Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Bernard & Emery Klein - May 23, 1984

Arrival at Birkenau

Describe the parting when the doors opened.

E: When the doors opened, they ordered us and they were SS men. B: I was night, always night.

E: Always nighttime, with bayonets and with, with guns, supervising, obviously the procedure, and they said men on one side and women with children on the other side right at the, right at the...railroad station. B: At the ramp where we arrived.

E: At the ramp, and then, the men were marching in... B: With floodlights all over aimed at us.

E: And dogs, big dogs. And the men were marched in to the camp site, and the women, obviously, we never saw anymore, and uh, and uh, we came in to the building. We came in to, um, to a shower room where they...First they told, they brought us into a room, and they told us to drop our clothing in front of us, step four, four step aside... B: Actually, it was a big, big shed with cement floor and a tin roof.

E: Right. Before the shower room, and this was the last time that we saw our clothing, so any idea anybody had to hide something, there it went, because, there we were, completely naked, and then the next room or the next procedure was, we were shaven from head to toe, and from there proceeded into the shower room, and in our case, fortunately, water came from the shower heads, as we learned subsequently that our mother and our sister and many other unfortunate, not only women, but men who were older and who they felt are not really, somebody who they can take advantage of their labors of, we know, and it was said enough about it that from the shower heads instead of water, gas came, but as far as we were concerned, we were showered and then taken to the next room where we were assigned at one window a pair of pants, the next window a shirt, and third window a jacket and a pair of shoes and so on. Naturally, not to size, but whoever got what and then tried to trade among ourselves to get the closest size to our, for our needs. It was interesting story to the clothing which you got, eventually we were sent in to, or to our barrack, and the pair of pants which I was assigned were the short, so my father, when trying to lengthen my pants, to his amazement found a gold coin.

In the cuff?

E: In the cuff which he lowered. This gold coin which he was afraid to keep, number one, and number two wanted to make, put to use, he gave to a Jewish Blockälteste who was in charge of the, of the barrack which we were in for which he gave us every day an extra slice of bread for each of us, which obviously, a little thing like this, as unbelievable as it may be, might have been the difference between us being here or not being here, because the nourishment we got in those days was so nominal and so little that a slice of bread or an extra bowl of soup really could make a difference between surviving or not surviving, so by, really by sheer, sheer coincidence, this coin and the use, my dad, our dad made from that coin.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn