Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Alexander Karp - September 14, 1995

Arriving at Birkenau

You were with most of your family you said? In that car?

Yes, most of them.

Did anyone die in the car?

No, no.

So, your ninety-six plus old grandmother survived the train trip?

Yes, survived it, she made it to Birkenau.

And when you--when the train slowed down and stopped and the doors opened, what were your reactions? Do you remember?

Well, it was more confusion than reaction because, uh, as we got out, we tried to be together and walking forwards to the gates of, uh, Birkenau. And, uh, I do recall, it was Mengele who was at the time.

Had you heard about Auschwitz before?

Um, no, no. Never heard of Auschwitz, never heard of Birkenau. and, uh, as we were walking towards Mengele, and we got close to him and I can visualize the moment even today. That the way he showed one to the right, one to the left. And, uh, we were separated. My sister was holding my mother's hand and my uncle, who lives now in Haifa and who is one of the survivors out of the three of my family. Um, we went one way and my mother and, uh, the rest of the family went to the other way. Have never seen them after that.

Was there anything spoken between you and your mother?

Um, wasn't even so much spoken, but there is one thing, uh, what it stands out in my mind is she said to her brother, who is my uncle, who was not quite, but almost twice my age at the time, and she told him, "Take care of Alex."

She called you Alex?

No, she didn't call me Alex. "Take care of Shoney."



And did he respond to her?

And well, whatever he may have said, I don't know. The only thing I know is that, uh, he certainly lived up to this, to this request. Because, uh, without him, I don't know if I would have survived the camp.

When you went in different directions, did you have any idea what that meant?

No. Not at that moment.

What happened next?

Well next, we were taken into a so-called bath and, uh, they took all our clothes. They shaved our head, shaved, uh, I believe at that time only our head was shaved, yeah, totally. Everybody's head, of course, was a haircut given and took a bath and we were assigned to a barrack.

You went through a shower first?


And, were you given clothes before...

Um, yes, we were just given those blue striped, uh, pajama clothes.

And shoes?

Um, yes.

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