Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Irene Petrinetz - October 25, 1982

The Next Generation

You talk about the fears you have uh, for your children about all of this happening again. Is that based on uh, anything that happens in your day-to-day life now?

Well, it's just what happens in the world. What's going on. I listen, I read, and... [unidentified speaker]: ???

Oh. And uh, what I hear sometimes prominent Jews or like Elie Wiesel if I hear him. It just--I'm just simply afraid that it would happen again and I, I, I don't have the fight in me anymore. I could not fight and I could not survive myself anything like that. I just couldn't. Like I said, I don't know how I survived when I was a young girl--Auschwitz because I wasn't pushy. I wasn't... I just couldn't, couldn't shove or push even to save my life.

Do you have recollections uh, nightmares now?

Nightmares not that much. There's an incident I remember. It happened in Germany in Zittau, where the Germans were holding us, where I was working in that airplane factory. I was working the night shift. This is sort of a comical in a way. We unloaded--we were coming home, the German soldiers were taking us home. We were through with the night shift. They were taking us into the barracks. We were passing through the railroad tracks, and there was potatoes. They unloaded potatoes, loose potatoes on the ground. I don't remember how many of us were coming home from work. But everybody ran to the potatoes and they stuffed their pockets and whatever they could. So when we came to the barracks I never touched one, I never picked up a potato. When we came to the barracks they--I was a square. I don't know why I never picked up a potato. I don't remember the reason for it, but everybody did. The German are Aufseherins.

What's that?

???. Those were the German women, the soldiers who were looking over us. It was a barrack with, two story barrack. We had to go upstairs. On the bottom of the stairs, was standing a German woman and a Jewish Häftling --another person who was working in the barracks with the Germans. And they were searching everyone and taking away from everyone the potatoes. They searched me, the, the girl, not the German woman, but the Jewish woman, searched me and I had no potatoes and she stuck a potato in my pocket. And I wound up with a potato. And a potato was a big deal, was a big thing to have, since we used to pick up the peelings of the potatoes, wash it, and cook it. And that was a novelty to have the peelings of the potatoes. It had a little potatoes salad on it. We washed it, sometimes got away with a little piece of margarine. That was... it was a meal. So this, this was sort of a we... I--you can't say that you learn to live with it. You never learn to live with this, it was, a--I was there, I was imprisoned for a year. I don't, I don't think I laughed too many times... With friends, with total strangers, from different parts of country, whom we promised that we gonna see each other after the war ends. We never did. There was a girl, I was, we were very, very close. We were like two sisters. She was from Hungary. I don't know how I found out she was somewhere in Israel, but I was never able to find her. I would have loved to, but I never did. Over here, I don't think there is anyone here, in this town, here in Detroit who was with me in Zittau in Germany. I, I haven't met anyone. There might be, I don't know all the survivors here. Maybe there is someone, but I never... There was ???- he died, but I, I only knew that he was dead because the man they brought later on to Zittau and they were in a different barrack. Just meeting him and talking to him did I find out that he was there. It, there weren't too many... There was only, they only took 500 of us there, which was...

All women?

A small--all women. That was a small, a small amount. They gave us some striped dresses. Some shoes. It was winter. Some winter clothing. And two different shifts worked. Day shift and night shift. Once I injured my hand, we were sort of the helpers to the German workers. Once I injured my hand. I had to be taken back to the infirmary and have it bandaged. It was, wasn't very big but it was a nasty cut. I survived that too. That was really nothing consider, considering the rest of the things.

What month do you remember in 1944 was it that, that the Hungarians and Germans actually took you out of the house?

It was Pesach.

It was Pesach?

Right after Pesach. Right after Pesach.

And in the area where you were kept with the other Jews before you were transported, was that--

??? was there too in the same place. They had I don't know how many, how many thousands of people because I don't remember how many Jews lived in our town, but it wasn't only our town there, but all the surrounding villages and all the surrounding areas. They brought everyone in there. Actually there were two, two uh, camps where they kept the people until they put 'em on the, on the train. And they cou... couldn't put everyone on the train the same day, so I was there with my parents for four weeks.

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