Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Abraham Pasternak - May 11, 1982

Pretending to be Blind

When you got to Buchenwald, did you look for the rest of your family there?

No. I was together with my two kid brothers in Buchenwald yet. I was separated. I was separated and we were, we were sent together to uh, to Lei...Zeitz. Zeitz was a camp where uh, it was bombed by the American. Now they said it was the gyroscope. They used to make the gyroscope...the lenses or something like that. I don't know. I can't confirm it because when I got there, the, the, the camp was destroyed. I mean, not the camp, the factory was destroyed and they wanted to uh, uh, wreck, I mean, they wanted to...us to knock the walls off and knock off the uh, you know, straighten up, clean up the camp so that they can go back and start to rebuild the, the uh, and then I was uh, well, I'd like to tell you a story here and I only confirmed it after there was a witness. I somehow put my...when I, when I got to Zeitz...now many a people who have been in a concentration camp will never believe this. I'm saying it, while...it is the truth because I have document... not documentation...there is proof. My wife has heard it from somebody else who has came...who, who visited the city of Detroit once and who was at the same time with me in Zeitz and we were transferred to Buchenwald. Let me start the story up as...the story is as follows: I'll go back to after the war and I'll come back. People who have been to a concentration camp will know exactly that the Germans had no use for anybody who was useless to them: a blind person, a sick person, there was no use for them. The first thing they would do, they would probably machine gun them without any hesitation whatsoever. When I was a salesman in 1954, I worked for a company in Detroit. And I was waiting for my automobile to be brought up from the lot. There was a young man with beard and payes, came out of the store. He didn't know me and he says to me while I was waiting on the corner lot and he said to me, in Yiddish, "Du bist Avrum Pasternak?" I said, "Yeah, ich bin Avrum Pasternak," in Yiddish. He says to me, "Wie kommt ihr mir zu...I am Chaim Klein. I am Chaim Klein." He says, "Gedenkst Avrum mit zusammengefunden Schlieben kam Buchenwald." I said, "Oh Chaim! Du bist ???. You were the one who was uh, limping!" He says, "That's right. And Avrum, du bist die blinder." I said, "Chaim, tu mir a toyve. Do me a favor. It bothers me and people will never believe that but, you've got to tell it to somebody which is dear to me and that is my wife. Come with me, please, and I'll tell her the story and you confirm it." So here is the story. When I arrived to Schlieben, with my brothers and we were assigned...I was assigned with a sledge hammer to knock off a wall. I was a skinny guy, I mean, I didn't have the strength to do that. But somehow an idea got into me and, you know, they say that "Der Dummer ??? der glik," I mean uh, "Ignorance is, is, is sometimes a bliss," and that particular wall was with red bricks and there was a lot of dust, red dust. I decided I'm gonna play something over here. I took that red dust, and I put it into my eyes. And I must say to you people, as I'm saying it I don't even believe it myself. And this is the honest to goodness truth. I put that dust into my eyes. I was taken into the infirmary. There was a Hungarian doctor and he said to me, "We'll have to send you back to Buchenwald." And Buchenwald, as I told you before, wasn't that really that bad. And my brother was concerned, he says, "What happened to you?" or something like that. He came up to, he was allowed to see me in the infirmary. He came in and I said to him one word in the Romanian language. I said, "Văd" which means "I see, don't worry." I was sent back to Buchenwald. And when I got to Buchenwald they took me into the infirmary and the doctor there who was another Jew, he says to me, "You can open up your eyes right now. You are safe for a little while." And this is, I swear, this is the honest to goodness truth. So, I was just simply lucky.

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