By Tuesday Bowen
On February 13, author Pierre Berg gave a talk about his book “Scheisshaus Luck: Surviving the Unspeakable in Auschwitz and Dora,” which focuses on his experiences during the Holocaust.
Berg was invited by English teacher Kani Kim to speak to sophomores who are currently learning about the Holocaust and literature pertaining to it, including the novel “Night” by Elie Wiesel.
A close friend of Berg was also in attendance and asked Berg questions to guide him through the seminar. He asked questions that allowed Berg to share his experience with information that was crucial to understanding his story.
“It’s important to share my story because I hope that it never happens again. I hope that they realize that it was a waste. It shouldn’t have happened when you think about how many people died for no reason,” Berg said.
Berg was taken as a political prisoner from Nice, France when he was just 18 years old. At only 15, Berg contributed to the war effort by becoming a messenger in the French Resistance against Nazi Germany. Although being a messenger may have seemed like a simple task, it was still dangerous to be in the resistance.
He was visiting a friend when he and his brother were arrested. From then on, he was taken to a hotel with dozens of other prisoners by cattle car, where it was decided whether or not prisoners would be transferred to Auschwitz.
After months of being in Paris, Berg, along with 60 other prisoners, were taken to the concentration camp.
“It was eight horses or 40 men. They jammed 60 people in. You could sit on each other. The train ride was a weeks trip. Not nearly enough food or water,” Berg said.
When he arrived to the camp, many people had already died. Women, children, and the elderly were put on one side while men and boys were put on the other. He was taken past the gas chambers, given a blue and white striped pajama uniform, a red triangle patch to signify that he was a political prisoner, and a tattoo reading his unique identification number, “172649.”
Throughout his year at Auschwitz, food as well as basic living necessities were very scarce. Berg consistently emphasized that he learned to waste nothing, which is a lesson that he has not forgotten to this day.
Eventually, Berg was transferred to another concentration camp named Dora. There, he overheard Nazi officials discuss their plan to gas those who were not electricians. However, his fluency in German, as well as other languages, allowed him to save both his and his brother’s life by saying they were both electricians.
While in Dora, the death march took place. Nazi soldiers pushed thousands of prisoners into German territory all night, fleeing from the Russians. Berg and four other prisoners separated and hid themselves by a swamp. They then took refuge in a barn estate and were later found and liberated by the Russians.
Afterwards, Berg found refuge in an occupied village by the name of Wustrow and stayed there for a few months working as a translator, and eventually made his way back home to Nice, France, welcomed by his brother and parents. Berg would later move to California and still lives here today.
Berg has learned from his experiences and hopes others will too. He holds no resentment against Germany because he believes that it is unfair to hold an entire nation accountable for such a brutal act. To this day he believes he is alive not only because of his own determination, but also because of coincidence and luck.
“I felt enlightened. It was nice to have someone that actually experience it instead of sitting in a classroom and watching. It’s always been an interesting topic for me but hearing it from a survivor made it feel more real,” senior Alanie Botello said.