Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Alexander Ehrmann - May 13, 1983

Conditions in Auschwitz

What did you eat while you were in Auschwitz?

We were given--the last thing we were given after clothes and after shoes uh, we were given uh, uh, an enameled sort of a deep dish uh, and we were told to hold onto, that's going to be our eating dish. And we were given a spoon and a fork, no knife. We were then told to go by a certain barrack where we would be given food. We were given a uh, very thick soup, which we were told was made of Dörrgemüse. Naturally we inquired what's Dörrgemüse. It's dried uh, beets and uh, some cracked barley or cracked wheat uh, some other dried, dried vegetables, dehydrated vegetables were boiled up with water and that was our food. Here and there, there was a sliver of meat. Rumors were going on that we were being fed human meat and so on, which wasn't true, of course, but uh, you know, people were spreading all kinds of uh, things. We were told that the soap we're using was human, was made of human fat, which was true, of course. Uh, we were--SS would come in, we were milling around, it was pretty disorganized but, you know, I guess they weren't worried about us, we were in barbed wire and at that point, we said to ourselves, God knows how big the camp is. There is camp after camp after camp and we were all secured. There were towers, watchtowers, of course uh, around us. The...

What was your state of mind at this point? How did you feel, physically and mentally?

Very, very disorganized and very uh, worried, afraid. Uh, I have to learn how to speak German otherwise I uh, I will be lost. Where are our parents? What's going to happen to us? Where are we going? Are we going--they must want to keep us alive otherwise they wouldn't have uh, dressed us in prisoners uniform and give us clothes, whatever bad it is, they gave us clothes and soap and, and dishes and they're giving us food. Uh, I couldn't get myself to eat the food. I didn't dare, I didn't dare throwing it away. I was afraid of somebody's going to see me, so I just kept the food in my dish, I ate some of the bread and then I passed it on to uh, my sisters--that was bread brought in by prisoners that they were giving us. I wasn't able to eat the food during my stay in Auschwitz. Not even--we got a ration of margarine and uh, uh, some kind of a jam, which they called marmalade. Uh...

Were you worried about starving?

No, no, I wasn't. I figured, sooner or later, I'll eat it, I'll be hungry enough, and I'll eat it. It wasn't my first encounter with hunger as such. I went hungry already before during the time when we didn't have enough food and uh, there was a period when we had to eat um, um, flour or bread that was moldy. Uh, we had to hide flour and mice got into it and there was droppings in it, things like that. So, we were already exposed to eating subhuman food. So, I knew that, sooner or later, I'll be conditioned to it and I'll eat, if they'll give us enough food. But, at that point, I wasn't able to eat it. Whether it was uh, the aversion to the food, probably it was a psychological state that I was in. Uh, I just couldn't eat. Uh...

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