[Katie Berces was 19 when the Holocaust started]
We didn’t know where they were taking us, we didn’t know,
We just saw the German SS came and one two three and we got the family ghetto lists together
And then they took us to the wagon and they took Auschwitz.
And that was our first arrival, and we was lucky because my mother was 47 and Mengele sent us to left side, and who went to right side they all took them to crematorium
My mother’s old sister we never saw her again
My other aunt I brought back from the other camp because I exchange her
I did things unbelievable
Because when you speak more languages you are more person
That saved my life completely, the Russian language
With my mother – this was the happiest time that we are still together
Terrible thing we was standing every morning in “Sara pel” as they used to call it – like the army, they counted so you shouldn’t disappear. But we had in four corners watchmens. One morning we went out to the sara pel until they count us and we see two girls burned onto the iron walls because they had iron walls there. They gave up their lives, they don’t want to stay and at night when everybody was sleeping evidently they went out and touched the electric pole and that’s how let us see this in the morning. They didn’t remove those bodies. Can you imagine, to see this?
We saw so many terrible things. Hair endless, pocketbooks from people taken. You can’t describe. You can describe and a lot of people don’t believe it because it is impossible to believe such a thing. You know.”
But then they separated us from all their people and she wasn’t --- she was passed 47.
They took us to the place where there was a big washroom. They cut our hair completely. They put on us a dress. They make a mark in the back with red things. And I was a strong girl because young I pulled out a little bit from the bottom and made – I couldn’t believe I have no hair. It was a terrible feeling. I looked at my mother; I looked at my sister; I couldn’t believe it. You can’t recognize yourself. It’s hard to believe it, you know. Before you had hair and see each other. It was a terrible situation.
And a lot of people died there, and before they came with a big truck they was on top each other laid, and then they took them out.
Five and half months later they took to Stutthoff and that’s where my mother was separated. Mengele, probably everybody heard his name – doctor – who made two by two the people to walk to the crematorium, people who was in life, can you imagine? I was inside the barrack, we was 120 girls in one barrack, and I never afraid, nothing, I grew up in Russia until I was 13, and didn’t afraid – and I jumped to the porch like this corner, and I was not allowed to be outside when the line was going to crematorium, they don’t let you go out. From inside was an English lock I jump out, my sister didn’t even know I’m out, and I stay there and a German woman was called to the back from here and I was standing there, where they were putting two people together, she said that I cannot stay outside and why am outside and hit my right leg with a very heavy black rubber stick, and I was bleeding and I couldn’t stay straight on my feet and the girls they saw what happened. They opened the door and I fell inside, and they started to scream “Yelfa! Yelfa!” to my sister. She came out; she didn’t know I was outside and she said to me, “What happened to you, you’re gonna die, you’re all in blood,” and she start to scream and I said, “Don’t scream I’m going to forget why I was outside.” It’s like God says to me, “Go out,” that’s how I went out. And she was screaming and crying and I limp on this leg and went to the washroom and I came through to the window and went to the same place, and I said, “either my mother or this shall kill me” And I was the luckiest child because my mother still was in the back when this happened. They was marching to their death. And all of a sudden, I see my mother out there. There is no Germans. See my mother walking on this hand, and she holding another woman’s hand. Her mother was Jewish her father was gentile like my son in law, and they was walking, and I see my mother and I said to her in Hungarian, where’s she’s here and I’m standing there: “Ma, come out from the line.”
And she looked at me and she said, “Good bye, my dear child, take care of each other” with my sister, and when she got like you’re sitting there and I’m here, I jumped out first and I pulled her in. The girls opened the door. They already saw what I’m doing. My mother fell inside. The other woman she couldn’t stay there, she went together with my mother and we hide them on the third bed, gray blankets like soldiers – like in the Army – and about hour or two hour -- we had no time. We was like animals. We didn’t know what day. We didn’t have newspaper. We didn’t hear nothing – all of a sudden two SS with big dogs with rubber sticks, the same rubber sticks with which I was hit, they come inside and they searching with their rubber sticks the blankets on the first thing and on the second, but they never went in the back – that’s how my mother was saved. And that’s why – she was 47 years old – and now she died at age 87 in the United States.
(Later apparently in the confusion of the camp being dismantled, some Jews were loaded onto ships, and the ship she was on, caught fire and sank.
I didn’t go back with the Russian I stepped to the next one and I look for my mother and sister, nobody there. But I don’t know half hour I don’t know how many – the whole ship, the third ship went down to the ocean, and I’m alone. I remember this, I can’t talk. Everybody’s dead, all the Polish and the [others] and everybody’s dead, and my sister were on the first and they knew that I’m dead. Because they saw that the whole thing went down. When we arrived Americans liberated us. I was liberated by American Army. That’s why I always donate for this. And what happened, I met my sister a few days later and she fainted in my hand. They arrived to the same place – that is true. But she didn’t understand how come I’m in front of her. They saw the burning and everything, I said to her, “Where is my mother,” and she said, “Katie, I take you to your mother, when they blow water and everything she fainted, and they took us, and she said, “You cannot go inside. I have to go and talk to my mother because she sitting three days Shiva, you know for the Jewish people a few days for when they die. She knew that I am dead. They didn’t know that I went to the other one before we moved. It was terrible. But what a reunion we three together again. And we was liberated by American Army.”