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USF Libraries Exhibits

Saving a Child at Bergen-Belsen

Rachel Nurman, Holocaust survivor

And was a mother, took with her son with her, but we didn’t know.  They gave him the same dress, like they gave the women.  He was a tall boy.  He was like fifteen years old, a blond Jewish boy.  So the mother risked that, too.  She was from Hungary; they start bring Hungarian transports.  And they’re laying on the floor, and I was giving out the soup.  I helped the—I always wanted to be a helper and to own something, that she should give me something in order to survive. 

So I’m giving out the soup, so I have to see everyone, that I give their little bit, pouring in their thing.  And I looked at him and had a suspicion, but I didn’t say nothing.  I figured, “Good luck to her.”  If she did a thing like that, a mother—it’s a mother, you know.  So she knew right away that I have a little idea about it.  And she was afraid also when he went out to the Zahlappell.  We had Zahlappell every day; no food but Zahlappell.  They’re counting us: they was afraid that somebody escaped.  Two men escaped them from the thing. So, this boy was laying right near his mother on the floor, you know, with a little shmates over their bodies.  One day she comes over to me and she said, “Look, I wanted to see you behave.  You are like you treat the people.  But I like how you treat all these people; you must be a nice person.”  That’s what she said to me.  I said, “Fine, thank you.”  You know, I did treat the people nice; I had always pity on these people that what they go through, the same what I’ve been through.  And she said, “Look, I got from my home some jewelry, gold and diamonds.  I’ll give you whatever you want.  Save my son, help me to save my son here.  Nobody should see him ’cause he couldn’t go out in the Zahlappell; the Germans will recognize him in a minute.”  The one who counted and looked in the face saw everyone.  So I told her that, “Look, if you listen to me, I don’t want no jewelry, nothing.  I don’t know if I would be a survivor, I don’t know yet.  You’re still under German occupation, and they could do to us whatever they want.”  Right?So I told her—every day, like, twenty people died in our barracks, from that thing: from not eating and everything, from the typhus.  So we put him in the back of the barrack.  The front we used to walk in to the barrack and the back was for the dead people; you put them out to lay there and we covered them with a little shmates, like, you know, because they were all naked.  So I said to her, “If you agree on that,” I said to her—that came to my mind, what we could do with him.  Nothing else we could do than that. We put him into the corpses.  I told her, “I going to do it; if you are afraid, I’ll do it.”  We both did it.  We took him and we covered him with a couple of corpses, him on the bottom and a couple of them on the top, and covered him with the little shmates we had.  We covered him and went in to the barrack to be—to the Zahlappell, because we needed to be counted, like nothing happened.  Nobody knew; only me and her.  We made sure nobody should see us doing that.  We made believe that he goes to the bathroom, that we all three went to the bathroom when we went out and things like that, to make the people not to know where we going.  And nobody was even interested to know. And that’s how he’s laying till the Zahlappell was ending.  Sometimes three, four hours, it was still no ending; somebody’s missing.  They counted again and looking for the one who’s missing, that’s how it was.  And that how was laying the boy.  And after that, after the Zahlappell, we both went out.  It was dark in the street already; it was dark.  And we both took him in the inside, in the barrack.  And I saved a little soup for him from the day, what we have. The boy didn’t say a word.  He didn’t complain, he didn’t—but his face was so—like from a dead person, so grey.  And I looked at him and I said, “You go through this, believe me, and be strong.”  And I took him into it.  “Nothing going to happen in there.  The dead people couldn’t do nothing to you; it’s just the live ones could do to you, but not the dead ones.  Don’t be scared.”  It was a little boy, you know, and he’s listening what I say to him.  And every day for a while we did it every day with him, and this was a job to do it.  And you know something?  He survived the war.