David P. Boder Interviews Otto Feuer; August 22, 1946; Paris, France

var transcription = { interview: [ David Boder

Paris, August the 22nd, 1946. An interview at the offices of the Joint, American Joint Distribution Committee. The interviewee, Mr. Otto Feuer, an executive employee of that committee.

David Boder

Also Herr Feuer, or let's try English and then you can go on anyway you want to. [Feuer starts to say something but stops] Will you tell us again what is your profession and where you were born?

Otto Feuer

I'm born in Vienna but I have always been living in Hamburg, in Germany.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

I . . .

David Boder

What did you study?

Otto Feuer

Law.

David Boder

You studied law.

Otto Feuer

Yes.

David Boder

Are you a graduate lawyer?

Otto Feuer

No, I made three years.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Then I had to interrupt it because the persecution of Hitler did no more give me any chance to continue the study.

David Boder

Yes. All right. Now, tell me . . . this . . . since when are you in Paris?

Otto Feuer

. . . Paris I have been since October '45. Forty . . . forty five.

David Boder

Did you ever live in Paris before?

Otto Feuer

No, I did not.

David Boder

Oh, so Paris is for you a new . . .

Otto Feuer

. . . a new country.

David Boder

. . . a new place. All right. Will you first give us a short chronological sketch of the time, say from your university years up to the present date.

Otto Feuer

[a short pause] Well, after having, after having finished school I studied, when I have to give up my studies . . .

David Boder

Where did you study?

Otto Feuer

In Hamburg, in Germany.

David Boder

Hum. Did you know Professor Stern?

Otto Feuer

Only by name.

David Boder

Wilhelm Stern. Only by name.

Otto Feuer

Only by name.

David Boder

Yes. [word not clear] [a short pause] Then when you gave up your studies what were you doing?

Otto Feuer

I was playing chess, I was something like a chessmaster and I was giving chess lessons. Then in October . . .

David Boder

To whom?

Otto Feuer

To whom? To people who . . .

David Boder

In . . . in Hamburg?

Otto Feuer

In Hamburg, in Germany.

David Boder

[words not clear]

Otto Feuer

[words not clear] to Jews, in '36, '37 . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . and the beginning of '38.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And I was working in the export, the export branch too.

David Boder

In a Jewish firm?

Otto Feuer

In a merchant (business), yes. His name was Lissauer.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

In the 28th of October, 1938 all Jews of Polish origin were expelled from Germany, that means we all were arrested in the morning, at five o'clock in the morning and my mother, and two brothers of mine were brought together with all Jews of Polish origin over the German border to Poland where we were stopped in a little town at the Polish border, [name of town not clear] and where we lived at first under . . .

David Boder

Now, wait a moment. Excuse me for interrupting. You were born in Vienna.

Otto Feuer

Hum.

David Boder

Why are you considered of Polish origin?

Otto Feuer

My father was of Polish origin.

David Boder

Your father was of Polish origin. Your mother?

Otto Feuer

My mother was of Russian origin.

David Boder

Of what?

Otto Feuer

Russian.

David Boder

Your mother was Russian, Russian-Jewish.

Otto Feuer

But my mother and all the family of my mother has been living in Vienna since fifty years ago.

David Boder

Aha.

Otto Feuer

Nevertheless, I, though not speaking a single word of Polish, was considered as a Polish national up to '38, when even the Poles took, Poles . . . Poland took away this nationality and I was stateless.

David Boder

Now wait a moment. In '38, was there already a war with Poland?

Otto Feuer

No, no it was one year before the war.

David Boder

So they took the Russ . . . the Poles . . .

Otto Feuer

All the Jews of Polish origin were brought over the German border. Oh that's history, that's known I think . . .

David Boder

All right, let's refresh it.

Otto Feuer

. . . were brought over the border to Poland.

David Boder

And the Poles?

Otto Feuer

The Poles didn't . . . didn't give us permission to enter the country . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Because we had to [word not clear] we had to cross the border in such a hurry, we were driven by German policeman with bayonets and so on, that the Polish had no possibility to check our papers.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

So they stopped us at the border.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Then there were negotiations between the Polish government and the German government . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . concerning our eventually going back to Germany, or at any rate that we were allowed to get some of our property out of Germany. And these negotiations were interrupted by the incident in Paris where the German employees of, in the German embassy in Paris . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Von Rath.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Was killed by . . .

David Boder

Grynszpan.

Otto Feuer

. . . by Grynszpan, it is very interesting, the family of Grynszpan, the origin of this episode in Paris . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

[words not clear] He is cause of our expulsion to Poland, because the family of Grynszpan . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Was expelled with us, and was together with us.

David Boder

From Hamburg?

Otto Feuer

No, from Hanover.

David Boder

From Hanover.

Otto Feuer

And they wrote to a brother of hers . . . of theirs, living in Paris about the experience . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

In consequences of, Grynszpan committed this murder here in Paris.

David Boder

Now wait a moment, was he the brother to whom they wrote?

Otto Feuer

Yes.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

To draw the attention of the world, that was the motive of the act [?]

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . to draw the attention of the world to the situation and the plight of the Jews.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

So [words not clear] . . .

David Boder

By the way, what happened to Grynszpan, will you remind us?

Otto Feuer

Grynszpan I know, Grynszpan was kept in prison here in Paris, but I don't know if he was liberated, I think so, he was liberated when the Germ . . . I don't know, at any rate I don't know . . .

David Boder

But he was taken by the Germans to Germany.

Otto Feuer

I don't know, no, I have not the slightest idea except for . . .

David Boder

Yes, well that is what the American papers said . . .

Otto Feuer

Yes.

David Boder

. . . that when the Germans took Paris they . . . they took him for sometime away I think to Vichy, but he was in Prison.

Otto Feuer

Yes.

David Boder

You see, and finally the Germans caught up with him and he was executed in Germany.

Otto Feuer

So, I never learned about that . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

It must have been . . . at that time I had already been in a concentration camp, and we . . .

David Boder

Because in America there was a great movement . . .

Otto Feuer

To save him, I . . .

David Boder

. . . to save him, and the French gave him I think a life sentence and kept him here.

Otto Feuer

Hum.

David Boder

Also, that was in '38, you came . . .

Otto Feuer

That was in '38 [words not clear]

David Boder

[words not clear]

Otto Feuer

October the 28th.

David Boder

There was no war?

Otto Feuer

There was no war, that was before the war.

David Boder

All right, so they took you across the Polish border, what did you [words not clear]

Otto Feuer

It was together with my mother and two brothers of mine . . .

David Boder

Your father?

Otto Feuer

My father at that time was already living in Belgium, in Brussels.

David Boder

Hum . . .

Otto Feuer

In July '39 my brothers and I and my mother too, we got the permission to re-enter Germany in order to emigrate from Germany to the States.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

We came back to Germany and we had to settle our papers, it took some time because all the papers, all the papers which were required by the American consulate were, were available. And then the war broke out and we were arrested the 9th of September once more, my brothers and me, myself the ninth of September '39, were arrested and were at first interned.

David Boder

Now let's clear it up, when did the war start?

Otto Feuer

September 1st.

David Boder

September 1st the war started with Poland.

Otto Feuer

Hum.

David Boder

And then Jew or no Jew you were supposedly a Polish citizen.

Otto Feuer

Yes.

David Boder

So you were arrested, and interned.

Otto Feuer

Yes.

David Boder

And your mother?

Otto Feuer

My mother was at that time at . . . she was free.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

She was living in Hamburg.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

In December '39, let me finish that, one of my brothers even got the permission to emigrate to the States, and in January another brother of mine who has been brought at that time already at Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp in Germany, and in February, February the 10th . . .

David Boder

Your other brother was also permitted to emigrate?

Otto Feuer

Yes, he was permitted to emigrate.

David Boder

[words not clear]

Otto Feuer

Yes and is now living in the States.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And . . . the 10th of February '40 I was brought to Sachsenhausen. Up to that time I had been in a German . . . in a prison in Germany in Hamburg . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

A prison, a prison of the SR and the SS, but it was . . . was not yet a concentration camp, so my first concentration camp was Sachsenhausen, Oranienburg.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

There I came in February, the 10th of February 1940, and my papers for the emigration for the U.S. were ready and I was invited by the American consulate at Hamburg to make my formal visa application; that was in April '40, the Germans no more didn't give me the permit . . .

David Boder

To emigrate.

Otto Feuer

To leave the country. I was in Sachsenhausen up to September '40, and September '40 I came as an invalid to Dachau.

David Boder

Why as an invalid?

Otto Feuer

Why as an invalid? Well I had some experience in Sachsenhausen which made me an invalid.

David Boder

Will you tell us about that experience.

Otto Feuer

[Long pause] Well, [pause] it's not to be told in such a short time about the experience of someone in the concentration camp.

David Boder

Well, [words not clear]

Otto Feuer

Well, I was working in a . . . I don't understand, what is a Steinbruch?

David Boder

In the, in a quarry.

Otto Feuer

In a quarry . . . quarry, and of course this work was accompanied by what you already know by about, we were . . .

David Boder

Well, you tell us as if we know nothing, all right. It was accompanied by . . .

Otto Feuer

Well we were ill treated . . . and at any rate I had wounds on my feet, I had lost about 25 kilos of weight, and I was no more able to work, and so they took one day, they took all those Jews and brought them to Dachau.

David Boder

Those who could not work?

Otto Feuer

Those who could do no more work.

David Boder

Well.

Otto Feuer

In Dachau I was from December [he probably means September] '40 to June '41; then I was brought to Buchenwald, and in Buchenwald I was from June '41 up to April 11th '45; then we were liberated by the American troops.

David Boder

Hum.

Otto Feuer

[pause] Do you want -- I can't . . . I can't tell you in generally, our, my experience in the camp, I could tell you some . . .

David Boder

Well, you pick what you think is significant, but of your personal experience.

Otto Feuer

Well I should like to [word not clear]

David Boder

Suppose you . . . you are a lawyer.

Otto Feuer

Yes.

David Boder

Suppose you are accusing the Nazis before the American people. Now what do you have to say against them?

Otto Feuer

Well what I have to say against them . . .

David Boder

Complete, what they have done to you. You see?

Otto Feuer

[long pause] I don't want to talk about what they have done to me, I want to talk what they have done to all of us and, for instance, what they have done to men, I also even want to talk . . .

David Boder

To whom [?]

Otto Feuer

Men, to men in general, to German men, to any . . .

David Boder

To men.

Otto Feuer

To men, yes.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

I want to tell you how they succeeded in changing . . . the brains of normal men, and I should like to give you some example -

David Boder

All right . . . go ahead.

Otto Feuer

One example. It was one of the most awful experiences I had in Dachau. We were working, in Dachau we were working. Of course we were, as generally, we were awfully ill treated. One day, it was in summer, in May '41, about, I was standing there together working with a friend of mine, a comrade of mine, when the SS man came, a young SS man, he had about twenty years, and he came in behind us and he called my comrade. 'Come', well will you . . . stillgestanden (attention!) will you, will you put your hands on your . . . on your trousers. Well, then he had him stand behind a hole of water, how do you call it in English?

David Boder

A puddle, yes a ditch.

Otto Feuer

A ditch of water, about a depths of, of two meters . . .

David Boder

Yes. Behind or in front?

Otto Feuer

In front.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

But with the back to the ditch.

David Boder

To the ditch.

Otto Feuer

To the ditch.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And when he stands there with the hands on the trousers, on his trousers, he kicked him into his stomach that he fell into this ditch, and he came . . . he came, his face came up, then he took a club . . . a club . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Otto Feuer

. . . and pushed him down, at any rate he pushed him three times, four times, as long as it was necessary, until this man was drowned. And he called me and I, I of course was ready to have now the same experience, but no, he had me draw him out.

David Boder

Yes, to pull him out.

Otto Feuer

To pull, I had to pull . . . I pulled him out and I had to put him on a little . . . little cart and I had to bring him into the camp. We were working outside . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Yes. We were working outside of the camp.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

That's not so awful. But the most awful thing, that now on the way, this SS man, a boy of about twenty years, he began to tell me how awful he . . . how unhappy he was.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

He had an appointment for the same evening with his sweetheart. And now he had been ordered that he would have to do duty, and he wouldn't, he couldn't go to his date.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

He was speaking to me without any consciousness that he just had commited a murder.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

He was just complaining, he was speaking to me now as . . . as . . . as one comrade speaks to another comrade.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And I think that, that even that, at that time I already was accustomed to a lot of things, but at that time I had the idea . . . how it's possible that a man, a human being, can no more be conscious, can no more be aware of having killed somebody, and speaking to somebody who was only a chance that it's not he who has been killed, like his comrade . . .

David Boder

Yes . . .

Otto Feuer

. . . complaining that he can't go on his date. He has . . . He would have liked to get rid of all the staff and some of [word not clear] and so on, but without any consciousness of having committed a murder . . .

David Boder

Now let me ask a question. This SS man . . . what was his rank?

Otto Feuer

[several words not clear] it was nothing . . .

David Boder

A private?

Otto Feuer

One can call him a private.

David Boder

All right. Now had any private the right to go in and kill a person?

Otto Feuer

Any private, any private had the right to do anything he wanted.

David Boder

They could go in . . .

Otto Feuer

Of course there was nothing forbidden for those people, and even they were . . . educated to do it. The were educated, and educated to do it. This is (?) those people they were really, they were taught to do a good job in killing. Of course they killed, they have lost any sense of . . . of . . . of consciousness. They . . .

David Boder

Weren't there any rules for them? Don't you remember whether any instructions - the Germans like [to] write, weren't there any instructions what the duties, and the rights and the obligations of such an SS man in the camp were.

Otto Feuer

No. The duties of his, the duites of an SS man were to pull out of the prisoners, or the detainees the maximum of power - the amount of work which is possible.

David Boder

Nu . . . and . . .

Otto Feuer

To do this is of course necessary to be very, very strict and to give very rude examples of cruelty to terrify the others.

David Boder

Oh . . . it was really an example of cruelty . . . well did that other fellow not work while he . . .

Otto Feuer

No he did not. At any rate, of course, this was only a pretext.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

For the insticts of those SS men.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . to do every thing they wanted. That was . . .

David Boder

Now, here a man was dead . . .

Otto Feuer

Yes.

David Boder

Did he have to report that he was dead? Did he have to write him off from the card?

Otto Feuer

Yes, yes.

David Boder

So what would he do?

Otto Feuer

He was . . . [word not clear] . . . died of starvation . . . on the card, or of . . . of pneumonia, of consequences of tuberculosis . . . that was on the card. Of course there was a [half a German word not clear] -karte for each prisoner. It is very interesting. The killed six million Jews . . . Jews, but/when] I had to evacuate [?] the ones who have survived, I found the same costume, the same shoes in which I have been arrested.

David Boder

Ja.

Otto Feuer

I still have.

David Boder

Where did you find them?

Otto Feuer

It was in der Textenkammer (store room for textiles) It followed me from Sachsenhausen to Dachau; of course I never wore it.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

It followed me. It followed me from Sachsenhausen to Dachau, and from Dachau to Buchenwald. And we were liberated [??] - for prisoner to take, who took care of it. I got it, and I still have it at home.

David Boder

Now wait a moment. I understand that when they took away from the prisoners the things they gave it away to others. They took it away . . . they . . .

Otto Feuer

Not within the camps in Germany. In Sachsenhausen, Dachau and Buchenwald, they did not. In Auschwitz those people which passed through the chambers of gas, the clothes, and all the belongings were taken away and were distributed to . . . to . . . even to other prisoners; we . . . in Buchenwald, we wore later the [word not clear] suits of people who were killed in Auschwitz.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

But our, our suits, we wore that kind. Those ancient prisoners of '39, we were already considered as, as prominente . . .

David Boder

As the aristocrats . . .

Otto Feuer

Yes.

David Boder

And you were of '39 because you were a Polish -

Otto Feuer

Yes.

David Boder

. . . subject to be interniert as a Pole.

Otto Feuer

Ja.

David Boder

All right. Let's fish out another episode. That is one accusation of one Nazi of murder. Now tell me another episode.

Otto Feuer

It is not an accusation. It is more a humoristic episode, than . . . On August 24 we were bombed. Buchenwald . . .

David Boder

The other one is a humoristic episode . . .

Otto Feuer

Yes.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Buchenwald was bombed by American airplanes.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . and the bombing was made excellent. That means that interside the camp not a single bomb fell, but outer of the camp, where all the industry was, the factories were, they were all laid down.

David Boder

Hum.

Otto Feuer

Nevertheless the SS had forbidden the prisoners to leave those places, to go into the camp.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . and nevertheless we had about four hundred dead.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

While in this moment there were others . . . amongst the dead. There were two . . . about one hundred and fifty SS and of course a lot of wounded.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

At that time . . . This moment, the commander of the camp, he tried . . . Wir sind alle Kameraden - helft uns Kameraden. They cried to the prisoners - we are all comrades . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Helft.

David Boder

To do what. What was there to do?

Otto Feuer

To help, to dig out wounded ones, and to carry wounded ones, and so on, what kind of . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Well, [word not clear] at that time we were comrades.

David Boder

Yes. What happened after the bombing?

Otto Feuer

After the bombing? The war continued. The latter part the factories were not more standing . . . (we) were sent to other camps and the other ones were occupied to rebuild the factories . . .

David Boder

The factories never worked (again)?

Otto Feuer

No, the factories never worked again . . .

David Boder

Did you hear a story, they say something about an oak, Goethe's Oak somewhere in Buchenwald?

Otto Feuer

Oh, of course. There was Goethe's Oak. [word not clear] Goethe's Oak was the only victim of the bombing.

David Boder

Oh . . . tell us what the legend [Footnote: The subsequent discussion has direct reference to the interview with Mr. Bramson, micro-cards, p. 823.] connected with it?

Otto Feuer

Goethe's Oak was then . . . There was a kitchen of Buchenwald.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And next to this kitchen the was an oak, and on this oak, sitting under this oak, Goethe . . . Goethe is supposed to have written the poem: Ãber allen Wipfeln ist . . . ruh . . .

David Boder

Oh . . . Tell me, is there anywhere in Goethe's biography this oak mentioned?

Otto Feuer

Yes, it is.

David Boder

It is? One could trace it in . . . /word not clear]

Otto Feuer

Goethe has been very often . . .

David Boder

. . . in Buchenwald . . .

Otto Feuer

In Buchenwald . . .

David Boder

That is the verse: Ãber allen . . .

Otto Feuer

Wipfeln is Ruh.

David Boder

Wipfeln is Ruh.

Otto Feuer

It is one of the most . . .

David Boder

in alle. Ja. I know . . . in allen Gipfeln hÃrest du kaum. einen . . . [hesitates]

Otto Feuer

. . . einen . . .

David Boder

einen Hauch.

Otto Feuer

einen Hauch. Ja.

David Boder

Die . . . VÃgel schlafen im (recollecting) something . . . im Walde warte nur, balde ruhest du such. (complete text at the end of the interview) Is that . . .

Otto Feuer

Ja, that is that.

David Boder

Ja. Nun und so, what happened?

Otto Feuer

This oak caught fire.

David Boder

From the bombing?

Otto Feuer

Yes, from the bombing.

David Boder

From the kitchen?

Otto Feuer

No, from the the bombing.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

It was at the border of the camp Gebau. [installation]

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

At about 200 meters and a single . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Also Brent bomb.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . fell into . . .

David Boder

Incendiary bomb.

Otto Feuer

Incendary bomb fell into the camp, without doing another harm. But this oak caught fire, and this damaged, and had to be cut . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . directly after the bombing.

David Boder

Yes. Now how was that oak cut? I want to verify another story. Who cut the oak?

Otto Feuer

Prisoners cut the oak.

David Boder

Prisoners cut the oak. Was there a call to them, to come out to . . .

Otto Feuer

There was no special call. But it had to be cut.

David Boder

Oh, you don't know . . .

Otto Feuer

No . . .

David Boder

. . . Any legend connected with that oak?

Otto Feuer

No, I don't think there will be any legend about this oak, otherwise I would have known it.

David Boder

There supposedly is a legend about the oak.

Otto Feuer

Could you tell the . . .

David Boder

Yes. The legend is that Goethe supposedly wrote to somebody that as long as this oak stands, Germany will stand.

Otto Feuer

I don't think . . .

David Boder

You didn't hear it.

Otto Feuer

No, I never heard it.

David Boder

No; I heard that from another Buchenwald man, and he said that they called over the loudspeaker for volunteers to chop off that oak . . .

Otto Feuer

Oh, that is not true. I am sure that is not true . . .

David Boder

That is not true?

Otto Feuer

That is not true.

David Boder

All right, they simply called the prisoners to chop off the oak.

Otto Feuer

Yes.

David Boder

That's all as far as you know. Now any other episodes?

Otto Feuer

Well, the most interesting episode of course, is the episode of our underground organization, in Buchenwald, and I wonder if this is already known?

David Boder

[not clear, sounds like 'certainly not enough']

Otto Feuer

It would be difficult for you to understand that we have built up in Buchenwald an underground organization . . . since . . . since '41.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Even, even earlier.

David Boder

In . . .

Otto Feuer

You must know, it was one of the tactics of the Nazis, that they were put together . . . there were put together in our concentration camps political prisoners, religious prisoners, there were not only Jews, but a sect, a Christian sect . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

The so called explorers of the bible.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And of course, criminals too.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Criminals.

David Boder

How did the criminals get in there? What did they . . . ? Liquidate the prisoners, or what?

Otto Feuer

No, no. When a criminal had finished his term in prison . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . his sentence in prison, and he was considered to be dangerous for the German people . . . for the people.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

They did not give him his liberty.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . but they sent him to a concentration camp.

David Boder

Yes. Nu . . .

Otto Feuer

Of course, they made those criminals most of which were very, very bad subjects, and very mean and very cruel; they made out of them to . . . our, our masters.

David Boder

Trusties.

Otto Feuer

[Apparently not understanding the word] Cartys.

David Boder

Capos . . .

Otto Feuer

Capos. BlockÃlteste and so on.

David Boder

Yes

Otto Feuer

Now . . . in . . . this begin already in '38, '39, that a group of the first prisoners of concentration camp, that were the German political prisoners, most of them were communists, who began to build up an underground movement against those criminal prisoners.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . and this was a real fight. A fight between . . . the criminal prisoners had green triangles, -

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

We all had triangles.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And the criminals had green, the political had red ones.

David Boder

And what had you?

Otto Feuer

We had red ones and yellow ones.

David Boder

You were considered a political?

Otto Feuer

No. We were considered as political Jews.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

That were red . . . it was a Star of David . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . two triangles, one in red and the other one in yellow . . .

David Boder

Why? Why?

Otto Feuer

. . . so be forming together a Star of David.

David Boder

Aha . . . yes, yes . . . quite a color scheme . . .

Otto Feuer

What?

David Boder

Quite a color combination.

Otto Feuer

Yes.

David Boder

Red and yellow.

Otto Feuer

Yes. Yellow was always the color for Jews . . . in, in the middle ages.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

The Jewish star was a . . . was a yellow star in Germany. That is why they always took yellow for the color . . . to signify Jews.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Now this fight between the political prisoners and between the criminals ended about '42, and it was the political ones who were victorious in Buchenwald, that means that that time the political prisoners had all the decisive positions.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

They had the positions of the self-administration of the camp, that means most of the capos had become . . . were now political prisoners . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . and most of the people in the . . . for instance in the Arbeitstatistic - those people, who distribute, and who organized the work to be done were political prisoners. The hospital were . . . was in hand(s) of political prisoners, and the circumstances in Buchenwald - that is why Buchenwald compared to other camps, compared for instance to Auschwitz, or compared for instance to Dachau, which I know, or to Sachsenhausen which I know, was really the best camp, with all its atrocities . . . it was the best camp. For instance it was able [possible] that in Buchenwald in '44 and '45 that about two thousand people a day were called . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . should work, did not work.

David Boder

Hum.

Otto Feuer

Because they had . . . were people in the hospital could give for ill ones . . . papers which would . . . which ordered them for a rest. for three days, for five days, and six days . . .

David Boder

Yes.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

They were no more checked by the SS - so was able [possible] that about fifteen hundred, two thousand and even more a day of . . . of . . . did not, did not work . . .

David Boder

Well, did they favor only political prisoners or did they do it in favor of all prisoners?

Otto Feuer

No, they did it in favor of all prisoners. Of course, it can't be denied that political . . . who couldn't work as much . . . when there was a question, . . . for instance, there was a question in December '42.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

All the Jews were checked to be sent to Auschwitz or to stay in Buchenwald. At that time, we shouldn't be sent . . . it was not the intention to send us to Auschwitz; it was the intention to send us to Lublin, to exterminate us there.

David Boder

In Lublin.

Otto Feuer

In Lublin.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Well we all took (?) at that time a medical, a medical . . . a visitation by the doctor . . . and the prisoners had to make the lists for those people who were determined to go there.

David Boder

were assinged to go.

Otto Feuer

Were assigned to go there..and those to assign to stay.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And it was quite impossible to say . . . that nobody would go . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

This problem even in Auschwitz was not much harder. You all know that in Auschwitz was selection.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And these selections were at first done always by physicians, by SS physicians.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Later, they were not more up to . . . they had to..they had enough of it . . . the older prisoners, the old . . . the chief of block . . . the BlockÃlteste.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . to do the selection. No you see (the) problem that . . .

David Boder

Selection for what?

Otto Feuer

Selection for the gas chamber.

David Boder

Yes, and the prisoner himself had to select . . .

Otto Feuer

The prisoner himself had to select . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

He had to . . . to 'reply' this pri(soner) . . . this man is no more able to work.

David Boder

Hum.

Otto Feuer

. . . he has to pass through the chas cam . . . [slip of tongue] gas chamber . . .

David Boder

Now [word not clear] were they telling them that it is a selection for the gas chamber?

Otto Feuer

The prisoner, the BlockÃlteste was quite conscious, what it was, and the prisoner was quite conscious too.

David Boder

Did they give him a quota of some kind?

Otto Feuer

No, they didn't give him a quota. They told him you have to . . .

David Boder

[apparently calling attention to the position of the micro-phone] . . . in that direction . . .

Otto Feuer

You had to make the selection, and you will give us the names and numbers of those people who are not more able to work.

David Boder

Oh. And then?

Otto Feuer

And then . . . they would do the rest. Now you see, the real problem is this prisoner. If the SS physician makes the selection, he would have selected let's say a hundred . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

If a prisoner makes a selection, he would only select let us say twenty-five.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And this would satisfy the SS, because they were so . . . already annoyed, and too . . . too lazy to check it. All (?) twenty five, is twenty five.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

But if the prisoner wouldn't send anyone, or wouldn't sent even less than this percentage [??] they would become suspected.

David Boder

Suspicious..yes.

Otto Feuer

Suspicious.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And they would do it themselves.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Now you see the real problem. This prisoner, he could save the lives of seventy five people.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

By doing this selection. But he would be the murderer of twenty-five.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

In this prison, there in Auschwitz, there it was in the most sharpest form. But this pri . . . this problem was always . . .

David Boder

In what form would you say . . .

Otto Feuer

In the sharpest [this word before did not sound clear] form . . .

David Boder

In the sharpest form it was in Auschwitz.

Otto Feuer

In Auschwitz.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

But this problem . . . you can do something . . . There were people who were working for . . . in the SS kitchen for instance . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

They could 'organize' [synonym for stealing] they could get some . . . some food stuf . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And they could give some foodstuff to somebody.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

But of course, they couldn't give it to everybody.

David Boder

Yes. So who would get it?

Otto Feuer

Oh, they gave it ahead to personal friends, and they gave it to their political friends . . . [pause]

David Boder

To think, that was a tricky situation . . . eh?

Otto Feuer

. . . it was . . . I don't see a way to go out of this . . . situation.

David Boder

Have you ever been a BlockÃlteste?

Otto Feuer

No, I never . . . I have been a simple prisoner.

David Boder

How . . . how did one become a BlockÃlteste? How could one avoid to become a BlockÃltester?

Otto Feuer

How could one avoid to become a BlockÃltester? Well at first . . . the first BlockÃlteste were all assigned by the SS.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

When the political prisoners had won this fight against thee criminal prisoners, they had of course a lot of influence. You know there were good . . . good terms . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . between the leading political . . .

David Boder

. . . prisoners . . .

Otto Feuer

. . . between the political detainees in the camps and between the . . .

David Boder

SS?

Otto Feuer

. . . and the SS. The . . .

David Boder

Well, would you not attribute that a bit . . . Well, what do you attribute to such good terms?

Otto Feuer

No. Don't think it was attributed because they were against [?? not clear] cruel things or some things like that. That is not that.

David Boder

No?

Otto Feuer

The SS was not able to organize, and to administrate the camp alone [by themselves].

David Boder

Well wouldn't that have been good that the camp would have gone to pieces?

Otto Feuer

The camp would have gone to pieces. All the people in the camp would surely have gone to pieces.

David Boder

Oh . . . that's so.

Otto Feuer

Oh!

David Boder

Now . . .

Otto Feuer

[excited] They didn't tell. Now you see you have . . . you all have not the right picture. For instance there were lice in the camp and there were some cases . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Of . . . eh . . . spotted fever.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Spotted typhus.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

The SS didn't care. The SS made the quarantine, you see?

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

They didn't care, what was going on in the camp. Yes? The prisoner had to get out of bed. [they] has to bury them, has to burn [??] them. You see?

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

The SS took care of it. The SS wouldn't . . .

David Boder

. . . care to touch the . . .

Otto Feuer

Wouldn't be in . . . inflicted.

David Boder

Yes. Infected?

Otto Feuer

Infected.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And that was . . . the prisoners . . . the SS didn't take care if there were . . . toilet and so on. If there were none, there were none.

David Boder

Ah . . .

Otto Feuer

. . . but if the prisoners, the prisoners took care . . . those prisoners took care, that we, we were [had] orders of prisoners, that every week, twice a week everybody was looked over for lice . . .

David Boder

Hum.

Otto Feuer

They had to pass this . . . this . . .

David Boder

Did the prisoners have DDT?

Otto Feuer

No, they had not. We had nothing. Everything . . . We had nothing no . . . no, no such a powder. It was . . . it is unimaginable that we in Buchenwald . . . in Buchenwald it was avoided..an epidemic . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

But it was avoided. It was avoided because twice a week we made the so called, Lausecontrolle [louse check up] where everybody . . .

David Boder

[word not clear, sounds like 'the prisoners themselves'?]

Otto Feuer

Yes. Where everybody was checked when he . . . when he . . . when a louse was found he was completely shaved and he was bath and so on.

David Boder

On your own initiavtive?

Otto Feuer

Yes.

David Boder

All right. Now . . . that is a very important point. Now tell me this . . . Well about [several words not clear]

Otto Feuer

You ask . . . you ask me about what was to be done about not becoming a . . .

David Boder

A trusty.

Otto Feuer

A trusty, a BlockÃlteste.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Well later, when those political prisoners [word not clear] had won, I have to tell you another story . . .

David Boder

Go ahead.

Otto Feuer

[note here the pitch of the reproduction spool becomes markedly higher. The equipment must have been sped up]. It is rather interesting, you know . . . I don't know if you know that, that two physicians in Buchenwald . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . physicians who had killed hundreds of us. I don't say thousands.

David Boder

Now . . .

Otto Feuer

[word not clear sounds like: 'that I know exactly']

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

They stayed in Buchenwald, on their own will.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

At ten o'clock in the morning there was the order: every SS man has to leave the camp.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And those SS physicians, they remained.

David Boder

Were they arrested afterwards?

Otto Feuer

Of course. We had them remain. We had them believe . . . when the Americans will come, oh, don't be afraid, we will tell them you have been fine to us.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

They really believed us.

David Boder

And then?

Otto Feuer

Of course, later when they came heraus, we didn't kill them.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

But we delivered them with all the records, we delivered them to the American authorities.

David Boder

Do you know what happened to them?

Otto Feuer

I don't know, there will be a trial, there was a trial for Dachau and for . . . for Belsen. I didn't yet hear about the Buchenwald trial.

David Boder

Are there . . . [??]

Otto Feuer

But these [SS] were delivered to the SS authorities, [corrects himself] to the American authorities.

David Boder

Can you explain this to me about Buchenwald, just a kind of a human question that sometimes my temperamental American friends ask. Why was it that when the liberation came and the Americans still did not have things in their hands, why did the prisoners behave so well? Why didn't they go out and say burn cities nearby and took rev . . . take revenge? [There is an interruption. Appparently some co-workers or subordinates of Mister Feuer at the office of the Joint Distribution Committee came in for instructions. However this also coincided with the end of the spool. âD.P.B.]

David Boder

We continue on the next spool the interview with Mr. Feuer. We continue on the next spool with the interview of Mr. Feuer.

David Boder

This is Spool 65. Paris, August the 22nd, 1946. Mr. Feuer continues. Well, tell me, Mr. Feuer then . . . so . . . I had . . .

Otto Feuer

You have asked me

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . about the good behavior of the prisoners [both talk, several words not clear]

David Boder

Yes. I am just . . . a question that I hear so often. How is it that the liberated prisoners behaved so well, did not get hold of arms, did not shoot the SS, did not go out and demolish the nearby towns like Weimar, although I think the Air Corps, the Air Force has done that. What accounts for that decent behavior?

Otto Feuer

You must know that [word not clear] that there were several groups of prisoners. Two groups, two great groups of prisoners. That means that one group of about 80% of the prisoners who have lived during the years or during the months which they have been in the concentration camps, during the starvation and so . . . any person [word not clear]

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And they were only thinking . . . walk around to find some food.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And to have some [word not clear . . . treat??] . . . And that was all that they asked from . . . from the life. And they had no more any personal will [??] And there were about 20% of other prisoners, who still had something like a will, and still was . . . There was the underground movement in Buchenwald. Now when die [these] were liberated it was not, it wasn't . . . it was not too difficult for us - I belonged to those 20%.

David Boder

Hum.

Otto Feuer

To martyr the 80%. They were doing what they were ordered to do.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . by us. Up to now it was the SS who had ordered them, and now it was we who ordered them. It was not to our interest.

David Boder

Then why did . . . yes . . .

Otto Feuer

It was not at all our interest, we didn't . . . we had dreamt of the vengeance for years.

David Boder

Hum.

Otto Feuer

And we had spoken about vengeance for years. There was not one appell in the evening or in the morning when we were not talking about . . . and we were always convinced, we were always convinced, that Germany would lose the war. We never had any doubt, never. We even had no doubt in 1940, we had no doubt, Germany must lose this war, and Germany will lose this war. We were not so much convinced that we would survive.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

On the contrary. Most of us, and I was completely convinced that I would not survive.

David Boder

Nu . . .

Otto Feuer

But we were always speaking about the eventual . . . about an eventual vengeance. And we were not looking . . . we don't think that this was the right way to go out and to . . . kill now German children or kill German women, because they have killed Jewish children and Jewish women. We wanted . . . that our idea to have such trials . . . as Dachau, as NÃrenberg . . . But now, now of course it's all I could see . . . but that time we had another picture of those trials to be. We wanted [to] watch, we wanted, we wanted to watch to see those SS men moving. We did not want to kill them at once. Those SS men we wanted that they should have the same pain that we had. We don't . . . we want [word not clear] this is nothing, today is nothing, we were longing, we had time when we were longing [to do what??]

David Boder

Hum.

Otto Feuer

There should, these should, at first we wanted them . . . the workers to see, and then of course the German people to see. Who guided the German people, who leaded the German people? And we wanted of course that the German people became aware of the full responsibility. Of course it's not only the Nazis who were responsible. It is the whole German people who knew about the concentration camps, and knew at any rate that they existed, and knew at any rate what was going on there, even not knowing the details [at the time??] when we were liberated. I . . . we were trying to find every SS man, and we . . . we . . . we . . . the Americans arrived about three hours late . . . after the Germans had given up the camp, and for three hours we were completely alone in the camp. And we already were looking around . . . we had arms, and we had arms always, we were looking around . . .

David Boder

What do you mean you had arms always?

Otto Feuer

We had . . . since . . . since '43 . . . were armed in the camp.

David Boder

And what did you expect to do with it . . .

Otto Feuer

We expected to defend ourselves. You don't know that when the order came that every SS man has to leave the camp, there were people around, outside of the camp, and were ready. And in this moment we counted that now they will try to exterminate the camp.

David Boder

Oh.

Otto Feuer

. . . the guards. For this moment we were prepared . . . to fight against the guard.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

The guards.

David Boder

But they didn't do that.

Otto Feuer

They didn't do that now.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

[words not clear, sound like 'we sent a message'] to the American army, that . . . to know, that the camp [word not clear] we had a transmitter, a radio transmitter in Buchenwald, and through the camp [word not clear - operator?] we sent a message SOS. We also had a reciever of course.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

We had radio receivers and the . . .

David Boder

I [?] mean secret, you mean secret receivers.

Otto Feuer

Nu yes. And -

David Boder

What kind of receivers were they? Crystal sets or what?

Otto Feuer

No. Normal radios.

David Boder

And the BlockÃlteste didn't know?

Otto Feuer

No. [about two sentences not clear. Sounds like:] There were normal radio sets. The SS listened to the German news. But we had within the camp, in secret places, in a secret place we had a radio which we always could use and the [word not clear] can use.

David Boder

So you knew what was going on?

Otto Feuer

Absolutely. And we were much more [informed?] The SS came sometimes to us, and to ask us. Some of the SS were quite conscious that we were better informed by our radios than theirs.

David Boder

And the couldn't . . . didn't search, they couldn't find it?

Otto Feuer

They couldn't find it. They had no possibilities to find it.

David Boder

Why?

Otto Feuer

Why? Because even within the camp there was a complete service administration. And then even [??] in those places it was not so . . . not so difficult to dig into a place a radio, it's not such a big thing and . . .

David Boder

Why did they respect so much the Buchenwald people?

Otto Feuer

Who?

David Boder

The SS.

Otto Feuer

The SS? Because . . . oh . . . they didn't respect us . . . not exceptionally [???] . . .

David Boder

Yes, but why did they take, . . . they had so much consideration? Why didn't they make selections in your place, and kill them off?

Otto Feuer

No at that time in '44 and '45 Buchenwald was not an extermination camp. Buchenwald was a camp to work.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And Buchenwald was a great assembly camp . . . From Buchenwald . . . in Buchenwald arrived always convoys coming from Poland, and from Buchenwald they were distributed to all the other camps in Germany.

David Boder

Hum.

Otto Feuer

So Buchenwald was an assembly for all . . . for all German concentration camps.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And Buchenwald was not a camp to exterminate people. People - anybody, a Jew - his duty was to do his utmost in working for Germany. And then if he dies while working, well it's O.K. But in Buchenwald itself they didn't exterminate.

David Boder

And the selections at Buchenwald?

Otto Feuer

That was at Auschwitz.

David Boder

And . . .

Otto Feuer

That was in Auschwitz.

David Boder

Yes. But you spoke about the . . . the responsible trusties who had to make the selection.

Otto Feuer

[several words not clear] That has nothing to do. That was in '42. [several words not clear]

David Boder

[several words not clear]

Otto Feuer

That had to do with selection . . . at that time we didn't yet get frightened [??] There was not yet Auschwitz at that time.

David Boder

Hum.

Otto Feuer

And then when Auschwitz already was . . . but there was not yet the gas chambers [several words not clear] We didn't quite know. We only were concious that during all the time we were in concentration camps we were always . . . afraid [??] to be unable to work.

David Boder

So -

Otto Feuer

That we were always -

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

It was always very, very dangerous.

David Boder

Hum.

Otto Feuer

Never. In this first selection in 1942, it was dangerous to be . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

-under those who were non able to work.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Nevertheless the prisoners had to assign a certain amount, about four hundred peopl . . .

David Boder

In Buchenwald?

Otto Feuer

. . . in Buchenwald. Of course the SS . . . at that time the SS made it; but the prisoners were able to change in . . . in . . . in . . . several cases [several words not clear] to change the list.

David Boder

Tell me this . . . These two doctors who were giving injections . . .

Otto Feuer

Hum.

David Boder

Lethal injections to people, in connection with what did they do that?

Otto Feuer

It was ordered by the SS.

David Boder

To do what?

Otto Feuer

To kill people.

David Boder

Which? The weak ones?

Otto Feuer

That was a special kind of people, and it was several special kinds of people.

David Boder

For instance?

Otto Feuer

For instance. There were Russian officers.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Who were killed this way. Or Russian soldiers.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And we don't know why these Russian soldiers. Of some we knew it were Russian officers, people of the French Resistance.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . some Jews - and we never knew - there was an incident . . . up to now we don't know what was the reason for it. In '43 . . . at that time there were only one hundred and seventy Jews in Buchenwald, and they all were masons, and that is why they have stayed in Buchenwald, and they were not sent in Auschwitz - to Auschwitz. In '43 it was the Jews who have built up the great [word not clear - sounds like Gussbetrieb - smelters or Gustoff Werke] the factories, it was Jews, they have been . . .

David Boder

The Buchenwald Werke (works)

Otto Feuer

Thanks to Mauerer - to masons . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

They were masons. They were very good masons, very efficient masons.

David Boder

Yes. [word not clear]

Otto Feuer

When somebody came to visit the camp, I remember [??] this, the commander of the camp, he showed the factory and he told the high German generals, a German general who told it; 'you see, that is all my Jews who have built this'.

David Boder

Yes. Were they Freimaurer?

Otto Feuer

No . . . no . . .

David Boder

Oh, you called them masons because the were artisan-masons.

Otto Feuer

Yes, yes.

David Boder

You see, I understood masons in the sense of Freimaurer.

Otto Feuer

No, no.

David Boder

So they were experienced . . .

Otto Feuer

No, they were experienced masons . . . [several words not clear]

David Boder

. . . and they built a house . . .

Otto Feuer

. . . they built factories.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . in the summer '43, the factories had been built. And without any reason, some Jews, the names of some Jews were written down when working, under the pretext - they have been late.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

The next day they got twenty-five strokes with a club.

David Boder

Each one?

Otto Feuer

Each one, and then . . .

David Boder

When, during the Appell?

Otto Feuer

No, after the Appell, after the evening Appell, and then they were sent to the hospital.

David Boder

To the infirmary.

Otto Feuer

. . . to the infirmary, and there they got the deadly injection . . . by one of those . . .

David Boder

Physicians.

Otto Feuer

Physicians.

David Boder

And you think it was what? An experiment?

Otto Feuer

No, it wasn't an experiment. It is . . . as far as we know, it was only the person who was hated [by Lange??] the leader of the camp. [several words not clear]

David Boder

Hated whom?

Otto Feuer

Hatred against the Jews.

David Boder

Hum . . .

Otto Feuer

So if he wanted . . . he picked up some . . . One day he had picked up five young jews who were very good masons.

David Boder

Meaning construction workers?

Otto Feuer

Construction workers.

David Boder

When you say to an American, a mason.

Otto Feuer

It is a Free-mason.

David Boder

It is Freimaurer.

Otto Feuer

I now know [??] A construction worker.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Well. And they were very strong, and . . . they were very good at work [??] and those five . . . their names were written down . . . and they got about their twenty . . . about fifteen strokes, at that time those numbered only fifteen [??] they were sent to the hospital, and there they got the deadly injection. [about 5-7 words not clear] the last [word not clear] they had already the injection in the arm. And they knew what was going on. And they told a comrade who [??] passed at the window, with the possibility to see them . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

One of them told him - I can only tell you in German.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

'Ich habe jetzt zwei liter haferflocken gegessen, sÃss wie zucker' [I have just eaten two liters of oatflakes. Sweet as sugar]

David Boder

Nu.

Otto Feuer

'Und die haben mir so gut geschmackt; sie sind ja auch so gesund' [and they were so delicious, they are so good for one's health] . . . You know what . . . ?

David Boder

Wer hat das gesagt? [Who said that?]

Otto Feuer

[continues in German] The man who had the injection in the arm, was not to live within an hour.

David Boder

Ja.

Otto Feuer

[in English] You know what that is - cynic?

David Boder

What?

Otto Feuer

Cynicism.

David Boder

Ja.

Otto Feuer

Er hat gesagt: 'Ich habe jetzt zwei liter Hafterflocken..!' [I have just eaten two liters of oatflakes] . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

' . . . sie haben mir wunderbar geschmeckt' [they were so delicious]

David Boder

Haferflocken waren eine suppe? [oatflakes were a soup?]

Otto Feuer

Haferflocken were a nicer . . . die [word not clear] Suppe, es war eine besondere Suppe [it was a special soup]

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Eine gute Suppe [a good soup]

David Boder

[apparently translates] Two liters of flake soup.

Otto Feuer

Yes.

David Boder

And I feel wonderful.

Otto Feuer

[word not clear] and I feel wonderful.

David Boder

Don't you think that the injection may have had that kind of [effect]

Otto Feuer

No, no, no. The same evening, I can tell you I met a Jew . . .

David Boder

Ja.

Otto Feuer

That same evening, there was a new prisoner.

David Boder

Ja.

Otto Feuer

A Jew of about sixty years.

David Boder

Ja.

Otto Feuer

You must realize that at this time we were all convinced, the only logical conclusion we could make was - it was now the time they wanted to exterminate all of us.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

We were all convinced, now the time is come, it was summer '43.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

We were convinced now [words not clear] we were all convinced . . .

David Boder

Why didn't you rebel then? Why wasn't there a fight then?

Otto Feuer

How . . . how do you want us to rebel?

David Boder

[several words not clear]

Otto Feuer

We were hundred and seventy Jews. Arms? How can you fight them - with a revolver. Against machine guns, flame throwers.

David Boder

Ja.

Otto Feuer

. . . against . . . do you know, how . . . do you know the towers of Buchenwald? How the towers . . . with the machine guns, with armored [word not clear] with flame throwers . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Otto Feuer

How do you want us to fight?

David Boder

Hum.

Otto Feuer

We had no possibility to make a real fight, to . . . ha . . . before we could approach, we would have been killed.

David Boder

Ja. Was it surrounded with electric wire?

Otto Feuer

Of course it was surrounded with electric wire.

David Boder

Were there cases of suicide at the electric wire?

Otto Feuer

Of course there were.

David Boder

Often? Many?

Otto Feuer

Not too much. No, no . . . the will to live. There were not too much compared with all the things there were not . . . too much suicides in Buchenwald. People wanted to live. With all this they wanted to live. They could no more go, they could no more march, but they wanted to live. They didn't want to stie [correcting himself] to die [a slip of the tongue apparently a fusion of the st from the word sterben meaning die, and the English word die]

David Boder

Could you tell me what did they call a Mussulman?

Otto Feuer

A Mussulman? That is somebody who is unable to work.

David Boder

And what . . .

Otto Feuer

Who is unable to work, who is no more able to march, ride . . . and to run no more, and no more to behave . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . how he has to behave in this concentration camp - he was called a Mussulman.

David Boder

An emaciated person . . .

Otto Feuer

Yes.

David Boder

Now tell me, have you an idea, what is the philology of the word? Where does it come from?

Otto Feuer

Mussulman that is of course . . . it is . . . you know . . .

David Boder

You think it means a Mussulman, a Mohammedan . . .

Otto Feuer

Of course . . . yes.

David Boder

Now why would they give such a name? [a pause] Did you never talk about it, did it never occure to you to get, so to say, the semantics of the word?

Otto Feuer

But it is quite sure that this is the origin of the word.

David Boder

Ja.

Otto Feuer

They had this picture, the German had this picture, the Mussulman is quite strange to the German.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

You see. And this picture was created by German . . . by Germans. By German prisoners.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Or by German SS even. But it is . . . the imagination of a Mussulman is so strange to a German. Somebody who has a particular hat on his head.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And to have [several words not clear] and that is a Mussulman. And you know we had our hats, our caps and so on, might be that this was some like this.

David Boder

Now, tell me, I have still this other question. You started telling me something about the character of the capos. You said that before. What were they? You say, not all of them were criminals?

Otto Feuer

Not all of them were criminals. [were] some of them, and a little amount of them were very good people. But you must, you must see the cause [??] . . . They were simple prisoners, never can . . . I couldn't understand that time [??] and I was kicked enough . . .

David Boder

Ja.

Otto Feuer

But I am quite sure, that . . . I remember one thing, when an SS man was looking for me . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And was trying to, to ill treat me, to strike me and so on, that the capo came and began to chase me, and began to cry - you lousy Jew, and so on. Was?Willst du machen dass du weg kommst. [get out of here] But by doing that, he chased me away.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And then I . . . I was liberated from the SS man.

David Boder

Aha.

Otto Feuer

You see.

David Boder

Ja.

Otto Feuer

And that of course a simple prisoner . . . and I at that time, I couldn't understand. The simple prisoner could never understand . . . why the capo ist so, and why the capo ist so. I won't I won't excuse all of them . . .

David Boder

Nu . . . Ja.

Otto Feuer

There is . . . at least half of them really were criminals, who really did all this work for . . . to have some more bread [word not clear] to have this power, to have the position and to have - don't be forced to work and so on.

David Boder

Ja. [pause] Mr. Feuer . . . Mr. Feuer, there is another question that I can not ask the other people. What do you know about the whole sex situation in the camps. First of all, how did the treat women prisoners. You have interviewed here people, here and there, and so to what extent were the women sexually abused, or not sexually abused?

Otto Feuer

In reality I never learned that, for instance, [that] a Jewish woman has been abused by an SS man, in the concentration camps.

David Boder

You have not heard?

Otto Feuer

I have not heard about it . . . that Jewish women, of course in Poland . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Otto Feuer

But not in the concentration camps. They have been abused by SS men, but not in the concentration camps. I was sure that the SS were influential [??]

David Boder

What?

Otto Feuer

. . . there was greater punishment by the SS . . . it was against . . . this was against . . .

David Boder

This was against the law . . .

Otto Feuer

. . . against German racial law . . .

David Boder

Oh, it was against the racial laws?

Otto Feuer

It was against the racial laws?

David Boder

Promiscuous sex relations?

Otto Feuer

Of course.

David Boder

You mean to say, if there were a Jew . . .

Otto Feuer

. . . a Jew, a Jew could have been prosecuted in Germany before the war, in 1936 or seven. Before the war there was this law of Rassenshande.

David Boder

Yes. But didn't that mean that they should not have children?

Otto Feuer

No, no . . . that was even sexual intercourse between a Jew and a prostitute. He was . . . he was condemned to . . . to prison . . . to . . . two years, three years even when having sexual intercourse with a prostitute . . .

David Boder

With an Aryan prostitute . . .

Otto Feuer

With an Aryan prostitute. And even German have been prosecuted, and have been prosecuted because having intercourse with a Jewish, with a Jewish girl . . .

David Boder

Yes. Were then the Polish women and the others differently treated? They say they had the brothels for the officers?

Otto Feuer

[several words not clear] Of course the had brothels for the officers.

David Boder

And who were they?

Otto Feuer

It was no Jewish women. Women of all nations but no Jewish women.

David Boder

Deportees?

Otto Feuer

Yes.

David Boder

women deportees.

Otto Feuer

Deportees too . . .

David Boder

What did the tell about the brothel in Buchenwald?

Otto Feuer

This brothel in Buchenwald, in Buchenwald was created in autumn '43 some words sound like Germanic Club, or one o'clock and at the assembly, after an Appell at two o'clock or about one o'clock . . .

David Boder

Nun?

Otto Feuer

Nun at one o'clock, and the SS commander of the camp declared to the prisoners, the brothel is open and the prisoners can begin "their work" - "can begin their work, ja" [??]

David Boder

Can begin - you mean . . .

Otto Feuer

. . . "their work"

David Boder

Under what conditions?

Otto Feuer

It was only for Germans . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

There were sixteen women at that time in the brothel. So he had to make an application to the BlockÃlteste.

David Boder

Who had to make an application?

Otto Feuer

The prisoners. The interested person . . . an application to the BlockÃlteste, who forwarded it to the Aberstatistik.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And then he got an invitation from the Aberstatistik [?] some day later to show up in the hospital in the [word not clear] where he passed a medical visit.

David Boder

Yes, examination . . .

Otto Feuer

Exaination, and then he got a clear [?] ticket to go to the brothel where he had to pasy one mark. We got in Buchenwald Lagermark -

David Boder

Yes, that was . . . yes . . .

Otto Feuer

And he had to pay for it, and then he could use a woman, he couldn't [?] have his choice, his choice . . . when the woman was too weak . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And at any rate . . . he would have to take another woman, and of course that meant [here apparently the interview was interrupted for some reason possibly by some co-worker of Mr. Feuer]

David Boder

Well you said he could go over and then . . .

Otto Feuer

He then, of course the SS man, one SS man was on duty of the brothel, and he took care that nobody stay too long with his girl there. There was a recognized [word not clear]

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Of course most of the political prisoners tried not with complete success, but at any rate tried to boycott the brothel.

David Boder

Yes, who were the women.

Otto Feuer

The women, the women, were deportees of the . . . of a women's concentration camp.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

. . . who have been asked to volunteer for it.

David Boder

They volunteered. What were they given in exchange?

Otto Feuer

They were given - they had not to work.

David Boder

Not to work. Were they given better food?

Otto Feuer

They got better food. Yes. They got the same food . . . they got the same food as the SS.

David Boder

Yes. Were the SS also using the same place?

Otto Feuer

There was one [word not clear] LagerfÃhrer Gust who was in this place always in this place and who had a sweetheart in this place, a very interesting story with this sweetheart.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

She furnished the camp with a lot of informations.

David Boder

What kind? [??]

Otto Feuer

. . . from [?] this girl, which she drew out of the LagerfÃhrer.

David Boder

Yes. And why . . . if he was the LagerfÃhrer, how happened it that he couldn't take her out and keep her for himself.

Otto Feuer

Because this woman was a deportee and she was assigned to this . . . to this brothel.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

So he couldn't, he couldn't take her [several words not clear] He was not so much interested. You see he was a perverted man who found an interest to have such a woman.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Well the story I wanted to tell you.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Of course most of the prisoners who visited the camp [corrects himself] who visited the brothel, who visited . . . were political . . . [corrects himself] were criminal prisoners.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Well this story went around in the whole camp.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Starting with the beginning of the autumn of '43 we have got the permission to receive packages . . . food packages . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And those German criminal prisoners . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

[word not clear] From relatives, - and of course had some relatives in Germany, and they got food packages. Now one of this prisoners has got a cookie.

David Boder

A what?

Otto Feuer

A cookie . . .

David Boder

Yes . . . a cake . . .

Otto Feuer

A cake, and of course everybody of those who frequented the brothel wanted to bring something special to his "sweetheart' to have some nice minutes.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And he brought this cake.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

[several words not clear] He made his application, and [several words not clear] he went to the brothel, and he brought this cake to this woman. After having finished, he came back to us. It was Sunday and nobody worked, and he came back to his barracks[??] and sat down at this table. And then . . . he was doing nothing, and about a half an hour later one of his comrades entered the [word not clear] block, seated himself at the same desk, and he had a little parcel and he began to take out this parcel and it was this cake.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Which one of the [word not clear] criminals has brought to the woman.

David Boder

Yes.

David Boder

Yes. Why did she give it away?

Otto Feuer

[several words not clear] She was in love with this guy.

David Boder

She was in love with this guy - so she gave him away the cake that the other had brought. Well . . .

Otto Feuer

He was [a case of] strictly ignored love. The prisoners who have been for years, and years and years, and of German origninal became . . . because afterwards so-called EhrenhÃftlings . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

That means they were entitled to have the hair not cut.

David Boder

Hum.

Otto Feuer

And it was strictly forbidden for prisoners to write a words to one of the . . .

David Boder

Women?

Otto Feuer

Well. There were orders that almost [??] . . . prisoners who have done it . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Must be [word not clear] prisoners who haven't had a woman for seven years, eight years, ten years.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And of course it was something for some of them. And some of those prisoners lost their hair. Because they have written a letter to one of those girls.

David Boder

So they had to shave off their hair?

Otto Feuer

That is so [??] They got to have the hair cut.

David Boder

Now tell me this, Mr. Feuer. After you were freed from Buchenwald, where did you go?

Otto Feuer

After my liberation in Buchenwald, I stayed for about a month in Buchenwald and . . .

David Boder

Who took care of you, who was feeding the camp?

Otto Feuer

It was the American army who . . . I guess it was also the Russians [?] who made distributions [of prisoners??]

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

We were fed, we were -

David Boder

Did you go in the Verwaltung, did you go into the management of the camp.

Otto Feuer

Yes, of course. We had..our administration completely continued to exist.

David Boder

The -

Otto Feuer

Only that we were no more governed by the SS. We were completely self governing ourselves, and there were of course American officers who had the final decision about questions, and so on. But all the other things..we made the requisitions ourselves. The American officers gave us a truck. They gave us some people, some soldiers with arms to make requisitions, and gave us the authorization to requisition.

David Boder

Oh, you mean you made [word not clear] requisitions from the Germans?

Otto Feuer

From the Germans. Yes.

David Boder

Did the Germans have enough to feed such a camp.

Otto Feuer

Some of it . . . how have we been fed formerly.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Of course we were fed by Germans too. The un . . . [apparently he wanted to say UNNRA] the American army contributed something, but the basic food was German food.

David Boder

Did you regain your freedom, could you start to go out?

Otto Feuer

Yes we went . . . we could not . . . just not completely. We could get a paper, authorizing us to leave the camp, for one day.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

To have a furlough.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

For one day.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And we had to come back. Because it was no more so strict, and we could leave the camp. Of course we have cut, we have cut the barbed wire and so on, and we left the camp very often [?] And we didn't leave the camp, most of us, 99% of us came back because nobody knew where to go.

David Boder

And the war was still going on.

Otto Feuer

The war was still going on, and so on.

David Boder

Did you have your radios and could you listen to . . .

Otto Feuer

Yes. We all, we all . . . we had it formal. Now we could of course -

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

No more listen to the Germans [several words not clear] they broadcasted, we listened to it. Officially to . . . Landsman [?] to Luxembourg.

David Boder

Aha. Tell me this. Were the stores of clothes . . . [??] of so long. Could you get that back then?

Otto Feuer

Yes. Yes we could now . . . even we requisitioned two . . . army clothes and so on . . . army stock was requisitioned.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And was given to us.

David Boder

German army stuff?

Otto Feuer

German army stuff. And even other vital clothes, baby clothes was requisitioned by . . . by the American army, and was given to us.

David Boder

Requisitioned from whom?

Otto Feuer

From the Germans.

David Boder

You mean from the families requisitioned.

Otto Feuer

No, no, no, no, no, no . . . from German stores.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

From German stores. There were still German stores.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

[enumerates, not clear] ordinary . . . shoes, and then suits too, and pullovers, and so on . . .

David Boder

[word not clear] then you got more or less clothes, and so on . . . and then, when did you go away to France . . . eh, to France?

Otto Feuer

Now . . . after the liberation there came a lot of Americans, American army personalities and then were such [word not clear] and press men, and so on, who came to visit the camp, and I guided most of these people through the camp. When guiding one of the American officers through a camp, a certain lieutenant Letva [??] [several words not clear] he was very impressed about . . . the story. He told me, he had been in the States, he had been an isolationist.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And now, after having seen Buchenwald, he now knew, why it was good that he was . . .

David Boder

. . . came here.

Otto Feuer

That America Has made [was in] this war.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Well, this man this officer was very fond of me, and he offered me to accompany him. And I had nobody, I had nowhere to go, so I went with him and we turned into the vicinity of the little town of Germany of Wetzlar. [next sentence not clear] He had to leave for Marseilles [several words not clear] I stayed with him about one month.

David Boder

What did you do with him?

Otto Feuer

I was doing nothing at that time. I was eating very well.

David Boder

Ja.

Otto Feuer

And I was helping a little bit in the kitchen.

David Boder

Ja.

Otto Feuer

Then he recommended me to the American Military government it Wetzlar and I was working there . . . from May 22nd on to August 15th.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Then I created in the city of Wetzlar a committee [for people] for persons who have left . . . been in concetration camps, and I was beginning to work for a new German newspaper, the Frankfurter Rundschau.

David Boder

Hum.

Otto Feuer

I earned [?] a very good living. I had a very interesting job, and I had a car, I had a very fine apartment and so on, but I could no more see the Germans . . .

David Boder

The Frankfurter Rundschau could supply you with that kind of facilities, with a car?

Otto Feuer

I was working [?] for the Frankfurter Rundschau in combine with this work that I was doing for the Military government and for this committee.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

I had a car.

David Boder

Did you learn yourself . . . ?

Otto Feuer

Yes I drive, drove myself.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

I drove myself, I was still living in that little town of Wetzlar. Wetzlar is a very famous town because these Leitz Werke you know, Leitz . . .

David Boder

Leitz? The optical . . .

Otto Feuer

Yes the optical works of Leitz around there . . .

David Boder

Ja.

Otto Feuer

I made a very good living, but I could no more be with the Germans. I don't I couldn't . . . I do not, I won't tell really that I hate the, but I detest them [several words not clear]

David Boder

[not clear]

Otto Feuer

The came to me and they were telling me - the knew that I was a Jew of course - and then they came me, to tell me how good they had treated the Jews. In person each German came to me, tell . . . told me how good he had been to [word not clear] Jews. . . . one . . . one German gendarme, a Land [part of word not clear] [obviously meaning village constable] came to tell me that when there was the order to . . . bring all those Jews to the assembly center . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

He did not bring them on foot but he brought them with a cart.

David Boder

Hum.

Otto Feuer

And this was an example of humanity [humane-ity] towards the Jews.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Well, it . . . it . . . it's . . . I don't seem to . . . anybody will . . . will understand . . . it . . . our general feeling, why those Jews . . . why I every . . . most of the other Jews won't stay in Germany . . . Won't stay in Poland, that's we can no more see these people, it's too much for our memory, for our [word not clear] it's too much.

David Boder

Hum.

Otto Feuer

So I had an opportunity to go to France . . .

David Boder

What was that opportunity, how did that come?

Otto Feuer

Well there were . . . some remote relations of mine are living in Paris, and got . . . a so called . . . [two words in French not clear, obviously meaning permit for temporary, or transitory visa]

David Boder

Hum.

Otto Feuer

And of course my intention to go to the States.

David Boder

Hum.

Otto Feuer

. . . to America. I thought that this time it would go much quicker, being in France. So I left Germany on three days' notice [??]

David Boder

Who did you meet [??] with?

Otto Feuer

This . . . my . . . my . . . where I was working and so on. And I gave back the car and so on, and I took a truck from UNNRA and came to France, came to Paris.

David Boder

Did they give you a truck or . . . ?

Otto Feuer

No, there was a [train? Word not clear] there was a convoy of people, of . . . a repatriation convoy.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

And I took part in it.

David Boder

Aha. And tell me this. When do you think you will be in America?

Otto Feuer

In just learned . . . five minutes ago I learned, wouldn't be there before . . . either the end of this year or the beginning of next year.

David Boder

Why? What quota have you? Polish?

Otto Feuer

Austrian quota. And I have already registered 10 years [ago?] and I would already been in the States, nearly . . . nearly I'd been in the States . . .

David Boder

In '39?

Otto Feuer

In '39 or '40. But in '40 I couldn't get visa. When I already was in concentration camp, I had still the photo-copy of the letter which the American consulate of Hamburg wrote me at that time, that he couldn't yet grant me the visa; my . . . my uncle who had sent me the affidavit had to send them out . . .

David Boder

A paper . . . [?]

Otto Feuer

Another paper of the bank otherwise . . .

David Boder

A statement of the bank.

Otto Feuer

. . . a statement of the bank, otherwise it would not be sufficiently sure how much my livelihood would be secure in the - States.

David Boder

Where is your uncle?

David Boder

Where are your two brothers?

Otto Feuer

One of my brothers is in Erie, in Pennsylvania.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

Five hundred, no 23-30 East Avenue.

David Boder

Erie, Pennsylvania?

Otto Feuer

Yes.

David Boder

And the other?

Otto Feuer

The other one is in Gary, 320 . . .

David Boder

Gary, Indiana?

Otto Feuer

Yes.

David Boder

Well that's near to me. You want me to call him up?

Otto Feuer

Of course I want you to call him up.

David Boder

Sure.

Otto Feuer

Three hundred twenty two . . . Oh really? He might listen to this.

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

He might hear this?

David Boder

Yes.

Otto Feuer

[In ecstasy] Tell him, he is a little bit ill [??] . . . tell him I love him very much, and tell him he shall . . . he shall . . . here, here [he apparently points to a part of the body] sick, you know, I want him to be, I want him to be healthy . . .

David Boder

[Both are talking] Is he married?

Otto Feuer

He is married, he has two children. I did not yet see the children.

David Boder

You know what I promise you to do?

Otto Feuer

Ja.

David Boder

I take this machine into my car.

Otto Feuer

Ja.

David Boder

And I drive out to Gary and [word not clear] [interviewer is apparently deeply moved]

Otto Feuer

Oh that would be wonderful. Tuen sie es for sure. verstanden, gut, and Lucy, Doris and Peter this is Onkel Otto. You do not yet know me, but once you will know me.

David Boder

All right, what is the address in Gary?

Otto Feuer

I give you the address: 322 Gary, Ind. Honduras [??] Street [repetition not clear]

David Boder

Vanburen Street? [spool is apparently at an end] All right that concludes the interview with Mr. Feuer. It is the continuation of Spool . . . Spool 64, it was very informal, especially, to give the interviewer a general picture, and Mr. Feuer was very helpful in getting other interviewees. I hope he will be there soon but I think I will call up . . . [blank on the wire] in Gary and we will have a good time together. I let them listen to this . . .