The Wheatley Institution

Freedom is Not Free

Henry Greenbaum
November 4, 2014

Related Videos

Gerald Hyman

Symposium on the Challenge of Afghanistan and Pakistan
Gerald Hyman

October 29, 2009

John Hamre

Symposium on the Challenge of Afghanistan and Pakistan
John Hamre

October 29, 2009

Stephen Cohen

Symposium on the Challenge of Afghanistan and Pakistan
Stephen Cohen

October 29, 2009

Click here to view the transcript
Click here to hide the transcript

Thank you so much. Thank you very much. I'm overwhelmed with such a beautiful audience here. It's full. Very nice, thank you for coming.

I was not quite fifteen years old when I wound up at Auschwitz-Birkenau. My father passed away two months before the war. My mum became very protective. I had one brother who served in the Polish army. I didn't see him for three years. I didn't know where he was. We ran a tailor shop, and rumors came around that if we got a job in the factories it might be beneficial for us. The town was a small town but we had a lot of industry, mostly munition, melting down  scrap metal, brick factory, tiles. We did springs; we did a little bit of everything. But we would mostly help the Germans with their war, whatever they needed. We did work for them. It didn't take them too long, but my mother became very protective of us because my father was not there anymore. She said, "Let's take a horse and buggy and go to the farm," to stay with the farmer that we knew. The farmer put us up for three days and while we were out there we heard the bombing. We were only ten miles away; we heard all the noise and the shooting, all that trouble.

The second day I was outside with my oldest brother. We had nine children at home, six girls and three boys, and he was the third child. It was late September they still had tomatoes on the vine, those big clustered tomatoes. The farmer gave us a slice of bread and we were eating our breakfast outside. And after we were finished supposed to go get a glass of milk.

We never did wind up with the milk because while we were eating, not quite finished, a Polish soldier came through my area and he was pulling a broken bike with him. I don't know how my brother knew of his name, but he called him by his first name. Maybe he was one of our clients, customers, we did the tailoring for him. Or maybe he was a national guard, guarding the city. But all of a sudden while we're talking to the man, the soldier said, "The German army is three kilometers away coming this way." The polish soldier was running in the opposite direction and my brother of course stopped him and asked him, "Where are you running?" and he said that he was running in the wrong direction because he didn't want to get caught as a prisoner by the German army. My brother –I couldn't believe my ears—he said to the soldier, "Is it okay if I go along with you?" and the soldier said, "Be my guest. Sure, I'll take you. Come along with me." And then they ran and I followed about a couple miles hiding behind bushes. Every time I would stick my head out, they would say, "Go back to your mother, go back to your mother." He didn't want to put up with me. I was not quite 12 years old; it might be too much bother for him. But I didn't listen to him. Of course I kept following him until the polish soldier turned around said, "Go back to your mother." I said, "Okay" and I went back to my mum and told them the bad news: "Dave ran away with a soldier." Right away, you know how mothers are, she thought, "Who's going to make us a living?" The father's gone and he's the oldest, supposed to run the shop.  It wasn't that big of a shop but yet we made a living at it, tailoring and new suits. We did that. And the girls, some of them were helping with ladies' clothes too. We'd do a little bit of everything with it. And she started to cry and all that, anyway she got over it.

The third day we packed up from the farm and we went home back to our little house, and shrapnels were coming through. Our house was not far away from the railroad station and they'd bombed the railroad station so some of the shrapnels came in. We could have been hurt; mothers are always right. You know you have to listen to moms because they mean well. And then we cleaned up and went back to business. I started seeing the soldiers walking the streets. I was very frightened of them with their helmets and their boots. Every one that was in there was carrying a rifle and walking on the sidewalk and I wanted to take a good look at them, so I only looked through the crack of my door if I heard the boots coming. They all looked like goliaths to me. They didn't do anything to me yet, but yet I was scared of them. I didn't hear any trouble yet, but I was scared. But then I got used to them.

It didn't take them too long and to identify most of the people as orthodox Jews. We lived near a synagogue. My father was the caretaker in that synagogue. Twice a day he went to the synagogue. And we used to have minion, I don't know if you know what that means, you have to have somebody after saying "kadish." I only went on Saturdays to the Friday night to Saturday. And we kept it up. Most of us lived near the synagogue but we had quite a few that didn't live near the synagogue. My two sisters and their husbands and kids lived in the outskirts of the town near us. But after they put the Star of David on us, we were identified as a sore thumb. You're a Jew. I had the curls I had tassels sticking out—I didn't need that to identify me as a Jewish boy; I was Jewish. But they still insisted we wore the star.

I came to a public school, and I only went through sixth grade. I came to school the teacher said, "No schools for Jewish children anymore." The order was no Jews allowed in public schools. And then all of a sudden they gave a curfew: you couldn't stay out in the evening for so long, you could not play any soccer with other kids, which I loved playing soccer with other non-Jews. We got along pretty good in my town. We didn't have a lot of trouble. And then I missed all that. You can't play soccer, you have to stay inside the house all the time with mom. I love my mom, but still you don't want to stay in the house you want to go out with your own aged children. They would not allow us to do that. Then they found out we were in that section. They blocked off three block perimeter, short little blocks. They didn't put any fences on with our ghetto. Some of the ghettos had fences, we didn't have that. They barb wired us around in the intersections and then they had one opening where you could come through. They had two guards. One was a Ukrainian who joined the Nazi regime, and one was the SS guy with the dogs. Non-Jews were still living in our area too. They were not restricted; they could come out any time they wanted to, go in, go out, but we were marked with this Jewish star. We could not come out of there. The only way you could come out of there would be if you showed the guard an ID that you worked in the munition factory. Which my father arranged that before he passed away.  My three single sisters and I had IDs so we were able to come out of there but only to go to work and come back. You're not supposed to stop anywhere else. There was no business for us to stop anyway, we didn't have any money to go shopping, the stores were looted anyway—there was nothing to go shopping with. So we only went to the factory and back and forth.

Then they found out that there's more Jews in the town live in the town than just the few that are orthodox that lived near the synagogue. They got the city police with the pickup little trucks and the police showed them where the Jewish families lived. The ainsaz groupen the pickup little truck, in translation, the killing unit. They would come the policeman would show up and say, "This is a Jewish house." They would break the door down. They didn't knock lightly, "Excuse me, you have to come out." No way. You had chaos.  They broke the door down with the rifle butt and the dogs would bark, causing chaos and excitement. You can't ask questions, "Where are you taking me?" So you grab what you can, first you grab your children of course, and then  if you have any valuables you grab them. They didn't know they were not going to come back in there. They came and brought them over to our section and it became very crowded.  I don't remember the amount of Jewish people that were in the town. I think there were either five or six thousand. They put us in the three block perimeter, and we had to put those extra people up. My sisters they came and we had to put them up. We already had a lot of children in our house, but then cousins or friends—everybody put up someone else. We helped one another, and we were stuck in that slave labor camp for two years; from 1940 to October '42 we were stuck in the ghetto area. We could not leave.

In the ghetto was one good thing: the family was intact together. We all were together, miserable as it was, but still intact, which made us very happy. Mom ruled, made sure the flock was here at the evening, made sure all the children were all in the one house. And everybody was fine. I'm sure other people, other mothers did the same. And we stayed in there, in that area until October '42. October '42 they decided they had too many problems feeding everybody. They didn't want to feed us. That's what we get told amongst each other.

So they came in October '42 and they had what they call a selection. Selection meant they didn't let anybody go to work that day. The three shifts were usually from 7 to 3, from 3 to 11, and then one week was 11 to 7 in the morning. They didn't let the three shifts of the Jews go out that night. Everybody was in the ghetto area. They brought in the extra soldiers, the SS guys and the Ukrainians with their dogs; they came in to help. And they chased us out of the ghetto area to a more open field. At the open field, they were sitting at a table and they were directing traffic.  I walked up with my mom and sisters the two married sisters. Raizel, the older girl, only had two little girls, but Faiga already had a job in the factories. ID, she showed them the ID they went over to the opposite side. She could not take that little child with her, so she gave up the child to go with grandma. The child held to grandma, grandma took her along with her. With these children, we all didn't know where they were taken.  We thought they were going to take them to a place where they don't need to work hard because they picked pregnant women, women with children, women who just gave childbirth, handicapped people, and older people. At the end of the day, the late afternoon, separated already. I was five feet away from my mom; she didn't give me a hug. I was her baby. I was the baby in the family. So she wanted to come over give me a hug, and they chased her back with their rifles and said, "You can't go there." My mom yelled over to my sisters, "Take care of your little brother." And that's the last time I saw them.

We didn't know until liberation; we found out that they took those people away to Treblinka, nothing but a killing center 24 hours a day. I didn't see it, I wasn't there, but the museum found out from the farmers what happened. They knew exactly what they did. They ordered the people to undress and then when they came they'd let them take briefcases, suitcases with them. "Oh, that's okay you have your address on there. Don't worry, it will follow you later." They never saw those. They arrived at Triblanka and they were ordered right into the shower room. They said,  "You've made a long trip, you get to take a shower." In the ghetto we didn't hardly wash over there because all you could do was take your shirt off in the summer. Men could undress from the waist on up, and they didn't give you soap. We used dirt from the ground, like a mud bath all over you. We were lucky we had a cold water pump. And they would pump water and clean up. I don't know how the women kept themselves clean. But the wintertime came— we couldn't do that; you would freeze to death. So we never washed. We all got filthy, dirty, and we stayed in there. So when these people arrived at Triblanka they were eager to take a shower, and I'm sure they took the children with them in the shower, hopefully to get cleaned up. Instead, they had the gas they had to put up with, and all of them never came out of the shower alive. All of them.  Every 24 hours, that shows you how many people they murdered that way. We were not aware of that until after the war. We were looking for them, and the people would say, "Don't look for them, they were murdered in Triblanka." That's all I knew. And that day I lost my mom, my two married sisters, three little nieces, and two nephews.

Then after they took those people away from us, they turned around to us, the working group.  Also the able bodied people, they chose them.  They were not attached to children; they wanted workers with them, so they saved quite a few of them. They put them over to our side. And then they chased us past the ghetto area for 6 kilometers uphill. We couldn't understand why they didn't let us in to the ghetto area because some people left things in there. Whatever stayed in there, whatever was left in the ghetto stayed in the ghetto. We could not go back in there to retrieve anything. I don't know if anybody had anything. That I can't answer. But all I know is after being chased us 6 km uphill, we finally arrived at our destination. It was called maiufka, a place or section on top of a stone quarry. They built for us a slave labor camp, the six-foot fences, one barbed wire and one wooden fence, and they had the towers and the dogs. The loudspeaker came up before we entered the camp, "Here you must enter all your pockets, all your belongings. All your valuables. Money, jewelry, you cannot come through this gate with anything valuable because we will kill you." It starts like this. And then everyone will bathe, nobody got killed out there. We put everything in; I didn't have a thing with me. I was a little boy. I didn't have nothing. My sisters had bracelet and watches and necklaces. They were throwing everything in.

In the ghetto they were bribing the soldiers. You were able to bribe the Ukrainian. If you gave him a gold ring or a watch, he would bring you in extra bread. They got to a point that they would change the guards so often and you got sick and tired, you had nothing left to bargain with anymore because they changed the guards all the time. Maybe a week or two, and then another guard came in.

Anyway, we worked in this factory. I would say September of '39, I already had a job. We stayed in there until October '42.

After the selection started, we went back into the ghetto to the slave labor camp. We got introduced to a barrack, just a wooden shack on stilts. There were allowed in there maybe a hundred people. But they had one soldier at the barrack and one at the gate, and they gave each other signals. If it was full capacity, they gave each other a signal and they went over to the next barrack. The women were separated from the men. In our barrack, they did furnish us with a long little blanket rolled up. Every camp I went to, they all gave us a little blanket. That day we would use the blanket, maybe we'd use it in other camps too. But the blanket was used not to cover yourself up, we were using it as a pillow because a piece of board was sticking out, and how can you lay your head on a board? You can only sleep on your side because there were three people in a bunk 75 inches wide. That's how we slept together in our clothes. And we stayed in there in the slave labor camp for one more year.

While we were there, the year was not quite finished yet, we came down with typhoid from the dirt from the field and the lice. The typhoid epidemic broke out, very sickness, very catching sickness. If one catches it, for sure the next one would get it, constantly. The epidemic came out and everybody got sick. Now if you got sick it was high fever, low fever, middle fever. I came down with low fever; I went to work every day. One of my little sisters two years older than I am, she died of typhoid. And then the middle sister, Haya. I came back from the night shift, and they wouldn't let the night shift in until they sent out the day shift first. And always in the front of your barrack you belong to that barrack, you stay in the front of the barrack and they counted to see, make sure that everybody's outside. And if you were missing, they went inside the barrack looking for you. First they let the dogs go underneath the stilts to look in case you're hiding. But these people, these men that I was with, they could not get out of the bunk because they had high fever. There's no way they could stand on their feet. And this group of killers, they took them out on the pickup little truck. And then after that, they sent us off to work after they filled that little truck with all the sick people. Not just that one barrack got sick, all the other barracks. They always had either five, ten that got sick that could not line up for work. And then later on, they sent us out to work and they calmed down. But if you had that sickness, it only took ten days and they would leave you alone. So you could get over it without medication. You would come out all right. But they could not wait. They couldn't wait to kill you, so that was the excuse. Their truck was taking those sick people out to the outskirts of the town.

And as soon as we put down the yellow Star of David, they were grabbing us in the streets to dig trenches in the outskirts of the town. They told us those trenches were for tanks to fall in, in a zigzag shape. The war was still going on. But they knew what they were doing. There were no gas chambers where I come from, my town. They didn't have any gas chambers or cremation; people were only hung and shot. And they had to be buried. They didn't bury each one separately; they took them, ten, fifteen of them in one grave in that ditch. I called it ditch—it's a grave. They covered it up and they went to the next one.

I don't know how many passed away, how many they murdered in the typhoid, but I lost two of my sisters that way. The oldest one, low fever, she went to work too, and she became a seamstress. The German army was looking for volunteer tailors to work on their uniforms. So the tailors were picked, whoever had experience. They had like a hundred tailors. And they had extra jobs to work on the high-ranking officer uniforms. They were doing their work and that sickness, that typhoid wore itself off eventually. At that time we only had maybe three months left alone into that slave labor camp. Because one of the high ranking German officers walked into that tailor and said, "You have to hurry up with those uniforms. We have to have them set because all of you are going to be deported out of here." Well those tailors didn't like what they heard. They said, "They're probably going to kill us now." Because we helped them along with the war machinery with everything. Everything that even the non-Jews did, we did too. But they at least paid them, they didn't pay us. They got a thin slice of bread in the morning and a little black imitation coffee, and then we come back from the factory they gave us cabbage and water, cabbage soup. You could not find a leaf of cabbage. So they didn't spend too much on us for working for them. But they decided they wanted to get rid of us. So they told us that they were going to kill us. But they didn't do that yet.

When this guy told us the day that we were going to be deported, the tailors organized an escape. Not the whole thing, it would be impossible that the whole camp run out. My sister wouldn't tell me about the escape till the night before. "When you get back at 11 from the factory, do not go into the barrack. Wait for me outside. And I'm going to come and get you and we are going to escape." Best news I heard at 15 years old. I wanted to get out of this hell place. They didn't treat us that good: we were hungry, dirty; there were beatings all the time. I was looking forward to getting out. My sister  came by all of a sudden with a Jewish policeman. I didn't know she befriended him. She held his hand. My sister grabbed my hand, and all were running towards somebody who already cut the wire fence and also the wooden fence. The wooden fence, by the way, gave us away. A lot of trouble. Somebody brought clippers in there and was quietly cutting off the wires; it didn't make noise. But when you tried to break through a wooden fence, it made a little noise. And that attracted the German shepherd dogs to bark and growl and bark.

It was pitch black, and these two guys  on top of the tower noticed something was not right.They flipped the lights on and they kept looking. They see people running out, so of course they turned their guns on them and they start shooting. Some of them they killed, some of them they wounded. We were next in line, but we let some groups go. Not everybody could go at one time. So we were next to go, and all of a sudden, they put the light on. The bullet grazed me in the back of my head from the impact. It still knocked me out. So it took a few seconds for me to revive myself and get back up. And I yelled for my sister: "Faiga, Faiga, where are you? Why'd you leave me alone?" She became like my mom to me. And all of a sudden, I don't see her. So I said to myself, "She wouldn't have run away without me unless she thought I was dead when I dropped." Maybe that's what she thought.

They kept shooting that area and some people had a chance to run away, disperse back into the barracks. They were running in a different direction. The man with a gun can only shoot so much at one time because we were running all over the place. I lowered my head, and I was watching which way the floodlight was going. My barrack was also in the opposite corner, away from the hole. I was aiming towards the women's barrack. I thought maybe my sister got hit. Maybe my sister thought I was dead and she didn't want to run out anymore, so she wound up in the women's barrack. That's what I thought. I made it to the women's barrack. There was a woman, the black Esther she was called, the head of the block, of the barrack, a Jewish woman. She knew me from my town. She knew my name. I knew her name at the time. I said, "I'm here to see if my sister Faiga is here." "You're sister Faiga's not here. You get out of here." She kept pushing me out.  "You're going to get us all killed." I was bleeding in the back and she saw I was bleeding. I was just talking to her in the front. I said, "I was trying to escape with my sister and the policemen I was wounded." "Well you've got to get out of here." She kept pushing me. Well, I was stubborn I was 15 years old. I was stronger than her. I sat down in the doorway. She could not close the door and she was arguing with me back and forth.

The guards were very angry so they kept shooting into the barracks. Three or four bullets, quite a sight to see into the women's barrack. Wood cannot stop a bullet. All these women jumped off the bunks and on the ground they went. On the floor. They were all on eye level with me. I was looking for my sister and I didn't see her. But I did recognize my first cousin Ida. I yelled at Ida, and she said, "Your sister Faiga is not here. I know what bunk she was in. She's not here. What happened to you?" So I told her I was wounded, and asked if she could help me. Ida had a bucket of water, and that loud mouthed woman left me alone since the bullets came into the barrack. She stopped bothering me then. And then my cousin cleaned me up. She gave me a rag to wipe off, first with cold water, whatever was in the bucket, and she cleaned me up. And she gave me a dry rag, to put on top of my wound. I had a two inch cut right here, like you take a knife and cut the skin. Luckily the bullet didn't go down under the skin, otherwise I wouldn't be here speaking to you.

After she cleaned me up, she took her beret off that she was wearing and said, "Put my beret on, keep the rag underneath." But I could not stay in the women's barrack too long, because if they caught me there, they would definitely kill me because I was trying to escape. They didn't bother me, and I never saw them. They stopped shooting, but the stoplight was shooting in different directions. They were trying to see if anybody still was out running around. Nobody was once they started shooting. Everybody ran into their own barracks, so I lowered my head. It was late in the evening and I was looking to see which way the floodlight was going. I figured that out how long it takes to come back; I was counting. At 15, I could still run. I'd lost a lot of blood but I could still run fast. And I made lower my head and I made it in. All I wanted to do was go back to my barrack where I belonged with the men so I would be safe. I made it in there and I was safe. A few minutes later, after we were all settled in the barrack, the loudspeaker came on and we all had to empty out of the barrack.They had to have the people that slept in each barrack stay in the front and they were counting. They wanted to see how many people escaped and that was the only way they could tell. Let's say the barrack held 100 people and they only had 75, what happened to the other 25? They either escaped or they wounded them at the hole over there. That's what they were trying to find out. As they were counting, the night shift came back in and they would not let them in. They had them between the two fences, the wooden fence and the barbed wire fence. They kept them there until they sent us out to work and at that time they finished counting and they knew exactly what happened.

So before they sent us out to work, they told us to turn a different direction where the hole was. I looked there, and there was the policeman sitting in an upright position, moaning and groaning. You could hear other people; you were not that far away. You could hear people, saying "Doctor, doctor." They were looking for some help; they were wounded. They definitely could not run anymore. They had to stay there between the two fences. And then he pulled out—in front of our faces—he took his gun out and he started shooting all the wounded people. The first one was the policeman that I was trying to run with. The policeman dropped. As soon as he dropped, there was my sister Faiga laying stretched out by his legs. Before he was blocking my view I could not see her till he dropped on the ground. Then I saw my Faiga. I said, "Dear God I'm 15 years old. You left no one by myself." And I said, "How will I make it?" I did know I had a sister in America. And I said, "Someday if I make it, I'll be in America with God's help." And then after they killed all the wounded ones, they fixed the fence, right back to normal.

The date still was there that this high ranking officer told the tailors that we were going to be deported. That day came, andthe first thing they did is they wouldn't let anybody go to work. They kept us all in one area in that slave labor camp. They brought in extra soldiers and extra dogs, and they chased us out of this slave labor camp to get on the trucks and then go to the railroad yard and they put us into those freight cars. Seventy-five people to a car. No water, no bathrooms for three days we were travelling. We were not priority transport; whatever came through with the German civilian, we had to stop and let them go through. So we were like a slow board to China. They didn't care, the slower the better because a lot of people died on the road. We had three dead people in our car. We didn't know that until we were unloading. Finally on the third day in the afternoon we arrived at Auschwitz Berkenhau. They opened up the doors on the wagons on the freight cars and these uniformed guys—I hate to say, they were good looking. You'd think they were angels. Certainly, clean uniforms, their shoes were shined, they were well-dressed. But they were nothing but killers. That's all they were. They opened the doors up on the wagons and they ordered us out. And right away, again, another selection as you came off the train. Left, right, left, right. Half of them they murdered that night. We were told by the inmates who were there before. "Your friends that you came with? They're already in heaven." They didn't have maybe any room for us, or they had an order how many they need to dispose of. I think they had an order how many they need to kill back then. I was sent to the good side over. And half of my transport went straight to crematorium. On the good side, the first thing they did was give you a number on your arm. A18991, that was my number. They took away your name. You came there with all. You didn't have any valuables with you; all you have is your precious name that your parents gave you when you were born. And to degrade you more, they took away your name. You became a number, and that's how they addressed you. Amongst each other, of course, we called each other by name. But they addressed us only by number.

After they tattooed a number, they gave you a haircut. The haircut was done by Jewish barbers, each one with a chair and a hand clipper. The barber noticed the wound on my head. I was not afraid; I was talking to him in Jewish. I told him I was trying to escape with my sister and the policeman. They were killed and I was wounded. And he could not talk to me too long because there were watching to see how he behaved because he cut hair. The number was one stop, the haircut was the second stop. Finally, a shower. We were not aware of the tricks yet about the shower. Once you get into the shower room, instead of water you have the cyclone gas. We were not aware of that until a day later, after we came out of that shower room the old timers who were there a few months already told us how lucky we were that we were not gassed to death, that we were able to wash and clean. They took away our dirty, filthy clothes that we wore for three years, still full of lice. And then after we got cleaned up, they took away the dirty clothes and they finally furnished us with striped uniforms. Before we were wearing the clothes, whatever we had on. The uniform consisted of a cap, a jacket, pants, wooden bottom shoes with canvas tops, no underwear, or socks. And a three foot wide little blanket rolled up. Every camper got that little blanket.

My group stayed in Aushwitz Birkenhau for almost six months. The only work we did is helping these old timers who were assigned to pick up the bodies and take them to the crematorium. Some people died from exhaustion, some gave it up; they didn't want to live anymore. Those assigned to that group had to lift the bodies up and put them on a little pickup little wagon and they would wheel them over towards the crematorium. The crematorium could not cremate so many people as the people that died and they killed. It was impossible. So outside was like—I hate to give you an example—it was like a lumber yard. Bodies laying this way, bodies laying this way, in that pile, waiting to get burned. That's why we were sowing this lumberyard with the bodies, just laying and waiting for cremation. And this is what I saw when I was 15 years old. I came to Auschwitz, I was 15 years old. By myself, I lost all my family there.

We were there for six months, and then out of nowhere German civilian men came in with two guards and the dogs. They came right at our barrack and they ordered us out of the barrack to stay in the front of the area. They were scattered like in a circle so he could look at you very good. And the civilian German would point at you and that meant to come over there where he was. He took either 50 or 75  of us. He took us and we didn't know where; you can't ask questions. So he took us out of there to another camp called Buna monowitz, a sub-camp of Auschwitz. Auschwitz consisted of three: Auschwitz one, Birkenau two, Buna monowitz is three. And if you read the book called Night by Elie Wiesel he was there at the time at Buna monowitz. Not at the same time that we were there, but I remember reading in the book that he came out of Buna monowitz. Anyway, that man sort of saved our lives, 50 of us. He took us out from Auschwitz-Berkenau and he put us in Buna monowitz. And that man was either a manager or the owner  of the chemical company called IG Farben. Farben or bin. They're still in operation now.  People are still with them I think. Our job was to build a road in the part of that chemical company with cobblestones and sidewalks.

It was already 1945 when we were in Flussenberg, in the IG factory working on the road; the war was starting already to end. The American army was already fighting the Nazis. Out of nowhere, we see airplanes flying overhead and the siren is blowing. In the IG factory, all the non-Jews were able to run to a bunker including the guards, including the dogs. We had to be outside and also the copper that was watching us. He had to stay with us outside. There were 8 or 10 British war prisoners. Dressed in their uniforms, clean, really, like they were on vacation. They told us, "Don't give up, don't give up. This is the American air force bombing." They were not allowed into the bunker either. They told us all we had to do was drop. And we heard a whistle at the release of the bomb for us to dive like a swimming pool diving on the top of the sand. All of a sudden the American Air Force was here and they started to bomb. They bombed the rail leading into the IG factory so they couldn't receive or ship out any supplies. And then they came back more aggressive. We never got into the bunker, never. And then after that they got more aggressive the air force. They finally left out the whole IG factory. All our work was nothing, torn, upside-down, including the rail system and everything else. They put us on the trucks that took us to the railroad station and we travelled a few days. We didn't know where we were going. Some of the women were travelling in half-cars, open cars. I guess because the war was already ending. We travelled all the way to Austria, Czechoslovakia, all trains at different stations. And they were taking us to Bavaria, Germany. And the air force, the guard came and they were constantly attacking the rail. We came to one spot called Schostsfield. Schots means dark. Field means a field, as a dark field. And all they were attacking that convoy with the trains. They just knocked the heck out of the locomotive to pieces. In that transport the SS guys were travelling with us, but they were a separate car living it up. You could hear screams or yelling at each other—they were probably drunk. Then when the American army came, they knocked the heck out of it. All of a sudden they were worried for us not to get killed by the air force. What did they care? They ordered us out of the cars into the wooded area. But we were not allowed to run in too deep because they had the dogs outside. The minute you ran out of the car you got in the wooded area, you had to drop. Otherwise the dogs would get you. You could not sneak/escape. Maybe if you tried, maybe you could. But where are you going to run? You don't know where it is, you're in a strange country, this is Germany. And the rail was right near the woods, like near the cars, almost you could touch the trees. And that's why they picked that area and the locomotives and some cars.

We could not ride the trains anymore so they started with the marching. The marching took its toll on us because we didn't get the slice of bread in the morning and you didn't get that black imitation coffee. You did not get that cabbage water at night. We had nothing, nil. The only way we got a raw potato was if the two guards were hungry, if the dogs were hungry, they'd locate a farm for their benefit. And from the benefit, we'd inherit we'd get a raw potato and some water to drink. Now if you wanted to take a chance and get in the line to get a second potato, you were risking your life. Because you would recognized as Jew. There's no second guessing. He would kill you right there. Because you were already in the line and he would say, "Don't get back into the line." They were very killers, nothing but murderers. The only way we kept alive was the raw potato here and there. They wouldn't go every day to a farm. When they were hungry, when they ran out of supplies, they would make sure to go to the farm. And then all we were eating was sometimes leaves that dropped from the bushes in the late. By February or March they were already no leaves on the bushes anymore. The leaves became brown. They were laying on the bottom, and we were so hungry we would take the leaves and put them in our mouths and keep chewing them up. We kept drinking the water out of the creek to wash it down.

We were marching from the middle or the end of February to the 24th of April 1945. We saw a lot of flying, low planes flying, but we did not know who the planes were. We thought it was the German planes. The 24th of April 1945 we wound up still on the farm. This time, they didn't let us sleep outside. They put us into the silo. All of a sudden we've got a roof over our head. From the April showers our striped uniforms were soaking wet. You know all of a sudden they'd let us into the silo. The first thing we did was take our clothes off; we were like a rag doll. We took our clothes off and wrung them out and lay them down in the hay. In there they had sheep and also goats. It was very nice and warm there. Without clothes it was very comfortable. We dried out. They gave us a raw potatoes going into the silo and then in the morning on the 25th, they woke us up early in the morning, before even daylight. We only marched for two hours that day, and they put us near a wooded area. Not so much in the woods, we were more outside the woods than inside the woods. We saw the convoys going on the highway, heavy artillery pieces. We didn't know who this army was. We thought they were Germans. The airplanes were coming overhead. If the British wouldn't have told us at the IG factory that this was American planes, don't give up, we wouldn't have known. Well, we never gave up. I never gave up. I had a sister in America. I said I have faith in God that someday I would be in America. Although I lost part of my family, but I made it.

They marched us for two hours and all of a sudden while we're sitting at the edge of the forest, our two guards and the two dogs snuck away from us. They could have killed every one of us very easily, but they were afraid to shoot the gun because the American army was just a block away, and when you fire a rifle it makes a whole lot of noise. And they didn't want to kill us and give themselves away. So they decided to sneak away. They got into a farm and they changed their clothes from uniform to civilian clothes. "I'm just another German."  We were still sitting there with anticipation. What's going to happen to us? We have no guards—anybody could come and kill us now. Although the first they could have killed us, they didn't.

Then all of a sudden while we're sitting there and thinking what could happen, a tank took off from the main highway towards us. And we said, "For sure they're going to kill us now, for sure." So what happened? God sent us down an American tank. It came off the main highway and it stopped five feet away from us. The hatch opened up on the tank, a tight squeeze, the soldier stuck himself out like a genie come out of a bottle. It was a really tight squeeze in there. He had blonde hair, a crew cut. And America was written here, and somebody probably spoke English in my group. He put his hands on the mouth and he said, "We are Americans, and all of you are free." I still get electricity running through my body now. When I get to this point. Because that was the best time of my life! All of a sudden I'm 15 years old, someone tells me I'm free. Thank you God. "But why did it take you so long?" I started complaining, I started complaining. Before I was praying to God every day, day to day: "Save me another day." You could only plan a day ahead. I said, "Someday I'll be in America with my sister."

I was liberated April the 25th 1945, at the age of 17. They tell me I weighed 75 pounds. I was nothing but a skeleton; we were all bones. So the guard, the one with the tank, told us to line up behind the tank. He took us out of the by the forest, and he took us across an empty field, across the highway, and into a farm. At the farm, one American soldier opened the door, and the next one told us to go in. But we didn't pay attention to the two soldiers at all; we didn't think there was going to be food inside. We didn't have any food for five years—all of a sudden we got to have food in there. We saw mighty appetizing stuff outside the farmer's house. He had three big dishes, pails or dishes, with potato peelings. And we got on our hands and knees, never looking at the soldier that opened the door. We concentrated only on the peelings with the white flour. We had a spoon, but we never took it off from our pants. It was all tied up the five years it was there; we never took the spoon. They never gave us any food to eat with the spoon. Anyway, we got on our hands and knees and cleaned off those potato peelings. We wanted a lot of water to drink. Then we went in and when we came inside, we looked at each other and said, "Oh my god, why did we eat these peelings?" They had a table full of food, normal food. And people were there, liberated the night before. But guess what? They were all sick as dogs. That good food to eat didn't agree with their stomachs or they overate. The peelings didn't hurt us; all we wanted to do was drink water. And those they were screaming, "Doctor, doctor, doctor." They were sick about mostly stomach problems. It took three hours for the medics to come. Those days are not like now, you punch a little thing and two seconds later they know what you're seeing. You see each other. It took three hours for the medics to come, and they gave out medication to all the sick ones. Then I showed them the wound on my head. I had a scab on it, but underneath it was all of puss. Whatever that was, it didn't look good. But the hair covered it up. They never saw me being wounded. The soldier gave me a sign like this [hand gesture]. I didn't know what it meant. But he came over with the shaved part of my area where my wound was, and then he gave me medication. He put a bandage on there; three months later all I had was a scar. Because I was in a human being's hands and not those killers. If those killers would have ever seen this on my head, I wouldn't be here talking to you.

I want to thank you, this beautiful audience. I didn't expect that many people, but thank you so much for coming to listen to me. Really. I very much so I could not believe that that many people would be here. God bless all of you and may God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much.

Click here to hide the transcript