When I took office with the Christian Association for Auschwitz Families I found out that I was the only one not to have received the compensation being offered to former concentration camp prisoners.
In order to qualify for this, you had to go through a selection process. Various doctors examined you. I was with a neurologist at one stage, and she asked me: “What was the most unique thing you ate in the camp? I mean something that has left a memory for life.”
“You know, this question has little to do with the reality back then because there was no choice of food,” I replied. “You would eat whatever they gave you, no matter what it looked like or smelled. It wasn’t a restaurant.”
“Could you be more precise?” the doctor asked.
“Very well, then,” I said. “One day I noticed a plant you could eat growing close to the barrack. I picked it up and I ate it, and later I found out that this plant grew so tall and pretty because in this very spot the ashes of burnt Jews had been scattered.”
She looked at me and said: “I will give you the compensation” and in support of this decision she wrote in my membership card: ‘Complete personality change as a result of the stay in the camp.’
Do you agree with this diagnosis?
It depends on how you look at it. It must have made an impression on her. Maybe she thought that, as a witness to atrocious events, I had kept my head and acted in an insensitive rather than emotional way. It is true and I have been told this many times. As my sister says – I don’t have the so-called heart.
Nothing moves you?
There were one or two moments during Agnieszka Holland’s film when I was moved.
Do you remember which ones?
No. But unlike most former prisoners I didn’t leave the screening before it was over. I watched it all calmly, even the scenes of cruelty. With complete indifference.