Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Abraham Pasternak - August 13, 1984

Life in Auschwitz

What are some of the things you remember about Auschwitz after you got there?

I remember, there was a, there was a red Kapo, he had a poker faced, blown-up face, and he was looking angry at everybody, every time that we were sitting down. You know, that was for ten days we didn't do a thing in, in Auschwitz, just to wake up in the morning and uh, sit down on the floor and the minute an SS man came everybody had to stand, stand up and if you had your cap on now, on your head, you had to take it off. And uh, they were counting us at least five times a day. I don't know why they counted us so many times. And then they used to give us a little bit of food, back to the barracks, into the barracks, out the barracks, and that was going on for ten days. I was not uh, tattooed. I didn't know what that means. Does it mean good, does it mean bad? I, I didn't know about it. But there were so many things going on, I mean, I mean that because you, you don't know that, that they... While you were sitting down there and, and doing nothing, you got accustomed to the stench, and you saw people... You saw fires, you saw carts, two, two-wheelers, or then you saw some, you know, carrying uh, corpses and it, it become a natural thing to you... You know, you didn't see them anymore. How one can adapt himself, I mean, to, to, to a situation like that so fast I, I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe it that how selfish we'd become. We were concerned about, about, about food... Food, all of a sudden, started to become a very important part of our everyday uh, existence. Some guys I, I've never seen but I heard about it, some people threw themselves into the wire. First of all, I couldn't believe that the wires uh, they were, were electric. Then after uh, they were told you after, I was told about a fr... friend of mine that, that he threw himself to the, into the wire, then I knew it was true. And I was not ready to die. I was not ready to die. I was not ready, I mean, to... So, we were kept there for about ten days and then finally we were awakened early in the morning and they told us, "Get ready, be ready in five minutes," we went out to, to, to Appell again, they counted us, and then they marched us to the station to the railroad station. I don't remember the, the railroad station, how it looked like, I was in a daze. And uh, they herded us in like, like cattle again. You know, that German word, "Raus, raus," and "Mach los!" There was a time whenever I used to hear that, I was going mad. Everyday you must have heard it about, about at least, about five or ten, ten, twenty, ten, twenty times... Who knows how many times? Anything that you did, "Los, mach schnell, mach raus." It was, it was like, like, like a, a pain, it used, it used to get you so mad. I was afraid that I'm going to react to it one of th... one day and I'm going to get killed for it. But somehow I, I survived it and after the war, when I heard that, it used to create that, that, that angry, I get so... I used to get so angry, when I hear it, even today. Every time I hear that word, I mean, concentration camp comes into mind... I associate it with concentration camp and Germans. So, we finally were thrown into those, those boxcars, and we were, we went, where to, we did not know. We stopped, it was June the 6th, we stopped in, uh... How did I find out it was June the 6th? I found out afterwards that it was June the 6th, we stopped in Leipzig... Was it Leipzig or was it Dresden? I think it was... No, no, it was Dresden. They opened up the, the, the door, the gate from the boxcar. I was sitting next to the, to the gate and the guard who was sitting opposite from me uh, saw a soldier reading the newspaper and he asked him, "What's new?" He says, "The Allies, die Alliierten haben gelandet, the Allies have landed. The allies have landed." My God, I kicked the other kid over there, "Oh, God. [in Yiddish] I think things are coming to an end." I mean, we are going to be out of here soon. Yeah, but it took another almost a whole year before we were liberated, and then we were taken to Buchenwald. When we got to Buchenwald, we were, I was still together with my brothers, we were in the same boxcar, we were still together, me and my brothers, and uh, we were kept there for about a week until they started to uh, you know, sorted us, sorted, sorted out, they're sorting us out where to, to ship us. We were shipped to uh, finally we were shipped to Schlieben. I don't remember whether I've told you that story about what happened with my eyes, that I put dust in my eyes, and I was lucky enough, I mean, to go back to Buchenwald, but anybody who is a, a survivor would never believe this. Anybody who has been in a concentration camp will never believe this. This is my... The only proof I had, is when I, I was waiting once for my automobile, later on after the war when I worked for National Dry Goods, there was a young man with beard and payes came to me and he says to me, "You are Avrum Pasternak." Now I am mixing in something over here, but I want to give you something here. And I says, "Yes, I am but who are you?" And he says, "I am Chaim. Remember you and I went together from Schlieben to Buchenwald." I says, "Oh my God, you saved me. I've been trying to tell this story to somebody, to my wife at least, and I want somebody to be a witness, will you come over to my house and confirm this what I'm going to tell to my wife." He says, "I will be more than happy to do so." And this is the first time I've told that story and that was in 1955. But, yet you tell it to a survivor, he'll never believe you, that I was able to get away, I mean, saying that I was blind.

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