Backov (Czechoslovakia), Mateszalka, Auschwitz, Dachau, Gross-Rosen, Plaszow, Reichenbach
Bergman was born in Backov, Czechoslovakia in 1931. He characterizes the living conditions for Jews as tolerable until 1939. Until the Hungarian government overthrew the Czech government, Jews were free and anti-Semitism was a rare occurrence. After the overthrow, Bergman describes life in Czechoslovakia as deceptive. One was given sealed documents stating that all of one’s belongings would be returned after the war. He describes how people innocently believed that they would be reunited with their families and belongings.
He recalls his own experience of separation from his family and home. He and his father managed to pass the selection process in Auschwitz even though he was only thirteen years old at the time. He found out later that his brother, mother and sister had not passed. After remaining in Auschwitz for five days, he was sent to Plaszow. During the train ride he remembers celebrating his Bar Mitzvah. In Plaszow he worked as a bricklayer and built a wall.
From Plaszow Bergman was sent to Gross-Rosen and then to Reichenbach. He states that little religious activity occurred within the camps and that resistance attempts were limited to suicide and escape. In Reichenbach it was discovered that Bergman was thirteen years old, which resulted in his selection for an extermination camp. He was spared, however, and returned to the work camp. He was, however, singled out again six weeks later for another extermination camp.
He recalls his horrific journey from Reichenbach to Dachau and the chaos that characterized the camp experience overall. Packed onto a cattle train for seven days, one’s only concern was to remain standing. Falling down meant being trampled. Bergman is still haunted by his falling down and near brush with suffocation. The man from which he freed himself died beneath him and Bergman reports that of the 150 prisoners in his car only three survived. As Bergman was transported on a stretcher from the cattle car to the crematorium in Dachau someone noticed he was still alive. He was nursed back to health.
From Dachau, Bergman was transported to Austria. As they marched through the streets he remembers the SS shooting randomly and how he managed to escape into a hole. Hiding out in the mountains, he recalls the appearance of military vehicles that were later discovered to have belonged to the Allies. After liberation the Allies took him to a civilian home in which they evicted the residents. He then later returned to his hometown. In order to get there he was forced to travel on the roof of a train all night. Upon returning to his hometown, Bergman was unable to find any member of his family who had survived. Although he wanted to go to Palestine, the British had limited the number of people who could enter the country. He spent time in Leipheim, Germany, waiting for a chance to go to Israel. He eventually settled for America because he thought his chances of immigrating to Palestine might be better from the United States. Since he had stopped going to school in the sixth grade on, Bergman was forced to attend high school and night school simultaneously in order to make up all the schoolwork he had missed. He has produced a documentary entitled “Never Forgive, Never Forget.” Bergman closes by conceding that his experiences were so incomprehensible that no one would be able to understand.
Date: December 11, 1985
Length: 1 hour, 5 minutes
Interviewer: Esther Weine
Format: Video recording
Date: September 3, 1987
Format: Video recording