Tag Archives: Kristallnacht

The Holocaust – We Must Remember – Rachel Hager- When They Came to Take My Father

THE HOLOCAUST: WE MUST REMEMBER 

30-Hour Series of Interviews broadcast on the Roger Fredinburg Radio Program

2-18-1998 Sixteenth Program in Series

Guest: Rachel Hager

Book: WHEN THEY CAME TO TAKE MY FATHER: Voices of the Holocaust

ISBN-10: 1559703059 and ISBN-13: 155970355

Roger Fredinburg interviews Rachel Hager, an editor at Parents magazine, about the book: “When they came to take my father.” This book is a compilation of stories and photgraphs from 50 survivors.

rachel hager

Roger: Welcome to the program, ladies and gentlemen! It’s a pleasure to bring you this series. It’s been a remarkable number of weeks now. It just gets better and better each and every week! It’s amazing, the things we learn when you talk to people who actually experience some of the worst nightmares of humanity; and to still have some of theses folks around to tell the stories is quite a blessing, indeed!

This week we’re going to talk to Rachel Hager who is senior editor with Parent’s Magazine. She edited the book, “When They Came to Take My Father: Voices of the Holocaust.”  The book is incredible in itself because of the many stories that are told; but, one of the unique aspects of the book are photographs by Mark Seliger. The photographs tell stories that the words couldn never tell. You can see in the faces of these honorable people, the pain, the suffering, the joy and the fascination with life! It’s amazing to see them in this light!

What a wonderful book, Rachel! Welcome to the show!

Rachel H: Thank you! Thank you for having me.

Roger: Now, Rachel, for the sake of the audience, would you please give us a little biographical background—what you’re about?

Rachel H: I am actually a child of survivors myself. The title of the book is taken from the interviews I did with my father who was born in Vienna and experienced Kristallnacht which was a terrible night for all of the Jews in Vienna and Germany. It was also the night his father was taken to Dachau concentration camp.

As a child of survivors, you sort of see life through different eyes because everything that you experience is really experienced through the eyes of your parents, through their experiences. I think that Benjamin Mead, President of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, really sums it all up when he says that, “When survivors get together they can be talking about carrots or flowers and inevitably the talk comes back to the holocaust.”

That’s certainly the way it was for me growing up — everything was before the war—during the war — after the war.   I had a strong sense of the holocaust without every having been told much about it; as a child –there would be snippets of conversation gathered here and there that would suddenly work their way into my subconscious. I remember riding the subways at a very early age in Brooklyn and was completely terrified of being in the front car where I could see the tracks because although I had no real concept of what cattle cars were, that was instinctively what the subway cars reminded me of.

Roger:   Oh, that’s really strange! I mean, it’s bizarre that you would even make that correlation, not having lived it! 

Rachel H: Right! Interestingly enough, when I got to college I was very fortunate to have Helen Epstein as a professor who is the author of, “Children of the Holocaust.” In reading her book, I was very surprised to find that experience is actually shared by a number of children of holocaust survivors. They just have this instinctive “cattle car” feeling.

Roger: Maybe it’s from hearing those stories as a child. Now, were your parents pretty open about their story?

Rachel H: Yes, pretty much. Both of my parents were actually very fortunately not to have been in camps. My mother was born in Poland and was a child of two when her family moved to Antwerp, Belgium before the war. She was twelve when the war broke out. She and her family escaped to France. The train ride from Brussels to La Champs in the Pyrenees, normally a 1-1/2 hour train ride, took 7 days because of all the bombardment and the need to hide at various points. She and her parents spent the war on the run from one section of France to another. They had a number of close calls. In fact, when they were in Nimes, in the south of France, my grandmother had a dream one night that her father, who actually died before the war, and her brother came to her and said, “Raisa! Raisa! Close the shutters because there is going to be huge storm!” The next day they got word that the Jews in the area were going to be rounded up so they fled! In fact, the Germans came to their house about an hour after they had gone. The pots were still warm on the stove! So, there were a number of very close calls.

I grew up in a community of survivors, so for me this was not unusual. It was not unusual to have friends whose parents had numbers tattooed on their arms. I really thought that all Jews had been in the holocaust. It wasn’t until I got to college that I met any Jews whose families were not! So, it gives you a different perspective on life.

My father’s father, as I mentioned, was in Dachau and that severely affected him. My father says that when he got out, he could not sleep through the night for two years. He’d wake up screaming and shaking.   In marches outside around the camp in freezing, sub-zero weather with no clothes on, he’d suddenly see people tied alive to trees and left there to die! He could hear the wails and the screams in the barracks!

As a result of some of these experiences, he had a lifelong distaste of stripes. I remember as a child, my mother would never dress me in anything with stripes when he was visiting because it brought back memories.

Roger:  How was it your grandfather survived this, do you know?

Rachel H:   My father’s mother had a cousin in Switzerland who actually had an acquaintance who was like a “deep throat.”   They gave him the name, Shimon. I don’t know what his real name was; but, he was a friend of Himmler. So, this cousin used that connection and was able to buy a number of Jews out of Dachau.

Dachau was one of the earlier concentration camps that was set up and initially was one of the more severe ones. There were very few survivors from Dachau.

Roger: I didn’t realize that people were bought out of captivity.

Rachel H: It was not a common practice. It was a moral dilemma because you knew that on some level this money was going to finance the German war effort. At the time, if you had the ability to get people out, clearly, you would do everything that you could to save human lives. I guess it was at a time when that was still possible; but, it used up all of my grandfather’s money trying to get as many people out as he could.

Roger: Boy! What a story some of these folks have to tell in your book here. You’ve done a good job putting this book together, condensing the stories. The photographs! Tell me how you came to the conclusion that the photographs, which really are the major part of the book, would play such a significant role, because they do!

Rachel H:   Yes! Actually, that is really to Mark Seliger’s credit. He was the person who conceived of this book and really had always wanted to photograph survivors. He is Jewish, from Texas, an American for several generation so there was no direct correlation. But, these people always held a fascination for him and he felt he really wanted to capture them before it was too late! This generation is aging and they won’t be with us forever. He has a unique way of truly, as you pointed out in you introduction, of truly capturing peoples’ souls. I really think he did an excellent job of that!

Roger: Oh, yes! I’m looking at these pictures and the faces just tell it all! It’s unbelievable! You can see these people and know they are Jewish survivors before you read a word! It’s just amazing how much you can get from a photograph, or at least, how much Mark is able to put into these photographs.

Your folks just kind of bounced around and hid out apparently?

Rachel H: Right.

Roger:   They were able to escape some of the worst torment of the time; but, everyone in the book did not have that fortune.

Rachel H:   True.

Roger:  You have the Mengele twins in your book. What is their story?

Rachel H: That’s really an amazing story! They were among the youngest twins to have survived. In fact, Irene, one of the twins was devastated when people would kind of question her experience. Afterwards people would say, “you could not possibly have been a Mengele twin because you’re too young.” To have the double-whammy of going through the experience and then having it questioned is unimaginable!

I think the best way to tell her story is to just read some excerpts because her words —-the book is written in first person, that was intentional because of the way that we edited it. I really felt that nobody could tell these stories better than the people themselves.

Roger: Right!

Rachel H: Just to give you some background, Irene was actually the twin that was experimented on. Rene, her brother, was the control.

…We were with our mother for the first four months at Auschwitz, then one day, I guess, they decided we were old enough to do without her and we were separated. When it came time for them to take my Mom, she didn’t want to let go of us and we didn’t want to let go of her. We heard this horrible screaming and one of the guards just hit her and she fell to the ground. We never saw her again.

Rene and I were separated. Siblings of the opposite sex didn’t get to stay together. As part of Mengele’s great scientific plan to find a master race, he had a passion for studying twins. Usually one twin was the control and one was experimented on. I was the “lucky” one who got to go to the hospital for all kinds of experiments.

Could I pick Mengele out? Never in a million years! I only remember a doctor in a white coat. He once gave me candy. It was all so innocent. He was our savior and our demon.

You had this ambivalent feeling, wanting him to like you! I would think, “I’ll be really good and then he’ll be my friend and then he won’t hurt me.” But, it wasn’t like that! There were some things that I’ve never spoken about that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to speak about.

When you meet Irene, she is amazing; the fact that she’s managed to have a life at all after all of this!   Actually, she struggles with MS and her condition is deteriorating; but, she is such a strong, unbelievably strong person.

… I remember once hiding among dead bodies. I knew that these were dead bodies; but, to me it was what you had to do. I could see the chimneys day and night. I knew something terrible was going on; but, I figured when my turn comes, it will be my turn.

It’s very hard to find the right words to explain what I felt as a child. I lost my childhood. I had no childhood. I was so scared all the time and I felt so alone.

One night I had to go to the bathroom and then tried to come back inside. It was dark and I got confused. I didn’t know where my bed was. I was groping trying to find my way back and people were pushing me away. “This is not your place,” they said. Grown people pushing me away! I felt so rejected, I can’t explain it.   Finally somebody said, “okay, you can stay with me for the night.”

At the end she was, basically, just laying on the ground for days wondering what was going to happen. Finally she was taken by a Polish woman, a gentile, to her house. At that point, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee came to get her and she was adopted by a family on Long Island. When they found out that she had a twin brother, they really put themselves out trying to find him. As it turns out, when the war was over, he was in Czechoslovakia and they actually got him out in 1950, so they were reunited!

Roger: The stories that are told in the book, Rachel, are pretty hard, I think, for people to swallow without tears. I’m reading the book and just wondering how in the world something like this could happen. I was really fascinated with one of the quotes you highlights from Isaac Jarkowski,

“For each Jew that was denounced, people got 50 francs. 50 francs at that time was $1.00 – a Jew was worth $1.00”

I thought that was really a powerful statement! People would turn other people in, knowing they were going to be killed for a buck! It’s almost impossible to fathom that! I mean, really just unbelievable!

In this country, as you well know, people don’t really understand the holocaust. Really! It’s different, I suppose, in New York; but, out here in fly-over country, people really don’t get it!   What do you think are the lessons from the holocaust?

Rachel H:   Well, there are good lessons and bad lessons. I think that the…..

Roger: I mean, do you think humanity really learned anything from it?

Rachel H:   There is a part of me that… certainly, I hope so! There is a part of me that thinks that there are people who have learned from it and who learn from it every day. I have met countless young Germans and young Poles, children of Nazis and of Polish sympathizers, who truly will go to their graves trying to make up for what their parents or grandparents did. So, I think that there are people that certainly have learned! But, I think as a whole, we haven’t because it happens all the time in different forms, whether it’s in Bosnia or …. not to equate it all because I actually am of the mind that the holocaust was unique, that it was very organized, very orchestrated and basically, the world was silent!

It wasn’t happening far away in one country, it was direct.   Go to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C.   You can see aerial photographs that American reconnaissance planes took. How do you explain that? I know that the response to that is, “we didn’t want to bomb the camps because we didn’t want to kill innocent people.” Well, guess what? People were being killed anyway! Maybe they could have stopped it sooner.   So, I fear that we haven’t learned.

Roger:   John Klein said this in the book, “Those who say we should forgive and forget, have nothing to forgive and nothing to forget. I cannot forgive and I cannot forget.” In my right-of-center political sphere, I’m always saying to political groups, “forgive and forget,” You know, move on! This put kind of a new spin on that for me. What do I have to forgive? What do I have to forget? Those are powerful messages that come from the heart and soul of those people that lived through this tragic time! Boy, I’ll tell you, you’ve done a wonderful job!

By the way, if people want to get the book, how do they do that?

Rachel H:  They can get it at any Barnes & Noble or major bookstore, or call Arcade Publishing in New York 212-475-2633. The title of the book is, “When They Came to Take My Father.” Mark Seliger is the primary name.

Roger: The photographs are wonderful! Rachel, hang on, we’ve got to take a break. Folks, Rachel Hager is our guest this evening. She is the senior editor for Parents’ Magazine and also one of the editors for this wonderful book filled with some of the most impressive stories and finest photographs I’ve ever seen! The photographs themselves just tell a story that can’t be told in any other way. You can ask Rachel some questions. We’ll take calls after the break.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger: Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen! I’m Roger Fredinburg. Our guest this evening is Rachel Hager. She is senior editor for Parents’ Magazine and editor of this wonderful, wonderful book, “When They Came to Take My Father.” Photographic evidence of survivors and the pain, suffering and joy is all there in the pictures! Great stories with some incredible quotes; quotes that I think will give you whole new thinking on this issue — this one is from Irving Miltzberg, “The Poles had an expression, they’d say, “from now on soap is going to get expensive because there are no Jews from which to make it anymore.”

Tom Lantos, the democrat from California whose politics I have denounced here on this program many a time—- I did not know he was a survivor. Tom Lantos talks about being fortunate that he was a tall, blond Aryan-looking fellow. It kept him out of some trouble. He escaped 17 times from work camps! He describes situations where the Germans and SS would have you pull down your pants because only Jews were circumcised and then it was easy for them to tell—then they’d send you off to camp! Powerful stuff, Rachel!

Rachel H: Yes.

Roger: Now, Tom Lantos, I did not know he was a survivor. It’s a very interesting story, his wife is a cousin to Zsa Zsa and Eva Gabor? I always just disliked his politics, you know?

Rachel H:  Ha, ha!

Roger: But, having read the story about him it gives insight as to where he’s coming from!

Rachel H:   Does it make you regret denouncing his politics?

Roger:  Oh, not at all! No, no! America is built on good discourse on politics; but, it gives me insight to the man. In other words, where I might have really disliked the man, I have a whole different feeling for him now. And, I wouldn’t have had that had I not read the book and had the opportunity to share his life story. So, that in itself is kind of fascinating. Do you want to take a few phone calls?

Rachel H: Sure.

Roger:   Alright! Let’s go to John in Bemidji, Minnesota. Hello, John!

Caller-John: Hello, Roger! I don’t know a lot about this subject; but, from what I’ve heard, about half of the people who died in these death camps were part of the Jewish holocaust or genocide. When I was on a trip over there with my family, our one vacation to Europe, my kids wanted to go to Dachau so we went. I was looking in these books where they had the names of people who were inmates or prisoners there and their disposition; either they died, or they were transferred, or they were set free. I may have even been looking at her grandfather’s name there possibly! The clergymen were marked. I was wondering if you guest has and notion about how many of the inmates at Dachau were part of the Jewish holocaust, victims of the holocaust?

Rachel H:   I’m afraid I don’t have precise numbers; but, I would say in terms of the holocaust in general, that the number of victims who were Jewish is more than half.

Caller-John: Well, I was just going by what they seem to be saying on TV when they talk about this sort of thing.

The thing that struck me, looking at these books, is that almost all the clergymen—almost every one—in these books I was looking at in Dachau—were Catholic priests. You mentioned that it was one of the earlier camps. My daughter has a doctorate in history and I was talking to one of her associates who’s a history buff.   He said the Catholic centrist party in Germany resisted the Nazis, some of them resisted the Nazis—talked against them, along with other resistors or political dissidents.   Dachau was one of the first camps the Nazis opened up and they threw them in there.

Rachel H:  Um hum. That wouldn’t surprise me. Disagreeing with the Nazis would certainly be enough to get them placed there.

Caller-John:  I think that’s how they held on to power. They were hanging on by their fingernails in the beginning. If you were a communist or a monarchist or some kind of conservative, they just threw you in the camp and that was it!

Rachel H: I think that people forget that this was very, very organized, everybody thought that they were safe. They started with certain groups; initially it was only German or Austrian Jews; but, if you were a French Jew in France you were okay.   If you were a Belgian Jew who had run away to France you were not okay. It kind of kept people in constant guessing and constant fear of what would happen next!

Caller-John: Yes, I guess that’s true! You made a comment I thought was sort of disingenous, that the United States could have stopped that genocide earlier, almost implying like they chose not to!

I just disagree with that! The blood that was let, not so much by the United States; but by the English and the Russians fighting these Nazis — they saw tens of thousands of their people dying fighting these people! They poured the coal on and the United States poured the coal on; bombing every day! The British bombed every day and the Americans bombed at night.

Roger: You know, in the book….

Caller-John:   The blew up factories right beside these camps and didn’t bomb the camps! I’m not sure if they knew exactly that they were death camps though. Eisenhower said that he didn’t know until they over-ran them!

Roger:   John, thank you very much! I think they knew a lot more than they told. History, of course, will reveal some of the truths. We’re seeing that now with the Swiss gold and things that are going on, now finding out that American gold was melted down and recirculated in Nazi camps— a lot of things we did not know a few years ago. Now it’s really beginning to open up. It’s all most unusual; but, we’re seeing a lot more evidence and a lot more stories come to light, aren’t we Rachel?

Rachel H: Yes, unfortunately, that’s true. I’m very thankful to be in America. I am American. I am first generation American and very partiotic; but, I do think that each and every country knew a lot more than they…..

Roger:   I was just reading a quote by Max Jukers. I think the guy’s got a little bit of sense of humor here. He says, “After the war we went out into the streets of the city and couldn’t believe what we saw, so many dead bodies; in the water, everywhere! I had to carry my horse on my back! He refused to go because of all the dead bodies.”

Rachel H:   Right! He wasn’t kidding!

Roger: Ha, ha!

Rachel H: Ha, ha! Believe it or not! Beyond the bodies that were actually dead, there were countless Jews who went back to their lands of birth were greeted— my mother and her parents included, went back to Antwerp, Belgium and their neighbor looked at them and said, “What are you doing here? I thought Hitler killed all the Jews.” That’s a nice welcome home.

Roger: Isn’t that something? The spiritual aspects of this, the religious aspects — I know some Jews that really got more religious because of their experience; but, others became atheists because of it. In other words, if there was a God, how could this happen? What do you suppose the percentages are? I mean of the number of people that became more spiritual and those who denounced God?

Rachel H:  I think that probably a somewhat larger percentage of people probably denounced God, although it’s probably more even than some people think, in terms of people who got more religious.

Frederick Cherna is an interesting case in point. He grew up in a very kind of intelligentsia, not a very religious environment to begin with. The war soured him completely. He was in Theresinstadt and several camps after that. He made a point during my interview with him, consistently saying that he was a atheist, that he didn’t believe in God. Yet, every Saturday —-he was married for the second time to a younger woman and had a small child — every Saturday he took this child to synagogue. He would sit there. He wouldn’t pray; but, he would sit there and suddenly feel peaceful. I asked him. I said, “Why do you feel drawn to a spiritual place of worship if you don’t believe that there is a God?’ He had no answer!

Roger:   Maybe that was his answer.

Rachel Hager is our guest, ladies and gentlemen. She is senior editor of Parents’ Magazine and editor of this book, “When They Came to Take My Father: Voices of the Holocaust” photographs by Mark Seliger. What an incredible bunch of photographs they are!

We’ll be right back!

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger:   Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen. Rachel Hager is our guest. We’re talking about the book, “When They Came to Take My Father,” a wonderful book filled with just captivating stories about people who survived the holocaust with photographs by Mark Seliger, some of the finest photographs you’ll ever see in your life! Just amazing work!

Rachel, another wonderful quote, probably the one that was the most unsettling for me, was Flora Hagner’s quote, “I think I shut off all understanding. The only thing I knew was that my mother wasn’t there and I knew I wasn’t supposed to say I was a Jew. In some way, I guess I knew I wasn’t supposed to exist.” That’s a powerful statement because I think it really sums up the feeling that a lot of people must have had, that “we’re not supposed to exist!”

Rachel H: Right!

Roger:  And they almost didn’t exist! Powerful!

Rachel H:  But, these survivors are actually testimony to the fact that they do continue to exist and that Hitler was not successful! That was the driving force that really pushed a lot of people on. One man, Feldinger, said that the only thing that got him through was knowing that his father had said to him, when all this is over you have to go home. That was what kept him alive during Auschwitz.

Roger: Oh, boy.   Let’s go to Larry in Fort Smith, Arkansas. You’re on the radio, Larry!

Caller-Larry: Good evening, Rachel and Roger! Rachel, my mother-in-law who is 89 now and lives with us, was in a convent in Budapest Hungary in 1937 going to be a nun. She had not taken her vows yet. She was a family friend with some Jewish people. To save this Jewish man’s life, who is my father-in-law, she married him! The priest there helped with paperwork saying that he was Catholic. Unfortunately, my father-in-law’s sister died at Dachau. My mother-in-law saved my father-in-law, saved his ex-wife and his son. I guess there are stories all over the world where people have really done a lot of things to save these people Of course, thank God for me, I got to marry their daughter! He escaped from the communists in Hungary in 1956 with his son. My wife came over in 1960.

Roger, you might remember this! It was on the news when Douglas Edwards did the news; my father-in-law knew Garst in Iowa who Kruschev stayed with back in 1960. Does that sound right?

Roger: I wasn’t there, Larry.

Caller-Larry: Well anyway, he wrote him a letter in 1959 and Mr. Garst talked to Kruschev and they made a big deal about letting my mother-in-law and my wife who was 13 years old at the time. It was on Douglas Edwards news. For some reason or other, I remember it even though I was only 13 years old.

I guess I’m going to get your book because I’m sure your book is full of great stories of people pretty much committed everything, including their life, to save people.

Roger: This is the kind of book, Larry, that you put on the coffee table in the living room and everybody is going to spend hours thumbing through it. They won’t be able to put it down! Just because the photographs add so much to it. It’s really a compelling book!

Caller-Larry: Awhile ago, Roger, you were talking about having trouble, even though you’ve never been on a cattle car. My wife, right now, does not talk about things like that. If it hadn’t been for my father-in-law and mother-in-law I would never have known because, even though she was born in 1947, she knew what her father had went through. He’d lost everything! He was a very wealthy man back in the 1930s and between Hitler and the Communists, they took it all! It was a bad deal all around. Like I said, there’s a lot of people in the world that have the same story.

Roger: Larry, thank you very much! We appreciate you sharing with us. Rachel, one more time, give the publisher’s infomration so people can order it that way if they can’t find it in their bookstore.

Rachel H: Sure! The name of the publisher is Arcade Publishing. They’re in New York. It’s an imprint of Little Brown. The phone number is 212-475-2633.

Roger: Alright, let’s go to Brian in Central Point, Oregon. Brian, very quickly because we’re running tight on time.

Caller-Brian: I understand. I was reading Einstein’s biography and some friends mine too, discussing things that are similar to that time in Germany here in the United States. With Germany, you could go to another country and get away from it all. What do we do in this country when you see the government doing things like this creeping up? It’s not as bad as the holocaust; but, you can see it’s eventually going to come with Christians and the anti-semitism and things going on. What do we do?

Roger: Well, we have to fight against it, Brian. You know, that’s a good question! Maybe real quickly, Rachel, before you go—-do you find when you interview these folks, did any of them have regrets they didn’t see it coming soon and fight against it harder?

Rachel H: I think they all live with intense guilt complexes for having survived, for not having fought even through they couldn’t have fought. And, mostly for surviving when others did not. But, I think your point is absolutely correct. What we do is we fight against it when we see the early signs. I think that at the time it was unfathomable that any human being could do these things to another human being. The point was that Jews were not looked at as human beings. They were demoted to animal status in peoples’ minds. So, it didn’t matter.

Roger: And maybe in their own minds because of the conditions were horrible! Rachel, I appreciate your being here. It’s been a wonderful hour! Your book is wonderful! Your work is wonderful! Mark’s work is fantastic! I just want to thank you folks for leaving this legacy!

Rachel H: Thank you!

Roger: Thank you and God bless! Alright folks, that’s Rachel Hager. You can order it at your bookstore, “When They Came to Take My Father: Voices of the Holocaust,” photographs by Mark Seliger. I’ll tell you something, you could have this on the coffee table and everyone would want to look at it! It’s that good! It’s really good!

Transcription is from MP3 file converted from original cassette with minimal editing by Chey Simonton.

Errors, if any, may be due to unintelligible sections of original 1997 audio technology. Unknown/unintelligible words are spelled phonetically.)

 

 

The Holocaust – We Must Remember – Lucille Eichengreen – “From Ashes to Life”

THE HOLOCAUST: WE MUST REMEMBER 

30-Hour Series of Interviews broadcast on the Roger Fredinburg Radio Program

1-7-1998 Eighth Program in Series

Guest: Lucille Eichengreen

Book: FROM ASHES TO LIFE: My Memories of the Holocaust

Lucille

ISBN-10: 1562790528 :   and ISBN-13: 978-1562790523

Roger:    Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen. Imagine living through the experience, being dragged off in a cattle car against your will, put in a camp, having them shave your body hair, strip you of your dignity and send you on a number of tortuous journeys, malnourishment, cold winter nights!

Just trying to keep your mind on the business of survival, you would think might be enough; but, imagine having the strength of mind and character to remember the names and addresses of 42 of your assailants! That’s exactly what Lucille Eichengreen did! We have her book, “FROM ASHES TO LIFE”.   Lucille, welcome aboard!

Lucille E: Thank you very much!

Roger:   I was rather intrigued, Lucille, that you were able to remember the details against these SS officers who later came to trial as a result of what you remembered. Is that true?

Lucille E:  I remembered their names. I remembered their addresses. The reason I remembered was that I worked for a short period in the camp office. We did not have typewriters so we kept records on pads which were handwritten. If you write it over daily, once or twice for a period of two or three months, you just keep remembering the names and addresses.

Roger: I guess it would seem that with all the trauma, it would be hard to do that ;but, you managed that! Tell the audience a bit of your experience, Lucille, where you came from and how you ended up in Auschwitz and other places. 

Lucille E:   I was 8 years old when Hitler seized power in Germany. My parents, my sister and I, were Polish nationals residing permanently in Germany.

I think it was in the summer of 1933 that I first heard the word “anti-semitism”. I had never heard the word before and I still did not know exactly what it meant. I found out only too soon. I went to a private school, a parochial school. It was a long way to school, a walk of roughly 40 minutes. During the fall of 1933 the German children, none Jewish, would wait for us, they would spit at us. Ultimately, they would beat us up! For a child 8 years old, this was impossible to comprehend!

The neighbors that used to talk to us prior to the 1933 either ignored us or would pass us on the street and spit. There was nothing but contempt and hate. How does an 8-year-old child cope with that? I tried to talk to my parents about it, and like all the adults in the early years of that regime, their answer was, “It is a passing phase. Things will return to normal.” Life did not return to normal. It got worse!

Jewish men and women lost their jobs at universities, at government agencies as civil servants. Jews had to pay heavier taxes. They ultimately had to hand over their jewelry; gold and silver. Their property was taken, no compensation was granted. And still, people believed that life would improve.

The last warning for us should have been November 9, 1938, the “Night of Broken Glass”, “Kristallnacht”. I went to school the following morning. I saw the synagogues burning. I saw books burning. Germans in uniform were laughing!

That same day the Germans rounded up most Jewish men from the age of 16 up to, I guess, 80. The men were ultimately taken to a concentration camp not far from Berlin. Over a period of 6 weeks to 6 months they were gradually released. I remember vividly that the men that returned did not speak of their experience. Their suits were rumpled. The wrinkles would not disappear. They were run through a disinfecting process and no amount of dry-cleaning or pressing would remove those wrinkles. The men had missing front teeth. They were very thin, very gaunt; but, they had one thing in common. Most of them made an effort and managed, with very few exceptions, to leave Germany immediately.

It should have been a red flag for all of us. Regrettably, the world did not make visa available. Immigration quotas were so tight and so strict that you had years to wait before you could enter the United States or another European country or Great Britain. Australia didn’t want any part of it. So, we waited as best we could.

My grades in school dropped drastically from an A and B to C and D because I was afraid. I could not concentrate. My parents supplied tutors and the grades somewhat improved; but, I don’t think that fear ever left me. If you had asked me, in those days, “fear of what?” I don’t think I could have told you. It was just fear, an intrinsic feeling that I could not escape; that I was afraid. Something was looming on the horizon. I could not tell you what.

Germany, of course, took over parts of Alsace, France, Czechoslovakia, Austria. On September 1, 1939 the German army invaded Poland without provocation of any sort. Poland fought as best as they could. It was a very small country. Within a week the country was practically occupied. There were pockets of resistance but it did not do any good.

We heard all this in Germany. In the meantime, we were asked to move into furnished rooms. We had to give up our apartments, our houses for a small room for four or five people.

We tried desperately to get papers for the U.S. But the quota number was tremendously high! It would probably have taken three years. We tried to get a passport to Palestine. The British wanted pound sterling to facilitate entry.   The irony was that you were not allowed to hold foreign currency. In order to obtain the visa to Shanghai, you needed 400 US dollars. Our accounts, our money was blocked.   We got a very small amount monthly; but, we had no access to any of our bank accounts, any real estate, nothing. It was all confiscated by the main office in Berlin. We petitioned; but, the petitions were all denied.

On September 1st, the day the Germans invaded Poland, the German secret police, called Gestapo, came to our door, asked for my father and arrested him as an enemy alien. After roughly 10 days, there was no more Poland. He was shipped from a regular prison to concentration camps near Berlin and ultimately to Dachau.

The communications we received from my father were one or two sentences: “I am fine. Take care of yourselves. I hope to see you.” Nothing else! You couldn’t write anything else because it was obviously censored. My father survived Dachau for roughly two years which was quite a feat considering how people were treated in a concentration camp, the fact that they were neither fed nor clothed.

On January 31, 1941, the German secret police came to our house, dropped a cigar box tied with a rubber band on the kitchen table with the words, “Ashes- Benjamin Landau.” I think it was one of the very few times that the Germans ever returned ashes. We, of course, knew, and it was explained to us, that these were not my father’s ashes. The Germans did not want to bother with individual cremations. They cremated 50 or 100 bodies at a time and it was a handful of somebody’s ashes. There was a burial, a stone was set with my father’s name. It took me 50 years to go back.

We still lived in Germany. The British were bombing parts of northern Germany. In fall, October, 1941, we received notification to pack some belongings and we would be resettled. Rumor had it that it would be in the east; but, no further information. We each packed a suitcase, my mother, my little sister and I. We were transported in sealed cars, 3rd class railroad cars, under guard, for three days and three nights.

When the doors were opened we faced a group of men who wore black uniforms. Their hats had the Star of David. On their coats, on the right side they wore a yellow star that said JEW –the same as we had to wear. This was called Ghetto Police. We were told that we were in the ghetto of the City of Litschmanstadt (sp?)— the Germans had renamed the former city of Lodz which was eastern Europe’s Manchester with a lot of textile weaving and related professions. We were told we would work and live there.

It was a two-hour walk from the railroad siding into the center of the area which we were to occupy. It was dirty. It was dusty. The road was not surfaced, it was just dirt. It was warm and we looked around. The houses were ramshackle shacks, they were not houses. One of the policemen explained to us that this was the *BALOOT* section of the Lodz ghetto. The *BALOOT* meaning the slum of a large industrial city. Prior to the war it had been occupied by very poor people, by an element that was into illegal activities; Jewish as well as non-Jewish, Catholic. It had a reputation of not being a very savory area.

The room we occupied in the ghetto, probably a 10 x 10 room, together with five other people, had just three wooden cots and a small metal stove, nothing else. It had a small window which looked down on barbed wire and and sentry house. Every two hours the sentries would change, the German guards would change and a new contingent of guards would take over. We were stunned! Coming from a middle class lifestyle into a place of this sort was incomprehensible!

It was late fall. It started snowing. It was unbelievably cold! Probably not quite as cold as the state of Minnesota; but, not far from it. We had no proper clothing to protect us. We had no coal to heat the oven. The bucket of water in the room froze overnight. We had no running water. There was a pump in the courtyard. There were no toilets. There were no bathrooms. There were no showers. There were no bathtubs, just the pump of cold water in the yard. We had to drag up a bucket at a time, up three flights of stairs. The outhouses in the backyard defied description! It was an unbelievable situation!

I was the only one in the family that ultimately found work as a clerk; first in one office and then in another office. As a working member, you could get a watery soup at lunchtime. The soup had no nourishment. It was devoid of any kind of potatoes or starch. It was just a watery mess; but, it was better than nothing at all.

I suffered most under the cold. I could not tolerate the winds and the cold. There were no buses. There was no public transportation. You walked! My shoes soaked through. I had frozen toes. That first winter was a nightmare, not that subsequent winters were any easier!

We had epidemics of dysentery, of typhus. The ghetto now has a head count in the cemetery of roughly 60,000 to 70,000 dead! That was not enough for the Germans. Periodically, they would have the Jewish ghetto administration draw up lists of the very young ones, the very old ones, the recent arrivals, the infirm. Those people, at irregular intervals, would be deported; sent away from the ghetto, supposedly to a different work camp. We never heard from them again. They were all killed.

In the ghetto we manufactured coats for the German army, hats for the ladies in Germany, metal gadgets for the army, straw boots for the Russian front, carpets for the ladies in Germany, corsets for export to Germany.   We figured out the coal ration for the entire German population in Germany. We did the clerical work and the forms were sent back to German.

The ghetto was surrounded by barbed wire with sentry guards.

There were no sewers. They were open sewers! You had to jump over them to cross the street!

We had no contact with the outside. There was an occasional radio; but, when the Germans found it, you paid with your life for it! Even the radio would only tell us what the BBC would report, which was really not what we needed to know. We needed to know if we could get help from anybody — would anybody smuggle anything into the ghetto — any guns, any food, anything?

I had friends in fairly high positions in the ghetto administration. They had no information whatsoever!   We did not know what was going on half and hour away from the ghetto. We did not know how close the Russians were to the ghetto and that they just stood there for six weeks and waited. We did not know that the children they deported from the ghetto, including my sister, were gassed in portable gas vans an hour from the ghetto and buried in mass graves. We did not know of the existence of Auschwitz, of Stutthof, of Bergen-Belsen. We had never, never heard of it!

My mother died of hunger in July, 1942. My sister was deported in September of that same year. My mother is buried in the Lodz in the cemetery; but, there were no gravestones. I left a little wooden marker. The marker had disappeared after 50 years. There are no records.

Roger: Lucille, I’ve got to take a break here. Ladies and gentlemen, Lucille Eichengreen is our guest. Her book is, “From Ashes to Life” the story of her memories about the holocaust. Quite compelling stuff!   We’ll continue right after the break.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger: Welcome back, folks! “From Ashes to Life” is the book. The author, Lucille Eichengreen joins us! 

Lucille we’re back! You were telling us of your mother buried in this graveyard. Were you able later to find her grave? 

Lucille E:  I went back after 50 years. No. Among 70,000 graves there are maybe two dozen stones remaining. All the others are not to be identified. It’s a grassy hill and you know you have 70,000 human beings buried there. But, that is all. 

Roger: You were working as a clerk? 

Lucille E: Yes. 

Roger: So you were spared death because of that? 

Lucille E: Well, I was spared the deportation. I worked in several offices. Ultimately, I worked in the factory sewing leather gadgets for the German army. My name did appear on a deportation list. A friend of mine tried, through a friend of his, to have my name deleted from the list and he managed that on the last day. I felt, and I was very young then–I was 18 years old — that here I knew the horrors; but, to leave into new horrors would be worse. So, I stayed. The people who were deported were never heard from again. 

The ghetto had roughly between 150,000 and 200,000 people at any one time. It remained in existence until August, 1944 when the Germans ordered the systematic and fast liquidation of the ghetto. 

We had to report to the railroad siding where we were pushed into cattle cars. After two to three days we arrived at the platform in the early morning hours, about 4:00 a.m. –brightly lit — Germans in SS uniforms with guard dogs. Before we even realized where we were or what this place was, the men were separated from the women, the old ones from the young ones. Within 10 minutes we were marched into different directions! 

I, and friends of mine, were marched with the women who were still halfway young and halfway able to work. As you mentioned before, we were stripped of all our belongings, all jewelry. The worst part was that they shaved our heads! I cannot begin to tell you what women look like with any hair, with bald heads!

I think I will skip over Auschwitz because Auschwitz was one place that people have heard most about; the gas chambers worked day and night! The chimneys were smoking day and night! It only took us hours to find out through the grapevine what this place was! 

After a few weeks we had to run past a German inspection team. One of the German officers was Dr. Mengele; but, we did not know that. We had to carry our one rag, which was all the clothing we had, in our left hand. He had separated the fit ones from the ones he deemed not so fit. 

Those of us who looked a little younger and a little stronger were pushed into cattle cars. We were given an additional garment and after three days we arrived at the outer harbor of the City of Hamburg, which had been badly bombed by the British and the Americans. The place was called *DESSAWA-UFFA* .   We were put to work cleaning up the bomb damage in the outer harbor; glass, metal, bricks, you name it! We were given no gloves, no protective clothing. It was cold. It was beginning to be winter. It was raining. We were coughing. Most of us caught pneumonia; but, we worked! There was really not other choice, if you didn’t work you were shot! 

From that camp we were put into a different camp which was called *ZAZEL-NOIMGUMA*

It was an enormous camp. It housed mainly French prisoners, male prisoners. Ours was a subdivision of 500 women. We had to build concrete houses out of concrete, not blocks; but, plates, for the Germans that lost their houses in the bombing. It was hard physical work! Of course, food was at a premium and there was not much food. At least, the place didn’t have a gas chamber!.

It was at that camp that I worked for a short time in the office and somehow managed to memorize the names and addresses of the guards.

From there we were shipped to another camp. This camp was called Bergen-Belsen. I remember walking through the gates. On the right and on the left of the gates were huge mountains of shoes. No feet, no legs, no people—empty shoes! Old ones, large ones, new ones–empty shoes!

We were housed in barracks in Bergen-Belsen which, at that time, spring of 1945, was totally diseased! The bodies were no longer buried. They were lying in the barracks, on the walkways in huge open pits! Decaying bodies!

We were given sometimes some soup or some food. More frequently than not, we were not given anything.

I don’t think anybody could have survived Bergen-Belsen for, at most, a month! We were fortunate that on April 15th, the British army in their advance up the Elba to cut off the Russian army, stumbled across the camp! The came with tanks up the camp avenue and they did not believe what they found! They had no equipment, they had no medical help, they had no food, they were absolutely stunned! Of course, they were afraid to let us out of the camp. We were diseased. We were lice infested. Some of us were very, very angry and full of hate and there was nothing but revenge on our minds. The war wasn’t over yet. It was April 15th . The war didn’t end until six weeks later when Germany capitulated.

I was fortunate enough that I spoke English and I started working almost immediately for a British Major as an interpreter, a translator.

Eventually the British managed to get food into the camp; but, even after they had come, another 10,000 people died! They could no longer be saved. They were too far gone!

Roger:   Oh, Lord!

Lucille E:   The dead had to be buried with bulldozers! There was no other way to bury them.

We were eventually housed in the former German army buildings. Within weeks, the camp was burned down! It was so infested and so beyond saving, that today there is nothing left of the camp!

As I worked for the Major, in a conversation once, the 42 SS guards from the camp came up and he didn’t believe me. I wrote down the names and addresses and he checked it out.   I went with the British army, with huge trucks and we picked up 40 of the former SS. I asked to walk past the prison cells that housed them the following week, just to look at them. All of them said, “We never did anything bad unless you deserved it. We never did anything against the law. We never did anything against humanity. Please help us!” I did not answer. I did not argue. I did not respond!

Shortly thereafter, I gave a deposition. It was an English military court setting. The Germans sat in the first row….

Roger: Let me take this quick break, Lucille, and we’ll be right back! Folks, if you’d like to ask Lucille a question, we’ll have time for a couple of calls.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger:  Welcome back! Lucille Eichengreen’s with us! Her book, is “From Ashes to Life: My Memories of the Holocaust.” Lucille managed to memorize the names and addresses of 42 SS officers and was there when they were rounded up…. by the way folks, you can call in!

Now, Lucille, you were at this court for the deposition?

Lucille E: Right! I remember most things fairly clearly; but, I don’t remember the questions. I don’t remember my answers. It lasted a couple of hours; but, I have no recollection!

I do recall that within the following week I got several threats, handwritten notes under the door of the dormitory setting where I lived, threatening my life! They were probably from the families of the Germans who had been arrested.   As a result, the British drove me to Paris because Paris was the only place in Europe that had an American embassy.

In March, 1946 I received a visa for the United States, thanks to the help of some friends in New York and a letter of commendation from the British War Crimes Department.   I arrived in New York at the end of March, 1946.

I did not go back to Europe, to Germany or to Poland until 50 years later.

Roger: When the British military came, you worked for this Major, you said. When they first saw the camp, had they seen anything like that up to that point?

Lucille E: No, they had not!

Roger:  So, this came as a total shock to them?

Lucille E:  For this particular group of people, it was the first major camp that they encountered on their advance to Germany.

Roger:  Do you think that people just didn’t realize, I mean the people of the world; Great Britain, America and other countries, didn’t realize how bad, how traumatic this really was.

Lucille E:  No, I don’t believe that because Professor Kauski (SP?) came to the United States in 1942 after he’d been to Warsaw. Professor Kauski (SP?) is not a Jew. He told Washington how bad it was! There are records now declassified in Washington that spells all this out. There are also aerial photographs. The allies bombed the oil fields near Krakow which is less than 10 miles from Auschwitz. So, yes, the world knew! The world did not care!

Roger:   But, the British troops rolled up to the camp. I mean, it’s one thing for someone to tell you how bad it is, it’s quite another to witness it!

Lucille E: Yes, I agree.

Roger:   The rap that I always think is fairly given to the governments of the world is that they didn’t respond hard enough and soon enough to this issue. And, I don’t know why! What bothers me is that even in modern times, although quite different; but similar in the sense there’s a lot of death and mayhem, in places like Rwanda…. it seems like the world doesn’t respond!

Lucille E:  Right! Look at the former Yugoslavia!

Roger: It takes a long time for people to respond to anything!

Lucille E: Which is inexcusable.

Roger: Is it the world’s responsibility to respond, do you think?

Lucille E: If we want to call ourselves “human”, I would say yes.   We should care about our fellow human beings. We should also learn from the past! Have we learned from the past? Regrettably, very little. And that hurts!

Roger: Why do you say that?

Lucille E: Because of what you said. You said, look at the world around us.

Roger: Yes, yes!

Lucille E: Okay! Have we made any progress? I’m not talking about scientific progress. Human progress! Do we care about our fellow human beings? I mean, what has been going on and is going on in the former Yugoslavia is inexcusable! This is the 21st Century!

Roger: How do you know what to do in those circumstances, using Yugoslavia as an example. They’ve been warring factions, the Muslims and the Christians, for a thousand years!

Lucille E: Yes; but, that doesn’t mean you have to kill people by the millions! And, the world stands by and watches. I don’t think that is human! I really don’t have the answer! I’m not a politician.

Roger: We’ve got a lot of young people listening out in the audience. As a matter of fact, our phones are ringing with people wanting to order tapes of this program rather than going on the air! But, what I’m curious about, is what message can you send to this next two or three generations of kids that might help them ensure that this doesn’t happen again? I believe it can happen again!

Lucille E: Yes, I believe the same! If you see or hear of an injustice, speak up! Do something about it! You might pay a price for it; but, that is life. Nothing comes cheaply!

Roger: Yes! Do you think there are signs of things happening, even in America today?

Lucille E: I would hope not. I would hope that this country is diverse enough in backgrounds that it would not happen; but, I don’t think it is totally impossible.

Roger:   I mean….

Lucille E: History can repeat itself!

Roger:   The issue is, I think, most appropriately, that government, given too much power and authority over the people, can selectively destroy any people they want.

Lucille E:   Yes. But on the other hand, if we live in a free country, we can elect or not elect representatives. If we disagree seriously enough on any one issue, we can demonstrate. And we’ve done so more than once!

Roger: Yes! Do you think that after the holocaust, at the Nurmeburg Trials, did the world act appropriately? Did they respond appropriately? Were the punishments doled out appropriately?

Lucille E:   No, definitely not! The 42 SS received sentences between 3 years and 20 years. They all were paroled very rapidly. There was one death sentence. The trial at Nuremberg was not nearly adequate. It was a “show” for the world. You still have war criminals around Europe, in France and Germany and other countries that have never been punished! Properties have never been returned to the full extent of which they were taken away! If they took $100.00 away, they gave you $50.00 back!

Roger:  Not fair!   Lucille, we’ve run out of time. I want to tell you it’s been a wonderful hour! I’ve enjoyed it very much! God bless you!

Lucille E: Thank you very much!

(Transcription is from MP3 file converted from original cassette with minimal editing by Chey Simonton.

Errors, if any, may be due to unintelligible sections of original 1997 audio technology. Unknown/unintelligible words are spelled phonetically.)

 

 

The Holocaust – We Must Remember – Lucille Eichengreen – "From Ashes to Life"

THE HOLOCAUST: WE MUST REMEMBER 

30-Hour Series of Interviews broadcast on the Roger Fredinburg Radio Program
1-7-1998 Eighth Program in Series
Guest: Lucille Eichengreen
Book: FROM ASHES TO LIFE: My Memories of the Holocaust
Lucille
ISBN-10: 1562790528 :   and ISBN-13: 978-1562790523
Roger:    Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen. Imagine living through the experience, being dragged off in a cattle car against your will, put in a camp, having them shave your body hair, strip you of your dignity and send you on a number of tortuous journeys, malnourishment, cold winter nights!
Just trying to keep your mind on the business of survival, you would think might be enough; but, imagine having the strength of mind and character to remember the names and addresses of 42 of your assailants! That’s exactly what Lucille Eichengreen did! We have her book, “FROM ASHES TO LIFE”.   Lucille, welcome aboard!
Lucille E: Thank you very much!
Roger:   I was rather intrigued, Lucille, that you were able to remember the details against these SS officers who later came to trial as a result of what you remembered. Is that true?
Lucille E:  I remembered their names. I remembered their addresses. The reason I remembered was that I worked for a short period in the camp office. We did not have typewriters so we kept records on pads which were handwritten. If you write it over daily, once or twice for a period of two or three months, you just keep remembering the names and addresses.
Roger: I guess it would seem that with all the trauma, it would be hard to do that ;but, you managed that! Tell the audience a bit of your experience, Lucille, where you came from and how you ended up in Auschwitz and other places. 
Lucille E:   I was 8 years old when Hitler seized power in Germany. My parents, my sister and I, were Polish nationals residing permanently in Germany.
I think it was in the summer of 1933 that I first heard the word “anti-semitism”. I had never heard the word before and I still did not know exactly what it meant. I found out only too soon. I went to a private school, a parochial school. It was a long way to school, a walk of roughly 40 minutes. During the fall of 1933 the German children, none Jewish, would wait for us, they would spit at us. Ultimately, they would beat us up! For a child 8 years old, this was impossible to comprehend!
The neighbors that used to talk to us prior to the 1933 either ignored us or would pass us on the street and spit. There was nothing but contempt and hate. How does an 8-year-old child cope with that? I tried to talk to my parents about it, and like all the adults in the early years of that regime, their answer was, “It is a passing phase. Things will return to normal.” Life did not return to normal. It got worse!
Jewish men and women lost their jobs at universities, at government agencies as civil servants. Jews had to pay heavier taxes. They ultimately had to hand over their jewelry; gold and silver. Their property was taken, no compensation was granted. And still, people believed that life would improve.
The last warning for us should have been November 9, 1938, the “Night of Broken Glass”, “Kristallnacht”. I went to school the following morning. I saw the synagogues burning. I saw books burning. Germans in uniform were laughing!
That same day the Germans rounded up most Jewish men from the age of 16 up to, I guess, 80. The men were ultimately taken to a concentration camp not far from Berlin. Over a period of 6 weeks to 6 months they were gradually released. I remember vividly that the men that returned did not speak of their experience. Their suits were rumpled. The wrinkles would not disappear. They were run through a disinfecting process and no amount of dry-cleaning or pressing would remove those wrinkles. The men had missing front teeth. They were very thin, very gaunt; but, they had one thing in common. Most of them made an effort and managed, with very few exceptions, to leave Germany immediately.
It should have been a red flag for all of us. Regrettably, the world did not make visa available. Immigration quotas were so tight and so strict that you had years to wait before you could enter the United States or another European country or Great Britain. Australia didn’t want any part of it. So, we waited as best we could.
My grades in school dropped drastically from an A and B to C and D because I was afraid. I could not concentrate. My parents supplied tutors and the grades somewhat improved; but, I don’t think that fear ever left me. If you had asked me, in those days, “fear of what?” I don’t think I could have told you. It was just fear, an intrinsic feeling that I could not escape; that I was afraid. Something was looming on the horizon. I could not tell you what.
Germany, of course, took over parts of Alsace, France, Czechoslovakia, Austria. On September 1, 1939 the German army invaded Poland without provocation of any sort. Poland fought as best as they could. It was a very small country. Within a week the country was practically occupied. There were pockets of resistance but it did not do any good.
We heard all this in Germany. In the meantime, we were asked to move into furnished rooms. We had to give up our apartments, our houses for a small room for four or five people.
We tried desperately to get papers for the U.S. But the quota number was tremendously high! It would probably have taken three years. We tried to get a passport to Palestine. The British wanted pound sterling to facilitate entry.   The irony was that you were not allowed to hold foreign currency. In order to obtain the visa to Shanghai, you needed 400 US dollars. Our accounts, our money was blocked.   We got a very small amount monthly; but, we had no access to any of our bank accounts, any real estate, nothing. It was all confiscated by the main office in Berlin. We petitioned; but, the petitions were all denied.
On September 1st, the day the Germans invaded Poland, the German secret police, called Gestapo, came to our door, asked for my father and arrested him as an enemy alien. After roughly 10 days, there was no more Poland. He was shipped from a regular prison to concentration camps near Berlin and ultimately to Dachau.
The communications we received from my father were one or two sentences: “I am fine. Take care of yourselves. I hope to see you.” Nothing else! You couldn’t write anything else because it was obviously censored. My father survived Dachau for roughly two years which was quite a feat considering how people were treated in a concentration camp, the fact that they were neither fed nor clothed.
On January 31, 1941, the German secret police came to our house, dropped a cigar box tied with a rubber band on the kitchen table with the words, “Ashes- Benjamin Landau.” I think it was one of the very few times that the Germans ever returned ashes. We, of course, knew, and it was explained to us, that these were not my father’s ashes. The Germans did not want to bother with individual cremations. They cremated 50 or 100 bodies at a time and it was a handful of somebody’s ashes. There was a burial, a stone was set with my father’s name. It took me 50 years to go back.
We still lived in Germany. The British were bombing parts of northern Germany. In fall, October, 1941, we received notification to pack some belongings and we would be resettled. Rumor had it that it would be in the east; but, no further information. We each packed a suitcase, my mother, my little sister and I. We were transported in sealed cars, 3rd class railroad cars, under guard, for three days and three nights.
When the doors were opened we faced a group of men who wore black uniforms. Their hats had the Star of David. On their coats, on the right side they wore a yellow star that said JEW –the same as we had to wear. This was called Ghetto Police. We were told that we were in the ghetto of the City of Litschmanstadt (sp?)— the Germans had renamed the former city of Lodz which was eastern Europe’s Manchester with a lot of textile weaving and related professions. We were told we would work and live there.
It was a two-hour walk from the railroad siding into the center of the area which we were to occupy. It was dirty. It was dusty. The road was not surfaced, it was just dirt. It was warm and we looked around. The houses were ramshackle shacks, they were not houses. One of the policemen explained to us that this was the *BALOOT* section of the Lodz ghetto. The *BALOOT* meaning the slum of a large industrial city. Prior to the war it had been occupied by very poor people, by an element that was into illegal activities; Jewish as well as non-Jewish, Catholic. It had a reputation of not being a very savory area.
The room we occupied in the ghetto, probably a 10 x 10 room, together with five other people, had just three wooden cots and a small metal stove, nothing else. It had a small window which looked down on barbed wire and and sentry house. Every two hours the sentries would change, the German guards would change and a new contingent of guards would take over. We were stunned! Coming from a middle class lifestyle into a place of this sort was incomprehensible!
It was late fall. It started snowing. It was unbelievably cold! Probably not quite as cold as the state of Minnesota; but, not far from it. We had no proper clothing to protect us. We had no coal to heat the oven. The bucket of water in the room froze overnight. We had no running water. There was a pump in the courtyard. There were no toilets. There were no bathrooms. There were no showers. There were no bathtubs, just the pump of cold water in the yard. We had to drag up a bucket at a time, up three flights of stairs. The outhouses in the backyard defied description! It was an unbelievable situation!
I was the only one in the family that ultimately found work as a clerk; first in one office and then in another office. As a working member, you could get a watery soup at lunchtime. The soup had no nourishment. It was devoid of any kind of potatoes or starch. It was just a watery mess; but, it was better than nothing at all.
I suffered most under the cold. I could not tolerate the winds and the cold. There were no buses. There was no public transportation. You walked! My shoes soaked through. I had frozen toes. That first winter was a nightmare, not that subsequent winters were any easier!
We had epidemics of dysentery, of typhus. The ghetto now has a head count in the cemetery of roughly 60,000 to 70,000 dead! That was not enough for the Germans. Periodically, they would have the Jewish ghetto administration draw up lists of the very young ones, the very old ones, the recent arrivals, the infirm. Those people, at irregular intervals, would be deported; sent away from the ghetto, supposedly to a different work camp. We never heard from them again. They were all killed.
In the ghetto we manufactured coats for the German army, hats for the ladies in Germany, metal gadgets for the army, straw boots for the Russian front, carpets for the ladies in Germany, corsets for export to Germany.   We figured out the coal ration for the entire German population in Germany. We did the clerical work and the forms were sent back to German.
The ghetto was surrounded by barbed wire with sentry guards.
There were no sewers. They were open sewers! You had to jump over them to cross the street!
We had no contact with the outside. There was an occasional radio; but, when the Germans found it, you paid with your life for it! Even the radio would only tell us what the BBC would report, which was really not what we needed to know. We needed to know if we could get help from anybody — would anybody smuggle anything into the ghetto — any guns, any food, anything?
I had friends in fairly high positions in the ghetto administration. They had no information whatsoever!   We did not know what was going on half and hour away from the ghetto. We did not know how close the Russians were to the ghetto and that they just stood there for six weeks and waited. We did not know that the children they deported from the ghetto, including my sister, were gassed in portable gas vans an hour from the ghetto and buried in mass graves. We did not know of the existence of Auschwitz, of Stutthof, of Bergen-Belsen. We had never, never heard of it!
My mother died of hunger in July, 1942. My sister was deported in September of that same year. My mother is buried in the Lodz in the cemetery; but, there were no gravestones. I left a little wooden marker. The marker had disappeared after 50 years. There are no records.
Roger: Lucille, I’ve got to take a break here. Ladies and gentlemen, Lucille Eichengreen is our guest. Her book is, “From Ashes to Life” the story of her memories about the holocaust. Quite compelling stuff!   We’ll continue right after the break.
COMMERCIAL BREAK
Roger: Welcome back, folks! “From Ashes to Life” is the book. The author, Lucille Eichengreen joins us! 
Lucille we’re back! You were telling us of your mother buried in this graveyard. Were you able later to find her grave? 
Lucille E:  I went back after 50 years. No. Among 70,000 graves there are maybe two dozen stones remaining. All the others are not to be identified. It’s a grassy hill and you know you have 70,000 human beings buried there. But, that is all. 
Roger: You were working as a clerk? 
Lucille E: Yes. 
Roger: So you were spared death because of that? 
Lucille E: Well, I was spared the deportation. I worked in several offices. Ultimately, I worked in the factory sewing leather gadgets for the German army. My name did appear on a deportation list. A friend of mine tried, through a friend of his, to have my name deleted from the list and he managed that on the last day. I felt, and I was very young then–I was 18 years old — that here I knew the horrors; but, to leave into new horrors would be worse. So, I stayed. The people who were deported were never heard from again. 
The ghetto had roughly between 150,000 and 200,000 people at any one time. It remained in existence until August, 1944 when the Germans ordered the systematic and fast liquidation of the ghetto. 
We had to report to the railroad siding where we were pushed into cattle cars. After two to three days we arrived at the platform in the early morning hours, about 4:00 a.m. –brightly lit — Germans in SS uniforms with guard dogs. Before we even realized where we were or what this place was, the men were separated from the women, the old ones from the young ones. Within 10 minutes we were marched into different directions! 
I, and friends of mine, were marched with the women who were still halfway young and halfway able to work. As you mentioned before, we were stripped of all our belongings, all jewelry. The worst part was that they shaved our heads! I cannot begin to tell you what women look like with any hair, with bald heads!
I think I will skip over Auschwitz because Auschwitz was one place that people have heard most about; the gas chambers worked day and night! The chimneys were smoking day and night! It only took us hours to find out through the grapevine what this place was! 
After a few weeks we had to run past a German inspection team. One of the German officers was Dr. Mengele; but, we did not know that. We had to carry our one rag, which was all the clothing we had, in our left hand. He had separated the fit ones from the ones he deemed not so fit. 
Those of us who looked a little younger and a little stronger were pushed into cattle cars. We were given an additional garment and after three days we arrived at the outer harbor of the City of Hamburg, which had been badly bombed by the British and the Americans. The place was called *DESSAWA-UFFA* .   We were put to work cleaning up the bomb damage in the outer harbor; glass, metal, bricks, you name it! We were given no gloves, no protective clothing. It was cold. It was beginning to be winter. It was raining. We were coughing. Most of us caught pneumonia; but, we worked! There was really not other choice, if you didn’t work you were shot! 
From that camp we were put into a different camp which was called *ZAZEL-NOIMGUMA*
It was an enormous camp. It housed mainly French prisoners, male prisoners. Ours was a subdivision of 500 women. We had to build concrete houses out of concrete, not blocks; but, plates, for the Germans that lost their houses in the bombing. It was hard physical work! Of course, food was at a premium and there was not much food. At least, the place didn’t have a gas chamber!.
It was at that camp that I worked for a short time in the office and somehow managed to memorize the names and addresses of the guards.
From there we were shipped to another camp. This camp was called Bergen-Belsen. I remember walking through the gates. On the right and on the left of the gates were huge mountains of shoes. No feet, no legs, no people—empty shoes! Old ones, large ones, new ones–empty shoes!
We were housed in barracks in Bergen-Belsen which, at that time, spring of 1945, was totally diseased! The bodies were no longer buried. They were lying in the barracks, on the walkways in huge open pits! Decaying bodies!
We were given sometimes some soup or some food. More frequently than not, we were not given anything.
I don’t think anybody could have survived Bergen-Belsen for, at most, a month! We were fortunate that on April 15th, the British army in their advance up the Elba to cut off the Russian army, stumbled across the camp! The came with tanks up the camp avenue and they did not believe what they found! They had no equipment, they had no medical help, they had no food, they were absolutely stunned! Of course, they were afraid to let us out of the camp. We were diseased. We were lice infested. Some of us were very, very angry and full of hate and there was nothing but revenge on our minds. The war wasn’t over yet. It was April 15th . The war didn’t end until six weeks later when Germany capitulated.
I was fortunate enough that I spoke English and I started working almost immediately for a British Major as an interpreter, a translator.
Eventually the British managed to get food into the camp; but, even after they had come, another 10,000 people died! They could no longer be saved. They were too far gone!
Roger:   Oh, Lord!
Lucille E:   The dead had to be buried with bulldozers! There was no other way to bury them.
We were eventually housed in the former German army buildings. Within weeks, the camp was burned down! It was so infested and so beyond saving, that today there is nothing left of the camp!
As I worked for the Major, in a conversation once, the 42 SS guards from the camp came up and he didn’t believe me. I wrote down the names and addresses and he checked it out.   I went with the British army, with huge trucks and we picked up 40 of the former SS. I asked to walk past the prison cells that housed them the following week, just to look at them. All of them said, “We never did anything bad unless you deserved it. We never did anything against the law. We never did anything against humanity. Please help us!” I did not answer. I did not argue. I did not respond!
Shortly thereafter, I gave a deposition. It was an English military court setting. The Germans sat in the first row….
Roger: Let me take this quick break, Lucille, and we’ll be right back! Folks, if you’d like to ask Lucille a question, we’ll have time for a couple of calls.
COMMERCIAL BREAK
Roger:  Welcome back! Lucille Eichengreen’s with us! Her book, is “From Ashes to Life: My Memories of the Holocaust.” Lucille managed to memorize the names and addresses of 42 SS officers and was there when they were rounded up…. by the way folks, you can call in!
Now, Lucille, you were at this court for the deposition?
Lucille E: Right! I remember most things fairly clearly; but, I don’t remember the questions. I don’t remember my answers. It lasted a couple of hours; but, I have no recollection!
I do recall that within the following week I got several threats, handwritten notes under the door of the dormitory setting where I lived, threatening my life! They were probably from the families of the Germans who had been arrested.   As a result, the British drove me to Paris because Paris was the only place in Europe that had an American embassy.
In March, 1946 I received a visa for the United States, thanks to the help of some friends in New York and a letter of commendation from the British War Crimes Department.   I arrived in New York at the end of March, 1946.
I did not go back to Europe, to Germany or to Poland until 50 years later.
Roger: When the British military came, you worked for this Major, you said. When they first saw the camp, had they seen anything like that up to that point?
Lucille E: No, they had not!
Roger:  So, this came as a total shock to them?
Lucille E:  For this particular group of people, it was the first major camp that they encountered on their advance to Germany.
Roger:  Do you think that people just didn’t realize, I mean the people of the world; Great Britain, America and other countries, didn’t realize how bad, how traumatic this really was.
Lucille E:  No, I don’t believe that because Professor Kauski (SP?) came to the United States in 1942 after he’d been to Warsaw. Professor Kauski (SP?) is not a Jew. He told Washington how bad it was! There are records now declassified in Washington that spells all this out. There are also aerial photographs. The allies bombed the oil fields near Krakow which is less than 10 miles from Auschwitz. So, yes, the world knew! The world did not care!
Roger:   But, the British troops rolled up to the camp. I mean, it’s one thing for someone to tell you how bad it is, it’s quite another to witness it!
Lucille E: Yes, I agree.
Roger:   The rap that I always think is fairly given to the governments of the world is that they didn’t respond hard enough and soon enough to this issue. And, I don’t know why! What bothers me is that even in modern times, although quite different; but similar in the sense there’s a lot of death and mayhem, in places like Rwanda…. it seems like the world doesn’t respond!
Lucille E:  Right! Look at the former Yugoslavia!
Roger: It takes a long time for people to respond to anything!
Lucille E: Which is inexcusable.
Roger: Is it the world’s responsibility to respond, do you think?
Lucille E: If we want to call ourselves “human”, I would say yes.   We should care about our fellow human beings. We should also learn from the past! Have we learned from the past? Regrettably, very little. And that hurts!
Roger: Why do you say that?
Lucille E: Because of what you said. You said, look at the world around us.
Roger: Yes, yes!
Lucille E: Okay! Have we made any progress? I’m not talking about scientific progress. Human progress! Do we care about our fellow human beings? I mean, what has been going on and is going on in the former Yugoslavia is inexcusable! This is the 21st Century!
Roger: How do you know what to do in those circumstances, using Yugoslavia as an example. They’ve been warring factions, the Muslims and the Christians, for a thousand years!
Lucille E: Yes; but, that doesn’t mean you have to kill people by the millions! And, the world stands by and watches. I don’t think that is human! I really don’t have the answer! I’m not a politician.
Roger: We’ve got a lot of young people listening out in the audience. As a matter of fact, our phones are ringing with people wanting to order tapes of this program rather than going on the air! But, what I’m curious about, is what message can you send to this next two or three generations of kids that might help them ensure that this doesn’t happen again? I believe it can happen again!
Lucille E: Yes, I believe the same! If you see or hear of an injustice, speak up! Do something about it! You might pay a price for it; but, that is life. Nothing comes cheaply!
Roger: Yes! Do you think there are signs of things happening, even in America today?
Lucille E: I would hope not. I would hope that this country is diverse enough in backgrounds that it would not happen; but, I don’t think it is totally impossible.
Roger:   I mean….
Lucille E: History can repeat itself!
Roger:   The issue is, I think, most appropriately, that government, given too much power and authority over the people, can selectively destroy any people they want.
Lucille E:   Yes. But on the other hand, if we live in a free country, we can elect or not elect representatives. If we disagree seriously enough on any one issue, we can demonstrate. And we’ve done so more than once!
Roger: Yes! Do you think that after the holocaust, at the Nurmeburg Trials, did the world act appropriately? Did they respond appropriately? Were the punishments doled out appropriately?
Lucille E:   No, definitely not! The 42 SS received sentences between 3 years and 20 years. They all were paroled very rapidly. There was one death sentence. The trial at Nuremberg was not nearly adequate. It was a “show” for the world. You still have war criminals around Europe, in France and Germany and other countries that have never been punished! Properties have never been returned to the full extent of which they were taken away! If they took $100.00 away, they gave you $50.00 back!
Roger:  Not fair!   Lucille, we’ve run out of time. I want to tell you it’s been a wonderful hour! I’ve enjoyed it very much! God bless you!
Lucille E: Thank you very much!
(Transcription is from MP3 file converted from original cassette with minimal editing by Chey Simonton.
Errors, if any, may be due to unintelligible sections of original 1997 audio technology. Unknown/unintelligible words are spelled phonetically.)
 
 

The Holocaust – We Must Remember, Dorit Bader-Whiteman-The Uprooted: A Hitler Legacy: Voices of Those Who Escaped Before “The Final Solution”

lHolocaust-Dorit Bader Whiteman

THE HOLOCAUST: WE MUST REMEMBER

30-Hour Series of Interviews broadcast on the Roger Fredinburg Radio Program

11-19-1007 Fourth Program in Series Guest:   Dr. Dorit Bader-Whiteman

The Uprooted: A Hitler Legacy: Voices of Those Who Escaped Before “The Final Solution”

ISBN-10: 0738205796 and ISBN-13: 978-0738205793

In this show Roger Fredinburg interviews Dr. Dorit Bader Whiteman about her book “The Uprooted – A Hitler Legacy” This interview includes a first hand account of the night that Austria was annexed by Germany.

Roger:    Hello, everyone! I’m Roger Fredinburg, radio’s regular guy! This evening we celebrate Part 4 of our continuing series, The Holocaust: We Must Remember.   We want to thank Chey Simonton and Kelleigh Nelson for all their labor and work in helping find the guests, getting the books to me and all the work they’ve done on the internet, the phone calls and the love they’ve put into this project. Thank you very much, ladies!

We’ve talked to Michael Berenbaum and got a wonderful overview of the Holocaust Museum and the things depicted there; we’ve had a couple of weeks talking with James Pool talking about who financed Hitler. The topic when you talk about the Hitler era always focuses on those who went through the camps and the hell of the Holocaust. A quite different approach to the whole subject of the war and the Hitler Legacy is found in a book , “The Uprooted: A Hitler Legacy” written by Dr. Dorit Bader-Whiteman. Dr. Whiteman is an escapee from Hitler. She arrived in with her family in New York via England in 1941. She earned a PhD in clinical psychology from New York University, has a private practice in New York and serves as editorial consultant for the Journal of Psychotherapy, was president of the Nassau Psychological Association and was until recently the Director of the Psychology Department at Flushing Hospital Mental Health Clinic which she started. She has more credentials than that; but, this book, “The Uprooted,” is what we’re going to talk about tonight! Welcome to the program, Dr. Whiteman! Hello!

Dr. Whiteman:     Thank you! Hi!

Roger: It’s a pleasure to have you here! You take quite a different route in your historical documentary about what happened during Hitler’s reign.

Dr. Whiteman: Yes. I got interested in the escapees, the people who were able to leave the Nazi-occupied countries before The Final Solution started. That means they were never in death camps. They might have been in concentration camps where some of them could have died of starvation or beatings, etc.; but, they were never in the death camps where there was no hope to get out. That means they left before WW II started or very soon thereafter. They lived during the war years in no greater danger than their fellow citizens. For instance, if they were fortunate enough to come to England, they might have been bombed or had food rationed; but, they were no worse off than their fellow citizens and other English people who lived in Britain.

This is a group that has never really been talked about too much. They themselves haven’t talked about it until recently, and I can tell you why! Because they only lived under Hitler a shorter period of time and because they were able to escape, they felt kind too modest to say, ‘let me tell you about all the horrible things that happened….let me tell you about our tragedies…. let me tell you about the disasters that befell us.” No disaster could be as bad as those who perished in concentration camps and ghettos.

The reason I got interested in them is that I went visit my cousin. I, myself, was able to escape from Vienna. I went to see my cousin who lives in England. His parents, my aunt and uncle, died in concentration camps. His family, his wife and her whole family were also murdered in concentration camps. As I was sitting there talking to him, I said, “You know, we were very lucky that nothing happened to us.” I’d said that all my life, “Nothing happened”. Then I suddenly began to think about the horror we went through under Hitler; all the relatives we lost, the endless years trying to live an ordinary life, going from country to country to finally settle down. Continue reading

The Holocaust – We Must Remember, Dr. Michael Berenbaum

Holocaust series -BerenbaumTHE HOLOCAUST: WE MUST REMEMBER

 30-Hour Series of Interviews broadcast on the Roger Fredinburg Radio Program 

10-27-1997 – First Program in Series

Guest:   Dr. Michael Berenbaum, author

The World Must Know: The History of the Holocaust as Told in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

ISBN-10: 080188358X and ISBN-13: 978-0801883583

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

100 Raoul Wallenberg Place Southwest, Washington, DC, 20024

(202) 488-0400

This is the first interview in the “Holocaust, We Must Remember” Series by Roger Fredinburg with Dr. Berenbaum, who oversaw the structure of the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C.. His book is titled: The World Must Know.  the world must know

Roger:      Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! I am Roger Fredinburg, radio’s “regular guy and I’m glad to have you here with us this evening. First and foremost, ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank my good friends, Chey Simonton and Kelleigh Nelson, for their hard work and endurance in helping me put together what will become an approximately 20 week investigation and exploration of the whole subject of the Holocaust that we must not forget.

As I’ve been in talk radio these many, many years, one of the things I have learned, and it’s and unfortunate discovery, is that the American people are totally and completely without knowledge on the subject; easily manipulated, easily dragged off into some of these so-called patriot camps which are nothing but Nazi cults, Hitler-loving groups. You don’t know that going in. It takes time to work you up to that. In my opinion, and I think many of you share the opinion, that ignorance is not good.

So we will set out on a journey over the next twenty weeks. We’re going to talk with people who survived some of the most incredible atrocities man’s conceived. We’re going to talk with people covering every aspect of this holocaust issue because We Must Remember.

Joining us this evening is Dr. Michael Berenbaum, one of the foremost authorities. His book is, The World Must Know: The History of the Holocaust as Told in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It’s a wonderful book that takes you on a journey through everything! You need to order this book and I’ll explain later how to do that. First, I’d like to welcome our guest. Dr. Berenbaum, welcome!

HOLOCAUST MUSEUM

Dr Berenbaum:   Thank you so much! It’s a pleasure to be with you.

Roger:     It’s a pleasure to have you aboard, sir! I know you are traveling and it’s not the most convenient circumstances for you. You are, whether you know it or not, the first guest in a series of about twenty where the whole subject of the holocaust will be covered so that people won’t forget.

First of all, I’d like to ask about the Holocaust Museum. What is the goal of the Holocaust Museum?

Dr. Berenbaum: Well, the goal of the Holocaust Museum was two-fold; one, to memorialize the victims; but, more importantly, to be a living memorial, to teach the current generation the story of the holocaust, to transmit the story to this generation and all future generations. So it’s task was to commemorate the past, to educate and thereby transform the future.

Roger:     The message is clear, that we must never forget.

Dr. Berenbaum: That’s one of the messages. What we deliberately did was not to be a propaganda machine; but, to literally tell you the story. The remarkable thing is that once the story is told the messages are multiple to many people. The remarkable thing we found in the first years of the museum was that message was also deeply and profoundly American. By that I mean that here was an account of an essentially European event that underscored the importance of fundamental American values; the idea that all persons are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights that the state can’t take away, the notion that absolute rights and separation of powers and checks and balances which, after all, are the antitheses of dictatorship. They are the guarantor of all these freedoms.

Roger:   I concur. I want to ask you to help me with something because who knows how many listeners are in the audience this evening. Many of them will never get to see the Holocaust Museum. I though what you might do, as best you can, is simply take us on a tour. What will we see there?

Dr. Berenbaum:    Let us begin, first of all, with the setting.   The setting of the Holocaust Museum is adjacent to the National Monuments, adjacent to the National Mall. One of the very interesting things is that we were asked, why did we put this museum in the center of the National Mall that celebrates all the great triumphs of American democracy and accomplishment in art, literature and technology, the power of government.   The Holocaust represents what happens when the power of humanity is detached from moral responsibility.

Enter the museum and you will get an identification card of someone who went through the holocaust so you have a companion on your trip through the museum. The companion will be a person whose life story is unfolding before you as you enter the ethical historical event.

You ride the elevator, and in the elevator you meet an American liberator who’ll say to you what he said then, ” we don’t know what it is, people are dying, they’re starving everywhere. People don’t do this to other people!”

Then the elevator doors open and you see what the American soldiers experienced on the day of liberation, the shock! The catastrophe of all the dead bodies, piles of bodies and bones! You begin there and then conclude at the little section from Dwight David Eisenhower who said, ” I made the visit (to these camps) deliberately in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda.”   That section will conclude with a question which how could this happen?

The rest of the museum is literally an answer to that question…. not why, but how?

On the top floor we took you through the evolution of Nazi policy; through the rise of Hitler, to the beginning of terror, the creation of concentration camps, to the boycott of Jewish businesses. On May 10, 1933, literally Hitler’s 100th day in office, they burned books. You will read a statement by Heinrich Heine who said, “a people who burn books, in the end, will burn people.”   The distance from book burning to people burning in the Holocaust was eight years!

You will then ask the question, “How did the nation of Goethe, Schiller, Bach and Beethoven become the worshiper of the mad corporal and would see the power of propaganda, would see the ideology of race and the science of race?   400 laws were passed that isolated, segregated and stigmatized the Jews and removed them from the heart of society and made them a segregated minority.

Then we’d see the power of technology by seeing the granddaddy of the computer; the card sorter, showing the degree of technology that powered this regime.

We’d see the indifference of the world that is a form of antisemitism, then we’d go to a turning point in the holocaust which was called The Night of the Broken Glass, “Kristallnacht,” November 8, 1938.   On November 9, 1938 eleven hundred synagogues were burned in Germany and Austria, 7,000 stores were looted and 30,000 Jewish men and boys were arrested. It would seem that was the end of German Jewry.

We’d continue on to see the Nazi assault against other victims. We’d see the triumph of Hitler in which he not only created a Nazi state but a police society and the desperate attempt to convince the refugees to leave.

Finally, we’d see the beginning of killing, the beginning of war against the Polish nationals and the first mass murders which didn’t happen to the Jews; but, the first mass murders happened to the mentally retarded, to those who were an embarrassment to the myth of Aryan supremacy.

We’d cross a bridge and see what did America know and when did it know it? What was the response of the United States between 1933 and 1939?

We’d descend a floor, and this is the floor that’s most difficult. This is a floor of death! As you move through I can take you through to the ghetto, to all the killing units, all the mobile units that went out and shot Jews; 1,250,000 jews shot, one by one by one!

Roger:   Now what was the mobile killing unit? What did it look like?

Dr. Berenbaum:   The mobile killing units consisted of a series of SS officers and personnel. Their job was to come into a town and round-up Jews, some gypsies and communists, bring them to the edge of a valley or a gulch and literally shoot them one by one by one.   They murder 90,000 people in the first four and a half to five weeks of duty!   How do we know that? They sent back reports indicating the dates and the numbers of people they killed. At Babyar they murdered 32,000 people within a three-day period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in 1941, the High Holy Days! It would seem that these were ordinary soldiers who acted as part of an extraordinary unit. We’d look at their pictures and even see the films that they took! When you look at the films they strike you, primarily, because even though you know what happened they seem surrealistic. Your eyes can’t believe what they are seeing!

We go from there to the decision of killing. The decision to kill was taken January 20, 1942. It was taken at a beautiful villa on a lakeside area in Berlin. It was taken by 15 men, what we of the Viet Nam generation would call “The Best and the Brightest”.

We then see the ghetto resistance in Warsaw and we’d walk right to the railroad train that was used to transport Jews from Austria to Treblinka.   With the idea that the mobile killing units were the first stage of killing, the first state of killing was to take the killers to the victims. But, that became too difficult; psychologically, they couldn’t kill all day long and still handle the rest of their humanity. So they reversed the order; that is, if you can’t send the killers to the victims, you have mobile victims and stationary killing centers. The instrument of that was the railroad car.

If you were in the museum you’d learn that Auschwitz had 44 parallel railroad tracks. I didn’t know what a parallel railroad track was but I’d once been trained as a journalist. I called Amtrak and asked, “How many parallel railroad tracks do you have a Pennsylvania Station?” Then I fell off my chair when the guy answered, 21! I realized that Auschwitz was chosen because the infrastructure was in place; 44 parallel railroad tracks which meant they needed intersecting railroad lines for this to work. That’s why they created the death camps of Birkenau and Auschwitz.

Roger:  So the railroad provided the nucleus!

Dr. Berenbaum: It was the nucleus of the transportation system. The idea was to have stationary killing centers. Therefore, you have places like Treblinka. Here again, I can give you statistics; Treblinka 850,000 Jews were killed in about 18 months. They were killed by a staff of 120 of whom 30 were SS and the rest were Ukrainians and Lithuanians.

Then you walk into the actual barracks of Auschwitz and see the unfolding of the world of the death camps. Within the barracks you see the way people slept. You see the medical experiments that were done. You see the slave labor efforts. Then you see the crematoria that was the epicenter; the undressing room, the gas chamber, the elevators, the dissecting rooms and the ovens.

Then you cross the bridge and walk face to face with death. You’d see a room full of shoes, a room of human hair and tattoos.

Finally, you’d get to a room about three stories high in which you’d see about 1,800 faces of people who lived in the village that died one day.

Instead of presenting you with dead bodies, we present you with wonderful pictures of living people; kids on an outing, a father with his daughter, a grandfather with his grandchild, two lovers in bathing suits at a beach party, soccer practicing. We show you the presence of the people and you begin to sense their absence.

We descend again and then you see people in difficult attempts at rescue; Denmark which saved their Jews, Poles who tried to assist Jews. We see resistance then we see liberation again.

Walk and then see on one side the ultimate crime;that the killers which were the children and on the opposite the side the attempt of the world to address this crime that involved the trials of Nazi war criminals, then see the struggles of the people to recover from this, their attempt to rebuild their lives in the United States and Israel.

Finally it concludes in a very incredible way, by listening to the voices of those who were there, who lived in that world and spoke to all the world. We listen to a film of survivors talking with the idea that each fragment of memory is the embodiment of the total experience. Continue reading