Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Alexander Schleifer - August 1, 1982

Transport to Auschwitz

I would like to get some of the details of some of your movements. Let's go back to uh, the time that your family was rounded up from the camp uh, from that camp near the brick factory?


And uh, and you were on your way to, to Auschwitz.

Auschwitz, right.

Um, you were describing a while back the, the actual train trip. Uh, can you remember some--can you remember your experiences on the actual train?

Uh, uh, on the train, actually, you couldn't, you, you--if you had to go to the bathroom you was doing it right then in a corner. Nobody uh, there was no bathroom. As I said, no facilities where to uh, wash yourself or nothin'. It was worse than the hog go.

Was it hot in the train? Cold in the train?

Oh, I mentioned it was hot because it was cool outside, but there was so many people on the train that it just kept them hot. Close to each other.

Were people able to sit down?

Well, if you would sit down, we would get close--on top of each other. Just like, just like cattle. They wanted the cattle--actually, if you transport the cattle in more uh, uh, better way than they transport us because the cattle they, they don't squeeze that many together because they afraid some of the cattle die. But, they didn't care less with, with some, some of us who die.

Did everybody who went on this train uh, make it to the camp?

Yes, everybody made it to camp.

Nobody died then on the train?

No, no.

All right, when you--when the train stopped and you were at Auschwitz um, tell me what you saw when the doors opened up.

Uh, the door opened up and you seen an SS which one was standing there and he was selecting one to the left, one to the right, which when at the time you didn't know what was the score.

Oh, you didn't realize what was happening at this time?

No, nobody knew what was happening. Actually, one side you went to work. The other side you went straight to the uh, to the gas chamber which one happened to my mother. She went straight to gas chamber.

Do you know what they were using for criterion to send people to the right or to the left?

Well, it was just to take your own discussion--the discussion well, what he, what he wanted it. If you seen a heavier set woman with a younger kid, automatically send them to the gas chamber. If you seen an old man which one you think could work sent them on the other side. There was uh, there was a criteria. That's, that's what I think, that was his, his choice. Nothing, not the Nazi care less, I mean.

Did uh, did they make some sort of a, a line in terms of kids? How old, uh...

Well, [pause] see, you couldn't determine, actually, because of how old the kid. Kids--actually, the smaller kids were automatically and, uh, uh, it was with the parents uh, as I said, a parent was a little heavier or older they automatically went to it. With anybody accompanied, accompanied some older person [pause] they were automatically to the chamber. That's what happened.

When you, you were separated, did you ever have a chance to talk to your mother at all? Did you have a chance to, to...

To mother, no more. After we got off the train, she got separated. She went in one way and went the other way. That was it.

Did you know where she was going?

No, at the time we didn't know nothing.


We found it out afterwards.

How did you find it out? [dog barking]

[interruption in interview]

Okay, back from the dog kennel. How did you find out exactly what happened to your mother?

Oh, after the war we found out what was the score, what was going on. Before the war, we didn't know nothing.

Did anybody talk to you about it in the camp?

The camp they actually they don't--didn't know about it because, as I said, we were in a camp where we was in just in quarantine for a month. If we have any sicknesses, then we were shipped out, you see, so we could not--we wasn't in contact not with these people. Actually, peoples who were working on these details. I found out now that they was working "X" amounts of days and then they selves end up in, in the gas chambers that they didn't want to have all things to come out if in case they lose the war which one had some of these guys they escape or whatnot that's, that's how they found out what was it--what was goin' they in those gas chambers.

So, you were able to stay with your dad.

My dad until, as I said, we were at in Kochendorf and over there during the winter he had two of his toes froze up and then he was in hospital where they cut them off. And, again, the Allies was closing in so all the hospital--who was in hospital, they put them on a wagon--on a cattle wagon, and they sent them to uh, Dachau. And, the rest of us, everybody in the camp was marching which one. I don't know how many thousand was, was over there but by the time we got to, uh, Dachau quite a few died [pause] on the way. Title : Conditions at Auschwitz

Describe, if you would, please, the, the conditions that you experienced at Auschwitz.

Uh, at Auschwitz--see first of all, when we got into the Birke.... that was Birkenau, we called it, if I'm not mistaken, Birkenau. We got in. We got off the train first. We went to, you know, they were barracks, find one of the barracks. We had to get in. You take everything off what you had. All your clothing. Any personal things you had to leave in that particular place. And you went in, took a shower. After the shower, they shaved you all your hair off and they gave you clothes. Clothes what I'm talking we had the striped clothes and we got a pair of what... whatever kind of shoes they had they gave you.

Did your clothes fit you?

No, there was no such a thing as fit. No such thing as fit. They gave you a piece of crap and then you wear it, that's it, like it or not. If you don't wear it, then just uh, out of luck.

What about the food there?

The food there. We had a piece of bread and uh, uh and uh, and uh, soup for--that was, that was the food.


Again, that's a plain latrine and uh, you had uh, some water there if you got to it.

Okay, what was your daily routine at Auschwitz?

At Auschwitz, you had some details. Some of the guys had to go work uh, on, on the uh, in the kitchen, whatnot, sweep up, clean up, and odds and ends jobs. It wasn't nothing thing because, as I said, you wasn't to contact nobody else except the people who were in the particular uh, part so they didn't take us no, no place to work 'til we went to uh, uh, France. From France, the--I was working in a kitchen, but the rest of the people was working in, in the mines. They had some coal mines or whatever. That's where they worked.

All right, we'll talk about that in a little while. Did you have any special duties at all while you were at Auschwitz?

I, I didn't have a special, every day is different things.


Every day a different thing. No special assignments.

Was there any type of activity at Auschwitz that you would uh, consider resistance? Any type of, any type of uh, any.... anything against the Nazis that was able to...

You can't do--you couldn't do nothing resistance because they club you to death. You have to do whatever they tell you to do. We seen it was too, too late to do. What can you do? You're surrounded by electricity. What can you do?. I seen a few guys who went berserk and end up on the wire and got killed. You couldn't do nothing.

Did you witness any type of punishments?

Oh, yes, we witnessed punishments. Uh, you had to--each barrack had a commander which what you call them a Kapo and there was, again, from the, from the, the prisoners and whatnot and he might order to do some such a, such a thing and the guy didn't do it and so then he suffered the consequences.

Such as?

Such as beat him or hang him by his hands or something. You know, there are all different, different type of punishment, but they, they were sadistic, I would say.

Did you witness these punishments?

I seen some, yes. I mean seeing that was uh, actually what happened to 'um, he got his spot in one place to sleep and, again, he was sleeping on, on the boards and they had triple-deckers, the beds. And he wanted sleep with--I don't know what it was, it must have been his father or brother or whatever it is--and he got into a argument between the prisoners and then they didn't want to listen to the Kapo who was in charge of the barrack and he had a stick and really let him have it. Beat him up. After it, didn't have to no more listen to him because he was just about half dead by the time he got through with him.

What, what did you have to eat specifically, do you remember?

Well, they had some type of a soup which one of, of the pigs eaten better here and maybe you had a slice of bread. That was the daily. In the morning, maybe a little coffee, if you got it, but the slice of bread and uh, and uh, a half a bowl of soup maybe you got a day.

Do you remember any instances where the prisoners tried to help each other?

For instance, like what?

Um, either somebody who was less fortunate or sick or somebody would give them their food or they would try?

Well, I, I seen uh, things, for instance, uh, it happened that somebody would die and you, you kept the corpse there. You carried, you got his ration of bread, but the soup you couldn't. A couple of days but you couldn't have long on that because you had to get in a line and go through the chow line every day, whenever it was, and so we'd say such and such a thing he don't feel good, he is laying down. That was the second day he could not do it no more. We had to go to the--afterwards when they end up in the dark room [pause] cramped.

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