Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

David Kahan - August 14, 1995


So who opened the doors?

I don't know. Maybe the Red Cross I think. I think it was the Red Cross. The Germans were gone, they left the train. And uh, rumors swept our train that we're free, the war is over, the Americans are here. And, it's very hard to describe that, that delirious feeling, you know. Uh, we couldn't believe it, or, or understand it. We were starved and hungry and tired and walking skeletons really. I mean, that, that week on the train was a terrible ordeal. We had practically no food and, and, and I think for me that was, the, the starving was the worst. I thought I was just gonna die from hunger. So um, I walked away from the train and, and uh, and not far there was a house. I went in and I asked for, for some food. I remember the first house, they were drinking champagne and they were celebrating. They said they had nothing, no food. I went to the next house and I got a piece of bread from a German lady. And after that I went back to the train. I said I, I better get back to the rest of the people, because I saw a German uh, SS soldier with their motorbike just going by that house. They were just withdrawing. The Americans were only an hour away.

But you were alone.

I was alone at that house. Yeah, I was so hungry that I had to get some food. I got a piece of bread, I was maybe a quarter mile away from the train. I walked back to the train, everybody was milling around the station. About eleven o'clock I, I heard somebody saying, "The Americans are here." I walked from the, from the train itself to the back of the station where the road was and there was some American tanks. I mean it's very hard to describe the beautiful, wonderful feeling. Uh, they stopped for a few moments, they threw us some food, some cans of Spam, some chocolates and things like that. I remember that I, I got a hold of a can of Spam. So after they stopped for a few minutes, they just continued on. And, and I ate the Spam and uh, I'm lucky that I survived because many of my comrades died. Our stomachs were so weak that they couldn't handle that. I, I remember I walked into a German house and, and they gave me, I asked for something drink and I had a bottle of milk to quench my thirst. And, and I, I, I, I had to go to the toilet. I was diarrhea. I could see that that food was--the Spam was tearing at my stomach. So I was sitting in the toilet and I was drinking that milk and I uh, threw up, threw up a lot of that Spam. My stomach got a little bit better. And uh, then, then we went into the center of town where they were, I think it was an American soldier who spoke Jewish, Yiddish, that we were told already not to eat any heavy food, just uh, eat bread and, and have some milk or soup, light food, because our stomachs couldn't handle it. Uh, so that was the day of the Liberation. We, we, we walked over to a German house and I stayed there for about four or five days and we were waiting for transportation to be taken to some other, dis...to a displaced person camp. In the meantime I got sick. I had typhus. I, I was, it was also miraculous that I didn't get the typhus in the camp. It was a sure death. But I got typhus and uh, I was told by some other people who were liberated that you got to go over to that house and you see there was a doctor there. I don't know if it was a doctor. There was somebody there from the Red Cross who said that, "You'll be picked up here and taken to a hospital." So there was a number of us waiting there. I was getting a fever. And they took us to a hospital. When I woke up I was in a makeshift hospital in the outskirts of Feldafing. They took us, that was, that was already a big German army camp in which they were putting in all the people liberated in the Mühldorf area. So I was there for about a week or ten days. I recuperated from, from the typhus and then I went into, they took me into Feldafing, the camp. We must have had, I don't know, seven, eight, nine thousand survivors. It was a huge, large camp.

You were, it sounds like you were in three different German houses in Seeshaupt. Is that...you went from one to the next.

Uh, yeah. The first house was to get the bread uh, the second house where I got the food temporary and then the third house where I, where I decided to stay until we are being taken to the camp uh, when I got sick, yeah. Three houses.

Did uh, did the, the residents of those houses um, seem surprised to you that you were there?

Well, I think the residents of those houses were quite relieved. They were terribly afraid. I re...I recall vividly that, that uh, about an hour after the American tanks left, or maybe two hours after, the, the, there was a big line of the Ger...German population from Seeshaupt. Almost every, I think they were ordered by the American army. Every person over twelve or thirteen, they stood in line and had to come and see the train.

With the bodies.

To see what they have done to the, the dead bodies and the skeletons and, and the wounded people. I remember their walking, holding their noses with their handkerchiefs. And I think they were, they were terrified. They didn't know what the Americans would do to them and they didn't know what the survivors would do to them. Uh, I, I heard, I saw that, not far from us, some Russians were liberated, Russian concentration camp inmates and I saw they had guns. And I heard stories that some, some of them killed some Germans. But uh, most of us, all we wanted is food. I mean, I, I, I didn't see a single Jew hurting a German. It, it wasn't our history or our style to hurt people or to kill people. So...

Do you think that this is the first, this, these citizens of these, these small towns had any knowledge about what was going on?

No, I, I don't think so. Uh, I was in Germany for four years after the liberation. I, I didn't come to this wonderful United States 'til May the 4th, 1949. And uh, everyone of them that we talked to said that they didn't know nothin' about it. No, I, I'm sure the people in Mühldorf knew about it and then there was so many concentration camp spread, literally hundreds and I think they knew very well. But uh, probably until, 'til the end, the Germans must have believed that, that Hitler, the Germans are going to rule the world and there was nothing to worry about. But there is no question in my mind. You couldn't hide hundreds of concentration camps without the population knowing about it. Just couldn't.

You were, you were, now you're put up by the Americans in a...


in a displaced person's camp?

Yes. Uh...

In Feldafing?

I was, I was put in Feldafing. Yeah.

Was this at the um, former Hitler Jugend uh, camp?

Uh, it, it could be. I thought it was a, a German army camp and maybe it was a Hitler Jugend camp. Perhaps you have this information more than I do. I, I thought at that time that it was a army camp before. It could have been a Hitler Jugend camp, yes.

And then you were send to a hospital.

Uh, that's where I was right after the liberation, to, to the, it was a villa, German villa, a large one turned into a hospital. And it's where, it's where I, it's where I was.

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