Sunday, 26 August 2007


In 1938 Andrew Savin a 16 year old boy from a Jewish family living in Rumania was sent by his parents to a high school in the nearby town of Tg Mures, to extend his education by two more years. The Second World War broke out, Hungary allied to Germany and the part of Rumania where Andrew lived was annexed by Hungary. Anti-Semitic laws were introduced forcing him out of his high school education so he returned to his home town. The only job he could get was carrying wood in a lumber factory. Whilst in Tg Mures he participated in the Zionist movement and did the same in his own town. He collected money to pay for food for political prisoners. In spring 1941 he was interrogated by the police and beaten. Many others were arrested as communists. They let him go home but in July he was taken to an internment camp for 13 months, then sent home, but had to report to the police daily.

In May 1944 all Jews were ordered to leave their homes and Andrew's whole family were sent by train to a ghetto in Szasaregen. A month later the ghetto was emptied and everyone was marched to the railway station. There the police squeezed them into cattle trucks. For more than a week they travelled, with the doors only being opened once a day. It was a hot June and several people died from dehydration. Their journey ended, they had arrived at Auschwitz concentration camp.

They were let out of the trucks but were beaten by German soldiers. Men and women were separated. Then a group of S.S. officers, "the selection committee", pointed out individuals who were marched away towards the tall chimney with dense smoke rising from it, this was the last time Andrew saw his mother. All their hair was shaved off, they were given prison clothes to wear, slept in barracks ruled over by prisoners who beat them, and food was a cup of watery soup. Work during the day was mostly road construction. Two weeks later Andrew at his father's insistance enlisted for a work transport, his father stayed behind, they parted forever.

Andrew was taken by freight train to the Buchenwald camp and then transferred to Bochum in the Ruhr and assigned to work in an ammunition factory. His job was to remove with long pliers red hot bomb shells from the furnace. It was very hot work, with liquid given only twice a day which was not enough to replace lost fluids, few survived more than four weeks. Andrews life was saved from inevitable exhaustion by his finger being broken so he was transferred to working on a lathe.

The Americans started to bomb the factories and many prisoners died this way. Andrew was assigned to a group of prisoners who, guarded by a German soldier, were walked to the city to defuse unexploded bombs. The soldier waited outside the cordoned off area. As soon as they were out of his sight the prisoners searched the houses for food eating as much as they could. Some were killed disarming the bombs but the drive of hunger was a stronger instinct. The winter was bitterly cold and many perished as the calories they ate were less than their work burned.

In March the Allied forces were approaching so the transports were rushes back to Buchenwald. Andrew was put to work in a stone quarry and for no reason the S.S. guards would shoot prisoners in the head. Early April as the American army neared groups of 5,000 prisoners were marched out of camp into the forest and the S.S. killed them by machine guns. Andrew was in one such group but on the way leaving the camp he was dragged away by a senior member of the resistance who changed the identification badge on his coat to a red triangle which meant a non-Jewish political prisoner. Over 50,000 Jews were executed in the last few days, only 20,000 were alive on liberation.

11th April 1945 mid morning the resistance with arms attacked the German guards, at 4pm American tanks entered the camp. Medicine and plenty of rich food was received from the Americans, nevertheless many perished from dysentery. Andrew stayed in the camp May and June to gain his strength then with a two week journey by lorry and train returned home to Rumania.

Source: Dreaming and Survival, M.I.G.S. (A. Savin)

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