Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

John Mandel - May 26, 1981

Other Camps

And eventually we reached the railhead at which point they put us into these open uh, uh, cattle cars and they transported us the rest of the way to Mauthausen in the uh, January cold. When we got to--we didn't stay very long at Mauthausen. We--they uh, reassigned us to uh, different camps. I was assigned to a camp uh, uh, by the name of Melk. M.e.l.k. And that also was an Austr...Mauthausen by the way is in Austria, so was Melk. And uh, we stayed at Melk for approximately--let's see, this was January--approximately probably about uh, two and a half, three months. And uh, the uh, work we did there were in coal mines. By this time our conditions were quite bad. We were really run down. And then the Russian armies were advancing again and again we found ourselves marching to the next camp, which eventually turned out to be Ebensee. That also is in uh, in Austria. That was my uh, final and last camp where I was liberated. Uh, at Ebensee we no longer did any work. I, I--we were there approximately for about four weeks and we were um, approximately everyday, the, the population of that camp was approximately 18,000 people--18,000 prisoners. And uh, everyday there would be a new transport of people coming in there, transport of people. Uh, they numbered in the hundreds. And it seemed like every night when they took the head count there were 18,000 people. And they didn't kill anybody, people just died. And they, we were all con...we just uh, uh, became skeletons. Walking skeletons. There are some very horrid stories that I experienced at that particular camp. Uh, we found ourselves intermingled with some Russian prisoners. These were uh, either, either from Russian civilians or Russian Army people. And one day um, we, we were--you couldn't find a blade of grass in the camp. We, we just ate it. I mean, we, we considered that um, salad uh, vegetables. Um, we uh, one day this--these two Russians walked in to our barrack and they had a piece of meat on, on a piece of paper and they were selling it. They wanted two cigarettes for it. Some people had cigarettes. And there was this guy, he bought that piece of meat for two cigarettes. And I felt terrible. I felt, I felt extremely down and that I, I didn't have the cigarettes to buy that piece of meat. I had no idea how I would have cooked it. But it, it was just something that I hadn't seen for a long time. Uh, the food that we would receive at that particular camp um, we had probably a company of maybe two--three hundred SS that guarded us. And whatever potatoes these people had for their meal that day, they would cook those peelings, those potato peelings and serve it to 18,000 people. And that was everything, that was the total food that you would get there. And uh, if you found uh, three, four, five peels of potato in your soup you considered that you had a good, thick soup. And--so you can imagine that when I saw that piece of meat uh, how badly I wanted it. Well, that--I, I, I was very saddened by the fact that I, that I wasn't able to procure that meat and I started walking out of the uh, barrack. And then when I walked out I found out where they got that meat. There was a body lying there and the only place that there was any meat left on a, on a, on these human skeletons was on the buttock. And they cut that piece off and they sold it for two cigarettes. Of course the person who bought it had no idea it was human flesh. But we were, we were reduced to that. And uh, by the time, we were there for about four weeks, by the time that these four weeks were up, I, I was down to nothing but skin and bone. And uh, I remember one day all the SS, all the guards disappeared from the camp. We didn't know what was happening. Next thing we knew we saw a, a  jeep with soldiers pull up. And, of course, at that time we didn't recognize them but they were American soldiers. And they uh, they found us there. And uh, of course as soon as they, they opened up the gates. And, and, and, and they, the first thing they did was bring a couple of field kitchens in there. And they cooked a beautiful thick soup, uh, stew you know, with uh, meat and peas and uh, the usual, and potatoes, or whatever, carrots, whatever go into, goes into a stew. And uh, all the uh, all the uh, people that had strength would line up there and get uh, try to get some of that food. I was so weak that even though I started almost at the head of the line they kept pushing me back. And by the time I got up to the kitchen, all the food was gone. And again, that was the luck...that was the luckiest thing that uh, could have happened to me that particular time. Again my luck held out. Uh, most of the people that ate that food, it, they would put it in their mouth, it would go right through their intestines and come out because uh, we haven't had any food for, for quite awhile and, and uh, our system couldn't hold the food and it would kill 'em. They would, they would uh, walk around for awhile with a smile on their face, the next thing you'd see they would keel over. And my life was saved by the fact that I was too weak to get up there in line to get some food.

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