Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Fred Ferber - September 11 & 25, 2001

Appell in Płaszów

Roll call...

Appellplatz was the roll call.


They were counting us day and night, morning, evening. We stood on that Appellplatz for hours and hours at a time, whether it was cold winter or hot summer. They were counting us. And if there was anyone missing, they went through the barracks. Eh, through this that my brother and I, we hid a few times in the barracks, and, and we were fortunate. Uh, there was one time that we should have hid and we didn't. And that's how I lost my brother. Uh, at this Appellplatz, there were times that people who went to work outside the concentration camp and my mother did and sometimes they, one or, or two from the group got away, somehow. Anyone from a group that went outside of concentration camp and came back and they came short, there was a tremendous penalty for just about any and all people in the camp. Different times, different penalties. At one time we were eh, eh, number, few times there were hangings. Everyone stood on the Appellplatz once again being counted and counted and counted. And eh, then they brought some people, whether the men in charge of this particular group. And they brought two or three people and there were hangings in front of everyone else. There were times that the hang--the one to be hanged fell down from the rope, just, just wasn't tied properly. There was no problem to, to put them up again and hang 'em second, hang 'em a second time around.

Was this the first time you saw anybody hung?

That's the first time was in Płaszów concentration camp. There were number of hangings over there. There was one time while I'm still on the same subject that not only did they uh, hung three or five people at that time--I don't remember exactly, I think it was five, but I would say thousands of people, thousands among us, got anywhere from five, ten, to twenty-five lashes. They're organized and they brought tables, hundreds of tables uh, on the Appellplatz, and they were getting people out of anywhere and everywhere from any group. They took 'em to the table at the edge of--end of the table. You had to strip your pants, bend over, and two people on each side were whipping. And anytime you got up, because it hurts, so people automatically jump when they're getting hit. When you got hi, when you jump up you got hit over your back. Not only over your, over your tail, over your ass, so to speak.

Who administered, who administered the punishment?

The punishment was worse administered by the Ukrainians, by Germans.

Was it ever by other prisoners?

Maybe some of the policemen were also involved in it, but not too much. The police brutality was involved in some other place. Let me just finish with this. So, so this particular day we stayed for hours at this, at this roll call place and uh, tremendous amount of people. I did not eh, get, get, get five to twenty-five. Eh, sometime people yelling or this particular German doesn't like this--somebody's face, that much more he got. And uh,, uh. It was another uh, horrible, horrif...horrified uh, day, among many. Eh, of course eh, anyone who got hit or didn't get hit survived. Anyone who survived it was, it was still uh, whoever survived another day to live there was uh, that, that, the rea..., the goal was to survive. Now I wanted to say something before. What did I?

Just for a little better perspective, were people being hung, beaten at the same time?

First hung.

First hung. And then...

Then beaten.

Then beaten.

There was a lesson for us. We supposed to have a lesson. Anyone who allows anyone else to escape, there's a punishment.

I see. And you're standing in the Appell.

We standing in--you waited just what everyone can see what's happening. Because the tables were spread out all over and those people that were hung you could see 'em, because eh, they were high enough. Everybody could see them.

Do you remember anything specific that went through your mind when you saw the first people that you did being hung or was it just nothing there? Was it too horrible to even think about?

I, I will tell you, it was horrible for everyone. People didn't want to look, of course. I don't remember myself that, that close. I, I don't remember the, the feeling at that time, it was so many years ago. But, I was, I'm sure I was afraid to look because...But more than that we were afraid, who is next. Who, who is next, you know. What's going to happen, you know. And, and uh, then when they uh, brought up the tables we didn't know why at first, you know, then we realized there's so many people going to get hit. And luckily I wasn't pulled out from my, from my group.

You didn't experience that yourself.

I didn't experience it at that time. I experienced my beatings number of times, but not at this particular time.

In Płaszów?

I experienced a beating in Płaszów and a lot more when I went later on to Mauthausen and especially in Gusen, a lot more. Uh, just to tell you about it, I have a broken nose, okay. Here. Every doctor I always go to wants to operate on my nose. They say that I probably don't breathe right, but somehow, I, I, I, I didn't, I, I avoided it. I say, "I'm breathing quite well, I don't want any operations." But every doctor's trying to operate that nose. Eh, I tell you about it some other time, a little later. Eh, but I wanted to bring something out uh, I don't remember what it was.

About the hanging.

No it was. [pause] Well. We've seen our mother every now and then. Eh, she was, later on she has a, she, she got a position through my uncle that she was a helper to a Blockälteste, she was helper to the lady who was in charge of the barrack. Eh, I don't know the proper uh, English word what would you call it right now.

Also another prisoner, but it was the...

Another prisoner, how...however was in charge of the five or 600 woman who uh, uh, lived in this particular barrack. My mother was the helper. The helper was really the slave who did all, all the work, but it was still a good job. Of course my mother was capable of doing favors for some people and rewarded with uh, some food which she helped my brother and myself.

Was the woman German? The Blockältester?

No. Her, her name was Mrs. Webber, I remember extremely well. And uh, once again, this particular Blockältester, even though she was Jewish--sometime these people couldn't help, but many, many times, once again the power of being in charge went to their heads and they thought that they are so--they uh, made it hard for people, harder than they, than, they could have helped people more. They were afraid of their own lives. It's, it's true that they were afraid if, if they don't follow instruction, they'll get uh, they'll get killed. Uh, uh, at, at one time during the, during the Płaszów ghetto all of a sudden there were German ladies who came in who were, eh... Because up to that point the German officers came to the woman's barracks, but not as often. But all of, all of a sudden they came about eight or ten or them and they were called, we called them uh, Aufseherski, because they were Aufsehers. Aufsehers, that means people who overlook. And so you call them Aufseherski signifying that they're a woman. And they were more all over the camp. At one point they didn't like the way the barrack was cleaned. They just didn't like some things and they called every woman from all the woman's barracks and the, the one in charge and the one who was also uh, assistant, assisting the one in charge, and they called them on the Appellplatz. And my mother was among them. It happened twice. And they made a circle with the woman Aufseherska in the middle. And they had large circle, and she was telling these people, "Around, walk, up, down, around, walk!" And uh, and they did this for three hours. And anyone who--after all these women were not used to doing eh, doing eh, calisthenics or gymnastics...

They were starving as well.

They're starving uh, it, it was secondary, as much as we were starving, the, the question was at this moment that they were pretty near unable to get up sometimes. So they got whipped again and again and again. They couldn't get up, get whipped again, then run around again, the circle, you know. To the, even one that's eh, even an athlete, you know, given something like that for three hours, up and down, you know eh, eh, falling down, turn around--all kinds of calisthenics uh...

You think they were trying to kill them?

...couldn't make it. They're trying to eh, to massacre them while they're still alive. It was, people seen it from far away. We've seen it. You know, like the running around. Uh, uh, they keep, keep 'em in a circle so they could see everybody in view. And there a few of these eh, German woman. And, and anytime anyone fell down or couldn't get up anymore, you know, that's over their head, once again, once again, so. Eh, and my mother couldn't recover from this. Of course next day she had to go back to work in, in her cottage. But she could not walk. For three, four days she could, she, she, she was--e...every, every, every muscle in her body was strained.

She survived the torture.

She survived, she survived. She survived it twice, so. Eh, but it was, there was daily way, daily way of business. It was always something. Especially the Appellplatz were everyday we were counted on the way in, out, beatings, uh. I tell you about one day, what happened at this particular Appellplatz. There were two weeks in a row. One week everybody was asked to come on the Appellplatz, the roll call place. Then everyone was advised to strip, totally naked, one hundred percent naked. First we stood for hours before we knew what was going to happen. Then a lot of Germans came in front, like uh, uh, they created a big, big table over there, long table, with number of Germans. And then it was a hush came through that Mengele, the, the, the, the doctor from Auschwitz is also over there supposedly. Now we heard about Mengele, we heard about Auschwitz. It, it was, as much as we knew it was still hard to comprehend. No one wants to believe that we're going to be killed for no reason. It's just not humane to--just incomprehensible. I'm using the word over and over again. That's what it was.

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