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Manya Friedman:
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.

Edna Friedberg:
And this was January, right? Freezing cold weather.

Manya Friedman:
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.


Manya (Moskowicz) Friedman was born December 30, 1925, in Chmielnik, a small town in central Poland whose Jewish community dates back to the 16th century. Her father owned a furniture shop and her mother took care of the home and children. Manya had two younger brothers, David and Mordechai, who was called “Motele.” Manya’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins also lived in the area. She attended public school in the morning and Hebrew school in the afternoon.

In 1938 Manya’s family moved to Sosnowiec, a city located near the German border. There, she had her first experience with antisemitism, when signs appeared urging Polish citizens to boycott Jewish businesses. German troops invaded Poland on September 1, 1939 and three days later, Sosnowiec was occupied. Jewish men, including Manya’s father, were rounded up and the next morning marched to a factory. The prisoners were held overnight without food or water and then selected for local jobs, forced labor, imprisoned in Germany, or executed. Manya’s father was detained to build latrines for the German military and then released. Orders were issued by the Germans in charge that Jews had to turn in all valuables, Jewish merchants must relinquish their businesses, and Jewish children were no longer allowed to attend school. The town’s synagogue was burned down and the neighbors were not allowed to extinguish the fire. Sosnowiec and the surrounding area were then annexed to Germany and new passports were required for all the Jews. An open ghetto was formed. Ration cards were distributed, though they did not provide enough food to survive. All Jews were made to wear identifying armbands and later, the yellow Star of David badge.

In 1941, Manya was forced to work for a German company that produced military uniforms. The following year, the Nazis began deporting Jews from Sosnowiec to the Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center. Manya and her family were temporarily saved from deportation because of their sonderkarts (work permits). In March 1943, she was taken from the uniform factory to the Gogolin transit camp, and later to the Gleiwitz labor camp where she was tattooed with the number 79357, which became her identification. In summer 1943 Manya’s family was deported to Auschwitz when the Sosnowiec ghetto was liquidated.

In January 1945, as the Soviet army approached, the Germans evacuated Gleiwitz. Manya and the other prisoners were sent in open freight cars to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. The trip through the bitter cold lasted ten days, during which time the prisoners had no food and only melted snow to drink. Throughout the journey, Manya shielded a sick friend from being crushed in the overcrowded car. Later, Manya was taken to the Retzow camp, a sub-camp of Ravensbrück. She was liberated by the Swedish Red Cross in late April 1945 and taken to Copenhagen and then on to Malmö. In 1950, she emigrated from Sweden to the United States. Manya was a volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.