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Where Do I Go?

By Nesse Godin

It must have been a few days after the Soviet soldier dropped me off in that house in the small town of Chinow when other soldiers came to take us to the school that was converted into a hospital. When I arrived there I saw some familiar faces, women who recognized me from the camps and the barn. Some of them were helping and translating what the soldiers were saying.

I was told to undress, to take off my dress, underwear, and boots. I had worn them for almost a year and they were infested with lice. I was very glad to get rid of the dress and underwear but did not want to give up the boots. Before we were taken to the ghetto my parents made sure that every member of the family would have some valuables in their possession. For me, gold coins were hidden in the lining of my boots.

By sheer luck I wound up with my own boots in the concentration camp at Stutthof. I did not dare to remove them from my feet for fear that someone would take them. So many women had no shoes, just rags around their feet. When the women around me asked why I did not take the boots off, I always said that they were the last thing I had that my father gave me. He was killed in Auschwitz.

When the people in that hospital wanted to pull off the boots I cried and told them the same story, but no crying helped. They could not even pull them off; they had to cut them off my feet. I saw them being thrown in a trash box.

My hair was shaven. They put me into a tub filled with some kind of disinfectant that was supposed to kill the lice that were all over my skin. The next thing I remember, a Soviet doctor who was Jewish was shaking me and trying to find out what my name was and where I came from. It turned out that I had been unconscious for some days.

When I opened my eyes I saw that I was in a very large room with many beds with survivors in them. The doctor asked me again if I could remember my name and where I was from. I said, “Nesa Galperin from Siauliai, Lithuania.”

When I said my name, someone from another bed across the room yelled, “Nesale, is that you? I could not recognize you. No one knew who you were.” It was someone from my hometown who was related to my mom.

The next day I was weighed and checked out by a doctor. I weighed 69 pounds and had frostbite on my fingers and toes. The doctors were considering cutting off some of my toes but the Jewish doctor felt that they should not rush into doing so. He said that sometimes the frozen flesh peels off. That is what happened to me, and some of my toes are there minus some flesh on them.

I was in that hospital about six weeks. The Soviets were getting ready to close the hospital. One day I was called into a little office and told that I could leave. I remember saying, “Where do I go?”

When the Soviets told me to go home, my answer was, “I have no home, no one to go to in Lithuania.” At that point I did not know if anyone in my family was still alive.

©2005, Nesse Godin. The text, images, and audio and video clips on this website are available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined in the United States copyright laws.