tv Oral Histories CSPAN September 4, 2015 9:02pm-10:59pm EDT
that bunker, because they didn't want any remains to fall into russian hands, the russians had of course taken berlin, were taking it shortly thereafter. and so he carried out all of those orders and that is the story that came down to me and i see by the history books also to others, that is apparently how it happened. >> he described to you the last days in the bunker? >> well, he did but i don't have a very detailed recollection of that. it must have been chaotic but i really can't tell you details that you know, that would throw any light on it now. i do remember that he described his personal duties that hitler had instructed him to do, and so
that that no traces were ever found by the russians of hitler and eva braun, his mistress. so that is the story of that. as i said before, unfortunately we found out after the war that my parents along with so many others had been deported to auschwitz, and so i certainly knew if not firsthand, at least i had an understanding for what had gone on during the war. i will say this, that i always -- i really did think the
nazis capable, i knew the mentality and i did think them capable of doing the things which in fact they did, and they did do, nothing truly surprised me. i merely didn't know the details. i also always knew that it would come to a war even as a young boy, the signs of it were there and in the turmoil of that world and the quest for revenge that the average german had at the time i just knew that it would come to another war in which i no doubt would be involved. >> this labor day weekend, three days of politics, books and american history. on a full day of special programs on c-span here are a few of the features for labor day monday at 10:00 a.m. eastern. a town hall event in seattle, discusses the pros and cons of big data and civil liberties, later that evening at 6 third clock a debate how to reduce poverty between president obama
and the president of the american enterprise institute arthur brooks. at 8:00, mark cubben and bill clinton and george w. bush on leadership skills. on c-span 2 we're live all day in the nation's capital for the 15th annual national book festival with author programs with cokie roberts and joseph ellis and your opportunity to talk with prize winning historian david mcculloch, buzz aldrin and others, sunday at noon, a live three-hour conversation on in depth with former second lady and american enterprise institute senior fellow lynne cheney who will take your calls, e-mails and tweets. later at 9:00 on afterwards, kathryn eden talks how families from chicago to appalachian and the mississippi delta are surviving on no income. and labor day monday at 11:45 a.m. eastern, authors like eric
loomis, ann coulter and others share thoughts on social and political issues. on american history tv on c-span 3, saturday evening at 8:00 on lectures in history, boise state university professor lisa brady explains how defoiliation chemical agents used during the korean and vietnam wars created long term damage to both people and the environment. sunday afternoon at 4:00, on real america, crowded out, the 1958 national education association film addressing overcrowded schools following the post-world war ii baby boom. and on labor day monday, our interview with billionaire david rubenstein. get our complete schedule at c-span.org. >> in 1945, 70 years ago, allied forces liberated the nadsy concentration camps. tot tonight we'll hear holocaust stories from those who lived them. these interviews are part of the
oral history collection at the you're nighted states holocaust memorial museum in washington, d.c. next, gerda klein talks about how the 1939 german invasion of poland drastically changed her life. she recalls being sent to a jewish ghetto, her experiences in jewish camps and being forced on a death march in 1945. this oral history is almost two hours. i was born on may 8, 1924. in the most southern western part of poland in a town called belitz. it was in the province of sellsia at the foothill of the mountain range. >> would you tell me about your parents and about your family as a young girl, as a child. >> in retrospect my parents seem
absolutely saintly and everything seems marvelous. i know it couldn't possibly be that way, i know it must have rained at times but my memories is very vivid and i cherish it very much and i don't see why i should change. this is perfection which i remember. i had one older brother who was five years older than i. his name was arthur. my parents name were julius and helena weismann. we lived in an old large home outside of town. it was a huge garden. many fruit trees and flowers and wonderful thing for children to roam in. i had ten cats, all black. and i knew all their names and now you know my children now my grand children are used to me to recite the names of my cats. my brother had two dogs. i used to love swimming in
summer, skiing in winter. and by and large i had a marvelous childhood. >> what about school? >> i went to public school first. and then only until the war broke out and to catholic school. it was a private girls school. however, we had a rabbi come giving us jewish instructions. it was about i would say a quarter up to my class were jewish. and that was the thing to do. i really liked school very much. i pretended i didn't. of course, you know, when the war came, that was the end of my formal education. >> tell us what happened. >> well, i guess the danger signals were flying very high in the summer of 1939.
by and large i must say it was ignored by my family. i was away with my mother in a place called krinitsla. i really remember my very first incident which is a great deal of fear. my mother and i went to a concert, and i remember the setting quite vividly. there were flowers around. i'm not very musical but something on that day i remember, the crowd of people sitting there and flowers and it was very warm. a day of -- one of those golden days of summer as i see it now. and suddenly, a young man came running up to the podium and pushed the conductor aside and he said how can you all sit here, listening to music when danger is coming. he pointed to the hills which separated us from czechoslovakia
which had been occupied by the nazis. and he said monsters are coming from there. why don't you go home and take up arms and so i remember moving closer to my mother and saying shouldn't we go home? and but pretty soon police came and arrested the man because he was an agitator for disturbing the peace. and i still remember that sudden fear, that really was my first memory of something impending, but we stayed perhaps another week i don't remember exactly how long. however, on the way home we saw stations a lot of baggage which was labels war zone. and when we came home, my father had his arm in a sling. and my mother naturally was terribly concerned and he suffered a slight heart attack. and unfortunately things were moving very fast, that must have
been very -- perhaps the third week in august we receive a telegram from my uncle in turkey my brother only had one brother and he lived in turkey and he sent us a telegram saying we should get out, that we had visas in the embassy in the war zone, but my mother said we're not going to tell papa about the telegram. papa is ill and should not be >> tell us what happened next. what did you do, once you realized -- >> it was friday morning. and i remember it very well. i was 15 you see. it was friday morning when we heard a lot of planes and people run into the streets and german
planes. we run out, saw planes with swastika flying over, it was a frightening thing and a lot of activity started then. they were building trenches and you know, my mother tried to keep the windows closed until my father's bedroom. my father was quite ill. and that night there were lots of refugees on the streets, you know. people running away and there was shooting. i remember one man was carrying a goat on his back. his only possession, a small goat. and people with wheel barrows and carts. my brother had a girlfriend and apparently her family called and said that they are going to flee into the interior of poland, suggested to take my brother and
me along. and my father insisted that it should be my brother's decision. i was considered too young to make a decision. my brother was 19 at the time. my brother said no, we're not going to go. we'll stay together, you need us, father was ill. and that was a terrible shock because my father to me was sort of center of my universe, you know. papa decreed something he would do anything and that he should suddenly ask us, particularly my brother, to make the decision. a tremendous decision. i remember it was a terrible shock. and was a very turbulent night. and then it ceased in the morning. and my father said to me that i should go and apparently he wanted to talk to my mother and brother that i should not be around. he says i should call the family to see what everyone is doing.
my father's brothers and so on. i went downstairs and there was no answer. no one answered anywhere. and you know, i remember suddenly like you were you were left in a world, all the homes that i remembered and the phones ringing. and there was no answer whatsoever. and i came up my father said no one answers. i said no. i knew it was a wonderful saturday. everything was cut off. we had no electricity, no light. it was a beautiful september day, flowers outside. and my parents were joking, my father got dressed and came downstairs and we were sitting together. really the last beautiful day. and then in the evening the shelling. and my brother went out to let his dog in and when he came back
he had a hole in his trouser. and he said they were shooting from the rooftops. the germans were coming. but we went to the basement with some other people, you know. and it was morning, i don't remember those hours too well. but what i remember most vividly is my mother called, said we should come. she had prepared some breakfast. and we came upstairs and we sat down, and sudden ly was tremendous roar, roar of motorcycles. and it was a motorcycle with nazis, one on the side car and one sitting there, and my
brother had just -- he had taken it out of his pocket, and i saw his hand, and it was 9:10 in the morning. and i remember everybody just sat there totally stunned. and then we heard running, more cars and motorcycles were coming. and people shouting heil hitler and we saw from the house across the street, flag, swastika flying. i think that was the most enormous shock. our neighbors, friends. and they knew it and this very first hour. and to me and of course you know, can only see it in retrospect. many times. one of the things sort of
changed suddenly, i remember. a coal fell out from the grate of the fireplace and it went on the carpet and the carpet was sort of smoldering. no one paid attention to it. i remember once it happened before how upset my mother was. no one paid attention. tiny things that suddenly changed everything. shortly thereafter, more and more trucks of soldiers were coming and the voices grew more hoors people shouting heil hitler and i saw a childhood friend of mine carrying white roses to the soldiers and somebody giving the soldiers schnupps and flowers. i remember starting to cry. he said keep quiet, you know. you can't do that. he took me up to bed said don't
make a sound. and it was in the morning, i mean you know, the whole day sort of many feelings. try to remember. over the years. but one of the worst things happened that afternoon. the mother of the child friend of mine she lives in israel, esther bergmann. her mother came, and she asked for my father was and she said -- she knew he was ill but said to my brother, no mention on the streets because they rounded up all the men that they could find and they locked in the temple and set the temple aflame. and then she sort of went out by the back door and i think that was truly the first impact what
happened. >> what happened over the next few days? >> i couldn't tell you day by day, you know. people came, our neighbors came, jewish neighbors came. one thing, yes. a neighbor, you know, see, the home which we lived in, not only was my brother born there but my mother had been born there. a family home. our grandmother lived with us fortunately blessedly for her she die add year before the war broke out. she never faced that. a woman came and she asked where our flag was, the polish flag. red and white. and then my mother said why. she said we had to make a german flag out of it. and my mother pretended to look for it in all places she knew
she wouldn't find it you know. and then the woman left, and she said she will be back later maybe my father can help look for it. and i think that became very clear that we better produce it because she wanted it for our protection and she said all you have to do is you know, keep the red flag and cut the round circle from the white and put the swastika on. she did it and then she said she wanted to look -- he's very strong he should hang it up. he could not be found to do it so the woman struggled to hang the flag up and she sort of said to my mother, if the flag is not displayed from here, will be pretty obvious who you are. and i remember we couldn't look out of the window to see that flying. we had some other people living
in our home as well who were not jewish and some were. of course this was the part which was german speaking, before the war was austria and later on one of the first things that became -- they called it -- we're deutsche. where so we were unfortunately not too far from auschwitz. and that became -- which was allegedly self ruled but it wasn't, you know. but we immediately became under the same rules as germany. so the people who was mostly german speaking people, you see, and people were shouting heil hitler, thank you for the liberation, like that. because they thought you know, the austrian empire was coming back with france joseph,
elizabeth and was part of under poland for only 20 years, so i think there was a lot of perhaps misguided feeling on behalf of the people. maybe not so much pro nazi at that point but all that changed. >> what were the next few months? what happened to you and your family and how did things change? >> that i can unfortunately tell you. fairly soon, an order came that all young men between i think 16 and 50, my father at that point was about 50. since he was ill, he did not have to register for a transport. my brother was 19. and of course every day you
know, you know that england and france declared war, right away that happened sunday. we were occupied sunday morning, sunday afternoon england and france declared war on germany. then you know, most of the family had fled, our family. however, my father's sister who had been separated from her husband and daughter in one of the planes which were bombed came back with her son david and she found her apartment occupied by other people. she came to stay with us. david was about my brother's age. and david and also my brother went to register to whatever they were going to do. they said they would be in some sort of labor battalion to build up what was destroyed. the day was the 19th of october.
in which my brother left. anyw anyway, i tell you one thing. my mother refused to make his bed for months, she wanted to keep the imprint of his head in the pillow. things got worse from day-to-day. you know. we didn't hear from my brother for a long, long time. and when we finally did, which i believe was months later, he was blessedly in the russian
occupied zone. what apparently happened was that they were brought into the interior of poland. i don't know exactly what location. pursued by bullets those good swimmers went across. he was a very good swimmer. and he was in lembeck, which was occupied by the russians, and he worked there. my brother was trained in chemistry. and he worked in some sort of a factory making jam or whatever. it was one of the greatest marvelous moments in the bleakness of our existence to hear that arthur was alive.
i really -- i have to refresh my memory in looking at some of the things i have written after the war which i have clear knowledge as far as dates are concerned. but i know that probably was a few months later that we were to move into the basement of our home. it was very wet there and there was no electricity there. and my father's condition really deteriorated quite a bit. he suddenly looked very old. my mother, who up to that point you see because my -- we lived with my grandmother, was rather pampered and you know, given to be very easily discouraged and upset about little things like table cloths didn't iron properly or the lace was wrong or something. showed incredible strength and
fortitude. as a matter of fact she was the one who did not cry when my brother left. and my father wept, the first time, was reversal of roles you see. and i think to me a very devastating thing to see my father heç i never saw my father helpless before. so we lived in the basement. learned new skills. i saw my mother bringing in old called -- lamp, i learned to clean the krim knee of the lamp. we had gas to get illumination. we had no light. pretty soon of course you know, we exhausted our funds because
we had no money. everything was frozen. my father didn't earn anything. and things were hard to come by but where we lived you know, there were vegetables and things obtainable. our neighbors was wonderful to us. she lived across the street and she would go and get vegetables and bring things to us. but my mother was always a wonderful woman. she could do wonderful things with her hands so we sort of that we would be knitting and i learned to knit before the war but i wasn't particularly interested in that you know. i was more of a tom boy running around with cats and climbing trees. i settled down. and we would start knitting sweaters for people. my mother really had a wonderful reputation. she could embroider things.
she did marvelous things. we would be able to get cans. we couldn't use the lamp too often. because not petroleum was available. we got a ration card with the name jew and there was little to eat. and so, my mother and i would knit for as long as the light would allow. my father would read to us. really, this is how my father was wonderful, i went to polish schools though my first language was germp, spoke german at home. i would come home i would switch to german. but i couldn't read or write german. you know. i spoke it but my -- my first language. my father unearthed my mother's books and started teaching me to read and write german. my father would read to us and we would let the candle go down
and take the wax and my mother made little wicks and put the candle on again. and we would knit. we got i remember clearly, for knitting a sweater, intricate sweater, first i would knit the sleeves and my mother do the intricate work. we would get 35 marks. it was 30 marks if you could buy food on ration was fine. but we had to start buying on the black market. so i would say roughly a loaf of bread would cost 30 marks. knit nitting a sweater we would be able to buy a loaf of bread. and this is how things went. then started to be sent away. every so often a cart would come announcing that -- as a matter of fact the first one came when we had not heard from arthur and i remember at that point my
mother sort of must have suffered a nervous breakdown. at least a momentary lapse because i remember she was totally out of things. she was calling for arthur, she was in bed. my father was up with her, my father told me to go and to pack. we were supposed to leave. my father brought three suit cases and told me to pack some things. and word got around in the community that we were selling things. everybody i mean all the jews, what they were doing. and people started to come, my father said whatever anybody gives you take. he stayed with my mother. and then word got around that if i don't remember the exact amount, but say kilo gold or
something, might have been less, more, i don't remember. if that would be given, then you could stay. everybody scurry to give whatever jewelry. that was another ruse the germans did in order to get the valuables which people were holding. and apparently they got whatever was needed for that purpose. because then a note came to say we could stay. and that would happen roughly every six, seven months. again, i don't know exactly that. but shortly thereafter we got you know, my mother seemed to bounce back and became her strong self. and from that time on i would say until the very end my mother
was absolutely a tower of strength. looking back now my mother was a very young woman at the time. she was 41 when the war broke out. of course to me she was an old woman. to a 15-year-old girl, you know. my father was 10 years older. than my mother. so the existence from -- this is how we survived the first three years, 1939, to the spring of 1942. the very, very early spring it would have been march perhaps, when the order came that we had to move to the jewish ghetto which was a shabby remote part of our town, quite far away from
where we had lived. of course it was actually in -- belits, where twin cities. and we lived in belits and that was in beala way out, very old cemetery. where we had to move. and as i told you, my garden held most of my wonderful childhood memories. and fairly soon i would say probably early 1940, there was a sign on it said no jews permitted in the garden. so we naturally did not go. but on the morning in which we were forced to leave our home, i jumped over the fence and went to the garden. and i ran around.
i remember it was the first violets where we had -- the first violets were there. which i had picked and i remember sort of climbing the branch of a tree where you used to sit and pretend what it would be like if nothing had happened. you know. i would go in, my parents would be at breakfast, my brother would be going to school. and so on. you know, even so, i always firmly believed that i'll go back through all of the years, looking back now, i realize that i must have had a premonition because i remember that i sort of started imagining what my garden would look in all seasons and i knew i would not see it. but i don't know if i sorted out not see it for a period of time or if it would be finality in it. i don't know. but you know, you sort of take
memories out like cameos and hold them and look at them. and that was it. >> how was it going into the ghetto? >> well, strange as it may seem, i guess i really was happier in the ghetto than at home. because i had friends you know. at home i was -- well, it isn't quite true. my father you know, there were several girls particularly the one who became tremendously close to me, my friend elsa, there was esther, too, but my father would teach us and that was still at home, you know, he would take books out and teach us. a bit of history and all of the things that he knew. he was knowledgeable.
so in a fragmented way but in those first three years, almost three years at home, i think it was my father, i think i -- quite a bit of knowledge. my father was supposed to be a rabbi. and because you know he came from -- you see my mother bass born in belits, which was very -- prided myself. my grandmother, my maternal grandmother, still celebrated the austin kaiser's birthdays on the 18th of august which i still remember, you know, because and i think they all talked about the good old days, and everybody has the good old days. my father's family came from a place in shortkof, the swreet he was well known.
he was friedman and my father's family was related to them and i have wonderful childhood memories as a child going to there. should i have continued with what i talked before? you wish me to -- >> let's do -- break it and then you're going into the ghetto and started talking -- >> but i don't remember where i wanted to tell this story. in any event, my friends, you know, there was a number of girls and we all lived proximity in the ghetto there was one large building and a number of my friends lived there. so, it really was in a way nicer for me where you know, of course there was very sharp curfew i could never see my friends in the evening or after 5:00 or what have you, living in the same building sort of nice to see my friends. so i could go and play with two
babies. so for me in a way it was a bit easier. it wasn't for very long, looking back i realize how little time there was because very soon, an order came that we had to go and work in a shop, factory, sewing garments. so my mother and i had to go. we went under guard to a train, train station was not too far away. and we worked sewing garments there. and then my father had to go to -- that was very hard because my father could really not bend his arm very well. but he said -- but he started looking better. you see he was very pale.
being home for so long. out of the fresh air. it was deceiving but seemed to me that papa looked better. there was a short time really. come to think of it probably was not more than two months. and then i remember my -- may, my 18th birthday, i was 15 when the war broke out. my 18th birthday my mother decided i'm going to have a party. and just a wonderful thing. a friend of mine now in detroit, my children gave me a party. she came to the party. she was in arizona now, and she was at that birthday party.
birthday party was rather grand because my mother had some oatmeal, and she had made some wonderful cookies which we all swore were like -- taste like nuts. and i had a birthday party which was crowned by incredible thing. i got an orange. i loved oranges. only later did i find out my mother had gone out of the ghetto, sold the diamond and pearl ring to get me an orange. it was the last birthday gift from my parents. a couple of my friends were there. one lives in new york. and she reminded me of something not too terribly long ago,
because the orders came, and the 28th of june all the men had to leave. sunday. my faether. we went to the station. my father stood in the platform. he was a yellow -- i would like to mention, tribute to my parents. the last night before my father left, of course we all lived in one large room at that point. i heard my parents talking, i don't know if it was for them or for my benefit, they did not
mention it all in the morning, but they spoke about -- about the happiness they have shared, about my brother's birth and mine, about the hopes they had for us. and i think in that they have instilled something in me which has been my legacy always, the value of the laugh, of the commitment, of the pride of the family. and when the going was rough as it was in subsequent times, it was a very comforting thing and i should always be grateful for that.
after that my friend greta who is in new york now, and i went, they were taking all the men on sunday, and on monday morning. we decided gretel and i, that we should -- we knew what's going to happen to all the books, probably prayer books and most of the books in jewish families, and after my father was taken away, we went and collected all the books, i was afraid the germans are going to use it for unspeakable purposes. and we dragged it to the jewish cemetery which was really the
ghetto. and we buried them there. i'm sorry for not understanding my mother's grief completely at the time. you know i was really terribly close to my father. and that i didn't comfort my mother. i think i sort of needed to be alone to lick my own wounds so to speak. i'm sure that many people have given you the descriptions of -- of leaving. i guess ours was not too much different. except that my mother decided to fast on the day. it was a monday. my mother fasted every monday since my brother had left.
and she had a bit of precious cocoa she had hoarded throughout the entire war for a special celebration. and she made cocoa for me that morning. must say it did not taste very sweet. we were marched through the town, under the whips of the ss. you know that i -- certain reflections i had happen to me many times during the war, later on, that in rapid succession the things which you see and the things which it evokes, like they were putting -- a new name
of the movie on the marquee. marching by shock ed, and remembering the type of fabric my mother bought for summer dress. but it wasn't color fast. yes it's funny, i remember them now you know. seeing some neighbor peering from behind the curtain because we went from the ghetto through the town again to the other side of the town. i marched with my mother. i stood a man with a cane, he asked me how old i was. i said 18.
he told me to go to the left. we were loaded on trucks some time later and i like to get this over as fast as i can okay. and i heard my mother's voice, i did, and she was calling be and i heard that, i was in the truck. i jumped off. and i said i want to go to my mother. the little man in the rain coat came by, he came from -- i don't know how he had this enormous thing. quite short. it was raining.
a rain coat and a hat. he took me and threw me back on the truck and said you are too young to die. so it was the man who probably sent my mother to her death decided i should not run back to her. we went to a place. that was transit camp. the day was the 29th of june, 1942. a monday.camp. i had the opportunity of leaving
there, baze of abeck, a boy who likes me. his parents tried to get me owl of the gulag. >> tell us a little bit about this. >> anyway, in my naivet, i did not want to go out. there were two camp belitz. there was a story, that there was a boy who liked me very much and he was a very fine artist. and his family suggested he -- he got back with his family, that you could get out of the gulag if you had a place of
work, if you had some working permit. and then you could get out. and he had two sisters, they had two sewing machines and they were willing to put one in a shop to secure a place for me, which was an incredible sacrifice. however, i know that if i did that, i would probably have to mar -- marry abeck. i made the decision not to go. maybe that is a good story to tell because i'm now of the sort that i -- i wanted to stay with my friends. i knew i was going to camp. and by strange and almost incredible coincidence, the man in the gulag who came and told
me i was able to go out, his name is jacob, he now lives in buffalo, new york, but, of course, i lived there many years, that decision proved to be a decision which saved my life because, unfortunately, his family, all of them, were deported and killed about two months later, and, you know, my hometown was renowned for its textiles. it was cultural center of europe and it's a gulag. and they registered your name, your age, and the place you hailed from, and industrialists from all over germany would come to buy slaves, and a man by the name of keller.
i think it's good to use the names. his name was director keller. from a firm called cranston maiden franna. they had several spinning, weaving, and textile oriented and associated firms, and they needed people to work in the factories. when he came and he saw that "x" number of girls from bielsko were there, for some reason he thought we might have more dexterity in weaving or whatever, and anyway they were always -- because you see that was still very early. that was '42. they need the german-speaking people to be trained, so he bought all of us for a new weaving camp. and, in fact, this is where we went. in all fairness, i must say that
camp was probably better than most of certainly what followed because it was new. you see we were only 50 girls there. and the person who became our -- at first sight she looked like a bulldog and i thought she's going to tear us limb from limb, and she was a very kind person. she was probably chosen for her looks, but we all were in captivity under her owe her a debt of gratitude, and i think by her very decency she pinned a lie to the lips of all who said they had no choice. i wouldn't say she particularly loved us. she saved my life once, which i
will be eternally grateful. there was as far as i know, and i do know, that as long as we were there and later in a place where she also was, nobody was sent to auschwitz from our camp, from those two camps, and she showed that people could help individually, and she did. i only met during my entire years under the nazis for six years, i only met two who were really kind and i think they should be singled out for that. her name was frau kreckler with an umlaut. when we first saw her and she barked and everything, i thought this is the end of it all. i was with my friend who i really would like to mention,
and in the camp there we became as close as sisters. ilse was a childhood friend only in the chance that her mother and my mother were friends. she played the piano beautifully. she was exquisitely mannered. my mother told me i needed to be more like her and i hated to play with her. she was the paragon of all virtue. we became quite close already in the ghetto when we used to go to the cemetery was the only place you could do, but in the camps you see she had a little sister by the name of kitty and, of course, kitty was sent to auschwitz. my other friend greta had a sister. everybody had a buddy. she showed great promise as a pianist. she was sent to vienna two years before the war to study at the conservatory there and a great future was predicted for her and ilse sort of became my sister.
as a matter of fact, we looked quite a bit alike. and there was something else that perhaps would give sort of an inkling what it was like. on the train to the camp, i met a wonderful girl, a vivid red head. one of those beautiful people. tall. a wonderful girl. her name was susie. she was born in vienna but her mother had died when she was quite young and she was sent to czechoslovakia to live with her grandparen grandparents. we were all german speaking and that's why we went to that camp. i was standing next to her on the train and the train sort of -- there was a certain freedom there. they were not confined.
we were out and going some place, and susie said, we'll never, ever get out from where we are going and i said, yes, we will, and i said i'm sure the war will be over in less than a year, and susie said, no, we're not going to make it. and i said i bet you, and she said okay. she said let's bet for a quart of strawberries and a quart of whip cream and we shook hands on that. and susie died on liberation morning. i found her dead. i don't know if she knew or if she didn't. she won that bet. anyway, we came to the camp. the camp -- you know, it's a terrible thing to say but i think because we are recording
it, some things should be said. actually for me it was easier there, easier in terms that i didn't see my parents suffer. you know, i could sort of put things over there. i was convinced that my parents will survive, that they are some place, that they're probably working. i pushed it so the side and i was in a way liberated in fact that i wasn't worried that each of my action might spell danger to my parents, and, you know, i knew if somebody is going to beat me, they're not going to see it. all the indignities to suffer and vice versa, you know. and, of course, when you're 18 years old, you have a resiliency which you don't have later. anyway, the camp was rough in terms until we mastered what was expected of us.
somebody by the name of meister zimmer, he was dreadful. and i used to amuse myself when he told us all, you know, that we're going to be taught decency and all these things. the very think that we knew so well which obviously were designed to break our resistance, you know, and if we behave ourselves and do these things we can lift up our lives. i used to sort of speculate what he would look like when he was dead and things like that, you know. you know, fortunately, you know, i always wrote when i was a little girl and things like that, and i could lift myself from some of the things and do other things in my mind to remove that, and i think i did it in the very first weeks when we were there, but, you know,
you used to stand with a watch. it was a stop watch. and you had to do very intricate -- what do you call it? i left the german now. to tie something, a knot. a weaver's knot to be exact, and you had to do "x" number a win -- a minute. and, of course, you can imagine when you have somebody stand with a stop watch above you to do that, your life -- but for some reason most of us were able to do it, and those who were not were put in the spinner and other things so nobody was sent to auschwitz from the original 50 there. and it was by comparison of what came later relatively easy in as much -- we were not that hungry. we got some food because mrs. keckler was decent. we worked in the factory long hours and i think that was really the very best thing.
you were so exhausted at the end of the day and you had to concentrate so much that your mind couldn't absorb all that. we were able to write letters, and again in that mr. keckler was quite generous because i don't remember exactly, you know, what the ratio was, how often you were permitted to, but, of course, who could you write to? but i was fortunate that i had my father's address where my father was allegedly working on the fortification of the river, and i wrote to my father. i did not hear. of course, i heard from abek. he started sending me letters as well as packages which again through the type of person that mrs. keckler was, those packages did arrive.
i wrote to my father and i waited to hear from my father, and one day a most incredible thing happened. mrs. keckler was going through the mail and she called my name, and i saw the letter. and i jumped to get it and then i realized it was a letter which i had wrote -- written to my father and on it said without forwarding address. i think that we needn't go into that. i only know one thing, that i lost my speech for a day and a night. i could not utter a sound.
anyway, we worked there, and you see the type of things that i don't know if it really comes across. it's a tremendous support system which existed in the camps. to laugh and to friendship and caring and loyalties that people had for each other, that girls had for each other. you know, that was sort of the balance against the cruelty which we experienced. to me i feel it was probably one of the most important things that existed, and i somehow wish that would filter down. i try to tell my children and my grandchildren because, you know, they are the spiritual heirs of those who did not survive. to know that the legacy of the camps is not the legacy of the horror but of the greatness of our people.
the very humanity which existed there in the face of such incredibly inhumanity. i particularly want to talk about my friend ilse for a moment but it actually happened in another camp. i will give you the quick progression from camp to camp. we were in the first camp, we were working on looms and pretty soon the raw materials started to disappear. we had to work on paper. there was paper that they were spinning and, of course, in warm weather it became brittle and it would break and in cold weather it would disintegrate because it got soft, and if those things tore which once happened to me, for that you could be sent to auschwitz, but somehow mrs. keckler intervened that people were not, and i remember it one
time which is what i wanted to talk about frau keckler. it was shortly after i received the news about my father that i became very ill. i don't know exactly what i had, but i know that all my fingernails started to have pus in it. i couldn't touch my hands and i was running a high fever. we had a place where people who were sick for a day or two could stay and i was there, and all of a sudden lindner, i think he has quite a name in the ss, he came on a sudden inspection, and frau keckler charged into the room. i omitted to say my father made me wear my skiing boots. when i left home i last saw my father on the 28th of june and i
left home on the 29th. separated from my mother the following day. before my father left, he said to me wear your skiing boots. we were all avid skiers. we had lived in the ski mountains. there was a lot of skiing there, and i said why? and my father said i want you to wear them, and i said, papa skiing shoes in june. i would wear a pair of sandals and my father said you have to wear them. you didn't argue with your father in those days. i wore them and i blessed him every single day because i wore them for the entire three years i was in the camp and in the lining i had hidden the pictures which are now in my book. this is where the pictures were. at first i was able to keep them in the first camp but later on and on the death march i had concealed them there. so mrs. keckler charged in and she dragged me out of the bunk and she said, lindner is here. it's a matter of life and death. i will take you to the factory.
and she stooped down and she started to lace my boots, and she dragged me to the factory. she used to work in the factory before and i worked on four looms and she set the looms in motion and she said to me, pull yourself together. and i remember i still felt the beating of the loom and everything was sort of at different ankles because i was running a very high temperature and he came for inspection and he went through. if he would have found me there, she could not have saved me. there was no question. that was frau keckler. pretty soon it became obvious they needed us in another camp, and our camp was disbanded, and we went to i think three different ones. i really don't remember the third one. i was sent to a horrible, horrible camp. we were locked up on the fifth
or sixth floor, and every morning they would wake us with whips. i worked in the flax detail, which was a dreadful place. they were doing linens there and flax submerged in a swamp. you had to pull it out of the swamp, you know, and then you opened the things and retracted the flax. it was terribly hot. it was in summer and the mosquitoes were all over us when we were working there. and then i was singled out to do something else, namely to unload coal at night. allegedly i gave a fresh answer to one of the supervisors there, a man, and for that i was banished to work flax during the day and at the coal detail at night. it was an incredible time.
then also to load the flax into sort of silos which were -- i mean if i think now that they were ten stories high, they probably were not, they were probably three or four, but you had almost no balance on those things. i remember that as nothing but torture. as soon as we went back to camp, i was called to go and unload coal, and that was the only time -- my father had asked me earlier, i forgot to mention it, during the first time when my mother was so ill, i remember standing at the window and we heard a family had committed suicide together. i remember standing at the window looking out at the garden, my mother being so sick, my father was standing in the sling. we hadn't heard from arthur and, you know, i wished that my parents would suggest that. my father and i were always very close and i always knew what i was thinking and he came behind
me and he said, without looking at me, and he said what you are thinking now is cowardly, it's wrong. he said promise that you are never going to do that. i didn't answer him, and he took his hand and he turned my head toward him, and he said i want your promise now, and i promised him, and i remember that during the working on the coal trucks, there were trains going by. i didn't know if they were going to auschwitz or whatever, and i remember sort of the tracks beckoning in the moonlight and i thought it would be over very quick, one jump and one pain and that is going to be it because it was so dreadful there. and at one moment when i think i really came fairly close, i felt a very strange pain in my neck. okay. anyway, obviously i didn't do
it. so when things were really very, very hard, we worked in the swamp one day and i think it was really one of my lowest hours when we had a person who was the opposite of mrs. keckler. she was maybe 18 years old. sort of an overblown thing and wearing rings on every finger and her great joy was to have a little wagon, like a child's wagon, and she had us pull her around in that wagon and she was having a whip about it. you can imagine the caliber and the intelligence of that person. and all of a sudden she came with somebody else, with a man, and they said -- they were calling numbers. we all had numbers, of course. and they were calling numbers. i was working next to ilse, and i heard them call her number,
and i sort of looked up. i must have been dazed, and she pointed and said you idiots, don't you know your own numbers and ilse pointed to me and said that is her number. i didn't understand what she was doing. she obviously wanted to get me out from whatever it was. so she naturally slapped me and said don't you even know your own number, you idiot. so then they called my real number. i didn't know what was happening. i'm really not quite sure on that but what happened was as we came to the camp, there was director keller. from baltenheim. an interesting thing to tell you about him. and ilse fell to his feet and she said my sister, you don't have her number, something like that, and he looked at me and he said i know you, you worked at
four looms, you're coming along. they needed more people for working the looms in another camp, and this is how i got out of this camp and ilse was on it too and we got loaded on a truck and we went to the camp which was the sister camp. [ inaudible ]. and when we got there who would be there but frau keckler was in charge of that camp so that was like a homecoming. so this is how -- i had one incident with herr keller. he called me into his office once, and i just remember this incredible thing. there was a huge, huge room with a single carpet and a desk on it, and he sat alone at the desk
and what struck me is that probably in a room of that size 50 of us slept, you know. and he had a letter in his hand and he said to me, you have smuggled out a letter. i said i never smuggled a letter. i said i have written some letters and when i glanced over it, i saw that -- i had an uncle in turkey who was in the textile business because, you know, most people from my town were in textiles, and i gathered that he knew my uncle because it was a letter later on my uncle told me he had written to him. >> who had written to who? >> my uncle when we found out what camp i was in had written to keller about that because he had that thing and keller looked at me and asked me a number of questions. interesting thing was apparently my uncle had sent a package and they encouraged me to write for more packages. the packages apparently contained chocolate and things which were not obtainable which i never saw.
they said the package must have been ripped up but it looked in a very sturdy wooden box but i was only too happy to write to my uncle that i had received the package as i was told in very good order because apparently they wanted those things, but this way i knew that my uncle -- i knew my uncle was in safe, he was in turkey, but he knew where i was. anyway, back to the thing, of course, we came to the camp which was like heaven by comparison. we then faced another difficulty, and that difficulty was that we worked the night shift only. so, you know, we didn't see any light of day except, you know, if you got up during the day you could, and we worked from probably a year or maybe even longer on the night shift but, you know, frau keckler -- things got worse because there was very little food but she went on in the same vein as she was before.
>> tell us a little bit more about this, about frau keckler. >> for instance, if somebody was ill, they were not the things that happened in other camps and auschwitz, the beatings and things like that, you got some sort of care or understanding or it was -- things were covered for you a bit as far as work was concerned. she tried to get vegetables. i don't know what rations were, but whatever was so-called coming to us and believe they things were laughable, but we got it. i remember one thing i always tell young people, you know, they knew of the jewish holidays. there was one yom kippur they marched us out and told us about the holidays and told that if anybody would be foolish enough to fast, that would be construed as sabotage and sabotage was punishable by death and everybody fasted.
and we were given noodles and sugar and nobody touched it, and i think those are the things that i think future generations should know. and to me -- and i remember that night when we got our miserable smelling vegetables or whatever it was, there was such a feeling of sanctity, almost holiness. they really jumped to try to see that we -- you know, if we did this, everybody worked with, you know, almost with such fervor and things that they couldn't fault us. i think such a oneness. so much nobility of spirit in the camps which somehow i wish would be better recorded. you know, when people reached out, you know, somebody had a birthday, so we would save -- on sunday we had margarine, a little margarine on the bread. so you would cut off some of the
bread and scrape the margarine and give it to the person on bread so she would have a lot of margarine on the bread. we knew it was hanukkah and she was busy celebrating -- hanukkah and christmas fell together and she closed an eye to that sort of thing. we made a menorah out of potatoes, and, of course, we knew that, you know, we couldn't light the candles. we made the menorah out of potatoes and i still have the things which i wrote about the story about hanukkah which we sang. i would like to translate it and give it to you. if i may skip for one minute. when i went to israel for first time in 1961, my friend surprised me. i knew of three that were in israel, but actually ten showed up and i was 11th, and they got out of the elevator in tel aviv singing a song which we had written for the first hanukkah
in camp, and they carried the menorah which i naturally have now, a beautiful old silver menorah that they gave me in memory of the menorah which we made it out of potatoes. when you made it out of potatoes, it meant you didn't eat that night because you didn't have potatoes. you can imagine what that menorah means. when we light it, we see our grandchildren reflected in it. [ inaudible ]. so, you know, that was possible under frau keckler, and one of the things that we did was ilse and i dressed as grandmothers, and, you know, under the looms which we worked there was sort of a white powdery substance. we put it in our hair to be gray and we had a performance when the bunks and the one naked electric light, and see the faces on the bunks. but we did this. it started out with, you know, we were two grandmothers.
that's how it started out. that is how it started out. and then we, of course, predicted the brilliant future for everyone, and then our two granddaughters came to listen to us. strangely enough, the person who played my granddaughter, her name is fannie, she lives in israel, her son was one of the heroes of the six-day war. ilse never lived to have a grandchildren so the ones who played her granddaughter also did not survive, but our granddaughters listened to our tale of the past and i'll say it in german. the exit line and that was -- [ speaking foreign language ] do you understand german? >> translate it. >> come and look, i'll show you my newest film stars.
obviously the granddaughter says. [ inaudible ] then because old people exaggerate so much, and then we see them exiting. now, mind you we were 18 years old at the time, and we say to each other -- [ speaking foreign language ] dear children, let us just say that humans endure more than they think they could. and i think somehow considering how young we were, we must have touched the core of our existence, the hope that some day to live in a world where our children and grandchildren will live the best of all to live in such a climate that they will not believe our tales of the past. and that was possible under frau keckler.
she didn't exactly hear the performance and we would thing songs in which we would say -- make probably sound like a summer camp for her ears and then they would throw in a few things in polish which were exactly not meant for her ears, but by and large that part in contrast of -- of course, you know, we were fortunate, quote, unquote, that we were taken earlier, you know, before auschwitz was in its full power because after that people didn't go to working camps anymore. okay. briefly, finally the camp was liquidated, and we went to the most miserable and bitter camp. called greenberg. it was an enormous camp. its factory was one of the most
beautiful in germany in as much as that it boasted the most beautiful collection of roses surrounding the factory. it was a direct contradiction of the beauty that reigned within. i don't remember his name now. we called him -- i will have to remember his name. that was the most brutal, sadistic -- i don't know if he was director but he was one of the people that -- wore a signet ring on his hand and he would jump like a cat and beat its victim until blood showed. mostly beat the faces. he would have sort of a glazed look on his face. i don't know if i tried to suppress his real name.
we called him la lush. he was a beast. things changed very drastically there. i still worked in -- for very little time in the weaving factories, but pretty soon they had very little raw material for that, and i was moved into what was considered sentence of death, the spinning. we were spinning fabrics, rather threads, which came from raw materials which the raw material consisted of clothing which came from auschwitz. it came to a place where there were huge machines which sort of shred that. it was not difficult to imagine
that some of the clothes belonged to our parents. i worked most of the time on the night shift there, and i remember whenever the horror of some of that became overwhelming, one or at least i played a game. i perfected it and that was to imagine my homecoming. with all the details being there including the sort of things that we had long sold but it was a miracle of freedom. it all would be there. in any event the most dreaded thing there was i am not quite sure now if it was every four or every six weeks we would go to a doctor's office to be x-rayed
because tuberculosis was rampant and whoever displayed anything was immediately sent to auschwitz. so you had a lease on life usually for between four or six weeks. i don't remember now if it was four or six weeks. there was something there with those x-rays. i did a thing which i will always regret. the last day that i was with my brother, we had to go to the jewish federation when he did his registering, and we -- next to it was the ruins of the temple. and we climbed over the debris and we sat there for a moment, and one column of the eastern wall stood undisturbed and everything else was in ruin. and arthur picked up a little
stone and he handed it to me and he said just look at that column and always remember that our people will survive, and he give me the stone. and i made a little sack of it and i carried it on my neck. and when we went to have the x-rays, i took it off, and i had it in my pocket. i don't know, it was later probably. i think it was on the death march that i lost it. that would have been one thing that -- the pictures survived because i had them in my boot, but i had lost that piece of stone. anyway this was about greenberg. greenberg was a miserable camp. there were a lot of people being sent to auschwitz.
and then we knew that things were going bad with the war because there were not bombings but we had sirens were blowing every so often and we had to stop working, there was no electricity, and we were going crazy, being vicious. everybody there was incredibly bad. the men would stand outside for hours on a pail, you know, and if a piece of bread flew over the fence, everybody was beaten to say who got it. i'm proud to say about our people that nobody gave away the culprit. we all knew who it was. and i think that this -- you know, what has troubled me so much that i have read some of the accounts that people say how cruel people were, how they stepped on each other or they make it sound like it was like a
snake pit. the people's survival. look, i don't know what happened in other camps and this is why i have always used my maiden name on everything i had written and said. i would say people behaved in the most incredible manner imaginable by and large, and i think that this should be something that cannot be emphasized enough. it was in greenberg that ilse once found a raspberry in the gutter on the way to the factory. she carried it in her pocket all day long and presented it to me that night on a leaf which she plucked through the barbed wire and washed it and gave it to me as a present. i asked her to take a little bit of a bite and she wouldn't. one single raspberry.
total possession, she gave it to a friend. there were other acts like that, many. unfortunately, they are not recorded. and i think this is probably the greatest tragedy of them all, the nobility and the love that was there. anyway, when things got really bad, you know, we sort of knew when things are going bad for the germans, they're probably going to finish us. when things are going good for them, or well for them i should say, they're not going to let us go and we will forever be slaves. it was expected that was going
to happen. and that became obvious in january of 1945 where one day we were told we're not going to go to the factory any longer, to gather our meager belongings of whatever that was. the night between the 28th and 29th of january was great commotion, and suddenly the doors opened. we were then about 2,000 girls and an additional transport of 2,000 came from auschwitz. they told us they had walked for i don't know how long from auschwitz and we were going to go on a march the following morning. destination later on we heard a murder camp also, small and not known near berlin which fell into the hands of the allies
when general eisenhower made a swift move on berlin and we started to march, now termed as a death march, 29th of january. i remember i had a terrible cold, i was coughing terribly. we were told to assemble in four abreast. i was ilse, susie, and lisel. lisel is probably the most beautiful girl i had ever seen. she moved like a deer, had huge brown eyes. she and susie were sort of like sisters as ilse was and i but the four of us together. lisel was from czechoslovakia and the four of us sort of formed friendships. lisel was the sort of girl who would look up and i would say, oh, it's raining today, do you think i should wear my green rain coat and she would say, no,
wear the navy blue one and have you been to the garden to pick up apples? she would fall into any imaginary game, and i remember that morning very vividly. you know there's such scenes in dr. zhivago when you see this incredible almost like a wasteland of white. it was freshly covered snow. it had snowed during the night, and the whole thing in front of the camp, it was all, all covered with snow. and we were assembled, and they lifted their whips and forward march. and i remember ilse said to me, she said, i don't know how you're going to make it. we'll all make it. and i was coughing so hard.
and we started the first step and i remember taking that step and i remember saying to myself, this is the last chapter, but, you know, i never had any doubt that we'll make it, and ilse was to my left, lisel next to me, and susie on the extreme right, and i'm the only one left. i think the march is documented in many other stories. it was unspeakable. i had my skiing boots.
i was the best equipped because i had my boots. at first we still had a little bit to eat that we took along and hoarded. we marched i don't know how many miles a day. we came to rest sometimes in a barn, not often. we stopped in a camp where blessedly a few of our girls escaped. i didn't. people were shot continuously. somebody stepped out of line and then you would see snow being red.
and the forest beautifully covered with snow and birds chirped sometimes, and we're marching. every day the number got smaller. and then we came to a place called flossenburg, and in flossenburg ilse was already very sick. lisel, susie, and i were still going pretty strong. one time we had nothing to eat
so we started eating snow, which is a terrible thing to do because the more you eat, the more thirsty you are, and, of course, then diarrhea was rampant. when we left one time they put us outside. they would spray us with water and then they would herd us, we were literally hundreds and we started to perspire, and they put us out again and pneumonia was just like that, people died like flies. then one morning we were told to assemble. we were going to leave. i remember ilse was frantic. she said that's going to be the end. i don't want to leave. i said we are so much better off
out in the open, maybe we'll have a better chance, and all of a sudden came an incredible announcement that president roosevelt died. then i knew it was too late to run because we already constructed it timewise and it was and jubilation broke out that all the enemies of the fuhrer would banish in such a blow and it was horrible. we found something that compensated that a little bit. we found a wrapper of margarine and there was still some little vestiges of margarine stuck to it so we licked it dry. we thought we will certainly get very strong. and things got very bad from then on. ilse was really, very, very bad,
and one night we slept -- we used to sleep outside and it started to snow and sort of reminded me of the story of little match girls and we said to everybody don't sleep, get up, because if you fell asleep and it started snowing and you will never wake up. some people said it's the best thing we can do is fall asleep like that. and then we came to an orchard, and before we came to that orchard sort of something incredible happened. oh, yes, one time before that because i saw ilse was so sick, i said -- we saw a lot of people on the road already. there was an evacuation and people were in wagons sort of similar to when the war started. you know people were running away from the front, and we heard somebody talking in a similar dialect, german dialect, that we had.
so we concocted a whole sort of story that we would runaway on the next thing and we will say that we will take our stars off and we will say that we were with our mother on the wagon and we got lost, that we are from bielsko because we had a similar dialect and with names like ilse and gerda it was good and we really had a whole thing how we were going to do it and lisel and susie were doing something similar, and then we said our father was there and in order to get the number we felt very smart, we thought if they interrogate us separately, we used our house numbers in 1939 when the war -- to make it a long number if they ask they will see that we tell the truth. and we came into that little forest where we rested, and we sort of took a signal to each other that we are going to stay there when they say everybody
assembles, and suddenly ilse looked up at me and she said i'm afraid. and i was going so say, come on, you know, and i didn't, and when we got out of the forest, they rounded up 14 girls, some of our best friends were in the forest and we saw them all being shot. so right then and there i decided no matter what happens i'm never going to run away. i will go to the end whatever the end is, but i'm not going to attempt to run away. you know because we felt people were already running, you know, and the gestapo, the ss was not much in charge, and, you know, it would be okay, but we made a pact. ilse and i said we are never going to run away. we were saved by her saying we're not going to run. and it was either that day or the next day, i don't remember,
an incredible thing happened. people ran into the streets and threw bread at us. and so we had bread. and that night we rested in an orchard, and again it was snow -- it was spring already, it was april. so it was after president roosevelt's death so it must have been maybe the third week in april, and i told ilse to watch the bread, to hold onto it. she was usually very funny already at this point, and my very different -- and she survived. she's in detroit. it's quite a story i will have to tell you, how we found each other after the war. and what we didn't realize was that we had crossed over to czechoslovakia and those were the czech people who were throwing bread, and you see if i
would have known that i would have stayed because they would have hidden us. we would not -- because if you could make it and went to a barn or something, very often we saw the german farmers turn the girls over to be killed and never in czechoslovakia. there was a wagon and they threw something and it landed and it was an egg and i was sure that that egg is going to make ilse well. we hadn't seen an egg in years and years. and ilse didn't even feel like having it. and then one night we were again out in the meadow, snowing or raining, and a very dear friend of mine, her name is hanga keller. she lives in israel. she came by and she had two potatoes. i devoured mine i was so hungry and ilse said i'm not hungry.
i can't believe it, she was not hungry. she said to me you eat it. i thought maybe she will feel better later and i said i will hold it for you. and she said she was thirsty and i went to try to get water for her and an ss man came and kicked her and she said why? and then i tried to catch some water in my hand for her, and she said something incredible. she said i'm not angry at anyone. i hope no one is angry at me and
then she said to me, you are going to survive, and she said if my parents survive, don't tell them how i died. then she said something else. she said to me, you have to promise me that you're going to go on for one more week. a week was a very long time. and she said promise. and i said i'll try. then daylight broke and there was some blossoms on the trees, and i have gone early and cut a blossom for her to smell, and suddenly i saw that the blossom was all dead, probably from her fever.
and when the sun got up it was over for her. and we were told to bury the dead of that night. i couldn't do it. it's strange, i know she was buried because my friend told me under a tree. i remember the most minor details and places, the names of cities and towns we went through, and i cannot remember the name of the place where she died. i can't. and sometimes i wonder if perhaps it is so that every tree should sort of remind me of her. you know, and she's become over
the years my alter ego, my young girlhood, my childhood, and every year on the 29th of april i sort of step back and see what the year has been for me, some incredible things that happened on the 29th in the past how many years, 40, 80 years -- no 45. april 1945. i didn't see susie and liesl. i didn't know where they were because at that point i couldn't walk very well myself. and i don't know now if it was a few days later, whatever, they really descended on us in tremendous vengeance screaming
it was all our fault because the fuhrer is told, hitler is dead. we felt if it was true either they're going to kill us now or maybe we will survive. it was -- we came to a place in czechoslovakia. things were really quite crazy. a lot of people were on the roads again and soldiers running away and -- but we were still with the group. we had one woman ss with us and a couple men. i don't know to how few our group had diminished enormously from thousands. i was
terribly upset. that was place in czechoslovakia. we were in czechoslovakia at that point, of course. and that place i realize later it was sort of outside. it was quite quiet and a truck came, we were going to someplace and my friend -- oh, yeah, and these women came and told franka to take off my boots. i had good boots, my ski boots. and she said "i'll hide you." and she hid me and she pretended
and she never took them off. and then she said to me when the truck came, the truck was going to take us someplace, i have no idea where and she says "you better get on that truck so she doesn't see you." and i suddenly said to her, you know, i really want to stay here. whatever. and it sort of was a feeling that it's probably going to happen now, they're going to kill us. and it was sort of at that point quite warm after all the snow and i said to myself i'm going to start thinking what it would be like on a night at home with my parents. so if they kill me, that's the memory i want. and then the truck came some of the girls went on it and we waited and waited and waited and the truck did not come back.
unfortunately i heard that that truck it was it was one of the ss women who was pregnant apparently, didn't know it and i don't know they were shooting and she was hurt and the ss men turned and killed 14 girls on that truck. 14? no, i think it's 14 before. it's funny how you play with numbers. 14 or 20, i don't know. and we stayed there and they came back for us and took us to sort of a barrack or hall or something like that. and they locked us up there. we heard a lot of commotion. there was shooting and there were plains overhead and everything and then the story had it that they attached the
time bomb. my husband and i just went to a reunion of the fifth division medical corps who were our liberators and they spoke about 40 that bomb. you know, for a while we thought maybe they just threatened it was a bomb or something but apparently that was so. and their barricaded the doors with chains and things and, you know, we sort of knew, they told us we were going to be killed. i think before that there was some shooting going on. nothing happened, i was hit here, but just skin. and at that point i must confess that i'm not absolutely clear. i must have been quite ill already or whatever. i remember the night it was quite turbulent and i remember curling up to until tithe ss le.
they left their coats and i tried to sleep. a lot of people were very ill. we knew the americans were coming. i'd met two the night before and there was a crazy night. and in the morning i asked where -- i asked liesel, she was -- this was the biggest irony of it all. they were shooting from planes and susie was hit in her foot. not susie, liesel. and she was lying there in the straw and i asked her where susie was, it was morning and she told me that susie went to find some water at the pump and i went to look for her and there
she was lying in the mud and she was dead. and i didn't want to go back to tell liesel so i went out. you see, i had seen two americans the night before, i spoke to them sort of but that was very bad to me. i remember all the things of that morning and that was after i found susie and i couldn't tell liesel. so i went outside and i stood sort of in the doorway. it was a brilliant morning. oh, yes, i have to tell that. what i saw that morning on the steeple of the church a homemade white flag of peace.
and i remember that was the first time i cried in many, many months. it's a strange thing, now i cry all the time, i cry when i see a dog, cat, but i didn't cry for many years and i was very concerned. so all of a sudden i saw a strange car coming down the hill. no swastika but a white star, it was a muddy vehicle but i'd never seen a star brighter in my
life. and two men jumped out, came running toward us and one came toward where i stood he was wearing gear and his helmet was mesh over that and he was wearing dark glasses and he spoke to me in german and he said "does anybody here speak german and english?" i said "i speak german." and i felt that i had to tell him that we were jewish, i didn't know if he knew what the star meant, you know? and i told him -- i was a little afraid to tell him that but i said "we are jewish, you know." and he didn't answer me for quite a while. and then his