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Metal identification tag worn by prisoner of Funfteichen Concentration Camp by prisoner 13656. A blue and white string is inserted through a hole at the top. [United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Laib Opoczynski]

We had to give him our names and we were each given a number. “From now on everyone must remember their number”, he impressed on us. “Now you are only numbers, and if you forget your number then you will no longer exist.” I became 24131, and I immediately learned it off by heart.

Still naked, they chased us into a corner where amateur hairdressers were to shave us. These “hairdressers” were ordinary inmates who otherwise undertook normal work and for these additional duties wanted to earn a plate of soup. It was their job to remove our head and body hair with implements they had made themselves. Most of us bled after this procedure. We were sprayed with disinfectant lotion. Then we were chased under the showers in the bathing area where we were rinsed under a stream of hot and cold water for a few moments. We were harried back to the exit.


Prisoner tags found at Fünfteichen camp [Gross Rosen Museum]


As we emerged two Kapos threw each of us a shirt, a jacket and trousers and urged us to dress quickly. Some of us were given trousers that were too long or too short and jackets that were too large or too small. But there was no time to swap things among ourselves. Immediately, we had to line up again in formation on the Appellplatz. So for a while we stood at attention struggling with ourselves to remain silent, fearing even to exchange a word with our neighbour.

Those who could not refrain from exchanging comments with their comrades were mercilessly dragged from the line, beaten and trampled underfoot. As a deterrent, people who had not uttered a word were seized and forced to confess things of which they were not guilty. The unfortunates were hideously beaten in front of us as a warning to us all, to learn the new regime of the camp. In order to escape the attention of the Kapos some pushed to the rear or tried to make themselves small and inconspicuous. I was grateful that I was naturally small in stature so I did not have to look the Kapo in the eye. We all wanted to avoid being noticed and so give cause for “special treatment”.

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