“How the heroes were falling!”
We arrived at Mauthausen, an old concentration camp where the gas chambers were out of service. A big sign hanging above the entrance read, “Work Makes You Free.” Dead bodies and skeletons were sprawled all over. Food ration for a day was a cup of black coffee and a quarter slice of dark bread covered with green fungus. The toll was evident in our physical appearance–gaunt faces and skeletal frames. One dying boy turned to me and asked me to tell him about restaurants. “Is it really true that you can eat as much bean soup as you wish?” He never found out.
We slept in huge circus-sized tents. How marvelous to be in a tent after weeks of marching, with nowhere to lay our heads but on the frozen ground under the sky. The entire camp was surrounded by electrical barbed wire and towers with reflector searchlights shining penetrating beams across the grounds all night. In Germany it was forbidden even to light a cigarette at night because of air defense. On our second night there, a bomb was dropped and exploded in my tent. The airplane noise was deafening; all around were injured people, fire, bloodshed, and death. I was in a deep sleep and drooling. I awoke and thought, “Aw, who cares? What a way to go!” I turned over and went back to sleep.