Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Alexander Karp - September 14, 1995

Deteriorating Conditions in Kochendorf

And your uncle was still with you?

Yes. Yeah, Kochendorf, yes. Um, truly, the conditions had deteriorated quite a bit in Kochendorf towards the end. It was January, February, March, you know. The war was going, uh, badly, thank God, for the Germans. And, uh, as far as rations, portions, no food, and anything what it could ever would have made life a little bit easier in the camps, it was deprived, because it wasn't of any importance whatsoever that any of those people should stay alive or should die, now, so as far as the fatalities, it was quite a bit in number wise. It was excessively more than ordinarily. It was even just a few months before that. People were losing their energy, the resistance and sickness came quite frequently. No medicine. No proper care. So they were just, just dying off like flies. When fall comes, you know, the flies are keep dying off. This is what happened over there. And, uh, it was very cold. The barracks weren't heated, but even without heating, there was so many human bodies over there that, uh, the cold wasn't even of great importance except when you put five hundred people into, into one area, you know, and you keep them there for twelve hours, or thereabout, you know, all the human waste--what is, uh, what it accumulates through those hours, and, uh, one is hollering because it hurts, and this, the other one is giving ??? the son because of something else. It was like--it was like during the tower of Babel. It was little bit, with normal mind, you don't know, or we don't know that how people can survive and can cope with these things. But somehow, where there is that little hope and that little desire to survive, you know, that's what it makes it. So, as the winter was, uh, going by, we had the word that we are going to be evacuating the camp at Kochendorf.

Before that, you said you had, you had gotten ill.


And you were in the...

In the infirmary.

In the infirmary. Did your uncle come to see you in the infirmary?


Did he bring you food?

Yeah, Yeah. It was a little bit of food, you know, he brought, and there was, you know, once you were inside in the, in the infirmary, then it's, it didn't, you didn't even need that much, because genuinely, I was sick, you know...

Do you know if it was dysentery, that you had? Did you have dysentery, diarrhea...

Diarrhea we had so often that we didn't even pay much attention to it, you know. But there was something, uh, there was something truly wrong because otherwise, you know, they wouldn't put you in there, and, uh, what it was, I can't even remember. I can't recall. The only thing I know is towards the end when I was there, I was trying to stay in there as long as I possibly could, because, uh, I didn't have to go to work, and nights, you slept a little bit more and food took a little bit more effect, you know. But all these maneuvering, it was done for the purpose of, of preserving your life.

From your description of the barracks, um, there must have been lice.

Yep. There was, that was a constant, constant problem.

Just to add to the insanity of it all. It must have driven people crazy a lot. How did you deal with all the filth and the lice and smells?

They were using, what was the name of it, inf...disinfection, they were disinfectioning the barracks and the people, themselves, and the clothes. It was something like a powder, you know, that's what they were using, but it wasn't totally effective, and I'm quite sure that, uh, some people got sick from that. And we were just simply lucky that, uh, that lice is the cause for typhus, isn't it, typhus, and then, we were just simply lucky that there just wasn't a break out of typhus but, uh, and, uh, we tried to keep it individually and collectively, you know, sanitary to the point to get rid of the lice and, uh, and hoping to keep it like that.

You said you were also on a burial detail. You and your uncle had volunteered for burial detail.

Yes, to carry the dead bodies, yeah, and to bury them.

How would you do, how would you do that? You wouldn't carry them...

No. Not by hand, but there was some carts, you know, and bodies were put on that. Sometimes one, two or three, depending on the numbers, and just rolled it. It was like a regular cart with, uh, one wheel and two handles, and it was just rolling them up.

And would you take it to a mass grave. It was already...

Yes. It was just above the camp. It was a playing field, and these was some, graves dug out, and we just put them in there and covered them.

And how did you cope with that?

You, know, it's a good question, and it's hard to answer it, because a dead body became to you like [pause] it was inconsequential. It just, you got used to it, and first of all, you didn't know tomorrow whose body it's going to be. Maybe it's going to be mine, maybe it's somebody else's. We see it today, and, uh, I'm quite sure that there may have been some people who, who had a little more, or they weren't so resilient to these things, but, uh, in my case, I speak only from a personal point of view, you know, it just got, again, to use that word, immune, you know. It's, it became just...

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