Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Joseph Birnholtz - July 28, 1982

Being Punished in Camp

Uh, how about the uh, what kind of guards did they have? Kapos?

They had uh, guards they had the ???, they had Ukrainians. Oh, by the way, I can tell uh, you those stories that I forgot to tell you. This uh, there was this German, the ??? from concentration camp when we were still in the Big Ghetto and he came into work--to HASAG. So on a Sunday--one Sunday we figured we're not going to go to work tomorrow. We'll rest one day. So we came in Monday morning, he waited for us, this ???, the one that couldn't hit a Jew with a raw hand, he had to wear the leather glove. So he came and asked every person, "Why didn't you come yesterday to work?" So every second person he would hit. No matter what you would say--the best excuse. The first person he wouldn't, but every second one he would hit. So anyway, one was chasing the other one, like I was the first one, so all the people pushed me around. One was pushing me down there so I became the second. So this German came over to me said, "Why didn't you come?" I said, "I had my shoes at the shoemaker," or something like that. He hit me straight in the nose and my nose was bleeding because it was already damaged at that time. Anyway, and he was hitting and another one--I thought he was done already. But then uh, they took us into the ???, to the Polizei, to the police station. And there they took one by one in a dark room, and there were Ukrainians and they were hitting with rubber sticks, very hard twenty-five in the back, they pulled down the pants. And you could just see, the worst thing was to wait and see what, what awaits for you. The people that come out from the dark room, they shoved out on the floor and blood was going from them. That was the time when this Polack that used to be my parent's friend that used to say he's going to be a big man when the Germans come in, and I happened to see him. And I forgot name and I screamed out his name. And he knows--he knew me. He knew me because he knew me when I was born and he liked my parents. For some reason he looked the other way, like he doesn't know me. ??? he should pull me out of this line because I was afraid I'm going to be hit. Anyway, when I got in that room there was one ???, it was a ??? who was Ukrainian. They was very bad to the Jewish people. They did all the most dirty work. So he put a foot out here so I would trip and when you come from the bright into the dark room you couldn't see. So I ran to the other side and a man was standing there slapped me in the face. So I was running right and left. Then I got in and started to--and they put my head through a machine like, and they were hitting me, but I don't remember how many times, but I remember it was past five and I know I fainted. And you know when you put your hand down underneath they break your bones. They were hitting with all their might. Uh, uh, every smack. So anyway I remember I dropped to the floor and then they pushed me out into the room. Then after that they took us and they made us run there, over metals and everything they made us run. They took us in a bunker and they kept us for three days and three nights. So the worst thing I remember ??? this very first night when we came up, we could hardly breathe after this beating that we had. Every one of them--we had--I think we were about thirty-nine people that they took us to the bunker and they chose two people to be shot at twelve o'clock at night. They were going to come up, this ???, to pick. I was standing on si...on one end, so they picked from the two ends. So they picked me and one--a man by the name Marco, I remember. So uh, is the worst thing, when we came up there, a German told us to sit down. Never did I uh, face such a pain that I went through. You know, I'm all excited when I tell you this story, it just comes back. I hate to talk about. It just comes back, these bad memories, which I try to forget, which is impossible. Anyway, I remember the worst thing was when he told us everybody to sit down. And I--and when I tried to sit down it was the worst pain in my life, to try to sit on top--it had no skin, the blood was running all over. Anyway and then he--so this man says he's going to come to shoot us at twelve o'clock at night. So we didn't have a watch, we didn't know what time it was. After he left, he locked us up. There was no bathroom, there was no food. Everything was in that room, so was upstairs. And every time we heard someone walking we started to figure, "That's the end of me." It's probably twelve o'clock at night they coming. Anyway, we were there for three days and three nights in that bunker. And then finally we heard walking upstairs ??? Ukrainians coming up the steps. So I figured that's the end. In the meantime they took us, they took us to the kitchen. And that's the time when I saw my sister working in the kitchen. And I remember she told me to sit down and I couldn't sit down on the seat. And uh, they gave us some soup after three days, which was hardly any, any potatoes in there and I remember that was the first time probably I tasted piece from a, from a horse. There was a piece bone that my sister threw in, in the soup. She gave to us soup, everybody.

Why did they spare you, do you know?

I don't know, they just scared us and they just decided. Whatever they wanted, if they wanted to kill us all they could have killed us. But they just, I guess, wasn't...

This man who wouldn't hit Jews with his bare...

He wouldn't hit with the bare hands, right.


Well, he would, he would say "Der Schmutzige Jude." Uh, the Jew is dirty and he will not get sick from them. So he wouldn't touch them with a bare hand. He would just always wear leather gloves.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn