Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Irving Altus - June 2, 1982

Transport to Auschwitz

Well, maybe we should talk about what happened when you got to Auschwitz. What, what--how long did it take to get there and how was...

Oh, it took uh, we didn't--like I say, from Kön...I--we really didn't know that we are coming to Auschwitz. I came into Auschwitz and we went to the--to take showers, you know and baths and the hair cuts and thing and I. Somebody came over and start cutting my hairs and he asked me from where I'm coming. And I told him from Königsberg and thing. So I don't know, he started--did he ask me in Jewish or Polish, but--and he was already there, the barber. And it happened, this was a friend of my brother's from home. He was a barber. They were the same age. But he left to friends, before the war, like a couple years and I told him who I was. And he says, "I know you." I didn't know him. I was so surprised, he said to me, "I know who you are." I told him my name. When he give me the hair cut and he says uh, "Irving, don't ask any questions. Everybody's here." Because when I came to Auschwitz, I didn't know what's happened that all the Jews, that this terrible thing happened. That they're bur...that they're burning and gassing people, whatever you know, I did not know nothing about it. A matter of fact, the whole transport which came with me didn't know why we come here and what they're going to do with us and who is here. But he already was there a few months and he told me and he says, "Irv, if they're still alive," he says, "everybody's here. Try not to talk, not to ask, do what they tell you. Maybe you'll have a chance..."

Wife: To survive.

"Maybe you'll have a chance." He didn't say survive, nothing.

How did they...

And I start asking a little more and he didn't to talk no more. So I could see what's going on. The next day, we could see and we start seeing people hurt.

That's the first time you really saw a lot of...

Realized where we are and how big the, the terrible thing is. With the gas chambers and with the beating and with everything right the next day.

How did they--when you first got there how did they know you were Jewish or did they check?


[interruption in interview]

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn