Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Alice Lok Cahana

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:02 - Exodus from Hungary

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Partial Transcript: Alice Lok Cahana, December 16th, 1994.

Segment Synopsis: Alice Lok Cahana describes her life before her family was removed from Hungary. She describes the day that police arrived at her home, and having to pack only a limited amount of her belongings.

Keywords: Factories; Family life; Fear; Ghettos; Hungary; Identification.; Removal from homes; Star of David badges; Yellow star

Subjects: Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945); Jewish children; World War, 1939-1945

00:05:20 - Journey to Auschwitz / first experiences at the concentration camp

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Partial Transcript: And they put us in cattle trains. Eighty people. And now you have your packages, twenty kilo. Everybody. Eighty people.

Segment Synopsis: Lok Cahana describes traveling to Auschwitz, though she didn't know where they were going. She recalls the conditions of the cattle car she was in and her reaction when arriving at Auschwitz.

Keywords: Barracks; Cattle trains; Concentration camp; Families; Fear; Josef Mengele; Unsanitary conditions

Subjects: Auschwitz; Jewish families; World War, 1939-1945

GPS: Auschwitz-Birkenau (Oświęcim, Poland)
Map Coordinates: 50.035833, 19.178333
00:11:58 - Conditions in the barrack / attempting to find her sister Edith

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Partial Transcript: Took me some time to get orientated, uh, because everything was forbidden. You couldn't go to the bathroom when you wanted.

Segment Synopsis: Lok Cahana explains the conditions inside the barrack she was housed in at Auschwitz. She describes the treatment of herself and others by leaders in the barrack. She remembers her attempts to find her sister Edith who was housed in a different block.

Keywords: Barracks; Counts; Emotional abuse; Food transport; Hostile living conditions; Rations; Women and children

Subjects: Auschwitz (concentration camps); Concentration camps; Roll call squares (Concentration camps)

00:15:57 - Rules of the blocks in camp / finding her sister Edith

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Partial Transcript: But, you can imagine that there was no communication. So, going and getting to this was woman was like I tell you now, "Climb a mountain, okay?"

Segment Synopsis: Lok Cahana shares some of the rules that she had to follow in her block at Auschwitz. She talks about finding her sister and what she did to sneak over to Lok Cahana's block.

Keywords: Barracks; Blocks; Control; Emotional abuse; Food transport; Hope; Movement between blocks; Physical abuse; Reunions

Subjects: Auschwitz; Concentration camps

00:19:29 - Daily life in Auschwitz / visiting Edith in infirmary

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Partial Transcript: What did you do everyday? Did they--did you work?

Segment Synopsis: Lok Cahana describes her daily life at Auschwitz and the hardships she faced. She explains cruel treatment of herself and others in her block. She remembers Edith becoming extremely ill during their time in Auschwitz.

Keywords: Barracks; Blocks; Camp infirmaries; Counting; Daily work; Exercise; Illness; Physical stress; Rations; Removal of the dead; Selection; Starvation; Visitation

Subjects: Auschwitz; Concentration camps; Torture

00:23:32 - Removing Edith from the infirmary / liberation from Auschwitz

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Partial Transcript: And then I could go to Edith and the people who were still okay pulled me from every side.

Segment Synopsis: Lok Cahana tells about how she was able to sneak Edith out of the infirmary and why she did. She explains how she and Edith were able to remain together until the Allies were able to liberate them from Auschwitz.

Keywords: Allies; Evacuation; Hospitals; Illness; Infirmary; Liberation; Red Cross; Selections; Separation; Starvation

Subjects: Torture; World War, 1939-1945

00:28:16 - Surviving a gas chamber

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Partial Transcript: W--huh--will you tell me something about being in the gas chambers?

Segment Synopsis: Lok Cahana shares about her experience where she was selected and placed in a gas chamber. She explains why she did not realize it was a gas chamber and how she survived it. She tells about how later in life she met two other women who had been in the same chamber with her.

Keywords: Accidents; Deception; Extermination; Fellow survivors; Gas chambers; Jerusalem; Showers; Terror; The Gathering

Subjects: Auschwitz; Genocide

00:32:50 - Experience in the gas chamber / reflections on mass extermination

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Partial Transcript: They said we will get sho--we will sh--we will shower.

Segment Synopsis: Lok Cahana shares more on her experience in the gas chamber and describes how it looked. She shares her thoughts about the mass extermination that was taking place during World War II.

Keywords: '20th Century man'; 'Ultimate control'; Accidents; Crematoriums; Extermination; Gas chambers; Human emotions; Loss; Selections; Showers; Terror; Tragedy; Unwanted masses

Subjects: Genocide; Torture; World War, 1939-1945--Personal narratives

00:36:16 - The importance of survivors' voices / personal desire to paint

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Partial Transcript: And I think that's why we have to speak up, you see, because we are eyewitnesses.

Segment Synopsis: Lok Cahana speaks about the importance of Holocaust survivors and why they should speak about their experiences. She discusses how childhood experiences fueled her desire to be an artist.

Keywords: Art; Carpet manufacturing; Eyewitnesses; Factories; Painting; Prejudice; Psychology; Survivors' voices

Subjects: World War, 1939-1945--Personal narratives.

00:40:30 - Experience in a work camp

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Partial Transcript: Then something happened in a work camp.

Segment Synopsis: Lok Cahana discusses her and Edith's temporary stay at a work camp. She explains how this experience helped create a desire in her to paint later in life. She describes how the conditions of the work camp barracks were better than the conditions in the barracks at Auschwitz.

Keywords: Ammunition factory; Art; Barracks; Christmas; Counts; Escargot; Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter-Partei. Schutzstaffel.; Painting; Prizes; Selection; Work camps

Subjects: Concentration camps; Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945); Jewish children

00:45:16 - Memories of the Death March / survivors' methods of coping with tragedy

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Partial Transcript: And I tell you also about this wonderful snail that Edith saved because in February we were already on the Death March.

Segment Synopsis: Lok Cahana recalls the Death March that took place when the Allies began closing in on Auschwitz. She discusses the different ways that she and other survivors have coped with the tragedies they faced.

Keywords: Art; Biography; Death March; Empty Windows; Hungary; Jewish children; Painting; Poetry; Starvation; Writing

Subjects: Genocide; Holocaust biographies; Torture; World War, 1939-1945--Personal narratives.