Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Tola Gilbert - July 25, 1983

Dealing with the SS

Uh, were there Appells?

Oh, I told you, roll calls. Middle the night, during the day, winter, summer any time, no reason, no reason. If there would be a reason, one of the girls at the end of the war--at the very end--through a Bohemian guy uh, got away. And I tell you, this must have been March. It was very cold yet and they were keeping us on the roll call for hours and hours and hours and hours. And every time they were bringing another story. Her name was Regina Hoffman, I remember. Our leader--the German leader of the camp--the Lagerführerin was a Irma Hoffman. And every day they would call us to that roll call and they would tell us different story. And one story was uh, she was caught and hung. Another story was she was caught and killed. Uh, she was never caught. After we were liberated she came to camp and she came to the Lagerführerin and she said, "I am Regina Hoffman, the one that was hung by you supposingly." But you know what? I don't know if I should tell you even this. I know some people would get angered by it. I always promised myself, if I live through that war I will kill a few of the SS. Especially one that was really--I don't know what--I didn't do anything to her. Somehow, for some reason, she had something in her for me, wherever she saw me should would hit me. And I promised myself like the others uh, I, I would need a key for my sister. She had a different shift and I would need a key to the locker, you know. And I would ask the SS--we were not allowed to go by ourselves nowhere--and I would ask the SS, "I, I need a key for my sister, please. Would you go with me to my sister's department?" which could be another part of the factory completely. And she would go with me. And you know what she would do? She would go under the machines and listen on and look on if I don't give something to my sister or she doesn't tell me anything or I don't tell her and this was the good one once upon a time when she was a factory worker too. They became, like I told you, devils. And I want to tell you that I promised myself always to do something to them. And when the liberation came, and the Czechs brought a lot of them who ran away on a big uh, like a, a, truck, a open truck and they asked whose speaking uh, Bohemian and at that time I spoke fluently, Bohemian and German. Uh, the girls said, "Tola, Tola, Tola," they were hollering. So they took me on that uh, truck and they put all of the SS--not all of them they caught, but whomever they caught, at one end. And they would take each one to the front of the truck and they would tell me to ask the girls if she was good to them. And the girls were screaming, "Ne, ne," in, in Bohemian because this were--the guys were partisans. They wore uh, red uh, ties, actually like scarves, red scarves and each one had a gun at their side uh, there was talk that at the end they wanted to kill us with poison. But they knew about it and they were working the ropes for days watching us, the, the Bohemian partisans, underground. And they would ask me uh, I should tell them if she was good and then I would ask the girls. And we had some who were good. Two of them were let free, they were crying so and they let down from there. But I want to tell you they told me, "You can take anything and everything you want from them," and some girls did, mostly Hungarian, I'm sorry to say it, I didn't touch her. I just--I want you to know when they, they brought the Kommanderführerin--they caught her someplace, and I saw her through the window. They shaved off her head and put on old rags, do you believe me that I fainted? I don't know why. Something happened to me, I didn't do a thing to her. And I always promised myself--oh what--I think the Jews as a rule are not killers, not fighters, not warriors. As a rule, you know. Warriors yes, because we see what Israel has done. But not fighters, not killers by, by means of uh, the Germans, you know. Revenge or things like that, no. I deeply feel that even in everyday's life I'm so quick to forgive. I get hurt by people and then I shove it aside and I'm very willing to forgive. Very easily--it doesn't come hard to me. And I think that we all are like that, really.

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