Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Franka Charlupski - November 19, 1981


You said that um, the people who were vicious; that they would kill you for a piece of bread. Did you see any incidents like that?

Yes. Sure. Whatever we had. Uh, mostly--I must say, mostly Russian would do that. Uh, you were petrified to walk out with something. And if you saw uh, another uh, it wasn't that they were viscous. It wasn't that--they were hungry and hungry will do anything.

And the SS didn't interfere at all?

No. This wasn't their business. The more they were killed, the better off they were; there was less work for them. Now we were liberated in April 15, right? In Bergen-Belsen. April 15, 19...uh, 45. Uh, my sister came down with typhus. I was all right. I would, you know, we were laying on boards, there was nothing but straw. And she was just skin and bone. So I would lay underneath, and put her on top of me, because she couldn't lay on these boards. And everybody hounded me that I'm gonna catch it. I said, "What's the difference? I can't let her lay on these boards. There's nothing--she has nothing to lay on." Then one day she says to me uh, that was after liberation. First of all, before I go any further um, the soldiers--the first English soldiers that came in were berserk. Completely berserk, they had to be taken to a um, a sanatorium. They went off their rocker. Every one that walked into--that drove into Bergen-Belsen. And then they sent in the second part of the soldiers or whatever--another battalion, whatever you call it to take care of it. Uh, when my sister was sick, she says to me, "I want a piece of lemon." Don't ask me for what reason, I don't know, but she wanted lemon. I don't speak English, but my sister wants it, and she's sick, I got to get it. All right, I walked towards the kitchen, I get to the uh, English soldier that was watching the kitchen. And uh, he gave me--somehow I made him understand what I wanted and he gave me a piece of lemon. And I'm walking back from that kitchen towards the barrack, where we were--where we stayed. And I see a uh, English captain--I don't know, general, whatever he was--with the Hauptscharführer of that camp, and they're walking and talking and he says to him, in German--the English ca...spoke German too, because English I wouldn't have understood--and he says to him, "Could you tell me what happened in the times that you were here in that camp?" And he says, "As far as I know, nothing happened." And he was there for quite a times. And I says--and I walked over--I don't know how I got the strength and the, the courage to do it, because it was so--the hum...humiliated. We were so--we didn't feel even like human beings. But I did go over--I don't know, don't ask me now how I, how I had the courage. And I says to him--I says, "I'll tell you something, he's been here he said for some months. I'm only here seven days. Let me tell you what happened in the seven days." And I told him; dead bodies, what we were dragging and how they covered up that grave. And he started stripping off the um, the German's--all the medals that he had. He gave them problems by destroying Jews so--I don't know ??? people that were in the camps. That was my part in telling what happened ??? Uh, I had a thought before--maybe it'll come back. Oh yes, I know. Uh, when the uh, English came in, they opened the warehouses. There were cans of food. There was clothing. I guess it was for us, I don't know and we never got it. And the people that survived would run there--skin and bone. You've probably seen pictures of what they looked like after--called Muselmann at that time. And they would open these cans and you would see them sitting, dying with the can in their hands. It was pork and beans, which their stomach couldn't take. It was uh, other meats that was in cans. And these stomach's needed a drop of, you know, chicken soup or a little uh, farina to get back to starting eating.

So they died after.

They died with the can in their hands. It was the most horrible sight. You, you finally survive--you went through hell and you came out of it, and to die that way--it was just pathetic. We sur...you survived a horror like that, and to die with a can of food in your hand. I think thousands that died in Bergen-Belsen after the war when they were liberated.

The week you were there, what kinds of things did the prisoners talk about?

Who had time to talk? Who had--who was in the mood to talk? The only...


...the only thing you were hoping is that you were gonna survive and have a clean bed and enough bread to eat. This was your thought through the whole concentration camp.

But then in that last week, did anybody think that they were--final days...

We knew something was going on, we didn't know what. We knew something was brewing, because we could see the tension in them, but we didn't know what it was.

Was there ever any talk of uh, trying to, uh...


Escape or overthrow the SS or...

I don't know. Not in the women--maybe in the man's barracks, but in the women's...

Did your--was there every any talk about religious services among the women? Did anybody pray? Did they, uh...

Everybody prayed in their own way.

In their own...

For themselves. It wasn't--you couldn't organize it. First of all, you were so dead tired when you came back at night, you couldn't even think to organize it. You were just a bunch of cattle. That's actually what you were, because your mind didn't work, your uh, your will power wasn't there. You didn't care if you lived or if you died. This was really the general uh, that's the way I felt.

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