After Auschwitz: One Man's Story

by Hermann Gruenwald, as told to Bryan Demchinsky, McGill-Queen's University Presf, 2007

There were SS guards nearby as the women entered the shower, but in so large a crowd, they didn’t notice Edith’s condition. Then the sisters were taken into a room with a big pile of clothing on a table. Some women got a dress that was too big, others that too small. Edith got one that was too large, a loose dress that helped disguise her pregnancy.

 

All the Hungarian women we were taken to C Lager at Birkenau. It contained 30 barracks with close to a thousand women in each building.

 

There they stayed through the rest of June and July and into August.

 

Soon the sisters understood what it meant to be pregnant. They devised a plan to protect Edith. Two of Edith’s sisters-in-law were with them and helped. The women had to stand in line to receive their daily rations. The five women always composed themselves into a group in such a way as to keep Edith in the middle, as inconspicuous as possible. Kathy was always first in line.

 

One morning in July, Edith went into labour. In the barracks, the beds were arranged in usual tiers of three, and between each tier there was a low brick partition. The top was flat and wide enough for a person to lie on. That’s where Edith lay. Her labour began early, before the morning appell. She couldn’t come out for the roll call.

 

It was possible to stay in the barracks for a day or two if you were sick, as I had done when work in the sand mine had laid me low, but the blockältester had to inform the SS who were recording the appell. Most block leaders had a reputation for cruelty, but the one in charge of Edith’s barrack, a Slovakian woman, was not so bad. She knew Edith was pregnant and had left her alone.

Hermann Gruenwald and his sisters, including Edith with her hands

on his shoulders, in 1946.