Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Abraham Pasternak - May 11, 1982

Reasons for Survival

Have you ever thought about why you survived the camps?

Well, that's a very uh, hard question to answer. I was lucky. It's like I said before, "Hakol talui mazel." It's just a mazel. I was lucky to survive. I suppose uh, I tried, to uh, find ways and means, I mean to uh, to stay away from trouble, to stay away from uh, if there was some danger, I tried to stay away as much as, as, as I, I could, and I didn't want to die. And if I did survive, it's just simply plain luck. I cannot say anything else about it. I was lucky. Maybe my time was not yet to die.

You said you developed an alertness there. Do you think you developed it better than others?

We all developed this alertness. And let me also say this: that I may have gone through my own personal experiences but the others have...did probably in their own way with their own instincts to try and not to die because...I will say this, if I, if I can recollect my memory...I know we talked about all this is, we've got to get out of here. I never pictured myself of being dead, but then once in a while it's as...I could never picture myself, how will I get out of here? How will we, how...when and how will we get out of here? Never, I, I...that was something I remember specifically. I even remember sitting one time...we had about 5 minutes or 10 minutes rest, and I talked to somebody. I don't remember who the kid was, I, I don't remember that, and he said uh, "Abe," Avrum, it was not Abe, it was Avrum, "Ich hoffe ??? willen ausgehn ???." We hope that we are going to get out of here and how and when I can't picture it. Will we be liberated here or will we be liberated somewhere? Who is going to come in, the Americans, the Russians? Once in a while, we used to get some leaflets. Now I'll, I'll tell you an incident which I had forgot to tell you. I was in Buchenwald. I went to the bathroom. It was the daytime. I had to go to the bathroom. All of a sudden, I, you know, the bathrooms were open, all of a sudden, I see an airplane coming and he makes a circle...big circle. Nothing. He was just in...and he was low. The plane was low. It could have been reached by any gun. Now I didn't know whether it was an American plane or a German plane. Then all of a sudden, while I was still in the bathroom, hell broke loose. Bombing, destruction, flying, all kinds of things are flying. Thank God that's the first time I saw dead SS. Oh God, was that a mekhaye to see. It was really...I saw a...it must have been the Americans, because they really knew exactly where we were. Because the camp itself...Buchenwald itself was not bombed. But the outside of the gate, there's the...I understand the Gustloff Werke was there and the factory was bombed and, of course, a lot of prisoners where there working in the factory. These people got killed too. But there were about, I would say close to 200 SS. They knew exactly when because it must have been during lunch time...they knew exactly they were having lunch there, the ???. And they really let them have it and they really did a very, very good job. Bravo America! I must say you hit the target. The bulls eye. That was great. And then, they took everybody who was anybody in the camp and they lined us all up and they gave us buckets. They brought the buckets so that we...this was the first time that we worked almost hand in hand with the Germans. We were handing buckets...but it was the Wehrmacht, it was not the uh, it was not the uh, the uh, SS...and uh, to, to put out the fires. It must have been...I would say approximately Buchenwald had about 50-60,000 people in there. It must have been 10,000 people just lined up like that and we were just handing buckets to one to another. That's an interesting uh, that's, that's the first time I experienced a bombing.

How old were you?

I was 20. And then I uh, remember when we were uh, in Schlieben, leaflets were uh, dropped. And they were uh, that was...what was it? November? Yeah it was snow on the ground. Yeah, it was November. And uh, I remember reading that the Americans, they told us, I mean they...we read it in German that we are...they are advancing, they have almost reached the German border. And uh, we had to be very careful not to pick up that leaflet. But, you couldn't help it. Because there were so many leaflets on the ground that it, it was on top of each other, must have been in the millions that they had dropped. Now, apparently that too shows that they have known exactly where the camps where. They didn't bomb there, they bombed at that particular day...I remember they bombed Col...Cologne. You see, this is the type of, this is the only information that we used to get outside of the German propaganda I mean when we use to uh, I don't know.

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