Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Ruth Kent - August 7, 1984

Deportation to Auschwitz

At that point had you ever heard the name Auschwitz?

No, no, no, no, no, no, no. No. Soon enough uh, uh, um, it happened in maybe 1944. It started beginning of '44 where people were sent out to camps and again we never heard from them again. And in 1944, I believe August, which is forty years ago now, uh, an order came from the Germans, they were evacuating the ghetto. And I remember we were asked to take our belongings again, whatever we could carry, and go to uh, uh, the railroad tracks which was the other part of our city. And uh, they told us we were gonna go to a camp, to labor camps. My whole-- my entire family, we took whatever we could carry with us, a suitcase and again our measly belongings and uh, as we got to the railroad tracks we're asked to uh, we were not asked, we're sort of pushed in these uh, cattle cars and they filled these cattle cars to more than capacity where normally you'd put like twenty-five cattle, they must have put in like a hundred, maybe 150 people, I couldn't even count and it was standing room only and we're really packed like sardines. And uh, the journey that would normally take probably--uh, we didn't know where we were going at the time, they didn't tell us but we were going to Auschwitz--and where normally it would take about three hours perhaps, maybe less, the journey must have taken endlessly, like three days. And, we had no sanitary conditions. It was almost impossible to believe how we survived that journey for three days. They didn't give us any food, they didn't give us any water. And they sealed these cattle cars. And after probably three days, we arrived in this place called Auschwitz-Birkenau. And I remember there was a big sign, "Arbo--Arbeit macht was leben sich," which meant that work will free you. And as these uh, cars were approaching this tremendous like a camp, we could see in the background people wearing these uniforms, striped uniforms. And a lot of Nazi soldiers with dogs and all of a sudden they, all the cars stopped and uh, they kept saying, come on out, come on out. And right away they gave us directions, men should go on one side and women should go on the other side. And uh, immediately, we lost track of my brothers and I could see them like from far away, they were sort of tall. I could see their faces. My mother took my little brother's hand and she was told to go on the other side, excuse me. It all happened so fast that within moments, my mother went on one side--a German soldier, we were--was told to go on one side or, I went on the right side or left, I didn't know and my sister went with me and within moments like with a lightening temper they took away my brother and my, my little brother and my mother and we were told to march towards that I could see in the background were like a burning furnace. And we just still didn't know where we were going, we were told to march and we're marching towards um, this burning furnace and the air was so bad, it, it, it was such a foul smell and finally we came we're marching to a bathhouse. Uh, they uh, we had to uh, strip totally--we're to be--we had to undress totally and they shaved my hair just like my arm looks now and uh, they gave me one little dress but my dress was a little longer because I was short, so they gave me a longer dress. My sister who was very tall, they gave her a little short dress and we're asked to go out and wait for the uh, rest of the people to uh, join our group. And again, we're marched towards these barracks. We came in there at night and as we're waiting for the rest of the people we were standing on these tiny little pebbles with no shoes, it was already cold, and I was really thinking, boy in a way I'm so glad that my mother's not here with me 'cause, I couldn't see her suffer like this. And I was hoping that she would be taken care of now. In some, in some uh, normal way, she would be taken care of with respect. And we're all going, marched to these barracks and we came in there at night and I remember there must have been like a 1,000 women marched into this, was a long barrack and it had like a furnace, a very long furnace. We're not given any pillows; we didn't have any mattresses or any anything. We slept on the bare uh, cement floor. And in the morning, we were waken up by a uh, call. Every morning, they would get us up like three o'clock in the morning and we had to be accounted for. And I can't understand why they would count us. There was no place one could escape. We were surrounded by barbed wires. Electrical barbed wires. And I remember the next morning, I got very close to one of the uh, fences. I was looking for my mother up because I did see a lot of other women, I was hoping maybe I could see my mother. And I remember getting hit with some object, I don't remember with what. And all I remember is finding myself in the barracks. How I got there I don't even know. And that was my experience. My first day experience in Auschwitz. Uh, in Auschwitz, life was extremely difficult. Um, we were given some uh, a soup like, like a coffee and soup together, I don't even know what it was and we were given a piece of bread. Like not ever...not every day, so we're very hungry. Uh, one thing was in my favor, I never got sick. And after spending uh, but in Auschwitz also we had selections. We would go to this bathhouse and this German uh, doctor and I remember him so vividly. He had a coat, he wore glasses and he never put his uh, hands through his arm--through his uh, coat arms, through his coat uh, sleeves, he always had it over his shoulder hanging. And during the selections in the camp, I would go in front of him and he would look me, look at me from my tip of my toes up to my face. And somehow uh, I survived these selections and after being there about four weeks, I was sent to a um, another camp.

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