The first one, basically the difficult one, was from Warsaw to Dachau. That was the most devastating, I don't know if I mentioned it earlier. This was in 1944-I'm talking about marches and when the Russians broke through on the eastern front, allegedly, there was an order from Berlin from Himmler, to kill all the people in the camp. There were at that point 3600 people left in the camp, 600 were in the beds, they couldn't move anymore. So 3000 they were supposed to kill, all of us, but for some reason the Polish underground sent a message to the Germans that if you kill those people-they already knew that the war was almost over, so they cold be a little more vocal-they wouldn't let any German out of Warsaw, and there was a heavy occupation of German troops in Warsaw, which is the capital of Poland, I am sure you all know.
So, they decided to march us out. And we marched, 3000 of us marched out. And we marched and we marched, we marched for about a week. We came to a big river, and I remember the city's name it was Seclean, and they marched us into the river, we hadn't had any water. This was in June of 44, it was very hot. So, we were so, almost mental, we all rushed into–they took us to the edge of the water and we jumped into that river and we started drinking. For some reason the people wouldn't stop, they kept drinking, they were trying to get away. So the Germans took troops to the other side of the river, the opposite side and started shooting. They put a line outside the shooting, they took the dogs in, and the people wouldn't stop because of the dogs. They started shooting. After, that river turned into blood, it was all red. Then we got out and we started marching again for a few days, Then we went back in boxcars and we ended back in Dachau. Now, of the 3600, a few weeks before there were 240 left, I was one of them.
That was one death march. Then the other death march was in '45, in April, we were taken to another camp near Dachau. They marched us back to Dachau when the Americans came though. These were the most, the rest were easier, but those two, they killed a lot on the road. If you didn't march any longer on the road they shot you and threw you on the side of the road, and there were dogs around you all the time. I remember in the big march, we were so thirsty, with our buckets where we get our food and the soup, we held it out because it was raining one day, so the only water we had to catch enough water in our soup bowl, so we could drink. So, it was very serious, they killed a lot of people.
Going back before your liberation. Can you describe when they told you you were marching to Switzerland?
Well, to keep us controlled. They said, "We have instructions from the Red Cross to march you to Switzerland, to the Swiss border." We all followed. It was great. "We are going to Switzerland. The War is over." What they didn't tell us was that's how they kept us not being in an uprising – whatever you want to call it – and not to escape. What they did was they got us to Dachau, back to Dachau from Kaufering. We marched for a couple of days. Then we were back behind the wires. We marched and we marched and then they got us. The Red Cross could have helped. They knew more than we knew. They were not good during the Second World War. They can say all they want. They were controlled by the Germans.
What were people saying around you during this time? Did you believe liberation was close?
We knew there was something going on because there were airplanes were going over constantly and we heard the bombs being dropped on German positions, etc. We didn't know what was going to happen. One thing we were almost convinced of, everyone, that we will never get out alive. We had to try, and so we tried, and we got out alive. But then you've got to try, and we tried and we came out a live, but so very few. But yes, we knew something was going on. Germans stuck with us as guards and didn't take off, which would have been helpful.
We think about what we see today – and I don't mean to politicize this – but this happened once before, what you see in here, what's happening in you know where, in Iraq, that happened once before, Hitler was in charge. It's happening in Iraq, what they're doing to their own people. That's why it's so important we, each and every one of us, we got to stand up if this happens. You can't let happen what they've done to people, whoever they are, the politicians. We got to be heard, and I think you ought to be heard, you cannot let people like that take over a country. It's sad, sad, sad ,sad. If we do that, it'll be fine,we'll have a good nation, we have a good country. Here it's easy, but we have to make sure that other people have the same liberty we have here.
Can you tell us about the march from Warsaw to
In June of '44 the Germans were stopped because they were marching east, the Germans. They went all the way to Stalingrad. They were half-way into – close to Moscow. Then all of a sudden the Russians realized that it was worse under the Germans – I'm talking about the population and the soldiers – that it was worse under the Germans than it was under the Russians. So they all of a sudden started fighting for their country and they pushed the Germans back. By June of '44 the Russians had broken through and they were coming to us in Warsaw. There were at that point in time about 3600 prisoners left of which there had been about 12,000, but the others were killed over a period of a year – died of hunger, died of killings. And the Germans had given orders – Berlin they had given orders to the Germans in Warsaw to kill all the prisoners in the camp. We called it a camp in Warsaw, in the ghetto, they built us a camp.
The German commander was told, "If you kill all these people, there's not a German going out of Warsaw. We'll kill you all." And they took notice. So, they decided to march us out. There were 3600 left of us – 600 couldn't walk anymore, they were shot in the bunks. And 3000 marched, and we marched, and we marched for two weeks due west. Hardly any food, no water. Then we came to a river, and they drowned half of them, and luckily I was in the hundred – every hundred they had a group of a hundred, and another hundred, and another hundred, and luckily, I was in one of the early hundreds.
When we got into the water people decided, "Oh my God, I'm going to get across there, of this river, and escape!" When the Germans saw that, they took the dogs around the other side of the machine guns and they started firing so we wouldn't go swim across – not that we could swim. Everybody...in those days – like you guys all know how to swim – in those days not everyone knew how to swim. But it was so bad that this river turned to be red by killing that many. So I was in the first group and I got out fast and then they killed some more. We marched for another four or five days.
Then they put us back in boxcars for another week or so. We ended up in Dachau. And of the 3000 – or the 3600 – who were there, and the 3000 who marched out, 240 got out of the boxcars. I was one of them. In Dachau they took us to a side camp of Dachau after a few days where we stayed until 1945, the middle of April. And by April 30th, we were liberated by the American army.