Chapter 11.A


Since we started to carry bricks we were also made to carry sand.  We were told to put on our jackets backwards, that is with the front to be buttoned in the back thus forming a kind of apron in front.  We were led to a mount of sand, holding out the bottom of our jackets; a couple shovels of sand were dumped in it.  And so we used to walk with the sand all day long.  Although the sand was not heavier than the bricks, maybe even lighter, never the less we were just as exhausted as from carrying the bricks.  The clayey ground refused to part with its water even though the two meter deep hole we dug was half full.  The Lageraltester (camp elder) in person came to examine the situation.  He called together the three Blockaltesters from the nearby blocks that too had the same problem.  They all decided that instead of us walking around all day with sand which serves no useful purpose, we should go to the mount of sand and dump it on the appell grounds.  The next morning right after the appell (roll call), we were told to put our jackets backwards, go to the sand heap, bring the sand and dump it on the appell ground.  The Blockaltester said that he wants it finished by two o’clock.  Nobody hurried us nor chased us, so we continued at the speed of the days before, which was relatively slow.  Two o’clock came and we were far from finished.  It seemed that in the last few days we were lulled into a state of complacency, from which we had been brutally awakened that afternoon.  At two o’clock the Lageraltester (camp elder) appeared. He looked at the appell ground and said something to our Blockaltester (block elder) who in turn called together his assistants the Stubendiensts and gave them some kind of an order.  They dispersed over the camp and were back shortly with capos, vorarbeiter and Stubendients.  This group had an ominous look about them which they did not even try to hide.  They spoke among themselves with anticipation looking at us with contempt as they started to break the handles off the shove

   We, standing in a long line five deep were wondering why they are breaking perfectly good shovels.  It became clear to us as soon as they started swinging the long shovel handles.  They lined themselves along both sides of the muddy road from our barrack to the sand mount. Leaving a space of three meters between them they impatiently started swinging the sticks again.  We were ordered to squat.  The Blockaltester says to us; I told you to have it finished by two o’clock and you did not, so now you will get your punishment.  He ordered the first line of men to stand up and yelled: Run for sand.  The approximately sixty-seventy men of the first row set off between the two rows of overseers who stood with their sticks held high.  They run with bent heads and shoulders over which sticks were falling relentlessly.  At the sand mount they receive one or two shovels full of sand and run back.  The running back is much more difficult than getting there.  The road is narrow strewn with piles of sand, heaps of brick and stones, plus other discarded pieces of building materials.  Woe to him who spills the sand or falls.  But even those that do not fall get beaten just the same.  I squat and think to myself; considering that the seventy men have to keep running approximately one hundred meters in each direction being beaten by several dozen overseers who do not care where their sticks fall, how long can it go on?  The answer comes soon.  I can see some with bleeding heads and faces, bleeding knees and legs from falling over heaps of bricks or sharp rocks, over strewn construction wood pieces with their protruding nails and other sharp objects.  Quite a few are already limping but running out of fear that to fall might spell death.  It lasts for half an hour and it is obvious that at any moment they will start falling and will not get up.  The Blockaltester calls a halt.  They are driven together.  A beaten, bleeding with sweat and blood soaked mass.  They collapse unable to catch their breath. 

The Blockaltester commands the second line to stand up from their squatting position and take their place.  They too get the same treatment as the first ones.  I wonder, "How long can those overseers keep it up".  Do they not get tired?  The question occurs to me if I will be able to take it and I shiver.  The hours squatting will not be of any help in running.  My legs are already numb from squatting.  Among the ones that just went through it are some that are lying motionless.  Will I make it?  The second line has finished and they are not in any better shape than the first ones.  They fall down in the same state as the others.  The Blockaltester steps in front of us and I am bracing myself for his command to the third line.  I am in the fourth line and by the time they will return I will not be able to move.  Instead he says to us; look at your comrades and remember that if you will not obey orders this is only a sample of what will happen to you and now get up and finish your work.  Two hours later when we were lining up for the appell (roll call) we stood on a dry sandy ground.  The next morning when we were driven out to the appell and tea, we carried out the dead that died overnight as it was done every morning, except that every morning there were one or two dead, never more than five.  That morning we carried out twenty eight, the result of the previous day’s treatment.  Despite the fact that the number of inmates in our and the nearby three barrack kept getting smaller, as a result of indescribable hunger, malnutrition, cold, beatings, non-existent medical help nor sanitary facilities, the camp administration did not replace them with other newly arrived inmates.  We found out that the camp administration intended to keep our four barracks quarantined for six weeks and from here to send us to another camp to work. 

In the later part of February one of the Stubendiensts in our barrack announced that we are going to get washed.  We have not washed since the first day of our arrival when we where shaven, disinfected, showered, given underwear, jackets and pants.  In fact we had not even seen water except the so called tea or the dirty puddles on the ground.  We were led to the very first two barracks in our row of the twenty barracks near the entrance through which we were brought to this part of the camp. It turned out that the very first two barracks are actually public outhouses and wash rooms.  At first all I could see was an empty barrack with the inevitable flue that stretched the full length of the barrack.  Half way between the flue and the wall and just as long on either side of the flue stretched a wooden box of some fifty centimeters high and seventy five wide.  On top of the box every seventy five centimeters in two rows were round holes of twenty centimeters in diameter.  On the two long walls of the barrack at a meter off the ground were fastened wooden troughs of twenty five centimeters width and depth which held cold water.  We were divided in groups of fifty, ordered to take off the jackets and undershirts and get washed, of course without soap.  I was in the third or fourth group and when I got to the troughs the water in it was so cloudy that I could not see the bottom through fifteen centimeters of water.  Before I even stuck my hands in the water, I asked someone the meaning of the long wooden box with the holes in it.  The man just said; look in there.  I walked over bringing my face closer to a hole.  Before I even got to it I smelled it.  Still I looked in and saw the deep long hole in the ground and the boards that held the earth from falling in.  I estimated the amount of the round holes to be between sixty and eighty.  If there are so many toilet seats in this part of the camp, how many prisoners do the Nazis intend to squeeze into it, I thought to myself.  I still remember how disgusting it was for me to stick my hands into the trough after examining the very public toilet.  But I did and even splashed some of the murky water on my face.  Without towels I wiped my face with my lice infested undershirt and pulled it on, as I was cold.  Besides, the shirt would dry on me sooner. At the same time remarking to someone near me that I feel dirtier now than before. 

For the record I will mention that at that time after about three weeks in there, we were all without exception lice ridden.  It is only a wonder that someone did not contract typhoid fever which would have meant the end of most of us.  A couple days after our washing process, right after the morning appell (roll call) as soon as the SS men left, leaving us to the supervision of our overseers, we were surrounded by the Stubendiensten who conducted a thorough search of every one of us.  What they were looking for we did not know.  Before dark when we were finishing with the evening appell and were due to be driven into the barrack, the Blockaltester called out one from our lines, a young man from Pruzany, a year or two older than myself by the name of LAIZER K. He put him with his back to the rim of the hole that we dug for the water to run off a week or so earlier.  With a loud voice the Blockaltester said; I will not kill you today.  I will drag it out for several days.  Having said this the Blockaltester delivered a blow to his face with such force that the young man was lifted up from the ground before falling into the hole.  I have mentioned earlier that the two meter deep hole was half full with water and when the young man fell in, he totally submerged.  When he stood up the Blockaltester ordered to get him out.  There again he stood with his back to the hole dripping ice cold water from head to toe.  The Blockaltester delivered another blow and when he got out, he hit him again.  After the third blow and dunking we were driven into the barrack.  The next morning that young man went through the same three immersions and the same in the evening.  We were beginning to admire the young man’s fortitude.  The same happened on the third day.  That evening at the appell we could see his strength is at low ebb and we began to wonder if he will survive another day. Not that death distressed us any more, by then we have seen enough of it.  Our barrack was getting noticeably emptier, but those that have gone, perished through the often conducted selections by the camp doctors, died during the night from the beatings, from hunger, from contracted diseases to which they were afraid to admit to for fear of being taken away to the gas chambers. 

This case was different.  Here a young man unable to resist incomprehensible hunger knowingly risked his life and stole two cubes of margarine from the Blockaltester who in turn stole it from us starving inmates, by giving us smaller pieces than was coming to us so that he could gorge himself with our food while we were expiring from hunger.  Of course our sympathy was on the side of that young man who took from the Blockaltester that which was rightly ours.  We also admired his bravery which to be honest bordered on the irrational or even madness.  That night we noticed some activity in the Blockaltester’s partitioned off corner.  In the early morning when we were being driven out the barrack, we noticed that we have a new Blockaltester.  After the appell we found out that the night’s activities were a result of the sudden dismissal of our Blockaltester who was sent away on a transport, that is; to another camp.  The new Blockaltester knew nothing of the ‘crime’ committed by that young man Laizer and as a result his life was spared.  This Laizer survived the camp and is today a successful businessman in Philadelphia. 

Our new Blockaltester was a German with a green triangle which categorized him as a Berufsverbrecher B.V. (professional criminal).  Since I am mentioning triangles I will explain what those triangles represented; Every inmate in Auschwitz-Birkenau was obliged to have his or her number that they received  upon arrival in Auschwitz marked on a piece of white material sewn on their jacket and pants.  The piece of material was about twelve centimeters long and three centimeters wide.  It was sewn on the jackets chest high and had in front of the number a painted triangle of two and a half centimeters in size.  The colors of the triangles identified the reason for which the internee was arrested. The triangle pointed downwards with its base on top.  I will start with the most prevailing colors first; Red; “Schutzhaftling” preventive custody, political internee. Black; “Asoziale” (A.S.O.) (Asocial) none too precise a concept, prostitutes, gypsies, saboteurs, anything that could not be put a finger on (all encompassing). Green, point down; “Berufsverbrecher” (B.V.) Professional criminal. Green, point up standing on its base “Sicherung-Verwahrte” (SV, PSV) preventive custody i.e. after serving sentence passed by court can be kept indefinitely. Violet; “Internationale-Bibleforsher” (I.B.V.) Jehovah Witness. Purple; Priests and monks (catholic), Pink; Homosexuals. Letter “E” Erziehungs-Haftlinge”; Prisoners sent for reeducation, whose chances of getting out were very slim. 

There were a few inmates that carried a circle five centimeters in diameters on a twelve centimeter square white background.  Black circle, meant “Straf-Kompanie” penal colony; Red circle; “Im Lager” liable to attempt escape or attempted.  Those were not allowed outside the camp proper.  But by far the most visible and numerous triangles in Auschwitz-Birkenau and surrounding affiliated and subservient camps that numbered over forty, the so called “Ausen Lagern” (outside camps), were the so called Jewish triangles.  Those, the Jewish triangles, actually consisted of two triangles.  One the usual red political triangle and the second a yellow one, that was superimposed over the red one but pointing in the opposite direction.  That is to say with the point up.  Thus forming with it a two colored star of David.  Those with stars of David, namely Jews, represented over seventy five percent of the inmates of Auschwitz and over ninety percent of the adjoining Birkenau.  All inmates of Auschwitz-Birkenau that had red triangles (political internees) had printed on their triangles a single letter that identified their county of origin.  For example; Poles had a letter “P”, Frenchmen an “F”, Dutchmen an “H” and so on except for Germans and of course Jews.  Apparently it made no difference to the Nazis the Jewish country of origin. We were all destined for the ovens. 

Shortly after taking over the block and settling in, our new Blockaltester dismissed a couple Stuberdiensten and appointed new ones, including men from our block, that is our own from Pruzany.  To be a Stubendienst meant the end of the constant nagging hunger, thirst, exposure to winter cold and protection from everything that could lead to a horrible and torturous death.  In return however, such a person in most cases had to renounce or sacrifice all human principles according which one has to conduct himself and live by.  One had to forget friends, neighbors, acquaintances and even family by turning against them, joining those who in order to save themselves or in order to prolong their life for a little while longer helped the SS in converting the camp into the hell which it was.  I do not know if those people found it difficult to overcome the change or were they to begin with creatures of such low character.  Maybe I am being too harsh on them with my judgment.  Maybe they were too weak to endure the hunger and beating and gave in to temptation. How can one understand now what it was like at that time?  In any case we were happier with the couple new Stubendientsten from among us than the other non Jewish strangers that treated us with such cruelty. 

Among the Stubendiensten in the three neighboring barracks that housed the other inmates from Pruzany were two Jews from France.  One by the name of FREIHIGHT and the second by the name of SALTY.  If they were any better then the other non Jewish Stubendiensten I do not know. But the fact that they were stubendiensten was enough to instill fear.  Tall well fed, they always kept each other company and did not associate too much with the other non Jewish Stubendiensten.     Once finding myself near a neighboring barrack, I noticed the two of them sitting on a bench having a conversation.  They were totally oblivious to us and spoke quite loudly.  Even though many of them preferred to speak French, when it came to converse about everyday events, they spoke Polish or Yiddish.  As I got close, I heard one say to the other; “Ale ten wladek ma wspanialy cios” (there now Wladek {Wladyslaw} knows how to deliver a magnificent blow/punch).  This remark was made regarding a Polish Blockaltester in one of our four blocks.  After almost an entire month in Birkenau, I have heard and almost gotten used to many unpleasant, offending and repulsing words or statements.  But that remark horrified and stunned me.  I could not imagine how a Jew could admire a non Jewish Blockaltensten for his talent in hurting and killing people.  But before I had the time to fully digest what I just head, I heard the other one replying in a clear Polish accented Jewish; “You son of a bitch, he killed four hundred Jews during one night, is that what you are praising him for?  Is that what you are glorifying  him for”?  In that moment two facts were revealed to me.  One that the Blockaltester from the nearby barrack was capable and did kill four hundred Jews in one night and second that one of the two Jewish Stubendiensten still had in him the decency and moral fairness to berate his equal for admiring that scoundrel and murderer.  I am mentioning this incident in order to give the reader an idea, a concept of the depth to which a human being can sink and the worthlessness of a human life in Auschwitz. 

At the end of February the days became longer and somewhat warmer.  No longer did we huddle to the barrack wall nor to each other.  Instead we began to explore the layout of the accessible part of the camp.  We began to pay more attention to the nearest, number three, crematorium which was constantly belching smoke daytime and sheets of fire at nigh.  At times we used to try and guess how many Jewish souls have been driven inside on a particular day.  At other times how many during the month we have been there.  In our barrack the crowded bunks have long disappeared. Now there was room for everybody.  The inmates fell victim to the often conducted selections, beatings, hunger and sickness that all led to the crematoriums.  We waited impatiently for the end of the six weeks which we were supposedly had to spend in quarantine, in order to weed out the sick and weak.  In this respect the Nazis have succeeded very well.  In fact better than expected.  They have gotten rid of the weak and sick, but they also managed to make many healthy man sick in addition.  There was talk that in the camps where we will be working, the food will be more plentiful.  Even the new block secretary confirmed this much.  The new secretary from the French transport, the so called the forty two thousands, tall, handsome, cleanly dressed never raised his voice.  Always polite despite the fact that he outranked everyone in the barrack except the Blockaltesten,  He did not fit in with the crude, vulgar and murderous bunch of overseers around him.

The days stretched like years with the constant beatings, hunger, filth and lice that crawled leisurely over us, even over our jacket for all to see.  A few days before the end of February, as we were driven into the barrack for our lunch, or rather for the cup of soup, we were told to remain inside.  We remained in the barrack for the rest of the day.  It was only the next morning when we were driven out for roll call we noticed some barracks across us are occupied.  We were not permitted to get closer. Never the less during the day we found out that the new arrivals are gypsies.     The gypsies unlike us Jews did not go through any kind of selection.  They just simply were taken from the train, entire families, men, women, children and baggage, led to the barracks and assigned a family per bunk.  This event became a daily occurrence for a while to the extent that we were permitted to remain outside and watch their arrival and assignment to the barracks.  The two rows of barracks were being filled up fast with gypsies and it was then that this part of the camp became known as the “Gypsy Camp.”  Blockaltesters (block leader) were sent in from the older part of the camp.  Men with “experience”, but the Stubendiensts were chosen from among themselves, the new arrived gypsies.  The first couple days they were confined to the barracks and were not even counted.  They were left alone.  Nobody raised a hand not even the voice at them.  They have come from their homes with their possessions, bulging suitcases, money and food.  The first few days they looked with contempt at the camp soup that used to be brought to them and refused to eat it.  We, barely existing on our starvation diet for a month, began slowly to get closer to the gypsy barracks hoping to benefit something, although we were chased and beaten by the Blockaltesters and our own Stubendiensten.  Still the hunger used to overcome the fear.  So I moved slowly towards a barrack.  Suddenly the barrack door opened and out comes the Blockaltester.  Before I could take one step backwards, he notices me, called me over and told me to stand at the big wide closed door, not to let anyone in or out.  Without another word, he walks away.  I know that by standing outside of the closed door, no manna will fall for me from heaven.  Seeing the Blockaltester way back, a good distance and getting farther, I take a chance, open the door, slide in and close it behind me. 

I start out very slowly along one side of the bunks on which entire families sit with heaps of assorted luggage.  About half way down, I notice sitting on a bunk among a pile of assorted suitcases and bags an old gypsy woman.  She looks at me dispassionately, but I can see in her tired eyes, wisdom and experience.  She winks at me and nods with her head.  I stop and look at the old and wrinkled face which projects so much life experience and understanding.  She pulls out from under an old blanket a red camp bowl half full with yesterday’s congealed soup and says to me in German; I need the bowl.  My spoon is always at hand and I stick it unpretentiously in the congealed soup.  The tasteless, cold and lumpy yesterday’s soup barely slides down my throat.  I wonder how clean it is after staying uncovered all night under her bunk.  But the hunger conquers all.  Still I remember thinking to myself:  Look at you and see what you have turned into.  Did you ever imagine you would eat something like it in your life?  I am almost at my last spoonful when suddenly the door opens and in marches the Blockaltester.  I gulp down what is in my mouth, put the spoon in my pocket and run towards him and the door behind him, as that door is my only escape and salvation.      His curses and the club fall on me simultaneously and follows me a good part of the road.  When he finally lets me off and turns back to the barrack, I stop to wonder if it was really worth the beating I just received for the half bowl of yesterday’s soup. 

The gypsy transports keep on coming.  They are assigned barracks.  They have to carry their own baggage but get help as soon as they are in our part of the camp. Around the newcomers, there are always Blockaltesters, capos, Stubendiensts and other free loaders, all with the hope and intention to benefit from them.  After all, they did not come into the camp like the Jews that had everything taken from them before entering the camp.  There were musicians among them who brought with them their instruments like violins, guitars, mandolins, and accordions.  As the beginning of March got warmer, they formed a couple bands and used to give concerts in the middle of the afternoons.  The men with long hair and clean shaven faces used to dress in their Sunday best and try to go for walks on the clayey road trying hard not to dirty their shoes,  an impossible task.  Some of the women tried to do the same in high heel shoes but gave up after a short attempt.     A couple more days go by and we notice that not only the camp bread becomes precious to them but the soup too.  We start to wonder how long will it be before they will look like us.  In mid March, right after the roll call, when we usually used to be driven into the barrack for the night, we were ordered to remain standing outside.  Shortly after, we joined with all the others from the other three barracks. Now we were together from the four barracks.  That is all the men from Pruzany selected to enter the camp, a total of just over twelve hundred men.  We were lined up in a long line five in a row. A detachment of SS arrived and we are being counted. I look around at those in my barrack and realize that many of those that came with me are missing.  Especially are noticeable the many Dutch Jews whom I did not know personally but were noticeably absent because of their language and height. Now there are hardly any to be seen.  We are being counted by the SS men over and over.  There are barely eight hundred of us in total, from over the twelve hundred from Pruzany, some one hundred Dutch and two hundred from Bialystok that joined us as we entered this part of the camp, the so called gypsy camp, which indeed it became as soon as we left it that very evening.

Here I want to submit the exact number of men and women of ghetto Pruzany that entered the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in the four days of the evacuation, and their arrival in Auschwitz.  Included are the first and the last running numbers tattooed on the arms of the men and women on each of those four days upon entering the camp.


Left Pruzany             Arr. Auschwitz             No. of    No. of             Rec. # from - to

                                                          Women   Men                  Women             Men


28-1-1943         30-1-1943                275           327             32604-32879   97825-98151

29-1-1943       31-1-1943                    32           249             33325-33357   98516-98765

30-1-1943       1-11-1943                  180          313              33358-33537   98778-99091

31-1-1943         2-11-1943                105           294             33928-34033   99211-99505


The above details are from the archives of the Polish State Museum in Auschwitz-Birkenau (Oswiecim-Brzezinka) which include the investigation files of the Gestapo activity in Eastern Prussia in which Pruzany was included at that time.  There are also the files of the court records procedures, as well as the verdict of the court who the accused Gestapo men appeared before.  The trial took place in the German town of Bielefel.  The presiding judge was Judge WITTE assisted by Judge HOPPE and Dr. GAEBERT and a sworn in jury.  The accused Gestapo men were: Dr. ALTENLOCH, HEIMBACH, ERRELIS and DIBUS.  The arrangers and supervisors of the transportation of Pruzany to Auschwitz were Kriminal Oberassistant Wilhelm and SS Rottenfurer Muth.  The verdict was announced on the 14-IV-1967.


The SS men counting us talk in a loud voice and we now know how many we are from all the four barracks taken together.  The number is frightful.  The mind does not want to accept it.  Is it possible that we are only eight hundred men left from around fifteen hundred?  We were twelve hundred from Pruzany, two hundred from Bialystok and a hundred Dutch Jews.  Is it possible that a half of us perished in a period of six weeks without even working?  What is the sense?  What is the reasoning in keeping us for six weeks in quarantine during which time half of us died by beating, hunger and disease? While the other half is in such a state that it would not be able to put in a days work.  It all suddenly looked so senseless, so absurd, and so ludicrous. We just stood there not knowing what to say or ask one another.  They finally got their numbers straight.  We were surrounded by SS men with rifles at ready and ordered to march.  We march through our part of the camp through the very same hole in the fence through which we marched in six weeks ago.  We march on a dirt road.  On either side barbed wire fences.  It seems we are between two camps.  The one on the right looks a bit older, then on the left which is brand new.  It is a couple of hours since the sunset but the camp is so lit up that even a fly could not hide.  We march along rail way tracks and I recognize the spot where we arrived and disembarked six weeks go.  We pass by a long stone and brick building that is being built and which will later be known as the guard rooms.  There is empty space afterwards on either side of the dirt road.  After less than an hours walking, we find ourselves between what seems stables and suddenly as we come out from behind those buildings we see in front of us a tall well lit metal rod gate over which fastened to two metal rods in a semicircle in black metal letter a sign that reads: “Arbeit Macht Frei” (work makes you free).  We stop in front of the gate.  I am in the first row and while we wait for the others to catch up, I look around.  I see the camp is surrounded with a double barbed wire fence which is electrified. Around the outside barbed wire fence there is a solid cement wall of two and a half meters high.  I realize that the solid cement wall was not built to stop escapees, for it is humanly impossible to get through the two electrified fences plus the SS men on the guard towers all around.  I come to the conclusion that the solid fence is to stop others from looking in.  I look up again at the sign that says “Arbeit Macht Frei” and think to myself: What  mockery!  In the last six weeks in Birkenau I got acquainted only too well with the Nazi promises, with their respect for and value of human life.  Aren’t they ashamed, even for their own men, to put up such a glaringly flagrant and deceiving sign?

       Through the gate I see large buildings looming inside.  They appear even bigger behind the lamp shades that illuminate the camp. I look at the difference between this camp and the one we left behind an hour ago and wonder what does this one hold for us.  From the nearby guard house appear several SS men.  Two of them open the wide gate and we begin to march in while being counted carefully.  We are being led between rows of two story brick buildings to the very last of one row next to the fence.  As soon as we enter the building I can smell the unmistakable odor of disinfectant which reminds me of a shower for which I have been longing so much.  The filth on our lice ridden skin is a centimeter thick.  In groups of two hundred we are being shaven completely, disinfected and showered.  We receive a set of underwear, a pair of pants and jacket, a cap in the shape of a beret and a coat.  True the coat is made of the same material as the camp uniform, that is the striped pajama like style and has no lining nor does it give any warmth but still it carries the name coat. 

    By the time we all went through the entire process it was daylight.  We were driven outside and watched as the work groups are being formed to go to work.  As soon as they left we were taken to the appell platz (the roll call square) which was in front of the kitchen.  There we were divided in specialized work groups.  This was done by the overseers under the supervision of the SS.  There were a lot of tradesmen or artisans among us that were needed for the rapidly growing camp and the industry that was being developed in the vicinity.  During the process of assigning work the SS did not miss an opportunity to have their bit of fun with us.  One of them announced that they need typists.  There were a few typists among us, but many figured that they can assure themselves with an easy job and claimed to be typists.  After the SS had their share of fun with them and a good deal of mockery they sent them all to work at unloading trainloads of bricks, stones and sand which turned out to be one of the worst places to work.  When they called for locksmiths, I stepped forward.  In all we were a group of some twenty men. We were taken to block 18 which was opposite the kitchen. 

I will take a moment to describe the layout of the block.  Unlike Birkenau, where the buildings were referred to as barracks, which they were, in Auschwitz I, the buildings were referred to as blocks.  Those were two story brick buildings divided into two separate entities.   The first floor and basement was under one Blockaltesters jurisdiction and in our case that was block number eighteen.  The second floor and attic was run by another Blockaltester and his own Stubendiensten and was called 18”A”.  Block eighteen and block eighteen “A” were two separate entities, completely independent of each other, not interfering in each others business, even though under the same roof.  In fact even the entrances were separate.  While block eighteen used the front entrance, block eighteen “A” used the side one.  We are being led through the front door into a long hallway at which end is another door leading to the outside.  The floor of the hallway is clean and we notice several doors leading off the hallway.  We are led to a door with a number four over it.  We are welcomed by a man of about thirty, of medium height, who would be referred as stout in normal times.  Such a terminology did not exist in Auschwitz.  It would have to be invented.  His triangle is red with the letter “P” for Polish.  He looks us over pretends that he is pleased with the fact that we are Polish Jews, as it will be easier to communicate.  Asks where we are from and when we tell him we can see the blank look in his eyes.  While this almost cordial conversation goes on, he mentions that he is the Stubendienst in this Stube (room).  The door suddenly opens and in comes the Blockaltester, the one that brought us into this room and during our conversation with the Stubendienst disappeared.  He holds four or five loaves of bread and explains to us that this bread does not represent our daily ration which we will get tonight.  This is a personal present from him to us.  He stands and watches as the Stubendienst cuts it up and divides it among us.  We exchange glances and I wonder if we are not dreaming, thinking about the reception we received in Birkenau six weeks ago.

The Stubendienst assigns us bunks.  I am assigned bunk number sixty four.  Here I have a chance to look around the Stube (room) which is one of the four on this the main floor.  It is fully separated from the others with a solid stone wall.  The two doors leading into the room are on either end of the room leading to the long hallway which is in turn connects to the other three rooms on the floor.  There is also a door which opens into the public toilet, another to the wash room yet another to the room of the Blockalesten.  As one enters our Stube (room) there are three tier bunks on either side.  In front of you is an empty space of two by four meters taken up by a table.  A space of almost a meter wide runs the length of the room to the other end where there is the same size space and table.  This connecting passage is the main passage of the room.  The rest of the room is taken up with three tier bunks, except for a couple very narrow passageways, just wide enough for the emaciated bodies to squeeze through in order to get to their bunk.  The bunks are individual, about sixty centimeters wide. They are fenced in with low boards so one should not roll off.  On each bunk there is a straw sack and two blankets, one to sleep on the other to cover with.  The Stubendienst tells us to take off our shirts turn them inside out and look for lice.  We are sure that we have no lice, only a few hours ago we were shaven from top of the head to the toes, disinfected and well scrubbed under a hot shower.  How can we have lice?  The Stubendienst insists and we obey.  Lo and Behold!!  We find lice in our undershirts.  Where do they come from? The answer comes from   the Stubendienst himself.  You can not rid yourselves of lice with one disinfection and a shower.  They bite into the skin and lay eggs.  We continue our hunt for lice and squash them between our thumb nails.

At noon we receive a red enamel bowl and line up for our soup.  We do receive a full litre of soup, even though it is three times as much as in Birkenau, it does not satisfy our hunger.  The afternoon we spend with the Stubendienst who acquaints us with the regulations of the stube (room), the block and camp, also how to make the bed.  It should be straight as an arrow and where the toilets are with the individual enamel seats.  The washroom with several long troughs over which there is a constant flow of water day and night.  The walls of the washroom, troughs and floor are all tiled.  One is not allowed to enter the washroom with his shirt on.  The punishment is severe for no obedience.  The longer he speaks the more threatening his voice becomes and his attitude almost fatherly this morning, is slowly being replaced by that characteristic Birkenau air.  Without exchanging a word between ourselves, we begin to understand that it would be advisable not to underestimate his unfinished sentences which ended mostly with “if not”.  Shortly after six the working groups so called “commandos” began to return from work.  Our Stubendienst whose name was “Kazik” (Kazmir) led us outside and put us in the line with the others from our block who have just returned from work.  The Blockaltester knows that his new twenty arrivals which are called in camp language “Zugang” are unfamiliar with the appell (roll call) procedure.  We, the entire six hundred men in our block line up ten deep to facilitate the counting.  The method of counting is such, as we are lined up in straight lines like soldiers an SS man comes over to do the counting. The Blockaltester yells “Achtung” (attention).  We pull in the empty stomachs and puff out our bony chests.  Again we hear him yell “Mutzen” (hats), and everybody like a perfectly synchronized machine grabs with his right hand his cap “Ab” (off).  Every hand pulls the cap off the head and brings it down with a loud slap to his thigh.  The SS man walks slowly by the front row, making sure there are nine more behind the one in front, counts the front row, gives a nod to the Blockaltester and walks to the center of the appell platz (place) to report his findings to the “Rapportfierer.”  We hear again “Mutzen” (hats) we bring our hats to our heads “Auf” (on) and leaving the caps as they land on our heads, we bring our hands down to our thighs with a loud slap.  If one is late a split second, it is heard immediately and the culpable get a good thrashing from the Stubendiensten.

After a few dozen tries and many blows we respond to the command like old pros.  From where we are I can see the assembled groups in front of block seventeen, sixteen, fifteen and fourteen.  They are all going through the same exercise.

The SS man that counted us goes to the center of the Appell Platz where from nowhere appeared a small portable stand. An SS officer stands nearby with a book in hand. The SS man comes over, salutes and reports the number of prisoners he just counted in his assigned block.  The officer marked the numbers down, added them up and by the time this was done the Lagercommendant showed up.  As he was approaching that portable stand we could hear the command “Mitzen Ab” and this time the entire camp did it simultaneously.  The officer who did the total adding and who was addressed according to his function as “Rapportfierer” not according to his rank quickly marched over to the camp commandant, saluted and reported to him the number of prisoners.  As soon as this was over we heard the command “Mitzen auf” (hats on) and dismissed.  For the record I will add that the name of that SS officer the “Rapportfierer” of Auschwitz was Oswald KADUK.  He was one of the top functionaries in the Auschwitz death factory.  He succeeded to avoid justice for forty years and, when finally caught and brought before the court , he was one of the very few Nazis that refused to express regret for his part in the Holocaust, nor his actions in Auschwitz.  I can still remember how we used to try to stay out of his sight, never mind his reach when he used to walk into the camp.  And to think that this man was accountable only to the camp commandant Rudolf HOSS, under whose command one and three quarter million human beings were put to death, among them a million and a half Jews.  As soon as we were dismissed after the Appell some of us went back to the Stube (room).  Others began to look around the nearby blocks for others from Pruzany.  We did not remain long outside as eight thirty we had to be back in the stube.  If we expected something to eat that evening it was in vain.  All we got is a few mouthfuls of the bitter water which was called Tea in camp.

At exactly eight thirty the sound of a gong was heard all over camp.  Our Stubendienst Kazik yelled in a loud voice: Stubensperre (room curfew).  Nobody is allowed outside the room except to the wash room which was across the hallway almost opposite our room.  We hear his voice again: “Louse appell”. (lice roll call). Everyone takes off his shirt, turns it inside out and starts looking for lice.  My bunk is the middle one.  On the bottom one I see sits a man in his mid thirties, whose  number is four, two, zero, zero, zero, exactly forty two thousand.  By his number I can tell that he is from France.  He is of medium height, broad shouldered and not at all emaciated.  I quickly determine that he is from the French transport, that.we already met a couple of his compatriots in Birkenau and, he is not hungry.  Who is he?  Still he has a friendly face and not at all hostile. I say to him a few words and he is curious to start a conversation.  He turns out to be a very nice man.  He is trying to help with the only thing he has; Camp experience.  As we talk a tall man of over six feet comes over according to his red triangle, I can tell that he is a political internee and the letter “P” tells me that he is a Pole.  The French Jew whose name is FISH welcomes him with a polite “Good evening Mr. Leon”.  The other just as politely answers “Good evening.” adding, I see we have a new neighbor.  With those words he puts one foot on the side board of the bottom bunk, grabs with a hand the side board of the third bunk, puts his other foot on my the second bunk and propels himself onto the third bunk.  Not having slept the previous night and knowing that there is a straw sack with a blanket over it waiting for me, besides one to get covered with and despite the hunger, I could not wait to lie down.

    Another gong and I hear the Stubendienst voice:”Ligths-out” and everything is suddenly concealed in darkness.  A bit of light enters through the two little windows in the doors.  It comes from the washroom across the hall that is always lit.  It seems I just shut my eyes when I hear the gong and right after it the light in the room comes on and the thundering voice of the Stubendienst “Aufstein” (get up).  He told us yesterday that we do get up at four thirty.  Is it already four thirty?  Has the night already gone?  Everyone jumps off the bunk, pulls on his pants and pulls off the shirt.  We have forgotten that one gets washed in the morning, but you are not allowed in with your shirt on.  The water runs constantly and can not be stopped.  I stick my hands under the rapidly flowing water and my fingers get numb from cold.  I splash some water over my face and neck and realize that I have nothing to dry myself with.  All other inmates have some sort of towel but the newly arrived have none.  We use our shirts to dry ourselves.  We get dressed and line up near the table in the back part of the room where the Stubendienst is handing out to each one a quarter of a loaf of bread and a tiny piece of sausage.  At the other table in the so called front part of the room I see sitting the so called “Prominent” inmates.  They are a capo and about half a dozen of his assistants the so called “Vorarbeiter” (foremen).  I recognize among them the Pole that I met yesterday, the one that sleeps on the third bunk over me. They are being served by a Pole of about twenty five by the name of Zygmund W., who slices for them bread not from the quarters but from a whole bread, and spreads over it margarine and covers it with slices of sausage.  They sit calmly, eat slowly until they are full, and wash it down with the same tea that we get but they sweeten it.  How and where from do they get whole loaves of bread or cubes of margarine I have not the slightest idea.  The slices of sausage that are covering the margarine on their bread are thicker than the slices we get.  I know not to ask and stay patiently in line for my piece of bread and the tiny piece of sausage.  I get my piece of bread and it seems to me that the man before me got a bigger piece.  I get upset, fate short-changed me this morning.  I glance once more at the piece of bread in that other mans hand and I am not so sure if his quarter bread is any bigger than mine.  I get the piece of sausage which is less than a centimeter thick and am being driven outside where we are being lined up for the appell, like yesterday. 

We practice several times with our caps the “on off” exercise and hear the Blockaltester announce that the new arrivals of yesterday shall line up with the D.A.W. group after the appell is over.  As soon as the apell is over we hear all over the camp the command “Commando Eintreten” (Fall into work groups).  Everyone is running to his “Commando” (group) where he works.  Our commando by the name of D.A.W. (German repair shops) is the largest in the camp, numbering twelve hundred men.  We are divided up in groups of hundreds, five men abreast, twenty rows to the hundred.  In charge of each hundred is a capo who appoints ten men of his hundred to be in charge of each ten.  The ones in charge of the ten marks down their numbers and passes it on to the capo.  I can hear an orchestra playing and see groups of prisoners marching towards the gate.  It is not day yet but everything around is well lit up.  We are not being delayed on the way to work and are one of the first to leave the camp.   After all, we are twelve hundred men and very important for the German war industry as well as for the extension of the camp proper.  I see the first hundreds already marching ahead and in military fashion and I myself do the same.  We are marching, to my left I am leaving behind the camp kitchen with its tall chimneys. Past the kitchen there is a green lawn with rows of chairs on which sit a couple dozen musicians in their freshly cleaned and pressed striped camp uniforms.  The conductor on a pedestal conducts the orchestra very professionally.  We turn left towards the gate, trying hard to march to the beat of the march they are playing. I try hard to be abreast with the other four in my line. At the gate stand several SS men of different ranks.  They count very precisely but do not interfere in our march.  Out of the gate and I feel better.  I can turn my head even look around.  The ones around me are all from my block.  Most of them Poles.  They see in me immediately a new comer and ask where I am from.  Receiving the answer that I am from Poliesie, their curiosity satisfied, they do not ask anything more.   I think to myself; one country and I couldn’t be more than five hundred kilometer from them, yet they do not even know what to ask, as if we are not only from one country but not even one world.  Is it then surprising that during the Polish era the majority of the Christian population in our parts of the country considered the Poles strangers and the feeling was mutual, that even now the Poles do not want to know and do not care what is happening in those eastern parts of the former Poland.

We go on for about a kilometer and turn into a yard of a large factory.  I see a large four story brick building painted over white and across five large wooden barracks in style of the Birkenau barrack but much wider and very much longer.  I hear again the command “Commando Eintreten” (work groups fall in).  Everybody runs to his assigned place except us the twenty men locksmiths from our “Stube” (room) and some fifty carpenters that were assigned to block eighteen “B” which takes up the second floor and attic in our block 18.  We are approached by a few capos and foremen or Vorarbeiter.  They read out everyone’s number, they know already everyone's trade and where to take him.  We are broken up in smaller groups; the carpenters in small groups are being led to the two large barracks and into the four story brick building.  The large barracks are being called halls.  The locksmiths are divided into two groups and taken into the third and fourth hall.  I am directed into the third hall.  Entering I noticed rows of partly or completely dismantled ammunition wagons around which prisoners are working.  As I pass by I notice that the wagons without exception are to a certain degree damaged, some beyond repair.  Along the walls of that large barrack are work benches near which more inmates are working.  The capo, a short broad shouldered man with a thin twisted face of a criminal and a green triangle to go with it offers me a skeptical glance, fastens a piece of metal in the vise and handing me a file says “File.”  I took the file in my hand not understanding precisely the sense of the test.  Just because I know how to file does not mean to me that I am a lock smith.  At school in Brest-Litowsk I have made more complicated work than this and I still did not consider myself to be a tradesman.  The moment I apply the file to the metal, I can tell that the metal has too much give and in order to file it properly, it has to sit deeper in the vice, but I do not dare do it.  After all the capo put it this way and who am I to correct it.  So I start to file  The capo looks at my filing approvingly, and then asks me why I did not lower the piece of metal deeper into the vise.  I tell him that he put it there and told me to file.  Without a word, he and his foreman turned away and march off towards another of us new arrivals to put through the test.  One of his foremen take me to a work bench around which some eight or ten men are working.  Turning to one of them, apparently one in charge of the group, he says; here is your new man and walks away.  The nearby workers look at me first inquisitively and I return the same look.  We are looking at each others triangles and I do not see a single Jewish star.  What I see is dissatisfaction and outright hostility in their faces.  They turn around as if I was not there and go back to work.

My immediate boss shows me where to find the needed tools.  He points at a demolished ammunition wagon and says, "Start taking it apart".  Our work consists of dismantling the damaged ammunition wagons.  They are entirely made of metal and most of the joints are welded together.  Still there is a large amount of nuts and bolts that give strength to their construction.  Partly due to the damage and partly to the design it is difficult to get to the many screws.  In order to get to them, one is forced to crawl in the narrow and tight compartments of the wagons and their damaged state complicates it even more.  With me at our work bench are a couple Poles, three or four Czechs and as many Russians.  The Czechs are older men, some in the thirties, the others in early and mid twenties.  The Czechs and Poles wear red triangles (political), the Russians black. The work is strenuous but nobody stays over you with a stick.  Exactly at twelve we hear a loud whistle.  Everybody drops his tools wherever he stands and runs outside.  In the middle of the factory yard are being formed five long single lines of prisoners supervised by capos where at the head stood the “Ubber kapo” (head kapo.)  With their yelling and at times with a stick they keep our lines in order.  I notice that every inmate has a red bowl, except the newcomers.  It does not take long befoe we too get those standard camp bowls and wait patiently for our soup.  Among the kapos I notice a large man and as for Auschwitz a very old one.  I estimate him to be between fifty and sixty.  He walks along the rows of prisoners without a stick or a sound.  I come to the conclusion that he must already have such a reputation that he has no need for a stick or yell.  He turns around and I notice the Jewish star or rather the two triangles, the red and yellow superimposed over each other.   A few days later I found out that this man is originally from Berlin by the name of ROSEN.  By profession an engineer who before the war designed and manufactured all the machinery that was now in this plant and who keeps the entire plant running as he was the only person who knew their complexity and was able to direct the repairs when they broke down.  For this purpose he had a couple dozen mechanics to his disposition and was appointed kapo over them.  I also found out that this man never raised his voice to anybody and certainly not a stick.  That every morning he use to gather a “Minyan” (ten men needed) to conduct religious services, for what if caught, he would have most likely paid with his life.

    I get my liter soup and relish every spoonful.  Before I know the liter soup is gone and I scrape the empty bowl with my spoon until it is as clean as if I washed it.  I think to myself how nice it would be to have another liter.  Everyone hides his empty bowl around the work bench and I do the same.  The spoon remains in my pocket never to be parted with.  Who knows when an occasion might arise when I will need it?  At six o’clock the whistle blows.  The workers tidy up in a hurry.  The foreman makes sure the tools are back in place and everybody runs outside to fall in the respective hundred in which he came to work. We are being counted by the capos and start the march back to camp.      As we pass the camp gate we are again closely counted.  We march on.  To the right plays the orchestra and to the left the block twenty four seems to be unoccupied.  We reach the end of that block and turn right passing by the kitchen and we are in front of our block eighteen.  Again we line up in lines ten deep.  A few minutes later we stand again like well trained soldiers being counted by a couple of SS men.  We go through the same procedure as in the morning with the hats on and off, shortly after we are dismissed.  I can now move around freely, but where do I go or what do I do when the hunger muffles all feeling and occupies all thoughts.  I am unable to think about anything else but food and start wandering among the blocks, maybe something will come my way.  But nothing does.  The buildings are made of brick, the ground a solid asphalt and the inmates are a human diversity of suffering beyond imagination.  Yes I see some well fed prisoners.  These are the privileged ones and the prominent ones in the camp.  They are the “Blockalteste” (Block elder), capos, Stubendiensten (Room elders), Block Schreiber, (Block registrar), and others without rank that were given good positions.  They are all well dressed in clean and freshly pressed uniforms.  They walk erect, almost with a military gait and noticeable aloofness.  Most of them wear their green triangles as if it was a badge of honor, having completely forgotten that it identifies them as professional criminals never to be released.  There are others among those elite besides the German criminals.  Some are Polish inmates, mostly with red triangles, political prisoners, many belonging to the Polish intelligentsia. Some of them managed to get themselves comfortable jobs, or I would rather say positions.  But by far the overwhelming majority consisted of emaciated, hungry, starving, walking skeletons.  The so called in camp slang “Muselmanner” (Moslems) that consisted almost entirely of Jews, except for some Russians and gypsies, which were barely noticeable among the multitude of the Jewish walking skeletons.  Their deep sitting eyes, the sunken almost transparent cheeks, the protruding jaws, the dry lips that could not shut over teeth expressed so much suffering and hunger that for a moment I felt to be more fortunate than they.  A question came to my mind and I asked myself, “How long will it be before I will look like them”?  Depressed and in shock, I returned to my stube where I take off my shirt.  Turning it inside out, I began to look for lice.

Compared to the bunks in Birkenau, the bunks in Auschwitz were comfortable. At nine o’clock the lights went out and everybody layed down to sleep. The hunger however was so intense that I could not shut my eyes.  I start thinking of the food I ate at home before the war.  About the food that I did not like and refused to eat, or that I left on my plate to be thrown out.  I think of home, my dead parents, sisters and brother, grandparents and reprimand and scold myself for becoming so unfeeling, so morally degraded that instead of grieving and mourning the loss of my family, I think of food.  Yet the exhaustion of the day that started at four thirty in the morning, the twelve hours long work day and the constant nagging hunger took its toll and I fell asleep.  The days became a routine.  To my surprise, a couple days later right after returning from work and after the appell (roll call), we line up block after block on the appelle platz in front of the kitchen where each of us inmates receives half a loaf of bread and a slice of sausage. I found out that this extra half a loaf and the slice of sausage which is called in camp “Tzulage” (additional) is a twice a week occurrence.  I eat up the half loaf of bread and the piece of sausage and am surprised to find out that I am still hungry.  The few days go by working and continuous thinking about food.  Sunday we sleep in an extra half an hour and get up at five. After the appell, we receive the regular quarter bread and a small piece of cheese that smells terrible.  I hold the piece of cheese for no more than two minutes before it is gone and during the day wash my hands several times. Yet I can smell it on my hands the next day.

      The Stubendienst (room elder) orders everyone to shave.  Not only our faces but the heads too.  There is in our stube (room) a professional barber.  A Jewish man from France and is referred to as the Block Barber. There are also a hundred men in our stube, an impossible job for one man.  He shaves only the big shot prisoners like the Stubendienst and his assistant, the capo, and the half dozen foremen.  To shave us ordinary inmates, he picks three men from among us to do the job.  In return the three men will receive a liter soup extra at noon when the soup will be distributed in the stube.  The three chosen are not barbers and are as handy with a razor as I.  As a result, when the job was done there were quite a few walking around with cuts to their faces or heads as if after a brawl.  I down my liter soup in seconds and my stomach feels as empty as before.  I look with envy at those who are still eating theirs and are savoring every spoonful.  I am mad at myself for having eaten so fast and having to look now at the others still eating.  A couple of us are ordered to collect the bowls, take them to the washroom and wash them.  It is one o’clock Sunday afternoon, when the Stubendienst yells “Bet rue” (bed rest) and all have to lie down for two hours.  “The accursed Nazis” I think to myself. On one hand they are killing here thousands of innocent people daily; make us work until we fall dead and on the other hand, the hypocrisy of giving us two hours bed rest every Sunday afternoon for which we will repay them by working twice as hard tomorrow.  After the two hours rest, the prisoners are told to write letters home, except of course the Jews who have nobody to write to and the Russians.  I presume for security reasons.

The first Sunday was unfortunately the last quiet Sunday for us Jews for a long time.  The following Sunday right after the appell, the capos started the rounding up of “volunteer” workers to unload building material from rail cars.  The material consisted of bricks, stones, sand, cement and planks, entire logs and the like.  The supervisors were a mixed lot from all blocks that consisted of capos, foremen and their cronies that were eager to please the many SS men around by beating the emaciated bodies of the starving inmates.  An action that used to delight the SS man who used to roll in laughter and delight.  Of course I was taken too and came back to the camp at noon for our liter of soup. After the six hours of such work returning to the stube beaten, bleeding, barely dragging the feet, we got our liter of soup.  The remaining hours of the Sunday, we spent licking our wounds and cuts.  The hunger became a constant companion which did not leave me for a moment and all my plans to satisfy it remained a dream.  The halley or oversized barrack in which we worked were heated by tin ovens.  They were larger than regular petrol barrels that stood upright.  Its top was cut away and lowered inside half way down the barrel in which inch size holes were drilled. The top was replaced with a flat piece of tin.  In the lower part of the barrel were few holes for creating a draft.  The upper part of the barrel was filled with sawdust set on fire and covered with the piece of tin.  An attached tin flue (chimney) led to an opening in the ceiling.

     Several days later I noticed that the Russian inmates working with me are stringing potatoes on a piece of wire and lowering them into the fire to bake, bending the upper end of the wire on the rim of the stove.  To my question as to where they got the potatoes I got no answer.  As the hunger drove me to despair and my mind was constantly occupied with thoughts of food, I began to approach the pile of garbage that used to lie in front of the kitchen every morning that the kitchen night shift used to throw out.  It consisted of rotten vegetables and potatoes that even the SS men saw it unfit for the prisoners.  One morning before lining up for work, I went over and started to rummage in that garbage heap.  From nowhere, appeared someone with a stick and drove me away.  It occurred to me to get up before the gong, that is, before four thirty in the morning to run across to the heap of garbage.  This entailed risking my life for it was forbidden to leave the block before the gong at four thirty.  Never the less I got dressed in the dark stube (room) lying on my bunk in order not to arise suspicion, I sneaked out of the room into the long corridor and through the main door outside to the pile of garbage.  There I filled my pant’s pockets with the rotten oozing potatoes.  Entering the block, I did not dare to enter the stube as it was close to sounding of the gong and I might be noticed.  I went into the toilet and spent the next few minutes in fear somebody should not find me there.  As soon as the gong sounded, the entire block came to life and became a beehive. In that tumult, I entered the room; quickly taking off the jacket and shirt I went to the washroom where I became one of the crowd.  The rotten potatoes, consisting of an oozing mass, kept filtering through my pant’s pockets like through a strainer, oozing, dripping down my legs and my pant on my shoes.  Once at work, I used to string them on a piece of wire and bake them in the oven.  While the Russians used to put in good potatoes they used to come out nicely baked, mine that were rotten to begin with, came out pieces of an undistinguishable burned substance.  I knew that those burned pieces of rotten potatoes have no nourishing value, just the opposite.  I can get sick from it, but for the moment something went down my stomach that made me feel as if I have eaten something.

One morning, after I have worked there for about two weeks, our capo passes by and notices the pieces of wire hanging out from under the tin plate covering the stove.  Lifting the cover, he saw lthe strings of potatoes.  His face turns angrier than usual and with his harsh voice he thundered; Whose is it?  I am astonished seeing the four Russians, whose potatoes they really were, pointing their fingers at me.  I was hurt and offended knowing that the young Russians hail from deep Russian where fellowship is a virtue and anti-semitism is officially strictly prohibited. Since I have been working with them I succeeded in establishing a rapport of sorts with them, speaking their language and as of late being a former Soviet citizen like them.  It appeared to me that they have accepted me as one of their own.  Without a word the capo handed me over to one of his vorarbeiter (foremen) who tells me to follow him. We go out our “Halley” number three pass by halley number two and them one and we find ourselves at the edge of a huge lumber yard which I will refer to in its German name “Holtz Platz”.  He leads me through rows of stocked up piles of timbers and planks of assorted lengths, thickness and width. He leads me to a group of working inmates.  The unavoidable foreman comes over and my escort says to him: “Here is one more for you” and then turns around and leaves.  My new supervisor barely offers me a glance and gives a bark pointing with his long stick at the nearby group.  “Go to them.”  I go over to the group and see before me a couple dozen young Jews like me confused, bewildered, battered, emaciated bodies with protruding bones wrapped in a grayish colorless skin.    They are bending over and straining to lift boards that are thicker than themselves and loading them on a wagon.  I suddenly feel a terrible pain in my back and immediately realize that it was the foreman that delivered the blow with his stick.  His words thunder:  Did you come to observe?  I run at once and start lifting a board.  It is much heavier than I thought    Laying outdoors for months it absorbed a lot of water.  Now it weighed much more than it should have.  I strain myself and lift one side.  Someone else at the other end does the same and we throw the heavy board into the wagon.  We are working with all our strength but the foreman goes around and hits continuously.  I would have liked to ask him why but I don’t dare.  I see others working with their last gasp and he is even harder on them.  What kind of a creature are you?  I think to myself.  Do you require of us work or do you do it for no particular reason.  It turns out that the answer to both questions is yes.