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Solomon Radasky’s Survivor Story

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.

Number: 128232

I am from Warsaw. I lived in Praga, which is the part of the city across the Vistula river. I had a nice life there; I had my own shop where I used to make fur coats. In Warsaw when a Jewish holiday came we used to know it was a holiday. All the stores were closed, and the people were in the synagogues.

Solomon and Frieda Radasky

Out of the 78 people in my family, I am the only one to survive. My parents had 3 boys and 3 girls: My parents were Jacob and Toby; my brothers were Moishe and Baruch, and my sisters were Sarah, Rivka and Leah. They were all killed.

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 SDSD: (Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsfuehrers-SS), SS security and intelligence service. The SD played an important role in carrying out the Final Solution.

SD officers served in Einsatzgruppen, police and other security units. It was established in 1932 under Reinhard Heydrich and in 1938 incorporated into the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Security Main Office, RSHA). Sources: Encyclopedia of the Holocaust; Historical Atlas of the Holocaust.
and the Jewish policeJewish Police: (Judischer Ordnungsdienst), the Jewish police units organized in the ghettos by the Judenrat. The Jewish police collected people for forced labor, guarded the ghetto fences and gates and eventually seized people for deportations.

There was often misconduct and corruption among the police, and they were regarded with apprehension by the ghetto community. They and their families were, at first, exempt from deportation, but this exemption was rescinded when their usefulness to the Germans ceased. Source: Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.
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 ghettoGhetto: an enclosed district where Jews were forced to live separate from the rest of society.

The concentration of Jews in ghettos was a policy implemented by Germany in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The establishment of ghettos was often the first stage in a process which was followed by deportation to concentration camps and selection for extermination or for forced labor. Forcing Jews into ghettos required their ingathering from surrounding areas and their segregation from local populations. Source: Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.
I found out that my mother and older sister had been killed. The Germans demanded that the JudenratJudenrat: a Jewish council created under German orders which was responsible for internal matters in a ghetto.

It was required to provide Jews for forced labor and to collect valuables to pay collective fines imposed by the Germans. The members of the Judenrat believed that by complying with German demands that could ameliorate the harsh realities of German administration. Frequently, they were able to set up hospitals and soup kitchens and to try to meet basic sanitary needs in the ghetto.

In the beginning the members tried to resist German pressure. However, as time went on, the Judenrat was forced to deliver Jews to the deportation trains that were bringing them to their deaths. Under pressure many members of the Judenrat cooperated with the Germans. However, there were many cases of resistance, of resignation, of support for the partisans, and of committing suicide rather than bending to German pressure. Source: Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.
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’ shopTobbens’ Shop: a textile factory, operated by Walter Tobbens the largest employer in the Warsaw ghetto.

German manufacturers appeared in the Warsaw ghetto in the summer of 1941. At first they placed orders with Jewish workshops, but they established their own factories.

In 1943, Tobbens was appointed as ghetto commissar to transfer workers from the Warsaw ghetto to labor camps in the Lublin area. However, by this time the workers were obeying the instructions of the Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB).

In May 1943, after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising 10,000 workers were transferred to a factory Tobbens established in the Poniatowa labor camp near Lublin. However, in November 1943 as part of the operation known by code name of “Erntefest” (Harvest Festival) the camp was liquidated and the prisoners were shot. Source: Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.
. 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 VolksdeutscherVolksdeutscher: a Nazi term for a person of German ancestry living outside of Germany.

They did not have German or Austrian citizenship as defined by the Nazi term Reichsdeutscher. Nazi Germany made great efforts to enlist the support of the Volksdeutshe, who constituted minorites in several countries.

Nazi Germany received support from the Volksdeutsche; hundreds of thousands joined the German armed forces,including the SS. Source: Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.
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.

Warsaw Ghetto on Fire

On May 1, 1943, I was shot in the right ankle. The bullet went through the meat and not the bone, so I did not lose my leg. I was taken to the UmslagplatzUmslagplatz: means transfer point, the place in the Warsaw ghetto where the Jews were assembled for deportation.

The Umslagplatz, located at the corner of Zamenhof and Niska streets, was the area dividing the Warsaw ghetto from the Polish part of the city. From this location hundreds of thousands of Jews were deported to extermination camps and concentration camps--mostly to Treblinka between July and September 1942 and January and May 1943.

In 1988 a monument was erected on the site where some 300,000 Warsaw Jews were sent to their deaths. Source: Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.
. The Treblinka extermination camp could only take 10,000 people a day. In our group we were 20,000. They cut off half of our train and sent it to MajdanekMajdanek: one of the 6 extermination camps, it was the only death camp located near a major city in a suburb of Lublin.

The camp covered 667 acres, had a double barbed wire electrified fence and 19 watchtowers. There were 7 gas chambers, a crematorium and 2 gallows. Nearly 500,000 people passed through the camp; of those, 360,000 perished, most from the harsh conditions at the camp, a minority were gassed.

In July 1944 the camp was abandoned; the staff destroyed documents and set fire to the buildings but they failed to destroy the gas chambers and most prisoner’s barracks.

Immediately after the camp’s liberation by the Soviet Army townspeople from Lublin gathered several tons of human ash into a great pile near the crematorium. The camp was designated a national museum. Wiktor Tolkin designed a mausoleum which stands next to the gas chamber-crematorium complex. Inside of a huge marble bowl open to the elements, protected by a dome top supported by 3 pillars, visitors gaze on a black mound of bone-flecked ash. Majdanek is one of the best preserved camps and its exhibits are a chilling reminder of its lethal history.Sources: Encyclopedia of the Holocaust; Young, The Texture of Memory.
concentration camp. Majdanek was another death camp.

Prisoner’s Uniform Jacket

At Majdanek they took our clothes and gave us striped shirts, pants and wooden shoes. I was sent to Barracks 21. As I lay in my bed, an older man asked me how I was. He said, “I can help you.” He had been a doctor in Paris. He took a little pocket knife and operated on me. To this day I do not understand how he could have kept a knife in the camp. There were no medicines or bandages. He said, “I have no medication, you have to help yourself. When you urinate use some of the urine as an antiseptic on your wound.”

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 appellAppell: means roll call; they were a daily feature of camp life. Prisoners had to stand at roll calls morning and night.

The roll calls were punitive as the prisoners were pointlessly made to stand for hours outside in inclement weather. Even dead prisoners had to be turned out and counted. Selections occurred at roll calls where the weaker prisoners would be culled for extermination. Source: Various survivor memoirs (see Bibliography).
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 LagerfuhrerLagerfuhrer: kommandant (commander) of a concentration camp. Source: Dictionary of the Holocaust. , 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 LublinLublin: the Majdanek death camp was located adjacent to and within sight of the city of Lublin. The headquarters of the SS, and Sipo and the SD were located in Lublin approximately 3 miles NE of the Majdanek camp. Source: Historical Atlas of the Holocaust. 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.

A Woman Sent to be Gassed at Auschwitz

When we got off the train, we saw that we had arrived at Auschwitz. There was a selection and some of us were machine gunned in a field there. They did not take them to the gas chambers.

Auschwitz Record of Buna Quarantine

I was taken to get a number tattooed on my arm. I got Number 128232. The separate numbers add up to 18. In the Hebrew language the letters of the alphabet stand for numbers. The letters which stand for the number eighteen spell out the Hebrew word “Chai,”which means life. After I was tattooed, I was given a potato.

Exiting Boxcars at Auschwitz-Birkenau

I was first sent to the camp at Buna. After I got out of quarantine, I was put to work building railroad tracks. The CapoCapo: (Kapo), trustee, an SS appointed prisoner who was the head of a labor squad. He or she retained this privileged position by terrorizing subordinate prisoners.

The Capos were an instrument of the camp regime of humiliation and cruelty, and their role was to break the spirits of the prisoners.

The Capos had warm clothing, enough to eat and lived in a reserved section to the prison barracks. In many instances Capos who mistreated prisoners were put on trial after the war. Source: Czech, Auschwitz Chronicle; Encyclopedia of the Holocaust; various survivor memoirs (see Bibliography).
there was a murderer. I am short, and he would put a short man together with a tall man to carry twenty-foot lengths of iron. The tall man I worked with had to bend his knees.

Auschwitz Record from HKP Buna

One time I fell down and could not get up. The Capo started screaming and beating me, and he pulled me aside. There was a selection, and we had to take off our clothes and stand naked the whole night. The next morning a truck with a red cross came, and they pushed us into it, one on top of the other. We thought that they were going to take us to the gas chambers.

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.

Auschwitz Record of Camp Hospital in Block 20

I lay down. I did not know what was happening or what to think. A young guy came up to me and said, “I know you.” I asked him, “Who are you?” He said his name was Erlich and that he knew me from Majdanek.

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. MengeleMengele, Josef: (1911-1978?), doctor and SS officer, in May 1943 he volunteered to go to Auschwitz and remained there until its evacuation on January 18, 1945. He was noted for his sadism.

Mengele played a prominent role in the selections where deportees were either sent to be registered in the camp or sent to immediate extermination. Mengele’s imperious presence at these selections is noted in numerous survivor memoirs.

Mengele also conducted pseudoscientific experiments at Auschwitz using twins and dwarfs as human guinea pigs. One series of experiments involved dripping chemicals into his victims’ eyes in order to attempt to change their color. He killed his victims himself with injections into their hearts and carried out postmortem examinations on their bodies.

Mengele’s doctoral disertation was titled “The Racial Morphological Investigation of the Front Submaxilla Section in Four Racial Groups.” His research in this regard has been called a precursor to his later work in Auschwitz.

In 1949 Mengele turned up in Argentina where he was given asylum. In 1960 West Germany asked for his extradition, but Mengele escaped to Brazil and from there to Paraguay. He reputedly drowned in a swimming accident in Brazil in 1978. Sources: Czech, Auschwitz Chronicle; Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.
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.

Barracks No. 6, Auschwitz I

I walked to Block 6, and I showed the paper. The man there said, “I cannot let you in until 9 o’clock at night.” I stayed there until the men returned from work. One man asked me, “You are new here; where are you from and what did you do?” I said, “I am from Warsaw and I was a furrier.” He asked me where I lived, and I told him. He asked me if I knew a certain man’s name and I said, “Yes, he is a furrier too, and he lives in such and such street.”

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.

Perimeter, Birkenau Camp

They asked me where I was going to work, and I showed them the piece of paper. They said, “Oh, No! You will not make it over 8 or 10 days in that job.” The job was to work in a coal mine. “The longest anyone lives in that job is two weeks. After that they go to the crematorium.” I was scared. My number was registered as working there. I said, “If I do not go there, then I am going to be hanged next to the kitchen, and the prisoners are going to walk by me.”

Entrance to Crematorium I, Auschwitz I

They said, “Don’t worry.” One guy calls another guy and says, “Go fix this!” They went to the Capo with the piece of paper. This Capo was a murderer. He had a green triangle. The Germans opened up the jails and they made the prisoners our bosses. Some of the boys worked in Canada. When the transports came they separated the valuables. They risked their lives to smuggle out gold and other things. Every day they brought this Capo cigarettes or salami, so he said, “Yes.”

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.

Gas Chamber, Crematorium I, Auschwitz I

There was a beautiful orchestraOrchestra: There were 6 orchestras at Auschwitz including a women’s orchestra at Birkenau and a male orchestra at Auschwitz I which consisted of 100 musicians.

Their activities included playing music for the prisoners who were marching to work and for the arrival of important guests at the camp. In addition, they played at parties for the SS and gave formal concerts for the camp staff.

Various survivor memoirs mention the orchestra’s playing for the arrival of deportees to give them a false sense of comfort. There were orchestras at most of the major concentration and extermination camps. Sources: informal conversation with Bret Werb, Music Archivist at the USHMM; Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.
playing by the gate. They would not let me go to the other job. I stayed with them until the last minute when Auschwitz was liquidated. They helped me out with little pieces of bread and a little soup.

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.

Crematoria II, West View

I was working for over a year with the boys at the same job, digging sand. Ten of us worked in the sand mine. There was a little guy from Breslau that we made our supervisor. He stood on top, and we were 20 feet down below. Every day we loaded up a wagon with the sand and pushed it 16 kilometers. That was 2 trips of 4 kilometers one way and 4 kilometers coming back--over 10 miles a day.

Ash Pool at Crematorium II

Twice a day we carried sand to Birkenau to cover the ashes of the dead. The sand was to cover the ashes that came from the crematoria. I did this for more than a year.

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 SonderkommandoSonderkommando: (Special Commando), 1. a prisoner slave labor group assigned to work in the killing area of an extermination camp. Few Sonderkommando survived as they were usually killed and replaced at periodic intervals. There were several Sonderkommando revolts. The group at Auschwitz-Birkenau staged an uprising in 1944 and set off an explosion that destroyed Crematorium IV.

2. A German unit that worked along with the Einsatzgruppen in the Soviet territories. Their task was to obliterate the traces of mass slaughter by burning bodies. Sources: Encyclopedia of the Holocaust; Historical Atlas of the Holocaust.
, took the ashes out of the ovens. There were big holes for the ashes and we covered the ashes with sand.

Crematoriaum II, North View

I saw when the transports came. I saw the people who were going in, who to the right and who to the left. I saw who was going to the gas chambers. I saw the people going to the real showers, and I saw the people going to the gas. In August and September of 1944 I saw them throw living children into the crematorium. They would grab them by an arm and a leg and throw them in.

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.

Electric Fencepost

The Russians were pushing back the Germans at Stalingrad. Transports were coming from the Lodz ghetto. That is when we saw them grab the little children by the head and the leg and throw them into the crematoria alive. Then the HungarianHungarian Jews: the tragedy of the destruction of Hungarian Jewy is that it came late in the war. The deaths of approximately 550,000 Hungarian Jews occurred between May and July 1944; most of them were gassed at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Germany occupied Hungary on March 19, 1944 in response to the threat of the approaching Soviet Army. Prior to that time the authoritarian government of Hungary, although allied with Nazi Germany, resisted German demands to implement the Final Solution program.

The occupation forces included a Sonderkommando unit headed by Adolf Eichmann. Between May and July 1944 Eichmann succeeded in deporting 440,000 Jews. However, the Hungarian government stopped the deportations in July. In October 1944 when the fascist Arrow Cross Party overthrew the Horthy government in a coup d’etat Eichmann was able to resume his murderous activities.

Eichmann was opposed by efforts to rescue Hungarian Jews, most notably by the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. Wallenberg saved the lives of tens of thousands of Jews in Budapest by creating safe houses and distributing protective passports, the so-called Swedish Schutz-Passes. Source: Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.
people were coming.

Burning Corpses, Summer of 1944

There was this group of young people who wanted to destroy the crematoria. There were four crematoria in Birkenau. The young girls worked at an ammunition factory, and they smuggled in explosives. One crematorium was destroyed. They hung 2 of the girls in front of us when we came back from work.

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 KaddishKaddish: from an Aramaic word meaning “holy”, one of the most solemn and ancient of all Jewish prayers. The Kaddish is recited at a grave and on the anniversary of the death of a close relative.

Although the prayer itself contains no reference to death its use in this regard perhaps arose from the belief that saying the praises of God would help the souls of the dead find everlasting peace.

Besides the Mourner’s Kaddish, regular Kaddish is recited at every public prayer service. Source: Rosten, The Joys of Yiddish.
for my parents with the Rabbi.

Auschwitz Record of Transfer to Dachau

At daylight we came to a small town and the farmers let us stay in the stables. In the evening we had to get out. We walked to a railroad station. In two days the train brought us to Gross-RosenGross-Rosen:a concentraton camp located near a granite quarry of the same name in Lower Silesia. The working conditions involved backbreaking labor in the quarry and special work assignments during what were supposed to be hours of rest.

The camp was expanded into a network of 60 sub-camps involved in armaments production. The main camp held 10,000 and the sub-camps 80,000 prisoners.

The Jewish population of the camp varied. From March 1944 until January 1945 the camp received an uninterrupted flow of Jewish prisoners, including prisoners from the partially evacuated Auschwitz camps.

Gross-Rosen was evacuated in early February 1945 by rail and on death marches. Records show that 489 prisoners were sent to Dachau, 3,500 to Bergen-Belsen, 5,565 to Buchenwald, 4,930 to Flossenburg, 2,249 to Mauthausen and 1,103 to Mittelbau, however, the records are incomplete.Sources: Encyclopedia of the Holocaust; Historical Atlas of the Holocaust.
camp. I never saw the Rabbi again.

Auschwitz Record of Transfer to Gross-Rosen

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 DachauDachau: one of the first Nazi concentration camps opened March 22, 1933, and located 10 miles from Munich. Dachau was a model institution for subsequent camps and a training ground for the SS.

Originally intended for political prisonersCommunists and Socialists, later Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses who resisted the draft and homosexuals were sent there. During the last months of the war Dachau became a dumping ground for inmates from other camps and conditions deteriorated further. Up to 1,600 prisoners were crowded into barracks intended for 200.

Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945 by the US Seventh Army. A trial was held by an American court and 36 members of the SS staff were sentenced to death.

In Dachau, as well as at other Nazi camps, medical “experiments” were carried out where prisoners were used as human guinea pigs. At Dachau there were high-altitude and freezing experiments and a malaria and tuberculosis station. There were tests to see if seawater could be made drinkable. Many inmates who were forced to participate died horrible deaths. The Nuremberg Military Tribunals found that the medical experiments served the ideological objectives of the Nazi regime and that none of them were of any scientific value.Source: Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.
. 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 HashemKiddush Hashem: a Hebrew term meaning “sanctifying the Name [of God]”, denotes exemplary conduct in connection with religious martyrdom.

Historically, the choice of accepting martyrdom was an option, and conversion or expulsion were alternatives. The Holocaust eliminated the element of choice.

Where rescue was impossible and resistance would be futile there are numerous accounts of Jews going to their deaths with dignity. Source: Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.
. 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 PersonsDisplaced Person: (DP), one of approximately 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 persons who had been uprooted by the war and who by the end of 1945 had refused to or could not return to their prewar homes.

When the war ended, most Jewish DP’s were housed in camps behind barbed wire in poor conditions. Until the State of Israel was established in 1948, legal immigration to Palestine was blocked by official British policy. Immigration to the United States in meaningful numbers was also severely restricted until the passage of the Displaced Persons’ Act in 1948. Between 1945 and 1952 approximately 400,000 DP’s immigrated to the United States, of whom approximately 20 percent, or 80,000, were Jewish. Between 1948 and 1951, almost 700,000 Jews emigrated to Israel, including more than 2/3 of the Jewish displaced persons in Europe.

Displaced Persons camps were set up at the end of WWII to house the millions of uprooted persons who were unwilling or unable to return to their homes. By the end of 1946, the number of Jewish DP’s was 250,000, of whom 185,000 were in Germany, 45,000 in Austria and 20,000 in Italy.

The Jewish survivors languished in camps primarily in the Allied zones of occupation in Germany. At first the DPs lived behind barbed wire fences under guard in camps that included former concentration camps. For example, in the British zone the survivors were held at the former Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Some DP’s were housed in better conditions in residential facilities. Eventually, the Jews gained recognition as a special group with their own needs and put into separate facilities. Sources: USHMM, Historical Atlas of the Holocaust; Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.
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 greenersGreeners:greenhorns, inexperienced people, particularly new immigrants, used affectionately among the Holocaust survivors.

The term comes from the Yiddish word "grin" which means the color green.Source: Shep Zitler.
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.

Audio Files

  • Covering the Ashes

    • Duration: 38 seconds
    • Copyright: ©1999, John Menszer
    • Transcript: They got in Birkenau … they got a big 2 holes, big ones, you know, what the ashes was coming out in the crematoria in back through pipes in the holes. And we was 10 people, but we was pushing a wagon in Auschwitz with sand. Sechs [Yiddish for 6]… 6 o’ clock in the morning 1 until 12 o’clock, and from 12 o’clock until 5 o’clock, 1 wagon with sand to cover the ashes every day. This was my job for a few years there.
  • My Wife’s Beautiful Song

    • Duration: 42 seconds
    • Copyright: ©1999, John Menszer
    • Transcript: My wife got a song in the Holocaust museum in Washington. And at first they asked her they wanted it in English, but they tested it … They saw that this don’t fit, never in another language …in Jewish. Because the people was going to Treblinka. They all was Jewish people. This was a song like they say they going the last step, you know, and never coming back. It’s a very, very beautiful song.
  • Nine Weeks in Majdanek

    • Duration: 82 seconds
    • Copyright: ©1999, John Menszer
    • Transcript: I was 9 weeks in Majdanek, 9 weeks, you see, 9 weeks! And I never washed my face the whole 9 weeks because then in the barracks there was no water. We had to go out, you know, in a shed, washing the face, or needing to go to the toilet. Everything over there was the Ukrainer [Yiddish for “Ukrainian”], the Ukrainer they got a half inch… just a half inch, a quarter of an inch iron pipes and knock us in the head and every day fall dead … I never was not one time out washing my face … 9 weeks. When I wash my face, I was out of Majdanek and coming to Auschwitz. I just take off the clothes in 9 weeks what I wear in Majdanek and throw away and take the first shower. And they cut off my hair and everything. And I got a clean shirt and I say, I said to myself there, “God is still with me.”
  • Nobody was Supposed to Stand Up at Night

    • Duration: 48 seconds
    • Copyright: ©1999, John Menszer
    • Transcript: When we were coming … coming to Majdanek, the women were so crazy--not they just hollered, they got out of their mind. A whole night they was lay down in the fields separate, and men are separate. I got a good friend. He was a furrier. He was working for somebody there, and he get up in the middle of the night, and they shot him. We never heard nothing. In the morning I looked around for him, where he is, and I find him dead. Nobody don't supposed to get up … stand up at night.
  • Saying Kaddish at Auschwitz-Birkenau

    • Duration: 33 seconds
    • Copyright: ©1999, John Menszer
    • Transcript: To say the Kaddish, then they have to say for what, how they say Kaddish and for who. And then the Kaddish is not just saying Kaddish. To say Kaddish is to say how the young blood what is in the ground. You see, they killed a lot of children, you see, and the blood sinked in in the ground. That's why I say to say the Kaddish how the blood from the children is in the ground.
  • The Children

    • Duration: 121 seconds
    • Copyright: ©1999, John Menszer
    • Transcript: 1944 when they give up the Lodz ghetto … they give up … they was some in them a people lot of people coming to Auschwitz from Lodz. A lot of people got killed in Lodz. In the ghetto got the children. The Germans hold the people with the children, hold the and the children was grown up a little, and 4 years is not a baby, you know. When they was coming to Auschwitz. When they was coming in 1944, September, October. In the two months, I don’t know what’s happened. Til now nothing can figure out with the Germans … they all was crazy. They… they … they holler to make it go fast …everything the crematoriums. They throw in the people, you know, in the crematoriums … the children. I never will forget … alive … they throw them in the crematoriums … They grabbed by an arm by a leg, by the head, and throw them into the ovens. There it was so tragic the … the … the cries and people when crying there, you know, was so terrible. I can feel it now … I can even see the other people … the other people was crying the … the children was hollering, “Mama, Daddy help me! Mama, Daddy help me!” You know, was was terrible …
  • Treblinka Song: “A Storm Raged”

    • Duration: 140 seconds
    • Copyright: ©1999, John Menszer
    • Transcript: My name is Frieda Radasky. I was born in Warsaw, Poland, and survived the Nazi regime during World War II. When I was in the Warsaw ghetto there was a folk song that described the terribal tragedy that was happened to Warsaw Jews. It described how families were taken to the Umslagplatz amid terror and screams knowing that once they were transported to Treblinka they would never return.

      Treblinka Song: “A Storm Raged”
      Es iz a shturm durkh di velt iz oyfgegangen,
      A storm raged throught the world,

      Es hobn felker farvandelt on lender.
      Leaving people up rooted and homeless.

      On rakhmones yoysherdik khurev gemakht a velt.
      Without pity or justice, a world was destroyed.

      Di zin fun himl aruf gerisn, in fin tog gemakht nakht.
      The sun was torn from the heavens, and day turned into night.

      Dort nisht vayt, shteyt an umshlagplats shoyn grayt
      There, not far, the Unschlagplatz lies waiting.

      Men shtift zikh dort in di brayt in di vogonen.
      People push and shove there for space in the railcars.

      Dort hert men ayngeshray vi dos kind shrayt tsi der mame,
      There, you hear the sound of a child crying to its mother,

      “Vi lozt du mikh aleyn? Di vest shoyn mer zu mir nisht kimen!”
      “Why are you leaving? You’ll never come back to me!”

      Di politsay zay hobn gikh gehaysn--”Gayn!”
      The police shout the order--”Go!”

      “Ir vert nisht visn fink a noyt; ir vert mit kimen dray broyt!”
      “You won’t feel a bit hungry; you’ll get 3 loaves of bread!”

      Un mit di dray kilo broyt hob azy nisht gevist,
      But with those 3 kilos of bread, they did not know,

      Az zay geyen oyf dem toyt.
      That they were being driven to their deaths.

      Treblinke dort;
      Treblinka lies ahead;

      Far yedn eynems gite ort.
      For everyone a nice resting place.

      Ver oysgeyt ahin dort,
      For whoever goes there,

      Kim shoyn nisht mer tsurik.
      Never comes back again.

      Dos harts bavaynt ven men tit zikh nur dermonen,
      The heart weeps when one recalls a sister or a brother,

      A shvester brider zenen dortn umgekumen.
      Who were murdered there.

      Ot shteyt der vogn!
      The train is here waiting!

      Un dos aynz ken ikh aynsogn,
      And there’s only one thing left to say,

      “Az fin Treblinke bin ikh!”
      “That I am for Treblinka!”
      Frieda Radasky learned this song while working in the kitchen at a coal depot in the Praga district of Warsaw (outside the ghetto area) in 1943. The kitchen workers, all young women, witnessed many deportations. The song was written over a period of time. Each worker contributed to the lyrics. The Umslagplatz was the area where Jews were rounded up for deportation from the Warsaw ghetto.
  • Warsaw Looked Like a Cemetary

    • Duration: 69 seconds
    • Copyright: ©1999, John Menszer
    • Transcript: When I was coming to Warsaw, and I saw this town, how this town was looking before and look now … Town looked like a cemetery now. Some 85 % of the buildings was demolished, and nothing there, just the ground, you know. So how … what kind … what kind of feeling I can have there. I look at there and I say where I am. I am in a cemetery lot, or I am in my home birth town, you know? So I never feel good there. Many times I turn around and I cry good, but my crying never helped me. What I saw there, you know, and it’s terrible. I feel it in me like I was nobody. See, I’m born and raised in Poland, in Warsaw.
  • Where is the Synagogue?

    • Duration: 52 seconds
    • Copyright: ©1999, John Menszer
    • Transcript: The synagogue was around a special lot … nothing else know that synagogue. That synagogue is going maybe 2-3000 people. For the High Holidays there was coming that synagogue the best cantors for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, the best cantors. And police was standing outside, and who want to go in used to have to have a ticket, you know, there. I come, I take a look. Where is there the building? Where the synagogue? Demolished to the ground. And little mamzers [Hebrew/Yiddish, lit. “bastards,” but here used affectionately, i.e. little rascals] playing around there in the sand, you know. I say, “Ribono shel Olam [Hebrew/Yiddish, “Master of the World,” i.e. God, a common exclamation], what’s going on here, what is this?”
  • With the Children on a Trip to Poland

    • Duration: 36 seconds
    • Copyright: ©1999, John Menszer
    • Transcript: My memories are coming back right now. In the beginning when I saw there what’s happened, you know. When I saw there what’s happened, I was shaking like a fish in the water and nothing can come to me, you know. But I was with the children, David and Toby, and they hold me back a little bit. I wasn’t there too long. It was a few days. I can be longer, but I don’t want to be there. See, I got a feeling, I don’t want to go.
Shep Zitler Jeannine Burk Joseph Sher Isak Borenstein Solomon Radasky Eva Galler