How did I survive? When a person is in trouble he wants to live. He fights for his life...Some people say, "Eh -- What will be, will be." No! You have to fight for yourself day by day. Some people did not care. They said, "I do not want to live. What is the difference? I don't give a damn." I was thinking day by day. I want to live. A person has to hold on to his own will, hold on to that to the last minute.
My mother and my older sister were killed in the last week of January 1941. The year 1941 was a cold winter with a lot of snow. One morning the SD and the Jewish police caught me in the street. I was forced to work with a lot of other people clearing snow from the railroad tracks. Our job was to keep the trains running.
When I returned to the ghetto I found out that my mother and older sister had been killed. The Germans demanded that the Judenrat collect gold and furs from the people in the ghetto. When they asked my mother for jewelry and furs, she said she had none. So they shot her and my older sister too.
My father was killed in April 1942. He went to buy bread from the children who were smuggling food into the ghetto. The children brought bread, potatoes and cabbages across the wall into the Warsaw ghetto. A Jewish policeman pointed out my father to a German and told him that he saw my father take a bread from a boy at the wall. The German shot my father in the back.
The deportations started on July 22, 1942. My other 2 sisters and 2 brothers went to Treblinka. After that I never saw anybody from my family again.
I am a furrier. In the ghetto I worked at Tobbens' shop. We made lambs' wool jackets for the German army. These were short jackets; today we would call them Eisenhower jackets.
For lunch they gave us bread and soup. In the evening we got another bread and coffee. When Poles came to the shop, we could trade with them for extra food. We gave them a few shirts for a piece of salami and some bread or potatoes to make a soup. But how long could our situation last?
One day there was a selection and I was pulled from the shop. However, I was lucky because a Volksdeutscher told them I was a good worker. So I was allowed to go back to the shop, and someone else was put in my place.
A friend told me that he saw one of my sisters working at Shultz's shop. I wanted to see her, but I was 3 kilometers away and I did not know how to get there. A Jewish policeman told me that he could get a German soldier to go with me and bring me back. It would cost 500 zlotys, which was a lot of money, but I said OK.
The soldier put me in handcuffs, and he walked behind me with a rifle like I was his prisoner. When I got to Shultz's shop, I could not find my sister. Then I found that I was stuck there. I could not go back because the ghetto had been surrounded by German soldiers. The next morning was April 19, 1943, which was the day the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began.
We had to walk 3 kilometers to work. I had to hold myself up straight without limping and walk out of the gate of the camp. I was scared. If I limped, they would take me out of line. At Majdanek they hung you for any little thing. I did not know how I would make it. God must have helped me and, I was lucky.
We stood at the appell in our wooden shoes. Then when we got out of the gate we had to take off our wooden shoes and tie them over our shoulders with a piece of string. We had to walk to work barefoot. There were little stones on the road that cut into your skin and blood was running from the feet of many people. The work was dirty field work. After a few days some people could not take it anymore, and they fell down in the road. If they could not get up, they were shot where they lay. After work we had to carry the bodies back. If 1,000 went out to work, a 1,000 had to come back.
One day as we were standing at appell, a man in the back of the line smoked a cigarette. Heavy smokers would find a piece of paper and light it just to feel like they were smoking something. A German, the Lagerfuhrer, came up riding a tall, black horse. The horse had a white patch on his head and its legs were white too. It was a beautiful horse. The Lagerfuhrer held a whip in his hand. This man was a monster. It was late in the day and the sun was going down. He saw the smoke from the cigarette.
The Lagerfurhrer looked down at us and demanded to know who had smoked a cigarette. No one answered. "I am going to hang 10 dogs," he said. "I will give you 3 minutes." They called us dogs because we had tags with our numbers on them; my number was 993. We looked from one to the other, but no one answered.
The Lagerfurhrer did not wait 3 minutes; he did not wait 2 minutes. He took his whip and he cut off 2 rows of 5 prisoners. I was in the group of 10.
He asked, "Who wants to go up first on the bench?" You had to go stand on the bench and put the rope around your neck. I was in the first three to go up on the bench. I climbed up and put the rope around my neck.
He started beating us. He beat me so much the blood was running down my head.
Before this happened, a soldier had come to Majdanek for the purpose of selecting three groups of 750 people to take to another camp. I had been selected to be in the second group of 750. This soldier had been in Lublin at the main office processing our papers. While I was standing on the bench, the soldier came back to the gallows area.
When he saw what was happening, he started hollering, "Halt, Halt! What is happening here?"
The Lagerfurhrer said, "A dog smoked a cigarette. They won't say which one, so I am going to hang 10 dogs."
"Whose dogs?" the soldier asked. "I have papers to transfer these people, and I cannot bring in dead dogs. I have to bring them alive."
The soldier took off the rope that had been around my neck. All it would have taken was a few seconds more and I would have been dead. He just had to kick out the bench. The soldier beat us until we jumped down from the bench and got back into the line.
The soldier took us to the railroad tracks, he put us on a train and the next morning we left Majdanek. I had been there 9 weeks. We were on this train for two nights and a day with no food or water. In my 9 weeks at Majdanek I had not changed my shirt or washed myself. We were eaten up with lice, and many of us were swollen from hunger.
Instead, we were taken to the Auschwitz I camp. A Polish man came out of a building, and he asked us to call out our numbers. I said," 128232." He looked at a paper and asked my name? I said, "Szlama Radosinski," which is my name in Polish and doesn't sound like a Jewish name. He asked me where I was from? "Warsaw," I said. How long was I there? "I was raised there," I said.
He started to cuss me like I never heard before in my life. He pulled me out of the line and put me in a corner. He said, "Stay here." He brought me a piece of blanket to cover myself with. I was freezing, so he brought me inside the barracks.
I asked him what this place was. He said it was the hospital barracks, Block 20. He told me, "It is very bad here. Dr. Mengele comes two times a week to make selections. But this is Tuesday and he will not come again this week. I will let you know what is going to happen." I had not eaten since Monday. He gave me a bread.
Erlich had been there 5 weeks. He had come from Majdanek to Auschwitz the same day as I did. Two of the doctors at the hospital knew his grandfather, who had been their rabbi in Cracow. They had hidden him from Dr. Mengele. Those doctors had tried to help hide Jewish people in Cracow. When the SS came, they killed the Jews they hid and took the doctors to Auschwitz.
On Thursday Erlich came to me and said, "You have to get out of here." I said, "What am I going to do--jump from the second floor window?" In the afternoon he came again and said,"You have to get out of here, or after tomorrow you are going to be dead." About an hour later a man came in and sat at a table. He asked, "Who wants to go to work?" The Poles in the hospital were not worried about going to work. Why should they go work when they were getting packages from the Red Cross and having enough to eat?
I had to get this work. The man at the table asked me my number and then he cussed me out. I begged him, " I want to go out. I have friends outside. Please let me out." He gave me a piece of paper that said Block 6.
One of the men said, "I don't believe you; what is this man called? He has a nickname." I said, "This man has a little piece of skin hanging down by his left ear, and they call him 'tsutsik' (Yiddish=nipple)." When I said this, they started to help me. They brought me a big piece of bread and some cold soup.
The next morning they woke me up and they took me with them. They put me in the middle of the line and we walked together out of the gate. They told me that as soon as we get out of the gate, I would be safe because over 6,000 prisoners walk out of the gate every day and nobody knows who is who.
One day the boys asked me if I could make a cap for the Capo, and they brought me some striped material. I took a piece of string to take a measurement. I asked them for some thread and a needle, and I made the cap in about 2 hours. For stiffness I took some paper from a cement bag and doubled the material at the top. The Capo liked the cap. I was his guy from then on, and he never beat me the whole time.
The ovens were on one side of the crematoria, and the ashes came out this side. The other side was where the gas chamber was. The Sonderkommando, took the ashes out of the ovens. There were big holes for the ashes and we covered the ashes with sand.
One Saturday, when we were working, we turned around and saw a soldier with a rifle, so we started to speed up. The soldier said, "Slow down; today is your Sabbath." He was a Hungarian, and he said, "Come to my barracks at 4 o'clock, and I will have something for you. I will put out a bucket with trash in it. Look under the trash, and you will find eleven pieces of bread." For two or three weeks he put out bread for us. He asked us to bring him money from Canada, which we did. He used to tell us the names of the Jewish holidays. One day he disappeared.
Life was going on. Everyday was a different problem until January 18, 1945, when they began liquidating Auschwitz. On the 18th I left Auschwitz, and 9 days later the Russians liberated it. Those 7 days cost me 5 months.
When we left, everybody had to get out of the barracks. I was walking the whole night with a rabbi from Sosnowiec. The Rabbi had come from Block 2, which was the tailor shop. I saw that the soldiers behind us were shooting the people who fell down. The Rabbi fell down in the road and this boy from Belgium and I held up the Rabbi between us and kept walking. We saw a sled pulled by a soldier, and we asked him if we could pull the sled with the Rabbi in it until morning.
The guys who lived in Block 2, the tailors' barracks, could get some of the gold and the diamonds that people had sewn into the linings of their clothes. They gave their block leader some gold and diamonds to let them hide the Rabbi in the barracks. They hid him in a closet that they had built in the wall. They put the Rabbi in the closet when they went out to roll call at 6 o'clock in the morning and took him out when they came back in the evening. Many times I went there at 5 o'clock in the morning to say Kaddish for my parents with the Rabbi.
Gross-Rosen was murder. The guards walked around with iron pipes in their hands. They said, "We are going to help you; we are going to get you out of here." We were put in a shed with two thousand men. In the daytime we had to stand up, and at night we slept head to food. The only food we got was a slice of bread and a cup of coffee at night. I thought I was going to be die there.
They walked us to the railroad station, and in 3 days we came to Dachau. The train ride was terrible; the train pulled up and pulled back, up and back. We ate snow for water. A man was in there with his son who went crazy. The son grabbed the father by the neck and choked him to death. At Dachau there was a selection for the typhus blocks. I had a friend from Radom who was strong. He could have made it, but they put him in the typhus block.
I left Dachau on the 26th or the 27th of April, 1945. I was liberated on May 1st. During this time we were traveling on trains. We were in Tutzing and in Feldafing and in Garmisch. There were big mountains there . One day they had us get out of the train, and we had to go up twenty feet to the other side of the mountain. Then the Germans set up machine guns and started to fire at us. A few hundred were killed as we ran back to the train.
The next day we heard planes dropping bombs. A few hours later the soldiers opened the door to the train. They said they needed a few people to work cleaning up from the bombs, but we were scared to go. So they said "You, you and you out," and they caught me. I said to myself, "I think this is the end. After all these years in the ghetto and losing everybody, now this is the end. Who is going to be left to say Kaddish for my family?"
We went to this small town on the other side of the mountain where the train station had been bombed. To one man they gave a shovel, to another a broom and to me they gave a pick. I saw a counter in the station where they were selling little black breads. I said to myself that I would like to eat a piece of bread before they kill me. I was ready for Kiddush Hashem. I grabbed a little dark bread into my jacket and started eating it. A soldier saw me and he howled, "Go to work." I stayed until I had eaten the bread. I did not move, even though he beat me. I fell down and he kicked me and I got up. I had to finish eating that little bread. Blood was running down my head. When I finished, I went to work. I had gotten my wish. Then I knew that I was going to survive.
Early at 4 a.m. the next morning near Tutzing we heard heavy traffic on the highway. We pushed to look out of the two little windows of the train. We expected to see the Russians coming but it was the Americans. We hollered. A jeep drove up with two soldiers. One was a short man, an MP. He spoke good German. He asked who we were. We said we were from the concentration camps. Everybody started hollering and crying. The American soldiers said we were free. They arrested the Germans and the Germans got scared. It was May 1, 1945.
The Americans cooked rice for us. The MP saw me take some rice and he said, "Don't eat that. If you do, you will die. There is too much fat in that for you to eat now. Because your stomach has shrunk, if you eat that you will get diarrhea. I will give you a piece of bread, and you should toast it."
"What is toast," I asked. He said, "Toast is when you make the bread hard." They brought us to Feldafing. I sat in the sun. I boiled a little water and sugar. In two weeks my stomach stretched. They gave us pajamas to wear, but we had no shoes.
One day I saw the same MP in the Jeep. We said to him, "You gave us freedom, but we have no clothes." He said, "I am 3 kilometers from here; come tomorrow at 7 am. We were there at 6 am. We saw the soldiers get breakfast. He signaled for us to get breakfast too and he told the Captain about us. The Captain said to bring us in. We were nearly naked in our pajamas and with no shoes. The Captain gave us a paper to go to the PX and we got shoes, pants, shirts and jackets. We were told to come back at lunchtime. We got three meals a day for weeks.
At the Displaced Persons camp in Feldafing a man asked me to bring food to his niece who was in the hospital. I brought her oranges, bread and butter. When she got well, she gave me a pair of white linen pants. "You saved my life," she said.
In Germany Feldafing had a big name as a place where you came to find missing people. They put up lists of names of survivors on the walls. A lot of liberated people came looking for relatives. A friend of mine came with two ladies, one whom I knew from before, and the other, Sofia, was my wife's friend.
Sofia said, "Your were in the fur business; my girlfriend's family was in the fur business too. Did you ever hear the name of Bursztyn?" I said, "I used to deal with the Bursztyns." She asked me to come to Turkheim to meet her.
I had nothing to lose. Two brothers from Lodz, tailors, made me a suit with two pairs of pants out of a grey and white blanket. My friend and I put our belongings together in one package and went out on the highway to hitchhike to Turkheim. I left Feldafing in August of 1945.
The next day my wife, Frieda, came to see Sofia. My wife was shy and wouldn't come downstairs to meet me. So Sofia said to her, "Go to the window and take a look." She looked. Since then I say, "My wife looked through the window and took a fishing rod and she got me."
We got married in November 1946. My wife was from the same town as I was, and I used to deal with her family. With us there was a feeling, like a family.
We were very poor. At that time you had to have a card to buy things. I went to the Burgermeister, who was like the mayor, to get coupons to get a suit. The problem was that I did not have any money to buy it. My wife and Sofia had a little money that they loaned me to buy a suit, and I loaned this suit to my friend when he got married.
My wife had no dress. We were going to get married on Saturday night. Saturday during the day I knocked on the door of this German woman I knew. I had spoken to her in the street, and we had talked a few times. She had a daughter who was the same size as Frieda. I got 2 packages of cigarettes, 2 Hershey chocolate bars and a little can of coffee and put them into a paper bag.
When she answered the door, we talked and she said to me, "Oh, I saw at the City Hall that you are going to get married." "Yes," I said, "and I am sorry, but my bride has no dress."
Her daughter said, "Oh, No!," and she jumped to the ceiling. Her mother asked her, "Why do you jump, he never said anything about you?" She said, "He is going to want a dress." I said, "Yes, I want a dress." I told that lady that I did not come to rob her. I came to ask her to help me.
I went over to the cedar robe and opened the door and I saw a sky-blue dress. I took up the dress on the hanger and held it up and saw that it was a beautiful color. The daughter started crying. I took the little bag and turned it over on the table and said, "This is the money. This is all that I have. Later on, if I have some, I am going to pay more." The mother said, "Take it." I thanked her and walked out. The daughter was crying. Later on when I built myself up I never went back to the house because I did not want the daughter to get angry. I saw the mother on the street and talked to her. I did not say to her "What you people did to us."
We got married on November 11, 1946. All the greeners in our town came to the wedding. My friend left early on Friday and brought home carp fish and ducks and a goose. We had challa and cakes, and there was singing and dancing. There was just one thing missingrelatives.
We moved from Turkheim to Landsberg, and after 4 years until we came to the United States. My son was born on May the 13, 1948; the State of Israel was born on May the 14, 1948.
We came to New Orleans in 1949. I could not speak English. I went to a fur shop and they gave me fur and pointed to a sewing machine. I sewed. Then I pointed to a frame for stretching the skins and showed them I could do that. I also picked up a knife and showed them I could cut. The hired me at 50 cents an hour even thought the going rate for beginners was 75 cents an hour.
I bought a sewing machine for $50 and started taking in work. Then I was hired by the Haspel Brothers store where I was a foreman. I built myself up, and we raised and educated our two children. After 28 years Frieda and I went on our first vacation in 1978 to Israel.
There we 375,000 Jews living in Warsaw before the war. I doubt that there are 5,000 living there today. It is very, very important for me to tell this story.