Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Selma Rich - July 17, 1984


He say, "where would you like to work?" I say the best place would be for me in the laundry. He start to laugh, he say that's the hardest place to work. I say, "don't you see in which circumstances I am? There I could wash myself up, I could wash my rags what I had on me, they are--if you'll excuse me--licey. It would help me and there I would have soap to wash up myself. Here we don't have nothing." He said, "okay, you are in, tomorrow." And he gave me a little note, written down and I came to the uh, to the place and they let me in. When they let me in there was police from one side and on the other side, Jewish police. They were watching, Germans were watching too. And when I came in right away they send me to the laundry. They gave me there the hardest work in the laundry, of course, because I came, I am to them a stranger whom they could give hard work. They sent, they stand, they put me on a job which I had to boil the, the uh, clothes, the underwear from the soldiers, from the Germans, to sterilize, we had to boil them. So it was on steam. And suddenly exploded. I, I was working there already about three weeks, and I got burned over. I have tiny little white marks still left. But I was weak this, working not saying nothing, I was so happy there to work because I washed myself. I uh, I had there a meal to eat, a meal, you know uh. And I used to try to save some of the, from the meal to take home. This was allowed. I had a little can. So half I used to eat and half I used to bring with me I should be able to, you know, to eat in the morning something. So I used to take a couple spoons and was shaking not to eat up the whole thing. That's how it was precious, the little bit of food. But it didn't last for very long, this. They asked, the Germans, for several thousand people to send away to someplace else. I didn't, then I didn't know where. Later on I found out it was Estonia. And they took all the people, which were from Żyżmory, from the camp, this, was first to go. Because they said they have too many Jews in this area. I was sure they are taking us to gas chamber. I, I didn't believe that they will take us to work.

How did you know about gas chambers?

We knew.


Uh, we heard. We hear they have gas chambers.


From different people, from different sources who came in later on in the camps. We knew already.

What year is this?

This was in '43, I believe. And, and it was kind of already dark. When they took us we were on the last uh, uh, wagons.

Train, wagon, by horse?

No, this was, no, no, this wasn't by horse. This was uh, uh, how would they call this in English. Open, you know what you, cattle you, you, you drive, you know, uh. I don't know how to explain it to you.

[interruption in interview]

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