History lesson in person
- Teens hear from Auschwitz survivor
By Shelly Whitehead, Post staff reporter
Publication date: 03-29-00
For awhile, Gene Deutsch’s teen-age years had been as carefree as those of the Dayton, Ky., students he talked with Tuesday: He liked to walk to school with his girlfriend, and he loved his family very much.
Then his world changed. It was 1943. Deutsch lived in Hungary. And he was Jewish.
“When we arrived at Auschwitz,” said Deutsch, a Cincinnati businessman recalling the day he rolled into the Nazi concentration camp in a crowded boxcar, “there was a sign that said in German, ‘Work will make you free.’ When people got off the train, most were directed to what they called the bathhouse, which was where the killing took place.
“Confusion soon took over. Children screamed for their mothers as they became lost. There was blood everywhere. The SS guards picked up the children who were screaming and hauled them away. And the poison gas was poured into the gas chambers from the outside so the people closest to the vents were the first to die. The others kept screaming for their life, but after about ten minutes, everything was quiet.”
Deutsch’s account of his first day at Auschwitz — and the last day to see his family — drew the rapt attention Tuesday of the junior history students he was speaking to in the school’s library. For two hours the students listened, watched and questioned continually.
“When were you allowed to eat,” a student wondered. “What did they give you?”
“In the morning for breakfast — there was no breakfast. We were supposed to have tea, but all it was was warm water. Then they took us to the camp and for lunch we had potatoes if they had them, but most of the time we got dog meat or mice… In the evening, back at camp, bread was issued, but it was black bread with a small piece of margarine added to it.”