David P. Boder Interviews Samuel Isakovitch; July 30, 1946; Paris, France

var english_translation = { interview: [ David Boder

[In English] This is Spool number 7, taken from a young man, Samuel Isakovitch, from the Roumanian side of a little town which borders with Czechoslovakia.

David Boder

[In German] What is your name?

Samuel Isakovitch

[Answer not clear.]

David Boder

And so, what is your name?

Samuel Isakovitch

Isakovitch, Samuel. [He speaks Yiddish with a great admixture of 'lager German.']

David Boder

Samuel?

Samuel Isakovitch

Isakovitch.

David Boder

Yes.

Samuel Isakovitch

Isakovitch, Samuel.

David Boder

Yes? And how old are you, Isakovitch?

Samuel Isakovitch

I am eighteen years old.

David Boder

Eighteen years old? Are you younger than...

Samuel Isakovitch

Than Moskovitch?

David Boder

Moskovitch.

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

Yes, but you are much bigger than he.

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

You are bigger. How tall are you?

Samuel Isakovitch

One seventy. [170 centimeters, about 68 inches.]

David Boder

And how much do you weigh?

Samuel Isakovitch

I weigh sixty-nine kilo. [About 151 pounds.]

David Boder

Sixty-nine kilo. Sit down a little closer and tell me, where were you born?

Samuel Isakovitch

Born in Marmaros-Sighet.

David Boder

In what country?

Samuel Isakovitch

In Roumania.

David Boder

Hm. What was your father's occupation?

Samuel Isakovitch

A field-worker [farm worker].

David Boder

A field...

Samuel Isakovitch

Earth-worker.

David Boder

What was he? What did he do?

Samuel Isakovitch

In the fields...

David Boder

Did he own his fields?

Samuel Isakovitch

His own...he worked on his own fields.

David Boder

He was a 'farmer'?

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes, he was.

David Boder

And what did he plant?

Samuel Isakovitch

Trees, wheat...

David Boder

Wheat. Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

...wheat and food stuffs...bread...

David Boder

Bread.

Samuel Isakovitch

...everything.

David Boder

Did you have any cows?

Samuel Isakovitch

Cows, yes, and horses.

David Boder

How many cows did you have?

Samuel Isakovitch

We had six cows.

David Boder

Six cows, and how many horses?

Samuel Isakovitch

Three horses...

David Boder

Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

...and two-hundred sheep.

David Boder

Two-hundred sheep?

Samuel Isakovitch

Sheep, yes.

David Boder

And what did you do with the sheep?

Samuel Isakovitch

Most of them perished.

David Boder

But...

Samuel Isakovitch

...when we were taken away to camp...lager...and that is when they perished.

David Boder

You weren't allowed to liquidate your...to sell your belongings, or so?

Samuel Isakovitch

No, no. Everything remained. We were taken away from the house and everything was taken away. Everything remained there with the house.

David Boder

Hm. Now let us start from the beginning. When did the Germans come to your town?

Samuel Isakovitch

To our town they came in...in...they came in the year forty-one.

David Boder

In what [year]?

Samuel Isakovitch

In the year forty-one, the 5th [?] of September.

David Boder

And before, what country was it?

Samuel Isakovitch

Roumania.

David Boder

Before it was Roumania?

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

And the Germans came in forty-one?

Samuel Isakovitch

In forty-one.

David Boder

Nu, how were they before...were the Roumanians good to you before? Were the Roumanians good to you?

Samuel Isakovitch

It was only a little different.

David Boder

They let you live.

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

Oh, and when did the Germans arrive? Tell me what happened on the day when the Germans arrived?

Samuel Isakovitch

They marched in...there were...when they came...first an order was given to wear a yellow patch, a yellow star.

David Boder

Yes.

Samuel Isakovitch

...and then, it was not allowed to walk out on the street, only mornings, from eight till eleven o'clock...

David Boder

Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

...and in the afternoon, from four till six...

David Boder

Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

...we were allowed on the street, and only with a yellow star. Then we were taken into the ghetto...

David Boder

Hm...

Samuel Isakovitch

...and from the ghetto we were taken, in the year forty-two, to a lager in Posen.

David Boder

Now wait, don't go so fast. You say that you had land...

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

...and that you had all that...when was it when you were... not allowed to come out, did they allow to work the fields?

Samuel Isakovitch

It was thus. When the ghetto began, we weren't allowed to leave the ghetto any more...everything remained there [behind].

David Boder

And who took it over?

Samuel Isakovitch

Nobody.

David Boder

What do you mean? Who fed the cows? Who fed the...

Samuel Isakovitch

Everything remained there. Everybody was removed [?].

David Boder

Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

...and everything remained. What happened afterwards is not known, and...

David Boder

So you were sent to a ghetto. How long were you in the ghetto.

Samuel Isakovitch

One month.

David Boder

How did you live in the ghetto, the whole family together?

Samuel Isakovitch

The whole family. We were...the family was together and everyone older than sixteen worked at the railroad...

David Boder

Where?

Samuel Isakovitch

At the railroad, by coal.

David Boder

By coal.

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

Now, what was the ghetto? Were there houses? What was it?

Samuel Isakovitch

Houses, yes.

David Boder

Whose houses were they?

Samuel Isakovitch

Jewish houses.

David Boder

Before they had belonged to Jews also?

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

And so, nu, and what kind of things did you take along?

Samuel Isakovitch

Everyone took thirty-eight kilo, so many pounds of food and so many

David Boder

Yes.

Samuel Isakovitch

...and looked in the shoes who...

David Boder

Aha.

Samuel Isakovitch

...had money.

David Boder

Didn't one have jewelry, rings...

Samuel Isakovitch

We buried everything. in the ground and...it disappeared. And who went home, [after the war] maybe somebody found something still, and others maybe didn't find anything.

David Boder

Hm. So you buried your valuables in the ground and you don't know where to find them?

Samuel Isakovitch

One can't know.

David Boder

Would you know where they were buried if you went back and looked for it?

Samuel Isakovitch

Do I know? Can I know? My parents...I was only thirteen ...the parents were [still] at home...

David Boder

Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

...[we were] not taken away together... [some words not clear]...

David Boder

Oh! You were not taken away together?

Samuel Isakovitch

No.

David Boder

But did you meet them in the ghetto?

Samuel Isakovitch

In the ghetto, yes.

David Boder

Yes. What...all right, so you were in the ghetto. How long were you in the ghetto.

Samuel Isakovitch

I was there one month.

David Boder

And then what happened?

Samuel Isakovitch

Then we were taken away to the lager.

David Boder

Which lager?

Samuel Isakovitch

Posen.

David Boder

To Posen. The whole family?

Samuel Isakovitch

The whole family.

David Boder

Your mother and father together with the children?

Samuel Isakovitch

We were all transported together and there we were separated...nobody knows where to...we entered from the RR-car ...we got off the RR-cars, the youngsters were immediately taken away...it was called out, 'The youngsters step forward,' and the others... [?]

David Boder

Who? The youngsters?

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

What does it mean, 'the youngsters'? The youth...

Samuel Isakovitch

The young people, those from...

David Boder

...or the men?

Samuel Isakovitch

...eighteen...the men from eighteen years...

David Boder

Oh.

Samuel Isakovitch

...to thirty-five. It was said, 'Step forward,' and we stepped forward, the fourteen-year olds, too. We stepped forward, and about the others we don't know where they went.

David Boder

What does it mean, you don't know where they went?

Samuel Isakovitch

They left and were not seen any more.

David Boder

And...and your father and your mother?

Samuel Isakovitch

It is not known what happened to them either.

David Boder

When were you separated from your parents?

Samuel Isakovitch

In the year forty-two.

David Boder

There at the train?

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes, at the station [?]. Yes.

David Boder

Hm. And then where were you taken?

Samuel Isakovitch

I was taken to work...to the factory...at a construction detail.

David Boder

What kind of detail?

Samuel Isakovitch

Construction detail. Construction. A factory was being built.

David Boder

Oh. You were building a factory?

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

Were you...what was your...

Samuel Isakovitch

Mason [Enunciation not clear.]

David Boder

What?

Samuel Isakovitch

A mason.

David Boder

What is that?

Samuel Isakovitch

A mason, nu. Building work.

David Boder

A mason.

Samuel Isakovitch

A mason, yes.

David Boder

Hm. Nu, where did you live, where did you eat, sleep?

Samuel Isakovitch

In the lager.

David Boder

In the lager.

Samuel Isakovitch

[Words not clear.]

David Boder

The lager was what?

Samuel Isakovitch

It was a lager -- a German concentration camp.

David Boder

Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

With prisoners...as a prisoner.

David Boder

Were there men...men and women in the lager?

Samuel Isakovitch

No women. Only men.

David Boder

What?

Samuel Isakovitch

Only men.

David Boder

Only men.

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

And what was there...tell me, when did you get up and what did you do there?

Samuel Isakovitch

There we--we got up at a quarter to five in the morning, we went out to appell, we stood...

David Boder

What do you call an 'appell'?

Samuel Isakovitch

In the morning we were counted.

David Boder

Counted. Where the names called out or...

Samuel Isakovitch

No, it was arranged...every block had its people. As many people the block had...then they were lined up. There came the lager-fuehrer, the block obersturm-fuehrer, and counted how many people there are in the block. Then if it was correct, good. And if not--then he looked so long, till he was found.

David Boder

And if he wasn't found?

Samuel Isakovitch

Then another ten were taken and shot.

David Boder

Why? If somebody ran away?

Samuel Isakovitch

If somebody escaped, another ten were taken and shot.

David Boder

Where? Right there?

Samuel Isakovitch

Not right there. They were taken out. They were taken behind the lager and immediately shot.

David Boder

Was it their fault that...

Samuel Isakovitch

But...

David Boder

...another one escaped [?]?

Samuel Isakovitch

They said thus, "Who...in case anybody escapes, other ten comrades will be shot.'

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

So that nobody should escape.

David Boder

Did anybody escape?

Samuel Isakovitch

Some[?].

David Boder

Yes.

Samuel Isakovitch

Who could escape.

David Boder

Who was able, ran away?

Samuel Isakovitch

Who could escaped.

David Boder

Didn't he know that ten of his comrades will be shot?

Samuel Isakovitch

He knew; but he wanted his life...wanted his life...first of all...

David Boder

Did they really shoot ten people every time?

Samuel Isakovitch

Always.

David Boder

What?

Samuel Isakovitch

They shot always. They shot always, whenever somebody escaped. And then when one escaped he was [considered] committing sabotage; and for sabotage one was hanged.

David Boder

What kind of sabotage?

Samuel Isakovitch

Sabotage...was...when something by the construction--by the construction detail...if one broke anything or anything... if one didn't put on the five hundred bricks a day, then this was also considered sabotage. He was also hanged like the others. The electricians or machinists...we worked at machines...

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

...they were also hanged like the others if they didn't work the way they should have.

David Boder

Who was it who said that they didn't work?

Samuel Isakovitch

The...the master, the foreman, the Oberschar-fuehrer...

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

...the block leader [a few words not clear]...

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

[Not clear.]

David Boder

Nu, and so, in the morning you had what, the appell?

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes, in the morning...then at six o'clock we began working.

David Boder

Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

We worked till the evening. We worked till dinner time, [the mid-day meal]. For dinner we had half an hour and then again...

David Boder

What were you given to eat for dinner?

Samuel Isakovitch

At dinner time nothing. In the morning we were given bread and a little piece of margarine and coffee...[Footnote: It was assumed that the prisoners would save part of their bread ration for dinner and even for supper. But in most cases they either ate the whole ration in the morning or traded it away for cigarettes or other objects or favors.]

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

...and in the evening a liter of soup.

David Boder

And for dinner [mid-day] you weren't given anything to eat?

Samuel Isakovitch

No.

David Boder

So? Nu, you only rested at mid-day time?

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes, we rested for half an hour. And then we started to work again.

David Boder

And how late did you work?

Samuel Isakovitch

We worked till six o'clock in the evening and then we marched in. And again we stood on the appell square till ten o'clock at night.

David Boder

Why so long?

Samuel Isakovitch

Why? They had time. They had time...they wanted...till the lager-fuehrer came; till the block-fuehrer came. Then the music didn't play well.

David Boder

What kind of music did you have in the lager?

Samuel Isakovitch

While marching out and marching in there had to be music.

David Boder

Why?

Samuel Isakovitch

To march better.

David Boder

Yes. So, who played the music?

Samuel Isakovitch

Our men.

David Boder

Where did you get the instruments?

Samuel Isakovitch

We already got them from Auschwitz.

David Boder

What do you mean 'from Auschwitz'? They have sent...

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

...instruments from Auschwitz...

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes, and then we too went away to Auschwitz...

David Boder

What?

Samuel Isakovitch

And then we too left for Ausch-...

David Boder

Now wait, we are not through with this camp. So, in the evening what? Music played when you returned?

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

Yes? And then?

Samuel Isakovitch

And then...

David Boder

Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

...and then we went in...stood for appell...

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

Finished with the appell, we entered the 'block' and received the soup...

David Boder

Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

...and then, at nine o'clock, feet-washing and lay down to sleep.

David Boder

Feet-washing. Were you given water and soap for that purpose?

Samuel Isakovitch

One received soap and water.

David Boder

Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

And the soup. Did everyone have a plate for himself?

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes...as we stood in line, when one finished eating, the other got it. He took from the other one the...the plate and then...he ate.

David Boder

So everyone did not have a plate of his own?

Samuel Isakovitch

No. To a 'block' there were maybe forty plates...

David Boder

Yes, so?

Samuel Isakovitch

...and from these forty, the other two, three hundred ate.

David Boder

Did they wash the plates?

Samuel Isakovitch

Who...who would do it? Nothing was washed. Everyone in line wanted to eat quickly...one had to hurry.

David Boder

Yes. Nu, tell me this. And then, in the evening, did they allow you to talk to one another?

Samuel Isakovitch

One could...it was permitted...by the time we had washed our feet, we already had to go to sleep. There was 'foot control'...

David Boder

What...what was the 'foot control'?

Samuel Isakovitch

The feet were looked over [as to]whether they were clean.

David Boder

Why did they bother so much about the feet and not about 'the rest'?

Samuel Isakovitch

Everything was looked over, but in the evening, the feet were checked whether they are clean...whether they don't stink.

David Boder

Oh! And how did you sleep? What did you sleep on?

Samuel Isakovitch

We slept on a plank bed, on boards.

David Boder

Ah. And how close was one to another?

Samuel Isakovitch

We were together...pushed together...one centimeter one from another...everybody together; squeezed together like herrings.

David Boder

O.K. Did you have blankets to cover yourselves?

Samuel Isakovitch

We were given a blanket for two people.

David Boder

Oh! You were given for two people...

Samuel Isakovitch

For two people, one blanket.

David Boder

So, you...you slept practically together.

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes. [We] slept together.

David Boder

And how long were you in this lager?

Samuel Isakovitch

Until...until the year forty-four, in May.

David Boder

Aha. And what happened then? What was the name of this lager?

Samuel Isakovitch

Posen.

David Boder

Posen. And what happened then?

Samuel Isakovitch

Then we went away to Auschwitz. The camp was disabanded, and we were taken to Auschwitz

David Boder

Yes.

Samuel Isakovitch

In Auschwitz we came to Birkenau. There they made the 'selections'. Who was good, who was able to work and was healthy, he went to work to the coal mines in Janina. And who wasn't, he was taken away because he wasn't able to work.

David Boder

And what was done with them?

Samuel Isakovitch

They went into the crematory. [Pause.] I went away to the coal mines in Janina. And in Janina the youngsters up to eighteen years, were taken out and taken to Monowitz--there to a rubber factory. We worked...

David Boder

These were the ones under eighteen years...

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

...were taken to the...

Samuel Isakovitch

Where taken to the rubber factory in Monowitz. [Pause].

David Boder

Yes. So, then you were in Monowitz in the rubber factory?

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

And the...

Samuel Isakovitch

Work...

David Boder

Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

We worked in Monowitz in the rubber factory...we worked until the year forty-five, up to January the eighteenth. January the eighteenth...

David Boder

January the eighteenth.

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes. January the eighteenth we were taken away...we were evacuated to the Concentration Camp Buchenwald?

David Boder

Oh! Were you in Buchenwald?

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

Tell me a little about Buchenwald.

Samuel Isakovitch

We arrived in Buchenwald in January...

David Boder

...in January.

Samuel Isakovitch

...in January. And then we were taken and first of all everybody was disinfected.

David Boder

Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

At the time of disinfection, we had come from Auschwitz to...to Buchenwald. It took us twelve days. Three quarters had died from hunger. And we remained, from fourteen thousand, we only remained two-thousand eight hundred men, exactly. Because, I know precisely the numbers...there we were given numbers...everybody received a number...

David Boder

Yes.

Samuel Isakovitch

...it was [starting] from a hundred and twenty thousand to a hundred twenty-two thousand eight hundred.

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

I know that exactly two thousand eight hundred have remained from our transport out of fourteen thousand people. The others were murdered...shot...in Slovakia...shot, and starved to death, and they were murdered...Then we came to Buchenwald. We were taken into the disinfection [hall], and there a quarter was murdered.

David Boder

What does it mean, 'they were murdered'?

Samuel Isakovitch

They were taken into...the disinfection [chamber]. So they started...were dirty...so they rubbed so long till...they began to clip off the hair with machines...from all over...so long...we undressed...we were like the flies...food we didn't get for six days...except what the civilian population in Czechoslovakie threw into the RR-cars. And the children who were going to school saw us from the bridges...it was so...they threw into the RR-cars a little piece of bread or anything they could...when they were going to school...and on this we endured a little...and snow helped...

David Boder

What about the snow?

Samuel Isakovitch

Snow....we ate the snow.

David Boder

The white snow.

David Boder

Oh, it was cold then?

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

Oh. That one ate for water?

Samuel Isakovitch

It was eaten for bread and for water...for anything...we ate it from hunger.

David Boder

Nu?

Samuel Isakovitch

We didn't have anything else to eat. The RR-cars were full of the dead...with the dead people...

David Boder

Tell me, what does it mean dead...died of hunger...eh...

Samuel Isakovitch

From hunger, yes.

David Boder

A man really...simply died...?

Samuel Isakovitch

He simply died...one simply murdered the other!

David Boder

Why did you murder one another?

Samuel Isakovitch

One another...so that...we took. One was hungry...

David Boder

Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

...the oth-...we couldn't go out from the RR-cars because you were immediately shot...

David Boder

Nu?

Samuel Isakovitch

...and somebody saw there was a little snow...Snow was falling...

David Boder

Yes.

Samuel Isakovitch

...on the sides of the RR-cars. We took off a little snow with the hands...and the other person saw it. So he wanted to take away the little snow so he could eat it. Then he took his wooden shoe off his foot...

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

...he gave it to him right over the head. He gave it to him over the head...he fell down...he was trambled on...he never used to get up any more.

David Boder

One to the other?

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes, one to the other. So, there remained...a half of the RR-car were dead. We were a hundred and sixty-five men in a RR-car. We were a hundred and sixty-five persons to a RR-car. We were embarked in Gleiwitz. In the lager Gleiwitz we were embarked one hundred sixty-five people to a RR-car.

David Boder

What kind of RR-cars were they?

Samuel Isakovitch

Open ones.

David Boder

Open ones? What do you mean by open RR-cars?

Samuel Isakovitch

Completely open.

David Boder

No roof?

Samuel Isakovitch

No roof.

David Boder

Oh, they were the railroad cars used for transportation of lumber and machinery.

Samuel Isakovitch

Lumber...on these...

David Boder

So how did people stand on the railroad cars while the train was in motion?

Samuel Isakovitch

That's how they stood.

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

That's how they stood.

David Boder

And this was where? This was already in Buch-...No?

Samuel Isakovitch

No. From Auschwitz to Buchenwald, when we were taken...evacuated...

David Boder

Uh-huh.

Samuel Isakovitch

...from Auschwitz to Buchenwald.

David Boder

Nu, and in Buchenwald, you tell me, they began to clip...

Samuel Isakovitch

Began...

David Boder

...your hair...

Samuel Isakovitch

The hair...there, when we came in, we hadn't eaten for six days and then, when we came in there, until the names were written down, until everybody's index card was made out. It also took three days till we entered the blocks...and we bathed. We only received a shirt and a piece of trousers and a pair of wooden shoes...and cold...it was so cold that nobody could...a person couldn't...a person soon froze.

David Boder

Which month was it in?

Samuel Isakovitch

In January.

David Boder

In January.

Samuel Isakovitch

In January.

David Boder

Now then...

Samuel Isakovitch

And when one came out after bathing...he went outside improperly dressed in only...he only had something like a shirt...nothing...and when he stepped outside he immediately caught col...froze up, and remained lying outside near the blocks. Then every morning we threw the dead into the latrine...every morning we covered the dead with sand... [those] that have lain on the ground. Then in the morning we went out for appell...and we were given once a day to eat...we were given at twelve o'clock in the Kino of the quarantine...

David Boder

What is a Kino? [The word appeard far out of context, hence the question.]

Samuel Isakovitch

There was a Kino...

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

in the quarantine...

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

...there in Buchenwald...and...

David Boder

What did you call a Kino?

Samuel Isakovitch

It was a Kino. There they dispensed the food...there was a Kino.

David Boder

Oh, a Kino, a theater. [Footnote: The Kino was a large auditorium that had been used to show movies for the old-time political prisoners. It was located in the small lager called the 'Quarantine'. At the time of Isakovitch's arrival, the small lager was overcrowded and the movie house was used for dispensing the food rations to the newly arrived prisoners. B.W.]

Samuel Isakovitch

A theater...a barrack...

David Boder

Yes.

Samuel Isakovitch

...but it was only called so...and there was no food to be given to the people so they took them into the movie house... a line was formed in the morning from the appell square.

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

...and till the evening...till ten o'clock...till everybody finished their food. One person doled out the food. We received once a day a piece of bread with a little soup. A hundred seventeen...a hundred and seventy grams of bread and a little piece of margarine and a half liter of soup.

David Boder

Did one work in Buchenwald?

Samuel Isakovitch

One worked in the stone-quarry.

David Boder

What did they...

Samuel Isakovitch

In the stone-quarries we worked.

David Boder

What did one do? Carried out the stones?

Samuel Isakovitch

Carried out the stones. We have...with the carts...with the wagons they were carried away...

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

Every day there remained in the stone quarry...every day ten, fifteen people...they were dead...they were murdered...in the quarry.

David Boder

By whom?

Samuel Isakovitch

The SS men...they couldn't work; they were murdered in the quarries.

David Boder

What, they were shot?

Samuel Isakovitch

They were shot...if once it was said that one was of no use [no good], he was given a bullet in the head and left lying there.

David Boder

And the...the others stood by?

Samuel Isakovitch

And the others...were close by. Everybody was close by.

David Boder

Did you see it yourself?

Samuel Isakovitch

Sure. Everything I saw...we were there all together.

David Boder

Tell me, but there were in Buchenwald...in Buchenwald others --there were Germans too...and...

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes. Yes. But they were already old prisoners...they were the old criminals...they had been there already for fifteen, sixteen years [Footnote: His statements are somewhat confused as to time.]...old criminals...and bandits...and they were the capos and the block elders... They did everything...they even made...we were simple prisoners...we had just arrived from the other lagers.

David Boder

What do you mean by capos?

Samuel Isakovitch

Capos were the overseers at work...

David Boder

Hm. And they were what? Old criminals?

Samuel Isakovitch

They were old criminals...and bandits...and people who had committed sabotage. They had been in for fifteen, sixteen years...[?][Footnote: His statements are somewhat confused as to time.] political prisoners who were already for fifteen, sixteen years in the lager.

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

In concentration camps...they were the leaders. They murdered so. Much more than the SS men, than the 'real' Germans. And the SS men who were in reality Ukranians, Polacks, Magyars...the Magyars were even worse than the others. They were the Gestapo men with the black...

David Boder

They were much worse?

Samuel Isakovitch

Much worse than the Germans.

David Boder

Hm. And that was in Buchenwald.

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

And where were you liberated?

Samuel Isakovitch

In Buchenwald.

David Boder

Who liberated you?

Samuel Isakovitch

The Americans.

David Boder

Nu, tell me, what happened a few days before the liberation and [then] after?

Samuel Isakovitch

Before the liberation...they took...when the Americans came...they took...we were sixty-five thousand men on the appell square. They started...First of all, was, 'Jews, step forward.' It was...

David Boder

The Americans said that?

Samuel Isakovitch

No! The Germans.

David Boder

Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

Before the Americans entered. It was 'Jews, step forward.' Then the Jews already knew exactly from other concentration camps what was going on. Then they began to dodge it.

David Boder

The Jews?

Samuel Isakovitch

The Jews. They took, the old criminals and bandits, they began to throw out from the blocks...

David Boder

Whom?

Samuel Isakovitch

The Jews.

David Boder

Yes.

Samuel Isakovitch

...the prisoners...

David Boder

Yes.

Samuel Isakovitch

...and the Jews...it was, 'Get out.' And he was immediately grabbed and taken to the D.K.V., and from the D.K.V. they never came out[Footnote: These were factories which had been bombed by the Americans at the end of 1944 and now were empty. To these buildings the Jews were taken. During the appell in the morning, the loudspeaker suddenly blared out, 'Jews, fall out and line up to one side!' Many started to run, I among them. I escaped fromm the appell square back to my original block and hid under a bunk. The others, those who remained on the appell square, were deported, destination unknown. B.W.].

David Boder

The Jews were taken away?

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes, the Jews.

David Boder

Nu?

Samuel Isakovitch

And when I saw what is going on, I immediately reported [hid] among the Frenchmen...

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

...and...I knew no French. But the first who got out, these remained, and the others, these were taken right away and they remained there.

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

And these were...they went between the...between...there in the D.K.V., and they were shot and murdered...and then they, youngsters up to eighteen years, were taken into a youth block, block 66...

David Boder

Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

...in the quarantine, and we awaited...we had a very good man for a blokovy [Barrack chief in Polish] a Czech, a political prisoner...

David Boder

Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

He was the block elder. He was...he worked for us, for the youngsters, so that we could remain alive. And so we awaited the Americans. And before the Americans came there, already [many] had left...there remained nineteen thousand prisoners, in Buchenwald.

David Boder

Yes...and the others?

Samuel Isakovitch

The others...the others have...no one knows whether they were shot, or...a stone was put up that fifty-nine thousand shot, murd-...murdered prisoners from among us.

David Boder

In Buchenwald?

Samuel Isakovitch

In Buchenwald.

David Boder

Wait, so...when...before the Americans came did the SS leave, or what?

Samuel Isakovitch

They left. Immediately. They left right away. They were caught. It was the...our...the prisoners of war, the Russians.

David Boder

Yes.

Samuel Isakovitch

They immediately captured the weapons. They were still healthy and the Americans came from below, from the village...

David Boder

Yes.

Samuel Isakovitch

They were held by the Americans from one side and the prisoners of war from the other side. They were immediately gathered together...they were captured, and after that we don't know what the Americans did with them.

David Boder

They weren't...they weren't punished?

Samuel Isakovitch

No, no, not punished. They were only taken away. Where, we don't know.

David Boder

The SS were taken away?

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

All right. And then who remained in...in...

Samuel Isakovitch

All of us remained in the lager, half...half-dead. And there came the Americans Red Cross machines...

David Boder

Yes.

Samuel Isakovitch

...in automobiles. It began...took us out to the...led us into the SS barracks,

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

...and there we recuperated a little...We were asked where everyone wants to go...We took and went to Italy...

David Boder

You left for Italy?

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

Why did you decide to go to Italy?

Samuel Isakovitch

The Americans took us there to convalesce.

David Boder

Oh, the Americans took you to convalesce.

Samuel Isakovitch

...to convalesce...

David Boder

to convalesce in Italy?

Samuel Isakovitch

...in Italy.

David Boder

Where did they take you?

Samuel Isakovitch

They took us from Buchenwald and we went to Milan, and from Milan we went to Turin.

David Boder

To Turin.

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

And who gave you to eat there?

Samuel Isakovitch

The Americans. The Americans units [?].

David Boder

The Americans organizations?

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

And how long were you in Turin?

Samuel Isakovitch

I was there four months.

David Boder

And from there where did you go?

Samuel Isakovitch

I came straight here, to Paris.

David Boder

Why did you come to Paris?

Samuel Isakovitch

I came here to Paris in order to...I want to learn a trade... I saw in Turin one can't learn anything, and...

David Boder

Is there no ORT in Turin?

Samuel Isakovitch

There is an ORT. There is a camp, a lager...

David Boder

Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

...but there is nothing else to learn. The Italians themselves don't have...

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

...and we wanted to learn something...

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

Now we are young, we have to learn something...

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

...so we came to Paris.

David Boder

Nu, did you find out anything about your relatives, your family?

Samuel Isakovitch

Till now I found nobody. I know of nobody...

David Boder

Tell me, Moskovsky says that you were taken away to the same camp with his father.

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

What happened to him?

Samuel Isakovitch

About him I don't kn-...nothing is known...I left with the youth block and he left...he wasn't in the youth block. He was in the prisoner's block where the other old people were. And there was a youth block and we were taken separately, in separate RR-cars, and he went separately...afterwards we didn't see anybody from Auschwitz...we didn't see him there any more. We left from Gleiwitz, from Gleiwitz l. We were put into RR-cars and I saw him no more. But I heard that he was taken away to Dora, and I went to...

David Boder

Where is Dora?

Samuel Isakovitch

To Dora he went, to Germany, the father of Moskovitz...his father...

David Boder

Is Dora a town in Germany?

Samuel Isakovitch

A town.

David Boder

Yes, and what was there, a lager?

Samuel Isakovitch

Also a 'camp,' a lager.

David Boder

Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

And there the people were bombed.

David Boder

Aha.

Samuel Isakovitch

There were bombings. Some people were shot in Dora[?].

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

And where they went, I don't know.

David Boder

So, you have no relatives in Paris?

Samuel Isakovitch

I have nobody here.

David Boder

And where do you live here?

Samuel Isakovitch

I live in Severn, on the Avenue Seguier, a youth home.

David Boder

This is a youth home?

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

And your cousin lives...also there?

Samuel Isakovitch

Also there. Yes.

David Boder

How many young people live there?

Samuel Isakovitch

There are fifty young people.

David Boder

Are they all Jewish young people?

Samuel Isakovitch

All Jewish, who learn all kinds of trades.

David Boder

And you are learning during the day.

Samuel Isakovitch

During the day, yes.

David Boder

What do you do in the evenings?

Samuel Isakovitch

In the evening we learn French, and we learn English, whoever wants to.

David Boder

Have all these young people been in concentration camps?

Samuel Isakovitch

They have been. All have been in concentration camps.

David Boder

Aha. Well, and if you have finished...are you learning radio here?

Samuel Isakovitch

I am learning to be an electrician.

David Boder

You are learning to be an electrician.

Samuel Isakovitch

Electrician.

David Boder

And when you will have completed your training, what do you want to do?

Samuel Isakovitch

I want to continue working.

David Boder

Do you want to remain in France?

Samuel Isakovitch

I don't know where I will remain...I have no home, I have nobody here...I don't know what I will do...I am alone...

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

I don't know myself what to do...

David Boder

But for the time being you are here?

Samuel Isakovitch

For the time being I am here in the home [?].

David Boder

[Not clear.]

Samuel Isakovitch

Yes.

David Boder

[In English] This concludes an interview with Isakovitch, what is your first name?

Samuel Isakovitch

Samuel.

David Boder

With Samuel Isakovitch, eighteen years old, who is taking a course in electro-technics in...at the ORT school in Paris.

David Boder

[In German] Mr. Isakovitch, I have here a few pictures, and I want that you should tell me which of your experience of the last few years, do these pictures remind you of. [Aside:] This is #8. Hold it. Nu? What is this picture about? What does it remind you of?

Samuel Isakovitch

That is...

David Boder

Make some kind of story out of it.

Samuel Isakovitch

This one...one of the women -- prisoners who...they look like the women-prisoners who were in the lagers, who were ragged, in tatters...they are famished...they are emaciated...they have no...they are thinking when the liberation will come.

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

They have nothing to do...

David Boder

Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

...famished.

David Boder

And what is this? [Aside: #9.]

Samuel Isakovitch

This...so...the capo or the blokowy...[Polish for block-trusty]...the blokova [women block-trusty]sends the woman...

David Boder

Yes.

Samuel Isakovitch

...and drives to work...and makes with her...she should work...she should do everything.

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

..all kind of hard things...

David Boder

And...#12.M. And what is this?

Samuel Isakovitch

These are...the prisoners...they were taken to the lager. hey were looked over like this and...if one was sick, or what...they were taken and looked over if he still alive, or what...he lay there -- the comrade. He saw that he lay so on the bed. He took him...he tested him with the hands if he is still alive...he should stay alive, or what...and he was already dead...he was thrown out on the heap [of bodies?].

David Boder

And what do you think is this? [Aside: #15.] Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

It is also a prisoner...a 'Mussulman,' who...simply a 'Mussulman,' He can't walk any more to work...

David Boder

What is a 'Mussulman'?

Samuel Isakovitch

A 'Mussulman'...who is quite emaciated and he can't walk, he can't talk...he is completely emaciated...worked out, used up, who can't do anything any more. Then he becomes emaciated. Then he is a finished 'Mussulman.'[Footnote: His description of a so-called mussulman is perefect. The origin of this nickname is not known. See the book by Odd Nansen: From Day to Day.]

David Boder

What was done with the Mussulmen?

Samuel Isakovitch

The Mussulmen were taken and sent to Birkenau.

David Boder

And there?

Samuel Isakovitch

In Birkenau they were taken into the gas-chambers. Gassed.

David Boder

What is this? [Card number not recorded.]

Samuel Isakovitch

It could be some youth...it could be some youth from the ghetto or from somewhere...after the liberation.

David Boder

And what is this? [Card number not recorded.]

Samuel Isakovitch

This is work...

David Boder

Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

It is at work [some words not clear]...working in the fields...

David Boder

Oh. Yes. Tell me, what is the most terrible story that you remember from the concentration camp?

Samuel Isakovitch

The most terrible...eh...it was when we came to Birkenau and they took the children with the women and they started to throw them into the fire, this was the most terrible...

David Boder

Did you see it yourself?

Samuel Isakovitch

I saw it with my [own] eyes.

David Boder

What do you mean, in the fire? Before the gas?

Samuel Isakovitch

Before the gas. Before everything. They took the dogs and with machine-guns they shot at the children and women...they were taken and thrown into the fire...

David Boder

What kind of a fire did they have?

Samuel Isakovitch

A fire that was a pit and since many couldn't be burned in the crematories, so a pit was made in Birkenau...a pit was made. On the bottom burned oil and coke and other such that burns, and there they took and threw in the people. They threw themselves in. They already saw it does not make any difference any more...they were thrown in so long...between the wires...pushed in so long...so long until they themselves had to jump into the fire...[long means continuously].

David Boder

What kind of wires?

Samuel Isakovitch

Between the electrical wires [the electrified fence]. The electric wires came right to the...near the pit.

David Boder

Yes?

Samuel Isakovitch

They were pushed so long toward the pit...with the dogs and machine guns....for so long till they came so near that they had to jump by themselves into the fire. And then...

David Boder

I don't understand. Where were the electrified wires?

Samuel Isakovitch

I will show you. Here was the pit, yes?

David Boder

Yes.

Samuel Isakovitch

...and here came the electrified wires...

David Boder

Yes.

Samuel Isakovitch

...thus. And here the people were driven...

David Boder

Yes.

Samuel Isakovitch

Here was the fire. When the people came from this side, they then had no way out. Here they couldn't. Here were the electrified wires...

David Boder

Yes.

Samuel Isakovitch

If they touched the electrified fence they were right away 'kaput.' [This adjective normally means the complete breakdown of inanimate objects, predominantly mechanisms such as clocks or machinery.]

David Boder

Yes.

Samuel Isakovitch

...went 'kaput.' And here they couldn't but go into the fire. And here they were driven into...

David Boder

Hm.

Samuel Isakovitch

...with machine guns, with dogs, with...

David Boder

With blookhounds?

Samuel Isakovitch

Blood-hounds. The big dogs that the SS men had.

David Boder

Hm. Anyone from the family had been there?

Samuel Isakovitch

Everbody was there who...I have no means of knowing...I didn't see...I only saw people...people are being led...such screams that...

David Boder

And where did the men stand?

Samuel Isakovitch

Everybody fell...everbody went in...and the men worked at it...worked...he was shot...he who didn't want to enter, he was shot; he also had to be thrown in...at that time was full the whole...the whole court-yard of Birkenau was filled with...with dead.

David Boder

When was that, in what year?

Samuel Isakovitch

That was in the year forty-four.

David Boder

In what month?

Samuel Isakovitch

May...May on the...May, on the eighteenth of May...

David Boder

Approximately.

Samuel Isakovitch

Approximately. [Long pause.]

David Boder

What do you think should be done with Germany now?

Samuel Isakovitch

What should be done? I can't say anything. If there are no bigger heads [smarter people] who should that...who should do something, then I can't say anything what...they didn't...they had already visited the camps, they can...nobody can say it...such youth who remained without parents, without...and who have nobody...who can say anything?

David Boder

[In English] Yes. This was the supplement to the same spool of the young Samuel Isakovitch. Spool#7.