Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Ruth Muschkies Webber - February 2, 1987

Conditions in Auschwitz

Was she a German prisoner?

Uh, I think she was a half and half. Yeah. Uh, she was a prisoner. She was not a soldier. At one time there was rumors that selections were being made because there wasn't enough, enough people that came in the transports and the crematoriums were going and they needed more people. So there was chaos. People were trying to get into other blocks that were more favorable. Don't ask me why they thought the others were more favorable, you just didn't know what to do. So another child and myself ran into the block next door to us. The block next door to us had corpses. When somebody died you threw the corpse, completely stripped, because whatever you could save and use for yourself, naturally you kept. So she and I ran into that block and made ourselves a little hole to hide among the corpses. We stacked them up in such a way that we could breathe. I mean, we thought of all these things and we didn't think anything of it to hide among them. We even sometimes played there too. That's why we thought of that place as a hiding place. We made up stories. Make-believe stories. We told about our home. Not necessarily truth. We glorified everything. Uh, my favorite story was to talk about my sister. What a wonderful life she's having. I thought about her all the time. We found a piece of yarn and a couple of sticks and we were teaching each other how to knit. We would pass it on try to teach each other how to knit.

What was your mother doing?

My mother was taken on certain work details cleaning the toilets, going out and building bunkers and then taking them apart, I mean there was no constructive work I don't think that she did in Auschwitz.

Were you aware of what was going on in Auschwitz in the gas chambers?

Yes. Yes. I realized that for two reasons. One, observing the carloads of people coming in and being escorted into the showers, as they were called, and never coming out. So they had to go somewhere. Another reason why I realized what was happening and listening to adults always talk about it naturally made it more uh, authentic and you realized it more was when that particular transport would come in and go in that door and not come out, the next thing we would know is that chimneys would be smoking. And uh, there was a very sweet smell in the air, I mean you could almost taste it, it was very unpleasant and I wasn't hungry for some reason, I was really not hungry in Auschwitz until they stopped using the crematorium. And it was part of conversation saying, "Oh a transport came in the crematorium are being used again." We didn't even have to go outside. We could taste it. So we realized what was happening. In fact, when my mother was put on the list to be transported out of Auschwitz at that time I was already separated from her and I was in the children's block, she came running to me at night telling me that she will have to leave me. Because although I was not with her in the same block she made point, she made all effort to see me at least once a day and to bring me an extra piece of bread that she had, or to talk to me, or to just make me feel good and make me feel that she's still around. She came to me crying saying, "I have to leave you." My answer to her was, "What good are you to me anyways, you cannot save me. I mean, I probably will be going up smoke and you won't be able to do anything about it anyways." So I thought I was being grown up and making her feel good that she's leaving and she shouldn't feel so bad about it. But now that I think about it I don't think it was such a good thing to say. So uh, I knew and I think that this is what we were expecting.

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