Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Irene Sobel - September 8, 1998

Life in the Labor Camp

Have you ever seen any movies of the, this kind of situation in Russia in the war?

No, I have not seen any movies during the war. Oh, have I seen here of the movies of the war?


Uh, no.

The people were crowed into one apartment.

Into one room, one room. In the summers--well, my sister had to work in a factory too everyone, my, my mother, father and my sister had to work in the factory. So I was the only one home. Let me see, by then I was seven, when we came there I was probably eight years old.

It was 1940?

Yeah, 1940, I was eight years old. Uh, on summer days my father would take down this huge kind of an iron metal, like a belly pot, take it down and put it on a few bricks outside and told me when I should start--he taught me how to make a fire under the pot. And I would be the one who would cook the dinner. And if they had some, put in some vegetables and I don't--I am not sure how I knew how long it has to cook, but then I stood and watched it or played around until they came home and he would bring it up.

This was just for the four of you?

Just for the four of us, yeah. Everything. Uh, food, bread was rationed.

Was there ever at any time any talk about what must have happened or might have happened to the rest of the family who stayed behind?

Yes, they wondered. And they were--but there was no, no way of communicating. No news and no mail. There was no mail of any kind that arrived. We had no radio, as far as I know. But somehow--so we were kind of a, not just cut off in the forest, but cut off from the rest of the world. I was going to school there, yes. And uh, and I remember walking for miles what seemed of going to school. And the winters were so harsh, we wore uh, shoe--in Russian they called them valenki. They were made like a packed, tightly packed uh, some kind of a, like made from a, a dense molded, made from some like uh, fi...not fibers like hair or some kind of a fabric that--not fab...texture--the thing came molded, ready molded from a dense uh, I haven't seen anything here like that should make some comparison. Anyway, when the snow was dry, it would, it kept your feet dry, it didn't wet it.

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