my cousins and said, Listen, we are extremely thankful. We appreciate your receptions, the way you treat us, but it cannot go on forever. We want to start to work, settle. We want an apartment. My wife was pregnant, and there were many times I was thinking to return to Germany, to go back to Europe. It was hard for me to adjust because I was not a young person. I was already, when I got out I was 35, 36 years old. I was used to a normal, other life.
[Kingston] I liked it right away. I liked it right away. We came to a very loving family, my husbands family. I know they had probably the best intention, but everybody told us, Learn English. Be American, but dont talk about it, and we were full of pain. We wanted to talk; nobody wanted to listen.
Sometimes I think maybe they didnt want to face the fact that they were silent, that they didnt have the power to do anything. Sure, you found a nice person who listened to you, but on the overall, that what it was. The survivors community became closer. If one found a job, Oh, I have another job for you! Come on!
There was a lot of compassion, and we always talk still. Everybody was extended family. We always talk about, even today. There is no funeral or wedding or bar mitzvah. Where were you? So how did you, did you know this one? Did you know that one? All the gatherings, what are they? Were still looking. Were still looking for a familiar face.
[Berger] We came to America on the ninth of May, 1950. The next day, I went to work. I got a job immediately. America was very good to me. Within a year, I had a car. Within two years, I bought a house. I stayed in business for about 25 yearsliquor store. Then I retired at the age of 58. I took a real estate class, and I was 13 years working in real estate in Beverly Hills. I have a son, a physician. We have a daughter, a marriage counselor. In Poland, I would have nothing. I would have been a worker all my life, even without the war. This was not a place for young Jewish people to grow up. If I wouldnt be that stubborn and taking risks and have some luck, Id have never survived.
Poland was a very anti-Semitic country. There were some good people, but most of them were very bad. The Catholic religiontheir teaching was, when you get up in the morning, you say the prayers. You said the Jews killed Jesus. We got to learn to be tolerant. You got to treat all people equal.
[Kingston] High school is free! Do you know how expensive it was in Poland? I couldnt imagine. And the universities. I mean you work, you have the money, nobody ask you if youre Jewish and wear a yellow star in front and back. You are free man. And thats why any injustice, it hurts us because we know what it means to be abandoned and left to die because the whole world, they didnt care about us. They just didnt care.
They couldve bombed and saved 10,000 Jews a day, but they bombed two miles away the I.G. Farben Company. So they didnt. They stumbled on us.
[Halbreich] My parents died in Auschwitz when they were 57-years-old. What Im missing is my close family, and my chaverim and chaverot [friends] from the organization.
The majority got killed. But still people got away, and theyre living in Israel.
This was it. This is life. Telling the story, it is not easy. You cannot enjoy it, but I feel it is my duty to go out and to talk to students, to young people, to old people. I dont care who it is. Im always ready to help, and I feel by relating it to those people, hopefully it will help, and there will be less anti-Semitism, less hate. And Im being questioned, asked, What do you feel? Can this happen ever again? I said, Yes. Not only to Jews, but to everyone, and everywhere and every country and anytime. This is my purpose. There are survivors who never opened up, never actually told their children whats going on.
[Kingston] I have a son and a daughter. I was one of those who could talk. Some couldnt.
[Meyers] I cannot help it. I will hate the Lithuanians and the Nazis and the Germans as long as I live.
[Halbreich] Like a session like now, for instance, at night for sure because Im thinking about it, I would start to dream, and often my wife wakes me up: Sig, whats going on? You hitting around. You hitting me!
And in school they asking me, Do you have nightmares? I said, Nightmares, dreamsI never do because I live with it, day and night.
[Kingston] Sometimes they ask me, Do you hate the Germans? What a question! I dont hate the new generation. They didnt do anything to me, but the one who did to me. Why did they take away? Why couldnt my kids have a grandma and grandpa and uncles and aunts and cousins? Why? Who had the right to take away their lives?
[Meyers] One of the Nazis, not one of the bad Nazis, the good ones, once said, You dont look Jewish. You must have some German blood. Why dont you go through one of the checkups, and you can get out?
And I said, What for? If all the Jews will be killed, why should I remain alive?
[Halbreich] Going through all those miseries in the camps and the sicknesses, how come I went through so much in my life? But not only bad things, good things, too. We enjoyed, we had a wonderful youth and life in Poland. We naturally had trouble, we had anti-Semitism, but we were able to resist and to fight. And I ask myself, How come you survived while so many millions got killed? I said, I have only three reasons: very lucky, a very strong willpower to survive, and number three is the most important: having faith.
Regardless what religion you practice, but you have to feel somebody is leading you, is watching over you. This is the most important thing. This is destiny.
[Rauch] Its almost like youve lived on borrowed time, a time that really wasnt yours. In one sense, your life could have ended, but it didnt, and so it gives you kind of a strange feeling on life. That this is, like, a special given time. There is a dehumanization process, which has a lot of psychological impacts. We cant shop at the store this day. Next day, theres a rule you cant go to the swimming pool. Next day, you cant sit on this bench. Next day, you cant go to this school. Next day, you cant buy shoes. Next day, everybody gets two ration coupons to buy bread, but you get only one. I mean, I couldnt imagine in England or Canada or Australia or United States overnight somebody taking millions of people to camps, but I can imagine scenarios where people begin to set limits for certain segments of the population which are accepted by the majority because its not so terrible. So Jews cant go to Santa Monica beach. Big deal, you know, they can go to Redondo Beach. Thats the dangers to watch out for in a so-called free society. Yeah, I saw that happen. I saw its impact on people. I saw, and my fathers not the only one.
New York in the 40s was filled with Central Europeans whose lifethey were like people on a life support system. They continued to function as human beings, but their whole reason for living had kind of been destroyed because they were like the trunk of the tree with the branches, but the roots were just cut off.
To this very day, I have an abiding fear of black-and-white cars and motorcycle cops. Not because Im antipolice. Im a very strong law-and-order person. But the idea of the police as a possible hostile agency never really leaves you. Its a very strange phenomena. Im a lawyer, but when a traffic cop stops me, I feel like Im being grilled by the SS.
Ruth and I were in this hotel, the White Elk. Its an old inn in Salzburg, and in Austria, when you check into a hotel you have to give them your passport, and they have to check you out with the police. This must have been 1980 or 81. I gave the guy my passport. Then there was a ring in the hotel room. I picked up the phone, and the guy was on the line.
He said, Mr. Rauch, I have wonderful news for you. All former Austrians returning to Austria, we have a 25 percent discount on the room rate. So I said, Thats wonderful. Then I went down, and we got to talking. He said to me, When did you actually leave Austria? I said, 1938. He said, No, 1938? Why would anyone leave then? Those were the good days. I said, Well, it depends on your perspective. For me, it wasnt one of the good days. When we got the bill, there was no discount.
Volume 2, Tracks 29-30
[Narrator] 5.8 million Jews and hundreds of thousands of Gypsies were murdered in the death camps. In addition, 3 million Poles, political prisoners, homosexuals, and others considered enemies of the state were killed in the prison, concentration, and forced labor camps throughout German-occupied Europe. One third of the total Jewish population was wiped off the face of the earth.
Many Jews who survived left Europe to find a new life in Palestine (soon to be Israel), England, Australia, Canada, and the United States. Others were trapped behind the Soviet Iron Curtain, forced to remain in lands controlled by Communist rulers. In the late 1980s, as Communism fell, many descendants of surviving Jews in what was the Soviet Union emigrated to Israel and America.
We hope you will use the accompanying Voices Of The Shoah book and the additional audio material that follows to learn and discuss more about the Shoah of World War II. You can also explore more on-line by going to our Web site.
In the following sections are individual stories: one from a Jewish soldier who fought for the United States during World War II and liberated Dachau; another from two soldiers, Japanese, who fought for the U.S. and are first-person witnesses to prisoners liberated from a subcamp of Dachau. You will hear the heroic story of a Jewish rabbi stationed in Germany in the aftermath of World War II. Then you will hear from a man whose parents survived the war and of the effect the Shoah has had on his life. Finally, you have the opportunity to hear the dramatic and beautiful testimony of Dana Schwartz, who survived the Shoah as a child by hiding in a small, rural village, carefully concealing her religious identity.
Volume 3, Tracks 1-4
Kindertransport: Saving the Children
[Narrator] As the situation got worse in the late 1930s, parents became desperate to save their children, to do anything they could to send their children to safety. Next, you will hear testimonies from a group of people who were _on the famous Kindertransport to England. They were children who went on trains with thousands of other children, most never to see their parents again. Five-year-olds, eight-year-olds, ten-year-olds . . .
[Edith Birkin] It was very, very expensive to get out, and we didnt have the money. And I remember there was a family, friends of my parents, who were very rich, and my father suggested we all go out together, and they pay, and my father would be paidand they said no; they didnt go, and we didnt go. They died in the camps, and my parents did, and what happened to the money? They were just too mean to help out, and they had a lot of money somewhere. So we didnt go, but . . . Who could have known what was going to happen? We knew that we were going to have a bad time, we knew people were going to [be] anti-Semitic; we knew that we werent allowed _to do anything, and be very, very careful. But who could have predicted something like that?
[Ilse Sinclair] I would queue with other Jews in offices, where I swear they kept us waiting on purpose. You would sit outside some big nobs office for about four, five, six hours with other Jews, trying to get out of the country.
[Anonymous] My future adoptive mother offered to have all of us over. And each adult had to be offered a job which no English person wanted, and mostly these jobs were domestic or nursing or something of that kind. And she offered my parents _the job of housekeeper, cook, cleaning lady, and my father gardener, chauffeur, et cetera, and I would just come along as the child of the family. So my mother continued her running around and got permission in the end for all of us to go. My permit was to come over on a specific date, in July 1939, _and my parents permit was for the 15th of September, and therefore they were able to get me out. But because war broke out on the 3rd, they missed it.
I remember very well preparing to come over to England. My mother explained it all to me. I didnt fully understand about Hitler, but I just understood we had to get out. We had to keep it from my paternal grandmother because the scenes she would have made would have been too horrific, and she would have tried to stop me leaving. So we had to keep up a charade, to pretend that I wasnt going, I would be seeing her the next week. And my mother and I packed two caseswe were each allowed twoand into one she put all the family linen. There was a great deal of embroidered work which her mother had done, very beautiful stuff. And I was able to choose my clothes and my toys, and she helped me as best she could. She also taught me a little bit of English, but not very much. I only knew one or two phrases. I was six-and-a-half.
Ive got a feeling that the entire family saw me off at the railway station, and I do remember there was a deathly silence on the platform, all the parents were seeing off these children. And we had labels around our necks with our names, and I sort of have a feeling I began to feel like a refugee right there. And I remember the pitch silence, but my cousin said that I screamed for my parents, but I have no recollection of screaming at all.
[Renate Collins] I dont think I did say good-bye, because I had chicken pox, and I was very poorly. I had a temperature of 103 or 104, and my mother literally carried me to the station, and at the last minute she was going to hold me back, and our doctor said to her, Well, Hilda, you must realize this is the last chance; if she doesnt go now, she wont go. So she literally threw me into Tanyas arms as the train was going out, so I didnt really say good-bye, and if I did, I probably thought _I was coming back. The German soldiers literally lined the platform, and the parents were allowed to put their children on the train, and then they had to stand back.
[Anonymous] And I can remember the beginning of the journey being quite excited, but gradually, of course, one got tired. And I do remember the train stopping, and the boys got out and played football, and we girls had a picnic, and Ive been told later that must have been in Holland. And we got to the Hook of Holland, and then we got onto a boat, a very nice, clean berth I remember, and we arrived at Harwich, in England, and were taken down to London.
[Renate Collins] I remember walking up the platform, and there was this gentleman with a black hat, black coat, and a dog collar. And I had never seen anybody like that before, but he had a lovely smile. So I was just given to him and said, This is Renata, which was the only bit I understood, and I went off with him, not speaking any of English apart from yes and no.
And I can remember being put to bed that first night, having the cuddle and the kiss.
And the next morning I was taken to church, first time in my life, and knowing none of the children there at all. And service ended, and I saw two little girls picking up the hymn books, and Mum looked around, and I wasnt there. And she looked down the front of the church, and I was with the other two little girls, collecting hymn books, and the three of us were laughing our heads off.
They treated me as if I was their own. They couldnt have any children. I wouldnt say they gave me everything, because they didnt have everything to give, but I was certainly made to feel one _of the family. Everybody accepted me just as one of them eventually. And I go back now, and people used to tell my sons, We can remember your mum when she was so-high, when she first came, and after being away from _the place for 35 years, _I still walk down the main street and people remember.
Volume 3, Tracks 5-10
An American-Jewish Soldier AT THE LIBERATION of dachau
[Narrator] The American soldiers of World War II were not fighting to free Jews from death camps; they were fighting to save Europeto stop Hitlers relentless push for total global control. In the eyes of the American government, working to free Jews was a nuisance that only delayed victory. At the most, the U.S. government saw it as a side issue, not a goal.
Abe Cheslow was a soldier for America fighting in Europe during the war. He also happens to be Jewish. When his armored division reached Dachau and liberated it _in 1945, the prisoners that were found alive were barely so, many of their minds weakened to comatose states.
Soldiers rushed to find extra food in their army supplies and to feed the survivors, but because the survivors starved for so long, their stomachs had shrunk and the food wasto themundigestible. Many survivors died from being fed this food. _This is an eyewitness, first-hand account of the liberation of Dachau, from an American soldier.
[Abe Cheslow] My name is Abe Cheslow. I was present at the liberation of Dachau, and I was a 20-year-old corporal at that time, in the 20th Armored Division. _I was born and brought up in Brooklyn, New York, and, of course, I was Jewish because the whole world was Jewish.
In my elementary school, out of 40 or 42 children probably three or four were not Jewish. My father was a kosher butcher. And then, at the age of 18, I was drafted, and for whatever reason, the wisdom of the army put me into the armored force; _I was put into a tank.
And everybody in the division came from Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri. Of the 117 men _in my company, I was the only Jewish kid, and I was the only kid from New York.
In the three years I spent with them, there was never a single instance of anti-Semitism or any prejudice. We knew Hitler was bad, but I had no idea, even as _I went into Dachau, that there were concentration camps. I had no idea.
Armored divisions are very mobile so you go where they need you17 tanks, _five men to a tank. There were 117 men in a company, and we ended up in the 7th Army in southern Germany, close to the Austrian border, a week before the war ended in Germany. The war ended on May 7th. We had been in combat. We had lost some people, and basically all we wanted to do was stay alive. For the most part, _the German infantry would take off their uniforms and put on civilian clothes and _try to melt into the general population.
The only . . . we were hit badly just outside of Munich. There was a Wehrmacht [Nazi military] antitank school and an S.S. school, and we didnt know anything about it, and we came merrily down the road, and all of a sudden they opened up with these 88s, which were great antitank guns, and they just wiped us out.
I lost a tank commander who was killed then. Just as the army intelligence, if you _can put the two words together, never told us that we were coming up against an antitank school, they never told us that there was a concentration camp. And we _had no idea. And we came through a picturesque, picture-postcard town, and it was called Dachau. And we had no problem at all, and we just rolled through.
There wasnt any defense, no problem at all.
And we came across what looked like a college campus. There were _brick buildings set in the pines. It was very pretty. There was a fence around it, but it looked like a prison.
We could hear some gunfire, and so we buttoned up the tanks, and then . . . when youre in a tank you look through a periscopethats the only visibility you have. And as we took the turn through the gates into the camp, all of a sudden we saw Dachau, and we saw the full camp, and it _was much more vivid, much more hurtful than even combat.
It was, it was totally unbelievable. We saw hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dead bodies, corpses stacked in line helter-skelter on the ground, some nude, most in black-and-white pajama-type clothes, and _they were literally skeletons covered with skin.
There was a railroad siding, and there were 40 railroad cars, and for _the most part they were full of corpses. They just lay there, and many _of them died before we got there. The only way we knew that they were alive is that their eyes would follow us as we went around the camp because they were so weak, they couldnt get up or do anything, they _just lay there. But the eyes did follow. And those eyes, those eyes made _you feel guilty.
We unbuttoned the tank, and we jumped out and . . . and, we had seen combat, wed had friends killed, wed had tanks burned, we were macho, we were he-menwe didnt show emotion. And it was probably good, because after being in combat and seeing some tanks blown up, thats the only way that you could climb up into a tank the next day and go out. And here I saw these guys jump out of their tanks, get down on the ground, cradle one of the survivors, and they cried. And I climbed down, and I cried, and it was the first time in service that any of us cried. And they were deeply affected.
Being normal, typical GIs, the first thing you want to do is help, and we jumped back into out tanks, and we went through everything we owned, and we got cookies from home and candy bars that we had put away for future use and C rations and K rations, and we jumped down and we tried to feed the survivors.
And we didnt know that that was the worse thing we possibly could have done, and many of them died because of itand they died terrible deaths. The guilt of killing these people just at the moment of their deliverance was a terrible, terrible guilt. _I did not speak of any of this for more than 40 years.
As we approached, the German S.S. and the German people who ran the camp tried to take off their uniforms and hide, and later they were pointed out. Some _of them put on the pajama-type things and tried to pass as prisoners, which was not very bright because they looked healthy.
If you looked and saw somebody with flesh on his face you knew that he was _a German. We did find some German soldiers dead. Once the Germans threw _their arms away and their uniforms, the survivors rose up and they got chair _legs and pieces of beds and sharp sticks, and they fell on the Germans, and _they killed them.
And the people in my company who had seen acts of bravery or acts of cowardice saw that these skeletons, these corpses almost had killed these Germans, and there was a respect that went to these survivors, and some of that respect radiated back towards me cause I was the only Jew that they were familiar with.
The immediate thing was they had to get Germans to bury the corpses because there was fear of disease, typhus. And, of course, every, everybody in Dachau, without exception said, We didnt know what went on. Which was ridiculous, because train tracks went through Dachau, and then you couldnt, you could not have seen it. The road went through. They all swore that no, they didnt know.
They brought em to the camp. And they really didnt want to have anything to do with it. And they were forced to. And in groups of three or five men, they were taken around, and this is before military government got in. The military government did have people who spoke German and did set down patterns and rules, but before that, we were so angry, we were going to show them what they did.
I remember I had a school teacher, and I had a banker, and I took em around, and I said, This is the, this is the railroad car, this is this, this is this, and this is the oven. One of them turned to the other and said, Hey, this would be a good thing for my mother-in-law. And he said it so flippantly that I wanted to kill him. And its the, _the only time that I lost my cool, and I jumped on him, and I would have killed him. _I started to bang his head against the, and they pulled me off. And thats the, and, _and thats probably one of the, maybe two or three times in my whole life I lost my temper. But I would have killed him, there was just no question about it. And they didnt, they were not angry with me, the military people were not angry with me because I had done it. I mean there was justification in their eyes.
As I talked to them in Yiddish they asked whether I was a Jew, and they took my arm, and it was like a letter from home. As long as I was a Jew and as long as I was there, nothing bad would happen to them.
I would imagine when youre in the last stages of malnutrition, and you look up, and here are these big tanks and soldiers carrying guns and speaking a language youre not familiar with . . . When you did talk to them, their conversation and their interest and everything else focused on survival, or Have you seen my daughter? Have you seen my wife? Can you do something for my friend here? Have you seen _my children?
The same medics that patched us up when we got wounded, they were the first medics to try to treat these people, and then the evacuation hospitals came in, and instead of the food that we gave them, they set up IVs. And we went on; there wasnt anything else for us to do.
For the most part I buried it for many years. My wife and my children knew about it, and some of my friends knew about it tangentially. They knew I was there, but it was never talked about. Its funny. When I was in the army, and we were having a rough time, somebody who was very wise, I have no idea who he was, but I remember he said, After this is all over, many years later, you will forget all the rotten, miserable, chicken things, but when you do remember, youll remember the funny parts.
Four years ago I got a phone call, and there was a reunion. And there was about _40 or 50 people got together in South Dakota. We didnt talk about combat, we didnt talk about the people who died. We . . . we didnt talk about Dachau. So, we buried it.
My daughter is a school teacher, and she called and she said, Would you speak? _I said, Of course. I found it was cathartic. It was the first time that I talked about it, and it has been very good. I had mentioned in one of the schools the fact that we _fed the survivors, and that they died and we felt so terrible and that, that I carried this guilt.
And then I got letters from the children. And one letter in particular, a young girl said, You shouldnt feel guilty, you were trying to do good. And you have to keep on doing this, and so forth, and it made it all right, and it made it lots better.
I have fewer nightmares now. I feel better about it than I did ten years ago, because ten years ago it was still bottled up. And I knew it was there, but it was _my little secret. I was always less sure of politics, because, I came home and Roosevelt was still the great savior, and later I found that, that they knew about _the concentration camps, and they didnt bomb the railroads going in. They didnt take the 20,000 children that couldve come in. So, I dont trust government as _much as I should, and it isnt just a fanciful type thing. I know that some of these people could have been saved.
Sometime I go to Dodger stadium, and I look around and I figure what would happen if the government suddenly decided to take the Episcopalians or the Baptists or the Mexicans or there was an announcement, All Southern Baptists go to exit 15.
There are times I look around if Im in the temple. I look around at all the faces and try to figure out how could you take all of these faces, all of these people, the children and the infants and the grandfathers and so forth and put em away just because . . . had Hitler won, all of them would have been killed.
Its incomprehensible how you can take everybody that I see and just wipe em out because theyre Jewish. It could happen unless we watch out for it.
Volume 3, Tracks 11-16
Two Japanese-American Soldiers Witness The HORRORS of Dachau
[Narrator] For ten years before World War II, Japan was attempting to expand as a military world power, and as Hitler gained greater power in Europe, Japan saw _a chance to attack the United States while attention was diverted. Japan surprise-attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941.
Americans became suspicious of anyone of Japanese descent, thinking they could _be spies. Soon after, people in the United States of Japanese decent, whether full American citizens or not, whether born in the United States or not, were labeled enemy aliens and put into detention camps.
This is the story of two Americans of Japanese descent, who were drafted to join _the American Army to fight in World War II. Their family remained in U.S. detention camps while these two men risked their lives in Europe, helping to free others. As you will hear, they are important witnesses to the results of the torture and murder committed by the Germans and their conspirators in World War II.
[Fred Yasukochi] My name is Fred Yasukochi. I was born in Garden Grove, California, in 1920.
[Lawrence Mori] And my name is Lawrence Mori, born in 1918, in L.A. And my father was always a farmer.
[Yasukochi] I was drafted into the U.S. Army in the month of December 1941. _And came into induction center through Fort MacArthur in San Pedro. I was not forced to evacuate into the camps as the rest of the Japanese-Americans were. _I was already in the service. However, it was doubtful in my mind that they even wanted us there to begin with, because they had already issued a proclamation _or something that Japanese-American GIs were to be discharged and were to be treated as enemy alien.
[Mori] I was inducted into the army in 41, on April the 8th. I was in Fort Ord until the war started. Where we had to leave California and ended up in Texas, Camp Walters. From there I went to Mississippi, where they started the 442nd Combat Team, and I ended up as a _522 Artillery. And from there we went overseas.
[Yasukochi] Dont forget that the 442nd was first started out in 1943. At that point, they decided to keep the Niseis in the military. We were named to be part of the 442nd Combat Team. I was in Camp Robinson, Arkansas, and that was a training center for the infantry. Nobody ever bothered us there. Meaning that I was not blunt end of a joke or anything else. I was treated as a human being. But the only trouble was, that the officials of the Army and the captains were not too sure as to what to do with us or how far we should go. We were busted offall of our stripes were taken. No promotion was visible. And as a consequence, we were turned out to mow lawns and chop trees and fight the chiggers out in Arkansas.
[Mori] While we were in Texas, we were in the army, but they didnt know what to do with us. We got up in the morning, we went up to the hill, we got this rock and moved it about 50 yards to the other hill. Next day we went back to same hill and got that rock and moved it back to the hill that we moved it the day before. And we did that for I dont know how many weeks or months. The one good thing about it, we didnt need to pull KP because they didnt trust us in the kitchen. So that was the only good part of it. And toward the end we went around collecting trash. Then they finally came out that they are going to form some kind of combat team. So we landed in Italy, I think the town of Brindisi, thats more or less at the bottom of the boot.
[Yasukochi] But, we ran into resistance later on.
[Mori] Well, that was for me, was really a mixed feeling. You wasnt sure exactly why we were there. Especially when our parents was in a relocation camp, and on top of that, when we did come out the army, which way were we going? We werent sure of anything because our parents were in the relocation camp; how long they going to be there? And whats going to happen after the war? We were never sure _of anything.
[Yasukochi] As I viewed the situation, I could not see ourselves getting away from this prejudicial attitude that the American people were going to have against us. We had to have the tools to fight that. What better than to have an army record behind you that you could show to these guys? I had some property in the United States, in California, that my father gave me, it was about a 40-acre lemon orchard. And he issued it to me when I was, when I turned 21, which, which I did that year that I got in the service. And so one day, on the front, in Italy, theres a guy from the state of California that wanted to see me, and he wanted for me to accept a summons to appear in court, because they wanted to escheat my property. Here, on one hand, _I had the rifle and here, on the other hand, I had this order to appear in court because I was considered an enemy alien. You know, right then and there I thought, my goodness, you know, what do they expect a poor guy like me to do? In the first place, hes trying to prove himself as, as an American. Fighting for, for his country. _On the other hand, the country is trying to take everything hes got. But, fortunately, in this particular case, its known as the Oyama case, we all got together and pooled our resources so that we could fight the California government and the United States. And we won.
[Mori] We were what, six month in Italy?
[Yasukochi] Yeah, just about.
[Mori] And about six month in France, and I think we ended up about six month in Germany.
[Yasukochi] From the standpoint of knowing about the atrocities that the Germans committed, nobody told us about that. And we werent looking for prisoners to begin with. And as a consequence _I was very surprised to hear about it and to see what they intended to do with the Jewish people. When we got into northern France _the only thing they told us to look out for was heavy water, and, of course, we didnt know what heavy water was. The only people that knew what heavy water was, was the scientific people that knew all about it. Well, is it heavier than ordinary water? What is this?
[Mori] While we were fighting we came across all kinds of town, _but we just go through, it was just another town, in other words, each town we took, we figured, well, were getting closer to the _end of the war. So Dachau wasnt just another subcamp, city, or whatever, we didnt know. Rather, I didnt know.
[Yasukochi] Didnt know it was a prison camp.
[Mori] Yeah. Until afterward. After we went through the Siegfried Line we kept going, kept going, and going. We came across this subcamp says Dachau on it. And at that time it was just another camp, another city just like any one until went through it. When I saw the camp, and there was a flat ground. There were three piles on the _flat ground, which was, oh Id say eight-, ten-feet high. And I was so curious about what that was because I saw that toward the evening. So I went back the next day, and the gatethey had a chain, but there it was brokenso I went through there; there wasnt anybody in there as far I saw. But I went to see what this pile was. It _was all political prisoner, that died, I guess, it was all stacked up. And then I saw this building . . . and I had to, I was so curious to see what that was, and thats where I saw the oven. There were three that I saw. That was right before the war ended, I was maybe just, gee, I couldnt tell you exactly, maybe a week, ten days, before the war ended. That was toward the end of the war.
[Yasukochi] Couldve been prior to that. Because there was snow on the ground.
[Yasukochi] I dont know about German weather, but snow always gives me the creeps. But anyway there were prisoners around there, but they were kind of hiding in the barracks, and you couldnt see from the outside in. It was all dark inside. But the cadavers that was piled up, was almost too much for me, _so I didnt get as curious as Sergeant Mori. It was something that really turned you, turned your stomach over.
[Mori] Well, the worst scene I saw was . . . there was a horse that stepped on a mine, and it blew almost all the inside out. And these liberated prisoners, they didnt eat anything for I dont know how many days cause they were on the forced march, so when they found out they were liberated and they were hungry, the first thing they saw was the horse meat, and they were on this horse just like flies. Raw meat, and _I said, Jesus, but I guess when youre hungry, theres nothing you can do about it. And it was snow all over the place, but they were, they were eating the horse flesh.
The next morning I saw em, and, gee, there mustve been I dont know how many there dead. Because they overate. Well, my reaction was, if you were a human, that you could do such a thing to another human is something that I couldnt understand, you know. Its just like a human maybe killing a chicken or a pig. Why did they have to kill these people?
[Yasukochi] I think the German psyche was such that we couldnt understand it. The inhumanity was something that really opened your eyes. You couldnt understand why people would do the things that they did. Seeing these poor prisoners, about 90 pounds, 95 pounds, a guy that was originally 6-foot something. To see a man so shriveled up and everything; the man could be 19 or 20 years old, and he looked like he was maybe 80 or 90 years old. You know, youve seen hunger of different magnitudes and in order to comprehend just exactly how, how famished and how hungry these people were, was to have them looking for food.
I was on a truck that had a borderline piece of metal that goes around the truck. _We of the 442nd and 522nd were notorious for exchanging stuff with other troops because we needed our rice, we didnt care what happened, you know. Heres some sugar, heres some cream, heres some powdered milk, whatever; take it, but give us the rice.
So in this manner, of course, we accumulated a lot of rice, and what happened was that as the rice bags open up, you get some around the fringe of the trucks, you know where its level. And this truck that I was on, it actually happened to been hauling rice the morning before. We had traded somebody for sugar, and we took the rice.
But to see a poor fella with just the palms of his hands go around the truck and just, just whisked that rice into his palms so that he could keep it, was something to behold, because _we didnt think anything of a handful of rice. But to him it was really a life and death matter. Because he could clean it up, _and cook it, and make soup out of it. And it was precious to him. And he asked me for other subsistences, and at that time Pattons army was going so fast that we missed a lot of times to pick up our rations, and so the ration was very scarce. We still had to fight a war, and as a consequence we couldnt give em all of our rations, but we did give them everything that _we could.
When I first saw these men in striped pajamalike clothing, _I couldnt figure out who these people were.
[Mori] We got word that we gonna come to this subcamp where theyre taking all the prisoner out of Dachau, and theyre forced marching em out, so we knew that most of the camps going to be empty. We came across all these prisoners and there were, they didnt know exactly to bow to us or to bow to the Germans. You know they werent sure if they were freed or not. For a while they didnt know which way to go now.
When I got into camp I didnt see anyone. Only the dead bodies. The only contact I got with a political prisoner was a few days after they were marched out of the camp. They were all skinny; they were skin and bone. And they only had that pajama in that ice-cold weather. Gee, they were freezing, and their reaction was they were so happy that they were liberated. And I guess some of the weak ones, to them it didnt make any difference, they were too weak to even understand that they were free.
After the war finished, there was a lot of problem with the Polish prisoners because they got finding wine and schnapps, and all that I guess, and they became wild, because now, they were prisoners for such a long time, and now theyre free, they didnt know what to do with themselves, I guess.
[Yasukochi] I think one of the basic problems with the prisoners at that point was that retaliation was foremost in their minds. If they had a rifle I guess they would have killed every German that they could see. We were trying to keep them apart from the others. But basically were combat troops; we didnt have any time for that. We had to go to a point near Linz, Austria, and thats what we were told to do. So, after surveying what we had seen there, then we all got back on our trucks and took off for other parts of Germany.
[Mori] You know this interpreter that we had, which used to be a political prisoner, and he was asking us, that he couldnt understand that we, being Japanese, what were we doing in the United States Army? You know, especially when he heard Japan was fighting United States. First he thought we were Chinese _or something else, and it took him a while for that to sink in, _I guess, because we told him we were born in the United States.
We heard about it, but we figured thats a lot of rumors, that they were killing these political prisoners because they were Jewish. I says, Oh, no, they cant be doing that kind of thing, they must just, was just rumors during the war. Then when I did see all these dead bodies, and then these oven that I saw that was so big and I saw three of em in a row and, gee, I guess this is where, its really true that I heard about, you know, soon as they died, they just threw em in there and cremated em. But until I saw all that, I wasnt sure that it was true.
So all these people said they were forced marched out of the camp. And they been walking forI think one bunch that we caught up was about three days or fourthey said they never stop, they just keep marching them. And one day they woke up and then, then the guards that was around them they are gone, and they couldnt understand what happened to them. Toward the end, you see dead body or torture or this and that didnt seem to do anything to us. Not to me, it didnt. At the beginning it did, but toward the end of the war we saw that every day.
[Yasukochi] I think that the attitude of the U.S. troops toward the German people and the German Army changed from place to place. I imagine that if the German troops had stayed there, the guards and so forth in that camp, we would have probably slaughtered em. Theres no question about it. But, as it happens, there wasnt anybody there. And nobody could tell _us where they were. It just proved to me, basically, how cruel man can be towards another man.
[Mori] What I saw with my own eyes in, in this subcamp is all these dead bodies, and they all had these striped pajama-type clothing on. And there was snow on the ground, and it happened. And I saw it.
[Yasukochi] As far as the crematoriums are concerned, that really sends chills up and down your spine, when you see that, cause you know whats there. But what Lawrence saw, and what I saw there were that they didnt get rid of the bodies in time to clean this place up, and theyre stacked up like cordwood.
[Mori] The Germans did not expect the United States soldiers to be coming through there that fast. So they didnt have that much time to get rid of all that evidence that they left behind.
[Yasukochi] Now, when you see it, Im sure that the place has been cleaned up. And although there are some pictures and signs showing you how they were abused, it doesnt ring the same bell. Because of the fact there is no stench there, theres no blood on the floor. I would like to see all of us speak up if you think unfairness is being done. Maybe well be able to keep our democracy. Who knows?
Volume 3, Tracks 17-30
An American military rabbi brings _hope to newly freed survivors
[Narrator] Rabbi Abraham Klausner is an example of an individual who went against accepted norms, who acted contrary to U.S. Army regulations to make a difference, to save lives. Rabbi Klausner entered the U.S. Army in 1944 and was placed at Dachau after its liberation in 1945. His true story is an astounding reminder that one person can make a difference.
[Abraham Klausner] My name is Klausner, Abraham Klausner. I was born _in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1915. Our class, which was 1943 class, was rushed because we were designated as replacements for rabbis who were going into the Chaplaincy Corps.
Academic year was over, I was accepted into the military. That would be in 1944.
When Dachau was overrun, the army immediately brought in hospital units. It wasnt the kind of a liberation where you say, Youre free now, and go wherever you want to go. The army came in and locked the camps immediately so that the people who were the prisoners of the Nazis were now, not prisoners, but were confined. They were behind barbed wire, and there were guards. Some got out of the camp during the hectic first days, but basically the camps were locked.
A great number of the people were ill. And a lot of em in the first days of liberation stuffed themselves with food and whatever they could get their hands on, and this turned out to be detrimental to them.
Part of my job was to bury the dead. In the first days, the dead were laying all _over the place, especially where the boxcars came in with them from different parts of Germany. During the day, the trucks would take the bodies out and place each _one in a grave, and then I would come out in the evening and recite a service, say some words. Nobody was there, I was the only one present, except a short while afterwards one of the liberated asked me if he could come with me, and I would _take him.
In Dachau I felt strange, it was overwhelming. I was a bit envious of the doctors, nurses; at least they had some sort of expertise to do something. What was I going to do? I wasnt going to start preaching to them. I felt completely inadequate. And so I started to walk down the row, looked at each barrack. Finally I stopped at one and decided I was going to walk into that barrack.
The door led into a little kind of an alcove, and there they were. It was _a desperate scene. The place had hardly an opening for light to come in. Nothing in it except shelves. _I just stood there. I was wearing a chaplains insignia, but no one seemed to pay any attention to me. Strange world. Figures are moving around as if in a shadow.
Finally somebody walked over to me, stared at me, saw my insignia, and simply asked me a question out of nowhere. Do you know my uncle in Toledo? So I kind _of hemmed and hawed a bit, said that I wasnt from Toledo, there was nothing I could do.
Another figure came, another question, and the questions fell into that kind of a pattern; they were asking me if I knew certain people.
A voice came from one of the shelves. It was a thin, crying voice. Do you know my brother? I couldnt see the figure, it was too dark. The other figures seemed to move aside to let the voice come forward, and the voice began to tell me that he had a brother, came to the United States, and became a rabbi. As soon as he gave me the name, I said to him, I know your brother. He is here in Europe, and Im going to bring him to you.
That was the turning point of my life. I knew then when I walked out of that barracks that there was work to be done, and I was going to do it.
I then began to set goals for myself. I wanted to know who was in the camp. And so _I got people together, and we were going to collect the names. I had to get paper, _I had to get all the materials necessary.
[Narrator] Rabbi Klausner met a doctor at a nearby camp, and together they decided to travel and look for surviving Jews. They collected survivors names _and tried to solve their problemsproblems the U.S. military was not prepared _to handle.
[Klausner] When a military unit would come across a pocket of Jews, they really didnt know what to do with them. The policy of the United States government, especially under Eisenhower, was you take these liberated back to the countries from which they were driven. And you create inducements. You give them cartons _of what they call 10-in-1 rations. Get them to go, and people were moving. _Trucks were leaving regularly for the different countries.
The policy could not account for Jews because there was no place to send Jews to. The army was not equipped to handle liberated Jews.
[Narrator] Rabbi Klausner found problems throughout the regionpoor conditions, lack of foodthings got so bad that there were rebellions. The U.S. military responded by shooting at the rebelling people and leaving conditions as they were. Klausner met with the commanding officers to try and resolve these problems. And in June of 45 he wrote a report on what was happening and sent it _to American Jewish Leaders. He never received a single response.
At the end of June 1945, a notice went up in Dachau that Klausners hospital _unit was to get some time off, a furlough, and they were to leave Dachau.
[Klausner] That was a miserable trip, emotionally. I felt that I wasnt entitled to rest. I hadnt been with the unit through their experiences, and I hadnt done what they did.
So we got to this beautiful recreation hotel, each truck unloaded soldiers, everyone jumped off, rushed towards the hotel. I held back, and when all the trucks were unloaded, I was still left, and now the trucks began to move around the circle. I grabbed the tailgate of the sixth truck. It was back in the truck and back to Dachau. _I went over to the 127th evac hospital, and I said to em, Uh, Im going to be reassigned to the 127th, and the commanding officer said, Find a place. There were no accommodations, we didnt live in rooms. You found a spot someplace, you took one of these folding cots, you opened it up, thats where you lived. And now I was with the 127th, but technically I was A.W.O.L. And that began the second phase of my career.
Now that I knew I was unassigned and had no authority, I felt free to do whatever _I wanted.
[Narrator] With an amazing flurry of activity, Rabbi Klausner went about Germany setting up programs to help the liberated Jews of Germany. Before Klausner made changes, sick Jews in Germany were being put into hospitals run by non-Jewish, German doctors. Jewish patients were shocked, scared, and unwilling to go to medical appointments. Klausner set up organized hospitals for the survivors, _run by Jewish doctors.
[Klausner] I came upon a monastery called St. Ottilien, and I found a small group of Jews there. The German Army had taken over the main sanctuary of the monastery and used it as a hospital. I decided, together with the Jewish doctor that was in charge, Dr. Zalman Grinberg, that we would turn St. Ottilien into a Jewish hospital. St. Ottilien became our large Jewish hospital. That was the first of the hospitals that we established.
One day, coming back from a trip around Bavaria, there was a group huddled. _I stopped the jeep, and they came over and told me that they were from a camp, the other side of Munich, called Freising, and theyd been ordered out of the camp. There were 60 trucks waiting to take them away. They didnt want to go. I told them to go back to the camp and not to prepare to leave, that this chaplin said theyre not going to move.
[Narrator] Rabbi Klausner had no legal authority to tell these Jews they could stay to live in these displaced person, or DP, camps. The next morning a command car came and ordered Klausner to Freising, where he was put in front of the commanding general of the area.
[Klausner] And there were two colonels. And the first colonel began shouting. He just opened up a barrage of accusations. And when he was through I simply said, You got 1,200 people here. Human beings. Youre kicking them around. You treat them as commodities. No, no respect for them. You dont even tell them why theyre moving. What theyre moving _to. They are trying to establish themselves with an address. They have no address. The other colonel listened and he said, Chaplin has a point.
[Narrator] The colonels brought Klausner to an officer in the region _who might be able to explain these Jews and the 60 trucks waiting to take them away.
[Klausner] He exploded. He said, There are no Jews. And I, I was a _little bit flabbergasted. And then he said, Look at that board. And it listed the peoples in the camp by nationalities. See, he said, No Jews. I said, If there are no Jews, Colonel, what do you need the 60 trucks for? And he ordered me out.
Well I went out, and I was in the company of the two colonels. They told me Patton was coming into the area, Patton doesnt want any DPs, and the order is to get them out. And then I told him, But youre not going to have the 1,200 Jews because Im going to take them.
This colonel said to me, Listen, Chaplain. If you ever need me, _Ill tell you where you can find me. And I needed him. His name was Richmond.
[Narrator] Richmond would come to be very important to Klausner in the coming months. Immediately following the war, _the U.S. Army did a strange thingthey took enemies of the war and put them together to live in displaced person, DP, camps. _The army took Jews, Poles, and Germansthree groups who _were bitter enemies during the warand, strangely enough, placed them side by side. Klausner was appalled, and he directed his energy toward creating segregated camps where Jews could _be safe.
[Klausner] The camps were mixed camps, of all European nations. The army was against separate camps. The anti-Semitism continued. Day by day, I had to go to different camps to find _some of our people killed by others in the camp. And I felt that theres no salvation to this situation unless we had separate camps. I was confident that within a day, a week, the Jewish community of America would be there, with all its resources.
[Narrator] American help from the Jewish community did _not come. Klausner continued to organize DP camps to safely house Jews, even as American army personnel said they were against segregation. He went to get help from his friend, Colonel Richmond.
[Klausner] Now when I came to Richmond and argued the case, he said, We are Americans. We dont believe in segregation. And I said to him, Well thats very good except, [laugh] you want to pick up the dead every day? Is that what you want to do? I said, You dont have to do anything contrary to policy, _all you have to do is make room in camps, Ill do the rest. _Now you go down to Feldafing, and you say to the Poles, for example, Wouldnt you prefer being among other Poles? _Take them to a Polish installation or Hungarian, something. Soon as you take them out, I will bring others in and eventually what youre going to find is that all your camps are segregated, and youre going to have it easier. He agreed he would move certain peoples at certain times. I was given all the support _that I needed.
In a short period of time, we began to have Jewish camps. Bear _in mind that in all this time, we have no outside help. We have _no American Joint Distribution Committee, no UNRRA [United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration], no Red Cross. We had nothing. Everything we were doing was contrary to military policy. Except that there were military people who were making it possible for me. If it werent for certain military people, I couldnt do this.
[Narrator] After successfully creating safe hospitals and DP camps for _Jews, Klausner now focused his energy on creating a wider social and political _organization to protect the interest of the survivors. He called it the Central Committee of Liberated Jews of Germany.
[Klausner] It became the big center where Jews from all over Europe now began to come. We have an organization, but they have no authority, they cant even travel, they have no identity cards, they are nobody. We take the ambulances, we rush in and take out the sick wherever they are and bring them to St. Ottilien, and then we have a TB hospital. Were segregating camps. We set up manufacturing firms, together with Germans. We had to find ways of getting printers, it was illegal for a printer to run a press. We were in the passport business, too.
Schools, educational systems, were trying to build up the food situation. The people were eating as little as possible. They were taking the food and bartering it with the Germans. Thats where the first clothes came from, first lipstick, first brassiere, first pair of stockings. Still, we dont have the American Joint Distribution Committee, we dont have UNRRA doing anything.
The American Joint misunderstood the problems. They never came around to see the nature of the problem and to respond to it effectively. They are to be charged with gross stupidity or negligence or just incompetence. And when I wrote to Joint and asked them for medical supplies, they told me they werent available. When I asked for a Yiddish typewriter, it was unavailable. Anything I asked for was unavailable.
The end of August, the middle of August, the American Joint Distribution Committee appeared. Of course, when they appeared, they appeared in the form of one person, and he came with a truck and he announced, Were here.
And I got . . . smiled, well, that was good: What have you got? He says, Well, I got two other personnel. Do you have anything? I said, in terms of helping the people and so. No, but thisll come later. I said to one of my assistants there, Have you seen the truck down there? Will you go down and steal the gasoline? He came out, and he noticed what was happening, and he started to make an issue of it, and I told him, Just record it as the first contribution that the American Joint Distribution Committee is making to the liberated of Germany.
We were in the Deutches Museum. People were coming, looking for family. Then they would go onto a big, white wall, and they began to write notes on the wall. They would read the wall and leave a note themselves.
We put out a newspaper, Unzer Veg. Well, that became an important instrument. It was the first newspaper that people could read in Yiddish and know whats going on. Came out every Friday. Later on other newspapers were published, but this one continued from the beginning to the end of the whole period. At one point the committee was recognized as a legal entity.
[Narrator] With illicit help from American Army officers, Klausner secured the use of buildings, equipment, and materials for his organization. He endured harassment from army officers who were against his actions. At the same time, Rabbi Klausner was earning respect from other officers who knew of his work and knew they could rely on him for help if they needed it.
[Klausner] One day Colonel Richmond came in to see me, and he said, A very important person is coming to Germany to look into the DP situation. The army has ordered me to prepare an itinerary for him. He placed this itinerary in front of me, and I looked at it and I said, Of course, this is not an itinerary to see anything, this is an itinerary not to see. He said, Thats why Im here. I cant do otherwise, but you can.
[Narrator] The important person coming was Earl G. Harrison, sent by the U.S. State Department to investigate reports of horrible conditions in the DP camps. The Army planned a tour for Harrison, but it carefully bypassed the most problematic areas. Rabbi Klausner revised Harrisons tour.
[Klausner] Harrison came to Dachau, and I indicated his itinerary would not serve a purpose and that if he wanted to I would develop the itinerary, I would travel with him, and I would discuss the problems. That trip became the substance for the Harrison Report.
When Harrison returned to the United States, President Truman got in touch with Eisenhower _and Eisenhower issued a letter, dated August 22nd, in which, for the first time, the liberated Jews were given a certain amount of freedom; they were not confined in camps anymore.
[Narrator] Harrisons report was instrumental for bringing better conditions to the displaced person camps of Europe. By the end of 1946, hundreds of thousands of Jews had escaped Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe with hopes of immigrating to Palestine and the United States, causing a tremendous influx of refugees into the DP camps.
[Klausner] We started off with 14,000 Jews. _We ended up with a couple hundred thousand. These were Jews in flight, coming now from Eastern Europe. Especially after the pogroms, the anti-Semitism was rife as Jews returned, so you now had this great movement of Jews, across from Eastern Europe into Germany.
Now the Army, still operating on the policy that _the best way to solve the problem of Europe was repatriation, they were going to do everything to keep them from crossing the border into Germany. _I then decided that I was going to help them across the border. I organized trucks going up into Prague and bringing people back into Munich. We provided food, housing for the Bricha people, the collection of guns and ammunition, arranging for peoples going out of Germany to France to Marseilles for the ships. Mark Clark, the general in charge of Italy, discovered the trail going from Prague across to Austria into Italy, and one of our chaplains, Gene Lipmann had to pay the price for it. He was brought up for court-martial because he was active in the Prague centers.
[Narrator] For Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in September of 1945, Klausner made an appeal to a filled Munich congregation: Have your American relatives and friends send packages of assistance to survivors. He said to address the packages to Rabbi Wahl, the 9th Division Army Chaplain. The appeal worked, _and packages soon began to arrive at Rabbi Wahls office on a huge scale.
[Klausner] Packages began to arrive, and the commanding officer called Wahl. _He commended him, told him it was a wonderful thing to do. So Wahl would then load his jeep and bring the packages into Munich. Numbers grew, and so we had to find a building where we could do this on a grand scale. The amount of packages increased to the point where the postal lines were clogged. And now the inspector general came into the picture and reprimanded the commanding officer who had commended Chaplain Wahl, and Wahl was up for court-martial. He had to leave the service. But the program continued.
[Narrator] Rabbi Klausner took many risks and wrote many false documents in _the course of getting his important work done. One false document was written to get a representative of his organization, Zalman Grinberg, into a U.S. Army transport to New York so he could attend an American Jewish Conference. After the conference, two inspectors came to Klausners German office and had a few questions . . .
[Klausner] What happened to him? I said, He returned. So one of them says _to me, Can you prove to us that the man you sent and the man that returned is the same man? You understand why this is serious? Supposing you had taken a leading Nazi and got him out of the country. It would be a tremendous embarrassment for us. Well, we went through a series of meetings, and eventually they ended up one of them said, I understand youre from New Haven. He said, Im going back home, and Im planning to be married. Would you possibly be in New Haven at the time that I get married? It would be wonderful to have you officiate. Which was a nice touch.
[Narrator] Rabbi Klausner continued to find ways to go around the law to get things done. He continued to write false documents, he worked behind the scenes, finding underground means of bringing supplies to Jews in need. He helped Jews escape Europe and emigrate to Israel and America, all the time fighting the status quo. Finally, the army decided Klausner had caused enough trouble and sent him back to the United States, but not before he had fundamentally changed conditions for survivors, bringing them better food, clothing, medical assistance, spiritual support, and community. He brought survivors a rekindled hope for future happiness, that not everyone in the world had abandoned them.
Volume 4, Tracks 1-4
Inheriting the ShoahLiving With _the Knowledge of Evil
[Narrator] Germany became obsessed with keeping the blood of their race pure and of preventing undesirable strains from polluting the population. Anyone not productive was considered Life unworthy of life.
Gary Schiller was born March 20, 1959, 14 years after the Shoah was stopped in its tracks. Although Dr. Schiller did not experience the death camps, his father did and survived. Most of Dr. Schillers other relatives were murdered in the Shoah. Gary Schiller is what is called a second-generation survivor, which means he is the child _of a survivor. He is a medical doctor, specifically a hematologist/oncologist, at UCLA in Los Angeles. Dr. Schiller has studied what Nazis did to those considered less _than desirable.
The list of undesirables began with the disabled and mentally ill. The list soon _grew to include Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals. The first law in this direction was enacted on July 14, 1933a law which legalized sterilization of people with certain hereditary diseases. This obsession with racial purity continued in the camps, when Nazi doctorshighly educated, cultured, respectedperformed hideous experiments on prisoners in the camps.
Dr. Schiller carries this knowledge with him every day, and, as you will hear, it affects daily decisions about how he treats his patients.
[Gary Schiller] Why hematology/oncology? Because I felt needed there. Its nice to feel needed, nice to take care of patients nobody else knows how to or wants to take care of.
Im named after an uncle, who was last seen at the age of 23, disappeared. My mothers side of the family lost many relatives, my father lost his parents, his brother, grandmothers, many relatives. I have a grandmother, and that is the only grandparent Ive known.
I come from a very nonreligious background. I went to the family graveyard in a village in Bohemia a year ago. My ancestors are buried there since 1590. You can _see that already by 1830, 1840, they were definitely Haskala, enlightened kind of Jews, and they were quite secular; the tombstones are all in German and so on. So I come from a very secular and assimilated Jewish background, but Im considerably more observant than my parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents because, for example, when I sit down to eat, I want _to be reminded that I am a Jew living out this heritage that others tried to extinguish.
My parents are survivor and refugee, respectively. My father is _from Prague, he was born in 1926. Went to the Lodz ghetto with his parents where they died, and then went through a variety of labor camps and concentration camps until he was liberated by the Americans at Gardalegen.
My mother is from Vienna. She was born in 1938, two months before the Anschluss, and then, at the age of 18 months, went with her mother to Sydney, Australia. And then she came in 1946 to L.A. They both met in L.A.
[Narrator] Gary Schiller is president of Second Generation, an organization of sons and daughters of Jewish Holocaust survivors dedicated to remembering the victims and to keeping the images and the lessons of the Shoah alive for the Jewish community and all Americans.
[Schiller] Im not sure that there will be an organization called Third Generation. Im not sure that there will be a need for future generations to identify themselves as offspring of Holocaust survivors. Ideally, the Jewish people would identify itself as the legacy of victims of the Holocaust.
Children of Jewish Holocaust survivors identify themselves as unique from the American Jewish experience, and they are because they were brought up in immigrant households. They were subjected to the traumatic stories of their parents, and many sons and daughters of Holocaust survivors see themselves as _a surviving remnant of a very rich European Jewish experience, which has been completely exterminated.
I think that a lot of sons and daughters of survivors are very protective of their parents and the interaction is very close, because as survivors get older, the memories, if anything, become more emotional and less detached. We want to protect them.
I think one of the lessons of the Holocaust, as a physician, is to view with great skepticism scientific theories. Science is best done with a healthy does of skepticism. Physicians as a group, as a profession, were quite well-represented _in the Nazi partysecond to teachers. They really believed in the scientific dogma _of eugenics, unproven as it was. You even hear it today; its just dressed up a little fancier. Science is not value-neutral. Science has a political dimension that is determined by the person who funds the science, so it is by no means pure.
For a long time, actually, I wanted to be a rabbi, but even though I criticized the influence of the dominant culture, theres no question that the dominant culture affected me, because when I was in that more self-doubting time of adolescence _and early adulthood, I didnt think that being a rabbi would be an acceptable profession in this culture.
But now I could imagine doing academic, religious studies, Jewish studies, as a very worthwhile pursuit, and, in a way, I wish I had done that.
Second to that, of course, Jewishly, is medicine, because those are the professions most respectedstudying Torah and rendering the healing art of medicine. Also, like a child of immigrants, even though my parents never told me to be a doctor, the easiest way to enter society with a certain degree of status is medicine.
I deal with a lot of people who are dying, people who ask for active euthanasia, and I am involved in training medical students, interns, and residents, who have, like the greater society, have incorporated the modern situational ethics in America, which not only favors passive euthanasia, but is beginning to even favor active euthanasia.
I also do medical research, which has a very checkered past. Every day we talk about these issues, and every day I try to teach my students to develop an ethical framework before they see the patient, but thats not how its done, really, here.
You look at somebody who is in a persistent vegetative state, who has exhausted family resources, emotionally and financially, and youre confronted with withdrawing feeding. Now, Jewishly, we know this has been addressed; it was addressed a long time ago. As valuable and important as that is, I must say that the Holocaust experience is what influences me immediately, because such an individual would be considered a life-not-worth-living by the Nazis, and would not only have food withheldpassive euthanasiabut would be actively euthanized. I must say that creeps into my practice and my thinking every day.
When you give legitimacy to the medical community to let people go, then the medical community will quite eagerly ease the path, make the path quite simple.
It follows a kind of logical progression of thinking over decades. It didnt happen overnight. It didnt happen with the doctor suddenly overnight started killing people whose lives are not worth living and then helping to administer lethal doses of gas or any other medical form of killing people to undesirables. It happened slowly and progressively. If you can extinguish the life of an individual who tells you that their life is not worth living anymore, then its not _a long step to projecting on an individual who cant tell you anything. _On an individual in a vegetative state, you can say to yourself, Well in my experience, such an individual would never want to see himself like this. And then I can put him out of his misery.
And then you go a little further and not do it with somebody who just is in a persistent vegetative state but somebody who is profoundly mentally retarded. Or who has become demented with Alzheimers. Because, I mean, we hear ourselves saying this all the time, Such a person, had he known, would never have wanted to live like this. So lets put him out of his misery. And then putting people out of their misery becomes easier because youve sort of breached that boundary.
This is not just Jewish. Hippocrates, against the mainstream _of Greek society, opposed killing by physicians, because he knew _that once the step happened, it would be easy to do. Try to judge individuals by their individual merit, that of course is the basis of American society, but that did not happen in Europe, people were judged by nations or ethnic groups which you cant even define. You cant define the Jewish race; theres no such thing, and yet the public accepted that such a designation really represented something.
There are life lessonsthat our time on this earth should be spent in doing something constructive and that we do so in part, in memory of, and more, as out of respect for those who didnt survive. So that I, by my very name, because Im named after somebody who didnt survive, should be productive in a most concrete way for the sake of all of those who are unable to live out productive lives.
Life is a rather awesome responsibility. Its not to be squandered. Thats certainly a Jewish perspective.
Volume 4, Tracks 5-19
One Girls Story: A Childhood in Hiding
[Narrator] Dana Schwartz was born January 30, 1935. She was a young _Jewish girl, only six, when her parents and she were forced into a ghetto. By the _end of the war she had reached the ripe old age of tenher eyes having seen enough for a lifetime.
Its difficult for us to imagine life before World War II in the cities and villages of Europe. Some had poverty, some had wealth, but within those differences were strong extended families, studying, passionate games of soccer, bicycle riding, _music concerts and dancing, swimming in the nearby river . . .
For children before the Shoah, life in Europe was as it should be for children _always, mostly happy, simple, trouble-free. But then things changed, as those _that traditionally protected the childrenparents, family, and communitywere _torn away.
These are her memoriesyou will hear them hereastoundingly powerful. Focus on the way she describes her memories. Focus your mind to bring Danas words to life.
[Dana Schwartz] My name is Dana Schwartz. I was born in Lvov, Poland, in 1935. I was four-and-a-half years old when the war started in September 1, 1939. _My parents met at the law school in Lvov, and they were married on January 20th, 1933, which is when Hitler came to power. I was born on January 30th, 1935. They loved to go to the movies and to dance. Their favorite thing to do was to put on the gramophone record and to dance at home and pretend they were Ginger Rogers _and Fred Astaire. I was the only child, and my dad adored me and carried me around. The grandparents were very observant, but my parents were sort of not. We used to go to my grandmothers house for Shabbat.
Nanny took me to the park one summer day, and there was a daisy on the grass, _and there was also a little wire that went around the grass. But my nanny was talking to another nanny, and I wanted that grass daisy very much. I decided to steal the daisy. I climbed over the wire. I went and picked the daisy. There was a tremendous boom, and I knew I had done something wrong, and I looked around and I noticed that other people had also heard that. They were running, and so I ran to my nanny, and Iterribly embarrassed and ashamed and frightenedand _a man with a big white dog ran by and said, Run home, the war _has started.
And then everything changed. I really actually liked it very much, because my mom and dad didnt go to work anymore. There were _no nannies. My dad took wonderful care of me. I got to sleep in my clothes, and every time there was bombardment he would pick me up and run to the cellar with me and my mom. There were benches all around this room. It was used for washing; the maids had washed there. We were sitting there and listening to the airplanes go by and the bombs whistling down. But it was never on top of our apartment.
My dad rented a car and driver; he didnt know how to drive. And it took us towards the Romanian border. We had to cross a big river, and there were all kinds of scary things. There was a plane that started to strafe us and we had to jump out of the car and run into the corn. We hid in it and didnt get shot.
When we came to the border, the Romanian border, my mother said, Honey, think _of all our stuff, our beautiful Persian rug and our silver and our paintings. Are we just going to leave everything and go? How can we leave it all? My dad paced back and forth, and then he said, You know, Im a lawyer. I have plenty of pull. People know me in this city. What can happen? This is the 20th century. OK, honey, well go back. We never tried to make it over the border, and we came back to the city.
[Narrator] Why didnt Jews leave for Palestine or the U.S.? Why didnt they _see trouble coming? Why didnt Danas family leave Poland when they could? Its a complicated question with a few possible answers. One, Jews were used to being second-class citizens. In past political climates they had made it through, and _they felt they would make it through this situation as well. Two, they were firmly established in the economic and cultural life of the country. They had business investments, family, and friends, and didnt want to leave all this to learn a new language, customs, and culture. They were afraid of the unknown. Three, Polish Jews didnt realize the extent of the danger. Two-thirds of the Jews of Germany did leave, but the Jews of Poland thought they were immune to troubles. Once they wanted to escape, it was too late. The window of opportunity was closed. Finally, if Jews tried to get to the United States, the quota system prevented them.
[Dana Schwartz] First the Russians came, and then the Germans came. The Germans looked awfully beautiful. They were all dressed in these colorful uniforms and shiny boots and great coats. It was really lovely to look at. Very colorful.
One day, a bunch of of these beautiful-looking officers came into our house, and they walked around, and the biggest and most beautiful-looking man kept saying, Yes, yes, very nice, very nice. I said, Mommy, Mommy, they like our apartment. They said, Be out in a half an hour. You can each take one valise. I said, They cant do that. But they could, and they did. I was shattered. I had to leave my toys behind. And we went to the ghetto, Lvov ghetto. And the ghetto was an awful place. And it was in a crummy part of town. My dad somehow found two rooms and a kitchen. He brought his mother along.
We lived in this crowded, awful place. There was very little heat, but we had gas _in the kitchen. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen because my grandmother would leave the gas on, and the water would boil, and it would be kind of warm and safe-seeming. We were very hungry.
My Dad came home with his coat bulging at the chest. He pulled out this wonderful bread that seemed round and very big. He carved it, and he gave me the first _piece. I was so excited to taste it, and there was grit in the bread, it tasted like _sand or dirt, but it didnt matter, it was so good. Didnt happen too often that we had such food.
There were three spots on the building where I lived. For a long time my parents did not want me to know why they were there, but then I found out: They grabbed Jewish toddlers, and they grabbed them by the ankles, and they would try to smash them against the wall and splatter the brains on the first swing. And those three spots were because of that game. All the Jews who walked by those spots walked sort of far away from that part as if to give it wide berth, sort of, give it respect in some strange way. The world was very hard to understand.
One day Dad heard that the Aktion was coming. This was in 1942. Its a roundup _of Jews. Like cattle they herd Jews. No one knows where. No one ever returns. With every meeting of friends there are many names whispered. The Friedmans, the Goldsteins, and so on. It means that they have disappeared. Where do we hide? _Can we outsmart them, can we survive it? Dad finds a place. Its under the apartment house. Theres a space in the foundation. We reach it by crawling behind three _stairs. There are some non-Jews in the building. They cant know where the Jews are _hiding because theyre going to tell. We have to crawl under there at night when no one is looking.
In the Lvov ghetto, problem is that my grandma and the senators wife are just too old to crawl down there, and theres not even enough headroom to sit up. My father talks to some neighbors, and its decided the old people will be put in a room, and _a big cupboard will be pushed against the door to mask the entrance. Its done, and we crawl under the house. Were squashed like sardines exactly. Theres a woman next to me. She has a baby at her breast, who seems too weak to suck much and too weak to cry. There are two toddlers, who stare at her wordlessly, and an older boy, whom I call David, although I never know his name. The children never make any noise. We all lay there afraid that we will get discovered, listening for the sound of boots and terrified when we hear then yelling, Juden raus. They do not discover _us on the repeated searches.
Several days pass. We pass the bottle for urine around. People politely turn their heads. We have bottles which we replenish with water on our nightly stretch trips _to the courtyard at three in the morning. I look up at the beautiful night sky more vivid than I have ever seen it before. I speak to God a lot, but He seems so far _away. The lady I lie next to gets more and more perturbed. She has no food for her children. Theyre fading. Her son David starts to ask his mother to let him go and _find some food. She will not hear of it. We ourselves have only a few sugar cubes _for the three of us. They have nothing. He insists. He tells her hell be quick. He tells her to believe him. Talks about his feeling of responsibility since Father has been taken away, and she finally nods. Morning comes. I lay next to her, and I look at her eyes, and they change as time passes. More time passes. The boy does not come back. He never comes back. And I see it all in the mothers eyes.
My mother is very deeply affected. Next night when we crawl out at three in the morning to stretch, she goes upstairs to the Ukrainian neighbors, and she gives them a ring in exchange for one week of hiding me. Theyre moving to a better apartment outside the ghetto. She gives me to them and her ring, and very little _is said. Im seven, seven-and-a-half.
I get put in the bedroom of their new place. Theres no furniture, only a big pile of newspapers on the floor. I look out the window on the street below, and the street seems very normal. The clip-clop of horses keeps me company. I am forbidden from walking around in the apartment because I may be seen. The couple is gone all day. I get fed late at night when they come home. Its always hot white-turnip soup. Sometimes I spend my days snooping around the apartment on all fours _so I wont be seen through the window. I wonder if I ever see my family again. _The man says the week is up, and he takes me home. He brings me to the courtyard and leaves me there. Its daylight and I realize that non-Jews are looking. I remember that I must not give the Jews away, yet Im dying to know if my parents are still there under the building. Slowly, ever so slowly, I move to those three steps. There I sit down, looking forlorn. I put my head in my hand. My fathers voice, barely audible, tells me how proud and grateful he is that I didnt give them away. He directs me, Go down to the cellar. It was so wonderful. Some very kind lady brought us hot potatoes. Hot boiled potatoes. I still see the steam rising out of those potatoes. What happened to my grandmother while I was gone? The Nazis came into the rooms, they realized there was indeed a door there. They pushed the cupboard away, and they found the old people. Those people were taken away _and never heard from again.
The Aktion was over, and we had made it. My father set out to try to find us Catholic papers. One day he came home; he had them. Not for himself, because _he was circumcised, and he looked like a Jewish man. He didnt want to put us in danger. He had a little prayer book, and I had to learn all the things in the prayer book. I didnt read so it was very hard, but I sort of began recognizing it. And _then we had to choose names to put on these Aryan papers. That was a fun experience. We sat around and threw out funny names that we wanted to be called. We decided that my name, Danusha, was fine. It was a very Polish name. But we were going to give me a middle name, which was going to be Maria. Then we tried for the last name. We decided that one way to make it sound really non-Jewish was to put some kind of pig word in it, ham or bacon. Then it would be _clear for anybody. So we decided to call ourselves Habimska, which is Baconer approximately. Very old, corny name.
Then my mother began to wake me in the middle of the night. What is your name? What is your religion? Say, da da da da, did this whole rehearsal with me. It was very frightening, but I did. And then my father went out, and he found a Polish farmer from the village far west of us. He said to the man, I will give you money, _and all you have to do is to take my wife and daughter with you to your village and to say, Ah, shes a city woman, I cant stand her, but shes my cousins wife, I kinda have to look out for her, but I hate her guts. The farmer said, OK.
Somehow we smuggled ourselves out. We met my father at a crossing of the railroad and the end of the ghetto. I knew that we were separating, that I might never see him again, and I wanted more than anything to hug him. But I was not allowed. I had to keep my hands down. I did so want to hug my daddy. My mother said, Just walk away, and I had to walk away, very unhysterical, very, very casual. And we went to the railroad station.
A man comes, and I think hes some kind of a guard on the train. He comes up to me. He says, What a sweet little Jewish girl you are. I said, Im not a Jewish girl. He said, Well, I dont mean that youre a Jewish girl, but your daddys a Jewish man, right? And I said, Mommy, this man is calling Daddy bad names. He said, Well, _if youre not Jewish, then pray for me. And I rose very indignantly in my seat, and _I said, I only pray to Jesus and Mary, but Ill cross myself for you. And having had so many nannies who took me to the park and then to the church on the way home, _I knew how to do it. And I did it. My mother bade him to follow her, and then they were gone. After about a half hour or so they came back, and he was smiling. My mother waved good-bye and didnt tell him where we were getting off.
The farmer was very nice. He took us to his house, and he had a very pretty wife _with blonde curly hair. They gave us a big bed to sleep in, and we slept for so long, and when we woke up in the morning the sun was shininga big deal because wed been in the ghetto, and it was all darkness and huddling. We walked outside, and the sun was on my shoulder, and the birds were singing. Then the man found us a place to live with another farmer, Mr. Gotner. It was in the livestock building, and there were horses and cows and goats. There was no heat. That was the summer of 42. Everybody in the village thought that we were Catholic women, and my mother made me go to church, but she was the city woman and she didnt go to church. _She was very snooty and snobbish and acted like she was better than everybody so that they could talk badly about her, so that this man could say bad things about _her, that was fine cause it was safer that way.
That summer was when the Germans were cleaning that town of Jews. The towns name was Zaklikow. When they were cleaning the town of Jews they made sure that everybody was out on the street first. And then they would herd them to the synagogue. I was witness to some of that cleansing.
Right next to the farm there was a young, beautiful Jewish woman dentist who was doing her internship. The Nazi came in, the soldier, and said, Out, out, you have to be outside. And she said, You see, I have just broken my leg, and its not set, and so I cant really move, and Im the only dentist in this town. Perhaps I can have special permission to stay. Very nicely he took her by the mattress, and he pulled her downstairs and left her on the street.
Along came Mr. Mustache. Mr. Mustache was a very cruel officer. He was known _by the kids in the town. They talked about him, you know really scary, sort of a freaky guy. And he came up to this dentist and said, Get up Verfluchter. She went into her story again. You see my leg is set, and Im the only dentist in this town, _and your friend went to headquarters to find out, and so on, and he pulled out his revolver. And he used to like to see people in death throes, so he shot her here, and he shot her there, and he shot her here, and shot her there, until he finally killed her.
Other people were taken, they were all herded into the synagogue, but it wasnt wooden, and they couldnt burn it so they just nailed it shut. The kids said we can make a lot of money, we just go there, and theyre sticking out like hundred dollar bills for water. And they take the bills, and they dont even have to bring the water and most of the time they dont bring the water. I wanted to go. Oh, my mother said, No. I was very young, and she was very frightened. I think they took them all to Majdanek. Ahh. . .
Winter of 43 I was in the farmhouse. There was a knock on the door, and Mr. Gotner got up and opened the door, the big farmer. There was a man standing at the door with a young teenage boy in his arms. He said, Mr. Gotner, you know me. We used to trade. Weve been hiding in the forest. My son and I are doing fine in the forest except, look, his foot is gangrene, and I cant cut off his foot myself. Please help me. Please get me a doctor. And he said, Yes, yes, sit down. He sat down wordlessly with his boy in his arms. Mr. Gotner put on his great coat. It was snowy and cold outside. And he went and he brought the Nazis. And he got two kilos of sugar per head. The man who had goats, cows, horses, chickens, geese, fields of potatoes, and sugar beets. He didnt need sugar.
Juden raus means Jews out. And some Jews who were hiding in the forest somehow made up signs and plastered them all over the Jewish cemetery. Jews Out, Germans In. And that was about the only joke of the war.
We moved first across the street, and then we moved to the mayors house, and the mayors house was not very fancy but we rented the front little room. And my mother suffered terribly from gallstones. She used to have these terrible attacks. It was frightening. I was worried that I would lose her, and she was my lifeline.
She was, had been having one of these attacks when one day, already in 44, someplace there was a knock on the door. I opened the door, and the Mustache was standing in front of the door. I was terrified, and I was white. I didnt say anything, and _I just looked at him. He saw my mother lying there on the bed in the corner with a crucifix over her head. He clicked his heels very smartly. I thought it was the end. He said, Hello, little girl. Is the mayor in? And I said, Hes over there. I closed the door. The place was Judenrein, which means clean of Jews already for two years. Of course there was a crucifix, and there was a woman lying there, a little kid, and he never thought twice about _it. He went to the mayor and said, If theres anything I can do, if you need transportation to the next town to take the woman to the hospital, please feel _free to count on me. Charming gentleman.
You see, its just the Jews had to be eradicated. They were like vermin. We were like rats. We had to be destroyed. We were not worthy of life. And I got that. I think the children of the Holocaust got that they were bad. The older kids and the adults knew that they were Jews, and to be a Jew was a wonderful thing, and there were holidays and there was a belief system, a wonderful social life. We didnt know the songs. _We didnt know the stories. We didnt know the delights. All we knew is we were so bad we had to hide. Mr. Mustache, of course, was a gentleman and, of course, offered the mayor to take my mother to the hospital because she was a Pole.
It was a very scary experience, because finally my mother was taken to the hospital, and then I was alone for many weeks. I picked berries and went to the forest every day, and I wanted to get lost . . . I would pick flowers, and Id eat the berries, and then there was nowhere to take the flowers. I had no mother. I had no father. I _was a nobody. Then my mommy came back. My dad had been caught and taken to the concentration camp. My dad was able to get mail out of the concentration camp. What my dad says, always in veiled language is, Im warm, I have good shoes, I _have plenty to eat. Dont worry about me. He tried to keep my mother calmmy mothers nerves were shattered by thenand Im having a wonderful time. Of course, he couldnt say, Im in the concentration camp. He said, I saw Sid. He was Sid. I saw Sid, and Sid is planning a holiday, which of course means, Im gonna escape.
And then the letters stopped coming. At the end of 43 they stopped coming. The Russians came. We got a ride back to look for my father and my grandmothers, my aunts, my uncles, my little cousins. We found no one. Out of a 182,000 Jews in Lvov, there were 184 Jews who came back and registered with a little Jewish agency. Theyre all gone.
[Narrator] Dana Schwartz was now with her mother alone in a big city.
Together they searched for relatives, tried not to starve to deathhoping to find a way west, to America. Danas mother promised that in America Dana could do anything, be anything she wanted, and, It doesnt even snow there, and you can talk about the President having rags on his head and not get into trouble.
Five years later she fulfilled her promise to Dana when they landed in New York and took a train to Los Angeles.
[Dana Schwartz] I had no one but my mother. We were starving and homeless when we came back. We went back to that man who had taken me in for the ring. They gave us X amount of nights that we could stay. Those nights were coming to an end, and we had two raw eggs between us, my mother and I. I was all bitten up with lice and bedbugs. I couldnt sleep. I kept dreaming about sleeping all night, but they loved my hands. They would bite me everywhere.
I was very hungry. Very miserable. My mother heard about a Jew, and she was going to go and see if she could find him. She met a gentleman, Mr. Goldberg, very kind. He looked like a human being. He didnt look all the other people who looked sort _of like death warmed over, only not so warm. He looked like a normal person. And he found us a room and gave us some money to eat. It was so nice. God, we had a room! We had food.
My mother found someone who had been at the camp. The man told my mother how my dad died. The Germans used to make somebody take the Jews out on the sand dunes, and they would get drunk, and they would shoot them like target practice. People would go down the dunes and into a pit. Didnt have very much trouble burying them, you could just throw some sand on them. And my mother and I went to this place, Janowska Road, which is now being used to train mean dogs for army duty. Dogs are very frightening to me, even now, especially German shepherds. My mother took some sand and put it in newspaper, and then we bought a special box for it, and when my mother died, when I was 17, I put half of that earth into her grave and the other one I kept for myself.
We went to Sweden after one year to wait for an affidavit to come to America. I was in Sweden from 46 to 49, and I did not want to go to Germany because I was terrified of the Germans. Stockholm was wonderful, was so peaceful. It was amazing. My mother had her operation there for gallstone removal. They took out 54 gallstones.
There was a very special class that formed in the Jewish Community Center. They had sort of a class for all the remnants, the children who were very frightened of each other, who had not been socialized at all. We got, we were all in the classroom of all different ages and learned how to be together. It was a wonderful year for me of calming down and being with people like myself.
Now in this Jewish community building I find myself one day at a gathering _of survivors, a few hundred of them. They sit there in a big hall, bent and broken, their shoulders rounded, their heads held low, and theyre listening intently to the lone man on the stage whos listening to the radio and reporting the results of the voice at the United Nations. This is Stockholm, and there were many survivors there. He shouts names of countries and shouts them out and there is silence between his shouts and he calls the country and then either yes or no or abstain. And I stand there on _the sidelines, 12 or 13, and Im astonished. I swear I feel a very powerful presence, undescribed till this day. As the last country is yelled out with a yes after it, suddenly all the broken people stand up, and their round shoulders roll back and their chests pop out and they start to sing Hatikva.
And they sing the song of the uprising, Zug nicht kein Mol, Never say that youre going on your last way. The presence is there, its thick, as its the United Nations voting to let Palestine be a Jewish state. Were homeless no more. We have lived to see the day. The day I remember my grandparents dreaming about. The _old people next to me in the black clothes in the little town. Those people were taken away, they dreamt about it, and I lived to see that day. I know then that I am privileged. I know that I will love and cherish the land of all our dreams. My face is wet, my eyes extra large with the wonder and miracle. I know that this moment will be in my heart forever.
We come by boat in November of 1949. We were supposed to dock that evening, but for some wonderful reason we cant dock until the morning, so I spent the night in front of the Statue of Liberty, on the ship. And Im 14 and shes, God knows, symbol of America and everything that I always dreamt of. I just stand there and communicate with her.
They put us up, the Jewish community, in a hotel on Broadway. My mom got very ill and died. But before she died she was in a place for the dying. It was 1952. I used to put her in a wheelchair and wheel her outside into the garden under a beautiful tree. And one day I had a big fight with God. I said, What this woman didnt sacrifice for me! We finally come to this land of opportunity. An amazing place where Jew can be a Jew. Where I can have my last name. Where I can study whatever I want. I can learn Hebrew. I can do anything. And then you take her away? Im 17. How can you do that? And look at this tree, look at this beautiful tree. Its so verdant and green and old, and you let that tree live and my mother, whos 43 years old, has to die.
And then I got busy with my mother, and I wheeled her back, and _the next morning I come again, and I wheel her out . . . and theres _a stump. The tree is gone. Its been cut down in the last 24 hours. And then I dont fight with God anymore.
The high school I went to, they were lovely to me and skipped me just before my mother died because I wanted her to know that I was a high school graduate, that she was leaving someone grown-up.
I went to city college and then to UCLA. I graduated in education because I knew that I had to provide for myself. I painted, and I went to summer camps, Jewish; wonderful places. I discovered for the first time how good it was to be Jewish. Then I married, had three children. I very, very much wanted to pass on this seed. I was last. Once I had this dream that I had a connection to my two grandmothersit was sort of a wire connection up to the sky where they wereand I said to them, Dont worry, your seed will go on, its just skipped a few generations.
With my spare time I wanted to give back. I taught school for a while, for three wonderful years. I went back to school when my kids were grown up, and Im a psychotherapist. I work in a school that takes care of very disadvantaged children who are not able to make it in regular school, and try to make a difference.
Then twice I went back to Poland, and I was looking for some closure. And I found the bakers daughter that I had played with, 47 years after the fact. She saw me. Immediately she said, Danusha Habimska! (Remember, the Baconers.) Where have you been? Pulled out my pictures. Its been 47 years, but so what? And she said, Do you want to see my parents? And then we went to see the baker and his wife. My husband, whos a secure American guy said, Ask her if she has anything _of your mothers. And the old lady said, Ah, the platinum watch was stolen many years ago, but we still have the engagement ring. And I never take it off.
They didnt know we were Jewish. I mean, they didnt know. I asked them, and one of the woman said, Oh, you said a word once that made us wonder, but we figured you were from another part of the country, so maybe they pronounced it that way in your part of the woods. So, of course they didnt know, and, of course, they would have given me away. Those were tough times, and I try to think of it that way.
Ive told you just a minute amount of the terrors and the hunger and the fear. The terror of being caught any minute is very present, every moment. I never stopped hoping that my father was still alive. And all through the big cities of Europe I used to walk around looking at mens faces. And in 1980, when there was a big meeting in Washington of survivors, I just kept walking, and these people were coming at me, and I kept staring at their faces, and then I stopped, and I said, I wouldnt know what my dad would look like now. And I gave up.
Living through the Holocaust was a great loss of innocence because you couldnt trust people. You cant. You could never hope to get what youve imagined was the good in people, because left and right you saw them giving people away and pointing out where they were hiding. I saw the worst. Though its very difficult to live in the world knowing in your heart of hearts that people are not really good.
In spite of all that, in Poland, when it had been Germany, and it was right after the war, in Bytom, my mother and I knew that everybody had died. One day we got some money from my fathers brother$25 or $50 of todays valueand my mother said, Look, darling. Look, we have money. What shall we do with it? And I had been eating very badly; I had terrible headaches. And I said, Mommy, lets have a dinner with soup and with meat and potatoes, and I started to describe it, And dessert. And she said, How do you remember that? And she was happy that I perked up. And then she took me to the window, and she said, Look at those children in the street. I said, Well, those are German children. She says, Yes, but theyre hungry; theyve lost the war. I said, Mom, theyre German children! She said, It doesnt matter. Theyre hungry.
And the next day, she went to the open-air market and bought a lot of bones, a lot of vegetables, a lot of barley, and she borrowed a big pot, and she cooked up a huge soup. And she went outside onto the street with me, growling and angry at her, and she said to the children, Go home, get a bowl and a spoon, and come upstairs. And all the children did. And they lined up eagerly, and my mother ladled out the soup for them. And she taught me a lesson. I decided, not consciously but very strongly, to believe in everyone and the goodness of everyone. In spite of what I had seen. And Ive lived my life being positive, and growing my children to be positive. Teaching my children to be positive, hoping that nothing so bad would ever happen again.
Volume 4, Track 20
[Narrator] You have been listening to Voices Of The Shoah. Please continue to use this audio and book set to the fullest. And join us on-line, where we can continue the conversation.
We'd love to hear your comments and questions, so please share them with us.
We want to give credit to the people involved in making Voices Of The Shoah possible: writer, producer, and director David Notowitz; executive producer Rhino Records, especially Vice President Gary Stewart and President Richard Foos; the organization of Second Generation Survivors in Los Angeles; Montana Edit and owner Lily Goldfarb; the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles and John Fishel; The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust and Marcia Josephy and Alex Grobman; and all the survivors, who gave so much of their time and emotions.
And thank you, for joining us, and allowing survivors to share their stories. All the best. Im Eliott Gould.
About the Narrator
Noted American actor Elliott Gould has starred in nearly 70 feature films, in addition to his acclaimed work in theater, television, and radio. He was nominated for an Academy Award® for his portrayal of Ted in the 1969 film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, which was followed by his role as Trapper John in Robert Altmans 1970 classic motion picture M*A*S*H. In addition to his ongoing film and television work, Gould can be heard on the KCRW public radio series Jewish Stories From The Old World To The New.
About the Author
David Notowitz produced, directed, and wrote Voices Of The Shoah: Remembrances Of The Holocaust. Past projects by David Notowitz include feature films, commercials, educational video projects, Web sites, and documentaries, including editing The Last Klezmer, for Yale Strom, and Waging Peace, for Disney Educational Productions and Elie Wiesel. He produced, shot, and edited the Emmy-nominated Carpati: 50 Miles, 50 Years, which The San Diego Union Tribune named one of the top 10 films of 1997. A full summary of his work can be found at www.notowitz.com.
Produced by DAVID NOTOWITZ
Executive Producers: RICHARD FOOS & GARY STEWART
Associate Producers: VANESSA ATKINS, DANIEL GOLDMARK & MICHAEL WESLEY JOHNSON
A portion of the proceeds from this project will be donated to support the mission of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
It's easy to order Voices. Just click here.
Cybrary HOME Voices HOME Buy VOICES now