Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

George Vine - July 5, 1983

Working in the Camp

What were you doing outside? What were they, what was your job?

What we would do, they would come up with lorries. You know what a lorrie is? You know, stuff, they, they, they carry stuff, uh, material, you know, these are lorrie that go on tracks.


And we would take stones and uh, fill up these lorrie with stones and they would take them away some place there without gloves, with your hands, guy was standing around you and constantly picking it up and moving there. And the people who did it, fortunately, survived. And the people who took a little rest froze to death. So at least by movement there, either you died from exhaustion, not having enough strength but at least you didn't freeze to death. So it was one of the two and uh, it was just getting...

How many hours a day did you work?

We got up at five in the morning and uh, we stayed to be counted for about an hour, an hour and a half. And we probably left about six-thirty to work and we came back about five. I think we worked about twelve hours. And uh, we got a piece of bread in the morning and coffee and we got a bowl of soup at night when we came back to camp.

Did you walk to, uh...

We walked.

To the quarry?

We walked, we walked to the work to yeah, we had a few miles to walk out to work, from the camp, we walked--all the work was done out of the camp. There was no work in the camp, except uh, things that had to do with the camp. So I worked there for about a month or two and I think that they were calling or I was assigned, I don't recall what happened, but I was assigned to that new job, which was inside. And that made it a little bit easier and I can only recall my experiences in Auschwitz uh, was the fear for Mengele. That was the greatest fear, because you never knew when they send Jews out. And then we have to line up and that happened every month. And Mengele would go around with a little, uh...


Baton uh, and he would go like this, and he had two lieutenants right behind him, with little books that--77522--only to take down your number. And they took your number you knew that you're, you're dead. You knew that tomorrow morning they're gonna call out your name. A lot of people committed suicide. Like, went over to the fence, got electrocuted, because they couldn't wait, that could take sometimes three days. And is, and, and, and, you know, and you knew in your own mind, and we were experts already at that time, we knew that once they take you, you go--and the mind, to think about it for a whole night, that tomorrow they gonna take you and how does it feel? How does it feel when the gas comes into your mouth and you start choking here? The, the, the, the uh, thoughts that you had, that, how are you gonna die uh, how long can you hold on and then they told you various stories that you heard from the Sonderkommandos, the guys who work with these people. How they had scratches, nails torn, and uh, women hold children uh, uh, horrible uh, tales were told about how people died. Uh, some whimper a little bit longer, you know, and then some of them they, they put them into the crematorias with still a little bit of life, you know, it was a horrible stories that you heard every day. And you always saw the spread of the smoke going up there, and now they took your number uh, the, the, the fear of just picturing yourself how you gonna die, knowing that you're dying tomorrow. That I think is the, the biggest, I think um, uh, cross that we carrying on our backs that has left an imprint on us, is that fear and that fear we are reliving, probably, most of us, one way or another. One during the night, one in sicknesses, one with many different illnesses here, but that fear is the most important, most imprinted memory in my life of Auschwitz experience, is watching Mengele coming down towards here. And he goes just like this and you think it's you, and he goes like that. And then that inhaling that you were saved another day. I was also very fortunate and lucky was that when I got that new job...

Which was what?

Was working as a--they were drying a big factory, and they were drying wood for various different uh, military purposes. And I got a job to dry that wood. I had a big stove and I was filling it with uh, with wood, used up wood to keep an X amount of temperature to dry that wood and, and I worked at nights. By working at nights, I used to come back into the camp after Mengele took his job already. So I used to miss these and I think that saved my life also by for almost two years, missing the uh...


Selektions, yes. So, every person had to have something happening to him to order to survive. No one survived Auschwitz by going through their procedures because Auschwitz was created for one reason only, to kill the people. So uh, that happened 'til about, for three years, I had this job until the very end. And of course, in January--there is another thing that I would like to mention that I think people should be aware of is that we must learn that human life is very important. I was reading an article the other day in the paper that the former ambassador to the United Nations uh, Goldstein um, um, he was also a Supreme Court judge and he gave up uh, his judgeship...


Goldberg. He was speaking to a group of people in England. And he was, and he revealed uh, uh, uh, just about three months ago, that while he was working with the OSO, or something a branch of the United States government, of uh, it was involved in, in, in preparing uh, uh, materials for the uh, war efforts for our country. Was in the service and he was working in England, and a Jewish man, I forgot the name, approached him. And he told him that a Pole who pretended to be a uh, uh, got smuggled out, documents, certified documents, to show that they are killing Jews in Auschwitz. And he begged Goldberg to go to his superior and beg the American government to bomb Auschwitz or at least bomb the railroad lines to go into Auschwitz. And Mr. McCoy, I believe it was his name, McCoy.


McCoy I think. Uh, uh, told him that uh, we are very sorry but we cannot uh, divert our planes from strategic points that we have to bomb. And that particular day, planes flew only five miles away from Auschwitz and erroneously bombed the women's camp in Auschwitz. I recall looking at those planes and begging, begging they should come and bomb us, kill us, but kill the Germans too, and kill the crematorias there. It's a terrible spot on America and American leadership. One day the world, I hope, will learn that this could have been eliminated, that we could have saved a lot of Jewish people and a lot of non-Jewish people. It's important to be aware that, while I was in Auschwitz, the complete gypsy camp why uh, with men, women, and children, were exterminated, just like the Jews that were between, I believe it was 1943, if I recall, either 1943 or 1944. Uh, whole families, complete families were thrown in just like they did the Jews. So this was not just the Jewish situation. And yet, our government closed our eyes and let this happen. I think the world should be aware of that and we have to learn that we cannot permit, as American citizens, we cannot permit our government to uh, let this type of uh, situations occur again.

Going back to uh, um, something you said earlier that there were 3,000 people from your town who went into the ghetto, I mean, I'm sorry, who went into the camp.

To Auschwitz, Auschwitz.

And uh, I assume that means, that's from the uh, the uh, ghetto that you were moved into, there were about 3,000 brought in on your transport.

On our transport, yes.

And of those, within three months, you'd say all but 300?

Only 300 were selected, 2,700 people died.

2,700 died that day?

Same day, including my parents and my relatives.

Okay. And then out of those 300...

Out of those 300, I would venture to say that about 250 died the first few months in Auschwitz.

And basically, even then of the rest uh, maybe...

Survived, uh...

Most survived?

Uh, uh, once they survived, I believe, with the exception of, of, of, of uh, killings and outright uh, uh, situation where they found themselves by...

Randomly slaughtering.

Randomly yes, slaughtering. And if they found a way around the jobs, and what have you, survived. Once they made it out the first year, forty-two and half of forty-three, was the most bestial period of, of, of, of a disgrace to humanity was happening in Auschwitz. Was 1942 to 1943 because prior to that it was a camp that catered to criminals, to prisoners and they were treated like prisoners. The Jewish people were taken into Auschwitz for one purpose only, to destroy them. And they used every possible method, method to kill 'em. And most people who came to Auschwitz, most of them were killed from the very beginning. And I don't mean by going to the gas chambers, I'm referring to the ones that were selected for work. Ones they survived the first six months, they had a fighting chance to live. The first six months killed most of 'em. And that was simply because of conditions that, that the human is not prepared to handle, the physical, the mental, the, the, the hap... hopelessness, and the just pure terror. So yes uh, most people who got to Auschwitz uh, did not survive. And the handful of people who managed to survive the shock and the first few months and they had a few breaks, but a fighting chance, at least a fighting chance.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn