Chapter 12

Surviving Buchenwald

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.

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