Survivor STORY

Rella Solski Sloman grew up in Kovno, Lithuania, where her parents owned a mill. The Solski family was forced to move into the Slobodka ghetto in Kovno.

In 1944, Rella and 35 members of her family were in hiding in a basement within the ghetto. When Rella realized that they all might suffocate from lack of oxygen, she started to cry, alerting the Germans to their location. Her father blamed her for their arrest. He was murdered by the Nazis and she never saw him again.

Rella is a survivor of the Stutthof and Thorn concentration camps.

After liberation, Rella was taken to a hospital in Munich, where she was treated for tuberculosis. She then continued to recuperate in Switzerland before returning to Germany. Rella and her husband, Bernard, were eventually allowed to emigrate to America and settled in Atlanta, where Rella had relatives.

Judaism and Jewishness

I remember like today. Five o’clock in the morning. It was cold. I didn’t have no shoes. I had, I got some kind of sandals from wood either from Holland or from something, with a wire. You had a close it up with a wire. It was open, and was terrible cold, and I begged my mama. I used to beg my mama. They used to make selections. “Let’s go, Mama. Just to be warm one time. I don’t care if they kill us in Stutthof, but let’s go back to Stutthof.” My mama, [in Yiddish ‘No, my child, no. God will help us’] “Where is God, Mama? Why is he doing it to us? What have we done? What did I do?” “Oh, see? You’re asking questions. God doesn’t like when you ask questions.” That’s how she believed, that we’ll survive.

Liberation

It came Christmas time and him and the Schnabel were gone on vacation. And a nice old man, in the black – he was, he was, they were already then in S.S. you know, in black with the hats, you know, and [unclear]. He was nice. His name was [sounds like] Polschein. I cannot forget him. I’ll never forget that man. He hollered sometimes because he had to, but he didn’t touch nobody. You could feel he’s a, sort of like a mensch [a human being]. And they took us, when they went away, they took us in a mill. Big, great big mill, because the planes were already running around, and we wanted to be killed from the planes. We were better off to get killed from the planes, but nobody, but they didn’t throw nothing on us. We lived. And that Polschein had to take us to walk a big, big walk. What shall I tell you? A, wait, what do you say, it’s water on the bottom and, a brick.

A bridge.

A bridge. We walked four days. Before we were to go to walk, I dreamed. Never dreamed in my life, just one time. I dreamed that Polschein, that good guy, is on a white horse, and the horse is on two legs, and we are in a ditch. And he said, “Go, go go!” And it cut out, and I said, “Mama. I had that dream.” And she said, “What, mein kind [my child]?” And everything was good by her. If it would be a bad dream she still would say good. It’s a good. When she hear that dream she said, “[Yiddish phrase]” And crying, and sure enough, he left us in a ditch where Polish women were there and there was those, not from material, the way we walked, but from [foreign word].

Flannel?

Yeah. No, [repeats word]. Wood. What do you call, you know that light wood made, made for– There must have been Polish people because when we walked in there, the lice was impossible. They were eating us. And Jewish guy from Moscow, we were the first concentration camp freed. And he was standing like that with the horse. I didn’t go out, but my mama – I couldn’t walk already – just like I told on the dream. And when we, he start shooting in the top because he didn’t know who they are, you know. And he start crying “Yidden, Yidden [Jews, Jews] [rest of Yiddish phrase].” That was the first lager [camp]. Nobody was yet alive. He told us to go back. “Go back from here!” But in the middle I forgot to tell you something. We walked and we met English people. They were also by the German. What do you call it?

POWs?

That’s right. But English, from England. Gorgeous ones, beautiful dressed. With excellent shoes. We takes a [unclear]. And when they saw us, they start throw – the shoes and the shirts, and some of them took off even the jackets. You know, the chenille. And I couldn’t walk already, so one, I’ll never forget him, ran to me with a jar of strawberries and pushed it in my. And that saved our life. In the night we used to lick, mama a lick and me a lick. Otherwise I wouldn’t survive because I was deathly ill. I was three years in a sanatorium.

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Rella Solski Sloman