Morris Price could only describe the scent lingering in the concentration camp as “like burning of the flesh.”
Price, a survivor of the Holocaust who was imprisoned in Auschwitz, Dachau, and numerous other ghettos, shared his first-hand experiences with the students, faculty and staff of Southern Oregon University at an event last Friday organized by Christiane Pyle, SOU’s German professor.
Pyle’s upper division German class began the event by providing a historical context for the events surrounding the Holocaust, followed by Price’s testimony.
Price, a volunteer at the Los Angeles-based Museum of Tolerance, described his family being branded with yellow stars to indicate they were Jewish. Shortly thereafter, his family was relocated and separated into various concentration camps.
After spending three months in a labor camp Price decided to run away to a ghetto where he discovered his two sisters were living, ultimately avoiding the final liquidation of his labor camp.
In March of 1943, Price was discovered hiding in the ghetto and was sent to Auschwitz.
When Price arrived he and the rest of the prisoners were split into two groups, the prisoners who could work and the prisoners who were either too old, too young, sick or otherwise unfit for forced labor. Due to his age, Price was put into the group of prisoners unfit for labor.
The groups were then rounded up, and Price’s group was put into a truck to be taken away. When the opportunity presented itself however, Price jumped out of the truck to join the older group, believing that he had a better chance of survival if he could work. He later found out the prisoners on the truck he had been in were gassed.
Life at the camp was less than satisfactory, Price said. Food was scarce and hygiene almost nonexistent, so disease and death rates were high. It was common for extra food rations to be given to anyone that was younger if there was even extra food to give, Price said.
“I had an extra piece of bread, an extra bowl of soup,” he said. “I was surviving.”
As the Americans closed in, Price and the rest of the prisoners of Auschwitz were forced to march away from camp, an event later referred to as the Dachau Death March. The prisoners marched for a week or so before Price woke up one morning and saw an American jeep. Price was finally free.
Priced eventually moved to America where he became a U.S. citizen and served in the military for two years. Price met his wife in 1960, and eventually had three children.
The Holocaust not only highlights the darkness of man, Price said, but also represents man’s strong will to survive.
“You are the people that are going to carry on after the survivors are gone,” he said. “Tell yourself you are a survivor.”