Peter S.

A German child survivor describes a selection at Ravensbrück

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Excerpts copyright © Yale University Library, 1996.

Peter S. was born in Nuremberg, Germany in March 1936, into a family which had lived in Germany from the 1600s. A brother was born in 1939. In December 1941, the family was deported to the Riga ghetto, but was saved due to their father's skill as a professional auto mechanic. Eventually separated from his father, who perished in Buchenwald, Peter was sent to the women's section of Ravensbrück along with his mother and brother.

"...surrounded by a stone wall, barracks, a lot of kids... this was not only a concentration camp for Jews. Ravensbrück was a general prison. There were people who were criminals. And you could tell who was who because everybody had to wear a color code [points to left lapel], black, red, yellow for Jews. I don't know what the Gypsies had, but there were a lot of Gypsies there. They were probably more mistreated there than anybody else. This was the place where they did the medical experiments on the Gypsies.

...There were machine guns all around and you always had to be sort of aware of that. ...The women were used as field hands and it was truly slavery. ...They would march off, and I remember her [his mother] and all the other women sneaking in carrots or something--whatever they would be able to sneak in--under their dresses... They were wearing prison garb, striped dresses. ...Food was not that good...although there was bread and I remember some terrible soup."

Peter S. developed infections all over his body, and a large abscess on his neck required medical treatment in the infirmary. Shortly after, there was a selection.

"We had to go in a line in front of an officer and I remember him wearing a grey coat, and some others there. And we were walking left to right and walking by him, and because of this operation, my mother took all, everything she had and wrapped the other side so it would look just as big as this side. We walked by, and the people who were put on the other side were people who were obviously infirm. There was a one-legged girl who I remember being carried away and crying bitterly. And everybody assumed that this was her end. And everybody who was older was also put to that side and they disappeared.

...And afterwards... as we were walking away... the women were sort of yelling in relief and joy, and we as kids were quiet and subdued. In many ways, we were more aware.... The possibility of death was always there..."

In the beginning of 1945, Peter S., his brother and mother was transported to Bergen Belsen. "That truly was an unbelievable cesspool, in terms of the number of people dying, the lack of care... in any sense of the word. ...Death was there all the time. You saw people die. You moved their bodies. It was just there."

Liberated by the British when he was nine years old, Peter S. describes many prisoners dying because they were given too much food by the well-meaning liberators. He and his brother were among the youngest German children to have survived in concentration camps.

Peter S. Holocaust Testimony (HVT-2337). Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, Yale University Library.

The length of the complete testimony is 1 hour, 24 minutes.  A catalog record is available for this testimony in Orbis, the Yale University Library online public access catalog. Please see the Catalog and research guide section of this site for more information.