Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Esther Praw - May 22, 1983

Conditions at Auschwitz

And uh, I don't know, I went to work, with dogs around, you know. We were working by taking off coal from the wagons, or things like that. I hope that I'm saying the right thing, because you know, I forget things, when I work in Starachowice, what I did exactly in the year you know. Anyway, um, it was a very hard work, and I couldn't walk, the walk was just terrible, with the dogs, and the scare because I saw the ovens burning. Blocksperre means we cannot go out in the block because they're burning the people you know. And all those things, it was just horrible. So, I don't know, I don't remember, I don't recall how it happened. I got the job by this Regina. I had to wash the floors and I had to wash her personal clothes, and I have to do a lot of things for her. So I got um, usually a person had one spoon of jam a day, and when they had jam, I had two, and from the two I shared with all the friends, what I mentioned to you the names before. If we had potatoes, and we had one potato, I have two potatoes. And this was the advantage of the working, and I didn't have to go to work. She beat me up plenty because she gave me soap to wash, so I gave my friends to wash the hair first you know, because I thought she can get another piece of soap. So, but uh, I took it for granted, I took it gracefully because knew that I did something what was worthwhile you know. Working there was just as hard, more hard than even sometimes to go to work because you have to wash the floor, and in a certain time, the water has to go out from the barrack because later was Blocksperre, they start to burn the people. So I had to wash first the floor and then I had to take um, um, bricks, yellow bricks, and I have to make, make um, they should be like um, like flour, very fine. I mixed them with water, and this has to be go out on the floor there, and then I have to took a toothbrush, and I have some paint, white paint, and I have to use toothbrush around the edges here, to make them, you know. But sometimes it was worse because you have a certain time to do it and then to take the water out. But uh, the, we got so, I got used a little bit to it, and I didn't--and sometimes I didn't care, if today I was praying only that that a plane should come and, because we were laying on the, on the bed, eight people, if I recall exactly, or nine, sleeping, and it was one little blanket, and um, or maybe two little blankets, I don't recall exactly, no pillow or nothing, you know, it was, it was with straw uh, a little circle, I think, I'm not sure. I'm not sure if this was in Starachowice. In Starachowice we had a sack, a little sack with straw. And in Auschwitz I don't recall. Um, I don't know if we had anything or not. And then, one day, she really startled me. Whatever I did it wasn't good for her, and I told her, have it, I'm not working for you anymore. She said ???, I said whatever you want, I don't want to do it anymore. I don't care anymore, I said I, I quit. I quit life. That's it. The reason I did I think that I had here a growth, like a boil, you call it a boil? Boil?




And I had fever. If the German would see that, they send me right away and burn me. They burn me. Because they looked at people too naked so, so if you had anything on your skin, they send you away, you know. So what I did, I took dirt from the ground and put it on that, because I want to die. I don't want to survive high fever, you know. Nothing happened to me. So again I don't remember who did it. Somebody told me that it's here a Russian doctor lady, and they talked to her, and how, I don't recall how I did it, she cut it for me. How, I don't remember because it wasn't allowed to go to her. Maybe I took a chance to go, my husband asked me several times, I said this I don't remember. I have a scar, so you knew--know that I am not, it didn't happen in illusion or dream. But it's true. And uh, I didn't work for her anymore. But one day came a German lady um, and she said, people, they want to go to good work, she will take them. And me, I went with her outside too. So this Regina, she couldn't stand it, that I'm standing, because she know where she is taking us. She took us for experiment, to make castration, or whatever they did. So she came and pulled me out, she said to me, you don't deserve it, you know, you didn't want to work for me anymore. I work for next door lady, in the same room was two of them, so the other one took me and I start to work for her. She was more human than um, she was.

What was the name of the second lady that you worked for?

I don't remember, no. I did remember all the time because when I talk to somebody about the story I did know, but now I don't remember this woman. And uh, I don't know how long I was there, I know one thing only, that when I was staying outside, to Appell, every day was Appell, and if somebody was missing they couldn't go out, in the Appell we had to stay until they found the person. I was, I promised to myself that I will never forgive and I will never forget and I will never in my life take off this number. When I came to the, to this country a doctor want to help me. He said you are so nervous, let me take it out. I said no, never. And now, even the number makes me now proud. Proud that I lived through what I did. And this number to me is very precious. I'm very proud of it, like when I wear in the summer short sleeves, I go wherever I go people are, and to me it's the most biggest pride, that I could survive. So then, in uh, in Auschwitz, [pause] one day, Mengele was his name, you hear the name before, I'm sure, and he took all the people out. Again, on a special--it wasn't by the barracks, because my barrack would only take so much. He took all the people in a big place. And he took out some people, I was between them ??? you know, I was, and they took, put us--they took this number off. It mean we don't belong there anymore. In Auschwitz. And they took us in barracks, in and we were 100% sure that we were going to die because usually what they did with people before they kill them, is to take them the number out and put them in barracks for the next day, or the next uh, for next time when the oven is free. This was in the night. I didn't know how stupid I could be. I opened the window, jumped out through the window in Auschwitz. This was really stupid. When I think about it now I think I was normal probably, I didn't care because I knew it's death anyway. The ovens were burning, five of them. And I went back to my barrack. And Regina said to me, are you crazy? Here you are dead, you don't have the number anymore, and I want to be with my friends, together. She said go back, because over there I don't know what they are going to do with you, but here you are going to be--but how could you come here? It wasn't too hard to go anywhere, but the Germans, you know. I went back there and the next day they took us again on, on trucks. And when they took us on the trucks, then we know, we knew that we have a chance to live, because they wouldn't take us away from Auschwitz to kill us.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn