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Oral history interview with Gerald Averback

Oral History | Accession Number: 2017.264.1 | RG Number: RG-50.106.0262

Gerald lsidore Averback (lsidor Averbuch), born on February 19, 1930 in Soroca, Bessarabia (now Moldova), discusses his childhood in Oradea Mare (Romania); his father Samuel, who had a men’s clothing store; going to school until 1943; living in a mixed neighborhood and having non-Jewish friends; speaking Yiddish to his parents and Hungarian to his friends; going to synagogue, observing holidays, and having a Bar Mitzvah; playing violin; moving into a barbwire fenced-in ghetto in 1944 for two and a half months; going by cattle car to Auschwitz around June 12,1944; being separated first from his mother, then from his father; marching with a group of boys aged 13-17 to Birkenau to a children's section; wearing a striped uniform; the roll calls twice a day; eating soup and bread once a day; watching a group of adult men carrying soup cans and on the seventh day the leader telling him to hold on to an empty can and walk with the men to the adult camp; being told to stay hidden and not to talk and after two days, running in a heavy rain with his jacket above his head alongside an adult prisoner and getting in a truck; being taken in July 1944 to a work camp near Breslau, Poland; watching a hanging; working for two months, carrying wood and stones up a hill to fortify a castle; being told to leave the camp and march towards Germany; seeing civilians going in the same direction; sleeping on the ground at night; getting to the Prague, Czechoslovakia train station and staying in a cattle car for two days; Czech people giving them food; going to Flossenbürg camp in late fall of 1944; going after two days by cattle car to Freiberg camp; being sent towards the western front by train; the bombing of the train by the Allies and having a young man whose eyes were shot out fall on top of him; spending hours in a tunnel during the bombing; seeing no soldiers and walking to Tuttlingen, Germany; seeing German soldiers who ordered him into a church basement, then being ordered out as the church was on fire; the wound on his leg from the bombing; hiding in a bunker and being forced to leave; crawling down a hill and being found by French Foreign Legion soldiers; going by jeep the next day to a French base; being flown on a stretcher to Strasbourg, France; going by ambulance to a military hospital in Colmar, France and being taken care of by a Romanian doctor; returning to Strasbourg in August 1945 and then going by train to a Paris military hospital; having to leave because he had tuberculosis; being taken by the Red Cross to a sanitarium in Davos, Switzerland, where he stayed for eight months; the Red Cross taking him to the Œuvre de Secours aux Enfants (O.S.E.) in Versailles, France; living in a children's home with 70 other children; finishing high school near the Sorbonne; going in the fall of 1947 with a group of children to London and then by boat (the “Aquitania”) to Halifax, Canada; flying with the children's group to Montreal, then going to Edmonton, Canada, where his uncle met him; living with a foster family for four years; getting his university degree; receiving $6000 from Germany for reparations in compensation for his mother's and father's death which covered his law school tuition; his feelings that the world has not learned from the past; not sharing his thoughts as others would not understand; still not trusting people and not joining groups; completing school to show his non-existent parents he survived, but not attending his own graduation because he had no family; being a loner because of his past; how he does not want sympathy and does not feel proud of surviving the Holocaust; lighting seven candles for the child survivors who lived with him in the French orphanage and who were then killed in the War of Independence in Israel; having no nostalgia for Romania; having no desire to go to Europe; working privately for the Prime Minister; identifying only as a Canadian; and feeling at once lucky to have survived while also wondering why he survived.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Gerald I. Averback
Gail Schwartz
interview:  2016 October 28
2 digital files : MP3.
Record last modified: 2020-03-26 09:38:23
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