Rise Stillman was 14 when she was transported to Auschwitz in April 1944, a day after Passover ended.
“I recall seeing a train that was so long, and I had no idea where we were going. There were Hungarian and German soldiers shouting, screaming and pushing us into cattle cars. There must have been about 70 people in each car and there was hardly any space — it was horrible. I recall once they shut the doors, I was just in shock. Then darkness set in and the only light we had was the little vents at the top of the car,” she told Jewish News.
The trip took three nights, it was hot and there were no sanitary facilities, only a couple of buckets to use as a toilet. The train stopped periodically, picking up more Jews from other ghettos. People would yell out of the vents, pleading for water but the guards either ignored them or threw a bucket of water in their faces.
She remembers the stench and the sounds of people crying, soldiers shouting and dogs barking.
“We were complaining on the train how horrible the conditions were but we never had an idea that an even worse fate was waiting,” she recalled.
After being hurried off the train into one of the infamous selection lines, she was “one of the lucky ones,” chosen to work, tattooed and given a uniform dress, one she would wear the rest of the war. Supper was a piece of bread and broth. In the barracks, she slept on a very thin layer of straw, without a pillow or blanket.
“The sanitary conditions were horrible. We didn’t even have a piece of soap or a towel to wash and dry your face.”
She wondered about the smoke and flames she saw not far off. After asking a few times, she received the shocking response: “That’s where they’re burning your families.”
Every morning she and the others at the camp were woken at dawn and lined up to be counted. Often they discovered that someone had died in the night, and she remembers on multiple occasions seeing bodies stuck to the electric fence that the Jewish workers would have to take down.
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