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survivor testimonies


image from 'The Pictorial History of the Holocaust'


Children in line at a soup kitchen in Warsaw

Experiences During the Holocaust
I was eight years old in 1939 when my city was bombed and occupied by the Nazis. I thought that it was a game until I saw a man shot to death. I matured forty years in that instant.

In 1940, the ghetto was formed. At this time my parents sent me to stay with a non-Jewish family. After three weeks I ran away and returned to my family in the ghetto. In 1941, my eldest brother, Chaim heard that the ghetto was going to be liquidated. That night he smuggled me out of the ghetto. The next day, everyone in the ghetto was sent to Treblinka and gassed. My mother was among them.

Even though I was too young, I managed to work along side my brothers in the munitions factories until I came down with typhoid fever. I was unconscious for about 10 days and covered up and hidden so as to go unnoticed. My brother, Abraham, also contracted the disease but was discovered and shot.

I was separated from my father and brothers. I befriended Abe Chapnick, a boy one year older than me. We remained together for the rest of the war. In 1944, when I was 13, Abraham and I were sent to Buchenwald Concentration Camp and placed in a barrack with Polish, French and German political prisoners. These prisoners helped protect us.

When I was liberated in the concentration camp of Buchenwald on April 11, 1945 at the age of fourteen, my immediate concern was to be reunited with my family. At that time I was not yet aware of the enormity of the Holocaust or of the extent of our losses. The human mind doesn’t accept some of these things. I knew that my brother, Abraham, had died and I suspected my father was also dead but I still hoped to find the rest of my family. I had no idea that my mother had died in Treblinka. My sister, Leah, is the only one that survived in my immediate family.

Among the camp inmates there were leaders who gathered up all the children and began to take charge of us. I had no idea that there were 430 children scattered throughout Buchenwald. I had thought my friend and I were the only children there. We were marched out from the inner camp to the SS barracks to give us a better environment. We each had a bed and clean sheets. I remember being examined by many doctors and nurses and the Red Cross taking down our stories. Strangely enough, being together we all caught those childhood diseases we had never had before.