Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Fred Ferber - September 11 & 25, 2001

End of War

Then tell me what happened next.

Okay, here what it is. Survived Gusen. War, war was, we were told war was getting close to the end. We were told that the Germans are uh, losing the battles. Of course we would never know from our work. We worked in the cement Kommando, we created new factories, new machinery was coming in. And there was one more thing over at this is uh, maybe of interest at, at Gusen. At Gusen, many times for lunch they allowed us to go out of the, out of the tunnels. They allowed us to go out of the tunnels. There was thousand, two thousand of us sitting eh, outside having some lunch. And in 1944, what was happening that the American Air, Air Force--all of a sudden we, we hear a, a siren, and uh, that means the American airplanes are coming. It was becoming a daily routine, pretty near. And you'll see all of sudden eh, tremendous amount in proper formation American airplanes coming in, low, flying low. So, what begin to happen, first of all we were happy. But nobody showed happiness because nobody wants to drop dead. But all of a sudden, what they used to do, sometimes they allowed us to lay low. Sometime they said, "Everybody in! Everybody in the tunnels!" And they begin to come with the Kapos and the whips and everybody in the tunnels. Now the tunnels could only take so many people at a time. There was no way that we could all come in. So whoever fell down, you know people were on top of the other, because in the back they were whipping the people's back. They were pushing and there was, the entrance narrowed down. So there was eh, absolute impossibility. So whoever was strong had no problem, whoever was weak, if he was down, some people just stepped over him and keep going. There was no way to pick him up, no way. I was a very small guy, by comparison to others. I tell you for me, the only way for me, I jumped up, I grabbed somebody's shoulder with, with my fingernails, whatever or coat, and, and I jumped up. And I wasn't even walking on the floor. I was squeezed by the people that pushed right through. If I would have been a little lower I was shorter than many, one wrong step or somebody steps on your foot, you can never get up. After these deals there was always a whole number of people that had to be picked up and, and taken uh, uh, to the morgue, so to be speak, to, to...

To be buried.

To be, not to be buried. We put our eh, stripped them down. Put the number down of their, of, of the, the, the number of the uh, uh, you call this, uh. In German there was a special expression for our numbers. We didn't have names, we had numbers...

Numbers, mm-hm.

...you know. Eh, so these numbers were put on, on, on the, on the front of the body, across the chest. And put on top of the pile of, of dead people, you know. That was finished. If somebody wasn't totally dead or was dead, that was the end of it. Most of people were just about dead. Once you, a thousand people step over you, you know, there's not much of a chance of surviving.

So these were I.D. numbers that you're talking about.

I.D. numbers, right, right.

Did you get a tattoo as well?

I did not get tattoos. Tattoos were given in Auschwitz...


...we had a number uh, I can probably get the number, I have it someplace here. Fifty-six thousand and some hundred, you know, was my number, uh. 567 I think. I can still get that number. Next time maybe I'll have it for. So it was one of the things that, even though we've seen American soldiers--American airplanes coming in, but still a lot of people died because we had to squeeze in so fast into the tunnels. Just a little, so. You, you have to imagine this, two thousand people or more trying to get in through the, through this one opening or two openings over there. We survived. I survived. Anyhow, that, that was eh, eh, that was the life in eh, in Gusen. Eh, sometime about March of 1945, eh, we were told, we were told but one morning we were lined up, take, take whatever you have with you. You know, we didn't have any baggage with us, there was nothing to carry. We just carried our eh, eh, what, that you put soup in. What did you call it was again?


Not cup. Metal container. For soup and bread. Everybody had one. There's a special name to that, uh. I have to write it down for next time. Uh, and we took that with us. Never anything else. There, there was nothing. There was no belongings of any type that you, that we had to take with us. But I, I st...stated before, I had the pictures which I carried with me always. So I took the pictures and we went on a march, we march at that time. It was a very, very--once again, traumatic march. It was cold, it was winter. We got fed once a day at the very most. Some soup. And we slept in some eh, open, not, it was not an open field. We slept in uh, uh, horse stables uh, somethings like that. They were open, there, there was no heat. It was, it was cold places. And uh, as we walked the second day people were, uh. We went through different towns. People knew that we were prisoners, but we were so guarded on both sides, nobody know. Eh, anybody who even tried to take something from anyone, from them, some water, got whipped. And the standard thing, there was a wagon in the back of us, anyone who couldn't walk too good or anyone who disobeyed any orders eh, either got whipped to begin with and placed on the wagon. Anyone who placed on the wagons we knew ain't go...is not going to eh, survive the war.

They're still alive, but they're placed on...

Still alive, but, but they have half-dead they, they beat up. They were not shooting them on the spot, they were putting them on the wagon. Eh, the story about my cousins, you know, my cousins--I had four cousins. About the same time eh, just before the war ended, they were going from different camp, let me just say about different camp, it is documented. And there were four girls, four sisters. Then one of their very good friends called Marisha Fordgunk, who later became my aunt, Marisha Fordgunk, she was very weak. They were young girls, young girls uh, twenty years old, twenty-two, nineteen. She became very weak and she could not manage it anymore. So she was taken on the wagon. See she was a very good friend of the four sisters. The four sisters took her off the wagon and carried her and helped her to walk. Now the night, like day later, they couldn't walk anymore. And when morning came, they hid some..., they hid themselves somewhere, I think, in this, in this particular uh, stable. I wasn't there, but they, they hid, they didn't go on the rest of the trip. The rest of the people, none of that particular group survived. These five girls survived. So, lucky that they, eh...

Did they save her?

...they took her out and then together with her they hid someplace under the floor, whatever it happened. I wasn't there. Uh, but they survived. But all the rest of the girls, there was I don't know how many hundreds eh, never--not one survived. They were all young ones or, or in the prime of their age. And I, I shouldn't talk about it because that's not my eh, eh, my story. Uh, so here we are, we're on the way to a place we don't know where we going. Cold, miserable, no food. People are drip..., dropping off. Eh, we all were close to dropping off, each and every one of us. Strength were disappearing fast. On the third day we end up in a forest--I believe it was on the third day called Gunskirchen, the place was called Gunskirchen. Now that was a different kind of a camp. It was not a labor camp and there were no wires around. In this particular place every ten, fifteen feet eh, on the outskirts of that camp was a soldier with a carbine guns guarding us, every few feet. It was halfway up the mountain, like, and uh, there was one huge--there might have been more smaller one there was one huge barrack, extremely huge barrack. And that barrack could not accommodate everyone sleeping. No way in the world could it accommodate. Eh, outside, not only that it was cold, it was in the forest, the earth was eh, muddy. Mud all over eh, hard to walk even.

Was the forest the Hochholy?

I don't remember.

It doesn't matter.

I don't remember the name. And this particular camp was different from other camps. We were given food once a day. But I give you, I, I tell you what was happening every night. First of all, whoever got into that large barrack was lucky to get into the barrack because outside was terri...practically impossi...it was very hard to survive to sleep outside. I was very fortunate that time because I had a friend of mine, a friend, fellow from Poland who was stronger than I, bigger than I, he kind of protected me. Now in this particular barrack, once we went to sleep once enough people squeezed in, because there was... Everyone who could squeezed in there. So once again, there was no place to lay down. The most one could do is sit. And I for instance sat on top of my--it used to be called menazka that's the thing that you put soup in, it had the flat bottom. It's like a pot, it's a pot, that you, that you carry with you.

Where did you find the pot?

We carried, that's the same pot I carried from Gusen.

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