True Auschwitz survivors stories
Nowadays we know what happened inside camp. Nowadays we hear the true Auschwitz survivors stories, we can watch the movies about them and read the books. The survivors keep talking loud to spread the truth. Unfortunately not everyone had the chance to speak.. Because not everyone survived. Auschwitz concentration camp is a grave for billions of people. They can’t speak about the truth. But the ones which survived can. And they speak out and share the story of their lifes.
What happened in concentration camps?
Life inside the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi camp wasn’t easy. All the prisoners were treated without any empathy, without respect and without dignity. And although German officers tried hard to hide the truth about the camp, nowadays the former prisoners speak. Basicly all the stories are about life under under the control of the Nazi and about true great will to live. Inside books or during watching a movie we can learn about first moments after arrival to the camp. One of the prison-van described the effect of having her hair cut: “I looked around and I saw young girls with scissors and clippers cutting hair off clean to the scalp… when the cold scissors touched my scalp and my hair slowly fell down, I couldn’t help it, my tears fell down, mixed with my black curls.” But don’t forget, haircut was at the beginning of Auschwitz horror. For the prisoners the tragedy would come day after day.
Holocaust survivor stories
The stories of holocaust survivors are always very emotional. Their words are real and painful. It’s not something easy to read it, but it’s necessary. Those two prisoners – Irene Fogel Weiss and Benjamin Jacobs went through many hard moments. They never gave up and now they want to spread the truth.
Irene Fogel Weiss shared the story of his life on the pages of www.theguardian.com. Here you can read the most emotional parts of his memories.
“(…) I remember the night of the packing very well. Things went in the suitcase, things were taken out of the suitcase. In the end my mother filled it with food she had cooked and warm clothing and bedding. Then it was full. Plus we took a watch, some earrings, a wedding ring with us to exchange for food if necessary. The next day my father was forced to hand over his remaining money to a delegation that included the mayor and the school principal as they rounded us up at the town hall. (…)
My father surveyed the scene from the train and could see prisoners, uniforms and barracks so we immediately thought it was a work camp, and that was reassuring – if we can work, it can’t be such a dreadful place. We had heard about the stories in Poland of lots of mass shootings of Jews or people being taken into the forest and shot, so it was a relief to see out the window that there was actually a system. Even though we were victims of discrimination at that stage that’s all it was, as we had no clue then that this was a very carefully orchestrated plan of genocide. We could not have imagined that they would kill little children, until we realised that killing children was their primary goal to prevent any new generations. Because desperate people will always look to find some sign of hope, we thought to ourselves even if we have to work, at least we’ll see each other occasionally.
But the German system was full of this sort of deception. It counted on people’s normal perception of things. Thinking we were going to a work camp. Thinking that you were going to take a shower when in fact you were going to the gas chambers – that was the ultimate deceit.
When we arrived it was, as I later found out, the usual story, though not to us at the time. Our family was torn apart on the platform on arriving. My sister, Serena, was chosen for slave labour. My mother and the younger children were sent off to one side and my father and 16-year-old brother to the other side. I held tightly on to the hand of my 12-year-old sister and for an instant I was mistaken for being older than I was, probably because I was wearing a headscarf that my mother had given me.
My sister was sent with my mother, while I went to the opposite side. That was the first chance I had to survive. Unbeknown to any of us at the time, two Nazi soldiers had been asked to make a photographic document of the deportation of Hungarian Jews from the moment they got off the train – through the entire system of arriving, going to the bath house and getting their prison clothes – so I ended up in a picture at the very moment I was separated from my sister. It captures me standing alone without my family on the Auschwitz platform, and I’m leaning inwards to see where my little sister has gone.
Another picture we discovered shows my family waiting in line for the gas chamber. Two little boys, my brothers Reuven and Gershon, are shown dressed in hats, one struggling to put on his winter coat. For a long time I failed to find my mother and was very unhappy. But I spent hours looking at these photos with a magnifying glass and one day I found her little face sticking out.
The pictures only came to light 25 years ago and, despite them showing moments from around 45 years before that, they completely captured the entire experience as it had been in my mind all that time. I was dumbfounded and devastated, having had no idea they existed, and I have spent literally hundreds of hours scouring them, trying to find my father and brother. The pictures have reassured me that I was not imagining it all, as I sometimes thought I might have done.
The reality of where we were, struck home fairly quickly. I was stationed near crematorium number four, and we witnessed the columns of unsuspecting women and children entering the gate of the crematorium; they would have been dead within half an hour. When the Hungarian Jews arrived they had the gas chambers going day and night. How can you wrap your imagination round that? I still can’t.
I was with my older sister Serena and we were sent to be forced labourers together in the Birkenau section of Auschwitz. Many times we were threatened with separation but somehow we managed to stay together. Later on, to our great relief we ran into my mother’s two younger sisters, our aunts Rose and Piri, who were in their early 20s. It was like finding our parents. They were such a huge moral and emotional support for us.
On about 17 January or 18 January 1945, the SS dragged thousands of us out of the camp to walk to Ravensbrück concentration camp deep into central Germany. I don’t really know why. We were in terrible straits with no proper clothes, nothing suitable for marching through the snow. It was as if the cruelty would never end. If anyone sat down out of exhaustion, they were shot. Later we were transported yet again, and my aunt Piri became ill and was killed.
As the Soviets approached, the SS left and I, Serena and Rose took shelter in an empty house nearby. The Russians came but for some reason left again immediately, so we were left to fend for ourselves.
We spent months trying to get to Prague where we knew we had some relatives and from there we went to the Sudetenland. I got to go to school, my sister found work in a factory and Rose was sick at home with tuberculosis. (…)
Eventually I discovered that of around 100 people from my town who were deported, only about 10 survived, only two of whom were children – my sister and me. But there was not one parent and child who lived. All of them were killed. (…)”
The story of Benjamin Jacobs comes from www.nizkor.org.
“Traumatized, starved, and soaked with human waste, we looked to be the inhuman, useless creatures the Nazis had characterized us as being. It was dark when the train stopped. Dawn came a few minutes later, and light began breaking through the windows. We are not at a station. Why did they stop? we wondered. A few minutes later the wheels began to roll slowly; then they stopped and rolled and stopped again, screeching.
It was light enough to see distant fences. We must be at a camp, and at least at the end of this misery. Perhaps the prophecy of our doom and death was wrong after all? The smoke, with the odor of burning flesh, that we suddenly smelled we passed off as the friction of the train’s wheels on the rails. As the locomotive crept forward, we saw strangers on a ridge dressed in striped clothes with matching berets, walking like zombies and staring at our train as though they had been expecting us. We yelled, asking them to tell us where we were. But no words came back, just a sign from one of them: he slid his hand across his throat in a cutting gesture. The others that looked at our caravan twirled their fingers at the sky. We stared, frightened, in disbelief. We knew that it meant crematories. In the quiet that followed, a boy of perhaps sixteen asked what the strange gestures meant. No one answered him. No one wanted to share his grimmest thoughts. It is hard to describe our macabre mood. The meaning of the smoke was now apparent. It was not the train. My father was praying. I no longer thought that God could save us. My trust in him had ended. My genesis without him had taken place long ago, in Steineck.
The train rolled on. We passed more uniformed people. They looked on while SS men held flashlights and other prisoners gave us more strange signals. Some raised their arms up, mimicking Hercules. A constant stream of smoke spewed into the air. The train slowed and stopped.
The doors rolled open and startled us with loud bangs. “Raus! Alle raus! Alles liegen lassen!” (Out! All out! Leave everything!), the SS shouted. The cement platform was crowded with SS men, yelling and waving us impatiently out of the wagon. “Raus!” they yelled, as their dogs growled, showing menacing teeth. The word Auschwitz hung like a bad omen in the air. The impact shocked us. It was a ghastly sound that no one repeated. We knew that that word stood for selections and death. We knew that in Auschwitz Jews were turned to ashes. Their net was closing around us.
People began to pray. “Shma Israel Adonoi Eloheino Adonoi Aikhod. God is one. God is mighty.” (…)
“These are a few of my dental instruments,” I said, hoping he would allow me to keep them. Without another word he seized the box, snatched it off my shoulder, and flung it to the ground. The treasures that I had carried with me all this time, my fate and that of my father, lay scattered on the cement platform. (…)
We were ordered to undress and to leave our clothes on the platform. One Nazi, who appeared to be the highest-ranking SS officer, wore a spiffy black uniform with a doctor’s badge. The procedure seemed well rehearsed. As his assistants paraded a row of prisoners before him, he made mysterious gestures. Only the guards understood, and they quickly executed his orders. A blink of his eyes, a wave of his hand, a twitch of his finger–each held a clue.
Before our turn, a fellow captive whispered, “Lift your heads. Act strong.” The judges asked the first question of me. What was my age?
“Twenty-three,” I said.
“Dentist,” I replied.
They ordered me to the right, to join the healthier-looking group. As I stepped aside, I took my father with me.
“Halt! Nur Du!” (Only you), I heard one shout. I knew that Papa was at their mercy. They asked him his age and occupation.
“Forty-two, farmer,” he said.
My father was forty-nine then. I thought it sounded good.
But “Links!” I heard them order. I saw them push him to the left.
“It’s my father,” I said, begging them to understand.
“Nein, nur Du geh nach rechts. Dein Vater muß nach links gehen.” (No, only you to the right. Your father must go to the left.) They had condemned him to death. I tried to beg for their clemency once more. But I watched in horror as they began to select people in the next line. I was as close to tears as I could ever be in camp. They have just orphaned me, I thought.
Suddenly a commotion erupted as one man tried to escape the platform. He was quickly mowed down by gunfire. In that moment of confusion, I grabbed my father and tried to take him with me. He was frozen with fear and did not move. I tugged sharply and whispered, “Papa! Come with me.” He followed. If we had been caught, it would have been death for both of us. (…)
One day the Kapo kept us outside in the cold rain for more than an hour. When we finally got back into the block, we were dripping wet. We hung our clothes around the room to dry. When the Kapo noticed, he asked us who had had that idea. Since we all did it simultaneously, no one admitted guilt. Then he ordered us to go outside naked and circle the block. As we passed by him standing at the door, he swung his whip at us. Mendele was hit badly, but even though some lashes on his back drew blood, he didn’t whimper. I thought this teenager’s heart was made of stone. Looking around and seeing the rain dripping off of us, I thought of cattle in a pasture. Here we were treated alike, driven, herded, and even branded like cattle. Later one of the prisoners, Moishe Chernicki, came down with a fever and was taken to the infirmary. No one ever saw or heard from him again.(…)
We had been in this isolation for more than two weeks. The draconian rations barely kept us alive. When the sun didn’t shine, the camp was draped in the black of the rising smoke. There had not been a shortage of courage before, but now we were at our lowest point ever. Reality seemed twisted and out of shape. At times we stared into space. Some wandered around the barracks in loneliness. Although we had passed Dr. Mengele’s selection, we were destined to flunk life anyway. Suicides, though, were rarely heard of here. Only a few Jewish inmates succumbed in this way. Perhaps our generation’s experiences had endowed us with extra ability to endure. The undaunted believers still prayed every day. It amazed me how they still remembered word-for-word the various prayers of shaharith, minhah, and maarib–the morning, afternoon, and evening liturgies.
Then a number of civilians came to the block. They were accompanied by Hauptsturmführer Rudolf Höss, the Kommandant of Auschwitz. The consensus of our block supervisors indicated that they were from I.G. Farben, a large German pharmaceutical company that already employed prisoners in the nearby Buna camp. At Buna, the I.G. Farben Company was making synthetic rubber. There, we were told, the inmate death rate was very high, and they had a continuous need for replacement workers. We believed that it could only be better than our present situation. We just wanted to get out of here.
Finally we got orders that we would leave the camp. A little after five the next morning, we were each given leather shoes with wooden soles to replace our clogs. After roll call we were given a generous portion of bread and were lined up.
I looked up and saw the paradoxical Auschwitz sign, “Work makes you free.” By leaving Auschwitz, I felt that we had a new lease on life.”
Holocaust survivors quotes
Holocaust and the nightmare of World War II are a painful memories for many people. They suffered and starved, they were separated with their beloved. But in the end they survived. Today we can read their stories and learn the truth about life.
Elie Wiesel was 15 when he and his family were placed in one of the two confinement ghettos in Hungary. After two months they were sent to Auschwitz where direct his mother and his younger sister were killed. Elie and his father survived and lived in Auschwitz at first, to be later deported to the concentration camp at Buchenwald. His father only survived there for eight months and he died just a few weeks before the camp was liberated. Elie stayed alive and reached the moment when his camp was liberated by the U.S. Third Army on April 11, 1945. After that he moved to France and later to USA. Living in New York he went on to write over 40 books, most of them non-fiction Holocaust literature. Elie Wiesel died on the morning of July 2 2016 at his home in Manhattan, aged 87.
Primo Levi. On 21 February 1944, 25 years old Primo Levi were transported in cramped cattle truck from Italy to Auschwitz concentration camp. Luckily for him, he secured a position as an assistant in IG Farben’s Buna Werke laboratory that was intended to produce synthetic rubber. Levi spent eleven months there before the camp was liberated by the Red Army on 18 January 1945. After liberation he moved back to Italy and started writing poetry about his experiences in Auschwitz. Primo Levi died on 11 April 1987 after a fall from the stairs of his third-storey apartment. The coroner ruled his death a suicide. He was 67 years old.
Ephraim (Moshe) Reichenberg. Ephraim (Moshe) Reichenberg was hungarian citizen, born in 1927. In March 1944 the Germans occupied Hungary, and in July, all his family were deported to Auschwitz. His parents were murdered direct after arrival and Ephraim and his brother Menashe were subjected to Dr. Joseph Mengele’s laboratories medical twin experiments experiments on their vocal chords (although they weren’t twins at all). On January 18, 1944, Ephraim and Menashe were taken on the death march from Auschwitz. When the train reached destination- Sachsenhausen, only 22 from 160 prisoners were still alive, including Ephraim and Menashe. On April 14, 1945, they were forced again on a death march to northern Germany. They were liberated on May 5 by the Red Army.
If you are interested about more stories from Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp or about Holocaust in general, we would like to recommend you several books to read and movies to watch.
1. A Scrap of Time and Other Stories by Ida Fink
2. The Last Jew of Treblinka: A Memoir by Chil Rajchman
3. Boy 30529 by Felix Weinberg
4. Rena’s Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz by Rena Kornreich Gelissen
5. An Underground Life: Memoirs of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin by Gad Beck
1. Life is beautiful (from 1997)
2. Holocaust (from 1978)
3. The boy in the striped pyjamas (from 2008)
4. The pianist (from 2002)
5. Night & fog (from 1951)
6. Schindler’s List (from 1993)
Why should we remember?
Such an easy question can induce too many thoughts. First at all, we should never repeat the history. We should also appreciate our lifes and what we have. Despite all the problems and complications, the world nowadays is a world with rules and we can feel relatively safe. We can travel, we can walk without a fear to be kidnapped to the death camp. True Auschwitz survivors stories learn us how to be a good person and how to enjoy the little things happening everyday in our lifes.