Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust

By Anita Brostoff; Sheila Chamovitz | Go to book overview

The Concentration Camp Lottery
Ilona Weiss
b. Kosino, Czechoslovakia, 1923

The Filbert Nuts

There was a store where they accepted ration clips for food. It was owned by an anti-Semite. He always made anti-Semitic remarks when we went in, but what could we do, we needed the food.

The store was next to the social hall where they gathered us up to be transported—where, we didn't know.

I was the oldest of my siblings and felt responsible for all of them. Before I went to the hall I stopped in the store to get as much food as I could for the journey. As I was leaving, the owner gave me a bag of nonperishable filbert nuts, saying, “I don't like you but I didn't wish this on your people.”

We walked from the collection point to a field that had some railway tracks. There was a train of box cars waiting, and they put us on the train: my mother, younger sisters, two little brothers, six and eight, and me. My father had already been sent away.

After several days, the train stopped and we were forced out. Everyone was being separated. Some people were sent right and some left. I started going right and then realized I had forgotten the filberts in the train. I ran back to get them for my little brother because he was so hungry. On the way back a Polish boy said, “Grab your little sister and don't go left, go right.”

So I went to my sister. “Edie, I said, “you come with me.” “No, she said, “I'm going with Mum.”

I said, “You have to come with me.”

My sister was hanging onto our mother and crying. I tried to take her to the right, but she pushed me away and hung onto my mother. Finally I just grabbed her and dragged her, fighting, into the group on the right.

My mother and my little brothers were made to go left. They were probably killed that day at Auschwitz.

My sister was angry at me for years and years because I pulled her away from our Mum. Maybe forty years. But just a few years ago she called me from Israel and said, “Thank you for saving my life.”

Now she has ten grandchildren and two of them are just starting their service in the Israeli army.

So you see, if it wasn't for the filberts given to me by an anti-Semite, I would

-96-

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