Witnesses of the Holocaust

UPPDATERAD 2018-10-12 PUBLICERAD 2018-10-11

Fela Skog, 94, is sitting in front of photographer Mikael Jansson. She gestures and points: The SS-woman was sitting just like you are, in front of me, when I arrived in Auschwitz.

She pulls up her sleeve, showing the tattooed numbers on her forearm. She lifts her arm, and carves the air. She shows how the pen burned and cut, and how she almost fainted.

Ever since then the number is written on her forearm: 57235.

There aren’t that many people left in Sweden who can tell. Fela Skog is one of them. This story is the result of a cooperation with photographer Mikael Jansson. In a unique project he has portrayed and filmed testimonies from 97 Swedes who survived the Holocaust.

Here are their stories.


Fela Skog

Born: 20 December, 1923 in Pabianice, Poland.
Camps: Auschwitz-Birkenau, Ravensbrück, Malchow.
Freed: April, 1945.
Arrived in Sweden: April 28, 1945.

My oldest sister was dying in front of me. I didn’t cry, my only feeling was jealousy.

In Malchow we worked outdoors. That was alright, but we were ready to die. They had electrical fences and many people threw themselves at them. I often thought that the best solution was death. It was horrible. But Auschwitz was the worst.

I never told my husband or my children what I went through. It’s indescribable, and impossible to believe. To begin with I didn’t think too much, but when I’m by myself and as I get older everything comes back. I have nightmares every night about Gestapo taking me. The nights kill me. I have tranquilizers, but they don’t help.”

Laura Frajnd

Born: August 13, 1926 in Rodi, Italy.
Camps: Auschwitz, Dachau and Bergen-Belsen.
Freed: Spring 1945.
Arrived in Sweden: Autumn 1945.

The trip was awful. There was no toilet, just a hole in a corner where we had to go. But still I was stunned by what I saw through the window. I was 18 years old and enjoying my first train journey.

The beauty overtook everything. I was lucky that I could enjoy something for the last time. And then we arrived, and they screamed ’raus! raus! raus!’. We went out and they took care of the people who had died. In other carriages several people had died during the trip.

Then they put us back on the train again, to Auschwitz. I ended up in Block 24, I think. In the barack there were three bunks on top of each other and you had to climb to your spot. People were always fighting and arguing and at night it was never quiet, so it was hard to sleep. But it’s strange that humans are inclined to get used to things. We lived one day at a time and didn’t count them. I don’t know how long I was there for.

The block that I lived in was crowded to begin with. People were lying on top of each other. But by the end, after a few weeks, there was plenty of room inside. ”

Kiwa Zyto

Born: August 8, 1932 in Kiecle, Poland.
Camps: Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau.
Freed: 1945. Arrived in Sweden: 1947.

We were in the ghetto in Kielce, Poland. And then they terminated that camp, and everyone was transported to Auschwitz. There we were sorted by a man named Mengele.

He took the useless people to the right, and the people who would continue, who were able to work, to the left. That day everyone was tattooed. We were only children. Then trucks arrived at the barack. They loaded the children. The truck was shuttling back and forth. The trip to the gas chambers was short. And soon half the barack had been emptied.”

Tamara Nussbaum

Born: November 5, 1926 in Vilno, Poland.
Camps: Vaivara, Stutthoff, Bergen-Belsen.
Freed: April 15, 1945.
Arrived in Sweden: October, 1945.

I want my legacy to be that people know what happened during the Second World War, how the Germans treated Jews and other, Poles and people from other nations.

And that is important, because we forget, and this must never be forgotten. It’s my duty to tell, so that this is never forgotten.

It was important for me to tell, but I think people save telling their children for last. It was difficult to tell them all the horrible things that happened to me.

That is the worst part, people who deny this and the Neo-Nazis. No-one thought in 1945, that this would come back. But of course, history repeats itself, we have seen that many times.”

Frans Goldner

Born: 1929.
Camps: Sachsenhausen, Heinkel, Siemensstadt, Ordruf, Bergen-Belsen.
Freed: April 15, 1945.
Deceased: 2018.

One prisoner took a bowl, ran to the cask, filled the bowl and ran. But he didn’t get far. He was caught. They took him back to the soup… They lifted him. Pushed his head in the soup and drowned him in the soup.

And then people ate the soup as usual. Things like that happened every day. And I get really furious when people say that this isn’t true. But we are still alive and can testify. What right do they have to say that it’s not true?”

Hear Frans Goldner


Henryka Wieser Septimus

Born: December 10, 1928 in Lwów, Poland.
Camps: Janowska.
Freed: Escaped 1943. Arrived in Sweden: 1969.

One of the women was standing in only her underwear and couldn’t bare to take any more clothes off. She got down on her knees and crawled on the ground up to the SS-man to kiss his boots. Again and again. She begged him not to kill her. He pulled out a gun and shot both the women in their heads. Terrible evil.

Walter Frankenstein

Born: June 30, 1924 in Flatow, Poland.
Managed to stay hidden with his wife and two children.
Arrived in Sweden: July 27, 1956.

Our first son was born January 20, 1943. In March we went into hiding, because we were going to be deported.

Ester Miska

Born: February 1, 1923 in Strykow, Poland.
Camp: Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.
Freed: 1945. Arrived in Sweden: June 1945.

Auschwitz-Birkenau. My stomach hurts when I say it. I have my whole family there.


Zsuzsanna Reisch

Born: September 15, 1936 in Budapest, Hungary.
Kept away from the war by hiding in her home in Hungary.
Freed: March 1945. Arrived in Sweden: 1958.

In Hungary everybody thought that Hungary would not be affected. Although we heard about what was happening in Germany, Austria, Poland, Czech… but Hungary? No, in such a civilized country this could never happen.

We hid, with false papers. We stayed in Hungary after the war. It got a bit better, with free elections, and my father started doing business again. But in 1949 the communists took power. They took my father’s shop, his house and the car.”

Hear Zsuzsanna Reisch: ”Don’t be afraid, but be observant”

Benny Rawet

Born: 1931.
Camp: Auschwitz.
Arrived in Sweden: 1945.
Deceased: 2018.

I was in the ghetto in Poland. I was there for four or five years, I don’t remember. Then I was moved to Auschwitz, and I was there for four years. Then I arrived in Germany.

Nelia Poliak

Born: October 28, 1936 in Kiev, Ukraine.
Fled to Siberia.
Arrived in Sweden: July, 1994.

Only the people who survived that difficult time can understand what that means. I have told my daughter. She wants to understand, but she can’t. Not in her heart.

The old get old and then the young must continue the work by telling. It is very important that the world doesn’t forget. That this never comes back.

We were never in a concentration camp. We lived in the Ukraine. Father was forced to join the army, like all men, and we went to Siberia with our mother. I was five years old. We travelled there by train. The train stopped now and again and sometimes mothers left to bring warm water for their children. Sometimes they didn’t make it back. The train continued with the children left onboard.”

Jozef Bornstein

Born: December 16, 1922.
Camps: Auschwitz, Flossenbürg.
Freed: April 27, 1945. Arrived in Sweden: June 17, 1948.

In January they gathered us, we were going to leave Birkenau. First we walked for almost a whole night. And the people who couldn’t go with us were shot.

In the end we got to a train. And they put us on the train. I think we actually had half a bread loaf or something like that. That indicated that we would be traveling for a long period of time. They packed too many people in the carriages, we could hardly stand up. We traveled for days. First to Mauthausen. Apparently it was full, they didn’t want to take us in. So we were sent to Oranienburg. People were dying all the time, and after a few days the carriage was almost empty.”

Rosa Andersson

Born: 1926.
Ghetto Pabianice, Lodz, Auschwitz, Krupp industry in Berlin, Ravensbrück.
Freed: April, 1945.

My poor mother. We weren’t supposed to live here, we were supposed to go with mother and father to die. That would have been fair. I have these thoughts. I can’t forgive myself.

I met my sister Fela in Auschwitz. I hadn’t seen her for four years. We were so happy we almost bit each other, we were crying and screaming. She took me with her to her bed one night.
’There’s a person here. She’s not moving,’ I said.
’Don’t mind her,’ Fela said.
’But she’s not moving.’
I listened, and poked at her. It was a woman. She was dead. She was dead, and I lay next to her that night.”

Eva Cohn

Born: July 28, 1929 in Kal, Hungary.
Camp: Auschwitz.
Freed: April, 1945.
Arrived in Sweden: May, 1945.

I shut everything out. Everything. I don’t understand how I did it. I didn’t think about my parents. I didn’t know I was in Auschwitz.

I lived in a barack with hundreds of other people, but I didn’t notice. I only knew that it was barack number 8. I later learned that it was a barack for children.

Even I feel that it can’t have been true, all of this, that they almost exterminated a whole population. If I can’t fathom it, how can I make other people understand it?”

Adam Lesniewski

Born: June 19, 1923.
Camp: Wöbbelin.
Freed: May 2, 1945. Arrived in Sweden: October 1969.

Being caught as a stray dog, to do work, was a terrible agony. Every Jew who was on a street could be taken at any time and be forced to work.

I became indifferent to strange looks and I sharpened my awareness to not be surprised by German slave-handlers. In mid-December all Jews were ordered to put yellow stars of David on their left shoulder blade and on their chest.”

From Adam Lesniewski’s memoirs.