Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Joseph Birnholtz - July 28, 1982

Being Removed from Home

All right, all right. What uh, what happened--you, you, you...

After that--I'll make it in short--they took us and uh, they, they, they one day came--it was right after ??? Yom Kippur, they said, "Uh, uh, nobody can out--can get out in the street." And so we were davening in small rooms--in small shtiblach it's called--and they started making the selections. They took out-- they segregated everybody, they gave you fifty minutes time to take all your most valuable things. And I don't remember--ten pounds they allowed you, something like that. And they took us all out in, into the street and they started selecting--segregating everybody--who shall live and who shall die. There was a man by the name Degenhardt with a stick in the middle of the city and he was standing with this stick and showing right and left, right and left. I was walking with my--my mother put in all her, all her jewelry that they worked all their life. It wasn't like over here people put their money in a bank. Over there you bought jewelry and things like that, it was secure. So my mother, I remember, when we got home she made uh, a bag for my--what do you call it? A bag...

A rucksack.

Yeah, and she says, "I put in all the jewelry here if you need anything for bread you should sell it so you wouldn't be hungry." So I remember we walked out in the street ??? that's where the segregation was. And they said, "Everybody--whoever has money, gold or silver, any kind of valuable things, throw down the suitcase because if you don't throw you'll be shot like these other people." There were some people laying dead on the floor--on the ground. So uh, whatever I had the valuable--then when we were walking before them I still had that bag on me and I saw that they're taking people right and left. And I figured I might not see my mother and father again, so I wanted to kiss my mother, I remember. And when a German pulled my bag there were--their whole policy was to divide the families when they saw people going together hand by hand, so they tried to split us. So one German pulled me--in the, the back of me--pulled me back and I remember right now I couldn't kiss my mother no more and that was the last time I saw my mother and father. And uh, then a little further they took them to the right on the street, me to the left, my twin sister with my mother and father and uh, I took them--when the German came to me and says, "Do you have any gold or silver or any, any money, or you'll be shot." I took my whole bag and threw it into the suitcase. There was the whole--this was the only savings that my parents saved all their lives, there it was in one minute it went into that suitcase because I figured I want to live. And after that, they took me to the--I was a young boy at that time--between older people and I remember everybody was older, so very few my age. And uh, we were standing and uh, waiting to be shipped away to work. And now--then I realized that my twin sister--that I didn't have her because we were very close. And I was crying terrible for so--for uh, about a half an hour I was crying terrible. My friend's-- my neighbor's mother ??? said to me, "Quiet," because I might be shot if I don't stop crying. And all of a sudden I see a German walking with my sister by the hand. He says, "Ist das dein Bruder?" because he heard me crying. He was, for some reason, like an angel from, from heaven--was sent from God. He handed--my sister must have been crying just like me. Maybe he had a child of his own, like this was one in a million who had a feeling and for reason was meant to live--and he was walking with my sister by the hand because she was with my parents on another street. And he walked with her, he said, "Das ist dein Bruder? Is this your brother?" and he pushed her and I said "Don't shove my sister!" and he pushed her into me.

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