Aunt Yvonne's Liberation

Death March Ahead of the Russians

"...these wonderful nuns took her in."

"She knew that the Russians were coming. The Russians were the ones that liberated Auschwitz in January of 1945. And they knew they were coming because they heard on—from the underground inside the camp that the Russians were coming this way. And she said, 'If I can only make it until they liberate us,' and she did. And she was always finding ways to get out of work. She would kind of back off when they were selecting people to go work. She knew how to slide to the back of the ground and avoid work, so some of the days she just spent on the latrine, She was able to stay there and avoid work, and so she didn’t—she wasn’t tortured and she wasn’t worked to death, but she did lose a lot of weight. Her original weight was probably 140. She was 5’7’’ tall. And when she finally came out, she was like 85 pounds.

She was on a sort of a death-march where they took all the prisoners out. The Nazi soldiers wanted to get them out and take them back to Germany, ’cause they thought that they could get some more work out of them or something, and so they all left in a caravan and the people who couldn’t keep up basically were killed. You know, if there was somebody who fell down—you’re dead.

She was able to keep going and she was able to run along with the people at the front of the line ’cause she was healthy, and the other people, well, they were out of luck. And then one—maybe one day or two days after it, they noticed there were no Germans around, and they realized they were taking off and they went somewhere else and they never came back.

And so she was...basically free, and they were walking towards the town near Auschwitz, a big town called Katowice, K-A-T-O-W-I-C-E, which I’ve been to also. And that’s where they—they were found by people that they went door to door and saying “We’re escapees from Auschwitz and could you help us?” And they finally knocked on the door of a convent, Catholic convent, and these wonderful nuns took her in, and they nursed her back to health and they were able to basically keep her alive for three or four months, and then eventually they were found by the Red Cross, the International Red Cross."