Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Franka Charlupski - June 18, 1985


How long were you in Bremen?

From end of August 'til the beginning of April. till the 7th of April to be exact because we were liberated the 15th. When we...The uh, Hauptscharführer that we had said to us that we have to, they have to take us away because the Russians are coming and they want to save us from the Russians. So, they gave us a loaf of bread, put us in the cattle car, and took us to Bergen-Belsen. And we got there before it was dark, so they wouldn't take us off the cattle car, so we had to wait until it got dark and then they walked us, quite a few uh, kilometers into the barracks. Then we found out the reason why. There were dead bodies all over strewn. And this was already at the end. They were uh, uh, digging massive graves. And I guess, I don't know if they didn't want us to see it or uh, whatever, they did take us during the night. When we got there, we were put into that barrack, the room was about this size, where I'm sitting right now, and there were 800 women with I don't know how many nationalities. You could hear every possible language in that room. And we were standing up and at what point, one point, I had to go to the toilet. And I asked someone where it is and they showed me out there. And uh, so my girlfriend said, "I'll go with you." And as we were walking, there was a funny smell. It wasn't a toilet smell, the toilet had just board and holes uh, but I couldn't recognize the smell. And I said to my girlfriend, I says, "Ruth, what do you think?" She says, "You're right, it's funny but it's not a toilet smell." And as we got closer, there were arms and legs and heads separated, laying oh, I would say about fifteen feet high, in the toilet. What impression this made, I probably don't have to tell you. I wake up nights and sometimes think of that scene. 'Cause nobody can see a greater horror than that. And we had to take...Now this, this laid there, but we did, we had to take bodies, drag them by their hands, and put them in the massive graves. There we had to do. And uh, when the English came in, the soldiers went berserk. They had to take...The first group that liberated us, had to be taken away. They went completely berserk. And a soldier is not...is used to horror and used to seeing death and uh, and discomfort but these men just couldn't take it. My sister got sick that time. She had uh, typhus, which I would say seventy-five percent of the camp probably had typhus at that time. And I, at night, I would lay on the straw and I would put her on top of me 'cause she was bone and skin and she just couldn't lay on the straw. And one morning she says to me, she would like a piece of lemon. Now how in the world can I get a piece of lemon in the camp? So, I ventured out and I went over to the English kitchen, and somehow, I made 'em understand what I wanted. I said it in German and uh, somehow the soldier that was there understood what I wanted and he gave me a lemon. And I'm walking back to the um, barrack and on the way there was a uh, English captain, I assume, walking with the German, probably his counterpart the captain or whatever, and they speak German, and he's asking him to tell him, since he was in Bergen-Belsen, what happened in that time. And he says, "As far as I can tell you, nothing really happened." And I'm listening to this, and I don't know where I got the courage, and I walk over and I said to him, "He was here for this and this length of a time and he doesn't know of anything that happened here. I'm only here seven days, let me tell you what happened in the seven days." And I told him when we came in, the water was uh, poisoned and uh, we couldn't drink, forget it, that was out. We couldn't even wash up with it. And there was nothing to eat and the bodies, I don't know really why you have to ask him. If you just look around, you've got the picture right in front of you. And I can take you to the massive graves where I myself had to throw in bodies or take you to the toilet where I have to go one night where the arms and legs were separated...And he doesn't know? And he pulled off his stripes and whatever, what happened to him, I don't know, I'm sure they took him away. This was the experience in...Uh,in Berg...In Bergen-Belsen there was no food and there were a lot of Russians, and if you walked with a potato and you didn't hold it real tight, you never survived with it because the Russians would grab it right out of your hand. And after, when we were liberated, they opened all the um, uh, the storages that they had. And there was plenty of food. There were cans of pork and beans uh, and these people were so hungry, the ones that couldn't stand it, you could see if you walked into that place they were sitting with a can of beans in their hands and they were dead because what stomach could take, stomach uh, beans and pork and beans? They needed a little farina to get that stomach back working. The pork and beans was a killer. People were dying grabbing the food. After the war.

Were you taken to a, a, a hospital or a displaced persons camp?

No. No, no. We stayed in the barracks. Uh, my sister had to be taken in to the hospital and uh, there were English doctors and French doctors because she had typhus. Uh, we remained in the barracks until they cleaned up the SS barracks, then we were taken into the SS barracks. Which were regular rooms, two, three girls stayed together. And we stayed there for a few months then they took us to Diepholz, which was a displaced person camp. It wasn't a, a concentration camp, it was a camp after the war. And from there, they wanted to send me to Sweden. And at that point, I didn't know if anyone survived yet and I refused to go and my sister developed gall bladder uh, illness and uh, a German doctor wanted to operate on, on, operate on her and I completely refused. At that point, I wasn't going to put my sister's life in a German hands. And I didn't. She was quite mad at me because her pain was excruciating.But I didn't.We went back to Bergen-Belsen and there was a French doctor and somehow with some certain medications he did control it and she was fine. Matter of fact she didn't have the surgery until here in Detroit years later. And she was okay.

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