Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Josef Slaim - February 7, 1982

Liquidating the Camp

They want to liquidate--evacuate the camp. Of course they didn't want to leave any witnesses. So the first thing for their--was to, was to fool the people, by telling them that they're gonna be sent away to a better camp, under better conditions. That means, the evacuation start--begin. What they did, every night, they took an X amount of people, which meant that they're gonna be sent away to another camp. But instead, they took them to the nearest forest and just brutally shot them. And that was going on for days.

How did you know this?

We heard. Course, when I would be there, I wouldn't, I wouldn't be here.

You say you heard this.


How do, how do you hear this?


People don't come back from there, do they?

Well, yes. Once in a while by shooting in the night, somebody hided. We got survivors. Which somebody survived--as a matter of fact one come back and told us what was going on there.

You mean he was, he was captured again and they brought back into the camp?

He--no, no, no. He just, he just had the chance to run away in the night. It was dark and they start shooting. So somebody fall down and probably he got--still alive, and then he run away. In--after a while, they got--the people that run away, start to get in into the camp by themselves, because he hadn't got a choice, he hadn't got a choice where to go.

So they came back to the camp?

Come back in the camps--so they come back on the project to work like nobo...like nothing would happened. He didn't even uh, register himself. Just uh, if they would have uh, showed up and said, "I was running away," he would get killed on the place. So number two. [pause] Now the operation began. We're taken--und every night an X amount, which I mentioned this. With the winter approaching und the weather got terrible cold we didn't have enough food. The Germans become more brutal und they start shooting right and left. It was just impossible, the hunger, cold, filthy und overcrowded conditions plus physical and moral pain caused the inmates to get typhus epidemics proportions. All sick people were ordered to attend immediately for medical help. As the people got there--the sick people, as they got there, they take him--they took them to a special place und they got killed by gun bullets. There wasn't medicine. Then an order come that we all have to assemble for the evacuation. We had to believe that this is probably the last end--maybe they're gonna shoot us like they do this--actually to this time, we didn't care anymore. You gonna shoot me--after all we knew it--we--it's hard to survive. It's gonna be hard. Maybe some, some of them gonna surive. A day later, one day more, one day less--what's the difference? They gonna shoot us, so. So a lots of people, they didn't showed up, but a majority showed up on the, on the place. They got an order--we become another order to assemble on the place. Know the Lagerführer und the commander told us that we are going to leave this camp. Whoever don't want to go could stay. Another trick. All of a sudden the Germans start getting such a fine people. Whoever is sick, he can stay in house. So sick people shouldn't go with us, just the healthy ones. They told us that in the morning we should assemble and everybody will get bread for the trip. So the next morning we got to the place where they asked us to come. When we got to this place, we didn't see any Germans there more--any guards. We were standing there for twenty minutes, nobody showed up. So we were sure they probably run away. We knew it the Russians are close. So what we did, we start breaking the door from the magazines where the food was laying. As soon we broke the doors, the Germans was inside, hiding. They knew it's, it's gonna happen, and open fire mit machine guns, and we got killed so many people it was impossible.

They were hiding from who?

They was hiding and waiting for us to break the doors. They knew it that we was coming for bread. And when we will not see nobody from the Germans that's gonna be our belief that they run away. And we was hungry so we gonna open the doors from the magazines and take the uh, food; but they was hiding in every corner mit machine guns. As soon we got through the doors, they start shooting on us. We start, uh...

So you, so you--what, you ducked? You, you fell to the ground? How did you, uh...

Of course. It was dark--it was early in the morning. They shoot. Many people died--I mean, got killed. And uh, skeletons was laying in the bunches over there, after this. Then...

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