Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Nathan Roth - February 4, 1983

Conditions in Birkenau

Were you beaten?

Oh, yes.

That, that day?

That day, yes. If you didn't walk fast enough they were all around you and just smacked you all over, but you didn't feel it because you were frozen. Oh yeah, I remember being beaten. Beaten over the head. Beaten on the back, beaten every place. Because, you couldn't move fast enough.

What do you remember about the barracks?

I remember the three tiered uh, huge bunks where ten people slept and most of the time you c...sleep sideways, because there was not enough room to lie on your shoulder. And then uh, lining up for soup once a day and we never had soup as good as in Birkenau, because the soup was made from all these food left over that we brought. It was great soup. You could get all you want. I remember that in Birkenau.

Did you pray when you were there?

No. Never occurred to me.

What were you thinking about in terms of your religious experience?

I don't believe I was thinking about my religious experiences. Very uh, I've never even thought about it until now of, of what I was thinking. I don't, I don't know if I thought about religion at all. Not in a positive way anyway. Uh, I remember when I was--finally finagled myself a trip to the basement, to the cellar, where they were processing vegetables and stuff like that and uh, and I met this, this Frenchman and uh, he was uh, he was saying something about God will help us and I made a very derogatory remark about God, what God, where God and he proceeded to beat the hell out of me. He says, "This God is going to get you out of here." Big Frenchman. I remember his face. He beat me. He said, "Don't you blasphemy God here." Then he went and started singing. I think he must have been a opera singer. I don't know his name. He went and started singing a song called ??? I still didn't know what it means. But that--I ate a lot. I ate onions, I ate carrots, I ate radishes in that basement. So maybe he was right. Maybe God did send me over at that time to, to get a little more energy. I, but at that time I, I didn't--in fact, if you want to know the truth, even after I got liberated, at best, might not call me an atheist, I was an Agnostic because of that.

Are you still?



Well, I got over it. I uh, I think the kids started me back first, because I uh, realized that no matter how I feel, I cannot uh, leave that legacy to my children. So--but you know who is most responsible for it, my wife. No, not at all. It all came back to me, all what I learned in the yeshiva and everything else. It came back to me and is back with me and I'm glad of it.

How long were you in Birkenau?

I think maybe about two, three months.

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