Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Samuel Offen - December 27, 1981

Arrival at Mauthausen

When you arrived in Mauthausen. What, what were your impressions when you got off the train?

Ok, well, we were walking in. And we got off, and we got off at the train station, we had to walk a few miles up the hill outside of town, to the Mauthausen concentration camp. On the side of the road, there was the Austrian civilian population sort of, not exactly greeting us, but like waving to us like, like almost like if they didn't know what was going on. Like we were walking up in our rags, in our striped clothing. But they were just like--oh, just prisoners like there was nothing, nothing was happening. We were just walking up, walking up the hill. There was no--we didn't see anybody throwing us any food or anything or flowers or anything like this, they were just, they just, like this should happen all the time. I suppose they saw it happening all the time. So I was kind of surprised, at that time, that they were not throwing us some, maybe bread or something to us. Of course, maybe they themselves were, we were walking, but there were Nazi guards along side of us. But they were laughing and smiling and some, just, I don't know what, you know. But, anyway. So we went to the--walked up to the camp and the first thing was there was, looked like a nice clean camp. The Germans were utterly spotless. Of course, we kept it that way, it was our sheer labor that kept it that way, with their orders, with their commands. And we had to strip off our clothing. And we had to go to barbers. A barber would shave through the middle of our head, would shave off about two to three inches of our hair right through our forehead all the way through to the back, as a mark of, uh. So this wa...was sort of--in addition to our striped clothing, we're marked that we were concentration camp inmates.

Is this the first time you'd been shaved at all?

This is the first time I have been shaved in that way. It was just a stripe about two to three inches wide, from our forehead right through our head, to the, down to the back of our neck. Just a stripe. And then we had to go through the so-called entlausung. And again, we didn't know if we're going to go through a uh, uh, to an extermination camp back to a uh, if they're going, if it was going to be a real shower or if they were going to exterminate us through cyanide or whatever poison they were going to throw into us. And the Zyklon 2.

Zyklon B.

But somehow this was a real shower. Uh, we did go out through the other end. They gave us new clothing. New--maybe they fed us too. And we went through like, it was like a waiting camp for a few days. There we had to register. We had to register all over again. Because they don't--they didn't re...they didn't know who was--they knew how many people died en route, en route, they kept real good records of, of, of the, of uh, body count. But they--we had no documents on us. They didn't know who died. So we had to register all over again. So the four of us were again together again for a little while, for a few days. And we registered. And eventually we had to assemble again at a place and again they started calling out names from our registration forms. My brother Nat and I were sent on one side and my father and my youngest brother Bernard were put on another side. They were selected for Auschwitz, for extermination. My brother and I went to--stayed in Mauthausen for a few days to be sent to a different camp. And eventually, we found out that our father was sent to the extermination camp in Auschwitz and that's where he died. My brother Bernard saw him. Somehow he survived, for whatever reasons. Of course, we found out about his survival after the war. We did not know that he survived. All the news about my father, I mean, we found after the war. We had no information, no. My brother Nat and I, with a transport of 270 prisoners, were sent to a very infamous sub-camp of the Mauthausen concentration camp called Gusen. It was several miles away from Mauthausen and there was a stone quarry.

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