In Auschwitz: The Pessah that never was

We knew we wouldn't have matzot, but were determined to make the best of the circumstances.

Auschwitz arbeit 224 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Auschwitz arbeit 224 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It was during the early months of 1945. The place was the Rodick factory in Uphusen, near the city of Bremen in Germany. We were a group of 500 Hungarian Jewish women transported from the Auschwitz death camp to be put to work. Our job was to make and assemble building materials for the Nazi war effort. We slept 20 in a room in living quarters previously used as soldiers' barracks. I was sustained by the company of the finest and greatest girls I would ever meet. One girl, Dora, was very fluent in Jewish subjects. She would recite from memory the morning and evening prayers and we would repeat them after her, while getting ready to go to work and before going to bed at night. She also knew the Hebrew calendar and would remind us when to commemorate the holidays - Rosh Hashana, Hanukka, Tu Bishvat, etc. She calculated 1945 to be a Jewish leap year, with Pessah to follow an extra month of Adar. We realized that we would not have matzot, but were determined to observe the best Pessah possible under the circumstances. Our daily food consisted of two slices of bread and a vegetable soup, neither of which we could keep for Pessah. Our plan was to save up and put aside non-leavened foods that could keep for weeks. Secretly, when the camp guards were not looking, we helped ourselves to raw potatoes and beets. These and other vegetables were being stored over the winter underground in an adjacent field. Outside our camp there were French POWs who would pass by on their way to work. Occasionally they would throw us some bread over the fence. Somehow they were able to understand that we would be keener on getting potatoes and in a short time our potato treasure was growing… Then suddenly the Germans transported our group to Bergen Belsen. We had no idea that the war was at its end. But within two weeks we were liberated by the British army on the 15th of April. Then we were told that Pessah had already been on the 29th of March, since in reality, not being a leap year, there was only one Adar in the year 1945. This is the story of the most (un)forgettable Pessah of my life. It is also the story of my personal redemption and exodus from the horrors of the Holocaust, and the hope that came with it for a brighter future.