Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Irving Altus - June 2, 1982


Okay then in, going back to January of '45 uh, they took everyone away.

'Til the first--you know when it was bad was '42 and '43. When the did survived, it was '44--well '45 ???. In '43, by the end, I don't think that they took a hundred a week. Not two hundred, not a hundred. They stopped the beating. It came from the hierarchy, from the official whatever--there was no more beating for no reason. They could not go over Kapos or, or Gentile or Polacks to beat up the Jew for no reason. We--you know, it was not announced, but we knew about it. You know, in '44, the end of '43 was, it was like the whole thing changed.

Do you have any idea why that was?

No, no. But this was already, this was when the difference times came in and that's why the few which are really alive survived 1944, and... And then '45, the, the four or five months was back again. When we left this place in 1945, half the people again didn't survive.

Well what, let me ask again um, there were beatings um, in Auschwitz for no reason at all...

For no reason and the same thing here too, I mean...

But not as much.

Not as much, right.

And they stopped it in '44.

But this was stopped in Auschwitz, in here. I mean, not a hundred percent but I mean, for no reason they couldn't go over and kick you and kill you 'til you're dead, I mean. The, the SS wanted to know why, I mean, if you kill. I mean, it was a, a little turn around and you couldn't do it.

And you could see it happening like this...

You could see it just like this.

...from one day to the next.

I think they needed people.

They were running out.

They're running out, this was you know, as, as--now before. This was the only reason, not because they start liking you or whatever. They start running out of the Germans and other people. They needed the people. If you worked, the food started to be little bit difference. But the most important was not to get hit--the beating. And this happened the end of '43. And '44 was a real good year for this. If you could survive, that's it. But only the year '44, 'til January '45 when they had to evacuate the people.

And what happened then? How did it start out uh, when the--did you know that the Russians were...

Yes uh, some of the guards, they said, "We ha...we have to leave, the Russians are coming and we have to take everything and, and move on." Yes. It was open. They, they knew they are--I mean, they didn't stop that uh, there were you know, some consideration or anything but, they start talking. I think they could see they're in trouble. Oh, in '45 they knew they're in trouble.

When the Russians were already in Germany at that point.

In Germany and, and the thing, they knew they're in trouble. So they told us.

Did they behave any differently then?

No. That's what I say. No. No changes in the thing. And whoever couldn't walk, he died on the road. Because you didn't get uh, trucks or trains or anything. They just marching. And they took us out who knows where. Just on the road, you could go for days and nights and weeks. And if it was some places you know, that did have a little travel you know, if trains were available, yes, if not, again. But you were asking where did we rest or to sleep or think, anyplace, anyplace.

You had nothing-I mean like with you, you would just be wearing rags and...

That's it, that's it.

...no shoes or...

No shoes were, if you had shoes, you had the shoes, yeah.

But some people didn't.

So they didn't.

Were they able to survive? I guess...

They didn't survive. That's what I say.

You needed, you needed shoes and you needed...

You needed shoes and, and like again, there was no food. And then when you were there, like I say, it was not so bad. '44 was a good year. Everybody was healthy and you have a little bit of strength too. But after a few days, no food, no water and like you say, if somebody didn't have the shoes or the shoes fell off a little bit, the thing. Didn't took, they just...

Wife: Or they give you wooden shoes.

Oh, better than nothing you know, and the thing...

Wife: But the people, they were like animals. It's, it's...

Half the people from January 'til the liberation--May, again, thousands, thousands, not hundred--thousands of people-- I think from this, from this place, from the cement factory, I really don't think half survived. To be honest to you, I knew--you know, after you've been there a few years, you--I don't think so. Half didn't survive.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn