Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

John Mandel - May 26, 1981


Do you remember the roll calls?


Could you describe them for me, a typical one?

They would blow their whistle and they, they call them Appell.

Appell, yes, that's what it's called.

Call them Appell. And uh, they would uh, line us up and uh, they called the uh, they called our numbers and you had to answer. Basically that was the roll call. Sometimes they would leave us stand out there, particularly if the weather was bad. They would leave us stand out there for a considerable time. For no reason. Other times they would just call the roll and then march us off to work. One day when we--they would always count us as we were going through the gate, and, and always count us as we were walking back into the gate. We were, we were cattle. Nobody had a name, we only had numbers. And we were just one of ten or one of a hundred or whatever.

Were there showers?

Yes, there was one bathhouse. Uh, in the barracks we had, we had a sink, you could wash up in the sink. But there was a bathhouse. And um, you uh, I think--I was in Auschwitz about seven months and I remember being there maybe twice when I went to bathe. They took us actually there to bathe. And the only--the, the other times that I went through there was when they had the selections. But to actually go bathing I went there twice in seven months.

[pause] Did you receive any assistance from Jews or non-Jews?

I received assistance from my uncle where he helped me get that uh, better job. Um, I helped myself one time. I worked uh, I worked at this particular place there where we're straightening out these things. And, and uh, one day, we were, we were right next, right next to, as I said, to these railroad tracks and there was this barbed wire fence between the railroad tracks and where we were working. And this big train with flat cars pulled in there full of potatoes and there was all this beautiful food. And I took a pail and I climbed over this fence to get uh, some of those potatoes. And all of a sudden I took a look and there comes this German on a bicycle. Now the only place he could ride was on the side of the track you know, because the way he was sitting there. And he's pedaling as fast as he can with his pistol in his hand and I knew I was--if he catches me I--that was it. I was, I didn't leave the potatoes, I grabbed my pail and I climbed over the fence and he, while shooting at me. Of course he was bouncing along and he was too far and he couldn't hit me. And I somehow managed to escape with a pail potatoes. So that was the only time I had some extra food. Some of it I ate raw and some of it I managed to cook.

Did you share any?

Oh sure. We, we would do that. Uh, we, uh...At that point. Later on, no. When, when, when food got much scarcer uh, we became, we became uh, more animal-like. We were completely dehumanized. But at that point it wasn't that bad yet. At that point we, we were, we were still not too far uh, from, from having arrived there. We were you know, we still, we still were almost civilized. And if you had some little extra we would share it.

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