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Chapter 5: Living with death - Auschwitz
The ghetto was evacuated in four transports. Of the 9,161 Jews hitherto resident in the Pruzany ghetto, 1,775 men and women ultimately reached the Auschwitz camp.
Upon arrival, we were left confined to the train for hours while the station was cleared of previous transports.
In the afternoon, the freight car doors were flung open. “Out of the cars!” In harsh tones, the German command boomed from the loudspeakers. “Packages are to be left in the cars!”
As a rule, the selection went through with no questions asked. Only in rare cases did the officer pose two queries: “How old are you?” and “What is your profession?” It is evident, in hindsight, that anyone who admitted to a clerical calling was consigned to the gas chambers. Those claiming to be builders or electricians, etc. were retained in the camp.
When asked about my age during the selection, I gave my year of birth as 1924 - making me one year older than I was at the time. I believed it would be helpful to claim that I was no longer a child.
Of our transport, the men received the numbers 99211 to 99504, and the women - 33928 to 34023. I was given the number 99288. My brother got the number 99287.
Our billet (Block) was a former stables that stood approximately 120 feet long, 30 feet across and eight feet high (specifications I discovered subsequently in the Auschwitz archives gave the average block a floor area of 390 square meters, and a volume of 1,200 cubic meters) with 500 prisoners crammed into each block.
My brother did not hold out in the conditions of the camp. He did not turn into a Mussulman, but he became enfeebled and disheartened.
“I can’t stand it any longer,” he told me repeatedly, in broken, stifled tones.
My efforts to encourage him were only briefly effective, for conditions in the camp were against me.
“I don’t feel well,” he told me in dull tones, “I’m going to the sick parade.”
I tried in vain to dissuade him. “Don’t go,” I said, “hold on, it’ll pass.” Though new to the camp, I already understood that the Germans could not care less if inmates died. Every evening, long lines of prisoners waited outside the doors of the camp hospital, in hopes of receiving medical attention or possibly hospitalization, which held the potential for better food, or a bed more comfortable than their bunks in the block.
In view of the grave shortage of beds, most hospitalization requests were turned down; those prisoners admitted to the hospital after attending sick parades rarely returned to the camp.
All the same, my brother insisted. He reported for sick parade and was sent to the hospital. I learned subsequently, by reference to his serial number, that he was hospitalized for three days until March 18, 1943, when he was dispatched to the gas chambers.