Oral History

Ruth Webber describes witnessing a brutal punishment in the camp at Ostrowiec

Ruth was four years old when the Germans invaded Poland and occupied Ostrowiec. Her family was forced into a ghetto. Germans took over her father's photography business, although he was allowed to continue working outside the ghetto. Before the ghetto was liquidated, Ruth's parents sent her sister into hiding, and managed to get work at a labor camp outside the ghetto. Ruth also went into hiding, either in nearby woods or within the camp itself. When the camp was liquidated, Ruth's parents were split up. Ruth was sent to several concentration camps before eventually being deported to Auschwitz. When Ruth became sick, she was sent to the camp infirmary, managing to escape just before a selection. After the war, Ruth lived in an orphanage in Krakow until she was reunited with her mother.


I have seen a lot of dead people around, all over, and I guess when you see so many, it doesn't really make that much of an impression. One of the times in Ostrowiec Lager [camp] I was in the, uh, outhouse, in the bathroom, which was on the corner of the, uh, uh, area where like it was a big area in the center of the camp, and then all the barracks were around it, mostly actually on two sides, and the outhouse was at the corner. And I happened to have gone into the outhouse and, uh, all at once there is a commotion and everybody is rushed into their barracks, because that's where they were supposed to go, and, uh, I got stuck in the bathroom. Well, I got up on the seat and I looked out of the little window on the top, and what had happened is some people tried to escape, and they were caught. And I guess they were wounded, and there was some shooting going on, and they got about, I think, four people to dig graves just outside of the wire of the fence of the camp. And they brought these, uh, people that tried to escape, that were, uh, shot already, but they were not dead. And they made the other Jews bury these people that were not really dead yet, and they were begging not to be buried, that they're still alive, that they should do something to kill them. But they didn't do anything, they just buried them alive. And these people had to do it, or else. These poor people that were picked to do it because otherwise they themselves would have wound up in--dead. That was a very, very traumatic experience. I can still hear them screaming.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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