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Life in Majdanek

Rachel Nurman, Holocaust Survivor

And a couple of our people, too.  And the mothers—I mean, before that, they told a young girl which holding a baby, they said to her, “Give away the baby to your mother, and you, they take to work.”  Some of them listened, and they give it to the mother to hold it, and so they took the mother with the child to the gas chamber, and the daughter survived.  And a lot of them did that.  Some of them did it and some of them didn’t; some of them preferred to go with the child, like my brothers.  Both of them went with a child together; somebody told me that.  So they took them, the children, the little babies.  Some of them cried so loud that they took them by their little feet and they did it like that on the wall, on the brick wall, and the mother is standing there and looking, and the father.  

Then the chef’s wife, what I worked in the kitchen, I saw her in there. And they wanted to take the boy from her away, but she didn’t let them, the Germans.  So she was holding his hand and the German—and she was holding this side, this hand, the boy, and the boy is screaming, “Mama, don’t let them!  Don’t let them take me.”  So with all her might she was pulling him on this side.  And who was stronger?  The German was stronger, and he grabbed him and they schlepped them right into the people, to the gas chamber, the young children there. And this was Majdanek, and we was like six weeks at Majdanek, the camp.  When we came in, I thought that I’m in a crazy house.  We saw people all naked.  Not one of them wore clothing, men or women.  Men were on the other side, with the electric wires.  We couldn’t be together with the men; they have a separate camp. And my girlfriend had a husband in that camp, you know, so they could talk some time in the evening through the wires.  So, the clothes they took away, right away, from us, the clothes.  So we find ourselves, young girls like that, naked.  I was standing like that, I was so ashamed. 

And they disinfected the clothes and they put them on the roofs of the barracks.  They didn’t dry so fast; it was raining.  And meanwhile we were naked, nothing.  And it was cold, freezing, so we warmed each other like that, taking around the girls and warm the body.  After like a week, they took us in the barrack and gave us clothes.

They shaved my head completely, yeah. You know something?  In the middle of the street, the men, the young guys, they’re shaving their private place and under their arm and everywhere.  It was naked, you know.  And the head, everything.  Yeah. 

So they put us in that barrack to give us clothes.  They gave me pants, big, like could fit like three like me.  This was pants from a prisoner, from a Russian prisoner.  And a blouse, like ten like me could go in that, it was too big.  And some of my girlfriends they give too small, too big, some too big, too small, and we looked at each other and we both start laughing, not recognizing each other.  We looked caricatures, like somebody from another planet.  Oh, the whole camp looked like another planet, like we are on the moon or some place that is unbelievable.  And at that camp was sitting between the barriers: the one side of barriers were men’s barracks, and this side barracks was women’s barracks.  And it was cold, freezing, sitting like that the whole day without work, no work, and no food, no work.  Give us like one slice of bread in the morning, and they give us a little bit of the black coffee.  So me and my girlfriend had one plate, one thing of food they gave us, so we should share.  So when they put in a little bit, like water food made with spinach, with their leaves, the green leaves, but we could feel the sand in that.  But we have to swallow that anyway.

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About Rachel Nurman