Early the next day the Nazis took up positions around the Ghetto. Even before the deportation, they amused themselves by firing indiscriminately at any target. We were confronted by a highly trained group of murderers.
Jewish policemen passed through the Ghetto and ordered the residents to present themselves at the deportation square next to the Jewish hospital.People went to great length. Some hid in buildings and others checked in to the hospital and underwent surgery, hoping this would be their salvation. These Jews were not spared either. They were taken and shot on the spot.
The Nazis with their vicious dogs maintained control. People were being forced and beaten into lines. Men, women and children were organized into separate lines. Under the circumstances, no one knew the fate of any line. How could I be saved when I did not have legal permission to stay behind and avoid the death train?
I was standing with Dad and Isaac in a line, when I was told to stand behind the two. They stood close together and their bodies covered me. I held on to Father’s back, shaking with fear. Every few minutes, I would hear a shot and a body fall to the ground. It was a bloody sight with brains scattered everywhere. The screams of the women and children were piercing. I covered my ears with my hands so I would not hear.
After a long while, a Nazi wearing high riding boots and a leather jacket with leather gloves holding a whip in his hand approached us. Dad and Isaac immediately took off their caps and showed their working permits. He consulted his list and gave instructions to leave the square and go to our working place.
Father and Isaac didn’t move immediately and as he looked back, he got a glance at me. He came back and using his whip, beating me over the head and ordering me to go to another line. Isaac stepped forward and implored the Nazi to show mercy. “He is my little brother, he is just eleven.” And then Isaac took something out of his pocket and put it in the palm of this Nazis hand.
He smiled and ordered us to go to work. We were saved for the present. We would live a little longer. Were we the lucky ones?
Even though my memories are vague during this three days journey, my feelings would not fade. I recall the misery of hunger. We were all packed together to a point were movement was impossible. The inhumanity for me is wrapped up in feelings associated with the itching from the lice, the smell of human waste, and the total lack of hope.
As the train slowed I heard noises of brakes grinding and uncoupling of cars. The doors which were locked from the outside were opened. It was January and the air was frigid but sucking in the air felt good. I heard shouts from the SS guards to quickly empty the train. They were accompanied by vicious dogs that were barking and very frightening.
I felt despair at being parted from my family and yet I felt I had a better chance of surviving on my own. I had just turned thirteen years old and had the ability to think on my feet. Even though I missed my father and brother I could survive on my own wits and would have more freedom to maneuver. I didn’t want to depend on anyone else.
We marched into the camp and were surrounded by tall electrical fence. Every few hundred yards were towers mannered by soldiers with machine guns. Search lights were constantly moving flooding the grounds. We waited for hours in the freezing weather till we were admitted into the processing building. Since the order was that nothing could be taken inside, my bag with a sweater and blanket was discarded in a huge pile, I jumped up and down on my feet to keep warm. After a long wait I entered the building grateful to be out the freezing weather.
My processing took me to a table. There a man in a prison uniform with a red triangle asked my name, birth place and age I informed that I thought I was thirteen but not totally certain. I was advised to make myself older in order not to be shipped out with other children. I was given number 113752. The number was written in ink on my jacket. From now own I didn’t have a name, I was a number. After the early processing, we were herded into another room for disinfection. Veteran prisoners with electric shavers roughly shaved all my body hair. Next another inmate brushed my entire body with a chemical that hurt like hell. I gritted my teeth and bore it. Finally, we were escorted to a large room with numerous showerheads above us. The adults began screaming and crying out. I had no idea why they acted in such a manner, but they soon told me that they were afraid that gas would come down from the showerheads. I just stood there. Frozen in shock! I heard one inmate say that there was no gas in Buchenwald.