Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Joseph Birnholtz - July 28, 1982

Life in Camp

Uh, has there uh, were there any kind of--any activities--when did you wake--how long every day did you work, from when to when?

From, we went out, like uh, from five o'clock we had to stay outside to be counted whether I was sleeping on the magazine or in the barracks, everybody had to be outside waiting a couple hours 'til seven o'clock. And we had to stay there until they came to count us, summer or winter. And I remember like one ??? was a Ukrainian. He liked shooting somebody. Like let's say, I remember a couple Jews went in, in the bathroom. He had to go in the bathroom so I was standing outside. So he went through the window and shot him dead for no reason, just he felt like shooting him.

Uh, when did you go--when did you come back?

In concentration camp?

No, no, you woke up at five o'clock, you worked from...

Uh, at seven o'clock we were standing outside to be counted. At seven o'clock we went to work until about five or six, I don't remember exactly the next--every day.

Sunrise to sunset?

Yeah, every day like this.

Uh, and if anyone were sick, could they be treated at all?

I don't think so. You had to work, sick or temperature, whatever. You couldn't, you couldn't say or you'd be shot. You'd be taken--because in the hospital they took out every day to the cemetery.

Did you work every day?

Every day, every day.

Were there any kind of uh, religious activities or any schools, anything that went on?

None, none whatsoever.

Were there rabbis with you, uh...

I remember there was one cantor that he was sent away from our concentration camp in the selection to a concentration camp. Cantor ??? I used to sing with him when I was a little boy. I remember I saw him there once, then I didn't see him anymore.

Did you have any contact with the women?

Uh, well, over there the women worked together with men--worked but were separated in the barracks--but we were in contact, yes. My sister was the lucky one, she worked as a maid by that Nazi, that biggest murderer. She was working on the Kolonia on the outskirts. I mean, it was belonging to the concentration camp, but that's where all the Nazis lived. So my twin sister, that lives today in Toronto, she used to be their maid. And uh, everybody from us had to wear a number--a metal--I didn't have a number on the hand but they had a metal, a metal like uh, tag from a dog. And if you wouldn't have that tag, you'd be shot so you watched yourself so you don't lose it. So I remember the German was ashamed because some Germans came from Germany to visit him--some relatives of his--and they would be asking what is this tag by my sister. So she couldn't wear the tag in their house when she was the maid over there. So she had pretty good because she had some stuff, that they had left over so she was eating. As a matter of fact, she brought me sometimes a piece of bread over there.

Was there uh, any kind of smuggling activities that went on between the Jews inside the camp and anybody outside?

Well, some Polands--some Polacks used to come in to work, very few, and they would smuggle in a bread. Let's say, it would cost in a, in a store fifty cents to buy that bread, they would charge you fifty dollars, see, for the same bread.

Uh, did this maid ever try to get in touch with you again?

She never saw me again and I never saw her again, no, because they took us away. I mean, that was the time when we used to go to work to the ramp for a, for a few weeks to unload the train. Then we changed, changed jobs to work at the Luftwaffe to work at the airfield, you see. So I never saw her again.

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