Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

John Mandel - May 26, 1981


Can you describe the guards, Kapos, or the Kapos' punishment?

Kapos, yeah.


Kapo. Kapo. Uh, the emphasis on the "a."


Uh, well, they were generally just beatings for sometimes for no reason, sometimes just Kapos have to show that they, that they were uh, um, doing their job. And sometimes when the guard--when uh, particular. They were, they were not so much for the guards, but there were some of the uh, a couple of sergeants and a couple of officers that were more or less in charge in the area. When they would be around, they would uh, for their benefit, they would sometimes uh, beat up on people. And uh, they, you didn't need uh, too many reasons to, to uh, beat up on somebody. Anything would do.

[interruption in interview]

Was there illness in the camp?

Well uh, the thing, there two things that probably were most prevalent were uh, there was a lot of diarrhea. And there were people, particularly people that have been there for any length of time, would get a lot of water in their legs. Uh, you could uh, they, they would show you. They would press on the flesh and, and the flesh would just stay pressed uh, particularly on the legs. Matter of fact, my uncle had that and uh, that was probably the main reason he didn't survive. I, I didn't march with him, I was in the same uh, building here he, where he lived at that time. And never made it through the first march. And he probably couldn't take the, the march because uh, his legs were very bad. They were just all swelled uh, swollen up with water. That was a very big problem there. And, of course, there were probably a lot of uh, different kind of things that happen in the population.


But uh, those are the two things that uh, I seem to recall that were quite prevalent.

Do you recall the psychological state of others and yourself?

Well, I was pretty young at the time and uh, I suppose uh, I was seventeen when I went in, eighteen when I was liberated. And uh, I was really uh, hoping that someday I'll survive this thing. Uh, m...my biggest, my biggest thing, my uh, was always uh, trying to survive. I was always trying to find some extra food. One time I remember that uh, is, this was not in Auschwitz, this was in uh, in Melk. They had a, a pigsty near the guardhouse and they would throw the slop into the--for the pigs. And uh, I would always go by there, look for an opportunity to get in there and get some of that food. I was hungry. And once I had an opportunity--I got in there and I took some bread that was all soaked and, and I took it away from the pigs and I ate it. Um, I was--you became concerned with one thing only. At, at first things were not too bad. As I told you at first, we even found time to make a chess set and play chess. But as, as time went on things became progressively worse. And uh, and, and final point was that you were only thinking of one thing and that was how am I going to survive. At that point uh, there was only one person that, that you were concerned about.

Were there medical experiments?

Well, from what I know now, yes, but I was never exposed to any and I never knew of any at the time. But uh, luckily I got out of that hospital or I would have known of it first hand.


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