Interview with Aron Zusman
Russia Today: What does Victory Day mean to you?
Aron Zusman: For me this day is the second day of birth, because if I hadn't been liberated (from the camp), I wouldn't have lived for long. There were three years of expectation. I believed that the Red Army where my elder sister, Dusya, served would free me. I was a 4-year-old boy when I got into the camp and I was seven when I was freed. And other prisoners used to come to me and ask if the Red Army would come. And I would always say: sure, my sister wouldn't leave me. I'd like to mention that now there are a lot of speculations about Stalin. I am not the one to judge him, but I did believe that Stalin would free me and wouldn't leave me there. I still clearly remember the day of my liberation. When a first Russian soldier came into the basement – it was not a tall man – there was a large shepherd dog with him. That was the first shepherd that didn't attack me – it licked me. That was a very happy day for us. We stayed at the camp with my mum for one more month because we were practically rotten – we couldn't crawl or walk. Only a month later we could crawl out of this camp. And then we were crawling for 20 KM and it took us about a month to get home. On the way we stopped in villages, some people fed us. And when we got back to our settlement, our house wasn't there. So we lied at the market place on some cloths. Then some people came. There was a house of my uncle's left, but a policeman was living in it. And people insisted he should let us in. So, finally, he came and collected us. The policeman made a bed for us on the veranda – he laid some straw on the cement floor there – but we were happy to have at least that.
RT: What was your feeling towards the people who liberated you?
A.Z.: First of all, when the concentration camps came under the bombs of the Red Army, the boys took to the streets. We cried. We were not afraid of shells. We saw the red stars on the hulls of the planes and understood that the liberation was close. Some days before, my sister, Fanya, who was with us, tried to escape and bring some food for us. When she returned, the policemen took half of the products. She was beaten severely, but when she came to our chamber she was smiling. My mother thought she got crazy. But then my sister showed a not written by a Ukrainian girl. It said: “Dear Jews, the Germans were defeated in Stalingrad. Hold out. The liberation is close.” You know, there were people in the camp, who were ready to inform Germans about these facts, and my sister was beaten again. However, it was a happy day for the whole camp. On another occasion, high ranking Germans came to the camp and were checking people. And one of the Nazis, an officer, was lifting people's heads with a riding-crop because people were frightened to look into Germans' eyes – they were scared that they'd kill them. And he lifted a woman's chin with a stick, looked into her eyes, and suddenly turned round and left. Later, there was gossip in the camp that the officer was that woman's son. Later the Germans were trying to find him – the officer was a Soviet intelligence officer.
Of course, it was very difficult, a lot of people perished. German vehicles would come, make a selection of people. They often lied to them saying that those who have golden teeth or anything else could pay and be taken to another place where the prisoners would get a job, food, straw to sleep on – you see, they didn't feed us at the camp. So some people did pay to them, but none of them has ever been seen since then. From Braslav, the place where I was born and where I was taken from, only six people were left. And on the opposite bank of the Southern Bug, there were German hospitals for military personnel and they used to shoot at us, as if they were in a shooting-range. They were also taking blood from us – well, they taunted us as they could.