Liberation in Sight
The explosions were very close to our trenches and the noise shattering. We went three days and three nights without food or water and many weak prisoners fell down into the mud and just died. I had a fainting spell when I realized that everything was quiet; no shootings. I realized that I was about to die and when I became conscious, I found myself being carried by an American sergeant, a black man, who took me to a temporary American first aid tent. I received two injections, probably vitamins and then some milk. By the next day I was already able to walk.
As I discovered more details about the surroundings, I saw an incredible chaos. Thousands of prisoners walking in groups, listening to announcements of the American Command and the national and international committees, speaking in all languages, mingling with American soldiers and discussing what to do next. The rusted barbed wire around the camp was repaired and replaced with new wire and leaving the camp was forbidden without a special pass. These passes were issued only to people who volunteered or were appointed for the necessary services for the welfare of prisoners.
I volunteered with a small Red Cross special group of four. With a military jeep, we confiscated in surrounding villages: sheets, cushions, blankets, beds and everything that was needed to create a decent hospital.
To obtain special privileges, I volunteered for a few days to pull out from the stinky barracks, dead bodies of prisoners which were stacked at the entrance and picked up by another crew for burial (48 in a mass grave, each layer covered with limestone dust). Most of the dead were listed by their number and the lists delivered to the National Liberation Committees.
A horrible lesson was learned by all of us: what to eat and what not to eat. On the morning of May 1, 1945, a mobile kitchen came into the camp with cooked dry beans and bacon; food meant for Italians, Yugoslavs and Hungarians. The American army was asked to provide this kind of thick, rich soup. Some prisoners attacked the first unit and helped themselves. The wretched individuals picked out the cooked bacon and swallowed a lot. A few minutes later, we saw some falling to the floor in great pain and terrible cramps, struggling for life. The American Red Cross took them to the emergency hut. Some were saved; some died.
After a week, things seemed to have normalized. The camp was cleaned up, prisoners were well-fed and delegations from liberated countries soon arrived to pick up their nationals for repatriation.
The first transports were to West-European countries and, then, to the East two weeks later. My turn came with a group of twenty Yugoslav survivors, none of them from my original group of 500. We traveled in trucks and, after identifications on the border, by train, home. I was rewarded by finding and seeing my wife and daughter again, but not eighteen of my relatives who simply disappeared within the Holocaust, never to be heard from again.