Oral History

Wilek (William) Loew describes forced evacuation from Auschwitz

Wilek was the son of Jewish parents living in the southeastern Polish town of Lvov. His family owned and operated a winery that had been in family hands since 1870. Wilek's father died of a heart attack in 1929. Wilek entered secondary school in 1939. Soon after he began school, World War II began with the German invasion of Poland. Lvov was in the part of eastern Poland annexed by the Soviet Union. Although the Soviets took over Wilek's home and the family business, Wilek was able to continue his schooling. On June 22, 1941, German forces invaded the Soviet Union. The Germans occupied Lvov and established a ghetto there. Wilek was among a small group of Jews who left the ghetto daily to work. He helped make roofing paper for the German army. In 1943, shortly before the Germans destroyed the Lvov ghetto, Wilek obtained false papers, assumed the name of a Christian coworker, and fled to Hungary. He became a courier for the resistance in Budapest and was eventually arrested by the Germans as a Polish spy. He was sent to the Auschwitz camp in October 1944. Wilek was among thousands of prisoners sent on a death march to the German interior as Allied forces advanced. He was liberated by US forces in April 1945, and immigrated to the United States in 1949.


We were evacuated from Auschwitz and we walked a long time to another station. And I don't recall too well that station, but we were put in, into open cart, Gleiwitz, maybe that was the name. We were put, we were put in into open carts, only men--I haven't seen any women--and they took us out. A, a horrible trip, a horrible trip, people were dying because of this cold exposure. I had frostbite on my both feet. They were persistent, just wouldn't want to heal. I had shoes that were tight and it was very trying for me personally, because I never felt during the whole time: will I be able to survive? I always felt that I could survive. There was a doubt in my mind now whether I could do that, because I couldn't physically move things the way I used to. We were, the train was moving through Czechoslovakia. Um, I know because I heard that, and as we were going underneath the overpasses, over the overpasses, they were covered with a lot of Czechs and they were throwing bread to us in the open cart. It was a good omen. I had a, a, I caught a loaf of bread, and Leon, a friend of mine with whom I've been for, since Budapest, that's where I met him, he was with me all along in the camp. He survived, by the way, and he was in Israel. He saw me sometime later in, in, uh, Munich, visit me in the hospital. We went out, uh, and they kept us moving along, uh, from place to place. There was no, uh, place that they had in mind. We finally wound up in Oranienburg, why Oranienburg I don't know. Just before we reached Oranienburg, uh, they were discarding all the bodies from the train, and people were, most of them were dead, majority was half alive and they were, uh, shot on the spot. It was a huge mountain of the corpses from the cart.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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