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USF Libraries Exhibits

January 20, 1945 to January 22, 1945

Finally, on the 20th of January 1945, new orders arrived. We were to demolish the bridges we had built.

We knew what was about to happen. Two hours later, we left that camp. The Russian Army was approaching. But our dreams were not yet to be fulfilled. So we marched with the SS to a different misery. This was the beginning of our death march, which led to liberation to those who managed to survive.

 Our Way toward Freedom January 20, 1945

Day 1

We left the concentration camp Thorn, Warthengan, near Brojdoscz, at 11 o’clock in the morning, Saturday, the 20th of January 1945. On the first day we walked 20 kilometers in 30 degree weather, wearing neither socks nor shoes. Late that night, we came upon a large estate, where we were permitted to spend the rest of the night. We slept in a giant barn, without even straw to cover ourselves with, where we nearly froze.

Day 2

On Sunday morning, at 6 AM, our journey continued. We walked another 20 kilometers without stopping to rest. That night, dead tired, in the freezing cold, we came upon a mansion, where we again spent a night in a cold barn. We received neither food not drink.

Day 3

 After what seemed a very short rest, we marched Monday morning at 5 AM to Bornberg, a small town in Poland. Those who became weak along the way were ruthlessly shot by our guards, the SS, and were left lying in the road. The temperature continued to drop. Under way we heard distinct cannon fire. We immediately knew that the front wasn’t very far away. Daily we would see long trains filed with German fugitives. They were returning to Germany, out of fear from the Russians. They were mostly SS and their families. Then we arrived at Forden, a small town along the Weichsel. Then we were ordered to run across a two kilometer long bridge. The fact that our stomachs were empty and our limbs frozen, made no difference to the German SS. We were not humans, rather Jewish concentration camp prisoners. More frequently as we marched, we would see long columns of cars with Germans, speeding along the highway, in order to escape from Russian capture.

Finally we reached Bromberg. Marching nearly 60 kilometers, in freezing weather, through deep snow, weakened us tremendously. There was great excitement in the town. From all corners people called to us, “who are you people? From which camp did you come?” But we were not permitted to answer, we were prisoners. We were pitied by the Poles. Women fell to their knees, begging for our freedom, and our lives. But no one could or were allowed to help us Jews.

Unfortunately, 87 women and girls who grew weak along the way were shot by that group of SS criminals. This was in addition to the 275 women shot before we left the camp. Upon leaving the town, we came upon the edge of woods, where we finally were permitted to rest. With snow and ice we quenched out thirst and satisfied our hunger from the trip.

At this spot, the SS discussed whether or not to shoot our group of 1200 Jewish women. But a miracle occurred; an order was received that very same moment, commanding that the SS clear that very spot, since the Russians were only 15 kilometers ahead of us. Thank God that such a miracle happened in that very second. We were supposed to have become an innocent sacrifice for Germany. Instead we were redeemed by 120 SS beasts. We then marched another 15 kilometers, but with lightened hearts. Again late that night, we came upon a large estate. We found a spot to rest in a sheep stall. It was delightfully warm inside, after three tortuous days. With this simple warmth, we unlucky souls were satisfied. We rested well. But unfortunately the night was over too soon. Late in the night, we saw the Germans pile their papers in a large heap and burn them. This was a great joy for us to see.