My name is William Glied but everyone calls me bill.
I was born in 1930 in the city of Subotica in the former Yugoslavia, now Serbia, into a prosperous Jewish family.
My father ran the local flourmill while my mother looked after my sister Aniko and me. We had a good life in Yugoslavia, I went to public school and never encountered anti-Semitism from my school mates.
On April 6th 1941 axis forces led by Germany attacked Yugoslavia and swiftly conquered it.
Subotica, my city and the province we lived in, Bačka, was ceded to Hungary and was thereafter ruled by the fascist Hungarian government.
In the following years, many anti-Semitic laws were enacted aimed at the substantial Jewish population. Nevertheless, I was allowed to attend school, which I did in spite the continued harassment by my teachers and classmates, in contrast to previous years.
I had to wear a large yellow star on my jacket, which added to the laughter and derision from my fellow students.
Our flourmill was confiscated and we were subjected to daily harassment and persecution, but were able to make out a living under these difficult circumstances.
In the spring of 1944 the German Nazi government discovered that the Hungarians were secretly negotiating with the western allies for a cease-fire. As a result on march 19th 1944 German troops occupied Hungary and installed a puppet government, led by Ferenc Szálasi and the Arrow Cross party.
From that moment the life of the Jews and my life turned from bad to worse.
In the next few weeks a whole series of anti Jewish laws were promulgated. I was expelled from school and a strict curfew was imposed on all Jews.
Within days posters were hung throughout our town ordering all Jews to report to the police headquarters for immediate “relocation to the east”.
My family was first shipped to the city of Szeged where we were housed in the former Jewish school, but in a few days we were again shipped out, now to the city of Baja, Hungary, to a very large brickyard. All the Jews from the surrounding towns and villages were gathered in this brickyard where our only accommodation were the open sheds where the bricks were formerly set to dry.
I don’t know how many days we spent in this brickyard, but they were days not weeks. Hungarian gendarmes and a few German officers guarded us.
One day we were informed that within days we were leaving to the east to work, but we were assured that only the able bodied men would be working, that we would have proper accommodation and food.
We were told that as there would be two trains leaving and we had a choice whether we want to be on train one, or two. After much arguing and discussion my family,–my parents and relatives– chose the first train on the assumption that this would give a better choice of accommodation.
Oh! The duplicity of it all!! The terrible irony of our choice: the second train wound up in Wiener Neustadt! All the people, including an aunt and a cousin on board the second train survived and came back unscathed. I think but am not sure that it was part of the Eichmann/Kasztner deal.
On the fateful day I expected to see a passenger train, but when the train arrived it consisted of a row of cattle-cars. We, aboard this first train, these dark cattle cars, were packed in like sardines. I don’t know how many of us were crowded in, men, women, children, sick people, somebody in a wheel chair, packages all over, people pushing and shoving trying to find a place to sit down.
My sister and I found a place to sit near the door and my parents right behind us sitting on the suitcase we brought with us. The train started going and in the first hour or two, my sister Aniko and I had no trouble, mom brought food with her, but then a problem arose in this cattle car: somebody needed to go to the toilet. Is there a washroom? A curtain for privacy? A container?
And we were in this terrible cattle car for two days and nights, no food, no water, no consideration for personal hygiene. Just humiliation – just another way to dehumanize us. The train stopped from time to time, sometimes for a few hours. They could have provided us with some provision or cleaned the place, but nothing. We were shut in like cattle, for whom these boxcars were originally intended.
On the third morning the train stopped. A few hours went by and then we heard some noises outside. The doors were flung open. I looked out, it was a bright sunny morning, may 28th to be exact, I saw a gravelled platform. On the far side in front of a fence some soldiers stood with rifles and on the platform itself a number of Nazi soldiers were walking with walking sticks, at least that’s what I thought they were. And among them a bunch of blue and gray pyjama clad men, with little round hats ran and shouted:
“Raus! Raus!” “Leave your packages in the car. You’ll get them later.”
We scrambled out of the car. I held my dads hand while Aniko, my sister, hung on to mom.
The chaos the tumult that ensued is indescribable. Babies crying, women calling for their husbands, arguments among people. The cloying stench which pervaded the whole area.
All the while the SS meandered among this swirling crowd viscously swinging their canes, splitting families apart, herding us like sheep to the slaughter. I was desperately scared. I clung to my dad’s hands and when the order from these pyjama clad men came, that the women and girls were to assembly into a column five wide, while we men and boys were to assemble into another column five wide, I began to panic. My dad tried to reassure me that everything will be all right and that now I have to act like a man and not like the thirteen-year-old boy I was.
When the columns were finally assembled to the satisfaction of these grey clad men, I could hear only a steady agonizing moaning and murmur from this desperate crowd interspersed with the crying of the children.
This sound still echoes in my ears, whenever I encounter a crowd shouting – even at a football match. I get claustrophobic.
Finally my column started to move forward and within minutes our row was in the front. What I saw was calmness. Three or four SS soldiers stood there, relaxed, nonchalantly looking at us. Some pyjama clad men stood on the side. One officer stood out, tall and handsome. I can’t recall his face. He stood there without saying a word.
A row of us bedraggled Jews came in front of him. He looked at us with contempt in his eye. And then he pointed to the person next to me. He waved his hand to the right and the man walked there to a group already assembled there
Then he looked at me, – I swear no more than a second – spoke nothing – didn’t ask my name, my age, where I came from. He just pointed to the right. I didn’t move. One of the pyjama clad men waved his hand furiously, while looking at me. I hurried to the group of men already standing in a cluster. A second later my father joined me.
What happened to the women’s column? Everything happened so fast, so chaotic, I never had a chance to think. All I know is that I never saw my mom and sister – never again. I didn’t say good bye to them didn’t hug or kissed them, they disappeared from my life forever.
Of course, I know now. And in my nightmares I see the columns disappearing over and over again.
In retrospect in my almost daily recurring thoughts, and they do recur every day, I see this piece of god forsaken earth—this ramp, as the worst piece of ground on earth. Worse than Dante’s seventh circle of hell. And as much as the bombing of Hiroshima, Dresden or London were terrible, this football size of ramp, this hell on earth surpasses them all. This site is the silent witness to the unbelievable occurrence where a small group of men, supported by some thousand SS men, guarding the place, condemned innocent people to a horrible death. Condemned, children with their mothers and old men and women. These heartless murderers decided with a flick of a finger, who is to live and who is to die. No warrant, no document, no judge nor jury. They could spare a person whose appearance they liked or condemn him to death because he wore a handlebar moustache.
Not accountable to anyone as long as they fulfilled the daily quota of human bodies to the factory of death.
And as much as the death factory that followed was terrible, it was -as Oscar Groening so recently said – simply the “process”, the execution of a predetermined fate, a fate decided by these few ss men on the ramp.
That in the twentieth century people from among the most cultivated of European nations were intent to wipe out a whole people from the face of the earth and that they nearly succeeded.
We were eventually led into a large building, told to undress. We stood there naked – I was shy and embarrassed in front of all these naked, grownups. Then other “pyjamas” came in and cut off all our hair. We were herded into another large hall. Shower heads were mounted on the beams above us and soon hot water spurted from them. I tried to wash off all the dirt from my body, my daddy helped, but there was no soap and water stopped flowing after a few minutes. There were no towels and so all of us wet were herded into the open
Where on long tables blue and grey pyjamas were spread out. I now realized that they were uniforms, jacket, pants, wooden shoes and a little round hat. We put it on to our wet bodies and were then marched in to an empty large barrack where we stayed for the next two weeks.
I could speak for hours of the various horrors that we discovered and experienced during those short weeks my father and I spent in this barrack.
The traumatic discovery and implication of what happened to those who were “unfit to work” the gas chambers and crematoria and what must have happened to my mother and sister and the other 18 close relatives who were with us in the cattle car.
The daily “appell”, the indiscriminate beating.
I carry with me and will forever carry one little incident. In the context of Auschwitz it is insignificant but to me life changing. We stood outside, my father and I on the main street of this row of barracks when an SS officer approached us, looked at my father and then gave him a tremendous backhanded slap to his face. “When I approach, you take off your hat, Schweinhund”. And my father stood there, now with his cap in his hand, and apologized. My father, the person who was like god to me, who was respected and admired by all who knew him, who could do no wrong, stood there beaten and humiliated.
I will never forget nor forgive this one incident. This incident that stays with me every day and will stay for the rest of my life.
I spent only twenty days in Auschwitz/Birkenau, but those twenty days seemed like twenty years. We were again packed into cattle cars and shipped into the heart of Germany to Dachau and from there directly to Kaufering. Both my father and I contacted typhoid fever and my father died on April 21st 1945 eight
Days before liberation. I survived and was liberated by the American army in Dachau on April 29th 1945.
I immigrated to Canada in 1947 as a 17 year orphan. I am married to my beautiful wife, have three daughters, all married, and eight grandchildren.
Why did I come to bear witness as a co-plaintiff? Not because of hate – I don’t know Herr Hanning – I came because while I don’t hate I cannot forget and it is my hope that the conviction of this SS officer will further still the disbelievers of the holocaust and the world will know that humanity cares. Thank you.