Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Alexander Karp - June 22, 1983

Arriving in Birkenau

What do you recall about, after the two-day trip, when the doors finally did open?

Well, when they, when they did open, we still didn't know where we were. We got out and it was the--as we later found out--it was the entrance to Birkenau. And if he--we all walked together--close family--my mother, my sister, may have been some of my family close by. And then we came to a point--it was with an uncle of mine who is alive today, thank God. Now, that's the point where we have been separated. Still not knowing the degree or what's what--what was happening. And uh, I'm quite sure that it was Mengele who was there. Dr. Mengele. And we went to one side--my mother, my sister, my grandmother and many, many of my family they went to the other side. And that was the last I've seen of them.

Who was in charge at this point? Was the German presence...

Yes. At that point it was...

...much larger then?

Once we left the station in Hungary it was total German.

What do you remember after the separation?

After the separation, of course we were put into a barrack, we were unclothed, we were shaved. We were given the usual concentration camp cloths and uh, we were assigned to barracks.

Can you describe your feelings at that time?

It's really hard to describe it. You know, I think you become immune to it, and, you know, you become like the, the--you can take--of course, we were not violent at that point. You could have been violent; you would have been slaughtered right there and then. So the only way I can describe is we were like lambs, who was shipped to the slaughter house or to the field, wherever they told you, you went. You were like uh, robot.

Did you have any word about your mother or your sister?

Uh, it certainly all came up, because we didn't know what was happening to them and we were hoping that they may have been separated because they were female and we, we were male, and at one point that we may be put together. Of course, it was given to us that thought--that belief, that at one point you may be reconciled with your family. But of course, it never happened. Um, when we were in the camp and we were walking to the place where it has taken place the shaving of your hair and disinfection and giving you clothes, there was a fence behind with people--all nationalities--different nationalities, but primarily Hungarians at that point because the influx came from Hungary at that time. And they were hollering over at the fence, "Don't believe whatever they say, because they gonna kill you. Some will be killed, some may not be killed." ??? The news started to become more and more grim. And also what we have not known at that point, but came later to our attention, we did see in the back, smoke. We didn't know what it was. You could smell--to this I can attest to--you could smell a burning sensation, but it may have been flesh burning. As later we found out what that was and that was on the other side--not where we went to--it was the crematoriums, but it was a little further up on a hill. A little further away from the camp--could not conceivably take care of all the bodies. So it as an open pit whether they--whether they were alive or they were dead, this we don't know, but that is where they have founded their last minutes.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn