Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Salvatore and Lili Katan - August 18, 1981

Nearly Getting in Trouble with Russians

SK: About five o'clock in the morning, there come some soldiers with the machine guns and they ask, "Who's in charge in this boxcar?" And I said, "Me," me who was my brother-in-law. Says, "Tell me how many people there..."

LK: And the woman--the Russian woman who was there. She talked to them too.

SK: The interpreter, of course, my brother he can't speak Russian. So he says, "Fifty." "Are you sure?" "Yes." "Okay." They left our boxcar, they go further down. And after one, bingo, comes a captain and two soldiers, the same boxcar, why? Somebody assumed and they spy. They says, "Now tell me the truth, how many people you have here in this boxcar?" Says, "The same, fifty." "You are lying. If you don't tell me the truth how many you have says, you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to search the boxcar and if I find you have extra I'm going to disconnect the one boxcar and it's going to go straight to Siberia." So everybody start shaking. So my brother-in-law, he have to tell him the truth. He says, "Yes, there's one." "What nationality is he?" Oh, before says, "Yes, we have one more." In the meantime the captain assume something is here. Says to the other soldiers, "You two go further down and check the other boxcars, I take care of that one here." Sure enough, the captain says, you know, "What nationality is that guy?" "He's a Greek." "What is the name?" "Y'shua." My name in Spanish is Y'shua, it's what they call Salvatore in Spain and Italy. He said, 'Y'shua ???." So I take all of my clothes they put me on top, I go there and I salute. He says, "How you come here?" I say, "With my feet." He says, "You know it's not time to joke, do you know what's going to happen?" I say, "I don't care." So in the meantime she was crying. He said, "Why are you crying?" She says, "Because I don't want to see this man to get killed because of me." He says, "Well..." says--she says to the interpreter she should tell the captain, "If that man--if they're going to take him away to be killed, soon the train is going to start going and I'm going to kill myself, too. I'm going to go under the wheels."

LK: But that wasn't because of love, because like I say, I...

SK: And it was to...

LK: ...talk to him, but I mean I couldn't live with that, that someone should get killed because of me. I really couldn't live with that.

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