Oral History

Bart Stern describes how he survived to be liberated in the Auschwitz camp

Following the German occupation of Hungary in March 1944, Bart was forced into a ghetto established in his home town. From May to July 1944, the Germans deported Jews from Hungary to the Auschwitz killing center in occupied Poland. Bart was deported by cattle car to Auschwitz. At Auschwitz, he was selected to perform forced labor, drilling and digging in a coal mine. As Soviet forces advanced toward the Auschwitz camp in January 1945, the Germans forced most of the prisoners on a death march out of the camp. Along with a number of ill prisoners who were in the camp infirmary, Bart was one of the few inmates who remained in the camp at the time of liberation. He survived to be liberated by hiding in the camp even after many other prisoners had been forced on a death march in January 1945.


And it was by the greatest miracle that I survived. There was, every barrack had a little cabin in the front, which was separation where the Blockaelteste, the Blockaelteste meant he was the, the chief of the, of the, of the barrack, and every such cabin had all the breadboxes, the bread was supplied, brought in with a box with a lock and nobody could get to it. That door, the hinge of the box was already torn off, and I was hiding in that box upside down. Here he comes in to search, he even kicks it, but luckily it gave. I was so skinny, it gave. I could see the...and I was sure this is it. This is how I remained alive. But when they already left, the Germans, about an hour they, they left, there was no sign of Germans, I wanted to go back to the barracks, but the Poles, the, the Ukraines, who were not taken on the death march, they wouldn't let me in. So I was hiding out in the heap of dead bodies because in the last week when the crematoria didn't function at all, the bodies were just building up higher and higher. And I sneaked into, among those dead bodies because I was afraid they'd come back or something. So there I was at nighttime, in the daytime I was roaming around in the camp, and this is where I actually survived, January 27, I was one of the very first, Birkenau was one of the very first camps being liberated. This was my, my survival chance.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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