Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

David Kahan - April 29, 1982

Arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Now, when you arrived at Auschwitz...


Um, and the doors opened...


What do you remember about your initial...



Initial reactions was first that thanks God that the journey is over, because we felt that uh, we just couldn't take much longer of being cooped up like that. The, the trains opened and loud noises, barking of dogs uh, German SS men walking around the dogs on leashes uh, people in um, that's the first time that we saw the Jewish concentration camp's uniform for, any concentration camp uniform, the white, the stripes. They opened the, the doors, "Everybody get out, quickly and stand in line." That's what I remember very vividly. Everybody was crawling out, weak, tired, old people, young people, children, babies, infants, cripples. We stood in line. My little brother walked away from me, I'll never forget that and he came back and he said to me that, that "That man over there told me that I should say that I'm seventeen years old." I was fifteen and he was eleven. I had no idea the meaning of that. But I held his hand next, I stood next to my father and my mother held my little sis...sister's hand and my aunt who lived in another town um, uh came. She had a young baby about a year old. She was holding him. And uh, I had no idea what he meant. But then we stood in the line and uh, I um, saw someone further up, which uh, I believe was uh, Dr. Mengele uh, standing near me. He was leaning I think against a cattle car, at the first one and he was looking at everybody and pointing left or right. And everything happened rather quickly, with all the people standing in line, thousands of people gettin' off the train. And uh, I stood in the line and the guy looked at me and he pointed me to the left. Uh, the rest of my family, everybody went to the right. But they took us to the left, put us in lines. I, I about fifteen, twenty minutes later, after everybody was already processed so to speak, I realized that I was together with maybe uh, forty or fifty people from my hometown who were young and strong. I still had no idea of the meaning or the significance of that, but all the rest of them were gone already to the other side where they were marched into the gas chambers and gassed. Uh, I smelled the stench over there, but we had no idea what was happening. After arriving from that long trip, we were already half confused and starved and, and uh, already, already dehumanized to the fact that we didn't know what was happening.

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