Another miracle escape from the ‘Auschwitz’ gas chamber

From the Ghetto to Auschwitz

The Story of a Jewish Boy

One of the prisoners found at Buchenwald was a young Jew from Lodz called Abraham Cykiert. He had kept some record of his experiences on scraps of paper, and the following are two extracts from his story. They are translated form the Yiddish. The first describes how they were driven from the ghetto at Rokov and forced to march (or rather to run) to Belszic, in Poland. The second describes how he escaped from the gas chamber in the concentration camp at Auschwitz. At the time Abraham Cykiert was under fourteen years old.


I knew that my parents and sister were already dead. My only friend in the Auschwitz extermination camp was the Jewish writer from Paris, Veviorka. He happened to be comparatively well situated, and for a time took good care of me. His own children were taken away from him and he treated me like a son. But one day he was removed from his post and deported to an unknown destination. I made an attempt to change my place. I felt that Auschwitz was too slow an agony for me; here my parents were burned to death, here my sister perished. But just then the most terrible event that I ever witnessed and experienced in German concentration camps happened.

A “selection” took place. We were all ordered to “parade,” and Dr. Mengeles, an S.S. doctor, picked out all those who looked lean and exhausted for gassing. About eighteen hundred souls were selected for this purpose, most of them youngsters between fourteen and nineteen. I was fortunate — I was “rejected,” probably because I was not yet ripe for the gas chamber.

The eighteen hundred chosen victims were marched off to the so-called “closed-blocks,” which no one was allowed to leave. I was told by camp inmates that these selections took place as a rule in the evenings and on the next morning special S.S. detachments would arrive with closed cars, load their victims to the accompaniment of heart-rending cries of “Hear O Israel,” beating and floggings, and drive them off to the gas chambers near by.

This time, however, the “selection” took place in day-time. As I did not suspect that the victims would be collected before next morning, I walked out of my hut and was strolling across the yard towards one of the blocks, when suddenly the “stay put” signal was given for all the camp. I saw the selected being led out under a strong S.S. guard. I realised what was going on and made an attempt to run back to my hut, but it was too late. An S.S. man noticed me and shouted, “Yes, yes, you too come along.”

I was trapped and driven with the others to the gas chamber. Here I saw the crematorium before my eyes. I stopped breathing and I felt like losing consciousness. Suddenly the order was given to undress. Together with the others I obeyed automatically. There was no will and no realisation of what I was doing. We all stood completely naked in the corridor leading to the gas chamber and waiting for the order to march in, when suddenly what looked like a high-ranking S.S. officer of the crematorium personnel arrived. He appeared in my eyes as the chief emissary of death, and, strangely, on looking at him I regained my consciousness: “I am going to die, I am going to die.”

It appears that this “expert of death” came for a last-minute inspection. The naked victims were again marched past him. Here and there he pushed one out of the line. My turn came; he looked at me and pushed me out as well. There were about fifty of us and we were standing aside wondering what would be the end of this terrible game. Suddenly he turned to us and shouted, “Get dressed in two minutes.”

We ran like mad back to where we had undressed. When I returned to camp I realised that I had four shirts on me instead of a jacket, a left shoe on my right foot and no shoe at all on my left one, and some useless garments under my arm.

Three hours later the furnaces of the crematorium were already burning. We watched its thick smoke and knew its terrible meaning.

The Guardian, Monday May 14 1945