Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Salvatore and Lili Katan - August 18, 1981

Reasons for Survival

Um, let me ask you a general question again. What--after all this with the--why do you think you managed to survive?

SK: Why? Because I had a hope. I was living with hope and pray every night, say the Shema and maybe one day I'm going to be together with somebody from the family. And this was my luck because uh, the, the few last days of the war we used to go back and forth with the Germans, but then we never no more saw many SS, Gestapos, they took the Wehrmacht. And the Wehrmacht--I used to be in the front line because I used to sing, because we have to go to work with singing and we have to come back with singing. And the one German in the Wehrmacht and hear me--was near me and he hear me, says, "You, you are Italian?" "No," I say, "I'm Greek, but I speak Italian." "Oh si? You speak Italian." He says, "Please don't look at my face, just, I talk to you and you talk to me without look at me, because I don't want nobody should see it." And I used to get from him the news, what's going on, how far the Russians they are, what he think, and he used to give me hope, says, "I thinking not too long you people are going to be free."

This was 1944?

SK: Correct.

You were still in Auschwitz.

SK: In Auschwitz, yeah. And uh, he used to give me the news. As a matter of fact, when we used to come home in the evening, in the camp, in the block, all the Greeks--not just Greeks, Polish Jews, Russian Jews, Yugoslavian Jews--they used to come near my bed and find out what kind of news I have. And I used to tell 'em exactly what the Gestapo was telling me.

LK: Not the Gestapo, the Wehrmacht.

SK: I mean the Wehrmacht, I'm sorry.

LK: Gestapo was ???

SK: The Wehrmacht. I get confused now. So any--they were--we were living with hope. As a matter of fact, few of my friends they were liberated too with me together.

Some of your friends did...

SK: Yeah.

...from Salonika.

SK: From Salonika, yeah. They were working in the camp and we come together in the liberation because the Russians already they were coming very fast. The Americans from the other side and they lost the head, the Germans. They left everything there and they took off.

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