“They were called Mohammedans because they had dark faces, black eyes. They were walking corpses really, people about whom you knew that say in a week they would be dead. And the boy still walked, he was no longer hungry. I remember that once a boy, a Czech boy, came to us from Lodz, perhaps there was a transport from Lodz that went to gas chamber. Why they chose him and put him with us, I truly don’t know. And the boy looked really like a Mohammedan. Suddenly he wasn’t with us, where he got lost, well, it was clear that he had passed away. Not that you would care too much – under these conditions, really, you cannot understand. A normal person cannot understand and cannot put in words so that the listener, or the one who listens, understands.”
"One of us, Johnny Freund, who lives in Canada, published the book 'After those fifty years, History of Birkenau boys'. He got financial support from another Birkenau boy who became rich, because that work wasn't quite easy. He had been collecting material for the book for several years. He found out who those 89 boys were, their names, which ones survived and which ones did not and where they are now."
“Now we arrived in the camp and it was crowded. The barracks were newly built, made of wood, and it is where they put us. But we couldn’t get in, there was no place. At night we had to sit, could lie down, we sat in rows with our legs open wide, one in another, and this was the only way we could be inside, you couldn’t survive out in April. There was rain in the forest, cold, it was just terrible. There was no water, you had to drink from the pools, there were no toilets, people defecated where they felt the need. It was just horrible, we couldn’t get hold of the soup every day. When the soup was distributed, people went wild.”
“The house was locked for the night and no one was allowed out. In the back of the house, in the back I mean because there was the entrance at the front, there were buckets and you went there if you needed to go to the toiler at night. And it was where people who were dead, had died there or were dying were put. And when you wanted to go to the toilet, you had to step on those people as the aisle – one, then there were beds, aisle, chimney, aisle, beds. The aisles were narrow. Only two people could stand side by side. And it was where these people were thrown, since if someone was dying by your side, the prisoners took him down and threw him into that space. And whoever wanted to go to the toilet, had to step on those people. I don’t remember going there in the back, I don’t know…”
"I saw a lot of people standing at the barbed-wire fence and suddenly, I saw two figures standing there who seemed familiar to me. I think it was my mom and dad. Although I couldn't see their faces because it was too far away, I recognized them by their clothing. I told myself that it must be mom and dad and I waived at them. They waived back at me. Can you imagine that we recognized each other in this way? It was at a long distance. And then, on the next day, I strolled around that place again and I spotted them there again so we waived at each other again. But on the third day, the spot at the fence was empty – there was no one there anymore."
“The regime was strictly military. We were not allowed outside the house, only on permission. Every evening at 7 we had a roll-call, our whole group of 30 boys, the order was read and the supervisor told us what we would do. On Saturdays we went to a theatre, the Theatre of Labourers, for instance, where actors who later became famous used to play. I remember young Adamíra, for instance. They performed Shoe-machine, a play written by some Turek, a communist work designed to ridicule Baťa, but Baťa’s system survived there still, even if it was called National Factory Svit.”
"It was common there that if a capo shouted something in one direction, the inmates standing in that direction would repeat it and shout the same thing. For instance, I recall them all screaming: 'Lagerälteste nach vorne!' It means lagerälteste forward. I must have shouted it as well. Every one present had to shout it and it was repeated all over the camp in that direction. The camp had some thirty blocks so that represents a considerable space. In this way, communication was maintained. There was no telephone there."
“You still believe, until the very last moment, the more you are pressed, you believe them when they say that if you do this, you have a chance – a man gets hooked on that. I say that under certain circumstances a man is like an animal. It is an animal with a brain though.”
"At night, the three of us would hold each other like this – the one in the middle is held up by his two friends and thus he can sleep and rest. We would alternate. It really works – you walk while you're asleep and you don't even know that you're walking."
"He stepped in front of that Mengele and Mengele showed him again the same side. He had no idea that he had already sent him to that side before. But my dad did something special. He remained where he was and addressed that SS-man in German. That was something very extraordinary and unusual. I remember that he told him: 'Ich möchte gerne an diese Seite gehen. Da steht mein Sohn' (I'd like to go to this side. My son is standing there). And Mengele didn't do anything. He was absolutely calm. He just told him: 'Sowieso werden Sie nicht zusammen sein' (You're not going to be together anyway). And he showed him once again to go to the other side."
“If I were to explain how it is possible that I survived, I would have to say that I just don’t know. Definitely it was not a God’s wish, since I don’t believe in God. Well, I returned and I might have believed but then I had myself scratched from the Jewish church. How to express the fact that one was a non-believer? I had myself scratched. But this does not mean I stopped being a Jew. It is a problem for me to understand it all. I am studying it at the moment. What is it being a Jew? Should it be understood in a religious manner? Or in ethnicity or how? It is a rather complex issue.”
For the first time in history, human kind has a chance of not forgetting
Pavel Werner was born on January 3, 1932, in Pardubice in the family of a Jewish travelling salesman. In 1942, the whole family was deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto, where they spent a year and a half and where Pavel’s sister, Lenka, lost her life. In May 1944, they were transferred to Auschwitz. As a thirteen-year-old boy, Pavel was assorted with a group of 89 so-called “Birkenau boys” during the selection at Auschwitz. The boys enjoyed a sort of a special treatment in Auschwitz and many of them managed to survive the war. The selection was done personally by the infamous Joseph Mengele. Shortly before the liberation of the camp, Pavel was dispatched with other inmates on a death march to camps in Melk, Mauthausen and Gunskirchen, where he was finally liberated by the U.S. army. After a basic recovery, he returned to Czechoslovakia in June 1945. As a minor orphan, he was assigned a guardian and became a shoe maker at the national company Svit in Zlín. He then studied foreign trade at university. He worked for a number of years in Mexico and in Bolivia. He was a vice chairman of the Theresienstadt Initiative. Pavel Werner passed away on April, the 1st, 2017.