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Regina Rosch

image of Regina Rosch
Nationality: Czech
Location: Auschwitz II - Birkenau Concentration Camp • Czechoslovakia • Dresden • Germany • Hungary • Missouri • Poland • St. Louis • Técső • Tiacevo • United States of America
Experience During Holocaust: Family Died During the Holocaust • Family Died in Concentration Camp • Family Died in Gas Chambers • Forced on a Death March • Lived in a Displaced Persons camp • Lived in Multiple Concentration Camps • Sent to Concentration Camp • Sent to Ghetto

Mapping Regina's Life

Click on the location markers to learn more about Regina. Use the timeline below the map or the left and right keys on your keyboard to explore chronologically. In some cases the dates below were estimated based on the oral histories.

“It’s just unbelievable to even comprehend what was happening to me. I lived through it.” - Regina Rosch

Read Regina's Oral History Transcripts

Read the transcripts by clicking the red plus signs below.

Tape 1 - Side 1

KATZ: My story is probably different than anybody else’s because they are all different, in the sense that things happened to me. I don’t know exactly where to start. What would you like for me…
BURDE: I’d like you to start with telling me where you were born.
KATZ: I was born in Czechoslovakia and my birthdate is January 18, 1926. In 1939, I came from a…first let me start from the beginning. I come from a part of Czechoslovakia that used to be Austro-Hungary before the First World War. In 1939, when Chamberlain decided he’s not going to help the Czechs and the whole world just backed out of the agreement, Czechoslovakia was cut up. One part was given to Sudetenland. The part that I come from was promised to Hungary, because it was Hungary before the First World War. It was a big trauma for the Jewish people because the Czechs were a very democratic people, and we were by no way rich, but we had a nice life and no restrictions as far as religion. We heard all about the things that were happening in Germany, but I don’t think that we really believed everything. It’s just – I think it was – the newspapers were there. But I honestly think that we thought it was exaggerated, some of the things that were happening. I’m speaking, I was, at that time…I was 12 years old, 13 years old. So we just…nobody could really comprehend what was going on.
BURDE: How did you hear those things?
KATZ: On radio, in the newspapers, things that were going on with Hitler Jugend. I guess we wanted to believe that it’s going to pass and also thought that the whole free world will stop Germany. And the Czechs were very highly nationalistic people because they did not have freedom for a very long time themselves. So they were ready to fight and the Jewish people were with them 100 percent to preserve Czechoslovakia…to stop Germany. But as it happened, they were sold out. The Jews felt very bitterly about that.
In the meantime, before Hungary was able to occupy Czechoslovakia, the part of Czechoslovakia where I come from, the Ukrainians, decided that they were a majority and they were going to create a “Samostatna Ukraina.” That means a Ukrainian state within a state. The first thing they did – they were highly anti-Semitic and very uneducated brutes. If there is anything that you can add to it…you can. They came to Jewish homes – they killed with knives, literally. They knew the Czechs were gone. There were no jails – they were not afraid. And the Jews were the targets. The Jews were the people that always felt that they shouldn’t fight back. I was…I am very much against that today, and I have been then, too.
As things quieted down, they gained a little power, the Ukrainians, before the Hungarians had a chance to occupy us. They created a school, and I was at that time 13 years old, so naturally, I was in school. So the Jewish kids went to the Ukrainian school and we tried to obey the rules because there was no way that we could protect ourselves except to go along with the tide. That didn’t last long. When the Hungarians occupied us, actually we felt some relief because my grandfather said, “Well, I lived under the Hungarian rule, under Franz Joseph, and they were not as barbaristic as the Ukrainians.” Of course that did not last long either, because once they really came into power, I mean the Hungarians, they also showed their true colors. And naturally, the Jews were always the targets.
Even if there was hardly anything in the house, the Jew was rich. He didn’t drink, so he was different – and we were different. So we had to hide. In other words, Jewish young people didn’t stay out late, they couldn’t; right away there were police. There was the border police that Hungary brought in, and of course, a Jewish young woman didn’t mean anything to them. So life was very restricted. But after this settled down in a month or two, and they were the victors, our neighbors were Hungarians and they felt very good about having gained the part that used to belong to them – so they became a little bit more humane, for a very short time. They wanted the country to settle down. But they started the restrictions. First, if you owned a business, and you were Jewish, the business was not yours. So at first the Jewish people took in a Hungarian who knew nothing about the business as a partner. That was allowed, you know. They divided the profits, but still the Jewish people still had some form of livelihood. And they created schools, and again I was going to a Hungarian school. I mean…and speaking, I was, most of the Jewish people were.
BURDE: Did you have to learn a new language each time?
KATZ: No. I spoke Hungarian because there were many Hungarians living in our town. My town, by the way, the name is called Tiacevo in Czech and Tecso in Hungarian. It was a small, Jewish, lively community. According to the United States, it was very small, but according to the Europeans to my part of the town, it was a very viable Jewish community.
BURDE: Was it near a large city, or was it…
KATZ: It was a center…it was not far from Ungvar. But it wasn’t really that it was close or far…but it had all the offices and had surrounding little towns that used to come in to go to the theater…to go to the movies…to buy wholesale products and stuff like that, you know. So they had like they have here… the fairs. We had once a month a big fair and everybody would come with the cattle; whatever goods they had to sell and that’s why it was a lively place to live in.
BURDE: What language did the Jews speak?
KATZ: The Jews…the Jews…spoke Yiddish. The language for me was Czech – also the language was Hungarian. It was dual language because Hungarians lived there. And the Ukrainian was very close to the Czech because there were a lot of Ukrainians living, so I did understand, except that the Ukrainians use a Cyrillic alphabet like the Russians, so that we did have to learn. Of course, we did have to learn that in the Czech schools too. So it wasn’t completely foreign. So it was no problem. We were able to adapt. Besides schooling in those days, it really became secondary when survival becomes number one.
I am speaking basically of myself. My father was an Orthodox person, and my mother also. We had a business that we dealt with eggs. We used to ship eggs to part of Czechoslovakia and such. But when the Hungarians clamped down, things were very hard because there were just so many things that one was able to do. To ship…to grow….the border closed down. But then another border opened up at Hungary and they were very eager to ship to us things so my father was always able to make a living, and my mother was right working along with him.
But shortly after that they took all the males into the army. Instead of giving them rifles like soldiers, they gave them shovels to humiliate them. My father was not 40 at the time, so he also was taken into the army. My older brother – the only one that I have left – was taken also. He was 18 years old and he was taken in Poland to be…to be, not a soldier, but as a servant to the soldiers at the front, and he was sent to Poland. And my father was sent to Yugoslavia. My mother struggled to make a living. We made bread out of anything and everything you could possibly imagine to survive. But still, we were at home. We were unable to go out. We were unable to do the things that normal people do, but still we were at home and we did receive mail from my father. From my brother, we were unable to, but at one point he came home for one night. I recall that something happened and he was at home and we were happy to see that he was alive.
That was going on until 1942 when the Hungarians became rougher all the time and the Germans, when things started going badly for them. So of course there was hardly any food. And they started to try things. First, they took a part of the Jewish community just…I think it was about 20 people. My grandfather happened to be among them. And they told them that they have to produce papers that they come from Czechoslovakia. According to the papers, they originated in Poland and they were going to send them back. It was just a trick but they started to see how far they’re able to go. My grandfather didn’t like it. He heard in the morning that the police were knocking on the door. And he knew things that were going on. He told my grandmother, “I’m not at home.” He jumped out the window – he was 70 some odd years old – and he hid. They were…they were guarding our yard. It was like a courtyard where we lived, and in the evening finally the police left, and they said they just didn’t know when he’s going to be back. They had a meeting and in the Jewish community there was no leadership because they didn’t know what was going on. They said, “What are you afraid of? You know you were born here, your father was born here, you weren’t born in Poland.” But really that made no difference. What they did – they just took a certain amount of people, they sent them to Poland, for there the Ukrainians lived who are the biggest brutes in the whole wide world. They had to dig their own graves. My grandfather never came back. Some people from other towns did return, and even after they came back, they had to hide from their own neighbors because they were not supposed to come back. They were supposed to have been killed in Poland. Of course, when these things – they started to my other grandfather. They got hold of him in a train; they broke an arm. They did everything “hooliganish” that they possibly could. And there was no way of stopping them because there was no law as far as the Jew was concerned.
Then they started rounding up the people from the smaller towns into ghettos. Being my community was the size of a little town, they brought everybody in to us from all around little towns. Some people escaped and they hid in the mountaineous regions, but it was very hard because very few people, very few Christians really, wanted to take the responsibility. And I’m not blaming anybody now, on the tape. I don’t know what I would have done under the circumstances. But I know that I would not have helped the Germans or the Hungarians. So when this happened, there was really nothing. The only thing that we could take with us was whatever was on our shoulders and the survival was very harsh in the ghetto.
They took a part of the city and they said, “This is where people are going to live, 20 in a room, or 10 in a room,” whatever. It didn’t make any difference. If they wanted someone for work, they came they picked him out, they brought him back at night if they wanted to. If they wanted to have a good-looking girl, the police felt nothing at night to come with their flashlight and look in the beds and pick one out. There was nothing the Jewish people could do, because they were unorganized. They didn’t believe it. I, I think that even at that time, as late as 1943, where we knew that things were going on, and when people were saying, “Let’s just hide, let’s do anything we can.” The community says, “Well look, the border is close by, the Russians have started their offensive, things are going to happen.” And I think that some of the rebbes, you know, (I shouldn’t say that, it’s true though) I feel that they should have said maybe something like, “I don’t know what’s going to be. Run, or do something.” They were all so, they said, “It’s going to be good, God’s going to help, God’s going to help.” And I feel that was wrong too.
BURDE: How many Jews lived in your town before the war, before Hungary invaded?
KATZ: I really don’t know how many Jews because they were…some of them did leave. I would say maybe a few thousand, not too many.
BURDE: How large was the town?
KATZ: It was approximately 15,000-20,000. Like I said, it was a nice Jewish community even though there weren’t that many Jews. So now when all the Jews were together and when in the ghettos from all over, in 1944, they decided that they were going to ship us out to Auschwitz.
BURDE: So it was from 1942 until 1944…the ghetto?
KATZ: Approximately. It wasn’t constantly the ghetto from that time, because we were still able to be at home and not to be able to go out. There was a ghetto but you were still in your own home part time.
BURDE: And then that changed?
KATZ: And then that changed. Then they started to just put us in one big place where life was very miserable.
BURDE: Did you go to school at that time?
KATZ: No. School ceased. There was just…whatever we did, we did together in the ghetto. Just…you know…the Jewish people. But now, we couldn’t even go if somebody had a toothache to a dentist. I recall when I went out at night, in the evening, and I had a dentist who was able to practice because they needed her. The dentist was a woman, and she happened to be Jewish. But they needed her so she was allowed to be in the town as a practitioner, but she also was shipped out to Auschwitz…the doctors also. They allowed some of the doctors to practice until they decided that they can do without them.
When we were gathered to be shipped out to Auschwitz, my brother was in Poland…my father had returned. They didn’t even allow him then to be in the army. I had four brothers and a sister. (LONG PAUSE – QUIETLY SAYS)…They just took us like cattle and the Hungarians made sure that we didn’t have any belongings…that we didn’t take anything with us. So they stripped us, they inspected us, everybody…even children…made sure that we did not have any…anything concealed on our bodies. And they took us to Auschwitz. But we didn’t really believe it. My uncles, some of them, were very rich, so before they took us into the cattle cars, they beat them till they couldn’t even lift their arms…to make sure that everything was left. (LONG, LONG PAUSE…CRYING) Auschwitz…they took us straight to Auschwitz. (CRYING) My mother, younger brother, and my young sister were automatically killed. My father and two of my brothers went to a work camp. (CONTINUES CRYING) (PAUSE) I found out later that my brother, who was two years older than myself, worked in a coal mine until he could no more. Then they brought all those people to Auschwitz to be killed. I had seen some of those people because I worked in Auschwitz for a while. My younger brother survived the war. He went to Israel and he died in Israel of related causes in 1959. (SPEAKS QUIETLY) And my father was able to work until almost the last day; then he was killed. (VERY LONG PAUSE) Life in Auschwitz…life in Auschwitz was unbelievable.
There were those barracks like, I think one of them was probably a workhouse, and they had the beds…were like three decks. There were 60 people for each bed, for each layer, that is. Every person had to turn on the other side if anybody had to get up. There was nothing to do at first except stay outside and be counted. And it was from there, they would send us, the young people, to factories and places where they wanted to send us.
In the meantime, if there was someone that hid, there was no place to hide, but there were some people that became…I would say, temporarily insane. I think most of us were at the time, at one time or another. They would hide, so if they found this particular person, the SS would count constantly, they were counting…sitting on the…Auschwitz is in a part of Poland where it’s so cold at night, if one had no clothing. Of course they shaved our hair when we got there. I mean, they just demoralized us in front of those soldiers with your hands up…if people menstruated…blood running down…it was just…an unbelievable sight. One didn’t even recognize a sister or a brother. There was no…it was just a…one can’t…it’s just unbelievable to even comprehend what was happening to me. I lived it through.
So anyway (QUIETLY SPEAKING)…in the barracks, when…if somebody would accidentally hide and they’d find them…the soldiers would beat them to death. But first they would parade them through the whole thing that everybody should see as an example. And if the person blacked out, they would pour water on them…they would beat them…these were the tactics that they used…that nobody should try something in the camps. I don’t know where we could have gone anyway. There were no weapons or nothing. And they had a high wire…high voltage wires. Many people committed suicide by touching the wires. They wanted no more…seeing it and…They were at night so hot, the voltage was so strong, that if a person had any kind of utensil, they didn’t even have to go close to it…it just automatically killed them.
I stayed there for, I believe, a couple months. I really don’t know how long, but next to me was a, called “A” lager where they were emptying out the model camp, Theresienstadt. All of a sudden we saw there were people coming…older people and children. It was a novelty because you didn’t see…those were killed automatically. We saw the people next and they left them there for maybe a week or so. At that time, I was working in the kitchen in Auschwitz. I was peeling potatoes and doing things like that. But it was very good because I was able to eat. I was also able to see the things that very few people were able to see because we would start work at night. I got to see where all the children from the “A” camp…clothing stripped…that they brought probably from Theresienstadt…thrown into big tractors and hoisted off to be killed…screaming – without anything on. (CRYING) Then the old people…I also saw the people (PAUSES – CRYING) that were brought back from the coal mines…death…they were mutilated. (CRYING) We threw some potatoes and they all rushed to the door, hungry. They brought those back to be killed and they couldn’t work anymore. (CRYING) Those pictures cannot be seen in the movies – nobody could watch them.
Luckily, they needed some people in a factory and I was picked to leave Auschwitz. And I went back to an airplane factory, Jung Haus, a company in Markleberg, about seven kilometers from Leipzig. Young women, like myself, worked for 12 hours. It was a shift and we worked there for quite some time. I don’t remember…all winter long. And there, at one point, one of our roommates decided that she…she received a piece of bread from someone…I don’t know what happened…but she had her own piece of bread left. And after they searched the room and they found the piece of bread, they thought there was sabotage. So again, in order to humiliate us, our hair was probably an inch long by then…so they didn’t shave our heads, but they just made a cross going this way…thick…then across this way…so everybody would see this. We were…and the girl that had the bread, she had to stand in the wintertime all night, outside…just stand in one place, and there was a soldier watching her. Until…I really don’t know what happened to her. This…these were the tactics that they used.
BURDE: Were the living conditions better near the airplane factory than at Auschwitz?
KATZ: Yes. Yes. They were much better. But they were very hard because people still died from typhoid and everything because of lack of nutrition. We would get, when we worked, soup in the middle of the night, on the night shift or whatever shift we worked. And then we would also get a piece of bread. And we would get once something like coffee or whatever it was…one. It was enough to sustain us for a while…to be able to work but…so we were able to work.

Tape 1 - Side 2

And at first, when people were fainting, you know, they would be nice and they would give us something. Later on, it was no big deal. So if people fainted, they just fainted, and somebody would give them a little water, and after a while they’d go back to work.
BURDE: You mentioned the soldiers. Were they German soldiers?
KATZ: Yes, SS. There were some human beings – they were not only German soldiers though – they were also the soldiers that came willingly from other countries…from Poland, willingly…they came from Hungary. These were called…they were…they were…Germans probably that lived in those countries and they were very happy to help the Germans out. Austria of course, and, they were SS, they were not human beings.
BURDE: What were they called? Did they have a name?
KATZ: “Volksdeutschen.” They lived in Sudetenland. They lived in Hungary. They lived in Poland, but they were originally Germans. But there were many Hungarians and Ukrainians, and they were very happy to collaborate with the Germans also. Anything that was against the Jews…they were happy to do.
We were very…we were still lucky to be there, you know, in this particular camp, because they still needed us. As long as they needed us to produce, we didn’t starve, really, literally. The Germans were losing the war constantly…all over. And conditions became at the camp, conditions became rough because they were getting very nervous. Some of the SS women, they were not only men, by the way…the SS women were not any better than the SS men, started to disappear, also to go home, because they wanted to go home. They saw that the war was coming to an end and the English were the ones that occupied Leipzig. But before they were able to occupy us, and free us, the Germans took us on a march. They did not want to leave us there. So they took us, our camp, plus neighboring camps, and we’re marching and carrying all the belongings for the SS…like on…on a wagon, pulling it…like horses. And at night they would take turns watching us and going into the town, and they would put us on a field. That was some time in March. And March in Germany, or for that matter, in Europe, it’s just unbearable…how cold it is. Rain…rain…and I know a lot of us just couldn’t walk, so they were just shot! They didn’t care. If you…and then…overhead there were many raids, air raids, so what they did, they use to make us walk at night because in case to be…you know, they didn’t want anyone to see us. So they made us walk at night and we were so weak that we, two or three of us, would form like a, that one would sleep and the two would walk. And you’re…it’s unbelievable but people really are able to sleep while they walk. That’s how tired we were, without any food.
At one point, one neighbor, a farmer, brought out some food…some potatoes and but our…the leader of our group couldn’t divide it. There wasn’t enough. And the people started going at it, so there was like a creek – so he just threw the whole potatoes into the creek. Some of the women were going down in the mud…into the creek…getting killed, to pick out some of the potatoes. It was just an unbelievable sight.
And in between time, three of us decided that we are going to run away. We’re not going to continue and get killed. And some of the soldiers were weary also. It was raining constantly. Even though they took turns and they slept, they still didn’t like it because they knew that the war was probably coming to an end. So three of us thought we saw that there was already a hothouse close by. It was March, and there were, you know, bunkers there…grey. I don’t know what you would call…that the army had like dug in, you know. So we somehow were able to disappear in there until the transport left. And we waited there all night. Then we came to a town and being there were many Hungarians that helped the Germans, and those were called “Volksdeutschen,” “Schwaben,” we decided that we were going to say we just lost our transport and we were going to try and wait out the liberation from the Russians or from the English, somehow, somewhere on a farm to work, or something. So as we were in the corner – it was dusk – a woman came by and she said, “What are you doing here?” We looked very pitiful, and we said that we were working for the Germans and we lost our transport, and we would like to be put up anyplace. First we tried…we went into a place that looked like a…where they had…a farm…where they had all kinds of…a, a, farmhouse like. And we opened up the door and we found many SS. So we got scared and we ran away. We thought we could, anyplace, we could dry off. So she said that she was going to…this woman…when she saw us, she was going to call the mayor of the town to tell him. After all, we worked for Germany and that they should put us up somewhere, you know. But in the meantime, we saw a little place, I told you it was a hothouse, and there was a little something, so we ran away – we said we’re going to take care of ourselves. And we were over there…overnight, where we found food and we found shelter and we dried off. We couldn’t stay there either because in the morning some workers came and they said, “I don’t care who you are, I don’t care what you are, but you’ve gotta get out of here…this is ours.” So at least we were able, at that time, to wash up and we were able to get some food together to continue. This place that we were at – we didn’t even know where we were at the time, was a army camp. It was not an SS camp – it was a Wehrmacht. And the place escapes me (QUIETLY) sometimes I think one just tries to completely erase…I don’t remember it.
BURDE: Do you know which direction the march was going?
KATZ: It was completely demolished…the whole town in Germany. We were going toward Theresienstadt. Some people made it, I understood…later. I found out that you didn’t make it always to Theresienstadt because if they weren’t killed or didn’t die of starvation or whatever, they did make it. But anyway we were left, and the neighboring Germans put us up at a little…at this, at this army camp to help clean because they said they were going to find our transport, but of course, we were lying all along, you know. There was one German officer who came the following day and he said…he invited us for lunch to his place. He told us, he says… “Look, I don’t want you to say that you’re Hungarians. You’re Germans. You work for Germany.” He was an old gentleman who left his daughter in Heidelberg. He knew we were Jewish. He brought us food. He told us, “Stay there, I will protect you.” I don’t know his name, because things followed afterwards…we still had to go on…because they would not leave us there. “They,” I mean the soldiers. The things that were going on…they were running away from the Russians. We were hoisted on…on cars with Hitler Jugend…with anything. And, but we did…we were maids, the cooks, you know, for them now. Until we arrived in, (VERY LONG PAUSE) (WHISPERS TO BURDE) Name me a couple of cities in Germany that got really demolished. It’s unbelievable…
BURDE: We’ll go on. Maybe it will come to you.
KATZ: Yes, I guess we’ll have to come back to it. There we were…liberated. (LOUD BELL RINGS)
BURDE: That’s all right…that is…
KATZ: Anyway, when we saw, as we were going on these, uh, tractors and whatever, the Germans realized that the war was ending. They were trying to protect themselves the, and they didn’t care about anything else. They were burning all the different magazines, with the merchandise, with all their belongings, and weapons, and everything. And the three of us were among them…as Jews.
But at that point, life already – I don’t think I really realized what was going on. I think we were just numb. To be…really to think, that we were going to survive that. With this particular…with this particular group, we went up into a hill where the Germans took off all their clothing, and from a neighboring population they tried to get some other civilian clothing, because the Russians – the following morning – we came down…and the Russians were there. The soldiers were there. They were marching. They had their harmonicas and one of the…one of the Germans that we were there, and these were soldiers, and these were women…they were not SS anymore. They were already at the end…they were afraid too, at this point. We went to one of the homes in Dresden. (How could I have forgotten?) It was in Dresden. And there was right away established a order somehow…where we met other people from other…other nationalities and such. And from there on we found the first train, of course, to go home. This is…to go home…(LONG PAUSE, CRYING)
BURDE: Did you have to be hospitalized, or were you able to…?
KATZ: No. I was not hospitalized. (CRYING) I probably didn’t weigh more than 80 pounds. I think there are pictures, a photo somewhere. But I was lucky that I wasn’t sick. Now the people that became ill during this, of course, they never made it. If they had like from lack of nutrition. I do have one thing…I was able to hide under the clothing somehow, like sores is what I had…on my legs. But I didn’t have anything on my…on my face and on my arms…that it was invisible, especially at the time when they were looking at it. But like I said, a cousin of mine, who was my age, became ill with a kidney disease all of a sudden. Probably had a cold, there were no antibiotics, there were nothing – that was in Auschwitz. There was no warm water. She was in pain, so what we did, we gave her something like coffee in the morning. We poured it together, her two sisters and myself, so she could sit in it to give her some warmth. This was how far one could go with medication. (SPEAKS QUIETLY) Of course, it didn’t last for a week and she died. There wasn’t even a candle. (CRYING) We just threw her out. Every morning one could see just bodies in front of the barracks. At one point, we had to stand appel for hours, being counted. So somebody would faint, but if the soldiers would see it, they would just hoist them out. There was no water. You couldn’t move. You had to stand there. (CRYING) And in order to revive them, someone would urinate. This happened, really, to us…do you believe it? It’s hard for me to believe it. (LONG PAUSE) (CRYING)
The things that happened at Auschwitz aren’t human. For instance, I was working in the kitchen for a while. So they found that somebody was giving some food to some of the people – so they punished us. There was gravel in front of the kitchen. They made us go on the gravel…on our knees…until everything was just bloody. And this is how they enjoyed…to see us go like animals on the gravel, on our knees…just to…Of course, a few people were lucky, they didn’t get an infection, like myself – I survived. And those that didn’t never made it. These are some of the faults…I don’t know where they learned those, but, they had all the “know how” – how to…how to punish…that’s not enough…
BURDE: Torture.
KATZ: Torture.
BURDE: Were there any non-Jews in Auschwitz with you?
KATZ: There was a camp of non-Jews. But those people were not treated like the Jews. They use to…they were workers, and they were probably political prisoners. But they were able to come and go. In the camps in Auschwitz that I was in, there were only Jewish women. There were also other camps and a factory where I worked where there were non-Jews also. They lived under different circumstances. They were not treated as we were treated. We had only a number…and we had no name. We didn’t count.
BURDE: Did any Jews from your town go back to live there?
KATZ: Yes. There were a few people that were old, they settled again. But I would say that the bulk, or 99 percent of us left, we came home, we waited to see who was left. Then the part that was occupied by the Russians after the war, and in order for us to run…get out of there…we had to run again. We did not want to live under a dictatorship – so again we had to escape. We came to Germany, and in Germany we lived as displaced people. We were trying to go to Israel, but there too my brother left. As a young, very young…right away after the war, he went and he was unable to go directly. Already, he was in Cyprus. It was under British mandate. And my uncle survived the war in London. He lived in Belgium before that, so my older brother went to Belgium and I came to the United States. (LONG PAUSE)
Once in a while, I don’t know how often, they would take us to a bathhouse where there would be some showers and they would give us some fluorine or some salt, and we were able to get washed. After that, the soldiers would humiliate us. They would spray us, like you do for bugs, you know…bend down. It’s the most humiliating way for human beings. And they would laugh! When they picked us to go to a camp…to a work camp, or any place for that matter, we would have to parade in front of them…young women…naked of course, with our hands up. And I mean, just the most humiliating things for us to do in front of them. (TALKS WITH EMOTION AND FEELING) Not that they cared about us – just to humiliate us. Like we were not people. And…and so many different instances, people just became…completely…well, I…I think they became, sick. They couldn’t take it. I wanted to, really, it almost made it hard to be able to survive. Just…not even the physical part.
In my camp, in my block where I stayed in Auschwitz, there was one woman who was pregnant…from my hometown…she was a young woman. The blockalteste – that was called the woman that was in charge – was able somehow to abort the child. She was in her seventh or eighth month, and hoped that she would survive, otherwise, she would automatically be killed. She died anyway because of infection. There were no medication. But these were people that you knew! (SPEAKS WITH FEELING) You lived with! Can you imagine the circumstances, with no medication…no nothing? To abort and then, at that point, you took the life in your hands. These were the things that were happening in Auschwitz.
Some of the people that you were asking me about…if people other than Jews worked there…yes. There were people that worked there, they were able to come and go. They were very happy to tell us that, “See those fires – those are all Jewish people that are burning. Those are your brothers and sisters.” They were Ukrainians, they were Pollacks.
BURDE: Then at the time when you were in Auschwitz, everybody there knew how people were killed?
KATZ: We didn’t believe it…sure, we knew. At that time there was really nothing – and you could see the people. They were picked over, they were left from other camps or they were just too weak, too sick, and the people there were picked out daily – they couldn’t make it. We knew that they were being killed. A lot of people went berserk right on the spot…some of the things…it was just unbelievable.
It’s very hard, at one session, to really get your mind back. Because I think…I think that possibly a person is subconsciously fighting what really happened. Because just entering in the camp…places…I don’t remember how, I don’t even remember what happened…just I remember things what was there.
BURDE: Well if you at any time want to continue the interview, we can always do it…if you think of things you feel that you want to put on tape.
KATZ: I’m sure there are plenty people that have plenty of other things to add to that. I just think it’s too horrible to even continue to discuss…the daily things that happened. It’s unbelievable…unbelievable…yet somehow we survived…some of us.
BURDE: You have a brother who lives in London now?
KATZ: Yes, that’s right. And I have a niece who lives here. I recall every Jew was by the radio. People that did not have any radios came to other people’s stores…in the windows. It was in the fall…the Jewish people were ready to go along to try to protect Czechoslovakia. There were soldiers going on top of the roofs because there was a mobilization – they hoped everyone would help Czechoslovakia stop the Germans.
BURDE: Then the Jews were with the Czechs?
KATZ: Yes, yes. Because we had democracy in Czechoslovakia. We were pretty secure…just like the people of this country. The President was a highly democratic person and we lived in a society where one wouldn’t believe that things of this nature could happen. After all, this is the 20th century. I mean, one wouldn’t even dream of creating a book so bizarre as this! Not actually, just think about it. So this is what I mean. We were considered human beings by the Czechs. So how could…how could anybody do something like that?
BURDE: You said your parents were Orthodox. Was all of your family, were all the Jews in your town observant Jews?
KATZ: Yes, yes. I wouldn’t say “all.” There were some that had some intermarriages and such, but the bulk was…
BURDE: They observed Shabbat?
KATZ: Yes.
BURDE: And they were kosher?
KATZ: Uh mmm. Yes…In those years, I imagine, most of Eastern Europe, even though Czechoslovakia wasn’t Poland, but it also a part, where I come from that a majority of the Jewish people were Orthodox. Further in Bohemia and Moravia, some of them…most of them really did not observe Judaism as the people in Slovakia and also, of course, Poland and Rumania and the Eastern European countries…they were all highly observant Jews.
BURDE: And to the Germans, it didn’t matter?
KATZ: No, no. it did not matter. In fact, there were many Hungarian Jews that were, they were Jewish by birth, but they did not practice Judaism and instead of wearing the yellow band on them, they gave them white armbands…because they were just sort of half-Jews. They were converts (the Hungarians did that). But the Germans…they didn’t care. To them they were all Jews! And they treated us as Jews. If you’re a Jew – one wasn’t a human being anymore.

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