Tom Buergenthal is a former American judge on the International Court of Justice in the Hague and now a professor at George Washington University law school. In 2007, he published his autobiography, entitled A Lucky Child. He was a lucky child because he escaped the gas chambers at Treblinka. His family spent the first years of World War II in the Kielce Ghetto in Poland, but for some unexplained reason, they were not sent to Treblinka, as were the other Jews who lived in the Ghetto.
After the Nazis closed the Kielce ghetto in 1942 and sent most of the 25,000 inhabitants, including Buergenthal’s grandparents, to their death at Treblinka, Tom and his parents ended up in a labor camp. But they were not out of the woods yet. Tom and his family were sent to Auschwitz, the most notorious death camp of them all.
Tom has a unique story about how he was saved from the gas chamber. Many Holocaust survivors say that they were saved because, on the day that they were to be gassed, the gas chamber was too full. Tom was saved because, on the day that he was scheduled to be gassed, the SS guards decided that they didn’t have enough people to take to the gas chamber.
This quote is from an interview that Tom did, which you can read here:
The guards mounted a selection in which I was separated from my father. I never saw him again. My father was ordered to the left and I to the right. That forced me into a room with people who, I realized right away, were destined for the chamber.
There were 30 or 40 of us in the barrack, and they decided to postpone the killing until they had more.
After this brush with death, Tom was apparently never selected for the gas chamber again.