She got beaten quite a bit in the camps, because you had all this quota that you had to fulfill. Since she was a professional seamstress she was really very good. And she worked very hard, and of course they were on starvation food – they got watered-down beet soup, watered-down oatmeal – that was kind of the food of the day.
My best friend and schoolmate and his younger brother and older sister, father and mother perished in the concentration camp. I was about 12 or 13 years old. I came to school one morning and he didn’t come. They day before was the last time I saw him, and they never returned back.
And then going to school was fascinating, because there was a lot of shrapnel on the road, and it was suggested that it would be helpful to collect the shrapnel, so we had bags or buckets or whatever, putting the pieces of shells in to collect so that they could melt it and shoot it back.
Mother actually pressed charges, and the trail went all the way to court, to the High Court in Vienna, and the man was found guilty. And I believe he was sent to the eastern front. I think it was a very brave thing of mom to do and I was very proud of her because, had she lost, the consequences would have been very dire.
They not only killed the people who assisted directly, but also the family members. Often people ask me how come I survived and my brothers, and the only reason why we survived was because my parents were divorced. So even though it was a painful thing, it really saved our lives.
All of a sudden, they yanked me out the cell, brought me to a big room full of people, I did not know… nobody told me what it was about. I was there, there were some people up there on the podium, and I couldn’t make out what it was all about. In about 15 minutes they took me back to the cell.
So I, at the age of ten or eleven, had to give up my skis, my ice skates, my sled and my most prized possession of all, which was my red bicycle. I loved the red bicycle and I had to give that up. My mother told the story that I once came home crying because I saw a boy riding my bicycle.
The free education, the free medical care. There were a lot of good things and if you could have political freedom and travel and exchange, then I think the system would have been very good. I didn’t understand why anybody would say no to it, because we didn’t want to declare war on Russia or some stupid thing like that.