Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Tola Gilbert - July 25, 1983


You--when you were liberated what--do you recall the day you were liberated?

Absolutely, it was the 9th of May and it was like the last time we came back from digging those uh, ditches it was like this. It was about morning nine o'clock, about nine o'clock and the fa...one father of the SS who happened to be watching us at that, on that certain day, of mein group came out and talked to her. We saw that she was standing on a hill and we were working deep down in the ditch, digging. And he stood on the hill, she stood on the hill and he came to her and he told her something and she started to cry. And she ran to the other SS to the other groups of the SS and they all were very annoyed by something. They were aggravated, they were running and talking and crying and we saw that something is happening. And especially, remember I told you that a guy came to us and said, "The freedom is behind your back". And we thought that something is happening. In the meantime and we heard rttttt [gunfire sound] more and more, louder and louder each day. And suddenly an order, we have to wash the shovels. There was a river going through so every day lunchtime, when they called us for lunch or when we were quitting at the end of the work day we would wash the shovels in that river. And uh, the order came to wash the shovels but we felt--they took away our watches, our watches was taken away already. And uh, we thought, "It's not time," we felt it's not time for lunch, "What is it?" So they tell us to wash the shovels and we are standing waiting. And they said to stay in lines already. We stood in lines; we don't see the wagons with the food. And we started to march. Since at that time they were talking of evacuating us uh, we thought that that's what happening. And I want you to know at that time my younger sister was in camp, the youngest, because there was some work to be done in the camp too. So they took the children, which wasn't hard work really. And my other sister was sick in the Krankenzimmer with typhoid fever, which nobody knew about. Even Dr. Mengele, who was at that time in the camp didn't know that she had completely something else. They were--see, at that time we had a doctor from Leningrad, a Russian prisoner of war and she worked as a doctor in our camp at that time. And uh, anybody who had typhoid fever, this was covered up. The Germans did not know; we knew it. And the doctor we bought with cigarettes that we got from the Englishmen. It was a [laughs] anyhow she was hooked on cigarettes and she would do anything, anything for cigarettes. Anything. So we bought her off with the cigarettes and the Germans didn't know that there was typhoid fever in our camp. They would kill us--all of us--because they would be afraid that the German population will catch it. Don't forget, we were in contact with them. So about--why did I tell you this? I am getting off.

We were talking about liberation, about going back to the camp after...

Yeah, so anyhow, so we could hear, at night we heard like trucks, cars, horses on the road away. The road was quite a distance away from the camp, but we didn't know who and what and where. And nobody was anymore. The SS disappeared. A day before our Kommanderführer was very busy bringing us jam and she would stay with the jam. And I want to tell you what Jewish young women can do. She was standing with that jam and everybody wanted to run and somebody will say, "No." Now? Toothpaste suddenly, shoelaces suddenly, toothbrushes. Suddenly we, we could have everything--the world. And we decided, "No, they didn't give us 'til now, we won't take it now either." And nobody would make a move. And the Kommanderführer understood that we said, "No," in Polish, and she says, "Why do you tell them no? They wanted to take already the, the jam. Why did you tell them no?" And we said, "We don't need it now." But we were still afraid that they shouldn't come in a group and kill us off, you know. So finally we wouldn't go out of that camp, but I, I, I left--through something on that day that we were liberated, I want to tell you. Anyhow, they marched us and we didn't know if we are being evacu...can you change this around later? When we evacuated and they told us to wash the shovels, and stay in lines ready to go, we were walking and going and going and we knew that we are going in the direction of the camp, but we were not sure until they told us to walk in into the camp that we are going back home. And when we came there in the yard of the factory--we walked in into the yard of the factory--the factory was here and the camp we had to go around and the camp was there. Were like buried potatoes. I don't know if you ever saw, in winter they used to bury potatoes and cover them up with earth. And we see girls are sitting there, the ones that were in the camp and the ones that were in the first la...lines coming into the camp are sitting there and baking potatoes so I sat down too. Listen, when did I ever have so many potatoes? When was I ever able to have so many potatoes? So I grabbed the potatoes into my coat. We had--let's see, we were stealing, so we had in our coats, our coats were left to us--the coats only. So I would rip the lining here and the lining was sewn on, on the bottom and if I would steal, I would put the potatoes into lining and the potatoes would fall. And I took a full coat. As a matter of fact, I was afraid to walk in into the hallways, so I maybe there's a SS. But when we came the door was wide open from the camp and there was no SS and I threw the potatoes through the window and I remember how they were falling on the floor with that big noise.

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