Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Fred Ferber - September 11 & 25, 2001

Interview Continued - September 25, 2001

The following is a continuation of an interview with Fred Ferber conducted at his home in West Bloomfield, Michigan on September 25, 2001. The interviewer is still Sidney Bolkosky.

I have a couple things to ask you from last time. Just maybe if, if you could elaborate from last time.


You said you had an encounter with um, Mengele, with Mengele um, at Mauthausen.


Not at Mauthausen.

No, that was in Płaszów. I believe it was Mengele who came in during the days, the selection day. The day that everybody got stripped and went in front--there was 25,000 of us and eh, everyone got stripped, first eh, the men I believe and then the woman. And he just showed some to the left and some to the right. And names were taken. I believe that the immigration, the select...the selection of the names eh, they actually going eh, sending us out, sending the people out who were eh, eh, selected by Mengele was a week later, I believe. Eh, my memory eh, as I see it, I remember that it was a week later that the names were called out of the people who were selected by Mengele.

And they all--you think they all wound up in Auschwitz.

Well, there was a, there was a transport of 5,000 and eh, the children and my brother was one of them. He was not a child, he was one year younger than I am, than I was. And as I was stated, as I was stating to you before, he, he, he looked, he, he was heavier built than I was, you know. They used to call him Schmeling eh, because he was a little stronger. Nevertheless, he was selected. And eh, as we found out after the war eh, the, the whole transport of the 5,000 people and the few hundred children eh, went directly to eh, to the gas chamber.

Tell me a little bit about Mengele. What made you think it was--had you heard of him before?

At that time we did not hear of him in Płaszów. If we did I didn't. I would not know who he was. Eh, most of the people would not know what's happening. Nobody, nobody thought that--even though we've seen the killings, but we all thought that we going to survive. We were hoping that, that, that we will overcome it. We were hoping that the war would end and, and, and we would live, because there was no reason to kill us. The people were working, as I stated before, they were working for free, they were getting no food, they were getting eh, no benefits of any type. And as we understood, the Germans, we were working for some of the eh, clothing and other things for the German soldiers that were sent up front. So we thought that, after all, there's no reason to kill us. We're doing, we're doing them justice. The, the mind didn't comprehend that we're going to be destroyed totally. Even though we've seen things happen. But it's hard to accept it.

When do you think you realized what, what, what in fact was going on. Was it afterwards? The, the s...scope of the murder.

It's a hard question. At the time that we were in the camp, we developed eh, to be like animals, like having sixth sense. Everybody wants to survive. We knew that they are killing people in the camp. We did not know how, how are things on the outside. We did not know that all over the, all over the, all over Europe they were doing the same thing, at least. We heard, it was very hard to comprehend it, eh. Everybody's trying to survive, eh. We knew that things are eh, couldn't be anymore terrible, you know, uh. People, or speaking for myself, we, we all were dying a thousand death, you know. It was uh, everyday there was a death. There, there was uh, the death of fear was all the time with us. The death of fear. Uh, not knowing what the next moment would bring. Eh, the death of cold. I mean, we stood at the Appellplatz of the place where they counted us for hours and hours during winter days. We stood during the summer eh, to summer heat. The, the sun was beating on, on us for hours. We had no clothing during the wintertime, we just had uh, the striped pants and the jacket and, and, and a pair of shoes that was wooden, sometime, which was a benefit actually, we didn't know at that time. That we were freezing. Eh, there, there was so many other type of, of eh, of, of dying each and every day. We were dying for the people that we loved, that we've seen they're being taken away eh, that, that are being shot. That we, that they are going, they went places we never heard from them, eh. And there was the fear of survival, uh. It, it was uh, it, it is where days that uh, the human mind cannot comprehend. So it's, it's uh, it's ex...ex...extremely hard to express or to explain.

When they took your brother, did you think you would ever see him again?

Yes, I, I sure did. I sure did. I sure hoped that he went to another eh, concentration camp to another work, to, to do something else. Eh, I had hoped that I would see him after the war. People stated that they went to Auschwitz later on. Somehow the rumors got around. But then we didn't know if there was another selection or there was not another selection. And we were hoping there's always a possibility that he eh, very rare possibility he could have jumped off the train, eh. I hope that he is a alive uh, it didn't happen.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn