Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Martin Shlanger - March 4, 1983

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Did they then take you into the, into their ranks?

No. No, they... The day after that, I started on, on a march back home. I was about 600 kilometers from my hometown. Maybe more, 700 kilometers. That is about 450, 500 miles. And I started out on foot. The first day, I walked about eight miles big... in big snow. I arrived in this village completely empty. Nobody lived in the village. One house I saw smoke coming out of the chimney. I needed a warm place to stay, so I knocked on the door, the old lady opened the door and I told her she should allow me to sleep there overnight but she said, no, she's very sorry uh, she cannot allow that because Russian soldiers sleep there. But I was very tired and I needed a warm place, I forced myself in, I took out my blanket, I put it on the floor, fell asleep right away. Around ten o'clock in the evening I felt somebody was kicking me, waking me up. I look up, a Russian soldier with a submachine gun looks at me with this striped uniform and he ask me, "Where do you come from?" I explain to him, " I'm coming, I'm coming from the concentration camp." So, he says, "Why do you sleep here like a dog?" Chased the old lady out of bed and put me in bed.

He chased the old lady out of the bed and put you in her bed?


What made you decide that you wanted to go back home? Was that just the first thing that you thought you had to do?

Natural instinct probably. There was no other place to go.

Did you expect to find any family?

No. No, I knew my brother was in the Soviet Union, that I knew because we received a letter from him before the war broke out with the Soviet Union. So, I knew he was in the Soviet Union but I had no idea that he was in the Czechoslovak Brigade.

Did you hope to find your parents?

I knew my parents were gone that I, I already had the feeling that they were all killed, because from, the Germans deported the, the Jews from the rural areas of Hungary.

Did you talk of home in the barracks ever? Did people discuss...

We all did, we all talked about how good it was, about the food at home and what we ate and uh, we always talked about food. That was the primary concern, more food.

What, what were the stages in this odyssey back home?

Well, the following day the same Russian soldier came back for me, took me out on the road, and stopped the Russian army truck that was going toward Katowice. And I was on this open truck in the middle of January for about a hundred kilometers. By the time I arrived in Katowice, I was completely frozen. And I needed a warm place to stay overnight again, so I walked into a bakery. Slept in the bakery. Then I started on foot again. Walked out to the edge of the town, I was stopped by Russian lady soldier who asked for identifications. Could not produce any identifications. I walked to the edge of the town four kilometers, I had to walk back four kilometers to the, to see the commander. Finally, the commander advised the soldier to take me back to the edge of the town and put me on, on an army truck that would take me to Kraków.

You're still in the striped uniform?

Still in the striped uniform. Then around the twentieth of January I arrived in Kraków. When I got out that truck in Kraków and the people saw the striped uniform, they all surrounded me. They never saw a uh, free man from concentration camp. I went to a restaurant--people gave me money--I went to a restaurant and I ordered food. They served me and I wanted to pay. They refused to take money. So, I stayed in Kraków for about four or five days but I was sick with dysentery but at the same time, I was hungry. I went back three times a day for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner uh, to this restaurant. Then I walked to... I stayed in Kraków about four or five days, I started out on foot again and I went to the suburb of Kraków, to P?aszów. Here I was put again on a Russian army truck that took me to Rzeszów, about 150 kilometers, open truck. I arrived on a Friday, late afternoon, and I found a Jewish family in Rzeszów. I had a Friday night dinner with them and I slept there overnight. The following morning I went to the railroad station. I found out that there was a railroad station toward the Czechoslovak border. So, the train took me to a small village called Moderówka. From here, I had to walk again eight kilometers to a town called Krosno. As I walked down the street in Krosno, I saw Czechoslovak uniformed soldiers. And I approached them and asked them, "Where you from?" I didn't know there was a Czechoslovak legion created in the Soviet Union. And they told me that they joined the Czechoslovak legion in the Soviet Union and they asked me for my name. I told them my name is Schlanger. " Schlanger? We have a sergeant here by that name." "Where is he?" "He's in the barracks." So, I go to the barracks, he wasn't there. He was a truck driver hauling ammunition to the first lines. He was gone. "So, when is he going to be back?" "Next morning, tomorrow morning, he will be back." Wait, the following morning, he didn't show up. I had no idea who this Schlanger was. The following morning, somebody walks into the barracks and starts yelling, "Who is here by the name Schlanger?" It was my brother. This is how I met up with my brother.

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