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8. Liberation

Rescued from death's door at Bergen-Belsen

Transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp for execution, Magda Herzberger described how she collapsed and nearly died among the corpses on the day that liberators arrived

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"And I felt a kinship, a friendship, towards a birch tree I had seen in the camp. And my eyes fell on it, and my goal was to reach that tree. I wanted to embrace that tree. And I could see that it was April, the first new buds [had appeared] on that [tree].

And I was dragging myself on all fours until finally I reached that tree. I can never forget that moment. I practically embraced [it]. I felt love for that tree, all the love it was in me I conveyed. And then I closed my eyes and I was really ready to die. I felt that this is it, the end of my rope. And I felt at that point, I felt an apathy, you know, from weakness.

I felt apathetic, I felt no joy, I felt no pain any more, I felt no hunger any more, nothing any more.

And I closed my eyes and I was thinking. I revised my life and I thought if I would have a second chance, I would do things maybe differently than I did. If I would have a second chance, I am going to live life fully and try to make the most of it.

And I looked back through most of my childhood, I followed my life, just like somebody who is going to part and looks at the house where you grew up and say goodbye, that's the way I felt.

And I felt such a sadness that we were sentenced to death only because we were a part of the Hebrew generation. What crime [did we commit]? We were innocent people.

And it horrified me, the fact that I am going to be put on that pile and maybe pushed into a mass grave or maybe cremated. And nothing is going to remain from me; even my dust is not going to be respected, because I knew what's going to happen with my dust. It was a horrible feeling.

And I was wondering what it is like to die. So, I closed my eyes and I sort of give myself to death. And believe me, Sara, there was a great miracle. I heard commotion, I didn't know from where it is coming. I thought I am hallucinating. Or sensing maybe that's the way death is coming.

And I opened my eyes and I have seen the big elevated [towers]. We had high elevated towers in Auschwitz [Bergen-Belsen] and in those elevated towers — See, I have lots of slides that I can show you now — there were guards with machine guns.

And I have seen the guards disappear, and I have seen the British tanks coming in to our camp, and I realized it is liberation day. I couldn't believe that's true. I felt so weak I couldn't even get up and run.

The people who came later than I, they could still walk, but I couldn't. And I just was lying there and I didn't feel any joy. I was frightened. For the first time I realized maybe, my parents didn't make it. What's going to happen?"

Herzberger Interview, Tape 6, Side 1
Transcript page 107 (PDF, 3.9 MB)

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