Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Agi Rubin - December 19, 1984

Arrival at Auschwitz

Did you arrive at Auschwitz at night?

Yes. It was dark, it was almost, no it was evening. We were thrown off the wagons and we had to line up again.

When the doors opened, what do you remember, what were your first impressions, what went through your mind?

First, I saw the people in striped clothing, and I thought this must be the crazy unit because they are wearing the striped clothing, shaven heads. And, uh, just no impression, just that chaotic, you are being shoved and you are trying to hold onto your family to stay together because that was a very important factor. You don't have any impression, you, you that was my impression, the crazy people... what's next? You don't have time to think. We were just shoved up very quickly, schnell, schnell, everything was always schnell... uh, we lined up and the next thing I clung onto my mother, we were in one line, about eight people including my mother, my aunt and my brother and I was the only one that Mengele had decided to send to the other side. Well, I fought him, I wasn't gonna go. I wanted to stay with my mother. And I ran back three times and he threw me to the ground and it was a gravel ground, and I can see my mother says, and it still wouldn't, it just didn't phase me, I was determined to stay with my mother, not because I knew where I was going and that they are gonna go, I just wanted to stay with, I felt guilt, I felt lonesome not being with her. So, finally, the third time when I was pushed down, my mother went, let go my child, go, I'll see you tomorrow and I remember my mother all my life with the wave of her little finger, that she accomplished what the German, what Mengele could not accomplish, that I should go to the other side. Why he did it, I don't know. From then, there, we were taken to a waiting, it was called a waiting cabin, see when they were too busy in the crematorium, you stayed overnight over there and that was the Birkenau which I later found out what it was, and we stayed there overnight, first they took away our clothing, we got the striped clothes so we became the crazy unit, just like the others, we didn't know, the first impression, our heads were shaven, the only thing that they let me keep was my shoes, but it had to be stuck in some water, so it should be clean, so I was allowed to put on the shoes while it was wet. I mean soaking wet. But it was mine. And I was alone. All alone. And I knew that my girlfriend's family was all sent the same brick factory but we were, we didn't know who was taken away when. And I started like daydreaming, just walking like a robot, looking for my girlfriend, [calling] Nardi, and towards dawn, I heard my name mentioned like from a distance and we crossed each other my girlfriend, she was looking for me, I was looking for her, and we looked at each other then by passed and she went, oh my goodness, how you look. We didn't recognize each other, we were both shaven and we started laughing. Would you believe it? We hysterically laughed because we saw each other. Finally, when the voices recognized each other, but then you don't see yourself, how we looked at each other from somebody else's point of view, and this is how, from that moment on, I remained with them as a family, we formed a unit. And I feel that in as much as I tried to be a loyal, and I was, family member to them, they were just as helpful or even more so in maintaining my senility [sic sanity] and dignity, but being able to help her mother which I felt that if, what would I do for my mother, I was able to do it for her, that gave me strength to do things for myself through her. So from then on we remained together.... from that [pause] waiting place, they took us to A Lager which was in part of Auschwitz, next they lined us up again, and some of us this, was still alphabetically at that point, and we were being tattooed which is on the arm and I became number A6013 and uh...

How did you feel about that, when they were tattooing you and afterwards, what...?

I just kept on looking like something, it didn't hurt, I don't remember hurting, I was in a shock, you know, I was walking around in a daze for one week. Because the disbelief, the shock that you are alone, the circumstances which you... it's hardly describable. The sleeping conditions which were cots, if you can call it cots, uh, narrow board like this, with no mattress and six people, you can't stretch out, maybe if you are small enough you are able to use just one side of you. Uh, you are given a portion of bread which I told you was a black piece of mortar, that's what it looked like, they slapped something over it, and I hid it under the brick, because if I don't eat it, I'm gonna be punished, because that was the first day, of course some lucky devil was able to find it. Little did I know that we would be fighting for that little piece of brick, but the first week, it was a terrible shock. I mean most of us, which I don't even care to go into, you're sick... physically, you are shocked for the many different reactions, diarrhea and so on and so forth. And once we realized that this is it, you started uh, the most important thing was the unity and to me again to come back to the family we tried to stay together, even there was a Zählappell which is to be counted for, up to date, I can't understand why we were so valuable to them to be accounted for one by one and that could be four o'clock in the morning or twelve o'clock at night. They had the right to come into your bunk and say get up it's Zählappell. Why? I still don't understand, but it was a very, it was a sport that they played with us. One of the sports. Then after, the people, the ones that were tattooed, were selected to go and work to the crematorium. We were called the group, the white kerchief, we would walk everyday to work by the crematorium and at night they took us back because our cabins weren't ready yet for occupancy, the hotel was being prepared for us. So for one month, we would walk back and forth, you know. We saw the groups going, you know just like all groups and uh, even said wave to them, I mean from across, still not knowing what is going on. Walk by it everyday so can you imagine the shock that the woman in line goes through and you see it and you don't believe it. I saw the flames and I said, not my family, they are not there, that's how I could always visualize, you know, because you went in but nobody ever came out of there. The Sonderkommando was, uh, selected, sonder means special. The Sonderkommando’s job was in the crematorium to [pause] shove the people and make the preparation and maybe some of them even pulled the gas, and then the clean up crew. We were one part, the other part of the Sonderkommando, which we found out afterwards, every Sonderkommando was changed every six month, that was the reason that they only took people with the numbers so they know how many people will be changed, they could keep a count of them. Because they didn't want these things to get out to the world, what was going on, and this would have been the living witnesses, so they were gassed every six months and a new group would come in. Uh, my, our job was to sort the clothing that people would come in with, uh the clothing went separate, jewelry went, shoes went, into different categories, this was made into bundles and they mailed it or sent it to Germany to refine it, or like from hair they made their soap and so on and so forth. Everything was being utilized. Excuse me, what did I say hair? Any way... all right.. And um,

What was this called? What was this detail called?

This is uh, that was no detail, we were just Birkenau Sonderkommando in the Birkenau. Uh, we were worked side-by-side by the crematorium. And we realized, of course, the people went in and didn't come out but this waiting barrack that I told you about in 1944 towards October when they were in such rapid, they started the Dutch people came, and the Hungarian groups, they had, it was last minute they couldn't shove enough people in, the crematorium was going day and night and this barrack was for the waiting people and one night one of our Kapos who found out that her sister was there and she knew that she had a child and she would go to the crematorium and she snuck her out of there, without the child. And this poor woman came to our barrack and screamed the whole night. "I want my child", but then she realized that her child would go to the crematorium and she beat her sister up. "Why did you save my life, if not my child? Why did you bring me to this hell?" I mean, that's what I'm talking about sounds. And uh, I don't know, she went berserk. I don't know what happened to her afterwards, but the realization that her life was saved and not her child's and those people were going in day and night, and day and night. This was the sauna it was called where the people came to take their bath, the ones that went to work. All this group was next together, the crematorium, the Birkenau, and the sauna. That was one group.

You mean Brzezinka?

Brzezinka, yea, well it was Birkenau and Brzezinka, both, yea..

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