Oral History

Bart Stern describes the role of friendships in survival at Auschwitz

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.

Transcript

We were working in a Kommando and three of us stuck together closer. And there was also another person who always said, "That's it," which meant he was going to do something to commit suicide, or getting under something to get killed. We would always encourage him, of course, you know, I was 17 and if somebody who was 30 was already an old man, he was, he was very old. And we always used to tell him, "Don't, things are better." We heard of planes, we heard this, I mean, we always nurtured ourselves on some of these hopes as well. And of course, you know, the, the people were of more religious background, so we had hope God will help, you know, didn't give up so fast. And we said, "Listen, God will help, he will see," and so on and so on. This man just couldn't take it. Nobody could take it, but some had more strength than others. One day, after exhaustive day, a special holiday I think it was, we come back and his ration of bread was stolen or disappeared. He says, "That's it." He wanted to get kind of our approval that...we did not let him die, we did not just feed him with words. The three of us each got a third of our meager little ration--what did it consist of? Of a piece of like bread like a brick, which was, as we know now, was sawdust in it and, and, and, and, and everything--and we gave a third of that, a third of our life for, to this man so he should not give up. A matter of fact, to the best of my knowledge, he survived.


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  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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