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

  • 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 clear—possibly 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 knew—the 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 mother—the 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 betrayal—so 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 lager—we 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 happen—that 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. —D.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'. —D.P.B.].
  • David Boder: Into what?
  • Edith Serras: . . . into the gas . . . That means—into 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?—because 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 educator—and we imagined that the deportation camp was not an extermination camp, but just a work camp [two words not clear]. We didn't know—[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 child—she would go into the gas chamber. If there was a woman in her thirties with a child—she 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 ourselves—out of sixteen hundred—only 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,'—one 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 microbes—we 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'clock—we 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 laugh—she 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 clear—possibly 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 six—seven weeks, we were only but a few women there from the eighteen hundred [the statistics are slightly inconsistent—but 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 demoralized—they 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 bodies—we 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 dead—the 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 women—he 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 die—to 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 winter—we 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 sick—she would get pneumonia or some other disease—the 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-—to 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 things—clubs, [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 together—thanks 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 outside—ten 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 them—they '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 them—they 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 her—it showed over her body [abdomen]. The babies—there 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 children—live 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 food—all 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 lagers—[there] we got soup. We were not given water to wash. We had no toilet—just nothing. And they began to assign us—all 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 children—to 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 transports—women, men and children. Children who were going around nicely dressed, whom their parents had taken out for a walk [??]. Mothers beautifully dressed—young 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 fast—when they would take six or ten . . . let us say, they took ten 'bidon' of gass . . .
  • David Boder: Ten what?
  • Edith Serras: Ten 'bidon'—that 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 them—thousand 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 naked—men 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 Hungary—because 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 heard—my 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 Chopin—the 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 playing—classical 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 people—human 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]—that was the greatest loot—the 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 dirty—so 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 lager—They 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 work—extermination 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 Hebrew—a gourl—both times].
  • David Boder: What is a 'gourl?'
  • Edith Serras: A 'gourl'—I 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 chamber—to 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 thing—one 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 us—we 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 sicknesses—typhus, 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. —D.P.B.]?
  • Edith Serras: When I returned I came to my husband, not knowing anything. My apartment was already occupied by another family—we 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 chuckles—translation 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 deported—we 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 crematory—what 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 death—the 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 scoundrel—I 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. —D.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 perish—his 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 die—material 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 labor—to 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 things—they 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 sick—who 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 lives—these 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'—to 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 moment—Mala 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 death—so 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]
  • David Boder: Aha . . . So was it found out that he had done it?
  • Edith Serras: No.
  • David Boder: Aha . . .
  • Edith Serras: And when they blew up the cremat . . . This was the great Jewish heroine, Mala . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Edith Serras: I shall tell you about six Jewish heroes. How they have stolen materials, and sent them to the crematories to blow up the crematory. And the SS men have found out that in Bunio [? name of a nearby factory, possibly Buna] Jewish women were working who were politically well-trained, and that they had stolen the explosive materials for the crematory. So they arrested six girls who were betrayed. Because one was most horribly beaten, all six girls were . . . were beaten; but one did not behave well [one could not hold out] and betrayed the others.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Edith Serras: And all six girls were hanged, and . . .
  • David Boder: In the lager?
  • Edith Serras: In the lager.
  • David Boder: You have seen it.
  • Edith Serras: I have seen it. I had to carry their bodies . . . I then worked in Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Edith Serras: In the sick room . . .
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Edith Serras: One sister was sick. And her sister had to be hanged that day.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Edith Serras: And I had to take care of the sister, and help her and comfort her.
  • David Boder: Nu . . . [a pause] Nu . . .
  • Edith Serras: And when the six girls were hanged—the large lager had to look on at how they were being led to the 'guillotine' [the interview took place in France].
  • David Boder: You mean the 'gallows?'
  • Edith Serras: Yes. When they were hanged they stepped up [to the scaffold] with shouts and stamping feet . . . [triumphantly]
  • David Boder: The girls?
  • Edith Serras: They were going not like to their death, but they were going like six heroes, laughingly. And they jumped on the table and they shouted 'Vengeance!'
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes Spool Number 35, which is oversize—thirty-eight minutes long. A spool by Mrs. Serras, Edith Serras, who lives now in Paris. She was a French deportee.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • English Translation : David P. Boder