A Surviving Story from Arnold Friedman

On December 1928, Arnold Friedman was born in Chudlovo, Russia. Arnold had two parents and four siblings; one of them named Tzvi Hersh.

Living in his area, which was close to forests, they were able to live like an ordinary observant Jewish family. When Arnold was a year old, his village of Chudlovo burned down but he and his family managed to be rescued and escaped the fire. After the fire, the family moved to a village called Rakoshin, Czechoslovakia (However, the borders changed so it later became a Hungarian village and after the war, this land was given to Ukraine.)

When the Nazis started to invade in 1939, they started to attack Poland and Poland surrendered. Defeated Polish armies, soldiers and their horses went to different villages and one of them was Rakoshin. But after a while the soldiers left. That was the first sign of war in Arnold’s village.

Then, a couple years later some German soldiers randomly stopped in Rakoshin. One of the officers came to one of Arnold’s brothers and told him “Jews! They’re all going to die!” After that the head of the German officer was told about the incident and decreed to the soldiers to never threaten or speak to the kids again.

On Passover 1944, while everyone was at synagogue, the German police came to the shul and said to the Jews, “We were ordered to tale all the Jews to the ghetto of Munkatch. We are supposed to take you tonight, but because we know you all you can gather your things tonight and take horses and buggies that we will put in front of the city hall.” At that moment Arnold was silent from shock. Arnold’s father though, knew that this would happen since he worked for the military and saw what things were happening to the Jews in other parts of Europe. He told his family that he saw that many Jews were dying in Poland, and if the same was to happen to us, at least we will die together as a family. Arnold was not happy with his father’s decision, and decided to run away with his friend Eli with his own horse and buggy. Their plan was to go to Munkatch before the others and take potatoes with them to sell in the ghetto. Once Arnold and Eli arrived in Munkatch they went to the Jewish side of the city where the Munkatch City Jews were locked in to a few designated and guarded streets, while all the village Jews (including Arnold’s family) were locked in to two Brick Yards with a huge brick factory was stationed for the Jews to live in. After two weeks or so of living on the streets and sleeping on road benches, Arnold decided to meet up with his family in the Brick Yard Ghetto, but he was too late. Four or five hours before Arnold earlier, the Germans took his parents and siblings along with many others on cattle cars to Auschwitz-Berkenau. Little did Arnold know, but the night he ran away from Rakoshin was the last time he was able to see his family ever again. Arnold had to stay with his aunt who still remained in the Brick Yard Ghetto. Every week or so, trains with around ten cattle cars came to the ghetto and took 90 to 110 people per wagon on those trains to Auschwitz-Burkenau. After about two weeks, it was finally Arnold’s turn board those cattle cars. He was squished in the cattle car with a lot of different people around him including his aunt. On the car, there was one barrel of water and one barrel for people to go to the “washroom”. He was in that train for three full days and finally arrived in Auschwitz-Burkenau.

As soon as he came off of the train, he smelled the stench of burning flesh, but people assumed that this is a ghetto and the smell is from the big kitchen that feeds all the trainloads of resettled Jews. Soon after that though, he and the others got used to this awful smell, and knew very well the reason for why the smell was there in the first place. Arnold was too young to work as a labourer, but was old enough that the Germans thought that he had potential to be a worker in a couple years. But until then he was placed in a youth group (ages 13-16) that would wonder the camp all day until curfew. On Rosh Hashanah 1944, Arnold and his group were lined up but no one knew why. The Barrack chief lined them up and ordered the group to take off their shirts. Then the infamous Dr. Mengele (Chief Medical Officer) picked out the thin weak kids and separated them from the healthy ones, where after the weak kids were marched away. Two days later we were told that those children were taken to the gas chambers. That was the Nazis’ way of celebrating Rosh Hashanah. Then came Yom Kippur, and the kids were fasting but as soon as they saw Dr. Mengele with a couple of his soldiers come in to the camp, Arnold and the rest of the children immediately gulped down their meagre rations in the hope of looking strong and healthy. Again they were lined up, undressed to the waist as this Devil Mengele picked out about half of the group for the Gas Chambers. On Sukkot, they were ordered to line up and walk under a Gaol Post marked for height measure where all the tall and “healthy” kids lined up. Across from that line stood the short and skinny kids that were to be sent to the Chambers. Miraculously, Arnold switched lines and was able to stand on bricks that fell from the adjacent building to looks taller and stronger.

After three “Selections”, Arnold was still not chosen to go to the gas chambers, even though he was short for his age. What a miracle!

In January 1945, the Russian were defeating the Germans and were getting close to Auschwitz, so the Germans ordered all inmates to march out of Auschwitz in the miserable Polish Winter, with little food and barely any clothing. This march is well documented in Eli Wiesel’s book called “Night”.

After a couple days, some of us were sent to different camps. Arnold wound up in the Dachau Concentration Camp, and at the end of April 1945 he was taken with a trainload of other prisoners from Dachau Prison to the mountain area approximately twenty kilometers away from Dachau. This is where they were freed, by the American Army (the Red Cross), on May 2nd or 3rd, 1945.

After many years Arnold came to Canada, got married and had children and grandchildren.  Arnold still is interested in learning about the Holocaust and Jewish History. He writes poems and articles about the Holocaust, trying to make sense of how this inhumane tragedy could have happened in a 20th Century civilized world.

 

 

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