Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

George Vine - July 5, 1983

Surviving Auschwitz by Creating Bonds with Landsmann

And you mentioned that there was a strong community among your Landsmann um, but was there that uh, that I also had the feeling, that you mentioned, that there were um, people who would steal your bread if they had the chance. Uh, others, outside, were there groups within the cliques, would you say, within the uh, Auschwitz that uh, stuck together and...

We have to realize one fact that you put into Auschwitz people of all background. To say, that all Jews are angels or any one nationality is perfect, it's not that way, it's not true. Every nationality, including Jews, have criminals, killers, and fine people and saviors and professors and doctors, and what have you. We, the Jewish people, have also that element. That element was out to survive at your expense. And those people were terrible people. And uh, if they had an opportunity to steal your bread, they would. But, I should also re-emphasize that our people--now, when I mentioned to you that 300 people survived from my town, that was the one transport. There were three or four different transports, so we were several hundred people that we survived uh, from our uh, city. Uh, also I should mention that we were 5,000 people prior to the war. Then they started piling in people from different villages and what have you maybe we wound up with 10,000 Jews in our town. So uh, not a great percentage of us survived, considering the amount of people coming to Auschwitz. But, we were a people who helped each other. And we survived because if one had a little bit extra bread, we thought about you. We organized groups and we started getting better jobs. Uh, we organized uh, of collecting bread. We set up a committee and we said, well, you work in the kitchen you gotta give us a bread. Or you work in the bread Kommando you got to give us a bread. And then we found out who are the people who uh, who are having a rough time, who didn't make it. And we would divide and give them extra pieces of bread.

Were these mainly the people from your city, you're saying?

Yes, yes.

That you formed a sort of a committee?

Yes, yes these are the only people I knew.


Uh, unfortunately, I regret it 'til today, that myself of course, had almost my pride almost cost me my life, because, they did come over to me and they asked me if I'm hungry, if I need bread, and I told them I'm not. And I was hungry every day in Auschwitz; I starved every day in Auschwitz. It was a stupid pride, it was a terrible thing to do but I did it. And I regret it very much, because I--they asked me for help, I could have gotten help, and yet, I, I tell them I don't. And it's a false pride and I think that when we talk about life preservation uh, uh, people should think twice evaluating what pride is. And I think that I've committed, actually, a crime to myself by dumb pride and saying I don't need it, when actually it meant my life. So this is something that I think is worthwhile to mention, that pride has many ways of expressing. But this is certainly no way expressing the way I've done it. So that was another factor of surviving Auschwitz. Uh, we do meet these people after the war, we have made a close bond, we are like brothers. We help each other after the war, we have uh, economically we helped each other. We socially uh, uh, participate in each other's affairs. We are thrilled and happy when we see one of our Landsmann there, they got married slowly and then they had children. We anticipated no um, uh, uh, affairs, happy affairs that they had. We travel all over the world if we can help it. We can only afford it to be with them, because we are so few and to give us a great pleasure uh, to be able to do that then.

How many are in the Detroit area?

We have um, we have Irving Altus, and ???, and Mondry, and Segal. We had about five couples here in Detroit--five, six couples. We are very close.

And how many, uh...

We have...

Do you know...

Oh, who have...

Or do you know of?

I know probably, maybe twenty, thirty. We know, I know people in Detroit at my Bar Mitzvahs for my two boys, we had fifty-six people from out of town--Mexico, Canada, and the United States came in just to, because they all felt it was like their own family.

All from Ciechanów?

Ciechanów. We have a close uh, emotional feelings about our past and uh, we are grateful. And of course, a good citizen has a right and a duty to criticize his country, and of course, love his country. And I think a demonstration of our love, when I'm talking about our love, I'm talking about the, the uh,

[interruption in interview] how I feel about this country, America is, it was demonstrated in the Holocaust survivors gathering in Washington when the chairman of the Holocaust survivors must have arranged a meet, was introducing the President of the United States, and prior to that they made a statement, "We love America." I think there was a, one of the greatest expressions of thanks, of sentiments expressed that have ever seen it. Or as a matter of fact, it was mentioned later before of any group, expressing their gratitude for this country. But we also have a responsibility to humanity to also criticize what the, what the things that our leadership has committed. And we shall always remember that uh, the good things and the bad things.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn