ACTII and III - LaGuardia ePortfolio

The year is January 20, 1943
and Marie and I have been transferred
to a different prisoner-of- war camp in Poland. This
Majdanek and looks similar to the camp they were imprisoned in before.
this time I had withered away to a mere ninety pounds and Marie
now weighs eighty pounds. We resembled corpses with our pale skin and
sunken cheek bones. When they arrive at the camp I am
small confining cabin with two other Jewish women. The
assigned to a
has no
water, or a stove. There are only two tiny cots lying
Officer: All
must report to Wodzislaw
Anyone who stops, faints, grows tired, complains, grumbles, walks too
slowly will be killed immediately !
Gasps and
whispers immediately penetrate the camp and throughout the
congregation of every woman present. Fear
like a wildfire, igniting an uncontainable spark of anxiety and dread.
We had
known this was coming. There
had been talk for months that
the German army was planning a death march, knowing that the Allied
forces were not
long in
tarrying to come
save us. My heart was
immediately filled with fear; not so much for myself as it was for Vladek.
him? I had n ’t seen him in so long. He last
wrote me August 16, 1942, shortly after I arrived at the first P.O.W.
camp. I had grown
increasingly despondent
and depressed, for the first
time in all my life I began
to entertain thoughts of suicide and rather
preferred death to life. Our
days were hard nad our nights were long.
The Germans subjected us to all kinds of torture and forced us to do
hard labor all cay long from sunrise to sunset. We were scarsely fed and
malnourished. Anyone who did’nt work fast enough or complained
was either beaten or killed. Any womwan over the age of fifty was sent
to the gas chamber
or burned alive. All young
girls under the age of
twelve were also killed or sent to the gas chamber but those that were
useful were put to work as spinsters, cooks, or nurses. Many young
children, some as young as my Richieu, often froze to death or starved.
committed suicide.
Once I had returned from working in the button factory and found a
hanging from her cabin door dead. The sight had
transfixed and repulsed but
me both
I could n’ t turn away. Day and night I
wondered what Vladek was doing and if he was okay. I sang and
chanted prayers on a daily basis for Valdek’s safety. Some women even
tried to escape but their efforts were always thwarted by the Germans
and those who were caught were shot dead on the spot or sent to the
gas chamber. We had fallen on hard and desperate times and it was
becoming increasingly hard for us to hold on to our Jewish faith.
German Officer: All
Jews line up in size order! We
have orders that
you are to leave now!
More gasps and whispers all around, this time louder and more
Officer: Quiet or I’ll kill you all! We will march as soldiers and anyone
who cannot or will not keep up will be removed from the line and shot
We all lined up in size order without another word but one could
practically feel the undercurrent of fear that now consumed us. Would
Marie or I be one the next victims? I
silently sent up a prayer to
God, hoping He would hear it and spare Marie and I. And Vladek? Was
he being forced to march as well? I sent up another prayer, this time
for Vladek. All around me I heard the frantic whispered prayers of the
other women and my heart swelled to bursting with fear. I did n’ t want
to see any of these women perish but with the Germans, death was
inevitable. We began
to march and we kept
steady pace with the
Germans and their big, scary dogs and their guns. Halfway to the
destination point I saw Marie’s legs give way and she crumpled to the
ground. I quickly ran to where she was and tried to help her off the
ground but the Germans were faster than I.
Officer: Back away Jew or I’ll shoot you along with her !
“Please don’t kill her, she ’s only a young girl.” I implored.
The officer merely laughed and ordered me back to my place in line. I
did as he was told but with a heavy heart ; knowing my only friend
was soon going to die. I watched in horror as the officer jerked Marie
up, put the barrel of the rifle to her head, and blew her brains out. I
turned away and wretched at the sight. We reached our destination two
days later. The Germans lined us up and shot every other woman on
the line. Once again , I could nothing but watch in horror as my fellow
Jewish sisters died horrible and bloody deaths.
It is now April 3, 1943 and so far there have been no sign of the
American soldiers and the population had dwindled to a mere fifteen
thousand of us( I t started with thirty thousand.) I now weighed seventy
five pounds and was becoming desperate for food. I began to trade my
expensive clothes, jewelry, and shoes for food. Vladek wrote me a few
times reassuring me that he was fine and everything was alright. He tried
to comfort me, telling me that the Americans would come to save us and
we’d be together again and make a new life for ourselves in America and
maybe even have another child. Would n ’ t that be grand? The Germans
have seized what little jewelry I had left, including my wedding ring but
luckily they had n’ t discovered my diary or else they would have
confiscated it. This diary, in effect, has become the most valuable thing
that I have left, the only reminder that I’m actually still alive and not
already in hell. With a sigh, I closed my diary and hid it under the
dusty mattress under my bunk and head out to bathe and dress for
the day.
It is now ten o’clock at night and my work day has officially ended. I
work at a clothing factory around dangerous machinery fourteen hours a
day. Three people died today because they’d gotten caught in the
machines and the Germans did nothing. Two Jewish men were sent to
pull the bodies from the machine and they were dumped in the
“graveyard” like trash. The Germans have absolutely no disregard for the
Jews at all. They treat us
inhumanely, like animals, and force us to live
under extreme, often brutal , conditions. During the winter we freeze to
death and during the summer we often faint from the heat ; others have
suffered heat strokes. We are fed nothing more than bread scraps and
water for dinner as if we were dogs or pigs. One of my roommates,
Gretchen watchosky , was sent to the gas chamber for tying to escape.
The irony of the situation is that she told me when she escaped she
was going to find a way for me escape as well. I no longer prayed to
God because I felt that in my mind’s eye that God had bailed on me
and was no longer answering my prayers. Darkness and despair had
taken over every part of my life and consumed my heart
The year is now 1944 and I am still confined in this camp. The
population is now at nine thousand. The Germans have declared a mass
genocide on the Jews and Hitler won’t rest until all the Jews are killed. I
am relying on my instinct and common sense to survive, for without it I
too, would have been dead. I
have traded away everything of value and
have nothing left to trade or sell. I have seen more deaths and suicides
than I care to admit. I have no friends left in this camp since all my
friends have been killed or committed suicide. My only hope is that
Vladek is safe. I have n’ t heard from him in over six months. Once
again, he tried to reassure me saying everything is gonna be alright but I
no longer believe him. It will never be alright and nothing will ever be the
same again. If we ever make it out of this hell alive I will never forget
this experience and hope to someday pass it down to my future child
should I conceive again. With each passing day the Germans are growing
increasingly brutal, killing off more and more Jews. I, myself, have
narrowly escaped death only by playing by the rules and doing
everything they tell me to do no matter how extreme
or laborious the
task. Roughly three thousand of those who died were children under the
age of fifteen. Many more children have become orphans and have been
reduced to begging for scraps. I try to help them any way I can but
there is not much I can do since I don’t have much food left. I
sound off in the distance
Anya put down her pen to listen. Yes, it
footsteps. Anya
was indeed the sound of
up and stood outside her door to see what the
noise was. Anya gasped. American soldiers marched like an army sent
by God toward the camp. They had come ! All around me people began
to cheer and shout at the arrival of the American soldiers. The
Germans tried to scramble over the walls while others, rejuvenated by
bravado, tried to fight off the American soldiers to no avail. I never
thought I’d see this day come. I’d been hoping and praying for a long
time for the Americans to come and just as I had given up hope they
arrived. Finally I could be reunited with Vladek and we can go to
America and start a new life together and maybe even have another
child. The soldiers escorted us out of the prison camp, the four
thousand of us that remained alive, and into the warm night. I
breathed in my first breath of liberated air. I was truly and finally free.
With nothing on me but my diaries and the clothes I had on, I took
my first steps toward freedom and knew that this night would forever
be in my memory, that I would retell this tale to my child and it
would become part of my family’s legacy.