Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Bernard & Emery Klein - May 23, 1984


Could you tell me your names and where you are from please?

B: I'm Bernard Klein. I was born in Humenné, which is a small town in Eastern Slovakia, Czechoslovakia.I was born in 1929.

E: I am the older brother of Bernie, Emery Klein. At home I was called Imre, I-M-R-E, and also born in Humenné in Eastern Slovakia.

Just briefly, can you tell me, were you together during the war, throughout the war?

B: Not, well we wound up together, but for a short period of time, we were separated. We were taken to a gathering point, and at that point, I stayed behind a few extra days, but then I caught on to my family, or to my father and my brother uh, in Birkenau.

Well, so you went to Birkenau. Where were you from 1939, just the names and places until the end of the war?

B: In 1939, we were naturally still living in Humenné, and through the fact that our father was economically important, which was in those days an exemption for Jews in that type of position, we stayed in Humenné until 1944, approximately May of 1944. And at that point, we were transferred through the organization that my father was assigned to, it's a farm type of an association.

E: The state, pardon me, the state has taken away all the Jewish properties of farms, and they had the so-called Central Agency of Jewish, ex-Jewish farms and... B: In the capacity of advisers, and through that, we were transferred to a place called Male Dvorany, which was in Western Slovakia and we stayed there until September, When in September, we were taken to Nitra to a jail. We were there a few days, and as I mentioned before, I, that's where I stayed behind, because one day I went, I volunteered to work in order to get some extra food, and when I came back, the rest of my family was taken to Sered, which was the central gathering for, prior to being loaded into a railroad cars and taken over to Poland and the major concentration camps, and after I arrived to Sered, I happen to run into people that I knew from our town who were still there, and they told me that my family left just a day or two before I got there, and through strict coincidences, a few days later, I was taken to Birkenau, and that's where I ran into my father and my brother. Of course, at that point, I have no longer, I no longer saw my mother and my sister who never made it.

Okay, Emery, from Birkenau, where did you wind up after Birkenau?

E: We were, first, as Bernie mentioned, taken to Birkenau, which was the extermination camp, and from there, we were selected to go to Gleiwitz. There made, supposedly the selections by ??? Fortunately, when we arrived to Birkenau, there were a couple young fellows who were already in the camp, and who were working at the railroad station where we arrived, and they advised us that we should register as tradesmen, and we were told uh, that we should uh, definitely tell them that we have, as I mentioned, a trade, and we chose to say that we are uh, we are Schlossers uh, eh, Schlossers, which means, um... B: Locksmiths.

E: Locksmith. Being young, as we were, we said that we are, that we are Schlossers Hilfsarbeiter, which means locksmith trainees, which uh, uh, helped us to, to be selected into a so-called working camp together with our father, and we were sent to Gleiwitz, and ended up working in uh, at least myself and my father, working in a factory repairing railroad cars which came back from the front uh, from the front, damaged. B: I want to interrupt for one second to uh, make a correction. We did not arrive together at Birkenau. As I mentioned, I stayed behind, and while it was very little known about the extermination camps before we got there, of course uh, in the railroad car on the way to Birkenau uh, strangely, an elderly gentleman seeing me, I was uh, fifteen, exactly fifteen years old, he more or less uh, took charge of me, and one of the advice he gave me was uh, exactly what I may mentioned, to if, when we get to Birkenau, and to, whenever I am asked my age, to say that I am nineteen, and in my case, he advised me to say that I am a Landwirtschaft Arbeiter, which means a farm, farmer, farm worker. So, this is how I was selected to go left instead of right, meaning instead of the gas chambers, I went into the camp and subsequently was selected to go to Gleiwitz with my father and my brother.

E: On the other hand uh, my mother, unfortunately, did not make it, and primarily we gather, and this is no proven fact, but, but we had a sister who at that time was only ten years old and who obviously could not pretend that she is capable to do some trade or work and, from what we know, the women, or the mothers, were asked, "Do you want to go with your child?" which obviously a Jewish mother said, "Yes, I want to go with my child," and this made it uh, their destiny. Sure, they both went left rather than right, and they went to the crematorium, and never really made it even into the camp, into Birkenau. B: Now, at that point, if anybody selected right, of course, that was it. It was direct route to the gas chambers, and we know what happened there, now we know what happened there.

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