Ber in Auschwitz-Birkenau

Ber and his siblings in Auschwitz-Birkenau

"The transport to Auschwitz-Birkenau became a single long nightmare that never seemed to end!"

Ber, Ester Malka and Lemel went with the last deportations from Lodz ghetto by train to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in mid-August 1944. They stood up in the train wagon for about 10 days with only a little water and bread. The train carts were filled to the burst limit with about 150-200 people in each. When they needed to relieve themselves it was done initially in a bucket in a corner but later they had to do it where they were standing. Only a few small windows for fresh air were on both sides of the train cart and only a few could stand by these. The air was terrible and the stench must have been unbearable. He has also told that during the journey in the train carriage many died and the survivors had to stand among the dead and excrements. In other words it was a total nightmare.

When they arrived at Auschwitz it became apparent that they had arrived in hell. They were set up in a long line for sorting. Ber and his brother Lemel were sorted to work at the camp of an SS officer in the camp and it might have been the notorious "Angel of Death", Dr Josef Mengele.

Lemel and Ber ended up in a barrack for 3-4 days and were packed as sardines, according to Ber. He has also told in an interview that every morning there were several dead along the electric fence. They had probably been looking for somewhere to relief themselves in the dark and died when they accidentally came in contact with the electric fence. There were even those who no longer wanted to suffer, and in order to put an end to it quickly, they went right into the electric fence.

After a few days, SS officers entered the barracks and wanted a certain number of workers to work in a factory. All the interns wanted to get away from this hell of course. It became a selection instead and there Ber was chosen for this work. The choice was to stay in Auschwitz-Birkenau and possibly die there or get away and work. The following day he was sent by train to Braunschweig.

Lemel was killed only a few days in Auschwitz-Birkenau by an unknown inmate with a hammer to his head. He was believed to have died immediately of his injuries. Probably by another inmate and it was not uncommon for the camp inmates to kill each other over, for example, the lack of food. You did what you could to survive and that included killing another human being. Ber testified that he was deceased and it must have been painful for Ber because he loved his big brother. He later gave his own son that name, Leon (Lemel in Yiddish). Lemel died in mid-August 1944. This has Ber told Susan his own daughter. Now only two of the Fuks family remained.

Ester did not have the same luck as her siblings on arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau in terms of sorting. She was sorted for execution right away. Somehow, Ester managed to sneak over to the other line undiscovered to the line for labour. Had she been discovered, the guards used to shoot indiscriminately in the line and kill many more than just the one who deviated. In other words, she had an angels guard and the reason the guards did this was a deterrent. The horror they had in the line around her then must have been extreme because this happened on numerous occasions and everyone knew. Who would call out that someone right there had deviated from the other line? That would have been suicide. What happened to Ester in Auschwitz-Birkenau is unclear more than she survived with a tattoo with numbers on the inside of her forearm as evidence. That could have meant that she worked in the death camp. This tattoo Ber never got and the reason may have been the short stay in the camp for only 3-4 days.

As little information, only about 10,000 Jews and Romans survived the Lodz ghetto, most of which had about 223,000 inhabitants. Ber and Esther Malka Fuks were two of them.