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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf People in Hitler's Europe

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                            Survivor panel testifies at “Deaf People in Hitler’s Europe” conference
                            co-sponsored by Gallaudet University and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial
                            Museum, 1998. Seated left to right: Peter Farago, Miklos Klein, Judit Konig,
                            and Klara Erdosi. Courtesy of Gallaudet University Department of Government
                            and History.

Everybody was very cold. We were there for about two months. I met two other deaf people, two other deaf women. There were three of us. Three of us were in one bed, with a doctor’s daughter. I got very scared because I found some lice. I told my sister, “I found lice.” She said, “What, are you nuts? Everybody got lice.” “Everybody?” I asked. “Don’t you bathe?” “No,” she said. “Everybody got lice.” It was very strange.

One deaf woman was very ill; she had dysentery. She asked for some underwear. I had only two pair. She was arguing with me that I should give them to her. The other women’s legs were completely swollen.

We were working in the mud, sweeping the area in January . . . . There were high-ranking officers sitting at a table. My sister warned me, to make sure I don’t show them that I limp because my legs were frozen. You could see that anybody that showed any kind of imperfection or limp, they would separate them right away. My sister spoke German. Therefore, I was stepping very carefully, nobody would notice that I was limping . . . . I told all the deaf people how they’d separate us and abuse us. They [the other deaf prisoners] said, “Don’t you like the deaf?” I said, “I listen to my sister and I try to be with her. Maybe we would go to a better place.”

Two weeks later . . . my sister she was separated and she . . . said that I [Klara] am deaf and can work, and together they took us. The next day, I said bye. I said farewell to my deaf friends—only after the war did I find that all my deaf friends had died.

Work at the New Camp, Near Leipzig

It was written on my papers that I was deaf. As a deaf person, they wouldn’t let me work in this [munitions] factory. They were beating us with whips quite frequently. Everybody would receive beatings. Those that died, it happened that those that—either they couldn’t control themselves from bowel movements, and they put them out into the yard . . . where they froze to death. I was sent out to dig out the graves, and I was the ‘crier’ because I would cry. I would dig graves for these people that froze to death. First all three [other prisoners] were taken to dig graves, but afterwards the two were separated and I was left the only one because I cried the most. My hands were hurting . . . it was very cold. I wasn’t strong. My sister was much stronger than me. I was digging the graves. We were fighting. We stole from each other.

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