Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Ruth Muschkies Webber - February 2, 1987


This is an eight-year-old child. Most eight-year-old children don't think about being shot. What went through your head that day?

Well, I was so conditioned that my mind was set for survival. For instance, I would sometimes wake up at night after an incident like this, and I would sit up and I wouldn't know where I am. Am I dead already? Is this what death is like or am I still alive? Where am I? I laugh about it now. When Mark and I travel, we like to go by car and travel and we stay in different hotels, and occasionally, once in a while, I'll wake up at night and sit up and wonder where I am. Well naturally, the circumstances are quite different.

Do you remember those other occasions when that happens?

Yes. It brings, when I sit up and I look where I am and I realize in a hotel room in this and this place, the feeling of fear comes over me that I felt at the time when I used to wake up and my question was not where I am as a place, but am I still alive or am I dead? Because yes, I did wonder what it was like, but it was something that you were trying to avoid no matter what. People did everything possible to avoid being killed, or being dead. Dead was a state of being. I don't know. I accepted it as something that will eventually happen to me. That I'm going to do everything in my power to avoid it. It was just a certain feeling and tension that is so hard to make even myself understand now how I was able...the tension of not knowing from minute to another if you're going to live, because there was always a German, and there was always a Pole or something that will give you away that you were a Jew, or being in camp that you were in the wrong place, or that you are not needed. I mean, I was a no person. I was a nothing. We came into Auschwitz, and all I heard was when they gave me the number, or no matter who spoke to me that was taking care of us in Auschwitz the process of bathing and taking everything away from you, when they looked at us and saw a child they kept saying, you should be very happy that you are here. You should be thrilled. If I happened to cry or open my mouth or complain to my mother about something the question was I wasn't allowed to complain, I wasn't allowed to cry. I wasn't allowed to show any emotions. I had to keep it all in to myself. I lived in a dream world.

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