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Holocaust Survivor Gilbert Metz This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Were you in a concentration camp?

My family was sent to Auschwitz - my mother, father, aunt, and sister. We were herded into cattle cars until there was room for no one else. Then they closed it up and there was only one small hole for air. There was no bathroom, and we were not given water during the four-day trip. Many died from dehydration, but that was only the beginning. My aunt also died on the trip.


Did you lose your mother, father and sister?

When we arrived at the camp, we were given chalk and pencils to write our names on our luggage. We were told we would get it in our new home, that we could live together as a family. Young men under the age of 15, the sick, the elderly, and the women with small children were separated. I used my knowledge of upper-class German to stay with my father, telling them I was 16 rather than 14. I believe that if I had gone with the other group, I would have been gassed that night. My mother and ten-year-old sister died in the gas chamber that night.


What about your father?

My father and I were in the same camp, Auschwitz, but he was eventually sent to Block 14, to be gassed. The people there had to continue working during the day, knowing they were going to be gassed at any time. Through a miracle I was allowed to visit him for ten minutes. I brought him soup and he wanted me to eat it, but I told him I had already eaten, which was a lie. It was hard to say good-bye under those conditions. Then, the next day, Block 14 was empty.


What is one thing that stayed with you?

You get used to the hunger, but thirst follows you anywhere you go.

One memory that still haunts me is having to drag people to ditches, douse them with gasoline and set them afire. Some were still alive. There were children, babies . . . I still hear their screams. Even after I was married, I would wake up screaming in the middle of the night because I could still see the faces. The death of my father is also an experience that haunts me.


Why did you come to speak to us? You said that you did not speak to middle school students, but you came to our class.

Your teacher sent me your writings. I was so touched. You experienced the Holocaust through your words. They were so full of emotion and depth, I knew you were prepared for my story. Most students do not understand what happened, and you did. Your teacher should be credited with this. She has prepared you well. I'm doing this for one reason only - for the ones who didn't survive.


How did it make you feel, to be treated that way because you were a Jew?

I didn't understand, it was unbelievable, so unreal.


Do you hate those who did this to the Jews?

No, because you don't hate or dislike the Germans today for what their grandparents or parents did. That's just like you don't hate whites for what their great-grandparents did to the slaves.


How do you think you survived?

Shoes were vital for survival in the camp because they kept our feet warm and free of wounds and diseases. Shoes were also beneficial during the hours of labor we performed daily during my two years in concentration camps.

One night, others thought I was dead and threw me out in the snow. When I woke up I went into the barracks and said, "Which one of you SOBs stole my shoes?" I went in and got them back.


What advice would you give teenagers today?

Be tolerant of others, polite, and have ambition. Then you can succeed. Nothing good comes from hatred.



This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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