I Kept My Promise

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I Kept My Promise

Jacob's third camp was Ludwigsdorf. Lugwigsdorf was a camp for the sick. He clearly remembers the train ride to the camp because no one knew if they would arrive alive or not. He would see people die right beside him. When he arrived at the camp, he saw people digging graves and burying the dead. Since Jacob was a dentist and had his dental tools, he traded them with a guard. In return, the guard helped him to the shower and watched out for him. The guard also took him to a lab where they tested explosives for the war. His job was to measure out this red powder. Soon his skin began changing to the color red and he loss his appetite. Jacob and the other workers were getting poisoned. All the workers skin had changed to the color of powder they were handeling. Jacob recalled saying it looked like a "human death rainbow." Luckily, Jacob was chosen to go work at another camp, pretty much saving his life from the deadly chemicals.

Jacob's fourth camp was Graeditz. His skin was still a shade of red, and his skin stayed that way for about six months. Sanitary conditions were shocking. Their beds were two-decker shelves with straw for a mattress. Lice were everywhere. Because of Jacob's health conditions, he was assigned to a group of weakened men and young boys. They only received half the ration of food since they only worked half the hours. Jacob was amazed athow, even though evryone was sick, they all worked togther to achieve the daily quota. While working one day, an SS trooper noticed Jacob's horrible boils on his legs and took him to a nicer barrak and gave him food, medicine, and bandages. Jacob tried to convince the supervisor to get him into the same working position he had. The SS trooper told him he wished he would help, but he couldn't decide what job he had. Chana, Jacob's sister, volunteered to come work in the kitchens at the camp Jacob was at. Jacob felt a sense of hope when he was reunited with his sister at the camp. It was a bittersweet moment seeing her because soon after their reunion, she and the other volunteer staff were sent to Aushwitz.

Jacob's first labor camp was Anhalt Bei Aushwitz. His first job was as a jumberjack. He has never held an axe before and was struggling at accomplishing the job. He then got the job as a worker constructing a factory. While carrying supplies, he dropped a brick on the boot of a guard. Jacob was certain he would be killed right there but he quickly told the guard that if he would go to his hometown, his father would give him a new pair of shoes from his store. This intimidating experience created an odd relationship between the guard and Jacob. The guard, who's name was Schteiger, went to Jacobs hometown and received new shoes. In return, his parents pleaded to keep Jacob alive as long as he stayed at Anhalt. While staying at the labor camp, Jacob came across an old frined, Alex. This gave them both a feeling of being at home. Jacob received a few letters from his parents and an important message came from his father. "You may be the only one from our family to come out of this. If you do survive, NEVER LET THE WORLD FORGET WHAT THEY DID TO US." This lit a flame inside Jacob to do whatever he could to survive.

I Kept My Promise

Jacob Birnbaum was transported to his first concentration camp on August 15, 1942, which was also his 20th birthday.

Jacob Birnbuam

Jacob was sent to six different labor camps and survived to tell the story.

Jacob's second camp was Markstadt, which was a real forced labor camp. The prisoners worked for twelve hours and had a thirty minute break. When it was break time, they received hot water with aromatic leaves. The food they would get was in very small portions and did not give the prisoners their daily nurtrients. They received one slice of bread and soup that contained water, vegetables, grass, and potatoes. On occasion, they would add horse meat to the soup. Jacob was smart when it came to eating. Since they never got food in the morning before work, Jacob would save his bread to eat in the morning. This was an important strategy to surviving. His shoes that his father sent him were stolen from him, leaving him with the wooden sandals provided. Every prisoner suffered from infectious boils all over their body. Jacob had boils covering his legs and he knew that if he let them spread, he would lose his legs. So, he would put paper or anything he could find to cover the boils to keep the pus from spreading. Another major idea that Jacob had was that since they didnt recieve toothbrushes, he would rub sand on his teeth and gums. This cleaned the teeth and stimulated the gums. Jacob was one of the few survivors who still has their teeth. Jacob's lowest mental state was at Markstadt, but looking at his family photos he kept hidden gave him the strength to push forward.

Jacob's fifth camp was Fletchner. His first job was loading trucks full of big bails of cotton. While loading a truck, Jacob fell off the ruck and plumpted 20 feet to the ground. Jacob suffered a serious concussion and a broken wrist. A resident in Jacob's barracks was a gynecologist and he knew that if Jacob didn't heal his wrist soon, he would be killed since he could not work. Even though he was not s doctor that could not fix broken bones, he did know basic anatomy. He created a splint for Jacob's wrist and this allowed the bone to go back into its orignal position. Even though the bone had healed, it caused Jacob a great amount of pain and he found it very hard to use that wrist. So he was given the easier jobs like sweeping the floor. Eventually, Jacob got back to loading the trucks. In October, he worked all day in the freezing rain and contracted pneumonia. The gynecologist who had been taking care of Jacob expected him to die a couple nights later. So that morning, he put on the attendence report that there were 38 men and one body. Jacob survived through the night so the gynocologist had to admit that he mad a mistake. Shultz, who was the kommandant, told the gynoclogist that he was now responsible for Jacob's life. If Jacob died, he died. The doctor told Schultz that Jacob would not live without medicine. So Shultz went into town and retrieved medicine. This suprised Jacob because Shultz had a reputation of being a murderer. While Jacob was sick, he had to find someway of entertaining himself. So he turned to poetry. His poetry was so good that he actually created a poetry club within the barracks. This gave Jacob a different outlook on living at camp. When Jacob went to his sixth camp, Kesselhaus,he had to work in the bioler room where the cotton was boiled. Jacob had a master that was a gentle, elderly man. He was kind to Jacob and he taught him how to do his job correctly. Because of the master's compassion, he allowed Jacob and some of the other workers to celebrate Passover and have a larger meal. Jacob describes Kesselhaus as a regualr labor camp, but there was a freindliness too it. He became very close with his master and he even planned to have someone hid Jacob if he tried to escape. Jacob was astounded by the fact that this man would risk his life to save Jacob's.

By Jacob Birnbaum with Jason R. Taylor

Jacob Birnbaum was transported to the following labor camps: -Anhalt -Markstadt -Ludwigsdorf -Graeditz -Flechtner -Kesselhaus

By. Gabi Reinoehl


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