Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

George Vine - July 5, 1983

Seeing Auschwitz for the First Time

How many people were left behind in the trains?

Uh, well, there were many dead, many half dead, many--you see what, what's happening is, when these trains opened up they had set up these big reflectors or lights that hit you. Now, remember that we are talking about being in the darkness for three days and three nights. We didn't know whether it was day or, or, or night. And all of a sudden these doors open up and all of a sudden you face, you know, your blinded. You couldn't see nothing. All you heard is, is, is, is uh, shootings and hittings and uh, they were running around with these sticks and hitting you over the head. And of course, the situation was much more organized then it looked to us. Because they knew exactly what they were doing but to us it looked like it was chaos, it was just, everybody's shooting and killing and, you know. But I only recall one thing--running. I recall that I was hit over the head and somebody pushed me off, and I was running. And the next thing I know is that I'm lined up by, and luckily that I was--whether I was directed to go there by Mengele or whether I did it on my own, I don't know what happened. All I know is that I remember getting out of the train and being counted. And a little while later we're walking in and I see a big sign and it says Arbeit Macht Frei, work makes you free. And that was Auschwitz. So again I was very fortunate because I could have gone to Birkenau. Birkenau was the new camp since they projected they were gonna bring in so many thousands of thousands of people, they erected a new camp. The new camp was filth and dirt and, and, and, and these cell blocks were not done yet and it was uh, uh, uh, conditions were horrible. Auschwitz was already an old camp, what they had a regular prison camp, which they had beautiful. Uh, what I say by beautiful I'm talking about...


Really nice uh, uh, cell blocks where, where it is was neat, cleanliness was a very important factor in Auschwitz. It was not in Birkenau, Birkenau most of 'em died, very few survived. I don't believe I would have made it if I would have gone to Birk... Even as, as picked to live. But Auschwitz was a better chance you had to survive there because it was cleaner. The first thing they did, is once we got to the camp, they quarantined you, put you in a certain cell block and they took all your clothes and they chopped off your hair and they, and they uh, put you into showers. Later on we found out, we didn't know at the time, later we found out that the very same people were told the same thing that we were except those showers were gas. But of course mind you, this is our first day in Auschwitz and we don't know what it is. Uh, what do mean Auschwitz? We didn't have any conception that you're dealing about uh, uh, uh, uh, a, a, a, uh, fantasy uh, fantasy not a fantasy but a horror uh, uh, uh, uh, nightmare, was a nightmare. Uh, you walk into a nightmare to something that's happening to you that's not real, I mean, the, the mind does not uh, accept uh, something like this. That you woke up and the guy standing with a stick is going to hit you over the head, you, the guy walks over to you and kills you, for no reason at all. Then uh, then uh, sign you up, that uniform, which was those uh--as a matter of fact 'til this very day, I still have marks here...

On your...

And here.

On your ankles.

From these shoes, from these uh, wooden shoes. Used to be uh, that was another reason how people died. Uh, they would get sores and uh, and infection and, and, and uh, get poisoned and die, you know, from just wearing these things there was no--and then they were afraid to go to the, to the uh, hospital because there, everyday they picked up uh, truckloads and took them out to Birkenau, to the gas chambers. So we got there and we were assigned to ???. Again, I was very fortunate at the time being fifteen, they picked up all, they called Juden, which meant the under uh, the young ones. And we were about, in quarantine, in quarantine we were for about two weeks. And we didn't do nothin', just sat there. And in the mean time, accumulated, from all over, they started bringing in these things. There was a systematic twenty-four hour approaching, each train came in, they processed them, they gas them and then a new one came in. It was a, a, a complete operation. And then all of a sudden I find myself, kids of my age, Belgium, Holland, various different uh, places. But they were all taken from Poland. They round up, you see, they started out with the Polish Jews. But, maybe uh, uh, what the Germans did is that they were Polish natives, or whatever, they transferred them back to Poland like they did the German Jews, and they moved them back into Poland because they weren't citizens, German citizens. And they kept us there for about a couple of months. Which, that was the period of time that we survived, because we weren't exposed to that bitter cold. Uh, uh, couldn't be months, maybe about two or three weeks, because before Christmas started working December; so probably a couple of months or six weeks, or seven. That at least gave us some chance of realizing what's happened, and find ways. And then--how uh, how they, they disbanded these youth group, I don't know. Whether they picked up some of them, to the gas chambers, and a few of them, who looked a little bit stronger, and I remind you, remember I mentioned to you, that I was very strong at the time, because of having the food and what have you. Uh, uh, and maybe because of putting everything out of my mind and just way to survive, and I must have looked pretty good on my body, because when they made these selektions every few weeks. So I believe that what they have done is they have probably um, discontinued that youth group and they must have liquidated them and assigned a few of them to work. And I was assigned on a Kommando which of course, that was the worst period of my life in Auschwitz because we had to work outside and I was exposed to the bitter cold, without clothes, without food. And I was doing this for about a month and I think that was the time that it came Christmas time that I felt that I had to give up.

December 'forty-two?

December 'forty-two and I think that was the time where I, where I just knew that I couldn't live anymore.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn