Fritzie's father immigrated to the United States, but by the time he could bring his family over, war had begun and Fritzie's mother feared attacks on transatlantic shipping. Fritzie, her mother, and two brothers were eventually sent to Auschwitz. Her mother and brothers died. Fritzie survived by pretending to be older than her age and thus a stronger worker. On a death march from Auschwitz, Fritzie ran into a forest, where she was later liberated.
We needed to show that we still had strength left, to, whether it was to work or to live another day. I recall some women, um, were beginning as their hair grows back, they were beginning to get gray hair, and they would go and take a little piece of coal from one of the pot-bellied stoves that was in a barrack. And they would use this coal to color their hair with so that they would look a, a little younger. I mean one grayed at the age of maybe eighteen or nineteen under those conditions. And they would run...we would run in front of whoever it was that was doing the selections to show that we could survive one other day. If one had a scar, a pimple, if one didn't run fast enough, if one didn't look right for whatever reason to the particular person that was doing the selection--they would stand there with a stick, to the right or to the left, as you ran by them. One never knew if they were in the good line or the bad line. One line would go to the gas chambers, the other line would go back to the camp and to the barracks to live another day.
What can this excerpt tell us about the pressures and motivations that may have affected individual responses?
What other source materials might be helpful to provide more historical context for this eyewitness testimony? What aspects of the history might these other source materials help reveal?
Why are survivor testimonies important in studying World War II and the Holocaust?
How do oral histories differ from other primary sources such as artifacts, documents, and photographs? What can we learn from different types of primary sources?
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