Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Fred Ferber - September 11 & 25, 2001

Selections in Płaszów

That's what it was.

We all got undressed and we were all one at a time running up and stand in front of Mengele. And Mengele with his whip would point to the left or to the right. At that time--and then we were, then we got dressed up again. At that time, my brother was sent to the left, while most of the people and myself was sent to the right. My brother was a year younger than I was, but he was stronger than I was. Even before the war, people used to call my, my brother Schmeling. Because he had the build and, and, and, and eh, the statute eh, of, of Schmeling who was the boxer in Germany before the World War II. The famous doctor--the famous boxer. And eh, so, he, he was stronger than I. Nevertheless he was pointed to the left--to the right. And then we all went back to the barracks. One day all of a sudden, a week later, ten days later, I don't remember Germans throughout the camp like flies. Everywhere. Everyone is supposed to go to the Appellplatz. Everyone goes to the Appell--has to go to the Appellplatz. They were running, they were running through the barracks with whips, now, now, now, now! My brother and I, we did not hide. We went to the Appellplatz. At the Appellplatz, after standing a couple of hours, they begin to call out names of people to come in front of the camp. And no one knew what's going to happen to the people that were called out. But there was a hush through the crowds. And the hush was a very quiet hush and very quick, over and over again, like--because we're not allowed to turn. There was people all around us. Police all around us. Not around not allowed to talk. [pause] People were trying to hold onto other people sometime. [pause] Not allowing their, their, their, their brothers or their fathers or, or eh, children to, to, to, to go out. But their, the policemen knew exactly what spot they're in and they came after and picked them out of the group and took them in front. And one time my brother's name was called off. And the policemen came. One, there was a Jewish policeman and asked my brother to come with him. I gave my brother a hug and a kiss and I also had a, a soup eh, eh, what you call this uh, that you carry a soup, uh.


Bucket. You call it a bucket, with a cover. So I gave it to him. He didn't want to take it, but I said, gave it to, I, I gave it to him you, you may need it, I said. So I gave him this particular thing, we hugged. There was not too much time, it was not allowed more than seconds. He left. He was taken away. By the end of the day--I would like to bring out first that we still have some children in the camp. We had a children's spot where the children's were taken care of. Young children, anywhere from three years old to, to ten, twelve years old who were maybe eight years old. My aunt Cyla and I think she expressed it to you when she gave her uh, Holocaust uh, uh, Holocaust, uh...


Interview, uh. Her child was also over there. And she, the people that eh, sh..., her, her husband was Jewish policeman, so she thought that, people thought if the Jewish policeman children are there, they're fairly safe. There was some maybe 150 children, someplace around there. Out of the 25,000 people, maybe 200 children. All of a sudden we see a truckload of the children going down from the hill, the hill where the, where the barrack was. And it's going eh, to the, to the right of us and then to the left of us eh, which was the road going out of the camp. Of course the children in those trucks, I believe there was two trucks at least--the children in the trucks were crying, yelling, and uh, calling mommy, whatever. And the crowd, the people, some of whom, whose, whose children they were, the fathers, mothers, parents, friends the hush, hum, I gue...came through the entire, through the entire--through all the people. Some people wanted to run toward the truck. But the police was expecting it and they were in force. They were, whoever was trying to run or they were--of course there were cries, the mothers were crying eh, the names of the children and the children were crying over there because they were, the whole thing took only moments. [pause] Nevertheless, it was terrible tragic, terrible tragic. People who were trying to go run after the truck were held, beat up, pushed back into the, into the proper group. Few moments it was all over. Following the children of the people that were called out were marched down out of the camp. Terrible, terrible cries from family members who didn't know where they're going. At that time we did not know that they will end up, they were too later in Auschwitz, in the crematorium. There was still hope. Even though they were parting, but there was hope that they're not going to, they're not going to be just put to death. It was still unthinkable. Even though--we, we stood there for another hour or two and everybody was, that go back to the camp, to the barracks. Horrible trauma for each, for all of us in the camp. I don't think there was anyone in the camp who hasn't lost someone today. As we found out after the war because the Germans kept a very good score of everything they went directly to, to Auschwitz and they were gassed and burned. We heard good things from the front that there was--even earlier while we were in ghetto, I understand there was a terrible, terrible winter when the Russians were fighting, when they were fighting with the Germans. The Germans were fighting the Russians. And we were happy that the cold weather, because we knew that the cold weather would favor the Russians. And the same thing during the 1943 and '44. In partic...by the way, in 1944, what I'm stating to you about my brother's uh, evacuation.

Had you heard about Stalingrad? Did you know about Stalingrad?

We knew about Stalingrad but we didn't hear anything about it. We were not allowed, allowed to read, write or have a pencil. We heard later on that the Russians--at first the Russians were retreating badly. We heard it indirectly. Then we heard that the Russians, especially when there was a cold winter, we felt good because we knew that the Russians eh, that it will favor, it will favor the Russians. But cold winters for us was standing at App...standing at Appellplatz or, uh. And we had no clothes. And we had those uh, uh, what you call these uh,, uh...


Uniforms with uh, with uh, uh, we used to call them in Polish paserki. With lines going up, stripes--striped uniforms. We had nothing under, nothing over. And at, at one time, as much as we complained, we were fortunate because we were given wooden shoes. Those wooden shoes, even though they eh, had, they were not made from leather--from plastic, the tops. But the wood at the bottom, after eh, we realized that eh, we still protected us from, from uh, from the, from the snow and from the cold, eh. Standing in the leather boots, as we did eh, before, they were all wet and they were wet forever. Now, nevertheless these wooden shoes, the tops got wet. We had all kinds of rags that we put around our, around our legs. Because the, the top of the shoes were just plastic. When you stay in ten, twenty below zero and stand for hours eh, even though you move around and move around means hop around because you, you, you want the blood to stimulate blood circulation. Uh, eh, most of us ended up with uh, uh, frozen, uh. Speaking for myself I, I had frozen toes and frozen legs, uh. During hot days it, it was sometime just as terrible. Because during hot days when you stay in that, in that heat, the sun is beating on you and you stand sometime for eight hours in, in the sun without food, without moving. Many, many people just lost control and, and uh, and, and uh, fell down and couldn't get up again, uh.

You, you stood for eight hours?

Sometime for eight, sometime for three. There was no special...

What did people do if they have to go?

If they have to go, to go right where they, they, they, they. There was no place to go. There was no saying, excuse me, I have to go to the latrine, you know. I...

So what was the smell like?

It wasn't, we were outside. The smell wasn't that bad. We were outside and people held it. There was not as much food. It's basic, you know, people. By the way, on that day that I spoke, regarding my brother, there were a few children that survived in the latrine. Uh, we had a latrine, you know, that eh, there was no toilets in the barracks. We all had to go to latrine at night or whenever you needed. Eh, it was quite a bit of walk. The whole Płaszów concentration camp was, was placed on the Jewish cemetery. It was originally Jewish cemetery. And the stones were cleared and that's where Płaszów was built on. And, anyhow, so eh, latrines were, were just, you see two, three hundred holes made out of wood, hole. And it was a terrible smelling place, with uh,, uh. German didn't usually like to come close to it. But that's where uh, uh, three, two or three children, I know for a fact, survived. My cousin, Roman Ferber, who is in New York right now, he's, he's a, he's a, he's got a doctorate uh,, uh. He survived uh, in the...

In the cesspool.

In the cesspool. That's, that's uh, correctly, up to, up to his belly in the cesspool over there for, for hours. But he survived. Uh, he, he, he was fortunate because indirectly he was related to Hirovitch, who was in charge of the camp. Somehow he was directed to go there. My brother or I didn't know, otherwise maybe we would have done that same.

Did you see your brother on the truck?

My brother did not go on the truck. My brother was with the group, because we were working people. On the truck were only the children. They were from, from, from the kinder..., from the Kinderheim, from the children's home. Kinderheim, in ??????? that, that, that didn't work. My, my brother was the one that was walking, walking away with the groups that were called out.

And you saw him walk away.

I, I, I saw him walk away, I saw him walk away and once again they put them in groups of a hundred. I, I didn't see him specifically. I knew that he's the third one wherever he was at that time. I knew him, I've seen him. But he couldn't turn around. And these people, Germans all over there. There were Germans like every five feet uh, everywhere. They had a picnic. They enjoyed it. They enjoyed it immensely. All of it.

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