Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Franka Charlupski - November 19, 1981

Stealing in Camp

Okay, ??? you were talk...I have uh, if, if it sounds foolish, tell me. I don't...

Just go ahead.

What was going through your mind during all of this? When you were called out for the Appell to stand there all night, what do, what do you think of ???

You were just an animal. I mean, how can a man be so stupid and make people that are hungry, cold, overworked, miserable stay there--you got to be a, a s...a sad...sadist? Is that it?


Sadist uh, to do this! Over--let's say we did take it! What in the heck is it? A piece of wood. But the main--I remember myself asking God, "If I can only have a clean bath, and clean nightgown and enough bread to eat..." Nothing else--just bread. Then you got everything now that's under the sun, and you don't want to eat, because you don't wanna get fat. I remember--these were the things that were done--we never--we really never believed that we were gonna survive. It nev...I don't think it entered anybody's mind. We just figured it was a slow process of dying, like when we were in uh, in Bremen and uh, at one time--I was an outstanding thief. At that time it was called organizer but uh, organizing that's what we were calling it--stealing we're calling organizing. I don't know how--don't ask me--because as soon as the war was over, like when they opened these warehouses in Bergen-Belsen. I couldn't go near them. Take something--I went, but I couldn't take anything. It didn't interest me, I didn't need it, you know what I mean? It wasn't that we were afraid anymore, because the English brought everything in uh, that I needed it. That this was gonna--I survived already. So being a thief just left me completely. It was just--it shows that the power to survive was so strong that you'll do anything. That comes in a story where uh, I went into a--through a basement uh, little window. Just fit. I'll never know how I got into it. I got in there and the others were watching. And there was everything in that cellar. Everything. You name it, it was there. It was uh, um, lard, butter, eggs--the eggs were boiled because from the heat from the bomb--the raw eggs, raw! And they were delicious. Uh, jam, you name it--potatoes. Everything was in that cellar. It was like a gold mine. And I had these, they were knickers now, but they weren't when they were there. These were real like uh, in Europe they wore them for uh, bicycling, and they were tight here. So I got into that basement and I filled up my--but before I filled up my pants, I had--went in there a couple times and brought stuff up and then I went, you know, like a chazzer, you know, figured if it worked once, twice, it'll work the third time. And uh, the last time I got in I saw a little navy vest--velour--and I put it on. I liked it, not realizing that it's a Hitlerjugend vest, which didn't matter, if the woman didn't catch me. Uh, and while I'm sitting there, and debating what am I taking now, you know, this one needs a pair of shoes, this one needs this and this one needs that. I had that vest on and the woman walks in. She went in with the front door; I went in with the basement window. And she says to me, "What are you doing here?" I says, "I was cold outside, I came in to warm up." And she says, "What are you doing in my son's Hitlerjugend vest?" I says, "I just put it on, I was planning on take it off when I was leaving." ??? and uh, she says, "Okay, I'll go and see the SS woman." She was going out by the front; I was going out back by that same window that I came in. I threw off the vest, I went into hiding. That SS woman had a nightgown from there, so she had to keep her mouth shut. She knew exactly who she was talking about, but she wasn't looking for me. And she took the complaint, and that was that. This, this is the way you had to work. Not everybody could do that, because it depends on where you were. In our case this was the way most of us did survive.

You took things for other people in the barracks?

Well, they needed it. First of all I, I--we were four--excuse me, I had my first husband's sister with me, too.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn