David P. Boder Interviews Edith Serras; August 7, 1946; Paris, France

var english_translation = { interview: [ David Boder

[In English] This is Spool 34. Mrs. Edith Serras . . .

David Boder

[In German] . . . how old are you?

Edith Serras

Thirty-six.

David Boder

[In English] Thirty-six . . . Thirty-six years old.

David Boder

[In German] Would you please . . .

David Boder

[in English] She carries an exceedingly large tattoo, rather large in size, larger . . . about twice as large as the usual tattoos that we see . . . 50306 and the usual triangle indicating the Jewish faith underneath.

David Boder

[In German] Tell me, Mrs. Serras, why is your tattoo so large? The others have it much smaller.

Edith Serras

Oh. That were the first, the first ones to be deported. They . . . they were very large [??] . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . and the others were already smaller.

David Boder

Aha . . .

Edith Serras

From the beginning they learned how to make the tattoos.

David Boder

Aha. Now then . . . Tell me where you were born, Mrs. Serras.

Edith Serras

In Yedintsy [?], in Yedintsy.

David Boder

In Lebeni . . . where is that?

Edith Serras

Yedintsy [?]?

David Boder

Yedintsy [?]. Where is that?

Edith Serras

In Bessarabia [?].

David Boder

That is in Bessarabia [?]? And where were you when the war started?

Edith Serras

. . . Paris.

David Boder

You were in Paris when the war started. How did you [happen to] come to Paris?

Edith Serras

I got there legally [?] with a passport . . .

David Boder

Yes, but I mean, why did you come to Paris from Bessarabia?

Edith Serras

I intended to study. I am a teacher . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . and I wanted to study further, in education.

David Boder

And did you come to Paris alone?

Edith Serras

Yes . . . I came with my sister.

David Boder

Aha . . .

Edith Serras

We planned to study . . . We were five children . . . [some word not clear]

David Boder

What year did you come to Paris? [About three sentences are not clearâpossibly faulty reproduction]

David Boder

In what language did you teach?

Edith Serras

In Yiddish.

David Boder

You taught in Yiddish. Now then, better speak Yiddish and it will be understood better there, and . . . the . . . Now will you then continue speaking in Yiddish, if you can speak Yiddish well? [Continues in Yiddish] Now tell me, what were you doing in Paris when the Germans arrived?

Edith Serras

When the Germans came it was a duty to fight against Germany. We did everything to fight Fascism, and I placed Jewish children in the villages . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

They did everything to exterminate . . . to take hold of Jewish children and Jewish families, so the task was to hide the children. That was my occupation; and I was also in the resistance.

David Boder

Now, where did you hide the children?

Edith Serras

In the villages.

David Boder

With whom?

Edith Serras

With Catholic people.

David Boder

Did the Catholic people know that they were Jewish children?

Edith Serras

Yes. Quite a few knewâthe majority knew that they were Jewish children. I returned and found the Jewish children [to have been kept] very well.

David Boder

Now, were they paid for keeping the children?

Edith Serras

Yes. We had organizations which worked all the time, and the children were paid for all the time.

David Boder

Aha. What kind of organizations were these?

Edith Serras

These were organizations that called themselves anti-Fascist, to fight Fascism . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And these organizations consisted of both Jews and Christians.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . and they helped the Jewish children.

David Boder

And you had a child . . . You, yourself, had a child?

Edith Serras

I myself . . . I also hid my child.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And I also hid other children.

David Boder

How old is your child now?

Edith Serras

My child is now nine years old.

David Boder

Nine years. Now tell me what happened to you afterwards.

Edith Serras

Now . . . I belonged to a group of the resistance, and . . . a child was arrested . . . a fourteen year old one . . . and the child . . . he was badly beaten . . . and the child reported who had hidden him. In this manner I was arrested . . . When I was arrested I was badly beaten . . .

David Boder

You were not hiding [keeping] the child. Now . . . What did he report?

Edith Serras

The child . . . he was asked, 'Who has hidden you?'

David Boder

And the child was with you?

Edith Serras

No, not with me . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

Somewhere else.

David Boder

Aha . . .

Edith Serras

So he said that such and such a woman has given me the chance, me and my mother, to hide ourselves.

David Boder

Oh, the mother, too?

Edith Serras

The mother too. The mother was already arrested.

David Boder

Yes . . . and the mother was already arrested?

Edith Serras

The mother did not want to betray me; but he, as a child . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . being a child, he told . . .

David Boder

Yes . . . So . . .

Edith Serras

The police looked for me already for . . . for five months; I was already betrayed . . . as a person who was fighting against Fascism in France . . . And they did not know my address. Here they found out my address and they came and arrested me.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

I was severely beaten so that I would report the addresses of the children, and to report the other people who were working on the same [objective]. Of course, I did not tell; and in this manner I was deported.

David Boder

What did you tell them? Did you . . .

Edith Serras

I told them it is a lie; I told them just that I hid them away, that was correct. Why did I hide them? Not for ideological reasons, because I had to . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Edith Serras

. . . convince [?] them . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . because, had I told them that the reasons were ideological . . . it would mean [that there is] an organization. Then I would have to betray the others. So I told them that this came not from an ideology, but it came from my great compassion for the motherâthe mother was my friend.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

. . . and so I have found them a place to hide. For this sort of reason I have done it.

David Boder

Nu . . .

Edith Serras

But the police already knew about me, that I also belonged to a revolutionary group, and they have looked for me for a long time.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

So I was arrested, and under such circumstances I was deported.

David Boder

How long were you . . . were you taken first . . . What do they call that place near Paris?

Edith Serras

Drancy?

David Boder

Drancy. Did they . . .

Edith Serras

I was in the depot. I was first in the depot for six weeks.

David Boder

In Drancy . . .

Edith Serras

Depot . . .

David Boder

In the depot. What do you call the 'depot'?

Edith Serras

The depot? There they centralized all the deportees; and until they were interrogated, they were interviewed [She says 'interveniert.']

David Boder

All those who they intended to deport?

Edith Serras

All those who they intended to deport . . . So here was the center where they were assembled.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

In my case it lasted six weeks, because they had a great deal to question me about. They believed they would reach a point where I would report the others. When they saw that there would be no betrayalâso their only decision was to deport me. Deportation meant to exterminate the people. They said, of course, that I could be assigned to the courts, but they said a court would be too good [for me], while deportation, he said, is such a thing that a human being 'croaks'[?] When he is being deported . . . I don't know . . .

David Boder

What . . . What is that?

Edith Serras

That means a person . . . a person comes to the lager, 'You will be deported, and there you will perish gradually like a dog. It will come to the stage that you will fall on your knees and you will pray for your death;' and then, he said, 'You will see what it means to fight against Hitler!

David Boder

Aha . . . Who said that? A German or a Frenchman?

Edith Serras

That was said by a German.

David Boder

A German?

Edith Serras

A German.

David Boder

Now . . .

Edith Serras

Then I was sent to Drancy as a anti-fascist [enemy of the race ?]

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And from there I arrived as a deportee to Birkenau. En route . . . we . . .

David Boder

Birkenau is Auschwitz?

Edith Serras

Auschwitz . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

About eighteen [hundred; see below] people were there.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

En Route we were kept in locked cars. In twenty-four hours we European [civilized] people were converted into beasts.

David Boder

Into what?

Edith Serras

Into beasts [The word did not sound clear].

David Boder

You mean, into animals?

Edith Serras

Into animals.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

People traveled with children, men, women. There was no air. In the middle of the car stood a large tub in which we had to satisfy our needs. And the air was very terrible. There were cases where people got deadly sick. We arrived at the lagerâwe traveled this way three days and three nights . . .

David Boder

Now, excuse me, Mrs. Serras. Where was your husband?

Edith Serras

My husband was in the Zone libre.

David Boder

Where?

Edith Serras

In Zone libre.

David Boder

Oh . . . He went across to the Free Zone.

Edith Serras

To the free zone.

David Boder

How did that happenâthat he went alone and you remained here?

Edith Serras

I wanted to be in the Resistance.

David Boder

You wanted to remain with the Resistance.

Edith Serras

Yes.

David Boder

He went alone . . .

Edith Serras

Yes.

David Boder

Did he take the child?

Edith Serras

No. I did not want to give away the child [Footnote 1: Here follows a few hard-to-understand sentences. The interviewer often said 'Yes,' to the obscure statements, expcting apparently to clear them up from subsequent passages. âD.P.B.] . . . because going across one had to establish his existence [?]

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . and I did not want to establish the existence [?] of the child, because I knew, that if I would place the child in Catholic hands . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

The child would be safer then to undertake such a journey [to the free Zone?].

David Boder

Aha. So you arrived at Auschwitz.

Edith Serras

Yes.

David Boder

And in what month and year was it?

Edith Serras

That was in Julie.

David Boder

That is . . .

Edith Serras

In July . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . 1943.

David Boder

So you were together with Mrs. [Miss] Frydman, with the girl from . . .

Edith Serras

The one that works here . . . ?

David Boder

Yes. [See story of Henya Frydman.]

Edith Serras

She got there ahead of me.

David Boder

Oh. She went ahead . . . Well . . . and then . . .

Edith Serras

And so, we arrived at the station.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

So there was a 'selection.'

David Boder

Yes . . . What is a 'selection?

Edith Serras

A 'selection' means that they selected the people who were to go into the lager, to work, and the people who were to go, to make 'experiences' on them . . .

David Boder

Experiments?

Edith Serras

Experiments. And which people were to go into the gas[Footnote 2: The Yiddish word 'gass' means 'street, outdoors, 'German 'gasse'. The expression gehn in gass, means 'to go out, to go for a walk, etc. But in the lagers it coincided with 'going to the gas chambers, assignment to gas-killing. Since the word gas for volatiles is homophonic with gass for street, the interviewer was prone to confuse the two, more so that he could not help often fail to perceive correctly the meaning of the expression 'ghen in gas', as 'gas-killing'. âD.P.B.].

David Boder

Into what?

Edith Serras

. . . into the gas . . . That meansâinto the gas chambers.

David Boder

Oh . . . They went to the gas chambers?

Edith Serras

Yes. I had three women friends . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

Russian women.

David Boder

Jewish-Russian . . . ?

Edith Serras

No. Christian-Russian, who were married to Jewish men.

David Boder

In France?

Edith Serras

The Jewish men were of the 'highest men' [socially or intellectually] to be deported.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And they remained . . . They were arrested with their children. Why?âbecause the police had found out that their little boys were [hesitates] . . .

David Boder

What?

Edith Serras

. . . are Jewish [reference to circumcision].

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

So the women were taken to Drancy [transit concentration camp near Paris].

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

From Drancy we came . . . Knowing, the women knew me as an educatorâand we imagined that the deportation camp was not an extermination camp, but just a work camp [two words not clear]. We didn't knowâ[so they said] 'You will help our children with their schooling while we will work . . . '

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

So when we arrived there . . . So I told them to take the youngsters [with them].

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

So they took the children and they were assigned to a camion. This truck was the 'death camion,' a known camion, which used to transport hundreds of people to the gas.

David Boder

Camion is a large . . .

Edith Serras

. . . A large

David Boder

. . . automobile?

Edith Serras

. . . Automobile. The women with the three children were on the automobile with older people, with sick people. There were women [she apparently begins to weep] in their twenties. If she had a childâshe would go into the gas chamber. If there was a woman in her thirties with a childâshe would go into the gas chamber.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

When I saw that they were taken on the camion . . . They started yelling to me that I should come along with them.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

I started running. I did not know that that was death, so the German told me that I have to croak [die] in the lager . . .

David Boder

Oh . . .

Edith Serras

And he put me in the line to go into the lager. When we entered the lager we found ourselvesâout of sixteen hundredâonly three hundred and sixty women. All the others went to the gas and a part of them went for experiments.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

After entering the lager we were completely stripped. We remained lying for five days completely naked.

David Boder

Only women . . . ?

Edith Serras

Only women.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

The heads were shaven . . . . . . tatooed. And we were not given any food, and we were beaten all the time without any [for what] without any reason].

David Boder

Why did they beat you?

Edith Serras

For every word. If one would utter, 'Oh, Mamma,'âone would not cry [?; next word not clear]; when they would observe that one does not express contentment. So there a woman stood, an SS woman, and . . .

David Boder

A German?

Edith Serras

And we were beaten all the time, without any 'for what' [without any reason]. Afterwards we were transferred to the blocks, where we remained in the quarantine. Quarantine was called . . . they were afraid that we might have microbesâwe should not bring diseases with us.

David Boder

Oh . . .

Edith Serras

But that was the greatest death sentence for us. Being in quarantine we had to remain six weeks without going out. The made appells from three o'clock in the morning until seven.

David Boder

What are appells?

Edith Serras

Appells meant, we were shoved outdoors naked and barefooted at three o'clockâwe had to stand in fives and fives [line up five in a row].

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And we had to [stand] until seven o'clock. [Then] came the SS man-woman. [They did not use to say, SS woman, but used to attach a feminine ending to the word man, viz SS manke.] She counted us and we further remained standing.

David Boder

An SS what? An SS . . . ?

Edith Serras

An SS woman.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

She counted us . . .

David Boder

What did you say before?

Edith Serras

An SS man.

David Boder

Man?

Edith Serras

Manke

David Boder

Mank you called her. [Both laughâshe giggles rather cheerfully] a woman was called 'manke;' Well, all right . . .

Edith Serras

[Still giggling, possibly aware of the grammatical peculiarities of the makeshift word of the concentration camp lingo for the first time] She counted us [again], counted how many were present. There was that time a great [word not clearâpossibly epidemic], because we got diarrhea . . .

David Boder

What? You got diarrhea. Now . . .

Edith Serras

And that is such a disease in which a man [an adult] becomes like a small child. One does not feel . . . [hesitates] and . . . we . . . we were sick and they did not let us go to the toilet . . .

David Boder

So what did one do?

Edith Serras

One did there like a small child. That is a sickness which 'goes out by itself.'

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And they clubbed and beat us for it. and we pleaded, 'Let us go to the toilet.' So they said, 'No, you won't go to the toilet, but you will croak here and you must be clean, you must be tidy.' Now then, the women became demoralized . . .

David Boder

Nu . . .

Edith Serras

. . . under such conditions, and in a few weeks, in sixâseven weeks, we were only but a few women there from the eighteen hundred [the statistics are slightly inconsistentâbut that is more than understandable].

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And returned [after liberation?] from the eighteen hundred, have two more [besides herself]. I worked in a detail of . . . of . . . [which was] drying-out swamps.

David Boder

Drying out what?

Edith Serras

Drying out swamps.

David Boder

Oh, drying out swamps . . .

Edith Serras

I shall show you the bites from the SS dogs . . .

David Boder

. . . the bites of the dogs. [In English] She now says that there remained very few [of her original contingent of deportees] and they had to drain swamps. She shows, high on the thigh, the dog bite from the SS dogs. [In German] How come that they have bitten [one word not clear]?

Edith Serras

At seven o'clock we would come to dry the swamps. It was muddy and dirty there.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

There were leeches.

David Boder

Leeches . . . ?

Edith Serras

Leeches.

David Boder

[repeats in English] leeches.

Edith Serras

[She repeats the English word as if she knew it] Leeches. And there were little snakes. We were bitten by all the insects . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And from seven o'clock . . . In October we were still going barefooted, and the cold was very great and we had to enter the water deep to the neck.

David Boder

Deep to what?

Edith Serras

Deep to the neck.

David Boder

Deep to the neck?

Edith Serras

Yes.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

So it was too cold at seven o'clock . . . at seven o'clock. So we would start walking a detail of fifteen hundred, of sixteen hundred women, gradually, just to get accustomed to the water. But the SS men did not want it, so they set their dogs on us, so that we would run fast into the water. The women would start to run fast into the water. They became demoralizedâthey started yelling. A lot of women fell into the water and we . . . not knowing it, would kill the drowning ones with our feet because one was running [trampling] over the other. Returning from work we pulled out the dead bodies, and we had to carry them on our shoulders to the crematories to burn them. There was no day when there were no dead. And in such a manner we were bitten by the dogs. There was no sensitivity [?]. We did not even know that we were being bitten. We noticed that the mud would become red from our . . .

David Boder

Blood?

Edith Serras

. . . from our blood. Leaving the work, we would take the bodies [?] on our shoulders and carry them to the crematories. The SS men beat us [demanding] that we have respect[??; may also mean, That we take care of] for the dead bodiesâwe should carry them well [properly]. But we, ourselves, were so weak; we, ourselves, could not walk on our feet from such a day's work on a half a liter of soup . . . of water.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And he delivered lectures to us, 'You, the dirty Jews; you, who have deprived us for years of bread [this sentence is not clear], you have become rich, you have everything, [gorging yourselves with] food and drink, and now we have brought you here, to punish you. To go to the crematories is too good [for you],' he said. 'We shall make you croak little by little. You will plead for death, but death will not come so soon. Death would be too good a thing for you.' And in this manner we were beaten until twelve o'clock. Women got sick . . .

David Boder

Why was that on days when there were no dead?

Edith Serras

That was on such days . . . because the SS man who could prove that he has 'produced' dead women in the detail was considered a good worker. He mastered his trade well.

David Boder

Yes.

Edith Serras

But on a day when we helped each other morally, and we had run into the water from seven o'clock, and we were not scared by the cold; so there were no deadâthe dogs would not bite us. So then he forced us to make genuflections, and we would get demoralized. And in this way we would get sick. And to a lot of womenâhe tore their heart apart [aggravated them]. They got sick from not eating and from the cold, and so they went to the crematories anyhow. That was an extermination detail of a sort [Pause].

David Boder

Now . . . go on.

Edith Serras

[Pause] The . . . [pause again. She apparently weeps.] The conditions for us were very bad. At every instant they told us that we have come here to die. When one would forget herself, and break out in laughter during the work, the SS women would tell us, 'Don't laugh'. You have come here to dieâto croak. You will never get out of here. You won't see liberty.' We noticed that the lager was an extermination lager, and that we shall not come out of there alive. So we started to organize ourselves around the BUND [a Jewish-Lithuanian, and Jewish-Russian social-democratic organization, which originated still in the time of the Zcar]. Only political women who have come to the lager and who knew that they live to fight against Fascism and Hitlerism. So we started to organize resistance in the lager. We could not accomplish much with our work, because we had nothing in our hands. When a woman would get sick in the winterâwe were permitted to wear only one shirt and one dress, and not [?] a little piece of warm underwear. So when we would see that one has become sickâshe would get pneumonia or some other diseaseâthe healthier women would take off their underwear and give it to the sick one. And so we all kept up the spirit of each other [???]. When one would get sick, and we did not want her to die, so we gave a little piece of bread. Everyone had to give a little piece of her own in order to help to support her health. And thanks to such an organization in which we have committed ourselves to help one another, we saw that we would be able to save ourselves. And we also knew that they would exterminate us, so we saw . . . we started to organize ourselves and to make propaganda that we should defend ourselves against Sommer? could that be the name of the SS commander] in the lager. For what reason? We should not permit them to 'gas' us.

David Boder

Not to permit what?

Edith Serras

. . . to gas [-kill-âto take us into the gas chambers]. We should not let them take us into the gas [chambers]. We formed an organization . . .

David Boder

. . . to the gas chambers.

Edith Serras

. . . to the gas chambers. We formed an organization together with the men. We 'organized' [we stole] scissors. [The word 'organize' meant stealing in the lager lingo. In this particular section of the interview the word is rather confusing.]

David Boder

You organized what?

Edith Serras

Scissors, to cut the wires . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . of the lager.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

We 'organized' [stole] knives. We made large excavations outside the block and hid a lot of thingsâclubs, [one word not clear]. So if they should come to exterminate us, block by block, we should defend ourselves, and we should tear the wires, and cut the electricity, and we should blow up the crematories. That happened in the winter [?] of '44. When they came to take a detail for gas-killing in the gas chambers, our men with whom we were organized togetherâthanks to our organization- they blew up two gas chambers. And since that day they did not gas-kill [?] anymore. [See story of Anna Kovitzka, Spools no. 164B, 165, 166A.]

David Boder

What was done to the men who blew up the gas chamber?

Edith Serras

They were all shot.

David Boder

They were shot?

Edith Serras

Yes. The men had cut the wires and [word not clear] . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

So that the women could run away. We did not know about it because we were outsideâten kilometers away from the lager. And when the SS men had come to exterminate a detail of women [corrects herself], a detail of men, so the men locked themselves in . . . in the gas [?] chamber and said, 'We are not coming out . . . We don't want to be exterminated.'

David Boder

Wait a moment. They locked themselves in . . . in the gas chamber?

Edith Serras

In the yard.

David Boder

They locked themselves in . . . in the yard, and they said, 'We won't go out . . . ?'

Edith Serras

'We won't go out, we don't want to be exterminated! We know that you intend to lead us into the 'gas.''

David Boder

Nu . . .

Edith Serras

So the SS men said, 'We are taking you for 'transport.' But the men said that a 'transport' meant gas. 'We are already too long in the lager not to know where you will lead us. Everytime when you say 'transport' it means gas. You either lead [the people] to a gas chamber in Auschwitz, or you lead them to the gas chamber in another lager. [She is very agitated and is not clear in places]. -You think [?] to take us into the gas and burn us in Birkenau. We don't want to.' And so the SS men started shooting at the men, and the men shot at them.

David Boder

Where did they steal . . . get the arms?

Edith Serras

They had themâthey 'organized' [stole].

David Boder

Aha.

Edith Serras

They . . .

David Boder

Where could one get them . . . They organized . . . ?

Edith Serras

There was gunpowder . . . There was a factory called Ulian [??]

David Boder

[called] what?

Edith Serras

Ulion [?] factory.

David Boder

Union Factory?

Edith Serras

The Union factory made bombs, and explosive materials.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And the women, together with the men who worked there, have stolen explosive materials from there and given to the men who worked in the crematories. So that when the moment should come that they would start exterminating the lager, they would blow up the crematories. And the men made a good showing. They blew up both crematories; they cut the wires; and they ran away. But the SS men ran after themâthey shot at them. Many were apprehended; they were beaten and clubbed and afterwards shot, and the majority were shot on the road. When their two crematories were destroyed no more people were gas-killed in the lager. And there were no more transports by that time. That was in 1944.

David Boder

Nu . . . And then . . .

Edith Serras

The . . . in 1945 the great evacuation of the lager occurred.

David Boder

Yes. Where were they taken?

Edith Serras

We were taken from all the lagers around Auschwitz and we were made . . . we were made to go. We made one hundred twenty kilometers on foot in snow. We discarded everything from ourselves that we were dressed in, because it was impossible to walk in snow without food, without drink.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

I then worked in a sick-ward.

David Boder

Where?

Edith Serras

. . . in a hospital.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

In Auschwitz we had with us many women, women partizans from . . . [as if recollecting] from Yugoslavia . . .

David Boder

From Yugoslavia, Christian . . . ?

Edith Serras

Christian women. All the five were there to give birth to their children.

David Boder

What?

Edith Serras

They were pregnant women.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

We traveled on foot one hundred twenty kilometers. They shot men, women and children. Beside the roads [?] mountains of people were lying, shot, because they were unable to walk. Whoever went near the roadside [??] was also shot. Those who could walk, walked. And those who remained behind were shot. The majority were shot. And that is how we arrived in Breslau. Breslau is the border [town] between Poland and Germany. We were loaded into open railroad cars [gondolas or flat cars]. That was the eighteenth of January. In the summer, the time of the great deportations, we were loaded into closed, stuffy cars. In the wintertime we were placed in open cars. It snowed over us. Three days . . .

David Boder

In open cars . . . ?

Edith Serras

In open cars. It snowed all over us three days and three nights. I found myself in a car, in an open one, with the five women, with sick little children, and with sick women, because I had the people [?] from the sickroom. The five women gave birth to their babies. That was a picture which I shall not be able to forget in my lifetime.

David Boder

They gave birth to the children in the cars?

Edith Serras

They came down in labor [Few words not clear]. They were lying stretched out, half-naked, to give birth to their babies. They could not be active [proceed with labor], and so were not able to give birth to the babies.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

A woman when she is about to have a baby must be active, she must expell the child from her body. The woman had no strength; she was frozen. It snowed over herâit showed over her body [abdomen]. The babiesâthere were moments when we pleaded with the women . . . We took off our dresses and threw them over her, over the sick woman, so she could . . . she was frozen . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And we pleaded with the women! 'Be active, deliver your child, gather strength,' but the women [?] was so weakened and said, 'I [We] can't. [There is a constant mixture of singular and plural. She speaks of one and the five pregnant women interchangeably.] I . . . we are cold.' We saw the baby emerging with a half-head outside and it goes back. The baby is . . . cannot come out. Finally, it lasted three days and three nights, and the women gave birth to their childrenâlive children on the snow.

David Boder

All five?

Edith Serras

All five.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

All alive [?]. It lasted three days and three nights. And in a corner of the car little children were lying and saw how women have children.

David Boder

Hm . . .

David Boder

[Drop in attention] Where was that, in . . . in what lager?

Edith Serras

In Ravensbrueck.

David Boder

In Ravensbrueck?

Edith Serras

Yes. We were put in a large . . . There were lying all the Auschwitz people, without foodâall without drink. At night we were given one . . . one bread for ten people.

David Boder

Hm.

Edith Serras

We got no soup like [we got] in the other lagersâ[there] we got soup. We were not given water to wash. We had no toiletâjust nothing. And they began to assign usâall the women who had come from Auschwitz, to transports. Very many women perished from [one word not clear] hunger and very many of them did not return. They went on the transports; because each transport meant that more than half of the people will die out.

David Boder

How many?

Edith Serras

More than half perished in each transport.

David Boder

[In English] This concludes Spool 34. We are changing now to Spool 35. August 7, 1946. The interviewee is Mrs. Edith Serras [name may possibly be fictitious]. A tattoo number 50306. The Illinois Institute of Technology.

David Boder

This is Spool Number 35, continuation of 34, an interview with Mrs. Edith Sear . . . Serras. Serras.

David Boder

[In Yiddish] Now then, we were [talking] about you remaining on the railroad cars wtih the women, with the SS, and the five women gave birth to their children there, in the open railroad cars. In what month was that?

Edith Serras

That was the 18th . . . that was the 18th of January.

David Boder

January. What year?

Edith Serras

'45.

David Boder

In '45. Now then . . .

Edith Serras

The women arrived with their children [babies] at Ravensbrueck. And the children did not live, because the girl . . . because the lagers did not provide milk to raise the childrenâto maintain their existence.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And the women . . . All the time I repeatedly saw that the women were sick, and when we were redeemed . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

. . . I learned that three women [of the five] have died.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And the two, sick like the others, possibly perished. I also want to note that in Auschwitz, that was in the year '44, there came to the lager about fifteen to twenty railroad cars with children.

David Boder

What? Railroad cars . . . ?

Edith Serras

Railroad cars, with children gathered form all over Europe. Polish children . . . from all the lagers which were maintained in Poland . . .

David Boder

Not only Jewish?

Edith Serras

Jewish.

David Boder

All Jewish?

Edith Serras

All Jewish. And there were several railroad cars, probably with their mothers, but not together with the children. That happened that from the street to the crematory . . .

David Boder

From the station?

Edith Serras

From the station to the crematory a line [of people] was stretched out directly into the crematories. And all the "work" [events] would take place when we were returning from work. We saw and were able to analyze how they were bringing in the children of our sisters and brothers.

David Boder

What was done to the children, first of all?

Edith Serras

The children looked out from the railroad cars, with pale little faces, for a long time . . .

David Boder

But what was done to the children?

Edith Serras

The children were led directly to the crematory, to be murdered [?].

David Boder

Yes, but . . . not to the gas chamber?

Edith Serras

To the gas chamber.

David Boder

To the gas chamber . . .

Edith Serras

To the gas chamber.

David Boder

Nu . . .

Edith Serras

And the children asked us, 'Are you Jewish women?'

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

'Are they leading us to the gas chamber? Or will we still live?'

David Boder

How old were the children?

Edith Serras

There were various ages. There were children up to seventeen-eighteen years, and five years and three years and two years; and six years, and eight years, and ten years.

David Boder

And they were separated from their mothers?

Edith Serras

The mothers were in other RR-cars and the children, too, were in other RR-cars.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And the children had asked us whether we were Jewish women.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And whether they are led . . . We should tell them whether they are being led to the gas chamber or whether they are being led to live on.

David Boder

Nu . . .

Edith Serras

And the children did not cry. With dried [?] out eyes, with pale little faces, they understood that they were going towards death. I want to note also . . . That happened . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . with the large transports from Hungary.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

They shipped Jewish transportsâwomen, men and children. Children who were going around nicely dressed, whom their parents had taken out for a walk [??]. Mothers beautifully dressedâyoung mothers led their little tots in their . . . in their buggies.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

In buggies they have led the children, dressed up; and they pushed the buggies going directly to the crematories. It lasted several months. The crematories burned through the nights. And the pits were burning. There were four crematories and four large pits.

David Boder

Yes. Tell me about the pits.

Edith Serras

The four large pits were located in Yesinka [the spelling is probably incorrect].

David Boder

[Transcribers note: No text found in original text.]

Edith Serras

Yes. And there were older people burned and also children.

David Boder

Yes. How were they put to death?

Edith Serras

They were . . . There are very many [people] who say that very many were burned alive because there was no gas [See Matzner's story].

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

All the people who were gassed . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

It was done so fastâwhen they would take six or ten . . . let us say, they took ten 'bidon' of gass . . .

David Boder

Ten what?

Edith Serras

Ten 'bidon'âthat is . . . those were large . . . such large containers.

David Boder

Yes . . . Tin . . . tin boxes?

Edith Serras

Yes.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

So they would take a thousand bundles [? of clothing] to clean themâthousand bundles [?] of ours.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

We were contaminated with lice.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

We were full of vermin in our clothes [?].

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

They would eat us alive.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

So they would make a . . .

David Boder

. . . a disinfection [fumigation]?

Edith Serras

. . . a disinfection.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

So they would take poison [?] gas . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . to disinfect our things.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And in the same manner as they would take ten containers of gas . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . for hundr[ed] . . . for thousands of people . . . for the clothes of a thousand people.

David Boder

. . . people . . .

Edith Serras

They would take five for gas killing . . . They would take five containers of gas to gas-kill a thousand people.

David Boder

Now . . .

Edith Serras

That means that the people, in order to be killed by the gas . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . needed a minimum of three quarters of an hour.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

But there was no time . . . three quarters of an hour.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

The people were gassed every ten minutes, and in the next . . . after [?] they were gassed, there would open . . .

David Boder

. . . the door?

Edith Serras

. . . the door, in two [the floor would part in two], and they would fall down into the celar and other thousands would come in their place.

David Boder

Fall down where?

Edith Serras

The gassed . . .

David Boder

. . . into the celar?

Edith Serras

. . . into the cellar.

David Boder

Were they dead?

Edith Serras

No.

David Boder

They were only . . .

Edith Serras

They were only . . . put to sleep.

David Boder

Just stunned? Yes, and then . . .

Edith Serras

And then they would take another thousand . . .

David Boder

And what was done with those who were in the cellar?

Edith Serras

They were removed with such a machine . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . which is used to load coal.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And the bodies were pulled out, and they were put in the crematories.

David Boder

Now, how many could they put into a crematory?

Edith Serras

Into the crematory? I know very well [exactly] about the crematories, because I have read a letter from a bridegroom from [to] a bride . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . from Poland.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

He has written in Hebrew . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . and the bride did not know Hebrew too well.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

But I have read the letter, and that is how I learned what was happening in the crematories.

David Boder

Yes . . . And who saw it?

Edith Serras

I wrote a letter to him and I asked him to tell me how the gas killing occurred. And he told me everything.

David Boder

And who was he in the crematory, the one who had written that?

Edith Serras

He was a prisoner.

David Boder

He was one of those who worked there?

Edith Serras

. . . who worked there; who was assigned [?] to work there.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

So he wrote to me about the way the people were gas-killed there.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And I also talked to a girl who . . . she was already in the gas chamber . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

But she was taken out.

David Boder

How come?

Edith Serras

Due to great connections.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

So she was taken out to remain alive.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And she was with me in the same detail. Unfortunately . . .

David Boder

From where was she taken out from the cellar?

Edith Serras

From the gas, from the gas chamber.

David Boder

While the gas chamber . . . After they were . . . When did that . . . ?

Edith Serras

The gas chamber . . . The gas chamber was a very large hall.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

The thousand people could get into it.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

The people were completely nakedâmen and women.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

Now enters an SS man with a gas mask on his face . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

. . . and says that they should sing . . . or they should yell.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

So that they could die quicker.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

In that instant she . . . she was already in the gas chamber.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And a telephone call came to get her out, because she has great connections.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

So she told how things happened.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

The women started yelling and crying to riot and to fight, but the gas overcomes them and the people . . . in a few seconds they are gassed . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

Stunned.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And then the floor opens and they fall down into the cellar.

David Boder

And . . .

Edith Serras

And they are not yet dead.

David Boder

And from there . . . ?

Edith Serras

And from there they were thrown into the fire; and the people were . . . were not actually dead people. That happened with the great transports from Hungaryâbecause in six weeks they burned twenties of thousands of people [she uses a plural of twenty as we would use the plural of ten, viz. tens of thousands]. They had no time that the people be completely dead . . .

David Boder

And they were burned in the ovens and in the pits?

Edith Serras

In the pits . . . four pits and four crematories. They worked day and night, and in the lager . . .

David Boder

What were these pits? Large ditches?

Edith Serras

Large, rectangular ditches with [two words not clear]

David Boder

. . . and then . . .

Edith Serras

. . . and so deep.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And they were smeared with a kind of grease.

David Boder

Oh . . .

Edith Serras

And the people were thrown in . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . and inflamable material thrown over them.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And so the pits burned incessantly day and night, without letting up.

David Boder

Did they make new pits for the others of did they wait until these . . .

Edith Serras

These were burned out, and the sand [dust or ashes] was taken out, and with the sand . . . come winter the sand was sprinkled over the fields to 'fatten' the fields.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And in this manner the annihilated the transports from Hungary.

David Boder

And these were Jews?

Edith Serras

These were Jews.

David Boder

Now . . .

Edith Serras

We heardâmy block was the twenty-seventh block, across from the gas chamber. We heard the screams of the men and women being gassed.

David Boder

And why was your block not taken?

Edith Serras

There had remained a fixed contingent [these words are an inference, they are not clear] in the lager. That is, it held a definite 'percentage' [quantity] of people.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

If that percentage was surpassed, then people were taken from the lager and also gassed.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

It happened . . .

David Boder

Oh, they gassed those [newly] brought in.

Edith Serras

. . . brought in from . . . from the outside.

David Boder

Aha, those who were gassed were . . . were not [previously] in the lager?

Edith Serras

Were not yet . . . were not yet in the lager.

David Boder

Oh . . .

Edith Serras

I shall tell you about a wedding, when they took people from France. That was in the last transport of the year '44.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

They exterminated the last Jewish transport, with two brides.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

They were still dressed up in their [wedding] dresses, with their . . . with their . . .

David Boder

long veil?

Edith Serras

. . . long veil; and the little tots who carry the veil . . . [the word apparently means 'train'] also perished. They arrested two weddings, the brides with the groom [s], with the parents and the invited . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . and they all went into the gas [Here the Yiddish word gas, meaning 'street' conflicts conspicuously with the German-Yiddish word gas meaning the same as the English word 'gas, a volatile chemical'], and the music played in the lager.

David Boder

'Gas' means 'street?'

Edith Serras

Into the gas chamber.

David Boder

Yes . . . And the music played?

Edith Serras

The music played at the transport.

David Boder

What kind of music was there?

Edith Serras

There was in the lager a . . .

David Boder

An orchestra?

Edith Serras

a band . . . an orchestra.

David Boder

Of whom? Of prisoners?

Edith Serras

Of prisoners.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And when the people would arrive at the lager, to go into the gas chamber, so they did not know that they were going to the gas chamber, and the music played Chopinâthe music played classical . . .

David Boder

Where was the music standing?

Edith Serras

The music was standing in the lager.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And they played.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And the people who were coming to the lager to go into the gas chamber . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . heard music playingâclassical music. And from the distance one could even see the flames within the smoke . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

. . . Red flames, which were going up as far as the sky. One recognized, one sensed the burning flesh of peopleâhuman flesh was burning. But it was done so quickly, and the music played so [well] and its tunes were so cheerful [?], that the people could not understand that they were going into the chamber of death.

David Boder

And those were Jewish prisoners who played.

Edith Serras

Those were Jewish prisoners.

David Boder

Where did they g . . . g . . . get the instruments?

Edith Serras

That was given by the Germans. All the valuables . . . which they have taken possession, they have collected all the valuables from the Jews.

David Boder

Yes.

Edith Serras

And they brought it to the lagers. In the lager the things were cleaned up [sorted out], the things were [word not clear] sent over to Germany.

David Boder

Aha.

Edith Serras

They had everything [?]. The SS men were running, to take away the earrings, the finger rings from the women; to pull out the teeth [obviously those with gold crowns, or golden dentures]âthat was the greatest lootâthe greatest profit for the SS men who were stationed in the lagers. I, myself . . .

David Boder

When did they pull out the teeth?

Edith Serras

After the gassing.

David Boder

After the gassing.

Edith Serras

Yes. They often did it to the people alive.

David Boder

Nu . . .

Edith Serras

They did it to the prisoners who were in the lagers while alive, too. I, myself, went through eighteen selections.

David Boder

Nu . . .

Edith Serras

The eighteen selections were to chose a 'percentage' of the people to go into the gas.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

Why did they have to take them to the gas? They would say that we were infested [this word is not clear].

David Boder

Ah . . .

Edith Serras

We were covered with itchy sores from the lice. We were very dirtyâso we were taken into the gas.

David Boder

. . . into the gas chamber?

Edith Serras

. . . into the gas chamber.

David Boder

because 'gas' means a street.

Edith Serras

A street [both chuckle slightly]. If they had to annihilate the whole lager because we had lice, since we were dirty, they should have annihilated the whole lager.

David Boder

Nu . . .

Edith Serras

But it was not in their interest to annihilate the whole lagerâThey needed the lager to exist; they needed to show to Berlin that they were doing some work. This all was a bluff [she uses the English word] because we . . . we were not performing any useful work. We were doing punitive workâextermination work. This was done to exterminate us. We would carry rocks. From one place to another we would carry rocks. We wondered [?] a lot why we were carrying rocks. Why were we doing that kind of work? Would Hitler get richer from it? Would we . . . get stronger [as a consequence of exercise]? But that was done with the intent to exterminate us.

David Boder

Nu . . .

Edith Serras

We also worked on the . . . where we made ditches, trenches . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . for the soldiers.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

That we . . . we have made, too. We made streets . . .

David Boder

See here. You went through eighteen selections.

Edith Serras

Yes, I have . . .

David Boder

How did that happen that you . . . that you were not taken?

Edith Serras

Now then . . . once . . . it was fate, it was fate [she gives the word in Hebrewâa gourlâboth times].

David Boder

What is a 'gourl?'

Edith Serras

A 'gourl'âI was not taken. Other women were also not taken. We were in a block of two thousand women. They would take out people from the block to go bathing . . . bathing . . . Of course, we did not bathe. But when it was necessary to go into the gas . . . chamber . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

. . . then we were told that we would be going bathing. Then we would undress naked. A doctor would come. There stood Zell [?] who was the chief of Auschwitz, and there stood Mandel, that was a woman SS-man who was a chief in Auschwitz, who with her own hands used to lead the children to the gas chamber. That was one of her most important services to lend them. And so the selection proceeded of those who had to go [??], and when they happened to be chosen [?? the last two sentences are not clear] they took the number from the hand . . .

David Boder

How did they take the number from the hand?

Edith Serras

The number . . .

David Boder

Oh, they wrote it down?

Edith Serras

. . . wrote it down, the number; and that such and such a number must go into the gas [chamber].

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

Once my number too was taken. But the doctor said, in German . . .

David Boder

Nu . . .

Edith Serras

'She can still croak for a few weeks. So have her marked down [??] she will then go into the gas [?].'

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And in that manner the SS man gave me two big blows over the head, and called me a dirty sow, and ordered me to step aside as fast as possible, to go away. In Ravensbrueck I also was taken once to be gassed; because, although I was only thirty-four years old and I looked like a woman of fifty or fifty-five years. There was a very great selection of the people who had come from Auschwitz. We were all driven outside and the elder of the lager, and he stood and selected the older women, who were to go in gas, and the younger women, who were to remain for work in the front trenches. He asked me how old I was. I told him I was thirty-four years, so he slapped me twice. He threw me to the ground; he trampled me with his feet; he beat me and he said to me, 'You dirty woman that you are. You believe that you may present yourself as a young child. You shall go into the gas chamber with all . . . the old women.' And he put me among the old women. I made every effort to wiggle myself out. I wiggled myself out from their hands and ran away. I was able to run away because at that day there was a mass raid [?] for the gas chamber and they had no time to take the younger ones. They put the older women aside [kept them] until night, and at night they were led away to the gas chamberâto the Jew lager, as it was called. And so I extricated [wiggled] myself because I had run away, and I took my place again in line, in the following line, so that I could pass by again.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And this time he assigned me [??] not to go to the gas chamber.

David Boder

But he could recognize you?

Edith Serras

In such an instance one does not think much. One thinks only of one thingâone has to save himself . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

. . . from this detail. Besides I knew that not all will pass by. It was impossible. They passed by [?] in blocks. I got into the last row . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And I was waiting until night. And then I did not go anymore. I went over to the sick ward. I joined the 'political' women, French 'political' women who also were arrested. And I told them 'You should know I was taken to be gassed. They have beaten me.' I was badly beaten up and very sick from his blows, and they hid me so that I should go for selections no more.

David Boder

Nu . . .

Edith Serras

And in this manner I remained. This lasted a few weeks, and then we were delivered. It was already the end of the war, that is why they were so set to exterminate us. They did everything that not many people should get out of the lager.

David Boder

Now then . . . And how did your liberation come about? The last few days . . .

Edith Serras

The SS men had become very downcast the last few days before liberation. They were no longer the great heroes as we imagined them to be. They were the great SS men when Jewish homestead [possibly the word means a makeshift plural of ghettos] were being destroyed; and they would come in to rob and to assault [commit violence]. They appeared to us to be powerful, when we had no weapons to fight against them. They were powerful when we had no food, no drink and we were thrown into the gas chambers. That all, they were capable of doing. But when they saw that there is already shooting in Berlin, and that Berlin was being bombarded; and now we were in Ravensbrueck, eighty kilometers from Berlin, the great heroes [?] who were beating and trampling [people] with their feet had become very 'little' men . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And they would not beat so badly anymore as before. They became very demoralized.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And orders came from the 'Red Relief' from Sweden.

David Boder

Yes . . . from the Red Cross [It is possible that they were avoiding the word Cross in Jewish. It is obvious the word 'Red' did not mean in this case, 'Russian'].

Edith Serras

From the Red Cross, that they requested the release of French women, Dutch women, Belgian women and Finnish women. Afterwards they were taking Polish women.

David Boder

Yes. And you were considered a French woman.

Edith Serras

I was considered a French woman. All women who were deported from France have become . . . were considered as French women.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And I was liberated by the French 'Red Relief' . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

I came to Sweden.

David Boder

Nu . . .

Edith Serras

When we arrived in Sweden, when . . . the majority of the women were very sick.

David Boder

Through the Swedish Red Cross?

Edith Serras

Red Cross.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . They were very sick. They gave us great care [?] there.

David Boder

Were you too taken to Sweden [This question is again an apparent result of the entrancement of the interviewer/?

Edith Serras

Yes.

David Boder

Oh. Who handed you over to Sweden? The SS men . . . ?

Edith Serras

The SS men transferred us into the hands of the Swedes . . .

David Boder

How many women were there?

Edith Serras

As many as there were French women. We had . . .

David Boder

For instance, how many?

Edith Serras

We were . . . I can't tell you exactly . . .

David Boder

Now about . . . one railroad car, two railroad cars, how many?

Edith Serras

More. We did not travel in railroad cars. We were a group of three hundred and seventy-five women in one lager [in Sweden?]. There were various . . .

David Boder

How did you travel to Sweden [word not clear]?

Edith Serras

We . . . we were taken in large busses of the Red Cross.

David Boder

Oh.

Edith Serras

We traveled in the busses of the Red Cross. The busses came into the lager.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And took out all the French women.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

Afterwards they took all the Dutch women, Polish women. And there we were given the proper first aid . . . to the prisoners. They started to rehabilitate [save] us because we were all demoralized and sick. We knew that if the war would have lasted two weeks longer, not a single prisoner would have come to be liberated. There were women who weighed thirty-three kilos, thirty-four kilos. They made the last selection . . .

David Boder

And what did the SS men say when you were taken?

Edith Serras

They said that they wanted to release only the French [?]. They did not want to release the Jewish women.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

They said that they wanted to release only Aryan women.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

On the first transports they sent exclusively Aryan [women] and no Jewish [women]; but the Red Cross protested . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And they said that they were an international organization, they wanted to take out all who had suffered.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And at that instant they handed over the Jewish ones also.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

But unfortunately, there were not many to be liberated because the SS men did everything possible to kill the majority. And unfortunately the majority were killed in the lager.

David Boder

And so you arrived in Sweden?

Edith Serras

I arrived in Sweden with the others [?].

David Boder

I was in Sweden two and a half months. We were given a very fine reception. They were very courteous and very concerned.[Transcribers note: This is text associated with Serras, but Boder is indicated as speaker in the interview.]

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And the population [last word in French pronunciation] . . . the population did everything for usâwe were their darlings, like children to them. We have . . .

David Boder

Where were you, in a lager or where . . . ?

Edith Serras

We were . . . They located us in a quarantine lager . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

. . . that was near a bathouse [?? Last two words not clear], because it was necessary . . . Sweden is a very . . .

David Boder

Clean?

Edith Serras

A very clean country . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And we were dirty from the lager . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

We had there sicknessesâtyphus, scarlet fever, lice, and various 'microbes' [infections]. So we were taken to a lager, we were given inoculations. They examined us, who was sick and who wasn't sick. Those who were sick were taken to hospitals, and in this manner there remained only healthy women who had no 'microbes' [infections]. And we were given the right to come in contact with the population. But it took six weeks before we could come in contact with the civilian population.

David Boder

Hm . . . and then, how did you return to . . .

Edith Serras

And then I returned to Paris.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

I came [with pride in her voice] by plane.

David Boder

By plane? You flew?

Edith Serras

[Still with pride] Oui [Yes], I flew.

David Boder

Nu . . . and France was already free?

Edith Serras

France was already free. We came in the year '45. France was already free for about a year.

David Boder

And when did you find out that you husband has . . . has gone with another woman [Footnote 3: This question must have been brought up previously before the recording started or during the change of spool. âD.P.B.]?

Edith Serras

When I returned I came to my husband, not knowing anything. My apartment was already occupied by another familyâwe had an apartment no more. He was staying in an apartment as a border [?] and when I asked him how he lived and how he was, I saw that he had a very bad attitude towards me. In fact, my husband was annoyed with me because I participated in the struggle against Fascism, and he is not a [word not clear. She chucklesâtranslation is a guess] socially conscious individual[??].

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

So he was a little against that. And he came to forget me, I having been deported for two years.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

So he has forgotten [me]. This is a kind of a scourge. Among all the deported, ninety-nine percent find their families . . .

David Boder

What?

Edith Serras

Ninety-nine percent do not find their families in shape, because we were deportedâwe were 'dead' people.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

They did not count on us.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And in this manner my husband explained to me that he had another woman.

David Boder

Hm . . . And so you have to get a divorce from him?

Edith Serras

Yes . . .

David Boder

And how did your mother get to America?

Edith Serras

My mother went there in the year '34, to my sister; and from there . . . she was there . . .

David Boder

Was that the sister with whom you have come to Paris

Edith Serras

No. I have a sister ninety kilometers from Paris.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . And my mother lives in New York with a sister who is already for years in America.

David Boder

Did your mother live in Paris, too?

Edith Serras

No, my mother was in Paris only en route . . . through Paris.

David Boder

And she traveled to America directly from . . . ?

Edith Serras

She went directly from Bessarabia.

David Boder

. . . from Bessarabia

Edith Serras

And she has lived there for years, since the year '34. She lives with my sister there . . .

David Boder

. . . and, do they help you in any way . . . Silverstein from New York?

Edith Serras

In New York?

David Boder

Did she help you out in someway when she heard from you?

Edith Serras

Yes, Yes. She sent me a bit of clothing, since I had nothing . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And she has helped me out morally and a bit materially.

David Boder

And what are you doing now in Paris?

Edith Serras

Now, I had the duty to save my child. When I arrived I was very weak. I could not work yet. I went to a hostelry [?] getting ready [?] to work. My eyes had become very sick in the lager.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

I have very weak eyes. I can't . . . I can't . . . I don't see well.

David Boder

You don't see well?

Edith Serras

I don't see well, because I had a trepanation on my head.

David Boder

When: Before . . .

Edith Serras

Before I was deported I had an operation on the head.

David Boder

Oh . . .

Edith Serras

A trepanation.

David Boder

Why did you have a trepanation?

Edith Serras

That is when I had my baby. I had . . . the blood went to my head . . . the milk went to my head . . .

David Boder

Nu . . .

Edith Serras

And I had a [the French word is not clear] temporal congestion [? on the temporal side]. And for that reason they made a trepanation on my head . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

From then on I had somewhat weak eyes. And the lager, too, had a strong effect on me.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

I was unable to work.

David Boder

So did you get any assistance when you returned? Did your sister do something?

Edith Serras

When I returned my sister helped me out a bit.

David Boder

How did that happen, that your sister was not deported?

Edith Serras

My sister is married to a Christian.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And there . . . She did not reveal herself as being Jewish. And I . . . when I was arrested, it was not a question whether I was a Jewess or was not a Jewess. The question was that I was a rebel [? a conspirator?], that I was fighting against the Hitler idea in France.

David Boder

Tell me something. There were some songs and poetry in the lager. Do you remember any?

Edith Serras

There were very many songs . . . But no, I don't remember . . . No.

David Boder

Nu . . .

Edith Serras

I may quote you . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . without reading a letter which I have read.

David Boder

All right . . . quote the letter.

Edith Serras

I shall quote for you a letter, a letter in Hebrew, but I shall tell it in Yiddish . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

There was a bride [betrothed]. I was with her in the same block. And her fiance had worked for three years in the crematories. Unfortunately I don't remember the name, because it is very hard to remember [one word not clear].

David Boder

Your memory . . .

Edith Serras

I have . . . I badly wanted to know how things happen in the crematoryâwhat do they do, how do they work there, and why he worked there. For a long time he did not want to write. But when I wrote to him, that I know all about it, and that I also know that we [too] are extermination material in the lager, so I am entitled to know, as well as he knows it. So he wrote to me about how things proceed there . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

How they are being gas-killed [gassed], how they get into the crematories, and how they are being burned.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

He later requested a suit, that is a working . . .

David Boder

. . . suit?

Edith Serras

I asked him, 'Why must you have a blue work suit [? overalls]??' So he replied that he deals [?] a lot with blood. We did not understand him, what does it mean, he deals [?] with blood.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

So he explained to us why he dealt with blood. So he said, "When people are being gassed, the people die very hard."

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

That is the worst deathâthe people choke, they are being . . . suffocated.

David Boder

Suffocated?

Edith Serras

But they cannot die. Blood breaks out from the eyes, the mouth and the ears, and from the mouth.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And when they take the bodies to burn . . .

David Boder

They are covered with blood. All the body is covered with blood, too. He also told me [about] the work lager. The chief . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

. . . Zell [?] was his name. He was a wild beast. A big man. He was big and very strong. And he was beating badly. He beat us all most bitterly. When they were gassing the people he would stand and watch through a small little window, which was installed just for him.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And he drank champagne when they choked . . . when the people were choking to death he was drinking champagne through [at] the little window. Such a brutal person he was. And he tells us of a case, he writes it: "Already is is three years that I work on this job. I am already transformed into an animal. I have already gassed my mother; I have already gassed my father; I have already gassed my sisters and my brothers, and the whole people, the Jewish [people]. And . . . what happened to me today. Today . . . " he says, "I have lost . . . I cried a great deal. I thought of myself already as a scoundrelâI thought of myself as a criminal. I already thought that I have not a heart anymore like other people have a heart, when I have seen so many children and so many women, and so many men perishing. But no," he says, "that is not the case. Today," he says, "I have seen that I have," he says, "still in me a bit of the human. Because they led in my Rebbe [Hebrew teacher, who is not necessarily a rabbi]." He [the writer of the letter] had studied in a Yeshiva [an institution of higher Hebrew, mostly Talmudic learning]. "He was taken . . . [The spool apparently ran out in the middle of a sentence. The interviewer apparently there and then spliced together the end of this spool with another spool and continued the interview, expecting it to last only a few minutes more. See Note at the end. âD.P.B.]

David Boder

[In English] . . . an additional splice on the wire, after the thirty-three minutes are over.

David Boder

[In Yiddish] Now, will you please start again the history of the Rebbe. So he wrote . . .

Edith Serras

So he wrote, "Today I felt that I have not yet become a scoundrel, that I have still in me a human spirit. I have seen [spotted] in the gas chamber . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

I have seen my rebbe from the Yeshiva, who has arrived with twenty students or so

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And the Rebbe recognized me . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And when I saw that the rebbe, who had twenty students or so with him, is there in the gas chamber, I," he says, "cursed myself, and I see that I have turned back the last Jewish oar [?] helm [? the word is not clear; may also mean "spirit"] which was still alive, and which would still remain of us." Such a sad letter from him I have read . . .

David Boder

When did he see . . . Did the rebbe die there?

Edith Serras

The rebbe went, together with the students, into the gas chamber.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And he had seen the rebbe with whom he was in the Yeshiva.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

He saw him in the gas . . . going into the gas chamber. And at that instant he cried.

David Boder

So . . .

Edith Serras

He had already seen so many people perishâhis heart already could not cry. It was already natural that . . . that women and men, children as well, would perish. We were a death supply; he, too, was [a part] of the death supply [consignment to dieâmaterial for death]; but when he saw the rebbe perishing with his bright students, then, he says, "I broke out crying. Today I have recognized that I have a human spirit in me [?] like all people."

David Boder

Hm . . . And what happened to him afterwards? Was he liberated?

Edith Serras

Afterwards . . . Afterwards he was among those . . . among those men who blew up the two crematories, and he perished . . .

David Boder

Aha . . . He perished?

Edith Serras

He perished. He was shot because their labor [their aim] was afterwards a secret laborâto annihilate the crematory. We also had a very beautiful song . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . about a woman who was a young girl in her early twenties. Mala.

David Boder

Who?

Edith Serras

Mala from Belgium.

David Boder

On . . . [In English] What was her name . . . ? [In Yiddish] Her name, . . . which Mala was that? [This episode was also told by Henya Frydman].

Edith Serras

From Belgium.

David Boder

She was afterwards . . . She has . . .

Edith Serras

They tore here . . . She killed herself.

David Boder

Aha . . . Tell me about Mala.

Edith Serras

Mala was a girl. She was in her twenties.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

She worked for the SS men as a runner [messenger].

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

You know what it means, "a runner?"

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And she was very nice. She was very smart and very beautiful, and she was very nice, and logical.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

She used her intelligence and her niceness not for her own existence and her own selfishness [selfish aims] but for the good of the women who have come to the lager and who were to be killed . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

[Two words not clear.]

David Boder

What was Mala's last name? Don't you remember?

Edith Serras

No. Her name . . . She was called Mala. I know her very well, I have talked with her a great deal . . .

David Boder

Was it not Mala Zellenbaum?

Edith Serras

[Pause] I could not tell you.

David Boder

Yes . . . Now then, what happened to Mala?

Edith Serras

To help . . . Mala made use of her beauty, her nobility [of spirit] and her intelligence in order to help us . . .

David Boder

Oh . . .

Edith Serras

. . . She, who was a political prisoner . . .

David Boder

That was . . .

Edith Serras

A political internee . . .

David Boder

. . . In Burkenau?

Edith Serras

That was in Birkenau.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

She was also a political internee.

David Boder

Where was she from? From Belgium?

Edith Serras

From Belgium.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

Every Sunday she took . . . She 'organized' [meaning stole] soup for us.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And gave everybody an additional liter of soup for us to eat. Now where did she get that soup? The soup was ordered for people, for the SS men. Very good soup, but they never ate that soup. She would take the soup and bring it to us, so that we could eat it.

David Boder

And why didn't they eat it?

Edith Serras

Because they ate meat, they ate butter and they had much better thingsâthey did not have to eat this.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

So she used to give it to us.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And with that she helped us a great deal. There were very many women who had become sickâwho were lying in the sickward in the hospital . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

They were listed to go into the gas. She knew that these women were historical [historically important] women . . .

David Boder

. . . to go to the gas . . .

Edith Serras

. . . to the gas chamber.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

She knew that these women were historical [history making] women. These are women who had given their livesâthese are women who brought [served] freedom.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

. . . and were interested in liberty for other people [??]

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

. . . So she would take their numbers in the hospital . . . One could not lay sick for long . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

One would lay for a few days. Then they would come, their numbers would be taken, and they were sent to the gas chamber. But she used to erase their numbers.

David Boder

Erased the tatto number, or from the paper?

Edith Serras

. . . from the paper . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And these women would not go into the gas. And such women have come to be liberated.

David Boder

So . . .

Edith Serras

In 1944 . . .

David Boder

So, what was the song about her?

Edith Serras

That was a song about her heroism which she . . . which she has demonstrated. She demonstr . . . She led such a work of solidarity among us that if she would have been caught at such work she could have been shot. But she did not stop. She did everything to help us.

David Boder

[Words not in the text]

Edith Serras

That was Mala, Mala, the great Jewish heroine who did not scare before the SS men. I don't remember so exactly the text [?].

David Boder

Yes . . . Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And that was sung . . . Her heroism and the way she died.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

I shall tell you how she died in the lager. In 1944 we were told that the lager would be annihilated.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

An order had come from Berlin to annihilate the lager. Transports from the outside are not arriving anymore; at the front, there are battles already in Berlin; France is already free; Belgium is already free. There are battles only on the Russian fronts and on the Polish fronts.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And now since there are no more people to be brought in for annihilation from the outside, so the lager [itself] may already be exterminated. So she told to us: 'Children! Up to now I was here in the lager to help you. My life had no value for myself. You have seen that enough. I saw that I am able to help you. When I saw that I was able to erase numbers so that the children should not go into the gas, I did so. Now I cannot serve you anymore . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

. . . because we shall all be annihilated now. And one early morning Mala donned the clothes of an SS woman . . . of a woman SS-man . . . And together with a man she escaped from the lager.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

She was already gone for a few weeks. She was already very far. But she was a person who was of great political value.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

She did not seek just to save her own life . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

But she wanted contact with liberty [with the free world].

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

To tell about our sufferings.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And she had maintained a great deal of connections on the 'outside'âto transmit letters, to tell how the gassing proceeds, because we thought in the lager that we have been cut off from the whole world; and that the whole world does not know that people are being burned day and night . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And for that reason she was caught.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

Because if she would not have been concerned with us also when at liberty . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

If she would have escaped abroad, to Switzer . . . To Sweden . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

Or to Belgium, or to . . . But she was devoted to us, to make propaganda, to make propaganda in such a manner that we should be saved as soon as possible . . . because we did not know about our fate what we know now.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

We thought that we were chattle [material] in a corner of Europe, which is unknown to the whole world. And Mala had escaped to make known that this last 'handful' of people were to be killed.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

That was her ideal [aim].

David Boder

Now . . .

Edith Serras

And when she was caught with that man, the man was hanged.

David Boder

Where, in the lager?

Edith Serras

In the lager.

David Boder

Have you seen it?

Edith Serras

We know it. Men have seen it in the mens' lager.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

So he was hanged.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And she was supposed to be hanged in the womens' lager.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

They held her several weeks. She was clubbed and beaten, she should tell how she managed to escape, with whom she had political connections on the outside. But she told them nothing . . . One day, we all returned in the evening from work. We were lined up in the lager, and in the middle of the lager was erected a . . . on what they hang . . .

David Boder

A gallows?

Edith Serras

A gallows, to hang . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And Mandel, the SS woman who mistreated the whole lager, and she was a very mean woman. But that woman liked [?] Mala very much. So she said, 'This Mala, in whom we had such great confidence, has escaped [two words not clear].

David Boder

Nu . . .

Edith Serras

So there has come an order from German, from Berlin, that a Jewish woman who dares to escape from our lager must be hanged."

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

In that momentâMala had a razor knife [razor blade?] . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

. . . in her hand. And she cut several of her arteries . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

When the leader of the work service saw that she was cutting up her arteries because she did not want to go to her death . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

. . . by their hands, but that she wanted to die of her own deathâso the leader of the work service ran over to her, grabbed her by both hands, and twisted her hands so that the blood should not run out . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

So she stood up and slapped him twice.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

And she said, 'I take on you the last vengeance for my sisters and brothers and [children, who have innocently perished.]'

David Boder

What language did she speak?

Edith Serras

German.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

And we heard it, and we saw it. So they gave . . . the work service leader gave an order . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

She was bleeding . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

She was dying . . .

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

. . . that she should be . . . 'killed alive,' that is, she should be burned alive, she should be conscious of her death.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

So she was taken in a . . . a little cart.

David Boder

Hm . . .

Edith Serras

Her body was taken to the crematory. But in the crematory she was shot to death by a person who worked in the crematory.

David Boder

A prisoner?

Edith Serras

A prisoner.

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

Because he said, 'Mala does not deserve [the suffering] to burn alive.' That she was the greatest Jewish heroine, who has done so much good. And since she was so preoccupied with us, we cannot permit that she be doomed to such sufferings.

David Boder

He shot her out of compassion?

Edith Serras

Out of compassion. He gave her a bullet in the head. That was [that he considered] his duty, not to permit Mala to suffer. Mala deserved [the mercy] to be shot and not to be burned alive. When we heard that Mala was shot by one of our people, we were very happy because we would have been very unhappy if we would have to 'see' that Mala was burning alive.

David Boder

How . . . did he have to revolver . . . or what . . . ?

Edith Serras

That . . . the men who worked in the crematories, as I told you already . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Edith Serras

. . . were organized, so that one day they could fight the SS men. [Audio ends abruptly]