Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Alexander Karp - September 14, 1995

Transport to Birkenau


Yes, it was either the end of May or the very beginning of June. Because I know that it was the second day of Shavuot because we still observed the holidays.

What was the train like?

Well, the train it was, uh, treacherous. It was, uh, as we know it, animals should not be transported in that fashion. These were smaller cattle cars, um, and I would say, 100 to 150 people were packed into it. It was just, no water, no food. Um, there may have been a little bit of food what it was from the ghetto brought with some of the people. But, water was very scarce and, of course, for, uh, there were some dumps for, for human waste.

What was it like on the train?

Like a, the ride lasted, till, from Monday afternoon we were loaded and sealed about five o'clock Monday afternoon and we got to Birkenau, Wednesday, mid-morning.

Thirty-six hours, hours?

We went, yeah, um, between loading the cattle cars and unloading them, it's roughly forty-eight hours, maybe forty-four.

When--there was, there was a train station then in Kisvarda?

In Kisvarda, yes.

What was it like at the train station when everybody was called all at once? I mean on the platform, for example, what was it like?

Well, on the platform and, there were a number of people who were designated to, uh, to occupy each of the cattle cars.

And you, with, you were together with your mother and your sister?


And grandparents?


And your great-grandmother, she was...

Yeah, we tried to stay together.

Your great-grandmother was also...


And you managed to get on the same car?

In the same car.

Do you remember anything about the trip, sites, sounds, smells?

Well, we started out, the trained rolled out about between five and six o'clock. And, uh, we didn't know exactly the routing which way we are going or which way we are going to go. However, the next stop, we knew it was a little city, but it was on the border between Czechoslovakia and Hungary. I--that one was Hungary at the time chop. And we were able to follow it. We went through Kosice and through the night we didn't exactly know which way we are going, but by Tuesday morning we have seen some strange, uh, signs when we looked out on the small window. What it was available for us to look out and we could see that it was other than Hungarian writings, that it was Polish now. And, uh, it was very difficult to go through this. Everybody, nobody spoke much. Um, we didn't know what to speak about. The future was so, um, indecisive. You, you, you didn't know tomorrow what is going to bring, where we are going, whether we are going to be together. Because by this time, somehow we got that fear that not everything is the way we were led to believe at the time that we left the ghetto. And, I remember through the night, I don't believe that anybody slept a half hour. I, I know that half of the night my mother was sitting on the floor right next to me and I had her head in my lap. And, and I can visualize it and I can feel it today, the way her face was in my, in my palm, and, uh, she was just crying. She didn't say anything. And my sister was right next to us and the whole family was most everybody out of the thirty people from our family was in this car. They were, uh, a few of them with some cousins, they were in another car. Um, but, uh, this was because the way the numbers came up. There were only either 120 or 150 who were put in into each car. Because these were approximately one third the size what we have today in this country, you know. So, it was packed practically like sardines. And, uh, the smell was bad. Um, people were, some of them were sick. Some of them were tired, and ages from, from, from birth to age one hundred. So, it was a pretty dismal sight. And, uh, it was, it was something that no human being ever, ever, should experience.

Let's stop for a moment now. Take a little break.

[interruption in interview]

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn