Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Tola Gilbert - July 25, 1983

Being Separated from Family

And then you left from the sports arena, and where were you taken first?

First I was taken to a temporary camp, like this was a school building. And we were kept there for quite a few days. Uh, me uh, actually I was picked for a, I...

[interruption in interview]

...I was actually picked for a men's camp but uh, I asked Ludwig who was a German high official there--very handsome man--I, I begged him to send me to Ober Altstadt where my sister was. And uh, thinking that I am going there, he even said to me, "Ober Altstadt?" he said to me, "Du bist verrücht. You are crazy. Everybody wants to go to a men's camp and here she asks me to go to a, a women's camp." Uh, the reason uh, that uh, everybody wanted to go to a men's camp was that most girls were working in the kitchen in a men's camp and they at least, if nothing else, they had enough food. But uh, I knew that it would give peace my parents, this I knew 100 percent, if I would be with my sister who, she was a more uh, pampered girl. Uh, she hung on very much to the family. I was more a tomboy uh, but my sister uh, as a child my mother tells me and I remember even that she would never go out, even outside without a maid, where I never went with the maid. I would be uh, quite uh, you know, I would feel uh, closed in. I was more a free bird.

Yeah, so you were at that school building right over to Ober Altstadt.

Yeah, they took us to the trains.

Can you spell that for me? Ober Altstadt.

O-b-e-r-a-l-t-s-t-a-d. Let me see. Ober Altstadt, yeah. In Sudetenland.

And you were taken there by train?

By train, by train. And going there by trains we saw a transport, this was in 1942. You know, the trains were going and stopping and at one time we saw a transport of people with children. And they, we knew where we are going. I knew that I'm going to Ober Altstadt, which was really, you know, but it wasn't far, it was seven miles away, kilometers. But these people didn't know. And, you know, through the windows like the train would stop at the station and their train stopped too. And through the windows they would ask where are we going, in Jewish. Mostly I remember in German, "Wohin gehen wir?" And I remember myself, which we by then, I mean, in 1942 we definitely knew about Auschwitz. We didn't know about Mauthausen and others, but Auschwitz we knew because we were so close to it. Uh, and I remember telling them, "Don't be afraid, you go to work." So they would show the children and the child--I said, "All right, no, don't worry, don't worry." I wanted to make them feel better but they were terribly scared. And trains and trains of people.

How old were you at that time?

To tell you exactly how old, I just uh, got through uh, grade school.

So you were very young too.

Of course I was young.

How did you feel when all this was happening?

Uh, I tell you, I didn't, about myself I didn't worry one bit. I worried terribly about my parents. It was killing me inside, all the time. I remember when, seeing my mother the last time on that sport place, when they pushed her away from me, she wanted to say goodbye to me, she wanted to take me around and she was wearing a trench coat. She didn't have the sleeves and just thrown over her. And when they pushed her I remember then trench coat fell to one side on her one shoulder and she reached out like she wanted to grab me in and, and this was the last time I saw her. As it happened they did go home, they went home and stayed home another year. Which I don't know if it would matter, if you think about it. So, she was--they were, they were struggling. The end was the same. So I sometimes feel if it would have come earlier it would have been the same, it wouldn't matter. What was that one year more living meant. Did it mean anything? It meant nothing. I sometimes think about my father and his feelings. How did my father feel to send his own child to a concentration camp? What were, were his feelings? But he was so smart, he was such a bright man. It's so, so courageous, I must say, to take his own child. But he saw that this was the only way, if, if she will be saved this would be the only way to save her, sending her to a concentration camp because they need us for work, he figured out, and maybe, just maybe she will live this through. When I think about it I cry very often. I have terrible dreams. I, I don't dream too often but when I do dream, my son gets to be my brother. They are one person. And they are taking him away, I don't know if it's the brother or it's my son and I'm running, running and they arrest me, always, the Germans, always, always. I hate to dream and I don't dream too often, luckily for me.

Mm-hm, sure.

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