Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Abraham Pasternak - August 13, 1984

First Day in Auschwitz

After the selections?

After the selection, we were turned over to the Gypsies. Then they took over. They marched us around the camp... And, you know, and a band was in front of us. And finally when they got through with march... marching us around the camp, they took us into shower room, to a big shower room, and they shaved us off, whatever hair we had left, after we were shaved, you know, in the uh, Daiysh, in the ghetto, and they used some sort of a uh, I don't know what it is, they, they used and it was uh, they smeared our body with it. It must have been a uh, dis... Not, not a disinfectant, a uh, delousing is what they used to call it. And then they tell you, "Sit down, stand up, sit down, stand up," and they didn't like us, they used to go by and used to scream and yell, "You know that you are the most miserable people in this world and because of you the Gypsies..." Everybody seems to be feeling sorry for the Gypsies. They apparently were dominating in the camp. They were all the Kapos and Vorarbeiters in the camp. They were the bosses in Auschwitz. If they didn't like you, they just took anything they were able to get their han... get a hold of and they used to beat you up. And then while you were march... walking out, they finally marched you into your barrack, and while you were walking out of the shower room, after you were given those, those H äftling clothes, which is the, you know, the striped clothes, they were standing at the door when you were, you know, walking out of the doorpost over there and they just for the sake of hitting, who was lucky and who was unlucky, I mean, to be just beat. In one day, that very same day, there were so many things have happened to us. You really couldn't sort 'em out and I'm still trying to sort out that day, how we've turned into... I mean, we were just civilized people and all of a sudden we were told we are animals and we were treated like animals, worse than animals. So finally, we got to the barracks, but you couldn't get into the barracks, you had to stand there and wait 'til the man in charge of the barracks is going to accept you, so sit down. And while we were sitting down, they were looking-the only thing that you were left with-they were looking to the shoes, they were looking for your shoes. I said to my brother, "Listen, it seems to me that they look at good shoes," apparently, there is something going on because otherwise we will wind up, and see how people were walking, you know, with those uh, Dutch clogs," I said, [in Yiddish, "Better take your shoes off and give me one of them and I'll give you one of mine."] "Take one shoe from, I'll take one of your shoe, you take one of mine," and I told my little kid brother, I mean the one to, uh... And we were handed a couple of postcards to write to our parents. Can you imagine that? A couple of postcards. But you didn't get a pencil to write with but somebody did have a pencil, so I said to somebody, "Where are going to write a letter to my parents? They didn't even give you an address where to write it." I said, [in Yiddish, "This is crazy."] I says, "What do you mean?" I says, "They gave you a postcard to write." He said, "Are you kidding, your parents are killed already." I can't believe that, so he says to me, "You smell that thing over there?" He says, "Probably them." Can you imagine that? Give you a couple of post cards, to do that. So I uh, then I remember my brother was able to uh, find a place where to lie down when we got into the barracks. There was an older man who came to him, and said to him, "I'll give you my ration of bread and cheese that I have, will you let me sleep in your part of it?" And my brother says to him, "Sure." That was my little, not the... My brother who lives in Israel. "Sure" But then you got that cheese, I don't know kind of cheese it was, it was so bad, that you couldn't even eat it but you were eating the bread because you didn't eat a whole day long and then before you were, before you were supposed to go to sleep, all of a sudden, they started to count. Somebody was missing. Everybody had to go out again and stand reveille they used to call it Appell. And then they used to call you, "Mütze an, Mütze auf," you know, take off your cap, put on your cap, you know, and while going out from the barrack, again, Kapos and Vorarbeiters and Gypsies and Polacks and all kinds of Poles were standing over there and they were beating you...

On your way out of the...

On the way out of the, the barrack. To Appell.

Let's stop here for now. [interruption in interview]

When this person told you that your parents were in the crematorium, what was your reaction at that time?

I was in a daze, I couldn't believe it. I didn't tell my brothers. I know this, I didn't tell 'em. Unless they found out, I mean, from somebody else, I didn't tell 'em at all. And then, I don't even remember if whether, I slept that night, I'm sure that I didn't sleep that night. And uh, I was sure that they are not dead, that, that was for sure. I was convinced that they were not dead. But, I was wrong.

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