Oral History Interview with Dora Freilich

Dora Golubowitz Freilich, born December 25, 1926 in Pruzany, Poland, near Bialystok, describes her pre-war life, including her schooling, relations with non-Jewish Poles, Jewish community life, and youth groups; the Russian occupation from 1939 to 1941, including the expropriation of her family’s business; the German invasion and her family being forced to move into the Pruzany ghetto in June 1941; the living conditions, cultural activities, labor units, Judenrat (Jewish council), and contact with Jewish partisans in the ghetto; how a non-Jewish ex-employee of her father hid her baby sister but later the family asked him to return the child; the evacuation of the ghetto in January 1943 and her family’s transport to Auschwitz-Birkenau; witnessing Mengele’s sadistic games with prisoners and her awareness of the medical experiments (which she describes in great detail); sadistic behavior by guards, including the shooting of her sister for sport; conditions at Birkenau, including slave labor, types of prisoners, orchestra, death process, and relations among inmates; how older girls tried to help the younger ones and the coping strategies they used to survive; the sabotage of a crematorium in October 1944 and the public hanging of four girls held responsible; the escape, capture, and execution of Mala Zimetbaum; life in the camp in January 1945 and the death march to Ravensbrück concentration camp, where she stayed for three months; being transferred to Malchow; escaping with 11 girls into the forest; being liberated by Russian soldiers in May 1945; the treatment by Russians, which ranged from kindness to brutality; their return to Pruzany after a three month journey, during which she experienced both antisemitism and help from non-Jews; going on to Łódź, Poland; their failed attempt to go to Palestine; getting married; going to Feldafing displaced persons camp in 1946; immigrating to the United States in March 1949; survivor’s guilt; and how the Holocaust and the loss of her family still affects both her and her daughter.

Date: 10/24/1984
Interviewer: Helen Grossman
Interviewee: Dora Freilich
Language: English
Subject: Antisemitism.
Concentration camp escapes.
Concentration camp guards.
Concentration camp inmates--Selection process.
Concentration camps--Psychological aspects.
Death march survivors.
Death marches.
Forced labor.
Holocaust survivors.
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Poland--Personal narratives.
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Psychological aspects.
Jewish councils--Belarus--Pruzhany.
Jewish ghettos--Belarus--Pruzhany.
Jewish women in the Holocaust.
Jewish youth--Europe--Societies and clubs.
Jews--Social life and customs.
Shooting (Execution)
Soldiers--Soviet Union.
Women concentration camp inmates.
World War, 1939-1945--Concentration camps--Liberation.
World War, 1939-1945--Deportations from Poland.
World War, 1939-1945--Underground movements--Poland--Oswiecim.
Women--Personal narratives.
Location: Pruzhany, Belarus
Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp
Malchow concentration camp
Ravensbrück concentration camp
Lodz, Poland
Feldafing displaced persons camp
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