Al Negrin (Abraham Moses Negrin) tells the story from the perspective of a Greek Jew. During the early part of the war he remained a college student, however he became a participant in the Greek underground movement. Through rallies, pamphlets, graffiti and sabotage, the movement attempted to thwart the efforts of the occupying Italians (and later, Germans). Eventually he was put into camps including Auschwitz Birkenau and Bergen Belsen.
Eventually his family and all Greek Jews were sent to Poland. They believed they were being sent to Cracow but their destination was Auschwitz. They arrived in April 1943 and upon arrival, he was separated from his family. He was fifteen years old and this was the last time he saw his mother, father, and two sisters.
Strougo worked at the camps, but often refused to work and was beaten many times. However he knew that working hard––in order to please the guards––would not save a person. Saving himself by whatever means was the only way to survive. He repeated a phrase that kept him motivated to survive, “If they don’t kill me, I will not die.”
He survived Auschwitz for two years and was moved to Dora-Mittelbau (?) where prisoners manufactured torpedoes for the German navy. He was moved, later, to Bergen-Belsen where he decided to take on an identity of a French gentile. He assumed this identity until liberation.
Upon returning to Greece after the war, he was able to regain ownership of his parent’s home, and, as required, he joined the Greek army. In 1955 he moved to the United States.
During his time in the camps, bread was everything. He dreamed of being a baker and when he came to the United States, this dream came true. Because of his experience with starvation and the horrors of the camps, to this day, he can’t throw away old bread.