Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Franka Charlupski - November 19, 1981


And all four of you survived?

Yeah. One is in Sweden, one is in New York and my sister and I live here.

Do you think the um, the three or four of you together had something to do with each of the others surviving, I mean, as a group?

Yes. Yes. Definitely. None of us ate by ourselves, whatever we got we shared. I happened to be uh, more--not lucky. I guess--I don't know, my instincts were better, and I could provide more for the group than the others.

Did, did anybody commit suicide in the barracks?

Not in our camp. N...not in our camp.

So even though people thought the war...

One woman died because she was taking, taking stuff from the garbage can, and she was just a tremendous eater and whatever she had wasn't enough and she died. Uh, it must have been some kind of sickness and she died from that. We knew she was going into the garbage can.

So even though people thought that they weren't going to survive nobody committed--nobody took their...

No, no. I don't remember anyone. Not in that particular camp. Like I say...

Yeah, it's a different story, right.

...each story is going to be completely different. You might run into somebody that a few took their lives.

At Auschwitz the people run into the wires now and then.

Oh sure, sure. That I remember seeing run...people running into the wires.

At Auschwitz?

Because when we were coming on the outside, they came to the wi...to the--towards the wire asking, "Throw us over whatever you have, they're going to take it away from you anyhow." But you didn't--you, yourself didn't know that. "Bread! Anything, they're gonna take it away, give it to us." But we wouldn't--I mean, we didn't. I don't think anybody else did because nobody knew that they--oh, I said, "They are talking." We didn't even--we thought they were nuts anyhow. It was a nut house. It wasn't--who knew what it was?

And then people threw themselves in the wire?

And uh, hoping...

To catch...

...that somebody will catch so they caught the wire and they were dead. That was--that I saw.

Did you continue, d...d...while you were in Bremen, did you think about--worry about what had happened to the other members of your family?

Oh, definitely.

Did you continue to do this?

But there was nothing you could do. There was no place to go, there was no place to ask. Oh, we had a feeling--then, then we had a feeling that our mother had to go because otherwise she would have been with us. Then we knew already about the gas and we knew already...

You knew at that...

...once we were in Auschwitz...

...at that point--when she was taken away, you knew where she was going?

No, no at that point we didn't know, but once we got into Auschwitz we talked to the others that were there already what happened. We were very naïve, very naïve. We just had a strong constitution because maybe the way we were brought up uh, we weren't like our children now. Our children were sheltered. Maybe it's part of it because of what we went through. We sheltered them a little bit, too. Now I, I--when my children we were growing up uh, I didn't skate, I didn't swim, I didn't uh, uh, uh, ski. My children, I made sure they were doing everything. I took it away from myself and gave to them because I didn't have it and I wanted them to have it. It might be that was our fault in bringing up a generation that is spoiled. God forbid, if it ever should happen, I'm afraid this generation wouldn't know how to handle it. Probably wouldn't go the way we went like cattle--would fight it--there was a possibility. But to survive the starvation? I don't know if you guys could manage. I don't know.

Is that why you think you survived? If you had to pick one--few reasons why you survived, what would you...


Are you...

I could steal well, that's why I survived. And there had to be a will to live because there was no question about it. As long as you still alive you could still hope and pray. You were just wondering sometimes, "What in the heck am I struggling? What in the heck am I doing? Is it all worth it? And where's God at that point? What did I do? Why did I deserve that? What did I do that I should be living like that, and that I should be treated like an animal? Why?" That constantly went through your mind.

And there was...

I was all of nineteen when it happened.

And there was you sister there, too?

And I was brought up in a Hasidic home. I, I didn't anything to uh, you know, to deserve to be punished? What did I do?

Did you ever think this through even after the li...liberation?

Yes, yes. Quite a bit. And then I came to the conclusion: I must have done something good, although I went through hell, but I must have done something right that God was so good to me. I survived, although I lost my first husband, I met a wonderful man who is good. I have two children; they're marvelous. On top of it, I'm comfortable--provided beautifully and he himself is not a doer. You just leave him alone. I mean, he'll do anything for you; I mean, his reputation in the city is marvelous but he' s not a doer, but he lets me do. And I couldn't be so gracious and so good with my checkbook if he wouldn't let me do it. So uh, and I have a great responsibility and this is my personal feeling. I feel that I've got to give back what God gave to me. And I'm not that religious, but it was something that I feel was to bashert if you know what I mean.

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