Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Abraham Pasternak - May 11, 1982

Fate of Family

When, when did you find out what, what had happened to the rest of your family?

Well, you know, the irony of it...everything...it was so unbelievable. Here are these people, they march you with a band to the barracks and then after you have been processed, before you go to Buchenwald, they give you a couple of postcards then says, "Go write to your parents. We'll mail you. Go write to them." And they are trying to, to deceive you, to make you believe that your parents are alive. They are just kept over there, I mean, for the duration of the war. But we knew otherwise because, you know, people who had been there, people find out. There, there is no uh, there is no way of not finding out.

Did another prisoner tell you?

Uh, the uh, in Auschwitz we were too busy, we were...we didn't know exactly what we were doing. We were actually like animals...like wild animals, we had to keep our eyes and ears open and try to be alert as much as possible so that...stay away from the guards. That was your main aim, is to stay away from the guards. Stay away from the Kapos. Stay away from the...from, from anybody who had a little bit of authority. Just stay away from them. And that was your main aim. That was our...your main purpose right now, to stay away. And you were living from minute to minute, from second to second, from hour to hour, from day to day. You were preoccupied with your own existence. Now, you say some people wanted to die...here, this, this comes back to me. As we were marched into the barracks...before we were marched into the barrack, they handed us a piece of bread with some cheese. It smelled so bad! I don't know what kind of a cheese it was. It, it...you couldn't even put it in your mouth. And my brother and I, and my other brother, my kid brother, who lives now in Israel, he had a uh, bunk...he was able to get himself a bunk, I mean, what to sleep in. And that this old man came to him and said to him in Hungarian, "Fiú...son...would you like to have my ration of bread and, and cheese and let me go up there and sleep?" My kid brother said, "Sure, why not?" He took the ration and, and, and his bread. And then there was some older people who said to the youngsters...this must they see, and with all this confusion, they said to them, "Kids, eat, eat, eat. Put your finger to your nose even if you can't smell it, put there and eat it, stay alive, stay alive." That's what they said. And uh, we did what we could. We did it. We obeyed, sometimes. But then, we still went back to our own animal instincts.

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