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Paula Stein

Tennessee Holocaust Commission -

Memphis, Tennessee
Born: 1926 Bendzin, Poland
Survivor : Bendzin ghetto; Mauthausen Concentration Camp

“When it became too much at the camp, I would dream. I would dream about Shabbos, about my mother baking challah, my father saying the prayers... I could not have survived without pretending even for a few moments that I was anywhere but here in this hell,” recounts survivor Paula Stein.

In September 1939, German soldiers forced Paula’s family and other building residents into the backyard. “My father put his prayer shawl under his coat in case he would need to pray,” she remembers. The soldiers lined women up on one side and men on the other. “My father and brother were shot right in front of us,” says Paula, “I was holding my younger sister at the time. My mother could not move.”

They spent the night in her uncle’s cellar. The next day her mother insisted on returning to bury the dead. “We carried their bodies ourselves and dug their graves with our hands,” says Paula. They were sent to the ghetto. “We were cold and we were hungry but the truth is nothing could hurt us after what we had just seen.”

In 1943, her mother, grandmother and sister were put on a train to Auschwitz. Paula’s train went to Mauthausen, where girls lived 24 to a room. In March 1945, they were marched out in advance of the Allies. She and another fled and were freed by the Soviet Army on May 5. Paula sought information on relatives at displaced persons’ camps. In 1948, at a DP camp in Italy, she met and married Sol. Her aunt helped bring them to Memphis.