Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Nathan Roth - February 4, 1983

Punishment at Birkenau

Okay, let's continue this in a minute. Can we stop? Um, is it possible to start another tape? Because this, this is an appropriate place to just go through the last section.

[interruption in interview]

Before we go on with uh, Jaworzno, l...let me take you back again to um, Birkenau. Do you remember any kinds of uh, seeing any kinds of punishment while you were at Birkenau for two months?

I saw hanging. I saw one hanging.

Do you remember the circumstances?

No. I was just taken out and, and uh, made stand over there and uh, and watch a hanging. Uh. In fact, I haven't thought about that one. I don't know what he did or...No, but it was just, it was like a sl...slow strangulation. It wasn't like a drop. It was, it was, I know there was a lot of twitching for maybe fifteen minutes or so, maybe more, but I don't remember what it was about. Maybe, I haven't thought about that one. Just once in, in, in Birkenau. But uh, there were beatings every day. The kapo of the, of the, of the block, the block kapo. There were beatings in his room every day.

Is this a Jewish guard?

Yeah--no. It wasn't a Jew. It was a Polack. Slovak, was a Polack. Wasn't a Jewish kapo. It was in his room, there were beatings every day. Uh, I was beaten once, but everybody was and it wasn't such a big deal, I was. Because they found some tobacco under my, under my pillow, but uh, yeah. I don't remember a lot of the things. I think right after, after I was liberated, for a long time, I, it was almost like I had amnesia. I didn't remember anything.

Were there suicides?

Oh God, yes. Every morning when we went out to the latrine, there were bodies floating. I don't know if they were suicides or what, but uh, there were bodies floating in the, in the big, the receptacles where we went to urinate. Whether they were dumped or whether--every morning there was suicides, there were deaths and when we were in the Appellplatz, counted, we had to be lined up front of you, the dead and the living. Everybody had to be accounted for in the morning, then the dead were carried off. That was a common occurrence. That was, that was, that was a common occurrence every morning. And in Jaworzno too.

Do you remember the chimneys? Smoke?

Oh yes.

Did you ask anyone about that?

No. No. My wife knows more about that than I do. I didn't never ask anybody about it. I don't remember talking to anybody about it, because I didn't want to think about it, but uh, we had a good idea what was going on, but somehow, you just didn't talk about it.

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