Karp, Alexander

Karp, Alexander

Baktaloranthaza (Hungary), Kisvarda, Birkenau, Kochendorf, Dachau

In 1940 Karp recalls his father being recruited into the military and approximately two years later he was transferred to a labor camp in Russia. His father kept in contact with the family until January 1943.

Karp, who lived in Hungary, describes the Jewish Laws that went into effect in 1943. Jews were excluded and restricted in areas of education, travel and food rationing. He notes that things happened “so fast” once the Germans arrived in Baktaloranthaza. Jews were forced to wear the yellow star, a curfew was imposed and he recalls that within weeks a public order was issued that all the Jews had to move into the Kisvarda ghetto. He describes the overcrowded fenced-in area in Kisvarda, and recalls that food was rationed and there were isolated incidents of abuse. He remembers that underground news stories reached them, but they were unable to verify the information. Karp was taken to the railroad station with approximately 30 members of his family once the evacuation of the ghetto began. They were not told where they were going and approximately 100 to 150 people were packed into the railroad car. Karp describes the conditions of this transport: there was no place to sleep, a minimum amount of food, pails were provided for sanitary use, and the car doors never opened during the two-day transport.

When they arrived at Birkenau, he still with some members of his family. Once the selections were made he was separated from his mother, sister, and grandmother. Karp believes that Dr. Mengele was present at these selections. He describes his first hours at Birkenau and recalls his feelings at that time. After a stay of about two months both Karp and his uncle were selected to work as sheet metal laborers. He remembers being taken along with approximately 500 other workers to an isolated area in France close to Luxembourg. He describes the work they did and the kindness of some of the French people and some of the Wehrmacht guards. Karp states that this camp was like “heaven” compared to Birkenau.

Karp recalls that during his time in France both he and his uncle gave each other strength. The were aware of the Allied invasion by this time and he recalls hearing cannon fire in the distance. He remembers orders being given to evacuate and the men were sent by train to an already established labor camp at Kochendorf. He describes the deteriorating conditions at this camp: sickness, lack of food, lack of health care. Karp talks about the “survival of the fittest” and how people became “like animals.”

He recalls that by March or April as the Allied forces closed in evacuations began. His uncle was sent out of the camp with a group that went on foot and Karp went with another group on open railroad cars. He describes the horrible conditions on this four-day transport, which traversed only 80 miles. He remembers people freezing to death and admits, “I covered myself with a dead body and my pillow was a dead body.” The train finally stopped at Dachau concentration camp.

Karp recalls that people were dying all around him. He also explains how he was reunited with his uncle in Dachau. The prisoners were evacuated by train during the last week in April. They traveled in the direction of Austria, but Karp describes how they were ordered out of the train at a railroad station. He recalls that at this time they were very weak and could hardly walk or talk. Many were dying in the snow. He remembers waking up the next day and finding that the guards had fled. He and his uncle then hid in a nearby farmhouse until their liberation by American soldiers.

They stayed with the American army for a couple of weeks before traveling to Munich and then Bologna, where they stayed for a couple of months. From there they traveled through Yugoslavia to Budapest, Hungary. There, Karp discovered that his father survived and was on his way home. He also found that an aunt still lived. Altogether, only six members of his family of approximately 40 people survived the Holocaust.

Karp left Hungary in December 1948, traveled to Austria, and then to Canada. From Canada, he came to the United States.

Interview Information:
Date: June 22, 1983
Length: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Interviewer: Anita Schwartz
Format: Audio recording