Friedman, Arnold

Friedman, Arnold

Mukacheve (Ukraine), Auschwitz, Birkenau, Ziefelwasser Garvens, Seifhennersdorf, Merseberg, Flossenburg

Mr. Friedman was born in 1927 to Soloman Friedman and Esther Reiter Friedman.  He had two brothers: Michael and Herman and also two sisters. His family moved to a new town in the middle of the night: Mukacheve in the Ukraine.  There was an apple orchard on the grounds.  He repeatedly stole the apples and was threatened by the groundkeeper.

His neighbors were Meyer and Moshe Berman who took the boys to school in their taxis.  This was their business.  Another neighbor was a butcher, who shechted animals at night.

Because there was no plumbing, his parents went to the mikvah every night. Mr. Friedman had ten siblings and went to the yeshiva. He learned to be a shoemaker. Arnold’s secular teachers were all Ukrainians and Hungarians. While in school, the students went to see Tarzan, the movie, and when Johnny Weissmuller gave his famous call, the children were all terrified.  He was then about seven.

The Friedman’s house was haunted and all the pictures moved every evening.  They invited the town rabbi to watch.
There were two synagogues, a movie theatre and a very large hotel.  They davened at the shul.  There was even a “gambling joint” in this town.  Arnold’s mother would cook sweet corn with butter which he’d cover with towels and sell the corn in the casino.  He also sold it on the street and turned all the money over to his mother.

One day, his mother told Arnold that his father, Mr. Friedman, had a girlfriend.  She gave him a quarter to spy on his father, but his father gave him fifty cents not to tell his mother.  But he did!

Northeast of them was a gypsy camp where “Getzl the Squeeler” would gather information about the Jews and take it to the authorities.

Arnold’s grandparents left for America in 1942 along with Avram (his uncle) who was the original “ragman,” along with his aunt Ruchel.  Uncle Avram would buy up kitchenware, odds and ends and ride his horse and wagon into town, tooting his horn to attract customers. He went from village to village; his wagon became piled so high he needed a second wagon.

PART 2, 1:45
Arnold said his town was happy and the Jews were allowed to go to their synagogues.  He remembered going on a train to Budapest.  German and Hungarian officers inspected everyone’s I.D.

One day, German soldiers with guns came into his yard, saying “Juden, Arbeit!” and “Raus!

The Jews were lined up for miles, whipped, beaten and shot.  His father was in the first line and was hit with a rifle and lay bleeding.  He was taken to a large room in a synagogue.  Torah scrolls and books were being burned and the Jewish prisoners were praying “God help us.”
He said “Why didn’t God hear us cry?”

Arnold ran and escaped.  He then spoke about the ghetto.  Jews were holding bundles and suitcases, being told they were going to work.  The gentile neighbors were screaming “Kill the Jews!”

The German guards told them to get into boxcars at the train station, whipping them to move faster.  The doors were then locked, the train started, their destination unknown.  There was neither sanitation nor water and the children were crying.  His family was very frightened.  When the doors opened, the first thing he saw was a mountain of bundles and shoes, “funny” looking people wearing striped pajamas.

The Polish Jews, who came first, burned their own parents and children and then marched to Birkenau.
Arnold was in Auschwitz where everyone’s family was murdered.  In 1944-45, the killing went rapidly.
Arnold said “You were in such a state; they took your mind and your soul.”

PART 3, 2 hours
In Birkenau, the most fantastic horrors were introduced to us, said Arnold.  They arrived on Sunday evening where they were chased from the train.  He wished he would have died.

Guards counted over and over again and said “those who don’t obey will be shot.”  The count (Appel) was at 5 a.m.  He prayed that he was having a nightmare.

He had a road building job, digging, laying down gravel, for at least twelve hours each day.  He arrived back at camp around 8:00 in the evening and washed himself with cold water.  He was then given a small bowl of watery soup.  Arnold was exhausted and very worried about his family.

Guards began screaming for them to line up and he thought they would all be shot.  They were made to exercise while being beaten and whipped, some men passing out, others falling like “flies.”  Suddenly, a storm came with thunder and lightning and the commander left but the Gestapo clubbed Jews in their heads.  Everyone was praying for death!
The next day there was an announcement that two hundred forty men were needed to work, building a stone quarry.  The good workers got cigarettes.  He was selected.  Some stones were twenty by twenty and dynamite had to be used.  Arnold didn’t smoke his cigarettes, but used them to barter.

Mr. Joseph Margolis, a “nice looking guy” from Mukacheve worked in the kitchen and gave Arnold bread for his cigarettes.  The cook who gave him an occasional potato wasn’t working any longer and he was starving.  He searched the rubbish, finding a few potato peelings to eat.  He was caught and punished.

When he began to see non-German planes, everyone was sick and dying of starvation.  The camp commander disappeared a few days before Christmas.

Older German guards were brought in, bringing them a small amount of soup.  The next morning he was told they were being transferred to another camp, Ziefelwasser Garvens.

He woke at five and was taken to a bigger quarry, now shoveling stones into boxcars.  There was no more work and people looked like walking skeletons.  He said “I laid in bed and cried,” but tried to remain strong so he could “tell the world.”

A few days later, six hundred left on the death march: only fifty lived.  They arrived at Camp Merseberg, where there were only six guards.  The guards were shooting the starving men and laughing.  He even ate horse manure to live.  At the next camp, the barracks were empty and there were some prisoners wandering around, crawling and confused.  At Flossenbürg Camp, the guards chased them in where they found dead people on the toilets.  He crawled under a bed, atop dead bodies.

The next day, guards took them to the railway station to sweep and clean.  At night he was given one piece of bread, but he found frozen vegetables that day.  He spent five days there, hiding in the barracks with the dead.  He wanted to die, but dragged himself to a building where he saw walking corpses.  A doctor laid him down and people brought him soup and bread.  He thought a miracle happened!

Next he was taken to a forest, where the Germans chased them, shooting and pushing them into a mass grave.  Arnold’s group of about sixty was ready to die.

They dug their own graves, when suddenly a blond woman came by with steaming potatoes.  The Germans screamed “halt.”  He faked his own death and ate leaves and potatoes out of the dirt.  Suddenly the sky opened and it rained and thundered and the prisoners crawled toward town, the Germans shooting at them.

Arnold dragged himself into a haystack, where he lay bleeding and passed out.  He came to around 5:00 a.m. and crawled out of the haystack.  He found potatoes and put them in his coat.  He saw some dead Germans and took their clothes and dressed himself.  He saw trucks of people screaming “Viva la France!”  There was free beer for all.
Arnold found a bombed out house.  An American soldier asked if the Germans shot his parents and then gave him a gun and told him to shoot the wounded Germans in the house.  He could not.

A Red Cross jeep took him to the hospital.  He said “they came four to five years too late.”

Arnold’s in the hospital, unconscious.  His doctors told him that his foot was infected and would have to be amputated.  They brought food, but his stomach had shrunk.  He stayed there for about five weeks, watching his foot, which didn’t need surgery.  He took the train toward his home and when he arrived, he remembered his mother’s jewelry was buried in the yard.  But, it was gone and no one was there.

He found his neighbor, the fisherman’s wife, whose husband had been killed.  He then took a train to Budapest, traveling and wandering for two months.

He found his brother and a cousin, Lillian.  He posted signs everyday for the missing and/or dead.  Arnold’s father died of hunger.

He walked to Italy, hoping to get to Palestine.  He jumped on a truck and went to Padua, and from there to Rome.  He found a villa, swam in the Ocean, played soccer and moved in with a photographer and Mr. Broder, a comedian.  They stayed for over three years.

They were receiving letters from the U.S.

Interview Information:
No interviewer
Date: 12/28/1994
Length: 5 parts, between 1 and 2 hours each
Format: Video recording