Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Henry Krystal - September 19, 1996

Continuation of Death March

It was close to the end at this point.

Yeah. And they kept still killing people and then, uh.

Were they still shooting people on the death march?

Yes, they were.

You saw it and they were burying them along the way?

Well, I don't know, we kept marching on. I don't know what they were doing with them. I think they were leaving them there and the local pop-, population knew what was going on. Uh, and the uh, the column, some of, some of us, especially the Russians started running to get potatoes because the Germans were taking, getting out their potatoes to put in the ground and of course the Germans were shooting into the crowd and beating us. And I ran once, well, I ran probably more than once, but one time I, I was hit on the head with the butt of a rifle. And that day I also noticed that my legs were getting swollen which I knew from way back that that was a sign of the, being very near to death. It was, the starvation death was preceded usually by swelling of the legs. And uh, the swelling would go up and it was just the end of it.

You were hit on the head with a rifle butt. Did that, were you knocked unconscious, were you...

No, no, just uh, pretty sore and bleeding and so on. And I ran back. And uh, so this, this lasted maybe a day or two more. And then we were in a, in another forest surrounded for the night and we, we uh, realized that the, the SS men had a truck and we suddenly realized that they were not at the truck. So the first thing we did is looted whatever was there and I got some clothes uh, and uh, uh, then uh, this friend of mine and I ran away. And uh, we, when we ran away we saw a group of German soldiers just sitting in the field. I don't think they had rifles with them. So since they didn't have rifles with them, you can see we were dull enough, we went up and we asked them if they could, had a blanket they could spare. So they gave us a blanket. And we went back into the woods and slept over the wood, in, that night.

What were you wearing?

Well, the, the clothes that I got from the truck were actually German army uniforms but without any insignia. But what I was wearing was the, some form of prisoner garb.

You still had the prisoner's uniform.

That's right. And the next morning we came out of the forest and I saw some, some soup that somebody had spilled on the grass and I ate it. Uh, it looked like German army soup rather than the kind of soup that we would be eating. And then we saw the German soldiers marching and giving themselves up. The British were there and they were uh, taking the prisoners and we walked on for awhile. I don't know if the British told us. I could, I could speak to them because all through the years in Bodzentyn I was studying whatever I could, especially English, but also other subjects uh, every time I had a chance and whenever I could get some help. And uh, so the British directed us towards a, a river and we went into this river. We, by this river some Germans had left their suitcases of clothes and uh, other things and we, we somehow managed to shave, shave off all of our hair and get rid of the prison garb and put on this, these new clothes because we wanted to get rid of the lice. And then we started looking for food. And then we were just going around looking for food. And eventually we walked to a city and there was the city of Schwerin. And there they had already made a camp, oh, a kind of a, they put the, the people that came out of the camps into the, an ar...army barracks of the Germans. And we managed to get taken in uh, by a German family that put us on their attic, they had two beds on the attic. And they let us sleep there and they gave us a little shed where we started to accumulate food. We had to be very careful. I, I didn't realize it at the time but many people died after liberation, if they ate fat foods and a lot of food and so on or maybe they just developed uh, typhoid afterwards. Anyway the, the, the folklore is that if you ate too much, too fast, you would, you would die.

Uh, the name of your friend that, you said you were with a friend.

Yes, his name was Aaron Piltz.

Was he from Sosnowiec?

Yes, he was from Sosnowiec. And he was in the, one of the people that were in the Bobrek group and uh, later, afterwards we got separated again because he developed tuberculosis, had to go to sanitarium.

Do you know if his father's name was Moishe Piltz? Do you know who his family was?


Um, I'm just curious because he was the first head of the Judenrat in uh, Sosnowiec. Moishe Piltz. This might be a good place to stop for a moment and then we'll come back and conclude.


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