“I’ll Survive You…” — A Holocaust Survivor’s Story, Part V

As the allied armies approached, Hitler ordered the Jews still left in the camps to be killed. These orders could not be carried out, but they were forced to submit to another hardship — the death march.

Then on the 24th of April, they took us by truck to Dachau. And the next day, the 25th of April, they took us, thousands of people, among them there were Germans too, Germans who were against Hitler, in transport, thousands of people they took out on this march and we walked form April 25th to May 2nd. On May 2nd we were liberated by the American army.

On the way if somebody couldn’t walk, we were five abreast, somebody dropped, there were SS, you know, some SOBs behind, they would just make sure that they wouldn’t get up. Sometimes there some guys who didn’t shoot, somebody dropped, then somebody else would drop, too. They would wait until we got out sight, then they would go into the farmers to ask for some food.

So what did the farmers do? They had what they call a selbschutz, self defense group that farmers had, they would just gather them together and put them back to the transport without giving them anything to eat.

We stopped believing in anything at all. We were praying when we were in that camp, before we went to sleep, our clothes were wet, it was snowing, raining. We would take of our … all we had was a striped jacket and striped pants. They were full of lice. So we’d sit down and kill the lice.

But the barrack inside were all full of lice every place. In the morning the lice were back. Get up when it was still dark, raining or snowing, we had to wait until the Germans were ready to come out and count if we were all there, and then go out to work day in and day out. Many times we begged, “Please, If there’s a God in heaven, don’t let me get up in the morning.” Enough. How much is a human being supposed to suffer. How much?

Day in and day out. We lost hope. But when the crunch came, we still hoped. I’ll never forget the first few days in that labor camp, a German comes out and asks, “Are there any carpenters?” Since I worked with wood, I volunteered, “I’m a carpenter.” Another guy volunteered, too. Carpenter.

What did he need carpenters for? Some of the prisoners before us, before we got into the camp, they dug what they called anti-aircraft ditches, like zigzag, like I would say about four feet wide and about six feet deep. And they would go like this (zig zags with hands) so whenever a raid came, the Germans would run down there because of shrapnel, whatever. So why did he need carpenters? We were supposed to build steps down there. Put a piece of wood as a riser so it wouldn’t cave in like this.

So we did that. Then two days later, he calls me and he says, “You are going to work with these two German carpenters. There were two carpenters. So I go over to them. There were woods there, We were supposed to go into the woods to do some work. So we go to the woods, and the two German carpenters say to me, “You wait here. We’re going to get our tools, then we’ll be back.”

So I’m standing there waiting. All of a sudden I hear somebody screaming. I look, and there’s another German with three Jews, three of our prisoners, and he calls me. So he’s standing there, calls me, he wants me there, too. I didn’t go, I’m waiting for the two carpenters. I’m not going. He keeps screaming, I hear the screams closer and closer, but I didn’t budge. He comes over and right away he hits me in the face, I start bleeding. I said, “Boss. I’m waiting for …” and he grabs me away.

I go with him and what did we have to do, we had to carry some cement blocks from one place to the other one. Looks like the two carpenters came back and they didn’t see me, so they reported me to the big boss that I must have run away. In the meantime I was working my butt off.

It was afternoon, maybe about two o’clock, started raining, we were working, carrying those blocks near a private house, started raining, so some guy and I we stood under the eaves to keep from the rain. And while we’re standing there, the big boss comes right in front facing me, he says, “Oh, here you’re hiding.” And he hits me. So I say to him, “Boss … I was working here.” And he hits me again. He says, “Come with me.”

As we start walking away from this house, the German I worked for all this time, I see him coming closer, so I said, “Ask this boss here.” I said, “Boss, tell him I worked here.” And this guy hits me, too.

So he grabs me and takes me over to where the two carpenters I was supposed to work with. The two carpenters are standing there. It looks like they were gonna build some barracks in the woods. There was a slope, they were driving in pegs, big pegs into the ground. And they give me a sledge hammer. The sledge hammers was heavier than I was. And you know the way they do, one-two-three. I couldn’t do it. I hit their hammer and they hit mine. And this guy, the big boss, with a board behind me, like a two-by-four, he keeps on hitting me, “Faster! Faster!”

And I saw that he’s gonna kill me. So what do I do? I just dropped and started crying. He threw away this two-by-four and screams at me, “Get up!” And I’ll never forget it. As long as I live. Here I was lying on the ground, crying, him screaming at me, “Get up!” And in my mind I said, “I’ll survive you, you so-and-so.”

That was in my mind. In one way, we wanted to die, but when I was out there I said, “I’ll survive you.”

Read the entire Holocaust Survivor series.

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Dan Whipple

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