'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 some of the last witnesses of the Holocaust. These women, and then - little girls, miraculously survived. But this was not the end of their struggle. Each of them found her own difficult path to get used to a 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.
“The only thing worse than Auschwitz is to forget that it was,” says Eva Sepeshi.
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 starts, she takes out perfume, sprinkles it on her wrists and says: “You know, my mom had a wonderful perfume in a beautiful bottle. As a child, I once took a bottle out of the closet because I wanted to smell as good as my mom. And suddenly she broke it. The whole house was filled with the scent of perfume. "
“For some reason, it was this smell that seemed to me all the way, while we were being taken to Auschwitz. In fact, there was a terrible stench in our carriage. They weren't allowed to defecate. Someone was sick. But I didn't feel anything. Instead of a terrible smell, I thought I could smell my mother's perfume, ”adds Eva.
Past the gas chamber
Eve is wearing pearl beads and a bright blue sweater, with excitement she slightly tugs at her sleeve. Under this sleeve - on the back of the arm - the tattoo "26877". This number was tattooed to her the morning after arriving in Auschwitz.
“After the war, I often dusted my tattoo or covered it with the sleeve of my blouse. But I never wanted to mix this number. It belongs to me. Many prisoners had large numbers on the outside of their arms, but mine was small. 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 her age at the general formation, 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 were dead or barely alive people. The Red Army was already close. The Nazis retreated and took away with them all who could still stand on their feet. They had an order to shoot those who remained in Auschwitz so that there was no one to tell what they were doing there, ”Sepeshi recalls.
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 with 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. It had a red star on it. 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, ”Eve adds, 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 suppressed everything, pushed 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 you can't take it anymore, the end comes. You need to talk to yourself that you will overcome everything. And it helps, ”says Eva.
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 I wanted to have a loved one. This is how my first daughter Judit appeared ”.
But how to raise a small child, Eva, 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 Nazi concentration camps. On the other hand, I saw with my own eyes how Soviet soldiers drowned the Hungarian uprising in blood. And this is difficult to accept and combine in your head. But such a life is different. But I still feel good about Russians, ”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.
For 50 years after the war, Eve was silent about her experience in Auschwitz: her relatives knew about it as a short fact from her biography - she never told them about her experience. But in 1995, 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 how everything really happened. So that this never happens again. My brother, my mom - they can't talk. Everyone who was killed by the Nazis was deprived of their voice, made mute. So, we have to tell for them ”.
“It takes time to resurrect a person in itself”
“It took me a long time to learn to just look people in the eyes again after the war,” says Tamar Dryfus.
Lucky dress and dog box
“The Jewish ghetto in Vilna was created in 1941. I was a little over three then, but I clearly remember many things, especially the day when I saw my father for the last time,” Tamar begins. - It was in 1943. The Germans came to the ghetto and ordered everyone to leave. We hid, but outside we heard the order that all the men must go out, otherwise they will 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 had been 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 is better to be killed while trying to escape than to resignedly accept what is happening. The second time they were caught again - but not killed. Tamar's mother was hit on the head and was unconscious for two days.
“On the last shipment we were sent to the shower. Thank goodness it was a regular shower. All undressed. Mom found a suit in a pile of clothes, and a dress for me. She even tied a bow for me, proudly raised her head, and we went, ”recalls Tamar.
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 that, Tamar and her mother hid from the Nazis for a long time, moving from village to village, from one courtyard to another. Once they hid for three days from a raid in a watchdog booth. For some reason, the formidable dog did not betray its unexpected neighbors and even shared food from its bowl with them: “Every time they brought him food, he did not eat, but left it to us. Mom said that people are worse than animals, because the beast will eat the prey, get enough 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 silently so that I would not accidentally betray us. 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 oneself, ”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. Not all of them were convicted. Many did not even regret what they had done. And it was incredibly difficult to come to terms with it, ”says Tamar.
Tamar and her husband could not just look at it - they began to help the so-called "Nazi hunters" - volunteers who tried to find those who remained unpunished after the Second World War. Tamar and her husband managed to get punishment for at least one person - the former chief of the Gestapo 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 have created their own families. Tamar follows contemporary politics closely: “The ultra-right is once again taking power around the world. And it worries me very much. People don't like outsiders again. This attitude needs to be changed. People need to be accepted regardless of their skin color, religion and language they speak. But for this to be so, we still have to fight. "
Many of Tamar's days are scheduled almost by the minute: speeches to schoolchildren, lectures at universities and at conferences, interviews on television. She hopes that modern ultra-rightists will also 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 are facing the same questions that I faced 60-70 years ago, only in a slightly less radical formulation. And I will be glad if I can help young people find answers, ”says Tamar.
"War taught kindness"
Confident and fast gait, painted lips - looking at Maria Neiman, it's hard to believe that she is 90 years old.
“In the morning for an interview, and in the evening I'll go to a cafe: every two weeks we meet there with the guys. We sit, share our impressions, 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 Maria often sees Tamar Dryfus. Those gathered rarely remember the war. But still, some stories were heard for the first and sometimes the only time 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 on whatever they could pull on and went to work. They worked hard until late at night. We cleaned the street, carried weights. We were often beaten. And usually for no particular reason, ”recalls Maria. 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.
“My sister and I managed to escape thanks to my mother. She told her father to hide in the cellar with the older children. Mom slammed the lid behind us and closed the door with a rug. Mom left the little ones with her upstairs - she was afraid that they might give us away by crying, and then everyone would die. In a moment the Germans entered the house and took away mother and our youngest children 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’m starting to talk about it, - and even now I have a frost on my body. These experiences do not leave me, they live in the very heart. Can't go anywhere. But you have to live and say thank you 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.
“Saying goodbye, the father said: believe in God and believe in people. I live by this covenant to this day. There was everything, but I always happened to meet people who helped me, it would seem, in a desperate situation. Not everyone can be trusted. But the heart has always correctly suggested to whom it is possible to open up ”.
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.
“It was difficult in the orphanage. We had one pair of wooden shoes. We were there with typhus, and everything else we did not get sick. 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 didn’t explode, ”recalls Maria.
After the war, Maria returned to Borisov, graduated from high school and entered the culinary college. One autumn day, she met Dmitry, a guy with whom they lived in the neighborhood before the start of the German occupation. A few months later, the young people got married. Dmitry died early - just a few years after the wedding. Maria did not want to look for love again. But the experience did not embitter her.
“The main lesson that I learned from the war and all the trials is about kindness. Kindness is there, and it is stronger than evil. I tried and I try to be kind, and it gives me strength. "
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