Manya Friedman discusses her evacuation from Gleiwitz, a sub-camp of Auschwitz, to the Ravensbrück concentration camp in January 1945. In an effort to cover up their crimes and prevent prisoners from falling into enemy hands, the Nazis evacuated prisoners in what became known as death marches.
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“We came back to camp in the morning, there was a big commotion. We were being evacuated, nobody knew where to or what. And the thing [was] we didn’t know where we were going to do or what will happen.”
Over sixty years after the Holocaust, hatred, antisemitism, and genocide still threaten our world. The life stories of Holocaust survivors transcend the decades and remind us of the constant need to be vigilant citizens and to stop injustice, prejudice, and hatred wherever and whenever they occur.
This podcast series presents excerpts of interviews with Holocaust survivors from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s public program, First Person Conversations with Holocaust Survivors.
In today’s episode Manya Friedman talks with guest host Dr. Edna Friedberg about her evacuation from Gleiwitz, a subcamp of Auschwitz, to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. These evacuations later became known as “death marches.”
Well life in that camp went on, ‘til January 1945. That was the time when the Soviet Army was coming closer, and they decided, the Germans decided, to evacuate us. We were working that time on a night shift. We came back to camp in the morning, there was a big commotion. We were being evacuated, nobody knew where to or what. And the thing [was] we didn’t know what we were going to do or what would happen.
I had to make, at that time, a very serious decision. My best friend was in the infirmary, and I had to decide what to do. She was not really capable of taking care of herself. So I thought maybe I should leave her, and she would be liberated by the Russians. But there was also a rumor around camp that they were going to burn down the camp, not to leave any trace.
So I convinced another friend as a matter of fact, she lives in New York now and between the two of us, we took our friend out from the infirmary. And we went to the railroad station. Each one of us got a blanket, and some provisions, and we went to the railroad station. Well, there was no car, so they put us up for the night in a barn. In the morning we went again to the railroad station.
And this was January, right? Freezing cold weather.
And that was the middle of January. I don’t know if any of you already went through the permanent exhibit, and you saw the car that they transported people [in]. Well they didn’t put us in cars like this. They put us in open cars, the type that you transport coal. And that, as Ms. Friedberg mentioned, that was in the middle of January. And believe me, the winter in Europe can get very severe. And all we had was a blanket.
I had to take my friend in the corner of the car. With my hands I was holding onto the railing with my back pushing back the crowd so she wouldn’t be squashed. And we kept going like this, back and forth. Wherever we went the railroad tracks were bombed. I assume they used probably the better track to transport the military.
Later, I found out our destination was not west, near Berlin, but we wound up in Czechoslovakia. And if you know history, I mean if you know geography, Czechoslovakia is to the south. The Czech people were very nice; they came to the station where we were stopped with bread and water. But the guards would not let them give it to us. As a matter of fact they were even shooting at them sometimes. Sometimes the people, the Czech people, went where there was an overpass and would throw down some bread to us as the train was going by.
And we kept going like this, back and forth, back and forth. The snow that fell on our blankets served to quench our thirst. In one of the stations…in the next car happened to be the nurse from our camp. At one of the stations she begged a guard for some water because one of the girls fainted, and instead he pulled out a gun and shot her. And she fell down between the cars. We could see with the cars going back and forth, she was laying there, not knowing if she was still alive, or dead.
We went like this, maybe for ten days. We wound up in Ravensbrück. We came to Ravensbrück in the middle of the night.
You have been listening to First PersonConversations with Holocaust Survivors, a podcast series of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Every Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. from March through August, Holocaust survivors share their stories during First Person programs held at the Museum in Washington, D.C. We would appreciate your feedback on this series. Please visit our Web site, www.ushmm.org/firstperson, and follow the prompts to the First Person podcast survey to let us know what you think.
At our website you can also learn more about the Museum’s survivors, listen to the complete recordings of their conversations, and listen to Museum podcasts Voices on Antisemitism and Voices on Genocide Prevention.