Furst Brothers    BRATIA FÜRST


The Holocaust

On the train

As the time of deportation drew nearer, our parents gave us more specific instructions, namely how to respond and what to say under a variety of circumstances. They decided that we all should jump off the train while it is in motion. Dad prepared breaking instruments Ė saws, files, screwdrivers, and chisels Ė in order to facilitate our escape. Mom sewed the tools into our coats. She also upholstered the coats Shmuel and I would wear, in order for us to look bigger.

Dad explained the importance of jumping off the train during the first night of the journey, before leaving Slovakia and entering Poland. We were told when and how to jump out: we should hurl ourselves right after passing by an electric pole, to avoid injury by the next one. Upon touching ground, we should roll like a ball, and immediately run away.

Our parentsí explicit plans gave us new vigor and filled us with confidence that we would not reach the trainís final destination. Dadís words and precise instructions strengthened us in our belief that our plan will come off successfully.

On November 2, 1944 we were loaded onto the train. Nearly ninety people were squeezed in our wagon. As there was no room to sit on the floor, we were all forced to stand. Cries, weeping, yells, lamentations, and unbearable stench were overwhelming.

Inasmuch as we all suffered from lack of air and space, the prevailing conditions were much more difficult to those who only a week before lived normal life in absolute freedom, having been protected by special certificates.

As our journey began, we still hoped that or shrewd and resourceful uncle Arpad would find a way to release us, following our message in which we informed him on the time of our departure from Sered. When the train stopped at the Žilina station, we heard someone calling our name, but because there were no windows on the wagon, we could not tell whether that person was uncle Arpad or a messenger on his behalf. After a short while, the train began moving again, and all our initial hopes vanished. Instead, a new expectation filled our hearts: perhaps the Allies would bomb the tracks leading to Auschwitz? We were hopeful that some kind of a miracle would come about.

At nightfall, dad began preparing his tools for opening the door, after he learned that there was no other way of getting out of the wagon. He desperately needed a tool, which would break the lock of the door. One of our co-travelers was a plumber, who had a toolbox. When dad asked him to open the box and check for an appropriate tool, people around found out the he was going to break the wagonís door. A loud and stormy debate began. Some young men supported dadís intentions and were even ready to give him a helping hand, but most of the others vigorously opposed the idea, and would not let us move towards the door. Under those circumstances we realized that we would not be able to carry out our plan. To avoid any risk or suspicion, we threw all the tools out of the train, through the wagonís small window. Our attempt to escape ended before it began.

The journey went on and on. We did not suffer hunger because we brought enough food, but the conditions got more and more intolerable. People relieved themselves on the floor, and the stench was beyond imagination.

After about a day and half a day, the train came to a stop. The doors opened. Some people were called by their names and taken off the train. We had no idea who they were and for what reason they were called upon. The doors were shut behind them, and the train began moving once more.

As we arrived in Birkenau, we were ordered to leave all our belongings on the wagon and exit the train.