Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Joseph Birnholtz - July 28, 1982


Uh, what was it like when the war came to an end?

Well, the worst, tragic things was that uh, the last people--I think when--that I told you the ten thousand people that were liquidated the day before, there were still about a thousand people or more--fifteen hundred--left in the concentration camp. So I remember my brother and uh, was lucky that I had my, my oldest two brothers with me and he said, "We're going to hide." So most of the people, the reason they run to the trains and they wanted to get out of the concentration camp because they knew the Germans wouldn't leave with the Russians--wouldn't leave the factory in contact so they would be able to work--make ammunition. So we knew they would put bombs--time bombs and after they leave, it's gonna jump the whole thing--the whole concentration camp would go up in the air. That's the reason that most of the people wanted to run out from there, they thought--but my brother said, "We're not going to stay right over here. We're not going nowhere." So my brother, and my brother's father-in-law and some friends, we hide out in a magazine--in another magazine between cement sacks and everything. And we could look out through the door or through some holes, we saw that there were two Germans that they took out the, the Jews outside from the barracks on the field and they turned down all the lights. And the Russians would come with the planes--low down--they knew it's a concentration camp and whatever was black they didn't drop the bomb, they didn't do nothing. They just went by their heads, very low, see. And the Germans turned on the--all the lights in the barracks and they said, "Ihr kommt mit uns ??? You come with us, you Jews, we want to save you, if you come with us." We didn't know--the people didn't know they were only two left--that they would know how close the war is to an end. Nobody knew this. But my brother and some other friends, they decided we're not going nowhere--we're not going to be liquidated. We're going to stay right here. But the trouble was that most of the people believed that they had those mines out there. We took the chance. We didn't know, see. So uh, anyway, at night, my brother, when we were uh, when we were in this uh, magazine hiding out, he said, "Let's go out," since I was the youngest--so he sent me forwards--my brother took pliers from the magazine. From the magazine they had those clips to cut up the wires. He said, "We better go to the fence. If one of us will be shot, at least some of us will be alive. If we stay here then it might explode with the bombs." So we ran outside. I ran forwards and I gave the signal, they all followed me a whole bunch of people--my sister and my brother and friends. I was very quick. And as I run, I run, this Stiglitz--that small guy who used to walk the dog--said, "Where are you running, verfluchte? Where are you going?" I said, I'm going to ???",??? means to the bathroom. He said, "You're crazy, the bombs are going and you're going to the bathroom" you know, like this. "Come over here." And I showed him the hideout and for some reason he let me go because he was hiding out himself, he was hiding himself, the German. And anyway, so when we went to the fences--there was, there was, there was five fences and then you had to cross a river. So you can imagine how hard it was to get out. There was those big--what do you call those house where they watch...

Guard towers.

Towers, those towers. So when I run to the, to the wires, I see nobody watching. There was five wires that my brother wanted to clip the wires, you see. I don't remember if it was electric or not, but I know he knew what he was doing. So in the meantime we come there, we see nobody's watching, we climb the fences. "Let's go to the Kolonia. Let's go where the Germans live over there. Let's go to the Wachter where the Germans standing." We came over there. In the meantime, all the Jews were liquidated already. They took them out, the last thousand, or whatever. They took them out, they walked with them, with the Germans.


And we--some people they were hiding out.

What did they do to them?

They took them out to walk to Germany.


Because they didn't have no more trains because the war was going on. And most people--most of them got killed. Very few survived, very few.

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