In August 1944, the Nazis told the Jews that they had to be moved to a safer place as the Allies came closer. The Nazis conducted a final liquidation of the ghetto, forcing the remaining Lodz Ghetto residents to report to the train station. Pawel’s father decided that the family would report with a group from the factory where he worked. Having no idea where they were being sent, the workers brought samples of their beautiful handiwork, hoping to prove their value as workers in their new surroundings.
At the station, the Nazis handed out bread, and instructed everyone to climb aboard the train. Pawel and his family found themselves crowded into cattle cars , without windows, chairs, or toilets. The factory workers, along with the other Jews of Lodz, rode together for a full day, not knowing where they would arrive. When the train finally stopped and the doors reopened, passengers heard loud shouting. Amidst the chaos, they were told to get out and leave everything behind. They had arrived in Auschwitz .
TESTIMONY: “ARRIVAL IN Auschwitz ”
“I realized at that point that neither one of them really knew what was happening here.”
Standing in the selection line with his father and the other men, Pawel soon came before a Nazi official who he later learned was Dr. Josef Mengele . Mengele was responsible for selecting among the men. Some of the men would be selected for work. Fortunately, Pawel was wearing a heavy jacket which made him look larger and older than his years, and he also had tools sticking out of his pockets. He had brought them from the factory where he worked in Lodz. Pawel told Mengele that he was a mechanic. Both Pawel and his father were selected for work.
After the selection , they were taken to a room with a group of other men and were told to undress. They were then covered with disinfectant, their heads were shaved, and they were given striped uniforms, before being sent to their barracks . Unable to sleep that first night, they listened to the rumors about the horrible fate of those who did not pass the selection , including the women and children. They heard that those who did not pass were murdered in gas chambers . It was almost beyond Pawel’s ability to comprehend or believe, but with his own eyes he could see the smoke from the chimneys and smell the terrible smell.
In early September 1944, after a few weeks in Auschwitz , Pawel and his father were taken to a smaller concentration camp called Kaufbeuren which was a sub-camp of Dachau, in the southern part of Germany. They were the first inmates to arrive in this newly established camp, along with 600 other Jews, a large number from Lodz. Pawel and his father were assigned to the difficult tasks of cutting down trees and pulling up roots to prepare new sites in the forest for construction. The daily routine was brutal, and the Nazis were eager to beat and torture the inmates for any small infraction.
Beyond the hard labor, Pawel’s father developed stomach problems from the malnutrition and was put in the infirmary in December.
Around that time, a rumor began to circulate in the camp that the Allies would soon liberate the camps. Pawel visited his father in the infirmary with the good news, hoping to revive his spirits. Mr. Hodys did not feel that he would survive through the end of the war, so he left Pawel with a final charge to survive and to carry on the name and legacy of the family. That night, Pawel lost his last remaining relative. Mr. Hodys was buried in a mass grave outside of the camp.
“They were stretched on the bench.”