Szymon Binke was born in 1931 in Łódź, Poland. Shortly after the Nazi invasion his family was moved to the city's Baluty district which became the Łódź ghetto. In 1944 the family was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau where his mother and sister were gassed. Szymon was placed in the Kinderblock but escaped from it to join his father and uncles in the main camp of Auschwitz. Later he was transferred to a series of forced labor camps until he was liberated in May 1945. This is what he saw:
Now when the doors to the car opened, do you remember your first impressions?
Pandemonium. Dogs and yelling and screaming, "Raus, raus, raus." Tried to take our luggage and stuff, a nechtiger tog, forget it. You know, we were expecting, hey, we need all our stuff. We need our bread rations and all that. They lined us up and...
So who drove you off the car? People came into the car and chased you out?
No, no. They, you came out and they grabbed you and yeah.
Who? Who? Germans?
Oh no, no. Uh, prisoners. The Kommando they called it.
Right. They called it the Kanada Kommando. I don't know why Kanada.
What were you thinking at the time? Remember?
Weren't thinking. Total shock.
What happened next?
The world, well, they lined us up, men separate and women separate. That's the last time I saw my mother and sister. And uh, you lined up in one, one line and kept, walked, walked up to a German officer and he was standing like this and pointing with his thumb this way or that way. When I came up, came up, he grabbed me by my right arm to feel if there was something there and he pointed to that side. We didn't know which, which was good and which was bad and after that we wound up in a, in a bath house all night long. And the next morning we were in the gypsy camp in Birkenau.
Did you look back at your mother?
Yes. We waved and tried to say goodbye.
What, what did you think was going to happen?
Like I told you, total shock. Didn't think of anything. But then after the war, well, she went with my aunt that had the other, that had my, that, her daughter that was a year younger than I am and the aunt that's here now, my father's youngest sister, they all went together. Well my father's youngest sister, she was single. She didn't have anybody. Those two had kids, my, my sister and the other one had her daughter that was about a year younger than I was, which was in '44. I was thirteen, she was probably twelve. So I guess some of the people that worked, they came up and told them, "You better give up the kids or you're gonna die." And they said, "It's all right. We'll, we'll hang onto the, to our children." And uh, so my, this aunt, my father's younger sister wanted to go with them, but they grabbed her by the hair and threw her. By the time she came to, they were gone already.
Now you were with your father still.
Holding onto each other? Holding hands?
You couldn't hold on. You, you, you were together, yeah. Tried to be close as...
And your uncles as well.
The uncles, yeah, there was also another uncle. Her, you know my father's oldest sister's husband was also with us. Now...
Three uncles. There were five of you?
More. More. There was Moishe, Sol, Larry and Harry. Four uncles.