Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Alexander Karp - June 22, 1983

Life in Kochendorf

There the camp was already established and along with others, you know, we were put up into barracks. And this is really where all hell started um, because as the war progressed and probably the Germans felt they were a little bit more towards the losing end of it. Now without any hesitation, whatever has taken place in our camp, it was all right with them. And this is where our food rationing became next to nothing. Conditions became next to nothing. Sickness has not been, you know, healthcare became minimum. So really it came down to the point that it became a conditional fittest of the survivor--survival of the fittest. Now, there were various different groups that do--what have been doing different type of work. Unfortunately, we have been put into a group what was working in a salt mine. But it was converted into an airplane factory. It was about five miles from the camp and we had to have a daily routine of going to the, to the factory and back. So this entailed approximately twelve to fourteen hour day. Took a good hour, hour and a half to get to the place. At that point we had to wait until everybody could go down. The group was consisted of about 250 people. And each and every time an elevator went down there, could only eight people go down. And it took quite a long time to go down the depth of the mine. And eight would come up from the other shift. It took about uh, two hours to go down, it took practically the same to come up. Eight hours we worked, so that was two and two and eight is twelve and an hour coming and an hour going. And the rationing of the food wasn't anything--any consequence. And uh, then people were becoming sick more and more. There was a hospital barrack, as they called it. Now, I happened to be there for some kind of sickness once, for about two weeks. Now--and if you were able to get in there--in a healthy way--at least it was a--it was some rest, you know, but you couldn't do too well. You had to be very, very sick before you were able to get in there. And that, and that ratio became more and more number wise, number wise. And uh, through the winter it was extremely tough. The only heat, really what it was in the barracks because of the number of people they were squ...squeezed in. Then I had seen already where people became animal--instinctive. They were stealing each other's rations; they were fighting for their life, by any means--by all means. Um, I distinctly remember the barrack that I had been assigned to. We were just like ants. We were squeezed in. Was very, very cold. Now, in the morning you would get up. The Appell would be if you had to leave to work for the day shift, it may have been nine o'clock--start at nine we had to get up at five o'clock. They had the Appell, they counted you. Then you were able to wash up on the outside. Washrooms were always on the outside in the cold. And then at six o'clock, six thirty you would leave. You would get to the place by seven, seven thirty. And by the time you would get down, it would be about nine 'o'clock. And uh, remember that we volunteered for one thing to carry the food--we had to carry our own food with us, and in order to get one extra portion--know what it was between life and death--wanted it for anything you could. There were many other things what uh, what we have volunteered that shouldn't even be put on tape, you know, but whether it was cleaning the, the facilities--sanitary facilities and for anything what uh, was given an extra portion now, I have volunteered for. Including my uncle who we tried to stick together, 'cause we were quite a bit uh, supportive of each other. He was about ten, twelve-years older and when my weakness came in, it may have been his strength. Where his weakness was, it may have been my strength, you know, being youthful at that time. So all through the winter it was nothing but hell now.

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