Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Irving Altus - June 2, 1982

Conditions in Auschwitz

...the, the whole papers and the probably give them you know, to the, to the officers there and the things and then some people wore the, the, the yellow stars or little stars even there and the thing. But they knew that we were Jews and thing. That Polacks and Jews and Germans. They knew.

And that was the first time...

And that was, listen, yes.

...the first time that you realized that the Jews were being treated...


...entirely different than...

Oh my. Listen, the crematoriums for Jews.


There was a lot of Russian and Polacks and--only for Jews. But they used to, to burn the people who died, like Russian or, or, or Germans you know, which they brought to the camps and thing where they were against the SS. They used to burn them too. They didn't, I mean uh, put a you know, to make a burial or something. But strictly living people, only Jews. To put to the gas chambers and, and then to the crematorium.

So your first day there you didn't really know...

No. I didn't know nothing about it.

There was no selection process or anything.

Not, you see, it was--I didn't see all this. But people you know, like you see movies and the thing and people. I did not see this because I didn't come with all the people from the city, like I say. I came already from...

Wife: Camp.

... uh, labor camp, workers.

So there was just a small group of you?

A small group, not only, like I say, Germans and Jews and Polacks. And we were all nationalities. Strictly from thing. So I--what you are just talking now, all the selections when they used to bring full trains, children, woman, older people, younger. I did not see all this. Maybe it's, you know, I, I don't know if I could take it, you know. To see, like you see in television, take your parents in a side and your mother and your sisters and all this. You know this uh, I didn't see all this. And when our train came in, they just brought us in to the, to the back and to a hair and you know, to clean you and to change and the thing. I did not see all this going to the cham...to the gas chambers and the ovens and all the thing. But the next day, I didn't see it but I knew what--you know, from further away, when they used to take out--then we, we knew what's going on.

Because of what, the sounds?

Oh, it was--the sounds. It wa...you could see, they took you to work and they, they took you to get the, those older packages, and the, the, the, the, the people out and to, to clean and to work and get the, the clothing to a side and make you know, old packages and send it to Germany. They needed, they needed people to work. It was so much work it's unbelievable. Build barracks and things you know, outside the camp, make it bigger. This was the beginning, you know, 'til 45. So then we, we, we passed by everyday. We could see the smoke going up and we didn't know. I mean uh, but then you, you knew what's going on.

You didn't know right away, but you...

No, but

...knew after awhile.

...after a few days. Then from uh, after awhile, there being a few months, then they took me again, just the young people who survived. And they took me to, oh fifty kilometers or something to really to work in a big factory to make cement.

Was this for Farben?

Not far from Auschwitz.

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