Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Ruth Muschkies Webber - February 2, 1987

Conditions in Starachowice

What was your mother doing at this time?

My mother was standing with all the other women and I suppose praying. I...it was an incident that is being talked about even now among the survivors as one of the miracles that how these few children from our town have survived. They are just unexplainable.

Was your mother working?


What did you do while your mother was working?

Well, my mother was going out on work details to different places, I don't know what. We at one time were also taken to the bread factory, I remember cleaning off bricks for a short time. I was peeling potatoes in the kitchen. At one time, I was taking messages from one area of the camp to another.

Did you have a place to sleep?

I slept with my mother. I was an ex...if there was six people in a pritsche...in a bunk, I was the seventh, I was not counted. These other women had to tolerate me, had to squeeze me in. I was not a person.

Any objections?

Objections...I was just happy to...

I mean other women?

I really don't remember. I think that a lot of the people looked at me as their own because they have lost their own children by then and they try to give me a little comfort when mother wasn't there, when mother was out on a work detail. So they tried to give me a little comfort. No, I don't remember any rudeness from the people, maybe my mother felt it at some point, I didn't. I didn't. I uh, I was uh, tolerated. Some people objected for me being there because I endangered their lives. Children endangered adults lives, because children were not allowed to be there, and if Germans walked in and they saw children, they got mad and not only would they shoot the children, but they would also shoot anybody else who happens to be in the vicinity, in the area. So yes, some people maybe felt that we shouldn't be there.

Do you remember seeing people shot?

Yes. There was...oh I saw a lot of death. But I guess it doesn't make as much an impression on you as you see one or two. There was an escape in the ???, and I guess they were caught, two or three people. They were brought, they were dragged back into the camp and everybody was told to go back to their barracks as these people were brought out. And I was on the way, and I guess I never made it, because I had to hide inside of the outhouse, which was in the center of the main camp, like the barracks were all the way around, and this was a big yard and the outhouse was in the yard like towards the side of it. And I heard some shooting. So I got up onto the seat and witnessed these people, two or three of them, I'm not sure now, brought in and other inmates were made to dig graves for them. And the prisoners that had escaped--the prisoners--the people that had escaped that were brought in and they were shot, but they were not dead. And they were being thrown into the hole and they were screaming, "Don't bury me, I'm still alive!" And the others just had to start putting the dirt on them and you could hear the screams. After that I ran--we were allowed to come out and I ran into the barracks, my mother was there, she was beside herself. She didn't know where I was. She didn't know if I was still alive, because when you hear the shots going on you don't know who was shot. And since I didn't make it back to the barrack she assumed that something must have happened to me. Not knowing that I was in the outhouse.

[interruption in interview]


Yes, she hugged me and kissed me and I guess she was so relieved that I was alive she didn't scold me for not being there. I don't ever remember my mother scolding me in camp. Uh, I guess that kind of made this terrible fear that I lived with constant fear of survival for the three years for however long it took that I lived in the different camps. Even talking about it now, this fear tends to kind of come over you and you really don't want it. You don't want to feel that way. I just think about it now and I don't know how I was able to survive, such tension all the...such acceptance that every minute might be my last. That whatever decision I made wasn't necessarily that it made sense it's just that I just felt that way at the time. My mother didn't scold me; she just hugged me and was happy that I was alive.

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