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I can still see, in my mind's eye, the sight of the aufseherin (overseer), expecting a blow from her whip any second, or a kick from her sharp boots, or the bites of the wild dog accompanying the Lagerf¸hrer. The fear--the constant three companions: pain, hunger, fear of punishment we never deserved but so often received. Yet, we were not afraid of death. Death was a welcome escape from our unending misery. We longed for death, for we hated our lives at the camp.

I often recalled the prophet's words: "The living will envy the dead." The living in their degraded state of becoming sub-human, questioned the existence of G-d, lost their faith, and cursed their parents for giving life to them, bringing Jews onto the planet Earth. Yes, the earth was contaminated with Evil Spirit. G-d, goodness, decency, love for strangers, justice for the innocent, all these tenets my parents taught me, were gone from the earth. Brutality reigned supreme. G-d, why can't I forget the camp? Why does it come back to haunt me all the time? Perhaps to remind me not to take anything for granted, that I should examine every bit of kindness, be suspicious of it, knowing that Evil lurks in human hearts and that people are good, or, people only look out for their own needs and ends?

I cannot forget the Bergen Belsen a year ago; the constant rain, as if it would never end. Nature's tears mixed with our own. Yet suddenly the sun appeared. Spring was in the air. The earth drank the water in, yet here and there, small artificial lakes were created. I remember stopping at one and looking into the reflection in the water. It was scary! Could that be me? That skeleton whose only recognizable features were her sad, dark eyes? For over a week now we had been without bread or water. The poor, emaciated inmates had to walk a half a kilometer for half a liter of water daily, that is, those who could drag themselves that far, but most of us could not. That was when we stopped being human! Hitler, you won!

In Bergen-Belsen it was not unusual to kill for a piece of raw beet--and we knew that in the adjacent men's camp they practiced cannibalism. The inmates, by then reduced to skin and bones, or else swollen from starvation, just dragged themselves along the lagerstrasse. Those whose feet were swollen from hunger hobbled along. In our women's lager, 300 of us died every day. Most of us had typhus or were about to catch it. There was just no chance for survival at all. The lack of water, the filth, the crowding--some blocks were occupied by thousands and thousands of people, all huddled together on the dirty floor amidst filthy rags--is there any wonder that the typhoid fever was doing its dance of death among them? So did cholera and dysentery. There was no one to bury the dead, either. Every day we just dragged them out and threw the corpses on the ever-growing heap in the lagerstrasse. This heap soon became a small mountain, one or two meters high. Those of us who could still walk, stepped over our dead friends and relatives, later, even to carry them to the "mountain heap" was too difficult. They were just placed outside our block. Everywhere we went, we stepped on them, without feeling, without remorse. We would step on someone's face, someone's arm or back. Don't look, don't feel, better not to recognize who it is. They were all my friends and relatives. And if someone died in the block, for days the bodies lay among the dying ones; no one could escape contamination.

Those who could get up, did so in the hope that maybe the block where the sick ones were carried before still existed. It did. We called it "Revere" (the hospital). Most could not make it there, and they fell, never to get up, before they ever reached it. And those who did get there? There was a long serpent-like line waiting to get in to the Revere for all those half-dead people begging for help. Dante could not have imagined such a hell! The tossing, screaming, begging, pushing, falling, cursing. And what became of the lucky ones who got in? There were no beds or medications available! There, too, they lay on the bare, filthy, bug-infested, wet floor.

The lice were spreading especially after the sun came out, multiplying to such an extent that at times, looking out at the "mountain heap of the dead," I had the illusion that the dead were moving. Actually what I was seeing was the millions of lice eating and tearing the flesh to pieces. The stench was unbearable. The decomposing corpses, as well as the human feces mixed with vomit, spread all kinds of germs and created such a stink that the odours emanating from the crematoria in Auschwitz were mild by comparison. Can you imagine anything worse than smelling the burning flesh of my own child, my parents and sisters? Yes, this was even worse!

Even today, after a year of freedom, I still have a habit of examining my underwear every day, to make sure it's free of lice. I still find a bath or shower to be a great luxury, and I indulge in it whenever I can.

Yes, a year ago, the "big fever," which I knew meant typhoid fever, got hold of me one day as well. Those with strong bodily constitutions survived, but the pangs of hunger grew worse. We could have survived if we'd had something to satisfy our enormous appetite after sickness. And so many of us died of starvation. How easy it was a year ago to keep Pesach! There was not a crust of bread available in Bergen-Belsen that last Pesach. The irony of it all! Death visited me during my illness, and I begged him to take me with him. Enough is enough. Hallucinations. He laughed--I saw his long, ugly teeth. "Take me!" I cried. He just laughed. Too many! Such big choice I never had before. He didn't find me desirable.

In my feverish state I remembered my mother, hustling and bustling in the kitchen before our Pesach holiday. I saw Apuka, my father, in his white kittel, sitting at the head of the table, surrounded with all kinds of cushions. Symbolically, he was king that night, and this was the closest to a throne. I saw my sisters and brothers contributing to the seder with their reading of the story "from slavery to freedom." Arica was asking the Ma Nishtana and there was peace and contentment on everyone's face; we were a happy family.

I started to cry. I cried loudly and woke up from my otherworldly state of mind. I felt strength coming back into my limbs. I could even sit up. I opened my eyes. "I will not die," I said, "I have to live, I have to be part of a Pesach seder such as I saw in my dream." I knew I was "condemned to live."

Within two weeks I was up on my feet again. Another ten days and we were liberated by the English. It was May 15, 1945.

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