Personal Reflections - In Camps
Judith Rubinstein Remembers Some More | Judith Jaegermann
That I am alive today is due to my saintly mother's intervention in saving me from the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
After being in the ghetto in my native land, Hungary, under miserable conditions for quite a long time, we - my father, mother, my two brothers, Simon sixteen and Menachem six and myself were taken away with thousands of other wretched human beings to the railway station. Jammed into cattle cars with the promise that we are being taken to Germany. To work in the factories for the war effort and the greater "glory" of National Socialism.
Of course, the promise was misleading and after a few days of traveling under the most degrading conditions, broken in spirit, hungry and dying from thirst, stripped of all human dignity we finally arrived to a place we never heard of before: Auschwitz-Birkenau.
It was a bright, sunny day, May 20, 1944 when the train stopped with its human cargo. As the doors were unlocked and opened we saw many Nazis in SS uniforms, guns at the ready.
Men in striped suits were running around, pulling people down from the train. At the entrance of the camp was a high iron gate with the sign: "Arbeit Macht Frei". "Work Makes You Free". On one platform beautiful music welcomed us, played by inmates also dressed in striped uniforms. At one side of the fence some people were waiting for the sick and feeble persons, with the promise that they would be taken to the hospital right away.
Before our family left the train, my Father blessed me and instructed me to try to get into a working crew because that might save my life. I am certain that he knew more about our situation than he let us know. He didn't want to frighten us. A few minutes later he disappeared with my brother Simon. I never saw either of them ever again.
As I was standing huddled with my mother and little brother, when along came a high ranking SS officer, who, we later found out was the infamous Dr. Mengele. He started the "selection" among the women. It was noticed that Mengele was separating the women who looked 45 or older and the mothers with children, sending them to one side and the young and healthy looking girls and women to the other side, filed five in a row.
It must have been a maternal instinct that inspired my mother to do what she did next.
In front of us were standing four tall good-looking girls. We knew them from the ghetto, and they were holding the hands of their three little nieces and one nephew whose parents were hiding in Budapest. They sent their children to the countryside to be with their grandfather for safety. But they weren't any safer there for they were deported from the countryside with the grandfather and young aunts.
My Mother pulled these children to her side and pushed me to be the fifth in the row with four young women. "I will take care of the children" she told them "and you will take care of Judith" (meaning me.) I started to protest and turned around to go back to her but within a minute she disappeared with the four children. That was the last time I saw my Mother.
I often wondered how she knew she would save my life by separating me from herself and the children. It gives me sleepless nights even today when I think of the agony she must have suffered before she was killed with the children and thousands of others.
I am for ever grateful for the gift of life she gave me. The pains of losing her so young will never leave me. May her memory be blessed always.
© Copyright Judy Cohen, 2001.
© Copyright Judy Cohen, 2001.