'It takes time to resurrect a person in itself': how the last Holocaust witnesses survived and live
Edition with the BBC tells incredible stories of the life and survival of one of the last witnesses of the Holocaust. These women, and then little girls, survived by a miracle. But this was not the end of their struggle. Each of them has found its own difficult path to get used to peaceful life and become a part of it. And also - to find the strength to tell your story. Although, even after 75 years, they still have a hard time talking.
“There can only be one worse thing than Auschwitz - forget that he was,” says Eva Sapesi.
She was 12 years old when she ended up in the Auschwitz concentration camp. On this, Eve’s childhood ended, and now she seems to be trying to catch up.
Before the interview begins, she takes out the perfume, sprinkles it on her wrists and says: “You know, my mother had wonderful perfumes in a beautiful bottle. As a child, I somehow took out a bottle from the closet, because I wanted to smell as tasty as my mother. And suddenly she broke it. The whole house was filled with the smell of perfume. "
“For some reason, it was this smell that seemed to me all the way until we were taken to Auschwitz. In fact, there was a terrible stink in our carriage. After all, they did not let out stool. Someone was sick. But I didn’t feel anything. Instead of a terrible smell, I could smell my mother’s perfume, ”adds Eve.
Past the gas chamber
On Eve, there are pearl beads and a bright blue sweater; she excites her sleeve a little with excitement. Under this sleeve - on the back of the arm - is the tattoo "26877." This number was tattooed in the morning after her arrival in Auschwitz.
“After the war, I often dusted the tattoo or covered it with the sleeve of a blouse. But I never wanted to reduce this number. He belongs to me. Many prisoners got large numbers on the outside of their arms, but I have a small one. I’m lucky, ”says Eve.
70% of people brought to Auschwitz were killed during the first day. Railroad tracks went right up to the gas chambers. People were unloaded from the wagons, someone was selected for work, and the rest were immediately killed.
The car in which Eve rode was sent to the hut, and the selection was appointed the next morning. Before dawn, a Slovak woman unexpectedly approached the girl, who worked as an overseer in Auschwitz.
"How old are you? 12? You are 16, and don’t even try to pretend to be younger! ”She said menacingly.
Eve was frightened and confused, but when asked about age at the general building, she blurted out in response: “Sixteen.” It saved her life.
Everyone who was younger was sent to gas chambers, and Eve was assigned to work in a quarry.
Star for life
“By January 1945, I was already very, very sick, and I had absolutely no strength left. And around lay dead or barely living people. The Red Army was already close. The Nazis retreated and took with them all who could still stand on their feet. They had orders to shoot those who remained in Auschwitz so that there was no one to tell what they were doing there, ”recalls Sepechi.
Eve then constantly lost consciousness and was on the verge of death. They decided not to spend ammo on it.
“At some point, I woke up and realized that I was lying on a mountain of corpses. I had absolutely no strength, but I did not want to give up. I mumbled something, a man came up to me and fed me snow. This snow helped me so much! When I opened my eyes again, I saw a Russian soldier in front of me in such a beautiful fur hat. She was wearing a red star. He smiled at me ... And I was so happy with the human warmth that radiated from his face. It brought me back to life. I will always remember him, ”adds Eve, smiling.
“I was able to live on after the war, because I suppressed everything in myself. I tried not to think about what happened to me in the past, to build a new life. And I crushed everything, stuffed it deep into my soul. But you can't hide it forever, ”Eve sighs.
She tells how after the concentration camp she learned to walk again, how difficult it was to sit at the school desk again and how she searched and found the strength to live on.
“Many of those who surrendered while at Auschwitz did not survive. When you give up and say that you can no longer, the end comes. You need to talk yourself that you will overcome everything. And it helps, ”says Eve.
In 1951, she met her future husband. Eva admits that she was in a hurry to start a family: “More than anything, I wanted to have a child. After all, I lost my parents, and so wanted to have a loved one. So my first daughter Judit appeared. ”
But how to raise a small child, Eve, separated from her parents at the age of ten, did not know: “Mom disappeared from my life too early. I missed her love, her example before my eyes, so when I became a mother myself, it was not easy. Sometimes I just didn't know how to behave. "
In 1956, Eve again saw the Soviet soldiers. But this time I experienced completely different emotions from this meeting. At the end of October 1956, the USSR sent troops to its hometown of Budapest to crush the Hungarian uprising.
“On the one hand, Soviet soldiers saved the lives of me and thousands of other prisoners of fascist concentration camps. On the other hand, I saw with my own eyes how Soviet soldiers drowned the Hungarian uprising in blood. And it's hard to accept and combine in the head. But such a life is different. But I still treat Russians well, ”she adds.
After the uprising was crushed, the Eve family was forced to flee Hungary. They settled in Germany, where Eve's husband was offered a job.
Fifty years after the war, Eva was silent about what she experienced at Auschwitz: her family knew about it as a brief fact from her biography — she never told them about what she experienced. But in 50, director Steven Spielberg invited Eve to come to the site of the former concentration camp.
Then she first told her story to relatives. Today, Eve speaks a lot to schoolchildren. He says that at the beginning of a conversation, many are skeptical, but by the middle of the conversation, they usually do not remain indifferent.
“When I hear that Auschwitz is a fiction, I think: how important it is for all survivors, including me, to convey to the next generations, as it was in reality. So that this never happens again. My brother, my mother - they cannot talk. All who were killed by the Nazis, deprived of their voice, made dumb. So, we should talk for them. ”
“It takes time to resurrect a person in itself”
“It took me a long time to learn how to simply look people in the eye again after the war,” says Tamar Dryfus.
Lucky dress and dog box
“The Jewish ghetto in Vilna was created in 1941. I was then a little more than three, but I clearly remember many things, especially the day when I last saw my father,” Tamar begins. - It was in 1943. The Germans came to the ghetto, ordered everyone to leave. We hid, but outside we heard an order that all men should go out, otherwise they would blow us up. ”
Father Tamar, along with other men, was taken to forced labor. She later found out that he was killed.
By 1943, about 50 people were exterminated in the Vilnius ghetto. Tamar and her mother were sent to a concentration camp. On the way, they tried to run three times. The first two attempts failed: for the first mother, Tamar was sentenced to 000 lashes. On the third blow, the woman lost consciousness. Despite this, she believed that it was better to be killed while trying to escape than to meekly accept what was happening. The second time they were caught again - but not killed. Mother Tamar was hit on the head, and she spent two days unconscious.
“On the last shipment we were sent to the shower. Thank God it was an ordinary shower. All undressed. Mom found a suit in a pile of clothes, and a dress for me. She even tied a bow to me, proudly raised her head, and we went, ”Tamar recalls.
A well-dressed woman with a child walked unhindered past all the guards and went outside the camp gates. Perhaps the guards thought it was the family of one of the officers.
After this, Tamar and his mother hid for a long time from the Nazis, moving from village to village, from one yard to another. Once they hid for three days from a round-up in a guard dog booth. For some reason, the formidable dog did not betray his unexpected neighbors and even shared food with them from his bowl: “Each time he was brought food, he did not eat, but left it for us. Mom said that people are worse than animals, because the beast will eat prey, be satisfied and calm down, but people will not. People don’t get full, they always want more. ”
“When we were hiding, my mother often asked me to sit in silence so that I would not give us away by chance. Therefore, when the war ended, I did not immediately realize that everything, now we are free. It was a long process. It takes time to resurrect a person in itself, ”says Tamar.
But for her, the struggle against fascism did not end either in 1945, or even ten years later. In 1959, Tamar's husband got a job in Munich, and although she terribly did not want to go to Germany, she agreed.
“When we moved from Israel, there were still a lot of Nazis around. And it was unbearable to constantly see them, meet them everywhere and know that they went unpunished. After all, not everyone was convicted. Many did not even repent of their deeds. And it was incredibly difficult to put up with this, ”says Tamar.
Tamar and her husband could not just look at it - they began to help the so-called "Nazi hunters" - volunteers trying to find those who went unpunished after the Second World War. Tamar and her husband managed to get punishment for at least one person - the former Gestapo chief in Cologne.
Tamar admits: her family, friends and books helped her return to normal after the war.
Now Tamar lives alone: her husband died several years ago, and the children created their own families. Tamar is closely following modern politics: “The ultra-right again come to power around the world. And that really worries me. People again do not like strangers. This attitude needs to be changed. People should be accepted regardless of their skin color, creed, and the language they speak. But for that to be so, we still have to fight. ”
Many days of Tamar are painted almost in minutes: speeches in front of students, lectures at universities and conferences, interviews on television. She hopes that the modern ultra-right will hear her speeches and think several times before “hiding behind their catchy slogans”.
“I believe in today's youth. There are dozens of years of difference between us, but it seems to me that we understand each other. In the end, these guys face the same questions as they did before me 60-70 years ago, only in a slightly less radical wording. And I will be glad if I can help the young people find the answers, ”says Tamar.
“War taught goodness”
Confident and quick gait, painted lips - looking at Maria Neumann, it is difficult to believe that she is 90 years old.
“In the morning I’ll interview, and in the evening I’ll go to the cafe: every two weeks we gather with the guys there. We sit, share experiences, discuss something - sometimes news, but more often books. I love to read, ”says Maria.
Erzael-cafe in the center of Cologne is a meeting place for those who went through the Second World War. There, Mary often sees Tamar Dryfus. Those gathered remember the war infrequently. But nevertheless, some stories were first, and sometimes only once, sounded in this cafe.
A pair of shoes on a wooden run
The war for Maria began on June 23, 1941, when the Nazis came to Borisov (now the territory of Belarus). All the Jews were immediately driven into the ghetto.
“We got up early. They pulled everything they could pull on themselves and went to work. Injected until late in the evening. They cleaned the street, dragged heaviness. We were often beaten. And usually for no particular reason, ”Maria recalls. She was then ten years old.
On October 20, 1941, the ghetto was liquidated, having shot almost everyone in a day. According to historians, only a few dozen people out of more than 7000 prisoners managed to escape.
“We managed to escape with my sister thanks to my mother. She told her father to hide in the cellar with older children. Mom slammed the lid behind us and closed the door with a doormat. The youngest mother left with her upstairs - she was afraid that they might cry to betray us, and then everyone would die. A moment later the Germans entered the house and took our mother and our youngest to be shot. ”
Maria, her sister Genya and father did not leave the cellar for two days. All this time they heard the Nazis kill the residents of Borisov.
“I am starting to talk about this, and even now I have frost in my body. These experiences do not depart from me, they live in the heart. Do not go anywhere. But you have to live and say thanks to God for every day you live, ”she adds confidently.
After two months of wandering in the surrounding villages, Mary's father went into partisans. And the girls were identified in the orphanage.
“Farewell, the father said: believe in God and believe in people. According to this covenant, I live to this day. Everything was, but it was always possible to meet people who helped me, it would seem, in a hopeless situation. Not everyone can be trusted. But the heart always prompted correctly to whom it is possible to open. ”
Already after the war, Maria found out that her father died in the summer of 1944, having almost lived to see the release of Borisov.
“The orphanage was difficult. We had one pair of shoes on a wooden run. We were there with typhoid, and what we did not get sick with. And also frequent bombing. The boys died in the boys department. And we were lucky - a high-explosive bomb fell under our windows, but it did not explode, ”Maria recalls.
After the war, Maria returned to Borisov, graduated from high school and entered the culinary college. One fall day, she met Dmitry, the guy with whom they lived next door until the start of the German occupation. A few months later, the young people got married. Dmitry passed away early - just a few years after the wedding. Again Mary did not want to seek love. But the experience did not embitter her.
“The main lesson I learned from the war and all trials is about kindness. There is kindness, and it is stronger than evil. I tried and try to be kind, and it gives me strength. "
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