Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Martin Water - 1982

Hygiene and Illness in Camp

For some reason, they wanted us to be clean. As is...

Is this, is this in Gleiwitz?

In Gleiwitz. Everything in Gleiwitz. Every Sunday we had entlausung, or a de-licing. We had to walk towards a hygienist with our shirts, and they looked for lice between the seams. They found one louse on one man. They stripped him, they hosed him down in co...in sub-zero weather, the barber shaved him from head to toe, and then our ??? told a gunman to go towards the barbed wire. He did. He took out a gun and killed him. The man who was his partner in the bunk had the same fate, because he slept on the same bunk, and so they felt he was infested with lice, and they killed him too. This was the other incident that I had in that camp. One day--you see, I'm going back and forth, 'cause it's hard to go chronologically sometimes. One day I got sick. I couldn't move my head, I couldn't move my eyes. I go over to this Kapo ???, I said to him, "I'm sick. I can't even lift my shovel." He says, "Go over to the German." I go over to the German--respectfully three paces away--I said to him, "I'm sick. I can't lift my shovel, I can't lift my pick. My head hurts, my neck is stiff, I can't even move my eyes." He says, "Go back to your Kapo." I says, "The Kapo sent me to you." He says, "Go to the Kapo." I go to the Kapo and I said what the German said. He said, "No, I'm sorry. I'm not gonna take it upon myself to let you go to the camp and relax. Go back to the German." I says, "Well, I'm being moved like a chess board." Like a, a, you know, the uh, power uh, whatever they moved the uh, figures on a chess board. So I go, I go back to the SS man, I says, "Look, my Kapo doesn't want to take it upon himself. Let me go and rest." He got annoyed with me. He whipped out his gun, and put it on my temple, and he said, "If you want to walk away from me, I'll kill you." Now can you imagine me, a big hero, instead of cringing and start crying, I said to him, "Go ahead." He didn't know what to do with me! He kicked me, and put me in the tent. It was three days I didn't go to work. I was in the camp but I didn't have no rest, because I had to move that people, and I had to move some, some produce over there. This was my rest in the camp for three days.

Let me just interrupt. You said you have to move "that people." Was that...

Yeah. People who died, we had to put 'em in there. And we had to put the people in a pit, and they put lime on the top of it. Whoever died, and this was for transport to Auschwitz, to be cremated.

I see. So they were first bur...first covered in--with lime...

Lime. As a matter of fact, there's an incident that I'd like to mention. At the end, when they took us out of the camp--this was January 19th, 1945, 9:30 in the morning. They took us out of the camp. There was not a--this same Gustav--he was in charge of the OT--Organisation Todt. Todt was the name of a general. They named the um, the labor department was after him--named after him, OT, and he remained behind in the camp. Those who were able to walk marched out, and those who were not able to walk, who were sick, they said, "Well, a truck is gonna come, a bus is gonna come take you out." He threw the hand grenade. Now how do I know these things? Because there was a survivor--a eye-witness. He was sick. He was the KB. KB means the Krankenbau, or the sick room, or the sick building. He threw himself out through the window into that pit. And they took him for dead. And with all the people who were sick in that KB or the sick room, got burned to death. That same Gustav threw him a hand grenade, incendiary bomb or whatever, and those people didn't survive. The reason I know about it, because this man survived. I've seen him in Łódź, Poland after the war. And half an hour or an hour later, he said to me, that Russians came and liberated them.

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