Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Harry Praw - June 30, 1982

Being Taken to Buchenwald

Did you know--you knew that there were, there were Russians?

Sure, we heard it like it was next door. We said, "The Russians are in the city." We got to the train station, they loaded us up on the--they rounded up all the three camps.

But nobody said, "Let's run," or...

Nobody. That's why I said either we were stupid or no brains or we lost everything that we had. We lost all our...

You said you were so passive...

We lost all our senses.

Uh-huh. Mm-hm.

We didn't see no Germans until we got the train stations. Then they brought in all the Jews from the other camps and again they loaded us up on the cars--on the trains and shots were coming from all over but no one tried to say, "To hell with them, I'm not going."

Nobody tried to escape.

Nobody tried to escape. Nobody ever said, "Let's go, either we do or die right now." We knew that the Russians were in the city. Either we--we weren't doped up, we didn't use any dope but somehow we must've been doped up. We didn't...

You were prisoners for so long...

We didn't...

...that you were used to acting like that.

...we didn't see any mass killings. And they were always talking so nice, "Oh you're going to a better place, you're gonna get a good bath, and you're gonna get new clothes and you're gonna go to work." And from one place to another, their motto was in every camp that you walked in, "Work makes you sw...makes your life sweet--makes your life free." That was their motto on all the gates that you walked through the camps.


"Work makes you free." So we were in the cattle cars probably about a week. And finally--we finally we wound up in what they called a concentration camp, all the rest was labor camps. And that was my first taste of a real concentration--it was called Buchenwald, I'm sure you heard that before.


And there we saw the smell of the ovens. It was the first sight we had seen of the camps and ovens but we still didn't know what it was all about.

You couldn't believe it.

We couldn't believe it but we walked through the gates we started talking, "This must be an oven. This must be the oven what everybody's been talking about." Because we already started coming from all different camps...


...because they evacuated all of Poland.

You were hearing rumors...

Sure, they brought people in from all the camps that they evacuated in Poland and they all brought them into Germany.


And uh, again they located us into the barracks and that was the best place yet. We had to lie on bunks--six in a bunk.

Six in one bunk.

Six in a bunk. You couldn't lay on your stomach, you couldn't lay on your back, you had to sleep on your side--eat and sleep on your side. And we must've been in Buchenwald probably one or two weeks. When we got into Buchenwald--this is one thing, I don't know, it's funny but today is--everything we do today it seems impossible what we had to do there.


They had a tank full of hot...

[interruption in interview]

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