Ernest Kappel

"People who do not behave like human beings are not people. Who ever heard of people exterminating other people?  It’s unbelievable, but it happened."

Name at birth
Yitzchak Baruch Kappel
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Caian, Romania.
Name of father, occupation
Moishe, General store, farmer.
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Rivka Mark, Homemaker.
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents, Shaindel, Golda, me, Ruchel, Raizel and Leah.
How many in entire extended family?
Over 20.
Who survived the Holocaust?
My oldest sister Shaindel and me. Shaindel now lives in Rishon Letzion, Israel.
In the early 1940’s, the Hungarian Nazis came into Romania which was given to them by Nazi Germany.  They occupied Transylvania where we lived.  They made us wear a yellow Star of David on our chest.  The Hungarian Nazis were called the Nylos or the Arrow Cross Party.  They took away our civil rights, we couldn’t go to school; anyone could do anything they wanted to us.  Jews were beaten up; we were called “dirty Jews.”  

Later we were told to pick up our things; we were only allowed to take with us what we could carry on our back.  We were taken to a ghetto in a forest near the city of Dej.  It was miserable; we made tents made out of cloth.  We had no food; we had to stay in line to get some soup, some water.  It was miserable, I don’t want to talk about it, it was so bad.  There were a few thousand people there.  There were armed guards; we were surrounded by barbed wires.  There were no toilets, we dug a long ditch for toilets, some fell in there, it was terrible.

We were in the Dej ghetto for a few weeks, but it seemed like an eternity it was so bad.  Then we were sent from Dej to Auschwitz by trains, on boxcars, we were packed in like sardines.  Before they put us on the boxcars, they beat some of us, demanding money, our belongings, but they had already taken everything from us.  They were in a mood to beat some of us up.  They would pull the beards of the religious men; they were bad. 

When we arrived in Auschwitz, they took me away from my family.  They had a Selection, to the right, to the left.  To the right was to the crematorium, to the left was to a labor camp.  I was sent to the left.  I was tall for my age even though I was just 14.  My sister Shaindel and I survived the Selection at Auschwitz.  The rest of my family perished.  

I was sent to Buchenwald.  I was there for a short time.  From there I was sent to Magdeburg.  It was very bad there, hard labor.  Everyday I was with a different commandant.  My jobs included mixing cement, carrying iron tracks for the railroad, carrying cement bags, all different kinds of work.  

Everyday was like a nightmare, it was bad.  I had to avoid the kapos with big sticks, if they didn’t like you, they would beat you.  They took convicts from the jails; criminals, killers, they made kapos out of them; they were real bad, beating us up.  I was young.  My number on my striped uniform at Buchenwald was 59175.  It was indescribable, things that I don’t want to talk about, it was so bad.  One example, if someone was injured, they took them to the “clinic.”  The Germans would give them a poison injection and kill them because they couldn’t work for them anymore.

In the morning we were given some hot tea.  After work, at supper, we were given some rutabaga soup, a little bit of bread and some margarine, just enough to survive.  At work, they gave us the same kind of soup and some water because we were so exhausted from all of the hard work that we did.

From Magdeburg, they called my number and they sent me on a transport back to Buchenwald.  Over there, there were two wings, I was sent to wing A, Block 8.  We were all young boys there and we were treated well there on Block 8.  The Red Cross from Switzerland came to examine us.  The food was good in Block 8 also they had recreational games for us like chess.  In my opinion, we were used as a model to show the world that we were all being treated well.  We were given real potatoes there in Block 8.  The Lagereldester, the one in charge of the whole camp, introduced us to the Swiss Red Cross representative.  They took pictures of the whole barrack to show that we were being treated well.  I was there a short while.  I was then transferred to Wing B where I was taken to work with the others in the forest.  

I had a lump on my head, I was told to go the clinic.  I was scared because of what happened in Magdeburg.  The German foreman said that I should report back to work in ten days so I felt more relieved that maybe this was a real clinic.  Sure enough there was a doctor there who treated me properly.  I recuperated a little bit at Buchenwald after Magdeburg.

From Buchenwald, I was sent to Bergen-Belsen on a passenger train, there were only a few of us, about eighteen and two guards.  We were all kids.  On the passenger train, they gave us sandwiches.  

We went on a passenger train from Buchenwald to Bergen-Belsen.  In Bergen-Belsen, they gave us some kind of a soup.   Then after a while, we had no food at all.  I was starved until we were liberated by the British.  I was 15 years old at the time of liberation.  

Bergen-Belsen was terrible.  There was starvation everywhere.  We just survived from one day to the next.  I lived on hope and faith that I would survive, that I was going to make it.  I was a skeleton.  There were corpses all around me.  It was indescribable.  I was almost one of those corpses that you see in the pictures of Bergen-Belsen.  If it would have lasted just a little bit longer, I would be dead.  
I had contracted typhus and I was sent to Sweden to recuperate.  I was in Sweden for three years.

I did not want to return home to Romania, I had no family left.  I didn’t want anymore anti-Semitism in my life.  In Sweden, I heard that Canada was looking to take in Holocaust survivors under 18 years old and so I wound up in Montreal.  I traveled to Paris to Cannes, and to Halifax.  I took the train to Montreal.  The weather was too cold for me in Montreal so I moved down to Windsor, Ontario.  I lived in Windsor from 1948 to 1958.  I met a young woman from Detroit on a Boblo boat cruise.  We were members of the Windsor Social Club.  We were married in 1958.  I moved to Detroit.  We had three children.  

I later learned that my oldest sister Shaindel survived and lived in Rishon Letzion, Israel.  We have stayed in contact with one another.
Name of Ghetto(s)
Name of Concentration / Labor Camp(s)
Occupation after the war
I was a meat cutter in the kosher meat department at Farmer Jack.
Sybil Cutler, Homemaker, keypunch operator. Worked at Dodge Main Chrysler factory and Weight Watchers.
David, computer engineer; Jerry (deceased); Ruth Sherman, homemaker and Masco Corporation.
What do you think helped you to survive?
Faith and hope. I hoped from one day to the next that I would survive. I was jealous when I saw the birds being free and flying.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
People who do not behave like human beings are not people. Who ever heard of people exterminating other people?  It’s unbelievable, but it happened.

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