Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

John Mandel - May 26, 1981

Thoughts on Survival

Okay, we'll look at that later. Why do you think you survived?

I had a will to survive. I fought all the way. I never gave up. Even when I was to the point where I could hardly move. I never survi... I never gave up uh, I wanted to survive. At that point we were, we were beginning to hear rumors that, that uh, well, we knew that we, we were, a coup...several times we were marched off so obviously the Germans were losing. And uh, somewhere along the line we, we heard um, we heard about the invasion, you know, about the uh, uh, the landings in Normandy uh, and so forth. Of course... And, and so we, we knew that eventually if we, if we live long enough we're going to survive uh. When, when was the Normandy landing? I don't remember. Uh, that must have happened before. Though, and, and, of course, we knew that the Russians were moving out, that the Russians were close to us when they took us away, when they took us originally to the camp. And then twice we had to evacuate the concentration camp, so we knew the reason why. And so we just kept fighting, hoping to survive. Uh, that last camp was--I, I, I found a piece of coal one day on the, on the ground, plain coal. And, of course uh, we knew that the Germans made margarine out of coal. And so I decided, they can get margarine out of it so can I. And I ate the piece of coal. Of course I got constipated. [laughs]

[laughs] ???.

Whatever there was to constipate. That's what I got out of it. I don't know, maybe I got some, maybe I got some uh, margarine out of it. But I ate a piece of coal. Um, people would--we had a lot of pine trees in that, in that camp. And people would scrape the pine tree that the uh, fuzz of the tree and take a piece of paper and roll and make a cigarette out of it and smoke it. And there was, it looked like tobacco, so it must have been tobacco. Uh, you absolutely couldn't find a blade of grass on that camp. Uh, we just grazed it. Anything we could get a hold of, it didn't make any difference what it was. We were hungry.

I would imagine. Were you were aware that they had blown up the crematories in um, Auschwitz?

I was never, I was never aware of that. Uh... Maybe I was. Yep, there were rumors about that, that, that they blew up the crematoria. Yes, I recall it now. Yes. But you see we were not in the same camp. The crematoria was in Birkenau and we were in Auschwitz. And even though there was only a few kilometers apart, it was a different, it, it could have been uh, Mars.

Mm. It was a distance. Did you help each other on the march?

Well, we held on to each other uh, arm in arm you know, we locked arms. And we walked like that because uh, uh, we knew the consequences if you don't continue walking. And as I told you before we, we slept. And as perhaps as we slept and walked, maybe one of us was awake all the time and guided the rest of us. I wasn't aware of it. But I know that while I walked I slept. And if, if you had to uh, uh, urinate, you just, as you walked along you just urinate. You didn't dare stop because if you stop they shot you. Uh, sometimes we did stop and then you could do it. But if you had to do it while you were walking. We were so weak, you, I mean, if you had to go, you had to go. You couldn't hold back.


And uh, it was...

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