Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

John Mandel - May 26, 1981

Death Marches

On the march that you took--you were on a couple of them, weren't you?


All right, well, you can answer it according to each one. Um, they gave you any food or water?

When we would start out they would give us a loaf of bread um, for five people. In other words, you got one loaf of bread for a line of five people. And we were supposed to divide that for whatever length that march took. We had no idea how long it's going to take. As far as water was concerned, it was plenty snow. Uh, we just uh, uh, every once in awhile we would stop because the Germans would get tired. The one that, the guards that were walking us, when they, when they got tired they would stop and then we would stop. And then we had a chance to grab some snow. And uh, actually we didn't have that much to eat so we weren't all that thirsty. Um, it was uh, interesting uh, we were going through this uh, uh, this was on our second march, when we were in uh, in Austria. We were going through a village and uh, some of the people would see us. We were going through this village and all of a sudden they saw all this, these wretches, I guess uh, wrecks if you, whatever--we, we must have really looked terrible. And so when they saw us coming through there, they ran into the house. And they, they were civilians. And they came out with some water, with some tea, with some bread and they tried to give it to us and, of course, the guards wouldn't let 'em. And they started shooting in the air and driving 'em off. But there were some people that tried to help us when we walked through the village.

It's about time they helped you. [pause] A question keeps popping up and it keeps leaving. I--it'll come back, I guess. Oh, I know. You had said before that if you couldn't march they would shoot you. Do you know what happened to the people who were left on the track dead?

I have no idea. But uh, as we walked through there, there were some column that walked before us. There were frozen bodies that were lying there that had to be there for awhile. So, I don't know what happened eventually, but I would imagine that they didn't care too much because uh, uh, the uh, the Russians was--were right behind us. Uh, I don't think they were worried about picking up the bodies or anything like that. That's my personal opinion.

Mm. How did you survive?

As I told you, I, I managed to go through this thing here and when I, when I finally survived I was just a walking skeleton. And this all happened in one year's time.

How large were you when you went into the concentration camp?

How large?

Size-wise, just to give me an idea, you're talking...

I don't know.

Weight-wise is what I meant.

I don't know.

Hard question. [laughs]

[laughs] I don't know.

Okay. It was just, when you keep...

I don't know.

you talk about how thin you got, I was curious, the other day.


Mm, okay.

I don't know. I was a healthy, I was a healthy seventeen year old. I really don't know how much I weighed. [

Wife: "Show her the picture, how thin you were when you came out of the camp."] Yeah.

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