Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Irene Sobel - September 8, 1998

Being Prisoners

But you considered yourselves prisoners?

Yes. Uh, prisoners in the sense that it was forced labor, we had to be there, we were not allowed to leave, we were not allowed to go any place. Uh, we were not caged in our houses, but figuratively speaking caged in a community that was in a kind of a nowhere, somewhere in a tundra, no, no train and no transportation and no options of what you do. You just work in the cement factory, and everyone had to work, even children when they were older enough, old enough. I don't know exactly what age--I at eight did not, but my sister at fourteen--thirteen did.

What kind of labor were they doing?

Uh, I don't know what it is how you make bricks, but I know that there were some machinery because my sister got the tip of her finger cut off on a machine.

Hard labor.

Hard labor, all physical labor, yes. And my mother would come exhausted--yeah, I know--but they were all hard, physical labor. And they would have those--the soldiers over there, I mean that. The protection was more the soldiers in the workplace than in our residence. We didn't see them much around where we lived, but in the factories yes.

Were there any exchanges with the Soviet troops?

Very little. They were not viewed as uh, on a social level that you exchanged--they were there to make the decision, they were there when people were afraid.


There was a great fear of the soldiers, there was a great fear of what they can do to you. And there were always flying some uh, stories of people who were sent to actual uh, who were jailed for, for the slightest accusation of being anti, uh, Russian.

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