Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Tola Gilbert - July 25, 1983

Life in a Concentration Camp

At that time everything changed. It became a concentration camp. They, they sent schooled SS women. Some of them used to work with us and they were very kind to us before, but once they had the uniforms on, I always say that angels changed to devils. They were even worse than the ones that were shipped to us that we didn't know before. And then, like we used to work uh, sometimes night shifts, which was the worst. Because during the day you had to clean the barracks, so you had very little sleep. On top of it you need more food because you need the food while you were working at night and you also need it during the day while you were not sleeping. Uh, or some girls were working day shift. Uh, life was not easy. Uh, you could walk through the hallways, for no reason at all a SS would come uh, and would just slap you for no reason. There are no questions to be asked. Whom are you going to ask? Uh, the rations were very small. We were always hungry. I happened to be uh, this was already, we had rooms uh, very small ones. We were thirty-one girls in one room in double-deck uh, beds, bunk beds. Uh, it happened so that I was in a room that uh, had very, very nice, intelligent girls and we always used to learn because we would start to talk about books, movies, or whatever and before we turned around we talked about food, which was always on our mind because we were hungry. I cried many times because I was hungry. I couldn't help myself. I would always volunteer to go to load uh, potatoes or sugar beets or whatever was edible, I would volunteer, no matter how hard the work was. But at least I had a chance either to steal something or to eat something. And uh, my sister, unfortunately, she was sick from the beginning in that camp. So I was only glad that she can go to work because otherwise they would, you know, they would ship her to the gas chamber. And then in 1943, in 1943 uh, unexpectedly, ten girls came to our camp. And I want you to know among them was my sister, who was at that time nine years old. This is the hardest time--the hardest thing to tell you. My father was in the ghetto at that time, this was the small ghetto, and already their things were transferred to the big ghetto in Srodula. And uh, he was going to work in the city, the Germans were taking the Jews out to work in the city. And he saw announcement that a transport is going to Ober Altstadt, to the camp, to the concentration camp where my sister and I were staying. And he decided, things got so bad they were daily taking out from the houses the people and send...were sending them to Auschwitz. Things got so bad that my father, when he saw this he decided that Rosa my sister has a chance; the younger one no, but Rosa was older, she was nine years old, she has a chance to survive in a concentration camp. And he came home and he told her that he thinks that the best thing for her would be in order to stay alive to go to us to the concentration camp. And she started to cry very bitterly, she didn't want to go. And he said, "Yes, but you see this way they say that every family that has one child will be able to stay in the ghetto and they won't bother these families." He lied to her in order to make her go, and that's how my sister came to uh, to our camp. And she was working just like everybody else. No privileges, no more food, or no, nothing else, just like everybody else. Uh, many times they were calling us uh, for a roll call for no reason at all, regardless of the weather. Sometimes, wintertime they would call us out and they would tell us to lay down in the snow with our faces down and crawl with the faces in the snow. Uh, when uh, every time that spring came there were puddles of water uh, in the yards. And uh, they would tell us to take our cups and make a chain. Uh, behind our camp there was a beautiful river, you know, the mountain's river are very shallow and you could see every stone, very pure, very clear. Uh, behind that river ???, mountain, so gorgeous. Uh, of course we could see it from our camp. Behind the wall was the beauty. Uh, and uh, we would have to uh, take the water into our cups and from the cups to place and when we make a chain and the water was spilt to the river, which was called the Aupa. Uh, our hands and uh, toes were frozen. It was still winter and the winters are quite cold in Sudetenland, it's a mountain uh, place. But uh, we had to, we just had to.

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