Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Paul Molnar - July 24, 2002

Conditions in Birkenau II

They were giving you cups.

Cups, we got, we got a metal cup, a metal bowl and a metal spoon. And we were terrible thirsty, so we drank a lot of water. And we stood around there and there were barracks all around us. And a lot of these prisoners, they didn't look as well as the ones who greeted us at the train. These people they, they didn't look emaciated, they just looked terrible in these outfits and they were so tough. These people were just the opposite. They looked sad, they were emaciated, they were just staring at us. They didn't say anything to us. Uh, they looked much worse than the gypsies did. And uh, they couldn't dare-I know-one of the things they were staring at us was that so many of us did not even touch the food, which I'm sure they couldn't understand. So I saw one of 'em over there, he was Hungarian uh, because a number of 'em were Hungarians because you know, they were talking to each other, saying things. I could make out a few of the words. And I called him over and I took my ladle of soup and I, I-my bowl of soup and I put it in his bowl and I gave him my bread. And I swear that in fifteen seconds he had the soup-the soup was gone and the bread must have taken him another twenty seconds because he was so ema...he was so hungry. And I gave him a terrible day-I mean marvelous day because he got a second meal. And I, I couldn't under...you know, here's a man who will eat this horrible stuff and he's eating it like it's the fanciest gourmet meal he ever had. But anyhow he, he was very thrilled and I could see his eyes lit up. And we, afterwards we just hung out there, we just there all of us and we started talking to each other, we started talking to some of the people at around the barracks from us. And I talked to this man who I would say was in his thirties, I think, but I don't know how old he was because he looked so bad. He, he looked older, but today I think that's all he was. And we were there and I, I, I wanted to ask him what's going on? Where am I? What's happening? And while I was there you know, I saw constantly these chimneys, the fire and the smoke and the stench and the ashes. Constantly. And as I said, this is the 10th of the July, so why, I mean, what are they burning here. They have a factory that you need all this? Certainly don't need any heat in these barracks. So I said to him, I said, "Tell me, I said, what is uh, going on here. I said, tell me, what are all these chimneys there that's spewing out this stuff constantly, non-stop?" [coughs] Excuse me. He said to me, "Well," he says, "what you see is it's your family going up in smoke." He didn't elaborate and I really didn't ask him more because I said to myself, this poor person, he is not only emaciated and sick and uh, weak, but he's also flipped out because, I mean, it was such a stupid remark. My family going up in smoke, I mean-you know, what's he talking about. Well, as we know today, the place I was, was in Auschwitz and I was in actually not in Auschwitz even but I was in one section of Auschwitz, Auschwitz, which was called Birkenau, which was nothing but an extermination camp. And in a ninety-day period they killed about four hundred fifty thousand Hungarian Jews there, about five thousand a day. And they were so busy with all the efficiency that they had to run the chimneys uh, twenty-four-the fire running twenty-four hours a day. Because what happened was that the people were told go to the right, like my family, my mother, and my little brother and grandmother, they were taking the same shower as I was and they were, they were put through the same routine, the only difference was there wasn't a shower it was a gas chamber and Germans threw in the Zyklon gas on the uh, top of the shower on the roof and uh, watched people die and after they died other prisoners had to drag 'em out, remove their gold if they had any teeth and, and cremate 'em. So that's what was the fire and the smoke and the stench. It was bodies being killed. But I did not know any of this, you understand. At the time, when this man told me, I did not believe a word he said. So it wasn't like I knew what happened to my family because I had no idea. I figured, well, he's just a crazy person, he's all flipped out, he's sick and he, he doesn't know what he's talking about so I didn't even pursue it any further. So I was only in this place in Birkenau-Auschwitz one more day. Next day, so I was only there overnight. The second day I was there, next day, I was put on another cattle car.

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