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Journey to freedom

“At Mühldorf Station we were loaded onto wagons. After being shunted about for a long time our transport slowly got under way. The train kept stopping because it was repeatedly attacked by lowflying Allied aircraft, so our journey was more stop than go. Only at night could the train travel without interruption. The train could not travel quickly because it was forced to make so many detours. In parts the rails were ripped apart in bomb craters; apparently there were insufficient workers to repair the damage. When, on the second day of our transport, we had to wait for a long time at a small station we found out that we were not far from Munich. The station was called “Poing”. Our train stopped on a siding at the edge of the forest. The SS took advantage of the break to rest and warm themselves in the April sun. …Suddenly we became aware that the SS guards who were guarding our wagons had disappeared. We looked out of the wagon and saw the guards gathered around the camp leader, who gave a short speech. After a few minutes the guards returned, opened the wagon doors wide, and told us we were free. Was this reality? Was this the moment we had yearned for, for years? Had they really let us get away alive? Some of us joyously hugged one another, and even effusively shook the hands of the guards. We were overcome with joy because we had escaped death. While this scene unfolded, the SS and some from our ranks went to plunder the food wagon attached to the train. We had not had anything to eat for twenty-four hours, and we were ravenous. I was so overcome with my new-found freedom that I myself forgot my hunger, and silently observed the scene with indifference: how old camp inmates came together, how women and girls from the wagons joined them. They had emerged from other wagons attached to our train; they had all originated from a camp adjacent to our own. Then I saw how some people carried whole loaves of bread under their arms, how others carried large packs of margarine. When I asked where they had got their booty from, they pointed to the wagon at the front of the train. Quickly I also ran there, but the food wagon was already engulfed by a dense crowd. Even so, people pushed and shoved as they tried to get into the wagon. Some of the Block Elders and Kapos called for the SS to help to push people back, but the mass of starving people seized the wagon and plundered it. Everything that could be moved was carried away, and soon not a single piece of bread or cheese remained. Those of us who failed to get any of this treasure circled the wagon in the gloom like hungry hyenas, staring into the darkness. Some of us scraped margarine off the floor after it had been trampled on in the stampede.”

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