Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Henry Krystal - September 19, 1996

Conditions in Birkenau

When you were sitting in that position on the first night, did anyone talk about what was going on? Did you talk to anyone at that time?

I don't think they allowed us to talk. We might whisper something to somebody quickly, but, but I don't think we could, you could have a conversation. And I don't think that people were capable of it.

Were you, you and the others, you think at this point were numb.

Yeah. And you were wedged into, between two people that you didn't know uh and you couldn't go look for your family and, or friends or anyone.

And the next day when you, when you, saw a kind of panoramic view of Birkenau, how did you move through that day?

Well, it, it was very confusing and very terrifying and uh, it, all these barbed wires and barracks and, and uh, the, the people moving like marionettes. It was, the whole thing was further numbing and terrifying. The, the, the whole way of interaction, the constant beatings the uh, before you could figure out what it was about you were into a, an, an, an Appell, you were just standing there. Uh, first you, you were assigned to a barrack and that is where we got separated, Chaim and I. I got assigned to one barrack, he got assigned to another barrack, which happened to be the barrack of the Strafkommando where they used to put people for some transgression and kill them in a few days through torture, it was not good enough to just shoot them. And in this Strafkommando they were not only beaten, but it wasn't actually a Strafkommando at that time, it was just kind of the remnants. But they still had a work assignment, they were working on some kind of a canal. And so he had to stand in water while he was working. And finally he found me and he came and he, after work one time he found me and he, and he came and he told me what happened to him and that it was very dangerous and, and how terrible it was for him. And it so happened that I was able to smuggle in a diamond in a tooth cavity, I had a large tooth cavity. And so I gave him this diamond and he was able to bribe his way out of there and he was transferred to another, to another barrack. And so he was not on the Strafkommando because he was not there for any punishment. But we couldn't get together in the same barrack in any way.

Were you sent to work?


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