Eva B. Edited Testimony (HVT-8101)

Eva B. Edited Testimony (HVT-8101)


EVA B: I grew up
in Czechoslovakia. I went to school there, and
lived there through my teens. In Prague. In the city, in the center
of the heart of the city, in the old city. I was an only child. My father died before
the war, so it was just my mother and me. Oh, I had two girl
cousins that– you know, we had one–
we lived in the city, and we had an
apartment upstairs. And these two girls had– and this was my mother’s
brother, and his wife. And these two girls
lived downstairs, and they were
practically my sisters. You know, we did
everything together. I more or less lived with them,
and they didn’t come back. They were younger than I was. And I had kind of a high
school sweetheart, a boyfriend, whom I had had for
five years or six years by the time I went to camp. And he was a highly
gifted individual, musical and academically, and
he did everything. He didn’t come back. Those were the things that
hurt, is my, personal. Of course my mother never got
over the loss of her siblings, she really didn’t. I’m not aware of there
being much discrimination against Jews before the war. It was pretty open and
integrated society. I remember some cat-calling
of names on the street once. But in my– I was
in a public school. And, uh, was a large
Jewish minority there. And there was an influx
of German immigrants, and they kind of brought
the fear with them, which– until– until ’39, Czechs
were saying, “Oh, it’s not going to happen here. Nothing is going to happen here. We are safe. We are all right.” We still were kidding
ourselves that it’s safe. But then in — the Germans marched
in on March 15, ’39. That was kind of a
shock to the system. I remember that
day very vividly. I– I don’t know why. I went to the post office,
and it was sleeting. And on a corner of the street
that was standing a– a– a Czech policeman directing
traffic and the German soldier next to him who took over. And the Czech
policeman stood there, and he didn’t know what to do,
because the German had taken over directing the traffic. And it was kind of a
really classic illustration of the conflict of power, the
two of them standing there, and the German taking over. We had had no warning at all. My mother started
talking about emigration and took me out of
the public school and put me into a
private language school, because she wanted me
to learn English fast. And so– and afterwards, I was
kind of apprenticed in a trade because I was supposed
to have something I could do when I came over
to wherever you were going. And then first, the public
schools were closed to Jews. We weren’t allowed
into public schools. Then we weren’t allowed
into restaurants. Then we weren’t
allowed into parks. Then we weren’t
allowed into schools. Then the– this little
workshop I was working was, you had to have special
restrooms for Jews. And of course, this was like
a workshop with 10 people. And this was impossible
for him, the man, to comply with this
kind of demand. So he had to let me go. So by that time, I was
realizing that things were different for me. October ’42, we were
called up by a notice to appear in the fair grounds. There was a fair
there, grounds there, in– building, a big
building, a covered building, and to assemble for transport. My mother and I went from
Prague to Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia. And that was still– within Czechoslovakia. And I guess we were lucky that
we stayed there for two years. And uh– I was working,
and my mother was working. And we had extra rations. So we did– we we lived OK. We also had a couple
of parcels from home, from some family
that were not Jewish. In a room about the size
of this one, I’d say 12– it could have been
a little bigger– 12 by 8– 18, it was longer– we were in three-layered
ba– bunks, and there were 35
people in that room. It was a little old
house, and there was– the bathrooms were–
the horror there was just two kind of outhouses
on the– in the hallway to serve the whole house
that was equally full. And one year, the Red
Cross Commission came, and they emptied
out all the rooms that were at street
level, you know, and put one couple in each room,
and moved every 35 people– relatively, depending on
the size of the room– out, and just jammed us up
more, so that they should– could show the Red Cross
how humane this place was. They were flanked by– by Germans, and, you
know, escorted through and shown around. And the streets they were taken
through had been cleaned up and the houses painted. And on the ground
floor level, there was one couple in each room. And they showed the Red Cross
this lovely, um, settlement that was so clean and nice. They were never
left by the Germans, so there was no
way to get to them. I must say, that
while I and my mother, we were both young and
healthy at the time. We were quite comfortable. A lot of people died and
just from undernourishment and stress, and especially
the older people. I mean, the amount
of food that seemed to be sufficient for
me or my mother– also we had some extras. The old people died, I mean,
in the hundreds and thousands. Well, there was a call up again. It was 2,658 people. I know, because I was
in the last carriage, and this was numbered,
and everybody was counted. And we were in cattle wagons. They were covered at that time. I mean, they– they had slats,
but there was a roof over them. And this was in October ’44. And we went to Auschwitz. It took two days, 48 hours
or better, to get there. Well, we had two buckets. One was water, and
one for other needs. And there were two children
in the car with us, one like a four-year-old,
and a six-year-old. And then there was
an infant in the car. And those kids were so good,
it was absolutely amazing. Uh, I– I don’t know. It was– I suppose I managed to
really kind of insulate myself, and say I– I wasn’t really
participating in all that. I built a wall
around me and said, that’s not happening to me. I– It can’t be true, and I’m
not participating in this. And I just really
shut myself off. And that’s how I went
through the whole war. And then when we arrived in
Auschwitz in the evening, we could see this rather
ghostly landscape, these flash– flood lights on the
barbed wire, which went on for miles and miles and miles. It all you could see. I just remember when we got
out of the train in Auschwitz that we were being separated
right on the platform, as you stepped out of the
train, and sent left and right. And they wanted to
separate me and my mother, and my mother said, we
are mother and daughter, leave us together. So he motioned us to
one side together. We heard that whoever
wasn’t with us– there was 200 women where
we were in the morning– was dead. They all had gone straight to
the gas oven, 2,456 people. We were told right the
minute we were separated and sent over to that
one side that this was all that was left of
that train load of people. And amongst this group
was my girlfriend, whose mother had gone
to the other side, and was my gym
teacher, whose children had been sent to the other side. That was the first time I
ever heard about gas chambers. I mean, it was just too big
and too shocking to absorb. My mother started
crying, but I still somehow refused to believe it. I just didn’t. I suppose in a way she knew that
she had just narrowly escaped. But I just– it was
too monstrous, too big. It was unbelievable. There was a very famous
clarinetist with us, too in that train. And he had an eye infection. He wore dark glasses,
so he went to the gas. They kept us in
that one hall, which was cement floors and
nothing else, all day. Afterwards they asked us to
strip, and we were shaved. I mean, our heads
and body were shaved. And we were herded through– past soldiers, so now
I was, like, 13 or 14, and I was walking naked past
soldiers all the time, which– really was– after the first
day or so, you get used to it. But, um– and then we were
herded into a bathhouse with overhead showers. By that time, we knew that the
gas chambers were dressed up as shower rooms. And we decided, there
were holes in the windows. The glass was broken. This wasn’t a gas chamber. So that’s um– and then we were
herded into barracks. Barracks were long, big, wooden
kind of Quonset huts with– with planks that people would–
we were lying six on one plank. And then one person
wanted to turn. We had six of us to turn,
because there wasn’t any room for anything else. The worst part
for me at the time was, we had– we had
roll call every morning. This was in Poland in October,
and Poland in October is cold, and we didn’t have much clothes. They had issues us– they
didn’t issue us uniforms. Uniforms are solid
and protective. We had just been given old rags. And we would stand on roll call
from 6 o’clock in the morning till 11 o’clock at noon,
or something like that, until every head in the
camp was accounted for. And this was like 100,000, and
the roll call would never work. And they come back
and count again. And– and in the
evening again, this was way before dark
till way into daylight, and in the evening again
for three, four, five hours, we would be standing
for roll call. And for the first three
or four days in Auschwitz, we never got anything to eat. After fourth day, somebody
complained to one of the kapos. And evidently, we
should have been issued rations, which hadn’t happened. So she got us some soup. That was the only food I got
in six days in Auschwitz, was one soup. We– we stayed together, the
group of 200 of us who had been selected from the– from that transport, and we
were all young, healthy people. I mean, we had been
selected once over again when we were in the bath house. We had been selected naked. You know, that’s true. And again, they wanted to
send my mother off, and they– and then they asked her
whether she had somebody there, and she said she had a daughter. They let her pass. There were about three women
at her age in the group. The rest of us was
all very young. I actually was in
Auschwitz only one week, and then I was
shipped off again. The last day, we
were standing outside from before dawn in the
morning to dark at night, and I just didn’t think
I could stand anymore. It was really– my
back was playing up, and we kind of huddled together
and supported each other, because we really
couldn’t stand. And I– then we were
given a piece of bread, and a piece of margarine, and
a piece of salami for the trip. And there was– it was
given to us like that. Nothing to hold it
in, or keep it in. So the bread we kept, but
the margarine and the meat I ate, and I got very sick. Threw up immediately. And I also arrived in
the camp in– in Germany with pretty high temperature. I had a reaction. And they had kind– we were– well, the trip was quite
something else again. This was now in– no, this was still cattle cars. This was in, still,
the open cars. I was beginning to doubt
that I would make it, ’cause I simply
couldn’t stand anymore, and I couldn’t see how I was
going to get out of this. And I guess by that time, I
already had the temperature. I was sick too. I arrived in Germany with
a high of 42 degrees, which I don’t know what– Celsius, which is quite a bit. There was a small factory, and
we had dry and heated sleeping quarters. That was big advantage. They had– had to evacuate
this labor or this work camp where we were in. This was April ’45. And they returned us
to Theresienstadt. They had sent
thousands and thousands of people from all parts of
Germany back to Theresienstadt. And as a matter of fact,
that was the first time I saw these photographs, these– you know, you see
this piles of corpses, the photographs of the
pile of corpses I think everybody has seen by now. But I think the much
more horrible thing is to see these corpses walk. And that was for the
first time I saw them. Walking into this typhoid
and cholera-ridden place was liberation for me. And then they wanted
us to stay there. And we were healthy, you
know, and the chances that we’d catch something
there were really pretty good. So we got Red Cross
parcels in there. We, joined a laundry cart
that was taking laundry out of the camp, and smuggled
our way out of the camp, and went back to Prague. And we went into a hotel,
and we got two wide beds, with sheets, and
linens, and blankets. And there was hot and warm
and running water in the room. And I– I didn’t know
it could feel that way. And we both got sick. We both were in bed
with a high temperature. And there was no public
transport, and nobody to call, and no food. And so then we
remembered somebody from the friends we
had at the end of the– and– with my temperature,
I picked myself up and walked over there, because
my mother was sicker than I. And she gave us tea and toast. That was liberation. The whole extent of
what had happened didn’t hit us till
after the war. I mean, like, out– out of
my mother’s family, out of– there’s a– it’s strange. There were 13 people
in my mother’s family, and all she had was married– four married sisters, and two
brothers with their daughters, and sons and wives and husbands. 13 went into camp,
nobody came back. And I had a group
of young people. We used to meet in
Prague just before camps. Social group. And out of the– all my age,
and out of this group of 13, one came back. I just pushed it away. I decided I couldn’t
think about it. I couldn’t cope with it. And I think it’s no
more than five years now that I can even touch on it. And I really was
so busy adjusting and repressing and living,
and I just didn’t want to. I never told anybody. I– when I met my husband, who
was also from Czechoslovakia, and spent his four
years in Japanese camp, we did exchange information. But I think that’s the only
time I ever mentioned it. I never mentioned
it to my children. They never– I never
talked to them about it. They practically don’t
know that I was in a camp. What stayed with me? The defensiveness. The not wanting to feel,
not wanting to be involved. What I’m very aware now is,
of course, the lack of family. And I– that I have
been always aware of. I mean, ever since I
came to this country, I have this feeling of
being a waif, of being alone in the world, which I am. My husband lost his parents. He had one brother
who has died since. Of course, my husband died,
and I have no family left.

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