USF Libraries | Special & Digital Collections | Exhibits

Escaping the Germans

Sara Hannah Matuson Rigler, Holocaust survivor

And people died on the way, people were shot. Somebody said that the Germans were taking us to save themselves, to go deeper in Germany. I really don’t know the logistics of it, what it was. But somebody named it a death march, because this is where—as a matter of fact, my girlfriend from school, whose father was the assistant principal, died. Her name was (inaudible). A friend of mine, Ruthie and I got a piece of bread to remove her body from the line and put it on the side.

You know, a person’s—you can see a person’s soul in their eyes. I don’t know if you know that. And there was one man that had such kind eyes. I think if I would see him today, I would recognize him. When we passed one town, he said to me, “Little girl, I can save you. My family lives right here, and I can take you to my family.” So, I said, “I have a mother and a sister.” I must have been very small, you know, or sad-looking or whatever. So, I said, “I have a mother and a sister,” so he brought us a bread. My mother gave us a little piece of bread, for me, for my sister, and she slept on the bread and somebody stole it. It was like you lost a fortune. I mean, one cannot imagine. I used to dream that if I’ll ever have bread, I don’t want anything else in my life. So, we went on, and somebody stole the bread.

And then, we came to one place, and they said we have about another thirty miles to go. My mother still had the diamond ring. Now, I used to dream that if I’ll ever have bread to my heart’s content, I’ll never want anything again, just bread. And I said to my mother, “You know, give me the ring. I’m gonna get us bread.” We were—I can’t even describe to you how pitiful we were, to risk your life for a piece of bread. So, I took the ring, I went out of the line, and I went into a barn. A man came and opened up the barn, and I said to him in German, “Here’s a diamond ring. Bring me a bread.” He said okay, but he came back with the police, and the police said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I came for bread.” And they said, in German, “Don’t you know that you are dirtying our Judenrein town?” Judenrein means this town is clear of Jews. “And you’re dirtying it.”

So, they started chasing me, and I knew if they catch me, they make like an example of you, so they would kill me. You know, and my mother and sister are there. And people were watching the march, you know. On both sides, people were lined up, all dressed, watching the march—a lot of people. So, this was really a decision that was, like, without thought, you know. I remember it so distinctly. I separated on my right, two people, and I ran behind them. I figured I’ll take the police with me, the posse, and they’ll go and they’ll take me there and they’ll kill me, but my mother wouldn’t see it.

So, I was running, and nobody from the people watching said where I went. And then, I don’t know, but I saw a barn, so I ran into the barn and I laid myself down in the trough. You know, in a trough, where the cows eat. And I was waiting for them to come and get me, and nobody came. I’m lying there, I really don’t know how long it was, but I’m lying there. Nobody came. And eventually, a man walked in, and I said to him, “Hey, I’m here,” you know. I assumed he was German. So, he said—no, I said, “I’m hiding here.” He said—oh, he spoke German. He said, “They’re not looking for you anymore,” and that was Stan, Stan Wells. But I didn’t know his name.

About this video

About Sara Hannah Matuson Rigler