David P. Boder Interviews Kalman Eisenberg; July 31, 1946; Fontenay-aux-Roses, France



Kalman Eisenberg experienced most of the Holocaust years in his hometown of Starachowice, an industrial center about ninety miles south of Warsaw. There the Jews were placed in an open ghetto between February 1941 and October 1942. Then those not needed for work were sent away, to Treblinka as it turned out, and the remaining 5,000 were pushed into barracks adjacent to the prewar ammunition factories, now renamed the Hermann Goring Works, to serve the needs of the German military.

Fourteen-year-old Eisenberg was one of the "lucky" ones, the only remaining member of his family not sent away with the others. He says little about what it was like in the Starachowice camp, but he has fairly vivid recollections of the prisoner revolt that occurred as the Germans prepared to liquidate the camp and move their slaves westward in July 1944. Fearful that they were about to be killed, the prisoners set fires and rushed the fences, only to be recaptured or shot down by the hundreds by the Ukrainian guards. Not one is known to have escaped and lived to tell about it. Kalman survived to be evacuated to Auschwitz-Birkenau with the others, and from there to Germany where he was liberated by the Americans somewhere in Bavaria.

This interview was recorded at Chateau de Boucicaut, just outside Paris, where about sixty young survivors, mostly from Buchenwald, lived under the direction of the ORT. It must have been one of Boder's most difficult. It was not enough that his recorder acted up more than usual. Eisenberg told his story loosely and turgidly; he tried to begin the interview by imitating the tone of a radio announcer, stating that "Comrade Eisenberg" was at the microphone, and he clearly sought to dramatize his story to the hilt. Parts may strain credulity. Commenting years later on the "somewhat artificial pathos" of Eisenberg's interview, Boder wrote: "He is definitely a pleader, but of a cause which even then was not too popular."

From FRESH WOUNDS: EARLY NARRATIVES OF HOLOCAUST SURVIVAL by Donald L. Niewyk. Copyright (c) 1998 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. www.uncpress.unc.edu