Oral History

Kate Bernath describes the psychology of survival in Auschwitz

After the German invasion of Hungary in 1944, Kate and her family were deported first to the Kosice ghetto and then to the Auschwitz camp in Poland. Kate and other prisoners were sent on to the Plaszow camp, also in Poland. As partisan raids increased and the front drew closer, they were sent back to Auschwitz in August 1944. Kate was then selected for forced labor at a Messerschmidt factory in Augsburg, Germany. The prisoners were deported as Allied attacks intensified. Kate was eventually liberated after guards abandoned the train carrying the prisoners.


We were, uh, in the midst of all our troubles we were trying to cheer each other up. If one was feeling very low, we, we tried to tell them, we, we dreamed about things what we were going to do when we got liberated. We were all...we never thought for a minute, I never thought for a minute that I'm really going to die. I, it just did not sink in. I mean with all these horrors around me I, I always thought that we were dreaming of, of things--when I get home I'm going to do this and I'm going to do that and I just want to see this, this war end and just live for the day when we see the Germans defeated. And that kept us alive. Never to lose hope. If you lost hope, that was the end of it. It was so easy in Auschwitz. All you had to do is reach out for the barbed wires. They were electrified. We would not do them the favor. We said if they want to kill us, they'll have to kill us. We are not going to die.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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