Frieda Friedman



Legacies, edited by Maury Leibovitz and Linda Solomon, NY: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1994


It was near the end of the war, maybe late 1944 or early 1945. After all the time in the concentration camps, I couldn't tell you what year it was, let alone what day or month. But it was near the end, and I was in Bergen-Belsen. I had also been in Auschwitz for a short while. I had spent the first two years of the war making uniforms and clothes for the Germans in Plaszow, the labor camp near Krakow, where I grew up. I was young and in good physical shape then. Otherwise I would have been killed.

In Bergen-Belsen I got very weak and was put in a typhus block with about two thousand other girls. All around me everyone was sick. We slept on the cold, hard floors, we ran high fevers, and we were dying. The Germans hadn't fed us for a long time, and everyone was starving.

But I never felt hungry. My mother, who was a holy woman, I always thought, had been killed by the Germans earlier in the war, along with my father, my first husband, and my eight brothers. She was dead, but she was still able to help me, the way she always did. At night, maybe because I had such a high fever, maybe not, I would dream that my mother came to me and fed me. She gave me all the wonderful foods I loved. I ate and ate till I was full. In the dream, she even told me to give some of the extra food to my youngest brother. There was so much. Those dreams kept me alive.

The Germans finally began feeding people. They gave everyone a soup of carrots, potatoes, and ground glass, which they made to seem like flour. I think by then they knew they were going to lose the war and they wanted to destroy the evidence of what they had done before the Allies came.

You needed a cup to put your soup in. I didn't have a cup. A friend of mine said she would get one for both of us. I told her, "No, thank you, my mother gives me enough food."

My friend died the next day. So did most of the other girls in the block. After one cup, they suffered great pains. With two cups, they dropped dead.

I was lucky. I didn't eat. I survived. My mother gave me enough.