David P. Boder Interviews Henja Frydman; August 7, 1946; Paris, France

var english_translation = { interview: [ David Boder

August 7, 1946, Paris. On Rue de Patin, a home for adult displaced people. Interviewee is Miss Henja Frydman, 23 years old, tattoo number 46603 and a triangle. She has some kind of administrative position, as secretary in some office, in part an elective post. She was elected by the deportees themselves. She will tell us her story in German. [She subsequently changes to Yiddish.]

David Boder

[In German] Miss Frydman, tell us again your full name. How old are you, and where are you from, and so on?

Henja Frydman

My name is Frydman, Henja. I was born...in '24. My parents are Russian. I was arrested...

David Boder

[interrupting] Miss Frydman, what was the occupation of your parents? How many were there in your family?

Henja Frydman

We were a family of five people. Two brothers, I, and my parents.

David Boder

Oh: Were you...were your brother older or younger?

Henja Frydman

The brothers were older.

David Boder

So. And you were the youngest one?

Henja Frydman

I was the youngest one?

David Boder

Yes. And what was the occupation of your parents?

Henja Frydman

My father was a merchant.

David Boder

What was he selling?

Henja Frydman

Bonneterie.

David Boder

What?

Henja Frydman

That is in German--underwear.

David Boder

Yes, underwear.

Henja Frydman

Underwear.

David Boder

Did he have a store?

Henja Frydman

No, not a store. By way of his hands.

David Boder

Yes. From hand to hand. Now let us go on. You were in Pinsk.

Henja Frydman

I was born in Pinsk.

David Boder

But where were you when the Germans came to Poland?

Henja Frydman

Oh, no. I am already in France for fifteen years.

David Boder

Oh?

Henja Frydman

I came here as a child.

David Boder

Then your parents had moved from Pinsk to France.

Henja Frydman

From Pinsk they came...from Russia they came to Pinsk, from Pinsk to Poland; that was during the Russian revolution, in Russia.

David Boder

Yes, and then,--

Henja Frydman

And then they moved to France.

David Boder

Oh. How old were you when you came to France?

Henja Frydman

Seven years.

David Boder

You were a seven-year-old child.

Henja Frydman

Yes.

David Boder

And here your father also worked selling underwear?

Henja Frydman

Yes. Underwear and various other small things. Just like all other Jews started to make a living.

David Boder

Oh, then the Germans came while you were in France.

Henja Frydman

In France.

David Boder

Oh, Now, go on. Tell us.

Henja Frydman

They have come in the year, --'40. They occupied Paris.

David Boder

Yes.

Henja Frydman

And so about a year or six months passed, and my brother was arrested. He was then 26 years old.

David Boder

Why was he arrested?

Henja Frydman

He was riding to work on a bicycle, and on the way he sees a big raid. The French had erected a barricade, and people were being arrested. He was riding to work, and he noticed that it was not exactly safe. So he turned back to the house to tell my father and my younger brother that they should not leave the house.

David Boder

Where was your older brother? Oh yes, that was your older brother.

Henja Frydman

That was the older brother.

David Boder

Well, so what happened then?

Henja Frydman

While he was riding homeward, he was stopped. They requested his papers, and he was what they call in France a engagà volontaire, that is, he had enlisted in the army voluntarily when the war started. But that did not count. he was taken away to Drancy.

David Boder

Well, he was a volunteer in the war against the Germans.

Henja Frydman

Against the Germans.

David Boder

And then he was arrested by the French when the Germans were here?

Henja Frydman

When the Germans were here,

David Boder

yes. So that didn't count that he was--nothing counted.

Henja Frydman

They saw his name was Frydman, they saw that he was Jewish, and they did not look any further at his paper.

David Boder

At that time, it was already compulsory to wear the star of David?

Henja Frydman

No, at that time the star of David was not yet worn.

David Boder

So they sent him where to?

Henja Frydman

They sent him away to the first lager in Paris. Drancy.

David Boder

Drancy, Yes.

Henja Frydman

and [here a few words are incomprehensible; she apparently weeps.]

David Boder

And from there did you hear from him?

Henja Frydman

At the beginning we had no news from there. What was going on at home one can imagine. The mother [a long pause], she didn't know what to do. I went into the streets [one word not clear] to investigate what exactly was happening. I saw that they were taking all the men, the Jewish ones in the oldest district of Paris. That really was the second time [the second raid] because already a year ago they were taking people from Pithiviers. And then the life started in our home like in so many Jewish homes--one was already missing. In time we got word about happenings in Drancy. People yelled because they have no food. They have nothing to sleep on. It is dirty, and many people die from diarrhea and dysentery. The discipline in the lager was very strict. I shall not describe it.

David Boder

Why not? Tell us; we want to know all about it. Do not skip. These things you have heard from other people?

Henja Frydman

No. I did not hear it from other people. Because in a short time, in spite of the orders of the Germans and of the French, I managed to get into Drancy.

David Boder

Then let's wait with it a bit. First tell me again. Your brother was in Drancy, and then?

Henja Frydman

For three months we had no word from him.

David Boder

Could you send him food?

Henja Frydman

No. For the first three months it was prohibited to send food. There was just nothing we could do to help our own in the lager. We had to suffer through these months just as it was.

David Boder

Well, what happened then?

Henja Frydman

After three months they started writing. One post-card with a few words in which he said, I am in Drancy, I am well, and nothing more. They didn't have to write because we heard already what was going on in that lager from the inhabitants of Drancy [meaning in this case apparently the suburb of Drancy itself]. They themselves tried to help the people, because they could not stand the screams, "I am hungry, I am hungry." That they heard all day. For the first time in many years people experienced real starvation. They began to understand what German rule means, what it means to have the Germans in France, for the Jews. [A long pause] It is hard for me to describe these misfortunes.

David Boder

Why?

Henja Frydman

Because after this misfortune there came other catastropnes. And worse than the other.

David Boder

Well, you understand how important it is that these events be described. It is hard for you to talk. It is hard for me to listen but it has to be done. You understand. Go on as well as you can.

Henja Frydman

In three months a lot of people already started to die. The Germans gave an order that they pick out the young ones up to the age of twenty-five who were in a bad state.

David Boder

What does that mean?

Henja Frydman

In a bad condition.

Henja Frydman

Yes. Only those up to the age of twenty-five who are in a bad condition.

David Boder

Yes.

Henja Frydman

We started then to hope that our brother would get out. He was twenty-six years old. I went again to Drancy and saw the people who were released.

David Boder

Had you been to Drancy once before?

Henja Frydman

I was here already before. But I couldn't see him, because they were not permitted to show their faces. And we couldn't see them.

David Boder

Could you please describe the place of Drancy where they were kept?

Henja Frydman

I can describe this place very well, because--

David Boder

Oh, yes. Let us do it later. Because you were there.

Henja Frydman

I lived there for a year before Drancy became a lager.

David Boder

Oh.

Henja Frydman

I lived there when they started building.

David Boder

When they started building?

Henja Frydman

Yes. Since in America there are tall buildings, they started here to build such a building, which was intended for the gendarmerie.

David Boder

Yes.

Henja Frydman

And as a child I was going to play there, and a few years afterwards I was going to see my brother there. The buildings were ready, though the people who lived in these buildings didn't know for what purpose and for whom they would be used.

David Boder

Then the building was built a long time before?

Henja Frydman

A long time before. A number of years.

David Boder

Yes. It was not built by prisoners.

Henja Frydman

No, no. They looked very nice, like buildings for large families, or for soldiers or for police who had an armory.

David Boder

So when you came to Drancy--

Henja Frydman

When I came to Drancy, I was very much--it is hard for me to tell it in Yiddish--surprised.

David Boder

You were very much surprised. [Footnote: She stated at the beginning that she would speak German. Her German was rather ungrammatical but fluent. During the interview she does not call her dialect German but Yiddish. Here we have the peculiar language pattern so frequently found among the DPs. First Yiddish-Russian, then French, then German, then French again. The consequences for mental health and personality adjustment of such forced changes of linguistic behavior, most frequently under duress, with but little or no scholastic aid, have hardly been explored.]

Henja Frydman

I was very much surprised. Here the houses are ready, and instead of people living in them they were occupied by Jewish prisoners.

David Boder

Now then, after three months, why was not your brother released?

Henja Frydman

He was not released because he looked too well, and because he was one year older. The number of the released was very small. I was waiting all day, and before my eyes there came out corpses, just corpses. I was sixteen years old, and for the first time before my eyes marched dead people. I have never before in my life seen a corpse.

David Boder

Men and women?

Henja Frydman

Just men, only men. They were only men.

David Boder

Yes.

Henja Frydman

They were unable to walk, their eyes looked wild, they were unable to talk. The same picture we have seen from the lager Auschwitz or other various lagers. None humans. It was grotesque. Two legs, two hands they had, but no face of a normal person. The families came and those who were able to recognize their own--because not always could they be recognized--only a few recognized them, and they took them home and their joy was great. And the mourning of those whose own remained in the lager was also very great.

David Boder

What happened to them?

Henja Frydman

A large number died at home, because if a mother got back her child, he was given his ration, and he being very hungry threw himself at the food, and they would get sick, and they would not adjust to the change.

David Boder

The change? [Interviewer translates thus what is really a neologism which she made up for the word change.]

Henja Frydman

The change of the food--of the food and also of life. And so the time passed, and the people who remained in Drancy remained there. Conditions improved there a little bit. We were allowed to send packages to the lager, and it is superfluous to say that everyone, the families who didn't have enough for themselves, sent whatever they could to their own in the lager. People started to get letters. Not in the legal way. In an illegal way. And my brother wrote that we should not worry about him. Nothing would happen.

David Boder

What do you mean, 'nothing would happen'?

Henja Frydman

Nothing would happen, he would come through, that the Germans would go away. He wanted to give hope to the family. But he was intelligent enough not to expect anything. People talked already about deportations. To be shipped away, one did not know where. And it was. All at once we got a letter. [A long pause--here apparently she weeps. Her silent weeping now goes over into sobs.] And my brother was being deported. [A long pause. Again Miss Frydman continues in tears.] The mourning at home was great.

David Boder

They knew in advance that they were being deported?

Henja Frydman

It was known that they were being deported.

David Boder

Yes.

Henja Frydman

It was told that they are going to lagers to work. But our instinct told us that it is not for work, because we already had seen what they made of people still infants near to Paris, that humans were made into no-humans. Deported. And there was no more word from him.

David Boder

Where was he deported? Do you know?

Henja Frydman

We didn't know where he was deported.

David Boder

Was it found out later?

Henja Frydman

Afterwards, when I was deported to Auschwitz, I asked and around everywhere among the men. Possibly somebody knew, but nobody had seen him. [Her speech here is still interrupted by repeated blowing of her nose.] Why he wasn't seen I know; because my brother had died of typhus, right at the beginning.

David Boder

Who informed you about that?

Henja Frydman

One of our acquaintances who has now returned. He had seen him in the lager Auschwitz in 1942, that my brother fell, that he got sick with typhus, and died immediately afterwards. In 1942 it was impossible to overcome an illness in Auschwitz because there was no hospital; there was no nothing. There were only Germans, just to kill the people, not to let them live. Only by miracle some people survived, from the year 1942, because in 1942 Auschwitz was not a work lager, but Auschwitz was--and it was written so on a sign--an extermination lager.

David Boder

Where was it written?

Henja Frydman

[Somewhat resentful] It was written--and one could understand the meaning of Dante. [Interviewer appeared somewhat surprised, because she gave the French pronunciation of the name, which at the moment he failed to understand, and by way of explanation she gave the name in Italian.]

David Boder

Oh, yes.

Henja Frydman

'He who enters here does not come out anymore.' And so it was. People entered but did not come out. Oh, yes, they came out through the chimneys. There are various ways to get out, and through these ways [the chimneys] the Jews came out.

David Boder

The chimneys--that were--

Henja Frydman

The crematories.

David Boder

The chimneys.

Henja Frydman

Yes, the chimneys.

David Boder

And you were still at home?

Henja Frydman

And we still were at home. The time passed. Life is strong. We remained with hope, with little hope. And we lived on. I studied.

David Boder

Where did you study?

Henja Frydman

In the "faculty" of Paris.

David Boder

What did you study, Henja?

Henja Frydman

For teacher. To become [a teacher] of foreign languages.

David Boder

What language did you study?

Henja Frydman

English, English! I can't speak [it] anymore, because I have forgotten it in the lager, almost everything I have learned. It comes back in trickles. But with great difficulty. My father worked, my younger brother also worked.

David Boder

What did your father work in?

Henja Frydman

There wasn't much to do, but he peddled, the same as before, from hand to hand. We had enough to live on, to live very simply. But in those times that was already unimportant. What was important was to manage to survive the Germans, and to be--to take care that the family should not be struck again.

David Boder

And so?

Henja Frydman

And so the time passed, and one day we got word that the Germans were preparing a torch raid on the Jews, especially against young girls and young boys. From eighteen to twenty--twenty-three--twenty-five years of age. We found it out from a French policeman. We should not remain at home. Informed that only the young would be taken, my parents said that I should hide with a French girl friend with whom I went to school. And so I did, and my brother was also to go away to one of his friends. And so--that was--I really can't tell you exactly when.

David Boder

The dates are unimportant. Just tell what happened. The historical facts are taken care of in another manner.

Henja Frydman

My friend received me very well. The night--this I am unable to describe. My parents remained at home. And I did not believe that they would take only the young. My suspicions were correct. At night they came to our home, as to all Jewish homes, to take my father and my mother. Right the next morning when I heard the news that in all Paris they had taken the Jews, I immediately took a bus and went home to ask the neighbors, the people who lived around, what has happened to my parents. Nobody was able to tell. From house to house, from acquaintance to acquaintance. I found out that the police had come at night, and they said that they were going up to the second floor to another Jewish tenant, and so my father and mother and brother got out of the house and disappeared in the night. They got away and came to acquaintances who were French, Jewish-French; and there they hid because in those times they did not take yet French Jews. I found out about it, and I came to them. And the scene at the moment shall also not be described. One can't imagine it. A child that has thought that her parents were already in the hands of the Germans, and she sees that they are not yet fallen into their hands. Three months my parents were hiding with those Jews and lived in terror. They could not leave the house. Neither could they work.

David Boder

And where were you?

Henja Frydman

I was hiding with the French. I would come three times a week to see my parents. I managed by that time to get French papers as an Aryan, not as a Jewess.

David Boder

And your brother?

Henja Frydman

My brother was with my parents. He remained together with them. I started working with the French Resistance, with the youth. And they fixed the papers for me. My parents did not know about it. I did not want to tell them, so that they should not have to worry about me.

David Boder

Tell me a bit. How was the Resistance formed?

Henja Frydman

The Resistance was formed through small groups of young people, who belonged to various clubs. Sport clubs managed to get together. At school they also had talks among themselves. In my group we made a Jewish section, because Jews had other methods of action. They could not move around freely, and at first could not do the same things as the others, because to supply them with false identification papers was not a matter of one day. So it was a section of the Resistance. It wasn't the business of one day to manage the papers. So we had to find a place to live till the false papers were arranged, and that was not easy. In a few months, in three months, we started working with the French cells. Just like the French. A number of us became French Partisans. Partisans you have heard about. Many of us worked in propaganda. Others of us worked in solidarity units, that is, to help the mothers who had remained with children. And many of us were arrested in a short time but that could not scare us; we went on with our work. It is understood that in spite of the fact that we were in the Resistance, we had different viewpoints. The groups originated not only in sport groups, but also there were various political groups. I belonged to the Communist youth.

David Boder

Since when did you belong to the Communist youth? Did you belong to the Communist youth before or only when you started to work with the Resistance?

Henja Frydman

I belonged to it already before. And then with my Communist friends I found a contact with the Resistance.

David Boder

How old were you then?

Henja Frydman

I was eighteen years old.

David Boder

Well?

Henja Frydman

To describe further the Resistance. It was that which the papers wrote so much after liberation. Many fell, and many were imprisoned.

David Boder

What did you do personally in the Resistance?

Henja Frydman

I was connected with the solidarity group, because as a young child my character was developed towards service to others. Also as a propagandist; that meant to supply the population with tracts. [Apparently leaflets]

David Boder

Written?

Henja Frydman

Typed on the typewriter. I was working at night, at home on the typewriter, making the leaflets for distribution, or getting those tracts.

David Boder

What are those tracts? Papers?

Henja Frydman

Papers on which propaganda was written. And we spoke to the French people, that they should not be influenced by the collaborationists and they should not trust a German.

David Boder

Well, how long?

Henja Frydman

I worked a year and lived in a room high up and visited my parents three times a week. They didn't know anything about it.

David Boder

What do you mean by that?

Henja Frydman

I would come to visit my parents three times a week, to see what was going on. In time they returned to our home. And my younger brother worked in a fur coat factory. When my father told me to return home because my brother was working, I got very much excited. To work in a fur factory! But for whom? The Germans. One fur coat, two fur coats, said my father. You cannot fight the German, and with it [apparently "making coats"] you won't help the Germans.

David Boder

[In English]This is the end of the spool 29 by Miss Frydman . We shall continue on spool 30. Paris, August 7 1946. 9 Rue de Patin, in a home for adult displaced jewish person.

David Boder

[In English] This is spool 30. August 7 1946. 9 rue de Patin in Paris, a home for adult jewish displaced people. This is a continuation of the report of Miss Henya Frydman, age 23.

David Boder

[In Yiddish] And so your father told you to go to work. Go on.

Henja Frydman

I should stay home and stay with them, because he did not want us to be separated. But I didn't grant his wish. [pause]

David Boder

Why?

Henja Frydman

Why? First I belonged to the Resistance, and the Resistance did not permit one to work for the Germans, only against the Germans.

David Boder

Only against the Germans.

Henja Frydman

Only against the Germans. And secondly, a Jew in general should not move for the Germans even a finger because that was his greatest enemy in the world. He had a task to destroy them. Not for them, but against them, he had to take his position. That is what I told my father. My parents were already old, about fifty-six, and of course they could not share my views. They feared for their daughter and they thought that if she would live with them she would be at home and could be protected by a [work] certificate. She would be able to leave the terrible conditions, so to speak, in which we all found ourselves. I couldn't say that my father worked for the Germans. No. He did not work for them. Through his connections he got a certificate. My brother was working, like many young people, in a factory which previously was a factory of fur jackets. But the difference was that [now] the fur jackets were going to Germany, whether we cared to know or not. That was the situation. I did not return home and so I got torn away from my parents. In the nine months, the time I was separated from my parents, I was only coming to see them from time to time, because it was impossible to visit them often. The police on the streets were very strict. They questioned one for his papers.

David Boder

But you had Aryan papers.

Henja Frydman

Aryan papers, but they could see very readily that my papers were not in order. I had no occupational papers. I had no identification of nationality. They were just simply cards. Only to give the person who possessed such a card the belief that this would proyect him. But it would not. One was taking a risk. One day I went for a meeting with comrades of my party and of the Resistance.

David Boder

Were you still with the Jewish section?

Henja Frydman

Together. Now it was already mixed. In time we found ways, with some mishaps along the way. Such things happened. But we started working together. Once I come to a meeting and I don't find anybody. I go from friend to friend and nobody can be found. I find out that they have arrested a number of my friends who worked with me. And I am given to understand that I can't remain anymore where I have been living.

David Boder

Who gave you to understand that?

Henja Frydman

A responsible--

David Boder

Person?

Henja Frydman

Person. The problem was about my parents. I was told to leave Paris. I did not want to leave Paris, because my parents would have got scared, and so I remained in Paris. I hid with a French friend who did not work in the Resistance. He knew what I was, who I was, and he hid me for eight days. But I couldn't live in this fashion for long. All my things were in my room. And I went back to my place. No good things were waiting for me. But the instinct drove me, and I went ahead. Before going up to my room, I asked the concierge--what they call them in France, which means---

David Boder

Yes?

Henja Frydman

The one who watches.

David Boder

The janitress?

Henja Frydman

The janitress. Yes. 'Nobody was here to see me?' She says, 'No.' 'Are there any letters for me?' She says, 'No.' She did not know who I was. She did not know that I was Jewish.

David Boder

Was that the janitress?--where your parents lived?

Henja Frydman

No, no, no. That was where I was hiding as an Aryan.

David Boder

Oh, yes.

Henja Frydman

Yes. And I go up to my room. When I put the key to open the door there stand before me three French inspectors, from the special brigade. The special police against the political--one can say a second bureau that was composed not of people who guard the country.

David Boder

The interests of the country?

Henja Frydman

The interests of the country, but in the interests of the Germans. These were Frenchmen. Three revolvers appeared before my eyes. I began to laugh. I laughed from nervousness. I also laughed because I was eighteen years old, young, unarmed, and I see three frightened Frenchmen inspectors, who immediately sat me down on a chair and started searching my things. The condition in which I found my room cannot be described. Everything--from my luggage, my books, my notebooks in which I had been writing--everything was thrown around when they searched. They tried to find tracts or books. They found nothing in my place, because I had enough prudence--

David Boder

Caution?

Henja Frydman

Caution. Not to keep in my room incriminating material. My last name, my Jewish last name, was not disclosed. My French name was Feran, Evelyn. But they discovered immediately my real name, and said--

David Boder

Oh. How did they discover it?

Henja Frydman

They discovered it through the police. They investigated my biography, which was found with one of the responsible comrades who was arrested.

David Boder

Oh, they found it with him?

Henja Frydman

They found it with him. It was well hidden in his place, but they still found it, and in spite of the fact that the biography was written in a secret code, the still found out my real name, my address. In my biography it was stated that my parents did not know that I am working in the party, and when they started asking me where were my parents, I told them, 'I don't know; I haven't seen my parents for already two years.' They asked me what I was living from, what my occupation was, and one of them held his hand raised, so in case I did not answer, he would strike me. I continued laughing. They asked me why I laughed. So I told them, 'I am laughing at you. At your three revolvers that are pointed at me. I have nothing.' They told me to get my things ready, to come with them to the station. Then came up the man in charge of the inspectors, and he immediately started questioning me, one question after the other, believing that he would get out from me immediately the truth. 'What do you live from,' he asked me, 'Sure you are not a smart girl? 'You may think what you wish.'

David Boder

What does smart girl mean?

Henja Frydman

I live from what men give me--money to live on.

David Boder

Oh.

Henja Frydman

I could not tell him that I lived from money that my parents were giving me because I did not want to talk about my parents. I knew that one word about my parents, and they would be taken also. Where from do I have the papers? A whole story came to my imagination, and I spun a yarn, a very foolish yarn. One did not need, for them, a very smart yarn. I asked the inspectors permission--excuse me, but I have to recollect the events. But I want to show you how far the French inspectors were already educated--one really can't say even educated, because they had not time to get educated. They were already corrupt. I asked his permission to go to the toilet. So one of the inspectors led me all the way to the toilet, and he did not close the door. He followed me every step and spoke ugly words. For the first time in my life my feminine dignity was attacked. I could not imagine that there are in the world such men. They took me to the station. I took with me the things I could carry--my winter clothes, because I understood that I was to be deported, too. From the station I was taken to the bureau, and there were hundreds of inspectors. One after another, they interrogated me.

David Boder

They questioned you?

Henja Frydman

Questioned me. I answered irrelevant things. They asked me who got me into the political Resistance. I didn't tell them who. What are my ideas? My answers were, if they were going to arrest people, they should be able to find out what kind of convictions those people have.

David Boder

Weren't you afraid to give such answers?

Henja Frydman

I was not afraid, because I knew whether I talked or didn't they would beat me anyway, but by accident or by luck they did not beat me. And why? For two days, day and night, they were beating my comrades who were arrested before me. I was among the last. They were already tired. They had nothing to find out, because they knew. And so they left me alone. I slept alone in a room in the secret division, as they called it, with six policemen in the room, on the table with no blanket, no nothing, no food, although I had no desire to eat. Through an inspector, who was--I felt that he was not an enemy, I sent a letter to my parents. There again my instinct was sound. He came to my parents and gave them the letter. And in the letter I wrote to my parents that [I said] I hadn't seen them for two years in case the police came to question them, they should find out that we hadn't seen each other for a long time. And so it was.

David Boder

And how long had you not seen your parents?

Henja Frydman

One week's time--one weeks time. But nobody knew about it. Only my parents had seen me. The neighbors didn't even know that I was in Paris. They thought that the daughter of Aaron Frydman, my parents, had abandoned her parents and had gone away. From the prefecture I went to the French depot, where I met my political friends from the Resistance. We started to compare notes.

David Boder

Also Jewish girls.

Henja Frydman

Also Jewish. Only Jewish girls. We were sixty Jewish women in that depot. And sixty Jewish women. I emphasize sixty Jewish women, sixty Jewish girls, because it is being said that the Jews were hiding and that the Jews did nothing.

David Boder

Who says that?

Henja Frydman

The French. The anti-Semites. And it is being said everywhere. What good a Jew does is not being acknowledged. What he does wrong there is a whole world to yell about it, and to describe it. They didn't talk about the sixty girls, sixty Jewish girls arrested here in prison. They didn't tell about the women who were beaten naked, and who were starved. They didn't talk about them. Women, mothers of children, worked in the Resistance. Women from the Communist party, indeed in large numbers, Communist or not, they worked against the Germans. And that is what counts. The faces were unrecognizable, from the beatings of the Germans. The sick around us, they were all locked up. We spent three weeks in the depot. I received one package from my family, a package made by my mother. I wept bitterly. Feeling the sufferings of my parents. I thought that I had fulfilled my task as a youth, and as a Jewish daughter. From the depot we were sent away--the whole Jewish group. They didn't make a political issue of us. They did not make of our case a question of the Resistance. They made of our case a Jewish question. And for Jews there was one place, Drancy, and from Drancy--deportation. I came to the same lager where my brother was. I even met some men who had lived together with my brother.

David Boder

But he wasn't there anymore?

Henja Frydman

He wasn't there anymore, because by that time he was already in Auschwitz, I believe. We spent three months in Drancy. During these three months there was no talk about deportation. Before, by the hundreds, people--men, women, and children--were already deported from this lager. And we were waiting. We knew our turn would come.

David Boder

Will you please describe the lager now?

Henja Frydman

Drancy was an armory for men and women. By the time I came to Drancy, there were already separate barracks for men and separate barracks for women. Separate barracks for foreign [Jews] and separate barracks for French Jews. There were also special departments for Aryans. Everything was very nicely classified, so that at the time of deportation they would pick out the ones they needed. Life had improved in Drancy.

David Boder

What were people doing there all day?

Henja Frydman

All day people were doing nothing. In the morning they would take men and women to straighten up the rooms, to cook and to peel potatoes. Everything we got was rotten. We did not get anything fresh.

David Boder

Did they peel the potatoes before cooking, or after the cooking?

Henja Frydman

The potatoes were peeled before cooking. The food was no good, but we received packages from home. That was permitted, a package a week. Many did not receive packages, because there were no more families at home. And we shared with those who had no packages. As to food, conditions were good. What does it mean, good? It wasn't like at home, but we didn't starve. And in comparison with the depot and the prefecture, Drancy appeared not too bad. Personally, my group, with my group we did not let time pass doing nothing, so that we should not become demoralized, because that was the intent of the Germans. We read, and we studied, we had among us teachers, and they arranged courses. The day passed quickly.

David Boder

Could you get together with the men, or were all the women all by themselves?

Henja Frydman

We could get together with them. Up until nine o'clock in the evening, one could get together with them. There were many strict rules, but for us it wasn't so hard. Some have managed to get out from the dungeons of the French Gestapo, the German Gestapo, so here it appeared like a boarding house.

David Boder

Would they allow you to get together, to talk, to sing?

Henja Frydman

Yes. We could get together. We would sing. We even danced. They day passed quickly, and the three months, that is the time that I was in Drancy, passed quickly. Through the wires we looked at freedom, and freedom was within ten meters from us. We were thinking about liberty, about home, about the family, who no doubt were deeply longing for us. From day to day, and all at once the lager is blocked, and the lager commandant, the German--his name is known, because he was arrested--came to the lager.

David Boder

What was his name?

Henja Frydman

His name is--[a pause]--I can't recall. He is famous, the lager commander of Drancy.

David Boder

Yes. Was he arrested?

Henja Frydman

Brenner! Brenner is his name. He was arrested after liberation. He was seen, and he was arrested.

David Boder

What did they do to him?

Henja Frydman

He was tried--in a court. In--Nurnberg. I think he was also there.

David Boder

Yes?

Henja Frydman

[Somewhat hesitantly, as if she were not sure] He was given the death penalty.

David Boder

Was the sentence carried out? Was he executed?

Henja Frydman

[Excitedly] Yes, he was executed. There was, of course, a reason to execute him. He has sent enough people to their death. And his trial has taken too much time, just like all other trials. He was executed. [Footnote: One cannot help observing that the first half of the story of Brenner was told in a rather hesitant and phlegmatic way. One cannot really be sure whether she is informed of the facts or not. Or is it, as in so many cases of DPs, that she really does not want to talk about the Germans and whatever happened to them? Only in the second part, when she begins, 'and there was a reason for' she becomes animated and persuasive.] [After a pause] He came, and they prepared lists. Each one was questioned. They did not say for what purpose. They were very insistent in asking whether we still had families in France, and where these families were, but we were not so foolish as to tell about our families. He simply said, 'Where is your family, so that we can send you away together.'

David Boder

But you were getting packages. Wasn't it known that they came from your family?

Henja Frydman

They knew, but frequently the packages would not come with the address of the family. I didn't tell them where my family lived. And three days passed, three days of blockade, very strictly; one couldn't say a word in the lager. The police watched us strictly. We didn't sleep nights anymore, because we knew something was going to happen. There was no deportation for a long time, but the moment had come also for us, and so it was. At two o'clock in the morning they came into our rooms. They called out our names and told us to get ready for deportation.

David Boder

[Words did not appear in original text.]

Henja Frydman

In the year '43 in the month of April. Oh, no, it was the twenty-third of June. I remember that date very well. One post card to write to the family. Our sadness was very great, not because we were afraid to be deported. Even Drancy was near Paris, nearer to the family. In spite of that, we didn't see them. But we lived in proximity. And to be deported--possible it was a separation forever. We knew it. We were placed in special blocks--those who were assigned to be deported, and I was among them. And my whole group. That day our friends from Twines [??] arrived, very emaciated.

David Boder

Where is Twines?

Henja Frydman

A prison.

David Boder

Yes.

Henja Frydman

From Sante Romainville, and they came from there.

David Boder

All girls, too?

Henja Frydman

Boys and girls, assigned to be deported, to be sent away. [A pause] Each of us wrote a postcard home. I personally wrote to my parents that I am departing, where I am going I don't know, but I hope to be back to see them. I wrote to them that they should not remain in Paris, because the German has a program. He will not be satisfied with a few Jews. I told them that I would try to understand the events, that I should try to escape from the transport.

David Boder

Run away?

Henja Frydman

To run away. And if I should succeed, they should not remain at home, because they would come to them, and they would be taken in my place if they should be found. My writing was without success. My parents received the postcard, but they thought that my youth gave me ideas. In the train we were locked up, seventy to a car, in a cattle car.

David Boder

What was it, and open car?

Henja Frydman

No, entirely closed. Women, men, and children together. The windows were shut. All the food we had was just what they gave us before embarking and what packages we had.

David Boder

[In English] This concludes Spool 30 of Ms. Henja Frydman, the second spool of the interview, and we are going over to the third. This is an Illinois Institute of Technology recording on the wire recorder, done on August 7, 1946....August 7, 1946, 9 Rue de Patin in Paris.

David Boder

This is Spool 9-9-31. The additional 9 indicates that the reproduction was done... made not from the original but from a satisfactory reproduction. The orginal was slightly damaged after the reproduction was made. There is some irrelevant material on this spool, a part apparently picked up before the interview was annouced, a kind of a chit-chat between the interviewer and the interviewee. October 22nd, 1950. Boder.

Henja Frydman

One thing I wanted: to write. I wanted to describe all this. But I tore up everything I had written. When I would think back to the life in the lager, it was hard for me to write my own biography. [The above words were apparently said while the new spool of wire was being adjusted, and were recorded inadvertently. We continue with what follows.]

David Boder

[In English] This is Spool 31, a continuation of spool 29 and 30 of Henya Frydman. We are now at the moment where the deportees were put into trains for deportation from Drancy to Germany.

David Boder

[In Yiddish] And now?

Henja Frydman

Three days we traveled by rail. Three frightful days. No air, no toilet.

David Boder

So what would you do about the toilet?

Henja Frydman

They gave us a bucket, and there among men, women, and children, everyone had--

David Boder

To take care of himself.

Henja Frydman

To take care of himself. The air--that I don't need to describe. One was badly nauseated from the food that we had. The meat we got in the lager Drancy before leaving was very bad, and we wanted to drink. Drink! There wasn't anything. From time to time the train would stop, and we could send out one bucket of the two that we had for a toilet to get some water, and we drank water. And from the water there started a terrible diarrhea.

David Boder

Diarrhea?

Henja Frydman

Diarrhea. And you can imagine that it was just impossible to stand it in the car. Women fainted. No medicines, no doctor, no nothing. People got sick. And in other cars during these three days people went insane and also were dying. We tried to make a plan of escape.

David Boder

To run away?

Henja Frydman

To run away. Unfortunately, the greater part of my comrades were some with their mothers, some with their sisters.

David Boder

In the train?

Henja Frydman

In the train. Because they gathered the families together with other comrades when they went down with the Resistance, their whole family was arrested, and they were deported in families. And so one didn't want to abandon the mother, another didn't want to abandon the sister, another had a child. And the three days passed, and we remained in the car. And so we arrived at Oświęcim.

David Boder

Oświęcim? That is--?

Henja Frydman

Oświęcim is in Polish and Auschwitz in French. The first thing we saw were very emaciated men, in bathing suits. And we were thinking, 'What could these be? Maybe we are out of our minds?' We could not imagine that these were our own Jews. We didn't recognize them. They were marching five abreast, and looked at us with horror in their eyes, and we also could not understand why their faces were so full of terror when they saw us. I have to mention that in our transport there were a lot of children, and I also forgot to tell you that when we departed for Drancy we were singing.

David Boder

From Drancy?

Henja Frydman

From Drancy. The French Marseillaise, a revolutionary song. We were screaming, we were yelling that they shouldn't let them deport us. And the police threw themselves on us and even wanted to fight with us.

David Boder

Do you remember any of these songs?

Henja Frydman

The Marseillaise?

David Boder

No; some other? Some of the Resistance, revolutionary songs? Can you remember any? [There is a silence. Apparently she shook her head.]

Henja Frydman

May be just the words.

David Boder

Yes just in a low sing a few--just in a light voice, but give the words clearly.

Henja Frydman

I shall try. [She sings one verse, of eight lines in French, to the tune of the so-called Wrshavjanka, a melody which was sung by the Revolutionaries in Russia. Whether the words are new or the same has yet to be established. They sound very much the same.] Now I will sing a song that I composed myself with a friend in Twize [??] when I was imprisoned there. It is a Russian melody. [She sings two stanzas. The melody which she claims is Russian really consists of two songs. The first is a Russian song which starts with the words, "In vain you, boy, are coming," but the second half appears not to be in Russian. The words will be given in the appendix.]

David Boder

And so you arrived.

Henja Frydman

At Auschwitz.

David Boder

Yes. [She nervously blows her nose.]

Henja Frydman

Now begins the long chapter of two years imprisonment in Auschwitz. It will not be easy for me, indeed, as all of us say when we are asked to tell. To tell! That is the hardest thing for us. Why? Because there are no words. No way of expressing it, that can describe what happened from the day when we disembarked from the train in the lager Auschwitz until the day of our liberation. The liberation of a few hundred deportees from Auschwitz. I was almost two years in the lager. I was fortunate enough not to be evacuated like the others on the roads, where so many have died, after two years of life in the lager. We were lined up five abreast, men on the one side, women on the other side. German officers, with a stick in hand, with savage outcries which were for us still new, started dividing us up, one to the right, one to the left, whichever way it would occur to them. 'Leave your bundles here; you will return presently. We will just count you up.' We left our packages, women were separated from men, sisters from brothers, women to one side, and the men away to the other side. They then started what was called a selection. They asked us who were tired, and they told these to step into the trucks which were waiting. They also told us that the old people shouldn't exert themselves by walking on foot, and that they should mount the trucks and they would be driven to the lager, and the young ones should walk. [The next sentence is not clear.] Out of a transport of fifteen hundred people, men, women, and children--a large number were children--we came into the lager two hundred and fifty French girls and women, and the rest climbed into the trucks, the rest of the women and the older men, also the sick, and they told us the trucks go to a second lager. The men were handled the same way as we were when we started our march to the lager. Now we enter. German soldiers lead us. We assemble on a large square--empty, not a tree grows, not a living human being outside--only Germans. And yelling, 'Fast!' and 'Move on!' The words that we already knew well. We looked at each other--to speak was prohibited--and we see that we are already trapped good. When one enters the lager at the gates, there are flowers, beautiful flowers indeed. And the windows are adorned with very beautiful curtains, and you know what these curtains were--Thalsisin [prayer shawls]--Jewish prayer shawls for curtains. I stared at it--my father used to pray every day--and I was thinking, 'How is it that we see a Thaleis, a Jewish Thaleis on these windows--hung up there?' And that meant a lot. The hanging of the prayer shawls meant a lot. We were moved into a barracks, we were locked up for all night with no food, no drink. We didn't have anymore our things. They called in girls from the lager, Slovakian girls, Jewish, and they started first of all to take off our "fingers" the golden things that one had, watches, engagement rings--all that was taken off.

David Boder

Were you permitted to have that in Drancy?

Henja Frydman

It was not permitted in Drancy, but many women and people had hidden these things, and there was no very strict control. Why wasn't it very strict? Because they knew that in Oświęcim they would be taken away. And immediately they started to tattoo us. That means to write the number on our hands. Many fainted. I personally revived three of my acquaintances. With a pen they wrote the numbers on our hands with a special ink--the number which I still have today, first, because it won't come off, and second, because I don't want to remove it. The number was written on, and hungry, in dirt and in the cold--in spite of the fact that it was in the month of June, it is very cold in upper Silesia--we lay down to sleep on the ground. One German woman was with us in the barracks, and she said that we would have to manage this night, and tomorrow we would go into our barracks. That night, the first night, we couldn't sleep, couldn't believe it was we who lived that way. Lying on the floor, we were frightfully tired. One of our friends were insane and was yelling, because things made a terrible impression on her. She was in panic.

David Boder

What did she yell?

Henja Frydman

She was yelling--I don't remember exactly. All I know is she went insane from the transport. She went insane because she left in France a child. From fright, we were lying one over the other like animals. Stepping one on the other. We finally lived to see the dawn, the day of Auschwitz. That is, the day begins at 4:00. A husky German women from those--with a black triangle, which we learned afterwards meant a German prostitute, started pushing us around, and led us to what was called a shower bath. That is, where people went to bathe. On the way to the "zaune" [shower-bath] we had to stand in the lager, on the lager street they called it, and it was the hour when the men assembled to go to work. And we hear music. A march of death--exactly a march of death. We see how men are beaten, and people scream, and men fall, --one cannot call them men. They had no more the appearance of men. Frightfully thin, dressed in rags, faces full of panic, in tatters, marching five abreast, and singing because they were ordered to sing.

David Boder

What were they singing?

Henja Frydman

German songs. German songs, German marches, that the Germans have taught them in the lager. And so we had the first contact with Auschwitz. With clubs and with yells we were told to take off all we had on. Naked men worked in the zaune, prisoners, and in front of the German men and women undressed, naked, and left their things. From above a man and two or three of them looked at us; our eyes were fixed on the earth, and we could not believe what was happening. First of all, we were taken to the shearing room. Again Slovakian girls--why Slovakians? Because they were the first prisoners in the lager -those were girls about twenty years of age, those who managed to survive the year of torment. Then in the year '43. They started talking to us, and we asked them, the first question, where did the truck go on which our parents went off and our other friends.

David Boder

Your parents weren't there?

Henja Frydman

My parents weren't there, but the parents of the others. And they said, 'The trucks? Do you see, girls, buildings there yonder which look so normal. Girls, they are the crematories!' 'Crematories? What does it mean--crematories?' 'Don't you know? There is where all the people went, on the trucks!' We remained standing. We thought she was out of her mind. But from one after another we heard the same story. All who climbed into the trucks are in the crematories. An hour later they showed us a fire which rose from the chimneys. Those are the bodies which burned, they gave us to understand. These old prisoners. And that we could see. We saw it burning, burning intensely. We felt the smell of skin, living skin. We are in the "zaune," in the shearing room. They shear off our hair. As they do it to me, completely. A clipper went over our heads. All the hair from the head. We look at each other. The fright. People are beaten. Hair is being shorn. People scream. The language we don't understand.

David Boder

Who was beating you?

Henja Frydman

The Germans. One couldn't move without getting a blow. Our hair fell to the ground. We looked at each other. One doesn't recognize faces. I failed to recognize my best friend, and I began to laugh, to laugh terribly, a hysterical laughter. The Slovakian girl who is shearing my hair looks at me. What am I laughing about? I laugh because I can't believe. I laugh because it appears to me that I am not alive, that I am dreaming, that this is a nightmare, that this is not true. And that is only the first day. The hair off--under the shower. A cold, horrible shower. No soap. That coarse German woman, that prostitute, stands and yells, and if one doesn't wash herself fast enough, a blow with a stick. The shower is over. After the shower to dress. We are given trousers. Man's trousers and men's shirts. Worn, dirty. We are also given men's underclothes. There were girls who were menstruating. They did not pay attention to it. Under the cold shower, they were given no things, and so they remained. There is no need to describe how they look. Dressed in rags, and tatters, and these were clothes of Russian prisoners. We even found buttons on these clothes with the hammer and sickle. A kerchief to hide the hair that was absent, and we go to the bureau. The Germans register us. Register our identity, the name, the family name, occupation and nationality, and so on. From there--

David Boder

What nationality did you give?

Henja Frydman

I gave the French nationality.

David Boder

Did you tell them you were Jewish?

Henja Frydman

Jewish?

David Boder

Yes.

Henja Frydman

They knew that we were Jews. From the bureau again with blows we were led into a block. In the block we met old prisoners, girls. When we come, they ask us what is going on in the country. They told us about the lager. They wondered that we don't know anything, but in 1943 the world doesn't know about the lager of Oświęcim. The world doesn't know that in the year 1942 and 1943 they were burning in Auschwitz thousands and millions of Jews. People don't want to believe. In the barracks it is already five o'clock. The first thing is the Appell--the Appell or roll-call. We all go outside.

David Boder

Did you get shoes?

Henja Frydman

Shoes yes.

David Boder

Stockings?

Henja Frydman

Stockings? No. Large shoes in which one could not walk. In the block there was a block trusty, with servants, and all these were prisoners. The block trusty--

David Boder

A Jewess?

Henja Frydman

A Jewess. The large number of them were Slovakians

David Boder

But Jewish ones?

Henja Frydman

Jewish ones, who cannot be complimented very much, because often they were as bad as the Germans. It is a pity, but it is just so. But this is already another chapter. This 'count Appell' lasted exactly three hours. For three hours we were standing and waiting for them to come and count us up. Hungry we were, cold we were, frightened we were, because we saw where we were. To describe exactly what was going on in the lager, I can't. I am telling the truth. I can't. There I saw around me corpses. Girls with tortured faces. Constantly screaming. I did not believe then that I would ever live among people again. I thought that I had fallen into a different world. Completely different world. In my disordered thoughts, I reasoned, maybe, there is more than one world, a world where one lives normally, but that possibly there is also another world, where life is entirely different, and in such a life people also do live. I thought so then because I believed that one could not stand it, that one could not live through Auschwitz. But I had to live through, I must live through to be able to come back and tell to the world what I have seen. I have returned, but to tell it is not so easy. Mornings we were going to work. I will give you now an account of the work. I will tell you what kind of work we did. We got up at four o'clock in the morning. It was dark and cold. At night we couldn't sleep, because we slept eight or ten people on one bed that was four meters wide and four meters long. I don't speak about the food, because we were getting a little piece of black bread of about 200 grams [half a pound] for the whole day. Lice, vermin, as they say in French--were crawling over us as if we were prisoners already a long, long, time. By the hundreds; one could not stand it or sleep at night, so badly were we itching from the lice, the bedbugs, the fleas.

David Boder

It is said that the Germans wanted to keep things clean, that they had insecticide powder and so on.

Henja Frydman

Yes, that is what they say. We even had in our block delousing sessions. 'One louse, and you are dead.'

David Boder

What does that mean?

Henja Frydman

One louse, and you will be dead. That is, you had to watch very carefully to be clean. They also would say, 'the one who keeps himself clean' is a human being. And so on.

David Boder

A saying. [Footnote: Here the interviewer and interviewee apparently misunderstood each other. She used the word "lausung" designating a delousing session; but she pronounced it like "losung" meaning a slogan or password.]

Henja Frydman

Yes, yes. Written in the blocks. I don't know.

David Boder

This concludes Spool 31, Henja Frydman. Illinois Institute of Technology Wire Recording.

David Boder

Spool 32, August 7, 1946, at 9 Rue de Gui Patin, Paris. Miss Henja Frydman, continuation of Spools 29, 30 and 31.

David Boder

And so?

Henja Frydman

The work in the lager of Auschwitz. In the year 1943 it wasn't called anymore an extermination camp, but a work camp, and the slogan of the Germans was "work makes free." Our slogan was "Work makes free in the crematories two and three." And our slogan was most correct. As I have already said, we got up at four o'clock in the morning. And that day it was raining. Right the first day we were sent to work. For two hours we were standing for the count-Appell. That means until six o'clock. Five abreast and a capo, a German again, a German prostitute. They had very low elements to manage the lager, because normal people, clean people, would not have been capable of such management. A capo led us to the gate, and again there are standing a whole group of German elite. That German, the lager commandant, the work Fuehrer, and all the company leaders, the German soldiers who were leading us to work and who guarded us. Every soldier was leading a dog, to guard us and watch us. Without a word, just 'left'...'left'...We marched through the gate, and the Germans looked at the women who had arrived yesterday, beautiful and young, and they laughed at the derelicts into which they had been converted in one day.

David Boder

Oh, you are speaking of your first day at work.

Henja Frydman

At work, yes. If a guard had a chance to hit somebody, he did so. If he had a chance to set the dog on us, he did so as well. One company leader, that is, a German soldier, got out of formation and marched among us, leading us straight. 'Left'...just like soldiers so we shouldn't forget to step first with the left foot and all together. Many women didn't know what it means, 'left'. They were mother of children, and all at once they had become soldiers and did not know 'left'. They paid dearly for it. The punishment was a bad beating. Everyone wanted to march inside the formation, because on the sides one would be exposed to blows. In front one was responsible for the stop. We had to walk very fast. Inside the formation one could escape the blows. The mud was deep and heavy. The terrain was as if made to order for a lager. It was pouring rain, and one could not drag his legs out of the ground. One was unable to walk, especially with those shoes, which were too large. How many kilometers we marched I don't know. About the beatings we were given, about the girls and women, well, I don't have to tell you. People fell, stepped one over the other; there was no time to turn around. It was pouring. The chimneys were on fire at the same time. A German was yelling. Some of us were weeping. They couldn't walk. The shoes were too large, and they fell. What can one do? What should on do? We arrived. I think we walked eight kilometers through a big field. We were ordered to take off our shoes. You know what for? We should not wear out the shoes. We took off our shoes. We were ordered to step into the water. There was a pond, with dirty water. There was a pond, and we had to go into the water up to the head and lift weeds out of the water. What they needed those for I don't know. It really wasn't any work. It was ordered simply to torture us.

David Boder

Wasn't there any flax in the water with the straw?

Henja Frydman

What is flax?

David Boder

Those threads that are being grown.

Henja Frydman

Yes, yes, that is what we had to pull out. [It is not clear whether interviewer and interviewee really understood each other] . And that we had to pull out.

David Boder

You mean the weeds from the pond.

Henja Frydman

Yes.

David Boder

Go on.

Henja Frydman

And if anybody would raise her head from the water, a German pushed her back again into the water with his foot.

David Boder

How could anybody keep his head under water?

Henja Frydman

We did. You are asking how we could do it. We had our heads in the water. Whether on could not, that's how it was.

David Boder

With your mouth under water?

Henja Frydman

Yes, yes, yes. With the mouth and everything. Yes, the water was high. Clear over the head, especially made, made to order, as we say. When we had picked a large quantity of weeds from the water, we had to carry it out to one side, and then, quick, quick, quick, run back into the water and pull again.

David Boder

Well, then you could get your head out from the water, now and then?

Henja Frydman

Yes, when we were getting out, and that was a happy moment, because we could breathe some air, getting out of the water. How cold we were, I don't have to tell you.

David Boder

What month was it, did you say?

Henja Frydman

In June,

David Boder

In June--well--

Henja Frydman

So the day passed until one o'clock, that is, from six o'clock to one o'clock. In the water, with beatings, and they gave us some food.

David Boder

But I should like to clear that up a bit. You were told to get into the water. And then you were to pull out the weeds.

Henja Frydman

Yes.

David Boder

So you had to go in with water over your head. For how many seconds at a time.

Henja Frydman

How many seconds? As long as one could keep his head under water. Then one had to pull it out, and one would take out her head, and leave it out until the German would notice the head, and as soon as he would see the head, he would beat her, and a second head would come out--

David Boder

Oh, one would stick her head out.

Henja Frydman

Yes, and everyone would take a chance to raise her head, because it was impossible to stay that way.

David Boder

Yes, go on.

Henja Frydman

Our lunch. Standing up, in half an hour, they passed it around.

David Boder

So when did you get out of the water?

Henja Frydman

At one o'clock. In and out, carrying out the weeds.

David Boder

In your clothes.

Henja Frydman

In our clothes, yes.

David Boder

Without shoes?

Henja Frydman

Without shoes, with our clothes, without shoes.

David Boder

Yes.

Henja Frydman

The lunch consisted--

David Boder

Only girls?

Henja Frydman

Only girls, women and girls. That was the platoon, and the platoon was called Platoon 203. This was one of the very bad platoons, because the division commander who led us was a real sadist. For him life consisted in being able to torture the girls, in general the women as well. If a woman was too stout, he would beat her on the breasts and say to her, 'You, fat one, you must get a bit thinner.' And to the girls he would say, 'You young girls, you want to get out of here. You'll croak here in my place.' And that badly depressed our morale. He had a stick ten centemeters thick. Every day he had another club. He tried on us "all models." He would beat us until one would fall. He would say, 'Finis with Paris, Madame. With Paris it is now over. Now you are in Auschwitz, and you shall work.' And he told us, 'You don't know what we call work. You will learn'.

David Boder

Yes.

Henja Frydman

The soup--

David Boder

So what happened at one o'clock, you got out of the water?

Henja Frydman

Yes, to eat. We had half an hour to eat.

Henja Frydman

No, no. It was brought. There was a detail which brought the food to the place of work. The soup contained various wild weeds, but that didn't matter; we were hungry. We got it in a bowl for six. We ate six from a bowl. I do not speak of spoons, because there were no spoons.

David Boder

So how do they eat, six from a bowl?

Henja Frydman

We were six, and we picked it up, one at a time, and each one would take a sip, and so in turn.

David Boder

The bowl was passed around?

Henja Frydman

The bowl was passed. The bowl was dirty and it was hard, but we ate.

David Boder

What was the bowl like? Was it hot?

Henja Frydman

The bowl was of iron. They were iron bowls.

David Boder

Iron bowls.

Henja Frydman

Metal bowls. We had to eat very fast. That was not important. Of course, we did not have our fill, bit we had a chance to stand a bit without bending all the time. That day we ate standing up. The next day we ate on our knees. The third day standing on one leg.

David Boder

What's that?

Henja Frydman

Well, just in whatever way it would please the platoon commander. To torture us.

David Boder

So he made you eat standing--

Henja Frydman

Always in a different manner. [Here we hear on the wire violent sneezing. If often happens that when an interviewee speaks of a certain condition that apparently evoked sneezing or coughing, he begins to sneeze or cough. We have that in the Frim spool, when the speaker begins to cough violently in the narrative about the disinfection of the clothes in the gas chamber.] Finished eating in a hurry, again back to work. In the afternoon it was arranged somewhat differently. They took us to the building, an abandoned structure, and we had to tear it up. They gave us a special too [she uses the French word for "crowbar"]--that is, a kind of thick stick.

David Boder

An iron one.

Henja Frydman

No, of wood, which one holds, together with several others. A group of six girls were holding it. And we strike the stones.

David Boder

The bricks?

Henja Frydman

The German counts one, two, three, and we have to strike a blow, and every time something must fall down. One has to be pretty strong for that. On that place--

David Boder

What kind of building was it?

Henja Frydman

A destroyed building, in which I believe some time ago people lived. They were destroying all the houses around the place. Out of the stone of the houses they built the lager. We had to stand and work in the place where the stones were falling, so that the stones would fall on us. One of the girls who stood in front was injured by the stones that fell from the building, and she sustained a fracture. We were ordered--she was laid down, she screamed horribly because she was badly in pain, and we were told to continue working as before. And that is how we worked at the building, in fright and not to forget, under the blows and under the laughter of the Germans, until five o'clock in the evening. Then we fell into formation, got our shoes; one couldn't find her own shoes, one would put on whatever could be found. And back we went to the lager.

David Boder

How many kilometers was is?

Henja Frydman

Eight kilometers. That day it was eight kilometers. That means coming and going sixteen kilometers. And for all day a little piece of bread and a bit of soup. And under bad weather conditions, because in June the Polish climate is very hot. It is cold in the morning, but in the daytime it is hot. There was no water to drink. It was indeed a good beginning.

David Boder

And all this happened the first day?

Henja Frydman

All this happened the first day. We came back to the lager again. The "count Appell". Many girls fainted during that time while we were waiting for them to come and count us. After that they gave us our supper, for we were given our food at the "count Appell" at night to carry us over until the evening of the next day. Bread, black bread, of 200 grams, a little piece of sausage, one little round slice, and from time to time, a little piece of margarine. Finally that we could get into our block and stretch out on our bed. I shall speak of my group. We were five girls, nineteen years old, three mothers of children between thirty-five and forty years.

David Boder

Were the children with them?

Henja Frydman

No, the children either remained in France, if they managed to hide them, or the children were brought to the lager and there perished in the gas,[Footnote: The custom to use the word gas to designate the gas chambers, or gas-killings (German--vergasung) is likely to cause the unaccustomed listener some incidents of discomfort. The word gas means in Yiddish and in colloquial German a "street" (Gasse), the "outdoors." Gehen in gas under ordinary circumstances means: to go out, to take a walk, to look for incidental business to panhandle. It was therefore somewhat difficult to get into the habit of associating the words gehen in gas with their new connotation--to die in the gas chambers. This was especially difficult because the interviewees pronounced the expression with so much fluency and matter-of-factness that it really sounded like they would say "he just stepped out", or "they are out for a walk".] because children were separated from the mother, and they were sent into the gas. [A long pause.] We spoke very little. We were very tired, and we were talking about how it was possible for such things to happen. One is beaten, one starved, people being gassed. We remembered a song that we sang in Drancy, that was a song that came from Dachau, which was composed by the first prisoners of Dachau, and this song was very well suited to the lager.

David Boder

How did that song come over to Drancy?

Henja Frydman

To Drancy? Through political prisoners.

David Boder

What language was it in?

Henja Frydman

French. That was translated from the German. Then the song says: 'Far away in some place there are large spaces of bad soil, where the bullets do not sing in the dried up trees. You only hear the steps of the Germans and the rattle of the arms, and only crying and weeping, and no song comes from the lager.' That song indeed described the lager. The tune itself was a good description. It is a very sad tune. We sang that song, and so passed the day.

David Boder

What melody was it? [Here she sings the famous song which is on the other spools, and will be inserted here later.]

Henja Frydman

These two verses told a lot. 'Death to the one who tries to escape.' And so it was. Not only death to the one who tries to escape, run away, but death to all those who are there. Now I shall start the chapter, the general chapter about the lager. By that I mean, about the psychology of the Germans. Why and how they have led people to the state in which we found ourselves. First of all, they made Jews, old prisoners, responsible for the management of a block. They made the Jewish physicians, the doctors, responsible for selecting the sick from the hospital--because afterward there was a hospital--and sending them into the gas. They made Jews responsible for management of the work. They [the Germans] only had to receive their reports and to see to it that their orders were complied with. And that is why we saw Jews beating Jews, and that is why we hear now that bandits have come out of the lager. That is, the Germans have made bandits out of the Jews. They led them into a situation in which they had no time to think. There was no such thing among us as thinking. We did not think. I don't say. I personally was fortunate not to have any responsibilities. I was just a common prisoner. I was not hated like the prisoners who had responsible positions. A Jew would beat a Jew, because Germans were strict, and the German would beat the Jew who did not want to beat another Jew. Jews worked in the crematories, which means that Jews have been burning their own kindred, because the first day when they came to the lager they would be assigned to such positions, and the Germans looked on, and ordered them to start fires and to burn.

David Boder

Of course, they burned only the bodies.

Henja Frydman

They burned the bodies, yes. They burned the bodies because, before the people went through the gas chambers, they told the people that they were going bathing, that they were going to take a shower. And these gas chambers, according to a report from a friend I have who worked there, looked exactly like a shower bath. Little holes for the water to come through, but instead of water would come through gas. And in this way the people were destroyed. And from there to the crematories, like into a bakery. The system went like this. There was room in the furnace for three people, a stout one, a thin one, and a very thin one. And those three people were shoved in, and they burned. And so the crematories were arranged. They were in Birkenau, six crematories, which have been working day and night with interruption. [Pause]. I shall not continue in order. I shall speak about the things that pass now through my thoughts. I was in Krankenburg. That is, the hospital--one may call it a "hospital". I was sick with typhus, spotted typhus, and pneumonia in addition. I was for three months in a hospital. You may ask why I was three months in a hospital. Well, they did nothing to heal us. I survived the three months of the hospital just due to my character. I was not far from death. I did not look like a human being anymore. Only my thoughts were still human. I was thinking about getting away. My fever was 40-41 degress C. It wasn't possible to stand it. All at once the Germans came in and ordered that the whole hospital be sent into the gas, all the sick. They said that otherwise we might infect the whole lager; and we were registered, and we were expecting that trucks will come to take us to the gas. I thought that I would not let them take me into the gas. I had in the lager a girl friend whose name was Molly Zinnenbaum [??], from Belgium. She was a messenger.

David Boder

A what?

Henja Frydman

A messenger. That is, she had a good job in the lager, which consisted of making lists of the people in the hospital who should go to work in the lager. She was in contact with the woman lager manager, the German, and she did a lot for us, and she saved me from the gas. She said that I was her cousin, and that if I am being sent to the gas, she should be, also. And since the Germans needed her in their work, I was excluded from the list, and I was out of that. There followed two or three more of such moments, and the same Molly saved me. The same Molly was shot in Birkenau in the lager where I was because she escaped from the lager. She escaped in '43 or at the end of '44 [??]. She was the first Jewish girl who made an attempt to escape. For fifteen days she was at liberty. Then unfortunately she was caught. She was brought back to the lager, and on the square--it was ordered that all Jewish girls should assemble on the square--and that Molly would be shot. We all assembled. Molly was standing before our eyes, pale. And the woman lager leader made a speech. She said...

David Boder

This concludes Spool 32. We are in the moment of the execution of the girl who saved the speaker's life twice.