Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Fred Ferber - September 11 & 25, 2001

Conditions in Mauthausen

A cup, did you get a cup?

Maybe a cup or a, a, something to hold the food in. That, that I think we got this later. Not right in that spot. But eh, and we were all, hundred by hundred take, taken to a, to a, to certain barracks. Now these barracks were eh, barracks made specially for people who were coming through, who were not permanent members of the, of the, of the concentration camp. There was four barracks. Twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, and twenty-four, may have been twenty-five, I don't remember. Eh, I was in number twenty-one over there. So there was about 1,200--250 us in one barrack, eh. Sleeping at night, the Germans came in and laid us out, with us, I mean, one at a time, you had to run in and lay like sardines one next to the other. Head, I, I took my head to somebody else's uh, shoes, somebody else's shoes next to my head and just exactly like sardines, tight, one next to the other. There was very little space or no space. Anyone who didn't like or move, the whips were always ready to whip. They always had a whip handy. So terrorizing everyone there. The problem at Mauthausen was--there was two or three special problems. One problem was that you were not allowed to drink the water. Drinking the water at Mauthausen gave us the runs immediately. Anyone with the runs, with uh, other name for it is, uh...

Is uh, dysentery.

Dysentery. Anyone with dysentery couldn't survive too long. As good as dead. However, some people were uh, begging for water so much. One particular person who had a liquor factory in, in, in Poland--I happened to be this particular day on the inside Kommando. I was cleaning the barracks after everybody left. He was standing outside my window and that fellow was begging me for a little water, saying that after the war he's going to eh, promise me all kinds of eh, ch...ch...cherry--all kinds of liquors that they were, they were known for. Of course I didn't give him any water. I, I knew it's death. Uh, he thought I'm awfully cruel, eh. So there was one problem. No one was allowed to drink any water. Even though it was summer, the only--we had a lot of soup everyday. And another problem there was they had eh, a stone quarry, a quarry. That's the proper word. You had to go down some hundred and twenty-five, hundred and thirty steps down to the quarry.

Did you ever hear of the term, the Spanish steps?

Yeah, but, but...

They were called the Spanish steps.

I don't know remember it as such, no, no. I remember that uh, uh. You know, I was younger than most, you know, somehow than the rest. So what happens, people were going down there. I, I did not work there too often. I was only five or six times. We were there about four weeks in Mauthausen. I was extremely--I was on the inside Kommando most of the time cleaning the barracks. Extremely lucky. But being over there, down, you go down, on your--you, you pick up a stone. They give you a stone, on your, on your, wearing on, on your shoulder. And you have to go to a hundred and twenty-five, hundred and forty steps I don't remember at the moment how many. Even though I was there a couple of times after the war. Uh, and anyone who couldn't make it got beat up--hit. And if you really couldn't make it, when you got up, sometimes they let you hold hands with two, three other people, they push you down the quarry. And so you, by the time you fell down those eh, hundred and fifty feet or whatever it was, it, it was quite a long drop you, you, you, you, you, there was, the, the life was over. If it wasn't over, you couldn't help it. There were, it was over, period, whether you were totally dead or not. So it, it was eh, terrible eh, fear of not carrying the stone up. Everybody was working in fear. Every day number of people were killed over there. Every day people came back to uh, to the four or five barracks, there were always people missing. How do we know they're missing? We were first of all family knew. Peo...members knew. But we were always counted-- forever counted.

So someone would die in the quarry and they would bring the body back?

I tell you, they also had a crematorium eh, over there...

In Mauthausen?

...in Mauthausen. But at that time, I'll be, I'll be honest with you. Even if there was a crematorium, even it was talked about, I don't remember. I don't. I remember what I've seen, you see. Now these people were uh, dead or half dead eh, they were taken somewhere. I was after the war in Mauthausen and I've seen pictures taken during the war. And they had a crematorium.

They did have it.

They did have a crematorium. They were burning people all the time.

'Cause they burned people in, in pits as well. They just put kerosene on them and...

That I've seen in, in, in, in Płaszów. In, in Mauthausen I, I don't remember that. We were just--we didn't, we didn't go all over the camp. You were not allowed to go through the camp. It was just eh, narrowed down to these four or five barracks that we were. And whether I was there three or four weeks, I don't remember the exact days, eh. Then all of a sudden one day at the Appellplatz there--my name was called out and few hundred other people and we were walked down it wasn't too far, it was maybe two, three, four hour walk, I don't remember how many hours we walked to Gusen. Gusen II.

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