In 2019, independent documentary journalist Sandi Bachom started chronicling the stories of Holocaust survivors who had been in concentration camps. During his research, he came across two gentlemen who were standing in the same line just ten people apart, waiting to be stamped like cattle with tattoos.
Bachom shared this amazing image on Twitter.
Today is #YomHaShoah #HolocaustRemembranceDay. In 1944, the year I was born, my friends Werner and Walter were tattooed 10 numbers apart in #Auschwitz. Because of a Facebook miracle I was able to film their first meeting 72 years later. #NeverAgain pic.twitter.com/GF7Dq8v1OJ
— Sandi Bachom (@sandibachom) May 1, 2019
In a subsequent tweet, Bachom explained in greater detail.
“Werner Reich was tattooed 10 numbers apart from Walter Spier. When a Facebook friend read an article in the New York Times about Werner, his father noticed his number. 73 years later they met for the first time.”
Here is my video https://t.co/sD6BoSouxT. Werner Reich was tattooed 10 numbers apart from Walter Spier. When a Facebook friend read an article in @nytimes about Werner, his father noticed his number. 73 years later they met for the first time. #NeverForget
— Sandi Bachom (@sandibachom) May 7, 2019
The video in the section below shows two of the men recounting their stories about what happened on that terrible day and some of the days that followed, but here is a transcript.
They both held out their arms and showed their tattoos.
“We were both infected by the same needle,” he said with a chuckle.
The narrator asked, “How did that work?” Their response was chilling.
“Nothing. You just stood in line. You were naked. Somebody with a rusty razor blade scraped the hair off your genitals. Somebody else cut your hair. Somebody gripped your arm.
There was a guy sitting there with a little cardboard, and he wrote down your name, and then just picked up your [arm].”
He explained that they were “lucky” because they got decent looking tattoos.
“And we were lucky. These numbers look decent. Because the guy who tattooed me, maybe the same guy who tattooed him, knew already. But there were some people who had numbers from here to here,” he said, indicating the length of the arm from wrist to elbow.
Concentration Camp Horror: “Before I Turned Around, My Brother Was Gone”
The other gentleman explained that he came in September 1944, he and his parents came to Birkenau (Auschwitz) in a cattle car. He added that when they came to Birkenau, his father said, “Here we are, where the others came a long time ago.”
They got out of the cattle car and his parents were standing on one side and his brother was standing on the other side. Then he said something terrifying.
“Before I turned around, my brother was gone.”
In a voice choked with tears, he said that his father told him “You’re going to make it.” His parents hid him and at that time he didn’t understand why. He later realized that they hid him so that he wouldn’t know what was going down in the next camp.
Watch this video. There’s a longer video of these brave men at the end of this article.
Mauthausen Concentration Camp, the Death March, and the Stairs of Death
Both of these gentlemen were also on the Death March, and they recounted that they left Auschwitz with 4,000 people and arrived at Mauthausen with maybe 500 people still alive.
“Auschwitz was heaven in comparison to Mauthausen, am I right,” one of the men asked his friend.
At Mauthausen, the concentration camp prisoners were forced to carry heavy blocks of stone on their backs up the 183 of the “Stairs of Death.”
They explained how this happened.
“Every day God knows how many hundreds of people went down to chop the stones and maybe a handful came back.”
Here is a photo of the Mauthausen Stairs of Death then and now.
Branded a Traitor for Hiding in a Concentration Camp
Here is something that’s unimaginable. One of the gentlemen shared that when he made it to Yugoslavia after liberation, and people asked where he was, and he said he was in a concentration camp.
“The communists and the communist government said ‘you are a traitor to this country because you were hiding in a camp instead of fighting with us in the woods of Bosnia and Herzegovina for freedom.'”
So he never talked about it again.
Then, 25 years ago, shortly before his grandson was born. That’s when he started to talk.
“I wanted to make sure it doesn’t happen to him [my son] and my grandchildren.”
Here is a longer video of the two talking.