Timeline - Jacob Kilstein


April 12: Jacob Kilstein was born in Piotrków Trybunalski, Poland.

He was raised as an observant Orthodox Jew. He was very happy there, but there was plenty of anti-Semitism, because Poland in general was an anti-Semitic country.


Jacob heard Hitler speaking on the radio at neighbor’s home.


1939-1940: Jacob, his mother and brother were taken to the Piotrków Trybunalski Ghetto. There he worked in the one of the glass factories that specialized in Huta glass. He became weak and couldn’t work. Jacob went to speak to the chief of police, who was Jewish. Because of the intense heat, he asked to change jobs to the wood factory. That request was denied, but he did get two weeks of vacation. When he returned to the glass factory, he fell into a ditch while working and broke his spine. He was in the hospital and nobody was allowed to visit, including his brother. After nine months, they let Jacob go. After he left the hospital, SS came in and killed everyone who was sick in that hospital. Jacob told his brother that as soon as they announced that there was an opening for a new camp, they should get away from the ghetto.


Jacob was taken to Blizyn, a slave labor camp with his mother and his brother. In that camp, they killed people and hung them up where the prisoners passed. Jacob worked in a tailoring department where they made coats, green on one side and white on the other side, with cotton wadding in the middle. These coats were used by the soldiers who were going to the Russian front. After one winter and summer, a new leader of the SS came. He put them on trains to Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

His brother was not in the same car, but when the trains arrived at Auschwitz, Jacob saw him from afar. He wasn’t allowed to speak to him. The new arrivals were isolated for two weeks to contain illnesses, then given a grade A, which meant they could go out and work. They worked 12 to 15 miles outside of the camp. Each morning at 5 a.m., an orchestra played beautifully. The prisoners were kept almost naked, sitting and waiting for the orchestra to get through with the playing, and then they were sent to work. The prisoners could see the smoke from the chimneys as they left the camp. The smoke was from the burning of people's flesh that they could smell. Jacob, his mother and brother were in Auschwitz for about a year. One day, while he went to work, they called his brother to work early in the morning to catch fish, clean and other jobs. He remembers that his brother had boots with just the top, but he had lost the bottom. When he came home in the evening, his brother and 70,000 people more were gone. Where they went, nobody knew. The prisoners worked another two weeks in Auschwitz. After that they put the prisoners on trains and took them to Dachau via Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in Germany.

At Dachau Concentration Camp, the soldiers used whips over the prisoners’ heads and ordered them to get out of the train. They beat them on their heads. The prisoners came off, and then the trains were loaded with people who worked at the camp. Those people looked like skeletons. At Dachau, they weren't allowed to wash themselves or their clothes, and wore the same clothes for six to eight months. The prisoners had lice and spent free time killing them.


Jacob was liberated from Dachau. He was taken to the hospital, where he heard that President Roosevelt died.


Jacob Kilstein died September 8 in Memphis, Tennessee.