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" Auschwitz-Birkenau there is no time to brood. It was a time to gather all your strength so that you could finish the day's work and hope that you are going to see the sun rise tomorrow. The reason for this is because they kept us on a very low calorie diet, purposely, so that we would not have the strength to run away. And of course not having any hair made us conspicuous in case somebody had run away. And where could you run to? Every area was surrounded by these tall electric wire fences. There was no way one could run away.

"But one time when my turn came - I remember seeing my mother last - we were all naked and she was first and Annuska was next and I was last, and she looked back, like that, and I saw her cry when I was beginning to walk the other way. We both looked at each other, I said, "Mother, don't cry. I'll see you yet. I'll see you yet mother, don't cry." And off she went and disappeared from my life forever. I was very close to her. I was her first daughter after four boys. I always heard how lucky she was to have me.

"We were kept in a dark barrack until late at night when a truck came to take us away. And finally a truck came and one SS man let us onto the truck, and then another came to close that canvas in the back - they were like heavy drapes made out of canvas. This was the Hungarian guard who did that and this Hungarian guard was our guard at the Kanada work detail where I worked just behind gas chamber and crematorium number four, about twenty, twenty five feet away from it, and we were separated only by electric wire fences so we could see people going in, long columns of people going in and never come out, only through the chimneys (gestures upward with her hands). And this was the guard who guarded us there. Once in a while he would speak to us in Hungarian just minimally, and I even remember seeing a picture of his grandchild in his wallet; I held it in my hand and so did my mother. And he said he was not in Auschwitz by choice. This was the guard who guarded us.

"And after he saw me there he said to me in Hungarian, "Te is?"- meaning "You too?" and I just - I just nodded, acknowledging my fate. And after he saw me there he told all of us on the truck, that "you know that we're going to the gas chamber." But, whoever wants to jump off on the way, you go ahead but if you find - if you are found, you are not to give me away for I may be able to save other lives yet. But if you do give me away, both you and I will be killed. And he just closed the canvas drape and he went up front, and he slowly drove off.

"The gas chambers were a good distance away. Well at least when we walked, we couldn't march so fast, so it took us almost an hour to get there in the morning, it seems, and back again at night. The truck would have to cross into another camp section, and then another a gate, before entering the forested area - the area of the gas chambers.

"And I thought quickly, "If I stay on this truck, I'll be killed - in an hour and a half I'll be up, coming up the chimney by way of smoke. If I jumped, I might be found and killed, and then taken to the crematorium, but perhaps not, that here was my chance to see my mother again. So when that truck approached that familiar wooded area just on the other side of that fence, it was part of the electric wire fences, that gate. I just jumped off the slow moving truck, and I leaped down the embankment. I remembered that spot every day as we marched to Kanada to work and back at night, but I could never see what's in that deep ditch. And so being that
it's deep, it was good enough for me at this point because so far as I know the rest of the land where I had been is all flat.

"And so I said, "Who will come with me?" but nobody responded. You see, they lost their entire families. And the belief was that we were all succumb to this eventually. So as long as they didn't have anyone to live for, they just decided to go. Besides they probably thought, 'I don't stand a chance to escape from here'. But I was very young yet and foolish, took many more chances. And, I just said goodbye. And I jumped off that slow moving truck, and I leaped down the embankment, it was dark at night, I was totally naked because only those people who passed the selection received their clothes back. But those of us who didn't were picked up naked and taken to the gas chambers.

"And I sort of fumbled around in the ditch and I felt as if there was a hole, and there was a culvert which I couldn't see from where we walked and I just climbed into this culvert, and about fifteen minutes later the sirens went on, which to me meant that the guards had been alerted because ordinarily these sirens would mean, I mean normally it would mean that the allies are about to bomb. And they haven't bombed Auschwitz so far as I know up to that point, and so I didn't think it was for that reason. So about fifteen minutes later again, I heard the voices of men speaking in German. I knew that meant that my absence had been discovered-probably when the truck arrived at the gas chamber and there was minus one person that they sounded the alarm.

"But, there I was in the culvert, naked, and I...soon the commotion had died down. I stayed in the culvert that night, the following morning until the following night, about twenty-four hours or so without any food or clothing. And you know, although this was in the middle of the winter, I have no recollection of feeling cold, or having any of the sensations except this great feeling of triumph. I felt as if I had defeated the entire German army.

"But here I was in the culvert and I thought, 'I have to do something about this situation because I'll either starve to death or I'll freeze to death'. So I decided to leave my hiding place and go back up to the road and see if I can see anything. And in the distance I saw a tiny little light that looked like a little star. And I followed that little star really not knowing if it would lead me into a safe place or straight into SS headquarters, or maybe to a men's barrack!-because frankly I lost my sense of direction but I believe that that God must have been walking alongside me, and he lead me to a barrack.

"I entered quietly, and I walked as far as I could and there was this bunk bed. And I quickly climbed up to the third tier and somebody began to scream and I cupped my hand on my mouth indicating her not to give me away. And I explained to her my predicament, and she took off this large man's overcoat that she had on while she slept, and she draped it around me, and I explained to her my predicament, and I stayed there. She told me that they were just transferred there the day before, and that they would be transferred out to another camp the following day."
The testimony of Gloria Hollander Lyon - Czechoslovakian survivor of 7 camps including Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Beendorf and Ravensbrück. Used with kind permission of The Oral History Archives Project

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