How I meet a Holocaust survivor
Today, I’ve learnt that the history we read about is not what it seems.
I had the honour of meeting Gabriela Bone, a Romanian Jew who also happens to be one of the Auschwitz survivors. She is 88 years old, if I remember correctly, and she is one of the warmest and happiest persons I’ve ever met.
Gabriela was deported to Auschwitz with her sister, brother, and parents in what I assume was 1944 or 1945 (the last wave of Jews to be sent to Poland). She told me how Josef Mengele, the infamous murderer psyhician, waited for them when they’ve gotten off the ‘Death Train’, assigning them to either the crematorium or the concentration camp.
She is a strong woman and after talking with her for almost three hours, I’ve come to realise that we, modern humans, are so foolish. We think our life is hard but Gabriela told me that you can survive through anything as long as you the ambition to.
Read her story below.
Gabriela was born in Târgu-Mureş, Romania, and studied at a prestigious school were Queen Maria of Romania herself was the principal. She said to get in was very expensive, but because her parents had a mirror factory, called ‘Hamlet’ (which also happens to be her maiden name, although she is Romanian!) they had the money to sustain her and her sister through the seven obligatory classes.
When Ion Antonescu came to power, he ordered all the Jews to be deported to Poland or other concentration camps around. So her family was taken onto the train for six days until they’ve arrived at Auschwitz. Gabriela said her mother saw the smoke rising from what she assumed was a factory so she was relieved to know they are going to have a job in the factory. Little did she know, the smoke was rising from the crematorium.
Once the train stopped, a Polish man told Gabriela to take off her shoes and replace them with a pair of heels, telling her to claim she’s seventeen (children were sent straight to the gas chambers or crematoriums). So when her family got off the train, they were stripped down while Mengele choosed who was going to die and who was going to work. He immediately send her parents and brother to the crematorium. She told me ‘That’s the moment I knew I will never see them again’ and so was it.
She and her sister slept on the floor, with little space between them, and had to steal water while the Nazis weren’t looking. Sometimes, they would go to the kitchen and gather the potato peels to eat as there was nothing else. Bread was scarce, food was scarce or bad, some prisoners even licked the floor for a bit of water.
She said she almost got shot when trying to go to the men to the opposite fence to talk with them in the chances of seeing her brother. There a woman, woman whom Gabriela called ‘The True Evil’ who would whip women if they even touched her (Which was quite impossible not to do so as the hallway was narrow and she was standing right in the middle of it).
Then, one day, Siemens (Yes, that Siemens! From the German company!) came and choosed 300 women (including Gabriela and her sister) to work in his factory. They were given a proper room, food, they were treated like humans.
Gabriela said she is very grateful to Siemens and wishes she could thank him for saving the lives of 300 women (maybe even more!) unlike what Wikipedia or other sources says about him.
Upon returning to Romania, she had nothing left. Her sister fled to America with her American husband and she struggled to get back what the communists took away from her; her house, the family factory, her money. Today she lives a happy life and is a loving grandmother and mother.
So my dearies, don’t believe everything you hear. History is not what it seems. Take some time when you’re angry to breathe, calm down, try to enjoy life and love. Please don’t forget to love. Love the sunshine, love music, love everything or everyone or just a few.
The world is not as terrible as you may think and Gabriela is the perfect example of that. She is alive and happy.