On the Way from Auschwitz

Testimony of a Jewish Survivor of the Holocaust

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Sara Erenhalt (née  Flaks) (born 1923) used to live with her family in Przemyśl. In 1941 she married Leon Patera. Soon their first child was born. A tragic twist of fate made her and her family stay at one of the two ghettos established by the Nazi Germans in Przemyśl. Leon was killed while trying to escape to the “Aryan” side. Sara’s parents and her sisters were deported to Bełeżec. Other members of her family, including her only child, were killed in the ghetto. In September 1943, she was taken, along with other people, to Birkenau (near Auschwitz). After the quarantine period, she was given the number 66952 and sent to work in the “Union” factory, located three kilometers from the camp. At the beginning of 1944, she was transferred to Auschwitz while continuing to work in the factory.

At the end of 1944, the process of liquidating the camp began. In January 1945, there were not enough wagons to transport all prisoners. The remaining camp prisoners were led in the so-called death march – barefoot towards German borders. To everyone’s surprise, Germans ordered a stop in the village of Poręba, near Pszczyna, and allowed prisoners to look for accommodation. Sara and six other women went towards the nearby houses. She recounts:

“We all entered some cottage. There was an old man. We greeted him saying «Praised be Jesus Christ.» We asked him about the night in his barn. He replied: Poor little things, how can I let you sleep in a barn at minus eighteen degrees. It appeared that our host was a priest, dressed at that time in secular clothing. We started talking to him and asking for shelter at his home. He agreed immediately to hide me and Genia. (…) We were trying to persuade him that we cannot separate from our female companions because we were together all the time in the camp, and if they go away, they surely will die” (Archive of Yad Vashem, Ref. O.3/1588).

Father Alojzy Pitlok agreed to host all of the women. He was also willing to offer them help after the liberation, “he said that it did not matter that we were Jews, but it was important that our guardian angel had sent us to him, and he could save us. He also underlined that if we did not manage to find our families, we could always come back to his place and find a job.” After the war, Sara contacted the Zionist organization. In 1946, she went to Israel.

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Paweł Rytel-Andrianik

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