Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Joseph Gringlas - January 14 & 22, March 18, 1993

Conditions in Birkenau

You saw the chimneys.


You saw the chimneys.

We saw the chimneys, yeah, we couldn't miss the chimneys. They were so large and tall you couldn't miss it.

And you smelled the smoke?

The sm...yeah, at night and even when they start, when it getting dark, you could see the sky all red. A reddish sky you looked out to see, you know what's happening there. And the smoke coming out from the chimneys.

Tell me more about that.

Okay, being in Birkenau? I was there probably about five, six months. And then suddenly, it was a Sunday, I don't know how we knew it was a Sunday, Sun... They told us from the barrack to come out. From the barrack we stayed to get out of the barrack in uh, a empty place. And told us whatever we had on, the striped uniform, to strip completely naked. And we--and they put us in, into another big, empty other, empty barrack, completely empty.

So what did you think was going on at that point?

That was, we knew what's going on, they're going to take us to the crematory.


And we kept--they kept us all day long, 'til the evening, starting getting dark. A few SS men arrived and that was Josef Mengele. How I, I--at that time I didn't know what his name was, but after war when I saw the picture, I remembered. So he was--there was a few other SS, one corner of the barrack--long barrack and between the barrack was like who was in ??? you could still, still see that. It was a building, like a medium, you know, built up like half of the ways through that you couldn't jump over, you have to go through like all arou...one side to the other side to get through him. It was in a corner in that barrack. And there was a group I know, there was a few hundred of us. And he had put bright lights on us on top, from the, from that barrack. And he was standing, he was in ??? He came to me and when you, when you've got to, there's--well he was staying, going around. So, he asked me "How old are you? Wie alt bist du?" I was fifteen, I told him I was eighteen. I said, "Achtzehn Jahre." "Kannst du nach arbeiten?" That means...

Can you work...

...can you still work? I said, "Jawohl." So he took me out of, out of, separate line from that to take a different, a different place. And from us there were, there, one was older than me and maybe looked worse than me, they took him away to the, to the gas chamber. Anyway, that was the epi...episode from w...which I was selected to go to work. And I didn't know where we're going yet.

No clothes.

No, no clothes.

And you were moved to one side.

Yeah, one side.

Where did, where did they put you then?

They put you in a different place. They put me, put different place.

Separate barrack?

Separate, yeah, separate barrack ???. But and we put on back the, the...

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