Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Irene Petrinetz - October 25, 1982

Separated At Camp

How long were you together with your mother before...

A few days. A few days. [pause] In Auschwitz, I got acquainted with four sisters. They took me in for their fifth. Since we were standing to Zahlappell was when you had to stand five in a row when they were counting you. In mud, in rain, in wind. They didn't care how long we stood there, sometimes for hours. The four sisters took me in for their fifth. They're scattered all over the world, I have no knowledge of 'em.

Did they all survive?

The five survived, yes. The four, the four survived. I believe one is living somewhere in Montreal, I heard of her. One's somewhere in South America. And I don't know about the other, the other two. [pause] When you were surviving in Auschwitz, you had to be... pushy, you had to claw, you had to steal, you had to push. And I couldn't do neither. Many times I can't believe it how I survived. I did. And it was meant this way. I knew a girl who worked in the kitchen in Auschwitz. She knew me from home. She used to secretly stick a piece of bread or a little fruit to me. I met her once after the war and I thanked her. She got married, and she moved somewhere to South America. I never ever heard of her, but maybe she saved my life. I wasn't a fighter. I really couldn't care less what was happening to me. The only thing I didn't have the guts to take my life. Maybe that was the reason that all the survivors were survived. Some fought. Some didn't have the guts like I did and just accidentally survived. [pause] In 1945, finally when my brother found out that I was home. He was in the Czech army and then he came and he got me. We left our town a day after the Russians closed the border.

A day after?

A day after. We had to have a special permit. Since he was a Czech soldier, he got somehow a special permit. And we got on the train and we left.

With your Uncle Adolph?

With Uncle Adolph--no! [softly] Wait a minute, wait... Where did Uncle Adolph pick up with us? Yeah. With Uncle Adolph. He was home by then already. We went to--my brother got his discharge from the army and since he was a... Like army veteran, he got in the Sudeten a business what they took away from the Germans. It was a transportation business. Since it was in the family, Uncle Adolph liked it, and he wanted to pick up that business. They started working in that business, and uh, I was running the household. I was shopping and cooking and cleaning, which was very hard in those days because the supermarkets were empty. I didn't have a stocking for a long time since silk stockings were not available. Only on the mar...black market and I had no money to buy it on the black market.

[interruption in interview]

Go ahead.

See this, this is, this is a, it was a covered wagon which could be pulled by horses or... [unidentified speaker]: Or they put it on the train.

Or they pick up and put it on the train. And it was pad... [unidentified speaker]: It was...

The walls were like soft, padded. So the furniture shouldn't break in it. And it was professionally packed and shipped from one town to the other, from one end of the country to the other end of the country. [unidentified speaker]: Or maybe, maybe all over the country.

Or maybe all over the country.

So he, he transported furniture primarily?

Not only furniture. He transported like let's say there were businesses in town, they had merchandise coming in on the train, he used to pick it up on the train and deliver it to the store. [unidentified speaker]: They had...

Well... [unidentified speaker]: they had huge uh, uh...

Well... [unidentified speaker]: ???

Warehouses?

How do you know? [unidentified speaker]: That, that people like, like...

They had warehouses. [unidentified speaker]: I worked for a, I worked for a wholesale ??? company and let's say they didn't have any money. I mean the company didn't have any money. So they, the, the, the stuff came in.

[interruption in interview]

Your father...

Yeah. My father was well-respected and well-known in town. He was--the doors were open to him in the highest offices at the, at the Czech government in town. Everywhere he went, they knew him, respected him, and liked him. It's, it's unbelievable that people like this who wouldn't harm a fly had to perish. Well one reason, for being Jewish. It's, it's mind-boggling, it's, it's, it's unbelievable, even after so many years. And what frightens me most now and my biggest concern that we--I picked up the pieces of my life; I got married. I have a nice husband, two nice children, and today I have to be afraid and frightened that it might happen again. And I'm not frightened for my own life, but I'm afraid for my children and maybe their children. What's gonna happen to them? That's my biggest concern and that's my biggest worry and that's scares me to death. After losing our whole family and finally having a new family of my own, it's very, very hard to live with this idea. Every time Elie Wiesel comes to town, I go and listen to him. And I come home and I'm upset. He's a big pessimist, and he believes that it will happen again. And uh, it's hard to take it. I love my children; I love my family. I love this country. It's been good to me. And... if people would only realize that we're not-- us Jews are not different than anybody else. We make mistakes, but so does everybody else. I personally, or my husband whom I know well, did not harm a fly. Why would someone want to harm me or my family just because I'm Jewish? I'm honest. I would never cheat anyone. I would never hurt anyone in any way. Why would someone want to hurt me just because I'm Jewish? I love my religion. I'm not religious, but I love my religion. I would never deny my religion for anything and for no one. I was brought up in this religion; I tried to bring up my children in this religion. I try to tell 'em to be proud Jews. I hope I brought up two children who are honest. It was gonna be mentioned. And I only hope and pray nothing ever will happened again what happened to us because it would be a worst Holocaust. I believe it would be a worst Holocaust than it was. Especially, I believe if the economy of the country is bad, people turn against Jews. They feel that the Jews have the money, the power... [pause]

[interruption in interview]


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