Vasyl Kardash Memorial
Меморіял Василя Кардаша
22,01,1923 - 22,03,2002
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Concentration Camp

A Very Short Concentration Camp Recollection

 (A one page brief prepared for an archival compilation in New York City, spring 2000)

 My father (Ivan), brother (Mychajlo) and I were arrested by the Gestapo on August 26, 1943 for our activity in the anti-Nazi underground.  We were imprisoned first in Berezhany, then Ternopil and Lviv. We were brutally interrogated and sadistically beaten into unconsciousness.  In October they transferred us to Auschwitz II (Birkenav).  It was at Auschwitz II that we were tattooed (Ivan-155106, Mychajlo-155107, Wasyl-155108).  During our so called quarantine, we were subjected to endless beatings, deprived of sleep, food and clothing.  Grueling drill regimen and inhumane workloads at a frantic pace were the norm.

After a few weeks we were sent to 11th "death" block of Auschwitz I, where prisoners were executed nightly.  This was sheer terror, waking every morning and facing the blood spattered wall of death and a pile of wooden clogs.  Then they transferred us to block 17 from there.

Our first "job" was building a road at Sola Bruke.  We worked without warm clothing or proper tools and were exhausted from the hectic pace.  We were constantly hungry, cold throughout winter and regularly beaten.

From there I was sent to Kolenplatz to unload wagons of coal, chlorine and the like.  Mychajlo was sent off to construct buildings.  Ivan was sent to Holzhof.  Here his leg was crushed by a tree, making him a candidate for the crematorium, which he narrowly escaped.

The morning and especially evening roll calls were extremely punishing, as for hours we stood debilitated, hungry wet and freezing in the wind as the count was reconciled.  In January of 1945 Auschwitz was evacuated.  The ensuing "death march" took place during a bitter winter of deep snow and blistering winds.  Whoever couldn't keep up or fell in the snow was shot on the spot.  The road was covered with corpses.

At Mauthausen (January 21, 1945) it was more of the same brutality, cold and hunger.  All naked, we were crammed in on the floor like sardines by the window openings where the snow blew in on us.  In a few days we actually got some "clothing" along with our new registration numbers (Ivan-118886, Wasyl-118887, Mychajlo-119901).


From there my father Ivan and I were sent to Melk and Mychajlo to Ebensee.  At Melk I was beaten into unconsciousness and was rescued from the crematorium pile by my father and a friend (Roman Kostiuk).  In mid April they evacuated us from Melk to Ebensee.  Both camps had horrible conditions, long tiring marches with beatings for stepping out of line and 12 hour days building tunnels.  There was no medical aid and extremely unsafe conditions.  The guards finished off those unable to continue working.  If you were too fatigued to get up for roll call you were killed.  At Ebensee we ate leaves, tree bark, grass, coal and anything else that was chewable.  Here, Mychajlo was already on a pile of corpses destined for the crematorium, where barely recognized by a friend (Hryhorij Naniak) he was pulled off.

On May 6, 1945 the American army arrived, but Mychajlo was unable to walk to freedom and as such was carried out by our father and Julian Wolchuk.

As a result of this horrific ordeal Mychajlo suffered schizophrenia, epilepsy, hypoglycemia and total amnesia all of which he lived with until his death on March 27, 1999.  As confirmed by specialists, my endocarditis, angina, nervous disorders, lung problems and hypoglycemia are all a result of my tribulations at the Nazi concentration camps.

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