Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

John Mandel - May 26, 1981

Transport to Auschwitz-Birkenau

[pause] Do you remember the date that you were moved to the brick yard?

No, but uh, today, as a matter of fact, today I had Yahrzeit uh, and we arrived to Birkenau two days before Shevuoth. And my father, Aluf hashalom, may he rest in peace, he uh, uh, uh, decided that that was the same day that they took uh, my mother, three brothers and sister to the gas chambers and he designated that day for himself, and my brother and myself, as this day as, as the Yahrzeit for my mother and three brothers and sister, so. Uh, I don't remember the uh, the uh, Greco-Roman calendar day, but in the Hebrew calendar it would be four days uh, in Sivan, which is two days before Shevuoth.

[pause] Can you tell me about um, being put onto um, the um, cattle car?

Yes. That, that's a--that's something that's very vivid in my mind. We were jammed in there to total capacity. We could uh, there was no room to sit down or move around. We were--we had old people. We had uh, babies and every age. Some of those people were sick, some were healthy. And we, we couldn't move around, there was--we couldn't uh, we couldn't um, uh, relieve ourselves. We were in those cars for [pause] it seemed like eternity but I think it was a couple days. And uh, we had a lot of problems there. People relieved themselves right where they were. And we, we slept standing up. We did get some water, we had some water in there and we passed that around and uh, it was not a very pleasant journey.

Was there anybody who took over the lead in order to decide how much water people should get? How was that decided?

There wasn't really uh, any room. I, I think we have enough water there, whenever anybody needed some he was able to get it. And, and um, they did if--they did give us water when--the train would stop at certain places, because there was a lot of traffic, there was a lot of military traffic. We, we saw, we always uh, uh, if, if you were close enough there, there were, these were actually um, freight cars, okay. And they had some windows, what they were barred, and you could see out through those windows, and we could see these military uh, trains going by there with heavy equipment with troops and so forth. And every now and then they would put us on a siding and let these trains go through. And uh, once in awhile when we stopped like that they would give us water. But that's the only thing they would give us.

They didn't give you a bucket for your, to relieve yourself in?

There might have been a bucket in there, but I--there was no way to get to it. There was just too many people in the car. Uh, not everybody survived the trip. Some people, when we got out of the train, some people were no longer alive. And, uh...

Did you find out while the train was moving that they were dead?

There was nobody dead next to me. And uh, I found out about it when we got off the train.

That was the first time you found out about it.

That was the first time I found out about it.

What was your feeling while you were on that train?

I was scared. I, I didn't know what was happening. Uh, at, at this point it became obvious that we weren't going where they told us they were going to take us. And, and nobody really knew exactly what was happening. And we were getting very worried and very scared, it didn't look good. Uh, the way they, they treated us, as soon as we got on that train, they, they sealed that car and we got out of that particular brick yard so the other people couldn't see what was happening, the treatment immediately became different. I mean, they, they no longer cared uh, uh, how they treated us. It was, it became quite obvious that, that uh, whatever's going to happen to us, it's not going to be something that uh, is going to be pleasant.

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