Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Abraham Pasternak - May 11, 1982

Relationships with Other Prisoners

When you were in a labor camp, did you help each other? Did prisoners help each other?

We did in a way, yes, but we were selfish. I must say to you we were selfish. First of all, you know the agony of it is this, is that they tried such ways and means, I mean, to make it more miserable and more, and harder and harder for us. For instance, like the Germans had all types of machinery, all types of equipment. I mean, to be able to cut that piece...that slice of bread, cut it already. At least, if you get it that way so you'll be jealous that the other guy got a little hard...a much larger piece. But when you start to cut, give it to a man to cut the piece of bread until he finally measures it, you know, and you're hungry. And he measures this. He takes like a loaf of bread and he cuts it into four pieces. And he measures it. He says, "You make sure that he doesn't take for the other... doesn't give the other guy a little more." A crumb! Was worth, who knows, a day's living! Or the soup...when they used to give you the soup you used to be jealous that the other guy may have gotten a big piece of, another uh, rotten tomato...a larger piece of the rotten tomato, than, than, than uh, than you. And once, and once in a blue moon, they gave you some cigarettes. And I'll never forget an incident, there was youngster over there who had a pack of cigarettes and somebody stole it. I don't know who stole it. And uh, there was a big to-do about the barr... if they had caught the guy...they've accused somebody in the barracks, they accused somebody. And uh, had he found...had they found the cigarettes, I mean whoever they got. That guy wouldn't have stayed alive. They would have killed him right then.

The prisoners?

The prisoners. There was no rakhmones. You know what I, I was...there where once in awhile we were nice and kind to each other. Like one kid said to me, while we were marching, "Hakol talui mazel, afilu Sefer Torah sh'beheichol" That's when I learned about that word. Everything is luck even the Torah uh, even the Torah which is going to be taken out at that particular day to read from. Even that depends on luck. You see, something. He...what he was referring to was to...referring to...it's a matter of luck if we are going to get out of here or not. But, but uh, let me tell you something: very little philosophical discussion was going on. We didn't have time for that. We were more concerned, I mean, to try and, and, and survive. That that was very much...but we did do a great deal of davening, like I said before. We prayed constantly. Once in awhile while we were working...no, no this was when I was in Schlieben, this was not when I was in uh, I'm going back and forth because uh, it's, it's uh, I can't just give you day-to-day uh, incidents. Uh, we were uh, in Schlieben, we were supposed to uh, clean up some area. Schlieben, incidentally, was the area where we made a Panzerfaust, the bazooka. Uh, but before we got there...before they got you into work inside the factory you had to work outside to clean up and clean away the stones, you know, the Germans liked everything perfect, you know. Everything had to be perfect, nice and clean yet the sanitary conditions were abhorrent. You had lice. You even had uh, they used to call it krets, ???, that is...what did they say...the other day, I have found out the word for them is scabies, scabies. It was a white type of a...it's supposedly a ghetto type of, of, of a, rash, which itches, itches so badly. And yet they insisted upon you go and wash yourself. And then where? Where do you go and wash yourself?

Was there running water?

There was some running water but that running water was, was just uh, gray. It was rusted. Very little heat. So uh, when...every time there use to be an off...uh, uh, an SS man used to come. We use to say, "Geshem, geshem, geshem." The always insisted upon, that their...that the shovels and everything, we have to put it nice down and line the shovels. Before you go to lunch you have to clean up that shovel...

[interruption in interview]

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