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Churbn Lettland: The Destruction of the Jews of Latvia
by Max Kaufmann

Part IV, Epilogue and Footnotes

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First-Hand Account

The Stutthof Concentration Camp (Waldheim)

I.

Our "flotilla", consisting of skiffs, ordinary rowboats and some old small ships. slowly approached the shore. From afar we saw a large sign: Stutthof. Hundreds of armed SS men were arriving to receive their "guests". Suddenly there came an order: "Unload!" Our guards chased us out of the ship, using their truncheons and rifle butts. We ran across the slippery boards of the skiffs, many of us falling into the water. But what did that matter? The sun was strong and it soon dried us off. We lined up in a long and wide column five abreast, with the women in front. The German Jews were very excited, because they were stepping onto the holy soil of their old homeland. Their faces wore expressions of great satisfaction. Free at last of the damned East, home at last in their native land!

This homeland received them "well" indeed, and their joy was soon over!

The first prisoners at Stutthof eat during a break in the construction of the camp.

Stutthof, Poland
October 1939

Credit: USHMM/courtesy of Panstwowe Muzeum Stutthof

We marched along a beautiful asphalt road that led through the small town toward the concentration camp. Everything was deserted. Only now and then we saw an isolated person. who would look at us with pity. A couple of captured English and American soldiers with hanging heads and tears in their eyes met us on our way They knew only too well that only a very few people from that long column would return.


II.

Now we marched past the lovely mansion that housed the administrative offices of Waldruhe (Forest Peace). No one could imagine that behind it stood a cruel concentration camp that held tens of thousands of victims. It was fenced in with a double row of electrified barbed wire. High watchtowers stood around the edges, and from afar Stutthof looked like a city in itself. It consisted of a main street and many side streets; there were barracks everywhere. The women's camp was separate. On the left side a new Stutthof was being built. We saw here gigantic stone buildings and large kitchens that had not yet been finished. Apparently an especially large concentration camp had been planned.

Surrounded by SS men, we went through the mighty gate and reached the camp's main street. The women were ordered to march on to their camp. It was completely still in the camp, for everyone was away at work. The few who had stayed in the barracks were the room representatives, and now they came up to meet the new arrivals. We noticed that each one carried a truncheon, which was probably part of the concentration-camp uniform. They talked to us to find out whether we had anything to make cigarettes with, and explained that it would be taken away from us anyway - which in this case wasn't true. Two policemen also came by to satisfy their curiosity. These policemen, German prisoners, were equipped with especially long truncheons, like animal tamers in a circus. They were accompanied by large dogs who seemed ready to eat us up for the smallest infraction. The policemen jeered at us and surely must have thought to themselves, "Now there'll be work for us." And that's how it was.

As it happened. the brief registration procedure was not followed by a thorough body search. This was very lucky, for it gave us an opportunity to smuggle some valuable items into hiding places so that later on we could buy something to eat with these reserves.

We saw we had been badly deceived, and regretted that we had not risked an escape attempt in Riga. We also felt that here a different wind was blowing than in the Kaiserwald concentration camp, where every Latvian Jew still had a connection with the outside world. We were led to the large Barrack No. 3, which was divided into two parts, A and B. We were "allowed" to enter it - but how to settle in was another matter! We slept four to a narrow bed. How was this possible? Well, we didn't sleep at all. And I was especially lucky because I was assigned a neighbor (Zachodnik) who normally needed a whole bed for himself. Inmates from other barracks came to visit us and informed us of our sad fate. "Here, here," they pointed to the large oven. "is the end of all of us!" Thousands of our brothers had had to go through this oven! They told us of other terrible things, but we were still "naive" and couldn't believe them. But only too soon we were forced to realize that they were telling the truth.
 

III.

The main contingent of the prisoners in the camp were Poles. But besides them, all the peoples of the earth were represented. One could even meet people from Tunis and Algiers. From afar we saw a large group in uniform. It consisted of Norwegian policemen. We heard that they had been brought here because they had tried to revolt. But their situation was better than ours. The world cared about them. They sometimes received packages from the Red Cross! We seemed to have nobody: no one cared about us, and the world seemed to have forgotten us entirely!

Our Jewish barrack stood across from one for Aryan Poles who couldn't work. Every morning several corpses were carried out of it on stretchers. They went "through the oven" immediately. The room representative of this barrack and his "assistants" had beaten them till they were half-dead. Yes, the only language that ruled the camp was that of the truncheon. Our room representative "Bogus", an Aryan, could not cope with us in spite of his truncheon. So he appointed some of our VIPs with their blue caps to help him. They too were much better off than we were.

In the evening the commandos came back from their work stations. All the roads were swarming with people. We realized that tens of thousands of prisoners lived here. A large column of women marched down the wide road to the women's camp. SS girls accompanied them. During the day they had to work in the ABA (Army Clothing Department) commando. We heard a mixture of all the languages of the world.

Because we had no assigned numbers as yet, we were forbidden to leave the barrack: nonetheless. we walked around a bit to size up the situation. We were chased by policemen and hounded and bitten by the dogs, but this was an everyday event and nobody was particularly impressed by it.

When the surviving members of the first transport to Stutthof and the few Jews from Estonia heard of our arrival, they visited us. We barely recognized them! Those pale faces! Those filthy, ragged outfits from the time of Napoleon, those high, round caps! They were sheer caricatures! We "new ones" still laughed, but they no longer had smiles on their faces. When I saw our old acquaintance from Riga, the elegant Dr. Jakobsohn, dressed like a circus clown in short pants, I too shed tears.

Some of our artists (Schelkan and Arnov) sometimes earned a plate of soup from the room representative with their music. The prominent boxer Kagan, who had sadistically demonstrated his strength in Riga and would do so again in Magdeburg, sometimes earned a bit of food. He had meanwhile become a singer. Our room representative Bogus also displayed his cruel instincts. For every small infraction he would order us to troop out to the street. At his familiar command, "All Jews sit down!" we had to squat down, and he and his assistants would then beat us on our heads with their truncheons.
 

IV.

Now the great evening roll call began in Stutthof. We lined up ten abreast, each group next to its barrack. We were counted and written down in the register until the registrar came to pick up his report. It was quiet throughout the camp. "Caps off!" The registrar arrived. The report on one barrack was correct, the report on another wasn't, so we had to stand at attention for a long, long time on our weak feet. Finally a trumpet sounded from the large watchtower at the entrance gate. It told the world in all directions that the great roll call was over. We felt relieved. The trumpet played the familiar tune of the Marjacki Cloister in Cracow, which transmitted every noon on the radio. Now began a race to the barracks to grab a place to sleep. Because there was not enough room for everyone, many had to spend the night on the floor. Actually, this was the best place to sleep because at least there you slept alone. People put their shoes under their heads to help themselves sleep "soundly".

We were awakened at four a.m.! Without enough sleep and totally exhausted, we had to get up in a few seconds. As we left the barrack, each person received his bread ration at the door. Sometimes a loaf of bread had to be shared by five people, sometimes by six. This depended entirely on the room representative, who kept whatever he didn't distribute. He then bought gold and other valuables at the expense of our stomachs. Of course nobody dared to complain, for we feared that if we did so we would "go through the oven". Later, we had to share a bowl of coffee among four people. Everything had to be eaten on the street in the dark. There we also relieved ourselves. The toilet was a story in itself. We had to get permission to get into it at all. Everything was made even more difficult by an overseer (from Vilna). Once, we rejoiced as a certain part of his body was brutally "worked over". There was no provision whatsoever to enable us to wash ourselves, and we were not allowed to enter any other barracks. Shaving was also a great problem. We had to look "young", so we scratched off our beards with any knife that came to hand, which left our faces very cut up. Once we had left our barrack, we were not allowed to enter it again. So we were outdoors from very early morning when it was still dark, till after the evening roll call. Only the VIPs enjoyed the privilege of being allowed to remain in the barracks. The weather was already growing colder, and to "lighten our load" the camp administrators decided to take our coats away from us. We formed "ovens" to warm ourselves: that is, we stood in a tight circle, pressed close together in order to warm one another.

We still had no numbers, and so we were not yet sent to work. They began to register us under the direction of a Polish Catholic priest who was lodged in our barrack. This took a very long time, and those who were allowed to do this work were fortunate, for while they were doing it they could stay in the barrack. Unfortunately, I had no luck: nobody paid any attention to my efforts, and so I was not chosen to be one of the "registrars". The same priest also organized a group of ten men to pray in the barrack. Suddenly everyone wanted to pray! Not out of piety, but in order to warm themselves up a bit. However, the priest did not select people at random, he already knew his "customers". The first ones to be selected were always the son of the prominent Mr. Dubin and Dubin's secretary Mr. Golowciner. They were the "real" prayer reciters. They had great difficulties with the rations because they ate only kosher food, so in this camp they were starving.

During the first few days the Latvian "aristocrats" also visited us. They were the "honor prisoners", and they wore special yellow armbands. There were also other "aristocrats" from other countries. All of them looked well, so apparently they were not doing too badly. Among them was the son of the former Latvian President, Prof. Cakste; the well-known revolutionary Bruno Kalnins; the former Latvian ambassador to Sweden, Seja; the former Minister of Transport, the engineer Einberg; and the former director of Riga's largest chocolate factory, Kuze. They visited their puikas (boys) to receive messages of greeting from Riga. We received these people very coolly and did not get involved in any long conversations with them.
 

V.                 

Noontime at the camp! There was no set lunchtime for us non-workers: the room representative fetched our lunch whenever he felt like it. Everyone fought for the privilege of carrying the kettle. The reason was that while doing this errand it was possible to see the women and perhaps exchange a few words with them through the barbed-wire fence. The kitchen stood directly next to the women's camp. The food always consisted of thin vegetable soup, but to us hungry people even this tasted good. We stood for hours in long rows to receive it. Afterwards the bowls were collected. This was a new chore - being a "bowl collector" - for which one received an extra portion of soup. But not everyone was lucky enough to get to do it. From all sides came the cry, "Wolne miski!"(Empty bowls!) Of course we ate without spoons. Some people drove bargains, trading their soup for a portion of bread or vice versa. In other barracks, lunch was brought in the early morning, poured into large wooden barrels and covered with blankets.

Many of us became ill because of the wet, cold weather. But there was no infirmary for the Jews. If a person became ill, he went "through the ovens" at once! But our doctors managed to set up several beds in a corner for the sick people in our barrack. As soon as an SS man turned up, all the sick people ran away, for they feared having their numbers written down. Once an SS man really did find some sick people and immediately wrote down the numbers of these unfortunates. That very evening, before the roll call, they were taken away and gassed. Except for the times when we fetched the lunch kettle, the only connection with the women was through the children, who carried notes back and forth. Whether the children were allowed to go to their parents or not depended entirely on the mood of the SS girls at any given moment.
 

VI.                 

After several days the last Jews arrived from the HKP barracks camp in Riga. From them I heard that just before they left, my special friend Scheman (from Liepaja). who was also well-known to all the others, had become emotionally deranged. Thereupon he was shot immediately and buried near Kaiserwald. Several young men from the Kaiserwald camp who had tried to escape had also been mercilessly killed. They had even had to dig their own graves beforehand. In contrast to us, the newly arrived group of Riga Jews was searched very thoroughly. They had everything taken away from them and were forced to wear different clothes. They were also assigned to another barrack. Of the few women in the group, to my knowledge only Mrs. L. Misroch and her daughter survived. All the others died of typhoid fever and starvation. Forty-eight Latvian Jews who were unable to work were also sent to Stutthof from Konigsberg in eastern Prussia. They had been told they were being sent here to "recuperate". They looked terrible, being only skin and bones. Some of them were sent to their eternal "recuperation" the very day they arrived. The next day it was the others' turn, as the gas chambers could only handle a certain number of people per day.

Two "Aryans" arrived separately from Riga: the well-known Professor Idelsohn and the industrialist Milmann. The former was known to be a committed Jew, but the latter was a sell-professed Latvian. But the fact that Milmann had been baptized more than fifty years ago had obviously been of no avail. Professor Idelsohn had been the only Jew who was not sent to the ghetto. This had been managed by the children of his second wife (a German), who were high-ranking party members in Berlin. But in the end even they could not help him any longer. How often we had seen Professor Idelsohn in Riga running after the Jewish work crews to give them a package of bread! He had repeatedly asked to be put into the ghetto too. Now at last he was sharing the fate of all the Jews, for he had been sent to Stutthof. Three days after his arrival he died of a heart attack and was cremated immediately.

During our time there, even Latvian criminals were brought to Stutthof. It was the Poles who received them "properly" in the barrack assigned to them. The Poles justified this by claiming that the Latvians had helped to put down the Polish revolt in Warsaw, and had also run riot in the Warsaw ghetto with the utmost cruelty.
 

VII.

In the meantime, I was "naturalized" as a Stutthof resident. I received a new name: Prisoner No. 96046. My number was written on my chest and my trousers. Now we waited for our "invitation" to go to work. We found out from the Labor Authority that our transport was one of the "valuable" ones, as it included a number of specialists. For this reason we would be sent very soon to work outside the camp. There was no food for those who didn't work, so for the time being we were sent every morning to a variety of work stations. There was no system for assigning work, so everything was a matter of luck. Today one might have easy work, tomorrow heavy labor and vice versa.

Many prisoners competed for the job of unloading things from the skiffs. Sometimes during this work it was possible to filch things that could be traded for bread. One day, as I was working on a skiff with my friend Israelith (from Liepaja), I "organized" two left-hand gloves, but this turned out badly for I was discovered and badly beaten.

Another time, I was assigned to the lumberyard work crew. We had to carry large beams on our shoulders and stack them up in the lumberyard. All this was done under the supervision of Polish foremen, who beat us with large wooden clubs. They explained to us that we were lucky, because before we came there had been a rule that each foreman had to bring back a few corpses from the work crew. These corpses were carried by the first row of the work column. The work was almost impossible for us to bear physically, but we used the last remnants of our strength so as not to have our numbers written down and then he gassed the same evening.

Two huts stood in the woods near our lumberyard. These were the brothels for the SS men. Women of all nationalities, but no Jewish women, were brought to these huts. These women did not look bad, so in terms of food and clothing they must not have had a bad time of it.

Then there was also the notorious work crew No. 105. It was especially feared, and when the foremen of this work crew came to fetch us for work, everyone tried to avoid being selected. But once I was fetched for this work crew nonetheless. We were driven through the large camp gate under heavy guard, and after a long march through the forest we reached our new work station already exhausted. Here we were searched, and everything we owned was taken away from us. Now the katorga (unbearably hard labor) began! Once again we had to carry heavy logs on our shoulders, but this time it was from one hill to another. We were not allowed to drag them down from the hills, which would have been much easier. Although we threw all our strength into it, at last we could do it no longer. Thereupon we were beaten murderously with large truncheons, but even that made no difference: we simply couldn't work any more. Now the sadistic foreman made the whole work crew line up and asked each one what his profession was. He made our comrades Schalit and Calel Garber, who said they were musicians go off to the side, and then he began to drill them. They were ordered to run, he beat them. They were ordered to throw themselves to the ground, creep along on their bellies, run again, and so on. I could hardly bring myself to look at this, and prayed for death to release them! Fortunately, just then a truck arrived. We had to carry logs to this truck and load them onto it. Then it was noon, and we returned to the concentration camp.

As we marched through the forest, the German foreman talked to us. "What kind of people are you?" he asked us. "You must have no God at all, for if you had one, he surely couldn't look on and see how you're being treated." I thought to myself: "This murderer and sadist is right, for doesn't the world know what's happening to us at all? Aren't there any Jews left who know us and want to help us?" But now, as I write these lines, I have changed my opinion totally. I have just read the report on the trial in Poland of the murderers of Stutthof. All of them were condemned to die on the gallows. These cold-blooded slave drivers. who had killed thousands and thousands of human beings, went to their deaths like the cowards they were. Some Poles who had cruelly mistreated their brothers were also hanged along with the SS men and SS girls.

I would also like to mention something I found out recently: during the war the Swedish section of the World Jewish Congress (which is based in New York) took measures to save the Jews. The Latvian Jew Hillel Storch was involved in these efforts. The son of a respected family from Dvinsk, he had escaped to Sweden with his wife (nee Westermann) shortly before the war.

When the horrible news about the fate of his co-religionists reached him, he made contact with Himmler as early as 1943 and later on in 1945, thanks to the mediation of the head of German counterespionage Schellenberg, and of Dr. Kersten (Himmler's personal physician). He succeeded in more or less postponing part of the extermination, and many of us perhaps owe our lives to him.
 

VIII.

One day the announcement came: "Jews are not to go to work. At eight o'clock all Jews are to line up in closed ranks on the camp's main street!" The inmates of all the Jewish barracks marched in rows to the street, as they had been ordered to do. They were made to line up according to countries, the Latvians separately, the Germans separately, and so on. A large, high table was brought, and the representatives of the Labor Authority appeared carrying long truncheons. Along with them came some very well-dressed civilians, accompanied by SS men. The civilians were representatives of a factory that needed workers. The slave trade began. We were told that various Jewish skilled craftsmen, but no Germans, would be needed for work in a factory. After hearing this announcement the German Jews hung their heads in dejection, not knowing what to do. But the rest of us thought to ourselves: "So much for n our homeland and your 'warm welcome'!"

But our VIPs with their blue caps from the Kaiserwald concentration camp, who were always trying to enrich themselves at the expense of our stomachs, now as ever made sure that some of the Germans were included. For example, the German Jew Oskar Salomon - whose sadistic nature we got to know all too well later on in Magdeburg - managed to smuggle himself into our transport. Now the call rang out: "Skilled craftsmen! Mechanics, shoemakers, tailors and others!" Those who volunteered had to run to the table as fast as they could. It was immediately obvious who could run fast and who couldn't. Those who couldn't were told to go off to the side. Now each of us tried, with his last ounce of strength, to pass this test. Even cripples tried it, but they were sent back immediately.

This selection process for the work crew lasted three days. It was a rest period for us because (1) we didn't have to work, and (2) we were safe from beatings. In the meantime we found out that the selected workers would be taken to Magdeburg. I had tried by every possible means to be one of them. My efforts were successful. I thought to myself: winters coming on, and they'll certainly put us to work in closed rooms inside that factory.

My supposition was correct.


IX.

The lists of workers were drawn up quickly. Now we had to wait for the trucks into which we would be loaded. Three hundred women, mostly from Vilna and Hungary, and a single small Latvian boy Sima were also in our transport. Because the planned departure could take place any day and any hour, we were not sent to do any work for the time being. After several weeks had passed in this way, the Labor Authority decided that our idleness had lasted too long and that we would be sent to work again. In the meantime two other Jewish transports of women and men departed. One was headed by a certain Glucksmann and the other by the notorious Kassel. These people worked near Danzig under extremely difficult conditions (see the chapter "Via Stutthof - Burggraben... - Lauenburg to Freedom"). Only a few of them survived, and many died of starvation, the cold, and the beatings.

After the first transport had gone, there was somewhat more space in our barrack. Now once again we went to work regularly. A work crew that drove to Elbing every day had fairly good conditions there. The ABA also set up work stations and employed many of our people, for example the engineer Antikol, Springefeld and others. Unfortunately, none of them survived.

There was a new work crew, the so-called "potato commando". Cars loaded with potatoes would arrive on our narrow-gauge railroad. They had to be unloaded and clamped. The work in itself would not have been difficult, if only the many Polish overseers had not beaten us constantly with large truncheons. They chased us and beat us, shouting. "Ale jusz, ale jeszcze!" (Do it, do it again!) This "Ale jusz, ale jeszcze!" rang in our ears for a long time. The only good thing about this work crew was that now and then we were able to filch a raw potato, a beet or a carrot. We had to eat them at once on the spot; it was dangerous to take them anywhere, for we were searched thoroughly as we left our work station. If even the smallest thing was found on us, we were punished immediately. For me this work crew was not bad: it even provided me with a maline (hiding place). This was the maline: I was ordered to take potatoes to the pigsty, and I could use this opportunity to take for myself some of the potatoes that had been cooked for the animals. To enable my comrades to share this "good fortune", I took a different one with me every day.


                                                                               
X.

In the meantime, the news arrived that Riga had already been occupied by the Russians. Of course we rejoiced greatly, but at the same time we were angry all over again that we had not attempted to escape while we ware still in Riga. But now it was too late to change things.

One evening all the inmates of the concentration camp were ordered to line up on the camp's main road. Not only the main road, but also the side streets swarmed with people. We could see a gallows in the distance. Two Russians who had resisted an SS man were to he hanged. This "just" verdict was read out in three languages (German, Polish and Russian). The German camp representative put the ropes around their necks with his own hands, and a moment later the two young men were dead. We were forced to witness another execution as well.

Alter that I was put into a construction work crew. A new factory was being built behind the camp. I was ordered to carry lime. The foreman noticed that this work was much too hard for my physical strength and wrote down my number. At once I sensed danger and asked him for another job. Thereupon he ordered my comrade Hahn and me to carry bricks to the second floor. Hahn told me he was ill, so I was the only "strong" one. We labored and struggled, using all our strength. Fortunately it grew dark soon, and the work crew had to return to the camp. Our joy was boundless. In this way, people struggled to survive every day, for in spite of all the cruelties we wanted to live.

Shortly before our departure for Magdeburg, more than a thousand Jews came to Stutthof from the notorious concentration camp Auschwitz. They included people of all nationalities, but most of them were Greeks and Hungarians. I also met some people from our region (Bialystok). They told us about horrible things. Until then I had believed that there was nothing more horrible than Stutthof but after hearing their reports I knew better. In Stutthof hundreds of human beings went "through the ovens" every day, but there it was thousands. At the special railroad station of Auschwitz the transports were received with music, and to music the rows of women, men and children were taken to the gas chambers. I heard very gruesome stories. Unlike the inmates of other concentration camps, the inmates of Auschwitz had their numbers tattooed on their wrists. I found out that they numbered in the hundreds of thousands. The new arrivals were not put to work until they had been "naturalized". So they wandered around every day in the street next to their barracks in the cold and damp.

XI.  

The women's situation was very similar to the men's. Their quarters were just as crowded as ours. Specially trained SS girls wearing black capes whipped them with leather straps. When we went past we often saw the poor women doing gymnastics in the street all day long. Besides those who had come with us, we also saw many women from Lithuania (Kovno and Lodz). There was a separate barrack for the women from Hungary and the ones who were unable to work. Every evening we saw a truck packed full of sick women drive past, with half-sick women dragging themselves along behind the truck. All of them were moving toward the gas chambers. Because they knew what was in store for them, they were weeping and moaning. But the SS men and girls who accompanied them had no sympathy for them. I can still see those pretty women's faces before me today. But even those who were spared the gas chambers were overtaken by their fate. They died of starvation and typhus. During my time there, a women's transport was also sent to Thorn (see the chapter on the AEG barracks camp). These women had to work under harsh conditions in a factory that had been evacuated from Riga.
 

XII.  

An order came: "Prepare for a transport." After a long period of waiting, we now had to leave the notorious Stutthof. Before this happened, we were led into the "bath" which ended as always with heating and torments. We received "new" clothing. Fortunately, in the process I received a lambskin jacket which I would also use as a blanket in the future. In the large square we were searched once again and then loaded, under heavy guard, into open freight cars on the narrow -gauge railroad. The man appointed to lead the transport was the notorious SS man and murderer from Riga "Iron Gustav" (commandant of Dundaga and "specialist for shots to the neck", as he called himself). We were also accompanied by the SS man Hofmann, who had carried out the large extermination action in Strazdumuiza, and by the sadist Schuller from the Kaiserwald concentration camp.

From afar we saw the place where we had worked in the "potato commando". Now the Jews who had been brought from Auschwitz were working there. We heard only screams, accompanied by the unforgettable refrain. "Ale jusz, ale jeszcze!" (Do it, do it again!)
 

The Buchenwald Concentration Camp (Outer Camp Magdeburg)

I.

"The wheels must roll!": that was Germany's motto. Our wheels rolled very fast along the stretch to Magdeburg. I barely knew the name "Magdeburg", I only remembered from Polish history that the Polish general Joseph Pilsudski had occupied the fortress of Magdeburg. Shortly after our departure, we encountered at a station on the way a large women's transport bound for Stutthof. We pitied every one of these women, for we knew what awaited them there. We ourselves had no idea either of what the future would bring us, but in any case we imagined that Magdeburg would be better than Stutthof.

Fairly soon, we left the small-gauge railroad and were loaded into large cattle cars on the mail railroad line. We received food, and in our wagon I had to distribute it. Now we rolled along at express-train speed. Apparently no time was to be lost, for people were waiting for us to begin work. The trip was supposed to last three days, but we had already reached our destination of Magdeburg on the second evening. There was a general blackout in Magdeburg, so we could recognize nothing but the small spotlights that lit our path. Besides representatives of the factory, a group of guards had come to receive the new arrivals. We lined up five abreast, with the women in front, and marched to our new camp which was supposed to be situated near the factory. There was not just one camp but several, separated from one another by high walls. Our women were put together with Aryan women in a separate women's camp, but they were housed in special barracks for Jews.

The sign at the camp entrance read: "Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Outer Camp Magdeburg". At this entrance gate, as everywhere else so far, stood a small special building for the guards who had to supervise the entrance and the entire camp. The Riga boxer and sadist Kagan was appointed camp representative. For support he surrounded himself with a staff of people whom he ordered to deal with us as harshly as possible. The rations were very bad: 150 to 200 grams of bread a day and watery soup. Sometimes there was also a bit of margarine or other small items. But we comforted ourselves with the thought that our rations would certainly be increased at the factory, since it was impossible to work on only this small amount of food. Unfortunately, this assumption was not justified. The living conditions were just as bad as before. In the meantime, the factory managers sent the foremen of all the departments to view the new workers. The foremen appeared: we awaited them lined up in rows, and all those who would be working in the individual departments were selected. Of course we had no idea which departments were especially favorable, especially with regard to the most important thing for us: where we would have the best opportunities to "organize" something for ourselves.

I was put into the Galvanik department. But we couldn't start working yet, for it turned out that all of us were full of lice. So we had to be put into quarantine for a short time. No Blau's gas was available to exterminate them, so we had to stay in the camp. We were put to work there for the time being: only a few of us had to go to the factory to do clearing-up work. Of course we waited impatiently to hear what they would report back to us, for example what the factory looked like, whether they had received extra rations, and so on.

In the meantime our new "hosts", the sadists Hoffmann and Schuller, began to create "order". It began with the usual morning and evening roll calls. Once again. we had to stand around for hours. Special emphasis was put on us taking off our caps correctly and marching well. Our camp representative was a great specialist in all these matters, and he thought up some new torments for us besides. Before being deloused we received our new numbers. I received yet another new name: Prisoner No. 95522.

Finally we were deloused and moved into our new barracks. The beds stood close together, always three high. Every person received a sack of straw and a blanket. Initially the blanket distribution was very disorganized, and one often had to sleep without a blanket. Every barrack received its block representative with his rubber truncheon. First we had a Polish Jew Ignatz, who was always using his rubber truncheon. After him came one of our own who was milder. The block representative who ruled the second block was clearly a sadist: a German Jew named Salomon who made everyone cellos power. We trembled in fear of him. just as we trembled in fear of the camp representative. There were also some associates of the camp representative (Izke and others), who had also received directions from Kagan. The camp representative had a small room of his own in which he lived together with his younger brother. who was considerably more decent than he was, and the quartermaster Wilner, a very honorable and pious German Jew.

Workshops were set up once again. There was a small shoemaker's workshop, a tailoring shop and a barbershop. A special barber was appointed for the SS men; this was Fonariow who had already held this position in Kaiserwald. He often assured us that more than once he had wanted to slit his customers' throats. A carpentry workshop was also set up with the engineer Mischkinskv as foreman. Mischkinsky was one of Schuller's favorites. The internal work was done by a special work crew led by our comrade Nachke. This group (which included Dzemze, Zapp and others) received privileged treatment from the camp representative, and it was deployed wherever there was "easy work" and good opportunities to "organize" things. It also had a special corner in the barrack: there the members of the group ate together. Whenever we passed this table our mouths watered. All the members of this work crew were part of the camp's VIPs, and everyone was afraid of falling into "their hands".

We were allowed to use the sleeping barracks only for sleeping, and there was a special dining hall for meals. The tables were numbered and every one had his assigned place. Every table had a table representative who received the food from the block representative and had to distribute it. The food was brought in buckets from the kitchen of the women's camp. The kitchen was headed by the SS man Drybe who had carried out the action to exterminate the Jews in Klooga, Estonia. All the signs in the dining hall and all the numbers in it had been painted by our comrade Joffe with my help.

The representative of Table No. I was the well-known Zionist activist Rosenthal. Then came the Czech table where only Czech Jews sat and only Czech was spoken. As always. I was "lucky" with the number 13. My table was No. 13, and its representative was my comrade Nioma Kurin. Sometimes he took a bit more for himself, but in spite of our great hunger we overlooked this. Because a more educated group of people had clustered together at our table, the others called us the "high-society table". If they were cursing us, they called us "the intelligent ones". The engineer Sienitzki from Vilna sat opposite me. Besides my comrades Gustav Joffe, Jakob Zinman and Birkhahn who later died of starvation, there were also other genuinely intelligent young men in my table group. Whenever the food was distributed, one had the best opportunity to observe every individual's character and degree of refinement. All of us were starving, and basically nobody could wait to sit down to eat. Of course no precisely equal distribution was possible. Outwardly self-controlled but inwardly baring our teeth in anticipation, we watched the bread until it was distributed. In order to be as fair as possible, we invented the following procedure. One of us had to stand with his back to the table and was then asked before each piece of bread was handed out: "Who gets this one?" Thus the distribution was entirely even-handed. After the bread had been distributed, a veritable exchange market was opened. One man would trade his bread for soup, another for margarine and so on. Or someone would buy a knife, a spoon. a needle or the like. The bread was measured out in centimeters as a means of exchange, so each of us always carried a small ruler. More than once, when a person urgently needed a small piece of shaving soap or something else, he would have to go without a whole meal in order to get it.

0f course that meant I had to go hungry al! the following day. Once I tried to eat the bread in two parts, but during the night I couldn't sleep until I had eaten up the bread I had saved. My comrade Joffe, who didn't approve of my system. resolved every evening to save a piece for later, but in the end he couldn't wait so long either and ate everything up. The only resolute man was Sienitzki: he always divided his bread ration into portions. He was also the only one in the Magdeburg concentration camp that I was really friends with, and when we separated after the liberation this parting was very emotional for me.

After meals Joffe would often tell us about his world travels, and the entire political situation would also be discussed. In the final phase we had to rush through our dinner because the Americans would "pay us a visit" regularly. The lights had to be put out beforehand. During my time there, the city of Magdeburg was heavily bombarded twice. From afar, we saw it burning for several days. Both the Americans and the English were very precise in their work. They dropped their bombs only a few meters front our concentration camp but left us entirely unscathed. We were actually convinced that our factory would also be destroyed one day. But it remained unscathed for our sake, not in order to further the Germans' interests. Right after the Russians occupied it, they dismantled it and transported it to Soviet Russia.


II.

At last came the day when we had to go to work in the factory. Five abreast in a long row and surrounded by SS men, we marched through the gate of our camp to the factory. As we walked through the camp gate we were ordered, "Caps off!" We were counted and then we marched on. The large factory we came to was called Polte and consisted of many buildings. Besides the Jews, thousands of other prisoners had been put to work there. They worked in shifts, twenty-four hours a day. We too worked in two shifts: one week we had the night, the next week the day shift. During the shift changes. one heard all the languages of the world. The workers included an especially large number of Frenchmen and Belgians.

In peacetime the Polte factory had manufactured dishes and metal lamps, but now it had been entirely converted to weapons production. We Jews worked in a special department that produced cartridge cases. After they let us into the factory, our SS men remained standing in the doorway and supervised us front there. Sometimes some of them hung around in the factory to check whether we were working or not. There was also a factory police force that was supposed to prevent sabotage. They also stood at the factory entrance to check the workers' passes.

Because of its sheer size. our department made a tremendous impression on us. Those of us who had been assigned to the Galvanik department were led into a special section. The foreman examined all of us, inquired about our previous occupations, and then assigned everyone his job. Finally he explained to each individual what he had to do, for everything was done in the manner of a conveyor belt. He appointed me section chief and assigned to me the duty of always making sure my comrades had the equipment they needed, besides doing my own job. Depending on their respective jobs, one worker might receive white silk gloves, another rubber gloves, and still another rubber boots and a rubber apron.

It was still cold in the factory. The machines were standing still, and only after every worker was at his place did the foreman press an electric button that immediately set the giant machines into motion. The very same thing was happening in the other departments too. The large factory hall was now full of the noise of the machines and the rattle of small electric wagons that constantly drove back and forth. I was assigned to install insulation. The work itself was not difficult, but it was unpleasant because even at times when I didn't want to work I couldn't take a break, since it was the machine that set the pace. It took us weeks to get more or less used to the work. Often the machine didn't work for hours at a time because of some mistake we had made. The foremen sweated to put everything in order again. Then, crash! - and once again the machine was standing still.

The only really fortunate thing about the Galvanik was that there it was nice and warm, and we also had the opportunity to wash with hot water. Because washing powder was available us, we could also wash our clothes. Now I had a new "occupation" for my free time: being my comrades' "laundryman". Once when doing the laundry, I had a stroke of very bad luck. Engineer Lein's shirt dissolved completely in the washing kettle because I had used too much bleach. Since I was of course unable to replace it, the poor man had to walk around without a shirt for a long time.

Other people who also wanted to earn a bit of bread (measured out in centimeters) turned to other occupations that were also in demand. For example, one could "organize" some steel of tin and use it to make knives or margarine containers. Brooches and other pieces of jewelry for our women were fashioned out of galalith. Shapiro was a specialist at this. Most of the customers for these things were our VIPs, who then paid tor them with the food they had kept from us. Out of the rags we received to clean the machines with, we made bags for our rations and patches for our clothes and underwear. The women (such as Mrs. Loewstein and others) magically produced veritable "designer models" from these rags. It was not at all uncommon to come across a woman who was wearing a nice blouse or something similar under her prisoner's uniform. Everyone would give up his last piece of bread in order own a sewing needle: we made thread out of the cotton we were given to clean the machines with. Comrade Dreyer was regarded as an especially talented artist because he managed to produce sock-like creations for us. In short, every free minute at the factory was spent either sewing or washing.

The prisoners from other departments came to our rooms in the Galvanik department to wash themselves. Comrade Atlas was a regular guest. We had two foremen. The older one, who wore Nail insignia, soon became quite soft after he fell in love with a young Hungarian Jewish woman. Tile second one, a hot-tempered German, became ever more unbearable as the collapse of the German forces progressed. Once he slapped me too. I did not keep my position as section chief for long, for it was handed over to my comrade Sienitiki. The people became more and more familiar with the factory work, and I was quite proud and happy about the skills and abilities of my co-religionists. Hard-working women and men attended the large precision machines. Those who had been recruited in Stutthof as shoemakers, tailors and so on - all of them now stood at the large combined machines. I must emphasize that the women from Vilna were the best workers.

The specialists among us included engineers, electricians and mechanics. The factory's head engineer relied heavily on our engineer Segall. This head engineer was an extremely evil man. Wearing his green coat with its party insignia, he was constantly strolling through the large factory hall and letting us feel his power. The Jews who attended the furnaces had to work the hardest. They scarcely had enough air to breathe, and so they could not work very long at a time. We also had victims to mourn because of our work. Some of the young men lost fingers (H. Kusmann, Gurwitz), and a young woman from Vilna even lost a hand. As a "reward" for this, they transported her later to the main part of the Buchenwald concentration camp, intending to send her "through the oven". But her life was saved by chance.

Sunday was our day of rest. Only sometimes did individual work crews go to do clearing-up work. We ourselves greatly preferred to go to work, for in the camp under the supervision of our tyrants we were even worse off.

Besides our work in the factory, we had another and more important kind of work. It consisted of (1) "organizing" something to eat for ourselves, and (2) processing the raw materials we had "organized" in the factory, by producing a knife, a brooch or some other useful object. Filching food was a particularly difficult and dangerous enterprise. The best place for it was in the Aryans' kitchens. There they dumped all the food that was left on the plates into buckets. These buckets were then put outside to be picked up so that their contents could be used to feed the pigs. This was our main field of action. However, one had to he an accomplished acrobat in order to sneak through a window or a door unnoticed by the SS men. Only in this way was it possible to dip a bowl of soup out of the buckets. Getting potato peelings was eyes more complicated. It was considered a special stroke of luck if one sometimes found pieces of beet. I too once managed to reach the garbage dump and get some potato peelings. Of course there were veritable "professionals" for all these activities. A couple of Polish Jews were the best in this field. But our young men (Ch. Shabel, Robert Chait, Kaliko, Padowitz) were almost as good. Many paid for their recklessness with heavy beatings and confinement in the detention cell, but even this made no difference to them.

Lunch was brought to us once a day in large pails from the camp to the factory. It consisted a bowl of thin soup, and a person was lucky if he found a potato in it. Our VIPs made sure they had fished all the good pieces out of the soup before it got to us. We were furious, but we could do nothing at all about it. Once, when I ventured to say something about it any way, I was immediately slapped in the face. It was lunch that made people really hungry. Exactly the same thing was happening to the women. They had their Ljuba (the leader of the work crew )and another VIP who "took care" of them in the same way.

The meeting point where we could talk about all this was the toilet. But even this "pleasure" had its limits. At first one could go out only for a certain length of time, but later on it was only at fixed time.

For us the air raids were a great relief. In the beginning they were unfortunately rare, but toward the end they became more and more frequent, several times a day. With the greatest joy we ran, together with the Aryans, into the air-raid shelters which had a space specially divided off for the Jews. When we heard the preliminary alarm we got ready to go, and we were always bitterly disappointed if it was not followed by a real one. During the air raids the whole victory suddenly looked deserted. We heard only the noise of thousands of planes and the bomb explosions. As we sat in the long, narrow, dark cellars, this noise was music to our ears. T he young people from Vilna and the women gladdened us with newly composed and very interesting sad songs. When the all-clear signal came, we had to return to the factory at once. Alter twelve hours of work we returned to the camp. The next shift was coming. On the way, in the large hall, we met the others and exchanged a few words. Then we walked on. As always, we marched in rows live abreast: One, two. three, left and left" was the command. Sometimes a person would be thinking or something else and would march out of step. Woe to him if a column leader noticed, for then there would he an immediate beating. We marched and our wooden shoes clattered. The closer we came to the camp the straighter became our posture, so that the murderers Hoffmann and Schuller would be satisfied. Unfortunately, they were not always satisfied. Then we had to march for hours as a punishment, and we were, also sent to our camp representative for "direct treatment".

"Caps off!" We marched into the Magdeburg outer camp of the Buchenwald concentration camp. Once again we were counted, and then we lined up in the roll-call square in front of our barrack. If we came from a day shift we had to wait for the roll call; if we came from a night shift we went directly to bed. The women marched on to their women's camp.

A new transport of Hungarian Jews, women and men, arrived in our camp from Buchenwald. Although they were not the least bit nationalistic in their attitude, they were Jews all the same. In terms of their outward appearance they made a very good impression. This group included excellent professional people. and the women were young and pretty. They weren't keen on making contact with us, for we didn't appeal to them in the least. The camp representative Immediately got to work on them, using his methods to "make human beings of them". The only thing they could do to his satisfaction was to march. They had been officers and soldiers, and they knew how to do it because of their army days. In a marching competition they, won the first prize.

We used Sundays, when we didn't have to go to work, to clean up. Now and then the camp representative made sure we "got some fresh air" by chasing us outside to march in the cold without our coats on. We spent our tree time in our "dining room". We mended our clothes and waited to he ordered to so to work again. Schuller would always appear suddenly. What angered him the most on his visits was when he found one of us wearing a scarf around his neck. That person would immediately receive a real hiding.

On Sundays we also visited our comrades in other barracks, for often we hadn't seen them all week on account of the day and night shifts. On one of these visits I met a certain Mr. Schftel, a teacher from Vilna, and over time I became quite friendly with him. He was a very gifted human being and, most importantly, he had a broad political perspective. His optimism was as great as mine, and both of us firmly believed we would eventually be liberated On the great Jewish holiday of Purim he held an excellent lecture in his block. The meaning of Purim gave hint a great deal of material to compare with our life at that time. His listeners were gripped by his talk. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend because I was working elsewhere.

Also living in this block were Dubin's son and his secretary Golowtschiner. Both of them looked ghastly. They were still observing the kosher regulations and thus were hardly able to eat a thing. Golowtschiner soon collapsed from weakness, so he requested a work assignment inside the camp. When the camp representative offered him a position that involved using  a rubber truncheon, he refused it. He lasted only a short time doing factory work and soon died of starvation. Young Dubin often visited me in his free time to pour out his heart to me. He regarded me as a genuine native of Riga and was still convinced that his father was living in Soviet Russia. Also lodged in the same block were the artists Godes and Schalith. Their health condition was especially bad. In a quiet comer of this barrack, one could also find the prominent Riga painter   Rudi. He generally worked on dressings ordered by people who paid for them in bread.

Because we almost never had a real day of rest on Sundays, we waited for the next morning and our factory work with impatience.

The day began at four in the morning. Within a few minutes we had to be on our feet and make our beds army-style. For a long time I slept next to my comrade Joffe to warm myself, but he needed more space, so he found himself a better sleeping place on the second level. Now came the order: "Get coffee!" A different group was appointed every week to do this job. The coffee had to be fetched from the kitchen of the women's camp, where only women worked, including a couple of Jewish women. One day this job was assigned to me. I still remember exactly: it was the morning of 1 January 1945. The personnel, including the guards, were still in a New Year's Eve mood. I immediately took advantage of this unique opportunity, and out of a pail of leavings from the previous evening's holiday feast I took as much goose goulash as I could stash away. Because I was totally unprepared for this "find", I had to put everything I managed to grab into my pockets and my cap. I reached our barrack successfully with this precious booty. I gave my comrades some of it, ate my fill, and still had some left over to trade  with. Of course I had customers from the best social circles for these goods, so I had enough food for myself that whole week.

Once a similar coincidence occurred in the factory, and it helped me a great deal. .A foreman from another department, who assumed I was a doctor, asked me to translate a letter for him. I took the letter with me to the camp and asked a friend of mine who was a genuine doctor to translate it. It was a letter in German containing Latin medical terms. The foreman wanted to receive the treatment described in the letter so that he would he exempted from military service. He was very satisfied with my performance and told me later that the letter had saved him. to reward me, he gave me between five and ten potatoes a day for several weeks. Cooking them in the factory was by no means easy, but we found a way to do even this. Cooking potatoes in the camp was also very difficult. There was not a single small iron stove in the washroom. To get permission to use it, we had to pay a percentage of our potatoes to the room representative there. The stolen potato peelings were also cooked, and we made a cimes (dish) out of carrots. Every one of us suffered from stomach-aches.

One Sunday I was supposed to fetch our lunch together with a group of other men. We were standing next to the kitchen and waiting for the pails. At this moment a large cart load of sugar-beets arrived. A colleague and I decided immediately to organize a couple of sugar-beets for ourselves. My comrade (Zalelsohn) reached the cart, took a few for himself and got back safely. But I had lost time because I hesitated for a moment, and I was discovered by Hoffmann just as he was coming out. He took me with him into a small outer office, ordered me to take off my glasses, and gave me a had beating with his rubber truncheon. He hit me so hard in the face and head that I felt I wouldn't get out of there alive. Finally I had to carry a pail of food to the barrack all by myself. How I managed to do this is still a riddle to me. For long time I went around with my head completely swollen.

At other times this sadist would beat us on our naked buttocks for every small infraction. We would have to count the strokes of our punishment ourselves, and if we tried to skip a count he would start again at the beginning. Another punishment was to be locked up in a dark, cold bunker without food. In addition to all these torments we also felt the heavy hand of our camp representative. The first victim was a young fellow from Vienna who was beaten to death.

By now, most of us were mere skeletons. We were absolutely exhausted, morally, physically and emotionally. We clung to various news items that seemed positive. Now and then Gottlieb the watchmaker managed to hear something new on the radio, and his brother sometimes got a newspaper from an Aryan in the factory. Afterward we would discuss the latest news in great detail. I was convinced, especially toward the end. that our liberation was bound to come. And I talked about this with all my comrades. I always led the way with my optimism!
 

IV.

An infirmary was set up for the sick and the weak. It was headed by the nose, ear and throat specialist Dr. Jakobsohn, assisted by Dr. Volpert from Riga. Because Dr. Jakobsohn did not get along with Dr. Volpert,  he replaced him with Dr. Jaworkowsky Jr. The latter had a great deal of understanding for us and helped us whenever he could. There was also a dental clinic which was headed by the dentist Kahn from Riga. He had hardly any instruments at first, but over time he received the essentials. Before the dental clinic was set up the Buchenwald concentration camp had sent us an Aryan prisoner who was allegedly a dentist to "soothe" our toothaches. His entire battery of instruments consisted of one set of pliers for tooth extraction, and his sole manner of treatment was to pull teeth. He "treated" even people with sound teeth by extracting their gold teeth. Because of our state of half-starvation, the heavy labor and the beatings, the infirmary was always full of sick people. During the final months our bodies were so racked by starvation that clearly all or us had swellings, some on the face, others on the feet. Many also died because of the constant lack of food, for example Golowtschiner, my table-mate Birkhahn, A. Tukazir and others. At this point permission was given to set up a special block for recuperation. I will tell more about it later.

In the women's camp, which lay behind ours, the women were housed in barracks just as we were. The sanitation conditions there were much worse than ours. In particular, the condition of the latrines beggared all description. For this purpose there was only an open pit beside the barracks into which one could fall easily. The regulations and working conditions also matched ours. Outside the factory we had no contact of any kind with the women. The only intermediary was the little boy Sima, who was allowed to run back and forth between the two camps. Later on he had to act as a messenger boy for the camp representative for a short time, and after that he went with us to the factory for several weeks. There he stayed in what was called the women's kitchen.

From day to day we could see how quickly even the prettiest women lost their beauty. The women experienced some accidents in the factory too. One day scabies broke out in the women's camp (among the Aryan women as well). The doctors there were at their wits' end and came to Dr. Jakobsohn for help. Fortunately, this epidemic did not last long: if it had, they would certainly have been sent to Buchenwald to be gassed.(5)

On orders of the concentration camp's central administration, a tuberculosis examination was carried out. All of the women, Aryan and Jewish, were examined. Extraordinarily high numbers of cases were found in both groups. These sick women were then put into a group that was sent to Buchenwald to be gassed.(6) It included the woman from Vilna who had lost her hand In a factory accident, as well as our young comrade Sirotinski, because he was too sick to work. The woman survived by a lucky chance, but our comrade was killed.

One morning as we came into the factory to relieve the night shift, the women who had worked that night weren't there. We were very agitated. Later we found out the reason: the whole work crew had been taken back to the camp that night. Understandably, the women were thrown into a huge panic. All the women in the barracks also had to come out. All of them were ordered to line up around a square, in the middle of which stood a gallows. Not long afterward, a closed car drove up. Out of it stepped the executioner, wearing a top hat, patent-leather shoes and white gloves. The SS girls brought out a Ukrainian girl who was already half-dead. The main overseer held a short lecture. She declared that this girl had been condemned to die because of sabotage. The same thing would happen to any of them if they took even the slightest liberty. Then the poor woman was killed very quickly. Afterwards, all of them without exception had to march past the corpse. Anyone who didn't was beaten. People said the "sabotage" had taken place as follows: one of the factory foremen had tried to molest her and she had slapped his face in public. People also said that after the liberation this foreman had immediately been arrested by the Jews. His subsequent fate is unknown.


VI.

At the beginning of 1945 the factory was no longer operating at full capacity. The scarcity of raw materials was having its effect. There were days on which we only had to work for a few hours. But of course both the management and the foremen had the greatest interest in keeping the factory in operation. They knew very well that if the factory closed they would be drafted into the army. They found a solution by lending some of us Jewish workers to the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers Party). Our new occupation consisted of hauling material out of the bombed houses that could be used to build fortifications against the enemy. The factory management had to negotiate with the NSDAP for a fairly long time about our deployment, as the party officials were unwilling to send us to work in the town.

We men marched out of the gates of Polte for the first time. Not long alter we had left the camp w could already see the first ruins. Under heavy guard we matched through the once-beautiful town of Magdeburg. We went through the center of town, past the main railroad station and saw not a single house that was whole, only rubble. Huge apartment buildings had collapsed like houses of cards. Only a few people were out on the streets. The guards drove us toward the Hindenburg Bridge. which we had to fortify against the enemy. There was one thing we could not understand at all: Magdeburg, which lay in the heart of Germany, had to be protected from the enemy already? "Comrades," I called out, "it makes sense. It's all clear to me now!" We have a saying: "When the bell rings. the work's over!" I had overheard a German saying quite openly that the Russian army 's vanguards had broken through and were now only a few hundred kilometers from Magdeburg. I kept it to myself, for after I had told a comrade he had simply laughed at me. So I told them to work "hard" - after all, we had to win the war.

When I worked on fortifications. I was always lucky. It was that way in Riga too: the enemy bypassed the city and my fortifications stood firm. I hoped the same thing would happen again in Magdeburg. And indeed, I was lucky once more. The Americans made a detour around the town, and our months of work were all in vain. We had to fortify not only the bridges, but also the access roads. For this purpose. heavy steel beams were dragged out of the bombed houses. Once as we were working in the wrecked houses, we "strolled" through a hole in a cellar in hopes of "organizing" something there. We found a tremendous amount of loot, for the Germans had stored huge amounts of food in their cellars. There were some excellent items: puddings and first-class drinks. Everything had to he eaten as fast as possible. The only thing we could take with us was potatoes. Sometimes we found potatoes already roasted by the conflagration. But it was dangerous to take even potatoes back into the camp. Our murderers in the camp had heard about it, and when we returned they searched us thoroughly and gave us a terrible heating. Some of us will not forget how often we bled for those potatoes. "Strolling around" in the bombed-out cellars meant death in any case, for signs hung everywhere to the effect that looting was punishable by death. So we were risking our lives to get something to eat. One great advantage of our new work was that at the NSDAP work detail we received an extra bowl of soup at midday. In a word, it was worth the effort.

Because some sections of the factory were still operating, not all of us could get into a work crew in the town. In any case, the situation at the camp eased significantly, and everyone tried hard to get into the fortification work crews. Besides the crew working on the Hindenburg Bridge, which we called "the long tour", there was also a second work crew. "the short tour". which worked on the Hitler Bridge. We went to work in the town without tools. Only on the way there, in the courtyard of NSDAP headquarters, were shovels and other tools handed out to us, and we had to give them back when we returned. Shouldering our tools like weapons, we marched through the town singing. We sang Soviet songs in Russian. In our group. the song "Bej wintowka, po golowkie bezposzczadno po wragu" (Shoot mercilessly with your rifle at your enemy's head) and the well-known song "Katjuscha" were great hits. But the SS people soon found out what the texts of the songs meant and forbade us to sing them. The townspeople, and the displaced Russian civilians even more so, watched us in astonishment. The Hungarian Jews. who marched in even better military formation we did, also sang their Hungarian songs. Later on, many women also came to work in the town: they had to carry bricks and dig trenches. For us the work was a great relief, not only because we got better food, but especially because we could now form a rough picture of Germany's situation - after seeing all the ruins being flown over by thousands of airplanes every day, and hearing the reports of the OKW or Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (Germany army headquarters). We knew that the destruction of Magdeburg had lasted only 55 minutes. Initially we were accompanied only by the SS guards. Their leader was Oberscharfhrer Hochwarg. Later they were replaced by the Volkssturm (teenage boys recruited during the last days of the war). Among the latter there were also many who beat us.

During the final week before our "temporary liberation" we received one more new transport of Polish Jews. They were sent to do special clearing-up work and were not part of the factory work crews. They lived in a separate barrack under very bad conditions and were already totally exhausted because of the long time they had been prisoners (since 1939). They were assigned to do a very good kind of work where one could organize a great deal. At their work station they found a large maline (hiding place) full of barrels of stinking old herring salad which they sold to us like hot cakes. They also got their hands on mocha-chocolate beans. The trade flourished, and in order to get some herring salad we parted from our last pieces of bread. These Jews too had to line up at the usual roll calls. It was very lucky for them that our camp representative was not in charge of that. Before they were assigned to their work, they were subjected to the usual delousing process in our washrooms under very harsh conditions.

 Although some things eased up for us because we were in the town work crew, our ranks continued to thin out. Many people went to the infirmary and died there. The number of people with edemas due to starvation (swollen faces, legs, etc.) kept increasing, and so it was decided to set up a recovery block. I was there too. Initially I wasn't accepted because the recovery block was overfilled. The recovery consisted of receiving a small amount of medical treatment and not having to go to work. While I was in the recovery block I became certain that something would happen - that is, that the end was coming. The Americans were getting more "impudent" every day in their bombing work and paying us their visits several times a day. Finally even the large cold-storage depots of Magdeburg, which were located only a few hundred steps from us, were bombed. This caused tremendous damage. Because I did not want to be classified as "unable to work" any longer, I decided to return to the camp despite my weakened condition.

The next day - it was 11 April 1945 - we were sent to another place. We were ordered to dig protective trenches behind the town. Besides us, Aryan inmates from the prisons were also working there. On the way we noticed that armored cars had been stationed on the corners in preparation for street fighting. We now assumed that our liberators were very close to the town. But we didn't know anything more detailed than that. After finishing our work we went back toward the camp. In the meantime the armored cars had been parked across the streets so as to block them. Our SS leaders no longer knew what to do and led us up toward the cemetery. There they quarreled about whether we should stay there or return to the camp. Finally they decided: "Back to the camp!" On the way we met our murderers Hoffmann and Schuller. They had all their luggage with them, and Jews were being forced to pull it for them in a wagon. When the SS guards saw Hoffmann and Schuller, they left us standing there and ran away. We threw our tools down on the street and were free! We stood there paralyzed and couldn't grasp it at all.

I decided not to return to the camp and spent the night with two comrades in a woodshed in the town. I didn't go back to the camp until the next morning. On the way there, the civilian population was already giving us bread. In the camp a great celebration was going on. All the gates stood open and everyone was walking around freely. The Hungarian and Polish Jews had already disappeared. All the food supplies had been plundered. In our barrack I was treated to a holiday banquet. My comrade Sienitzki and I found new sleeping quarters for ourselves in the SS barrack. Because of a heavy bombardment by the Americans, which we had always wished for, we spent a sleepless night. Early the next morning an armed group of Volkssturm recruits appeared and ordered us to line up. Many of us fled immediately and disappeared: many others had stayed in the town and hidden in the ruins. We were put into a column together with many women, and under heavy guard we were led out of the town and across the Elbe. The dream of freedom had been brief, and we were prisoners again!

One of the SS men. an Oberscharfhrer from Vienna named Mauser, had put on a prisoners uniform. He was seized and shot on the spot. We marched for a long time in an unknown direction. We noticed that the Germans were preparing to resist and fortifying the access road to the bridges. After several hours of marching, we stopped at a tennis court to rest. The women were separated from the men. Two large trucks full of the weak and the sick, including Dubin's son, also arrived. I was standing next to a certain 0. Fain. Fortunately I left this spot to gather kindling. At that moment the English and the Americans flew over us and bombarded us heavily. Shots hailed down from all directions. There was screaming and weeping everywhere. Our guards disappeared. and the place was full of victims. O. Fein and the very popular Dr. May had been smashed to pieces. Many women had also been wounded.

My comrade Mrs. Betty Segall lay on the ground screaming, her foot shattered. I was so disoriented, that I couldn't give her any help. A long time later I still suffered from remorse. and I couldn't free myself of it until I had heard that Mrs. Segall was well again.

We left about thirty to forty dead and wounded comrades behind on the tennis court. It looked just like a battlefield. The rest of us were gathered together anew and forced to march on. From town to town, we were handed over to new Volkssturm recruits, and nobody actually knew what our destination was. En route, my comrades Scheftel and Sienitzki also disappeared, which I regretted very much. The trucks for the weak and the sick were commanded by the former physician Hirschowitz from Estonia. I too was put into one of the transports. As we were driving down a broad avenue the English bombarded us, and even a large white flag did not save us. Once again, I survived by pure chance. We had eight victims in our group. At last we reached a railroad station where the Volkssturm recruits handed us over to SS people. The next morning we made a detour around Berlin and arrived at the Oranienburg station.

 The Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp (Oranienburg)

Oranienburg is the main station of Sachsenhausen. On the morning we arrived we immediately received a visit from the English bomber pilots; it was clear that they were growing more and more impudent. They flew quite low and attacked the arriving passenger trains with machine guns that could be seen with the naked eye. Our transport was not spared. We ran in all directions into the open fields, and so did our "brave heroes", the SS guards. Some of us used the opportunity to make their way back to the town and hide there. When it grew quieter, we gathered together again in our freight cars and traveled a short distance further to Sachsenhausen. Here we stood for a long time. We men were ordered to leave the train and the women stayed inside. We waited until a large group of women from Sachsenhausen arrived at the station. They took the places we had vacated in the train which was to go on to the Ravensburg concentration camp. The newly arrived women met a great many acquaintances and even relatives among the women who had arrived with us. The joy of reunion was very moving; there were tears and kisses. These were women from Lodz, and all of them had passed though the Auschwitz camp.

Guarded by SS men, we now marched on to our new lodgings. On the way we noticed many beautiful houses, veritable palaces, in which the murderers of Sachsenhausen were residing together with their families. We now came to a large gate reminiscent of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. That is where the Sachsenhausen concentration camp began. At the gate there was a small registration room, and in the middle of it stood a cocked machine gun. Sachsenhausen made a tremendous impression on us. It was one of the largest camps in Germany and had the same status as Dachau and Buchenwald. There were huge barracks everywhere, and "the big oven" dominated the whole picture from afar. In my time the camp housed 32,000 people. There were only a few Jews among them, and the Jews tried as best they could to conceal their race.

We marched into a semicircular square. There were huge printed announcements everywhere. Some of them have stayed in my memory: "Work liberates! Its milestones are: work. diligence. discipline, obedience, love of the fatherland, the joy of self-sacrifice" and so on. We were registered and received new prisoners' numbers. My number, which also became my last name, was: Prisoner No. 124529. As usual, we were led to the delousing station and received different striped rags. Everything was done in great haste and, for the first time, quietly. We could see that the administrators were very nervous. We were led into a special barrack that was completely enclosed, round about and above, in wire netting. It was like being in a huge chicken coop. Inside there was nothing to sit or sleep on. We sat on the floor and hung around all day in the narrow courtyard, into which a few sunbeams fell. We were not allowed to leave this cage, so we were in a locked prison. Nobody took care of us. Nobody thought of feeding us at all. We heard that we would not be sent to work for the time being. Up to that time the prisoners had mainly been sent to work in the large Heinkel airplane factory nearby. At the factory there was a special barrack with its own set of guards. Its inmates were never allowed to come out and were already destined for eternity. It turned out that this barrack contained a small printing works. The Germans were trying to "defeat" the English by producing colossal amounts of counterfeit English banknotes there so that they could cause a devaluation of English currency.

In the evenings there was the usual roll call. We stood lined up in our small, narrow courtyard. There was no supper, so we had to go to bed hungry. It was 18 April 1945, my birthday. My life passed before me like a dream; painfully, I thought of my whole family and regretted that I was still alive at all, that I alone had survived and had not shared my relatives' fate.

We sat down on the floor of our barrack, so close together that if you wanted to go outside in the dark it was impossible to find a way out. There was not enough room for everyone, but the crafty guards found a solution. Large, long tables were brought in, and one group would sleep on top of them while another group lay underneath. These were the clever inventions of trained sadists. Every day new people were brought to join us. The only place left to put them was the courtyard. Fortunately, it was already getting warmer. The following evening we received our first rations, which meant we hadn't had anything to eat for nearly two days. We were very weak, dragging our feet as we walked.

On the third day there were more new arrivals. This made us suspect that our liberators were very close by. By then I was no longer interested in anything; all I wanted was to eat. That night, planes dropped a number of bombs near the camp. They spared us again, for they knew that here tens of thousands of people were waiting to be liberated. At four in the morning a general restlessness became evident in the entire camp. A German SS man who knew Polish came to us. He announced, "The camp will be evacuated in an unspecified direction: rows must be formed five abreast, a thousand men to a column: food for four days will be handed out. Everyone must take his place in a column according to his nationality. Those who are sick or believe they won't survive a long march can stay here. They will be collected and taken away later on."

What to do? I was weak but I didn't want to stay with the sick people under any circumstances, for they would certainly be "taken care of". I decided to muster up the last of my strength and go along. Next I had to think about which column I ought to join. It seemed dangerous to go with the Jews, for they would certainly share the fate of the sick. Since I spoke Polish, I thought the best course for me would be to join the Polish column. So, together with a few other Jewish comrades, I smuggled myself into their ranks. The Poles noticed this and tried to throw me out. I explained in the purest Polish that I was half-Polish, which reassured them. We heard screams and shots in the distance. The clothing depots and all the workshops were being looted. Thick smoke was pouring out of the chimneys of the office rooms.

Now it was our column's turn, and we marched out of the camp. Before we did so, each person received a whole loaf of bread and a piece of Tilsit cheese. We were happy, overjoyed. A whole loaf of bread! How long it had been since we had held a whole loaf of bread in our hands! I had wished for this for years!

Thus we left the cruel concentration camp that is known to the world as Sachsenhausen. We marched on...


The Road to Freedom (Liberation)

We marched out through the great gate of the Sachsenhausen camp. Many SS men in uniform who had been assigned to the individual marching columns were already waiting for us on the other side. One column after another began to move. They traveled along a great variety of routes, but all of them had the same destination: Rostock. I no longer thought about anything at all. I only held my loaf of bread, which was my food ration for four days, in my trembling hands and gradually I began to eat it. Because of my raging hunger I couldn't stand to wait any longer, and it was impossible for me to save these provisions for later. I had to strengthen myself in order to survive; if I hadn't, I would have simply fallen over. I marched and I ate, looking neither left nor right. Slowly my strength seemed to return, and I felt that perhaps I would make it after all. We knew nothing about recent political events, but we realized clearly that the situation was very tense. The SS divisions forced us to march between fifteen and twenty kilometers a day; time seemed precious.

In the mornings it was still cold, but by noon it became warmer, sometimes even hot. We threw away all the blankets and similar things we had with us to lighten our loads. The whole road was already covered with the things discarded by the columns marching ahead of us. I replaced a few of my things with other ones and wound a towel around my head. On the way we met comrades who had collapsed. They were lying in the roadside ditches and waiting to be picked up. Many of them had already died.

During the day there were several breaks. Fires were made, and those who had organized potatoes for themselves tried to roast them. It was by no means easy to light a fire, for we hardly knew where we should get the wood for it. Most people teamed up in groups to cook their potatoes. In the evening we were forced into a barn, or we stayed in the open fields. The earth was damp, and so were our striped clothes. People tried to warm themselves against each other. In the effort. many fell asleep forever, and our guards' attempts to wake them with truncheons and gunshots were in vain. They were asleep forever, and nobody saw to it that they were buried. Because the whole road was covered with people in striped uniforms. we called our march the "March of the Dead". One died sooner, the other later, and hardly anyone was able to survive. The rations provided by the SS were very meager: two or three potatoes a day. They gave us nothing more. Sometimes we saw whole mountains of sugar-beets and potatoes in the fields, but the SS men did not allow us to go near them. Every expedition toward them resulted in some of us being killed. But punishment meant little to us, for we knew we had to die one way or another.

Once on this march we came upon a dead horse. The people marching ahead of us had already torn out large chunks of flesh. We didn't rest till we had organized the remains for ourselves, whatever the cost. We cut all of it into small pieces, roasted them over a lire, and thus had an unhoped-for meal of meat.

Several days later we marched into a large forest. We were ordered to stay there. All the columns. consisting of thousands of people gathered together, and we lay down on the ground to sleep. During the night the women's divisions arrived from Sachsenhausen, and they were ordered to sleep in another part of the forest. The forest was completely international. We heard a great variety of languages, and every nationality slept in its own section. We broke twigs from the trees to make fires. This had also been forbidden by the murderers. There was no talk of food; we got nothing at all to eat. Water was a further problem. Expeditions were sent to a nearby stream to fetch water. Indescribable scenes took place. Many people found their death in this stream. We heard shooting from all directions. Our "protectors" would shoot whenever they saw a prisoner too close to the fence.

For three days we sat in this forest in despair, with no food. We prepared to die of starvation. But then one evening we saw the arrival of a Red Cross truck with "Canada" written on it. How could a Canadian Red Cross truck have gotten there? We were absolutely astonished!

But it vanished just as unexpectedly as it had come. Less than an hour later a whole column or Red Cross trucks arrived. We were very excited, for we didn't know what was going on. We were told that the Americans had heard about us and were sending us food. How they could do this in the middle of Germany was a riddle to us, but without their help we would surely have died. We were happy not only about the packages but also about the fact that people cared about our fate, that we were no longer alone. Until then we hadn't known what they would do with the Jews and whether there was a plan to save us too. But the Americans made no exceptions, so each of us got a package. They distributed the packages themselves, for they didn't trust the SS people. And for our part, we made sure the SS people got nothing.

We opened our presents, and I couldn't believe my eyes. Everything was there, from chocolate and various canned goods to dried milk powder. But the thing we were most interested in, bread, was missing: there were only some cookies. I hadn't seen such delicious things for years, and for years I hadn't felt so satisfied. Once again I was ahead of the others with my optimism. No, we would surely survive! I lay there all night chewing and, unlike my comrades, once again I saved nothing for later.

In the meantime some Red Cross ambulances had also arrived, and they gathered up the weak people. On my shoulders I carried my comrade Stameskin from Riga, who was in a very bad condition, to the place for the sick people. In the forest I met the notorious murderer and prisoner from the Kaiserwald concentration camp in Riga, Bolek, who had killed the Riga police chief Haar and murdered various people in the recuperation block (Block No. 2). There I also saw our tormentors from Magdeburg, the sadists Hoffmann and Schuller, again. They were always together. Even the Viennese Oberscharfhrer of the "long tour" work crew in Magdeburg, turned up.

Suddenly an order was given: Everyone line up as before in closed columns for the onward march! Wrapped in my rags, with a scarf and a blanket on my head, I dragged myself forward. I looked like a real Moslem. We passed villages and small towns. There was panic and destruction everywhere. We were told that the inhabitants were running toward the Americans: people were also saying that the Russians were already pressing on Berlin. In the forest we even saw the evacuated Berlin Fire Department with all its equipment. Everything was moving in blind confusion. A column of Russians wearing German SS uniforms also marched past us. These were the notorious traitors, the wlasowcy. They offered us cigarettes but we didn't accept them, for we wanted nothing to do with them. Members of the Hitlerjugend were also on the road, for everyone was afraid of the Russians.

Already we had nearly forgotten the good times. Hunger tormented us anew. We got nothing at all from "our hosts". We were living on nothing but the few potatoes we managed to scavenge. People were dropping like flies. Many decided to escape. Further along the march we again received food packages from the Americans, but this time it was only one package for every four people. It was hard to distribute the food among starving people. One person would receive the package, and three others would run after him. He would disappear into the crowd, and so the others would get no food. There was screaming and moaning everywhere!

The SS men were very nervous and would reach for their weapons on the least pretext. At night they chased our column into a stable. It was dark and there wasn't enough room for everyone. Together with my comrade Chait I stayed in the courtyard. The SS people decided that we were trying to escape. Chait disappeared as fast as he could into the stable. The SS men grabbed me, dragged me off to the side, and were about to get rid of me. My explanation was that I had stayed outside only because there was no room inside did not help me at all. They beat me horribly and put me against the wall to be shot. I felt the final minutes of my life approaching. The night was splendid, the moon was shining with especial beauty, and it was infinitely difficult for me to part from all of it. The SS man shot over my head, whether intentionally or not I didn't know. In any case, he asked me where my comrade was. By then he was lying inside near the entrance. I pretended I was going to look for him in the stable and disappeared into the crowd. And so that incident ended.

The next morning we had to march on. We passed a large airfield where a great many damaged German planes were standing. The German soldiers on the airfield obviously had no commanding officers, for people were wandering around in all directions. My comrades threw themselves into the roadside ditch to escape. In the evening we reached a small wood on a peninsula and prepared to sleep there. Here there was water and wood. We made fires, but the wind and the cold kept us from sleeping. The ground was damp and we had nothing to lie on. I was already totally exhausted, and I decided to end this torture the next day, come what may.

In the morning we marched on. We reached the town of Parchim. There we received, for the first time in a long time, some hot coffee from the kettles of the Wehrmacht. The civilian population threw us rotten potatoes to eat. Like everyone else, I flung myself on the potatoes and fell directly into one of these piles of potatoes. Because they were totally rotten and by then were nothing but stinking mush. I got myself completely filthy and gained nothing. The SS men beat us with their rifle butts to get us into line again. Then we marched on.

This was on 1 May 1945. The sun was shining beautifully. Suddenly a truck full of Russian prisoners came into view and drove slowly past. I greeted them and congratulated them on the international holiday. I could scarcely walk. So I lagged behind till I was the last one in our row, and then I threw myself into the roadside ditch. The Scharfhrer  came up to me, gave me a kick, and assumed I was already dead, so he left me lying there.

When the column had disappeared, I crept out and crawled into a nearby wood. Was I really free? I was still surrounded by enemies. I went deeper into the wood in order to rest a little but I couldn't sleep, for the thought of my liberty gave me no rest. In the distance I heard voices and saw a fire. Next to it stood three young men: they too were prisoners from the columns who had stayed behind. They received me in a very friendly way, but they were not really reassured until I started to speak to them in Russian. They were Russians from the concentration camp and had already been there for several days. They had scavenged potatoes and were cooking a Russian borscht for themselves, using the potatoes and some grass. After the meal they left me.

I was in a desperate situation. I didn't dare to enter the nearby village because of my clothes. Then I saw a cart in the field: on it was a farmer wearing the sign "P" (for Pole). I went up to him and explained my situation to him in Polish. I asked him to help me, the main thing being to get me different clothes. He told me to meet him the same day in a large hay barn. He arrived at the agreed-upon time with a loaf of bread and a suit. I embraced him for joy. He told me we were surrounded in all directions by the English and the Americans, and that the Russians were nearby too. I spent the whole night in the hay barn and ate my loaf of bread, even though I wasn't hungry at all. For the first time, I thought about my future. I was sure I would be liberated during the next few days. All night long I heard shooting all around me. This meant that the retreating German army was destroying various items of military equipment.

In the morning white flags were already hanging in the village. People were waiting for the victors to arrive. I realized that now I could enter the village. I waited for my liberators with impatience. They arrived very soon. When I saw the first one, I embraced him and kissed him, full of overwhelming joy.

Was I now free?

Yes, now I was truly free!

But I couldn't believe that after years of imprisonment I was free again at last. Initially I wasn't happy about my fate at all, for what was I supposed to do now? My wife was dead, my son was dead, my next of kin and my friends had all been killed, my possessions had been destroyed and stolen! Alone, sick, weak and old, how was I supposed to build my future? What was I to do now with my freedom?

What I most wanted was to be destroyed together with the whole world and dissolve into dust and ashes.

But I gathered together my courage, following my inner voice, for I had been given back to life - and now I would go on with my life toward the unknown future.
 

Via Stutthof-Burggraben-Gottendorf-Riben-Lauenburg to Freedom
(Excerpt Based
on Other Reports)

On 17 October 1944 a part of the Riga transport (about 100 people). headed by Mischa Glcksmann, was taken from Stutthof to Danzig. Equipped with new prisoners uniforms, the prisoners were sent directly from the washroom onto the steamship. On 23 October 1944 the second transport (about 500 people) was put together and sent to Danzig under the commandership of the former head of the ghetto labor authority, Kassel.

Among these Jews were some from Latvia and Lithuania and a few from Germany. From Danzig the two transports moved on to Burggraben, where they lived in small log cabins. Later they were joined by more Jews to strengthen the commando, so that the total number, including the women, eventually reached 1,600. The last arrivals were former inmates of Auschwitz - Hungarian, Greek, and other Jews. The camp representative, Mischa Glcksmann, was the top commander. He slapped Kassel, who was a decent human being, and appointed him to be a block representative. Because Glcksmann had a sadistic nature, our situation grew much worse under his leadership. He chose the Pole Charnek, who was also especially cruel, to assist him.

The work station of the people in this barracks camp was about 15 kilometers from Danzig, and the Jews had to work in two twelve-hour shifts (day and night) in the Schichau shipyard. Because of the poor food and the heavy labor, there were numerous cases of illness and death. The cause was mostly dysentery.

The physicians Dr. Sick from Liepaja and Dr. Levi from Berlin worked in the camp infirmary. Dr. Sick is already known to the reader from the chapter on the Kaiserwald concentration camp, but I would like to say a few more words about his self-sacrificing work in Burggraben. Although he had himself been weakened by the continuous hardships and privations, as well as a heart condition, it is thanks to his knowledge and abilities that hundreds of comrades are still alive.

At the end of 1944 and 1945, when epidemics such as typhus, dysentery and so on broke out in Burggraben, he played down the sicknesses in his reports to the SS camp administrators and falsified the statistics. Had he not done so, the camp would have been put into quarantine, as happened to so many others. The camp's inmates would then have been cut off from the outside world and left to their certain death by starvation.

Dr. Damje from Liepaja and Dvinsk worked in the women's infirmary.

On 10 February 1945, as the front inexorably approached, the Jews were evacuated from the camp toward Lauenburg. Once again, many comrades lost their lives in this evacuation because of weakness and illness. Among the people I knew who died were: Abram Lazer, Jascha Sobolewitz. Herzenberg, Bahn, Josif Misroch, Benze Liwschtz, the prominent young composer Liwschtz, Ika Basch, Jonnv Westermann, the popular Vilna athlete Abramowitz, Abram Grnberg from Vilna and a large number of others.

The rest were liberated by the Russians on 10 March 1945. The comrades Weiner (a singer), Jewnowitz and Ch. Kahn died one hour before the liberation.

During the liberation one of the prisoners (whose name is unknown) called out when he saw the Russians: "Tovarishchi!" (Comrades!) and fell over dead. A boy from Riga named Fleischmann was reportedly among the liberators (in the Red Army).

After the liberation there were still more victims, namely those who died in the Lauenburg hospital: Oskar Lutrin, Israel Itkin, Mehr and Gendl from Dvinsk.

Among those who were liberated were: Dr. Klebanow, Dr. Sick, the lawyer Lewinsohn, Schelkan..Arnow-Aronsohn, Solomir, Perelmann, Dr. Schwab (from Liepaja), Moses Ratz and his son, the Chaim brothers, Max Finkelstein, Benjamin Edelstein, Salomon Gutkin, the Pulvermachers (father and son), the Gutmann siblings, Brn and others. The survivors from Vilna included David Pergament, the jeweler Liwschitz and others.


From Riga via the Stutthof-Buchenwald-Zeitz-Remersdorf Concentration Camps to
Theresienstadt and Freedom  (Excerpt Based on Other Reports)

The large transport that left Riga on 6 August 1944 on the steamship Bremerhaven included thousands of Jewish men and women. Among them were Latvian, Lithuanian, German and Czech Jews. They were first taken to Danzig and from there to Stutthof in smaller ships. They did not stay there long, for they soon had to make room for new arrivals. Most of them were taken to the Buchenwald concentration camp. Among those who stayed in Stutthof were the dentist Berniker, the lawyer ltkin and his sons, and many young girls who worked for the local farmers.

Those who were sent to Buchenwald had to spend a three-week quarantine period in a tent camp. They lay directly in the dirt, and there was no opportunity whatsoever to wash themselves. One noontime during these weeks, the Americans bombarded the nearby Gustloff works (which lay 100 meters from the camp). More than 1,500 prisoners were killed in this attack.(7)

The nearby SS barrack was also bombed, and in this attack more than 300 people were killed.

After the bombardment old Professor Mintz, who had had to do heavy labor in the concentration camp, was moved to the clinic.

In the meantime the entire transport was divided into three sections. One section was sent to Zeitz-Remersdorf. a smaller section to Bochum, and the rest stayed in the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Zeitz-Remersdorf, which was quite close by, was a large labor camp that was part of the Buchenwald concentration camp. The number of Jewish prisoners there was over 4,000. In the summer they lived in tents in Zeitz, and in the winter in unhygienic stone barracks in Remersdorf. The living conditions were wretched, and the rations extremely meager. The prisoners worked in the Brabag works (brown coal and synthetic petroleum). People died like flies, and the weak ones were sent to Buchenwald to be gassed.(8) Buchenwald then sent back new prisoners, who were Jews from Hungary. Among the Latvian Jews one saw the lawyer Wittenberg, Kaim, the Koelmann brothers, Dr. Goldring, Dr. Rogalin, Dr. Weinreich and others. The doctors survived. but all the others died. The doctors practically sacrificed themselves in order to ease their co-religionists' fate. Dr. Gittelsohn also died there.

As the Americans were approaching this area, the camp was liquidated. Everyone was awakened in the night, forced into cattle cars and transported further to Theresienstadt. The sick people. who came in special freight cars, were to be transported to Buchenwald. Their later fate is unknown, but in any case they did not survive. They included Moses Scherman, J. Sener and others.

The train that traveled to Theresienstadt was literally a funeral procession. Of the 3,500 persons in it, only 750 arrived alive; all the others died on the way. Typhus was raging in Theresienstadt during this period, so the small number of survivors was reduced further.

Theresienstadt was a large ghetto containing mainly Austrian and Czech Jews. If I am not mistaken, at that time it was the only remaining ghetto, for the Germans had made an exception and not liquidated it in order to give the world the impression that ghettos still existed. It was a transit ghetto, and so its inhabitants changed frequently.

In 1941 Jews were sent from there to Riga and later on to Auschwitz and Majdanek to be exterminated. Theresienstadt even had its own money. A large percentage of the inmates succumbed to the typhus epidemic at that time, but the authorities had no interest whatsoever in taking any measures against it.

On 8 May 1945 the prisoners were liberated by the Russians. Among the liberated Latvian Jews was Alexander Westermann (who was prominent in the textile industry).

The Jews who had been sent to Bochum (about 500 people) had to work in a munitions factory. Their living conditions were very bad. On 4 November 1944 this factory was bombed by the English. Among those who died in this bombardment were two Latvian Jews (one of them was the dental technician Jesil from Liepaja).

The death rate in the Bochum barracks camp was very high. As the Americans were approaching, there were only a few left, and they were transported back to Buchenwald.

The Jews who had remained in Buchenwald had a very bad time of it. They were forced to do especially hard labor, including work in the stone quarries there. Many of the new arrivals from Riga died there, including Professor Mintz. The former ghetto police chief, the German Jew Frankenberg, was gassed. The Jews, who had not forgotten his role in the weapons incident and other actions, made sure that he died.

The evacuation of Buchenwald began on 7 April 1944. The departure was scheduled for early morning, and the columns started to march together with the Jews who had returned from Bochum. While the people were going out through the gate, more than 100 prisoners were shot dead. These were the weak ones who were in no condition to be transported. The others had to march about 30 kilometers a day toward the Dachau concentration camp. This "death march" claimed numerous victims. According to our comrades' reports, those who died included: the Karaimskis (father and son), Zalkind, Isaaksohn. Izia Kaplan, Schapiro, the Amburg brothers, Berner, Wulf Ritow, the Minsker brothers, Max Kahn, Dr. Salitan, Zacharow, Saminski, Slawin, Zibin, Willy Weide, the engineers Schugall, HIndin, and Abram Kagan, Abram Baran, Kocin, Axelrod, Mendelsohn, Michelsohn, Gabi Blechmann, Scholnik, the Krger brothers, Balkin, Plonski, Schemer, Dr. Jakobsogn, Benja Gurwitz, Gordon, Sioma Gurwitz, the dentists Medin and Heimann, Schitlowski, the musicians Bernin and Karam, Starobiniec and Israelsohn.

Among the Jews from Dvinsk who died were: Safro, Safir, 0jguston, Gafanowitz, Karasik, the engineer Rosin, Dordik, Codek, Joelsohn and Skutelski. The Jews from Libau who died were: Rolow, Westermann, Ephraim Simson and Gotthardt.

Among the Jews from Ventspils, use dead included the Mendelsohn brothers and many others.

The march lasted fifteen days. After this march, only a very small handful of people survived until the liberation.


The Dachau Concentration Camp (Excerpt Based on Other Reports)

The Jews who arrived at Dachau in the transport from Riga were those who had been evacuated earlier from the Dnawerke, Spilve and other Riga barracks camps. They had first been sent to work in Ponewesch in Lithuania. As the front approached, they were sent on from there, together with the Lithuanian Jews.

In view of the short time they spent as prisoners in Dachau, an extraordinarily large number of them died of murder and weakness. According to our comrades' reports, the Latvian Jews who died included: Israil Mehr, Jakob Mehr, Friedrich Schapiro, Elias Smitzkowitz, Solomon Latz, Joseph Lewin, Mendel Joffe, Simon Swirski, Kalman Michailowitz, the Jownowitz brothers, Nathan Minsker, Joel Isakowitz, Max Karp, Simon Leiter, Wulf and Chaim Kaplan, Ber Glck, Fajwusch Zak, Josef Sichelmann, Hirsch Lewenstein, Meilach and his son, Wulf Lewenstein, Ephraim Kagan, Abram Katz, Paul Schadel, Sch. Ringelmacher, lsaak Knigsfest, Grnholz, Abram Matis, David Kremer, Jakob Judelsohn, L. Gnzburg, Eliezer Lewin and others.
 

The Day of Commemoration (Jorzait) in the Riga Synagogue (Tenth Day of the Month of Kislev)

The streets leading into the Old Town swarm with people. The Jews are streaming toward the large synagogue in Peitavas Street. People are getting lost in the ruins of the Old Town, and it's difficult to find the way.

Long before the scheduled time, the narrow Peitavas Street is full of Jews who can be seen here again for the first time after a pause of five years.

The heads of the Latvian inhabitants can be seen everywhere in the windows of the neighboring houses. Their faces wear a shocked expression. They know and fear only too clearly that they are to blame for everything that is happening here now. They had believed that nobody would remain alive, and that nobody would be able to bear witness to the local people's actions.

The large Peitavas Street synagogue stands forlorn, waiting for the revival of Jewish Riga.

This synagogue has survived not because the enemy wanted to spare it: it has survived merely because the neighboring houses stand so close to it that a fire in the synagogue would have endangered them as well.

The outside of the synagogue has not suffered as much as its interior, the inside of the beautiful synagogue has lost all its magnificence, and everything in it has disappeared except for one small bench.

The oroin koidesch (holy shrine) and even the walls have been desecrated by the hands of the enemy.

I climb the few steps leading to the synagogue and stay there for a while. I am moved to go down to the bet hamidrot:(house of prayer) in the cellar where I prayed when I was a young man, and where the late Riga rabbi Sack taught the Schiur. or Talmud. There too, everything has been destroyed and nothing remains.

I remember Cantor Abramis. who for many years thrilled Jewish hearts here with his beautiful voice.

On this day the Jews are meeting here to weep over their sorrows and meditate on the best and most beautiful of what they have lost.

I meet comrades from camps and concentration camps who tell me about their various experiences. They also report on many people who died in Germany after the liberation because of their weakness, or who are still in hospitals battling with death.

I also see Jews who have returned from the Soviet Union. But the Jews I used to meet in my daily life and business rounds are no longer there.

The largest proportion of Jews present are from our eastern provinces, who had the possibility of fleeing from the enemy. I ask about one or another person. None of them is there. This murderous war has claimed countless victims.

Numerous graves of Latvian Jews lie near Moscow (Lenino), and still more near StarajaRussa. These Jewish heroes protected Moscow from the enemy with their own bodies, and thus gave another glorious chapter to history.

Now they lie still in their graves and are known as the heroes of the Latvian Guard division. They have lost their Jewish names, which are not publicly mentioned and thus the wordd does not know they were Jews.

The women's gallery above is full to bursting. The women are already weeping even before they cross the threshold of the synagogue. They also weep before the cantor has recited the Hazkoro, or prayer of commemoration.

People weep as they greet each other. They no longer ask about one or another person, for hardly any one has survived anyway. Among the women are a great many young widows.

Many men and women are in uniform. One sees very high-ranking Jews. and those who have already been demobilized are still wearing their uniforms.

The congregation looks very poor, as if a war were over.

This is the Riga of today!

This is not only Riga but most of the Jewish Latvian community!

Whether great or small, all of them are here.

And the Jewish kibbutz (community) of Latvia, which once was so large and beautiful, can today easily fit into the only synagogue that has survived.

Izkor (commemoration)!

I am one of the few who know when Kaddish has to be said. Most of them don't know this.

The present rabbi (who was saved in Riga but is not a native of the city) climbs to the chancel next to the oroin koidesch.

The synagogue is as quiet as a tomb. The rabbi tries to speak but his voice is choked by tears.

The people in the gallery and below sob and weep and cannot calm down.

The rabbi begins his sermon. He thanks God the Almighty for the fact that Jews can now gather together in the city that was supposed to be "free of Jews". He thanks the liberators also.

He touches upon our great tragedy, but a new storm of pain that breaks out among all of those present prevents him for a time from going on with his sermon. He tells of the great martyrdom of the Jewish kibbutz of Latvia, and goes on to speak of the native Latvian population, which played a great role in our destruction.

We simply cannot believe that the people who had grown up with us and lied with us looked upon our great misfortune so pitilessly and even increased it.

The rabbi lifts up his hands to the Almighty. He prays to Him for retribution for all the spilled blood of our holy ones. When he has finished, the whole assembly weeps and shouts with a single voice: "Amen:"

A few more people speak about our great misfortune, but it cannot be described: only the few survivors can comprehend it.

We knew only too well that our dearest and best, our wives, children and husbands, our fathers and mothers. sisters and brothers are now in Rumbula, Bikernieki and Baltezers.

We know just as well that the ashes of the people dearest to us have been scattered all over the fields of Latvia.

For us, all of Latvia is a huge cemetery - a cemetery without graves or gravestones.

The cantor sings "Keil molei rachmim",  the prayer of remembrance.

People weep and weep endlessly.

The Hazkoro, or funeral service, is over.

Money is collected for wire so that the places where our departed ones found their eternal rest can be fenced in.

No macejwo (memorial stone) exists for them, because our Jewish kibbutz: in Latvia has grown poor and cannot afford such a "luxury".

Quietly and calmly, with tear-stained faces, people leave the synagogue. On its walls people have pasted notes hearing questions from all parts of the world: "We are looking for...we are looking for...we are looking for..."

Unfortunately there is only one answer to these questions: "None of them survivedy"

As we leave the synagogue, we notice that everyone is in a hurry to leave the dark streets of the Old Town.

We walk through the city of Riga, which has already become alien to us. For those who were here during the German occupation, every foot of its soil is soaked with Jewish blood.

We cannot, and may not, live in this hostile environment any longer.

We have to move on!

We cannot and may not stay here!
 

Epilogue

At the conclusion of my hook Churbn Lettland, I would like to ask the reader to consider the following: having tried to give a true and detailed account of every phase of the sufferings we Latvian Jews had to endure, I hope I have succeeded in giving as clear a picture of our tragedy as possible. Yet I must call attention to the fact that the events I have related began in early 1941, that quite a while ago, and that in the absence of any notes or diary entries I had to reconstruct them from memory under circumstances that were difficult in every respect.

I might mention furthermore that in writing my book I received hardly any assistance at all from my Latvian comrades. Therefore, if any errors have slipped in, or if I have expressed myself in improper diction, I beg the reader's indulgence since, as I already mentioned in the Foreword,  I am not a professional writer.

But what I really am is a man who has shared, step by step, the martyrdom of his countrymen and co-religionists, and who has while writing this book experienced all those sufferings anew in his mind. So my whole downcast heart is contained in it!

My duty is fulfilled. I have done my part to secure immortality for the six million Jews, valuable and irreplaceable human beings, and in particular for our Latvian martyrs whom we have lost to the utmost cruelty because of the murderous system of National Socialism.

Of the approximately 95.000 Jews living in Latvia at the time of the invasion by German troops, only a very small percentage was able to escape from Latvia. In most cases, this was possible only to those living in the eastern province (Latgale), where the Russian frontier was very near. This is also confirmed by the fact that the Jews now returning from the Soviet Union are chiefly people from Latgale. Jews from Riga and the province of Kurzeme can hardly be found any more.

Under the German government, about 40,000 Jews remained in Riga and about 33,000 in Latgale and Kurzeme. (With few exceptions, all the Jews of Kurzeme and Vidzente had remained.) Of the total number of Jews living under German-Latvian rule (about 73,000), only between 950 and 1,000 persons, including 175 to 200 women and about fifty older children, were able to survive. All the others had been bestially killed, most of them in Latvia and the remaining ones later in Germany. Even after the liberation, many more died of weakness and diseases. Nearly all the graves arb unmarked, and may he traced front Latvia down to the western border of Bavaria.

The Latvian kibbutz, or Jewish community, of today is composed mostly of returnees from the Soviet Union. But in my opinion, this number too is very small (about 14,000 in the whole of Latvia).

An influx of Jews to Riga and Latvia in general is coming chiefly from Russia (even from Leningrad and Ukraine). The 8,000 Jews who are still missing - that is, who have not returned from the Soviet Union - perished in the war or from the effects of war. (The Jews who emigrated to the Soviet Union before the war are not included in this number.)

The young men and women who went to the Soviet Union were enlisted for military service. The Latvian Division was composed of these people, who later were awarded the name "Latvian Guards Division" as a mark of distinction. They participated in the defense of Moscow, and according to reports there were more Jews than Latvians among them. There were also many Jews among the officers. They fought and died like heroes. Because this division was generally regarded as a Latvian unit, the world of course knows little of the Jewish fighters. But we Latvian Jews cannot and never will forget them! Among the returnees there was also a large number of people who had fought in this division: most them had been decorated and many of them were invalids.

The approximately 1,000 Jews who "happened" to have survived the German occupation survived only thanks to the rapid evolution of events. If the war had lasted only one or two months longer, it may be taken for granted that not a few hundred but only a few would still be alive, for the Germans and Latvians had always intended to annihilate all of them in order to remove possible witnesses. For this reason. corpses were even disinterred and cremated.

A partisan movement did not exist among the Latvian Jews, as it did in other ghettos. Moreover, the number of people who went into hiding was very small. Every undertaking, for instance the weapons incident in the ghetto, had a bad outcome and was unsuccessful. These facts are accounted for by the attitude of the indigenous population which worked hand in hand with the Germans.

That is the history of the Latvian Jews!

Besides, Jews from all parts of the world were brought to Latvia - for instance Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Holland, France, Lithuania and Poland. Their exact number can no longer be determined. About 20,000 men, women and children were brought to the Reich German ghetto and to Jumpravmuiza. All the others were transported directly from the railway station to the forest where they were shot. They had been brought to Latvia because "Latvia was the appropriate venue for these murders", as General Jeckeln declared at his trial.

Moreover, the Latvians formed volunteer battalions which contributed to the annihilation of the Jews in the countries outside Latvia. They also participated, as has been ascertained, in the destruction of the ghettos in Warsaw, Minsk (White Russia), Minsk-Mazowiecki (Poland) and other cities. They took part in all the punitive expeditions in and outside Latvia (L. Krasaps, Prokurora piezimes - Memoranda of a Public Prosecutor, Vapp, Riga 1946).

These events are also confirmed in detail by documents in the files of the great Nuremberg trial. In one of these documents it is said that the 15th Latvian Police Battalion took part in an action in White Russia called Marsfever. Other documents of the same trial (Document No. 1113/P.S. of 6 November 1942 and 294/P.S.) report on various murders of Jews.

The chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg Court, Mr. Benjamin Fernetsch, declared officially that "according to the proofs on hand, the natives of the Baltic states eagerly participated in the mass murders and therefore could hardly have remained in their homeland afterwards".

With respect to the crimes of the Latvian bandits, I want to refer furthermore to the declarations of the SS man Alfred Metzner of Augsburg, Bavaria, who was arrested in September 1947. This murderer has, among other confessions, related how the Latvian volunteer teams, led by SS-Untersturmfhrer Amelung, took part in the annihilation of thousands of Jews in the vicinity of Slonim-Baranowitz.

The Jews taken to the place of execution were first brutally beaten and then shot. Half-dead, they were then thrown into the graves. The children were kicked into the graves.

Some participants of the annihilation teams excelled in specific, sadistic monstrosities. For instance, for their own enjoyment they shot pregnant women in the abdomen and then flung them into the graves. Before the execution, the sexual organs and the rectum were examined.

This is how we were treated by the Latvian culture of the twentieth century!

We shall never forget the crimes the German people perpetrated against us, nor shall we forget how the Latvian people behaved toward us.

"Zchojr es ascher oso lcho Amolek!" (Remember  what the Amalekites have done to you!

For us survivors, Latvia is the embodiment of a large graveyard, a graveyard without graves, a graveyard without monuments.


Footnotes
(added by Dr. Bernhard Press)


(1) The lawyer Alfons Heidemann was shot together with his brother-in-law Otto Sehas on the night of 20 July 1941 in the Tornakalna Priedes (Tornakalna Pines), a grove near Uzvaras Laukums (Victory Square).

(2) The Friedmann family killed themselves with morphine injections. I saw them lying in a room at the Jewish hospital.

(3) Joffe's last audience consisted of inmates of the Central Prison who heard him sing to them at an open window as they were being taken out for a walk in the prison yard. This was related to me by Mrs. E. Hoff.

(4) Wofsi was killed by the KGB on 13 January 1948 in Minsk.

(5) This is an error: there were no gas chambers in Buchenwald.

(6) See footnote 5.

(7) According to the Latvian writer Miervaldis Birzc, 315 prisoners were killed and 1,400 wounded.

(8) See footnote 5.

 

 

 

 

 





 


 

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