Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Alexander Karp - June 22, 1983

Life in Kochendorf II

What were the guards like in this camp?

Well, in that camp the ones who were actually leading the camp, they were really brutal. Uh, some of the, some of the guards as I said who may have guarded you while you were from point to point--went from the camp to the labor place--place of work--it depended who you got. Sometimes again, they were with the Wehrmacht. And some may have been all right, some wasn't. We went through the highways where there may have been on two sides, orchards. There was an apple tree, or a pear tree, or a plum tree, you know, and anything when it was fallen down--if you bend down to pick one up, one would close his eyes, another one would show you ??? and a third one would beat you up. So really uh, um, that hunger started to be a death camp already during those months. Uh, it became really severe. And what I have seen, and I have witnessed--it was the kitchen, and right behind the kitchen there was a very small area between the fence and the building, where they were throwing out the remnants from the kitchen, whether it was potato peel or...

[interruption in interview]

...whatever it was thrown out. One evening towards dusk--one person was not far from my hometown. I don't remember his name--was uh, I know the town what he was from--likely it belongs to Romania. But he put his hand through to pick up some potato peel and the guard shot him for that. Because it was given strict order that nobody can take anything from that. And he died right on the spot--shot him in his head. He was about twenty-two-years old. And uh, also there was some other incident that in that camp as I say, there were other people--there were Russians--there were all kinds. It was a large camp. And two Russians have escaped. They caught them. They brought them back. There was a public hanging. But this was the first time and the last time, luckily, that I've seen a public hanging.

When you saw these things happening around you--the hangings, the ma...the young man being shot--what, what did you think to yourself your future was at that point?

Truthful--to be truthful about it: nothing. You know, we just lived from day to day; that little bit of hope there may have been there at all times, you know, that you never knew whether tomorrow you're gonna see the daylight or you won't. You became so immune to life. Even though everybody's hanging onto life and you fight for it. But it's so hard to describe. Course that was always in our mind that you could not see an end to it that how we could ever get out from there alive.

Did any of the men attempt to get word about the families that they had been separated from?

Uh, occasionally if we came across passing uh, transport or somehow--we were quite a bit isolated from everyone, you know. Very, very vague news what, what you could really acquire. I would say it had to be one in a million who would say that, "Hey, I have seen this one or that one alive," you know. But certainly we did not know. We were hoping. As long as you don't know, there is hope. And we were hoping that, as everyone was, that my mother would be alive or my sister would be alive or, or someone. Because we did not want to accept that there was a mass extermination--that there was a mass burning. Up until the war ended we really had no proof of it because we were so isolated away from everything. It was only at this point hearsay. The only thing we knew is what was happening to us. But word came by that you never gonna see 'em again. But you didn't want, you didn't want to accept it.

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