(These series of post start with my father’s arrival as a POW at a labor camp somewhere in Russia. In his memoirs he calls the camp by the name of “Pikolov.” I’ve done extensive research for camps by that name and have come up with nothing. The name most likely was not spelled correctly. I did find some names of labor camps with similar spelling but I have no way to verify it. In later postings I will be including a drawing my father made of the layout of the camp he was held in. Also upon reviewing my notes and comparing them with dates in the memoir; the best time frame I could put together was February 1945-July 1947; as his time in captivity; an error in my calculations is possible.)
First Days In Pikolov
There were more than three thousand, three hundred POW’s when we first arrived, all suffering from malnutrition, disease and starvation. None of us knew what to expect. The many horrifying tales of war and its prisoners were constantly in our thoughts.
Upon our arrival at the camp our physical and mental condition was in a terrible state. Our personal hygienic condition was even worse. After being cramped in a small confined space for 33 days, our bodies were covered in filth, infection and infestations. The odor was so offensive that the Russian guards refused to come in close proximity to us.
They ordered us to line up in a single line in front of a large building without any windows, and told us to remove our clothes. After collecting our clothes in wicker or stray like baskets, they took them away. Than the order was given to move inside the building. At first everyone was very hesitant, yet no one wanted to freeze to death standing outside in the Russian winter. We proceeded inside to find a series of shower nozzles that came down from the ceiling. Thoughts started racing inside my head and I felt frightened. There had been talk about what the Germans were doing to the Jewish population. Was this really a shower or were we going to be gassed? Moments later I felt relieved as a stream of water came shooting down from the ceiling. It felt like a fire hose of hot water that being sprayed at our bodies. This went on for about ten minutes until the room was thick with scalding steam.
Afterwards the doors opened and the cloud of hot steam escaped into the cold air. Then the Russian guards started yelling for everyone to get out and wait for our clothing. Once again we could feel the chill creeping back into our bones. Everyone was standing as close as possible to the person in front of them for warmth. We must have stood this way for one and a half hours, until our clothing was washed and dried.
After our “showers” they started the registration process which was standard for all POW’s. They asked our names, places of residence, birthdate, age and our parents names. Physical examinations were performed by camp doctors. Another part of our registration, the assignment of work brigades in accordance to our trade. Carpenters went to the wood-workers brigade, cooks went to the kitchen and so forth. The young prisoners like myself without any notable trade or experience went to the “peat mines.” This type was the worse in the labor camp and prisoners didn’t survive their long.
(My father was initially assigned to the peat mines and later after he became sick and hospitalized, he was transferred to the wood-workers shop; with the help of a good friend he called Ferenc. In his notes he goes off subject a little and offers his philosophical/opinions as to the political atmosphere of the time. Kati~ )