David P. Boder Interviews Adolph Heisler; August 27, 1946; Genève, Switzerland



Adolph Heisler was born in Czynadowo, Czechoslovakia, to parents who owned a large farm and ran a lumber business. In 1939, when the boy was twelve, Hitler arranged the transfer of that part of Transcarpathian Ukraine to Hungary. That transfer meant that instead of being deported with the majority of Slovakian Jews in 1942, Heisler, his mother, and two brothers were ghettoized and sent to Poland only after the Germans occupied Hungary two years later. Heisler recalls Germans taking these actions, but Hungarian officials were most likely the major participants in the whole procedure. They certainly made the decision to keep his father behind in one of Hungary's notorious labor battalions for adult Jewish males. Adolph's father was not among the few survivors of those units.

At Auschwitz Adolph and one of his brothers were separated from the rest of their family and sent to the Jawiszowice coal mine, which supplied the factories in Auschwitz. He spent eight months there. This and other coal mines in the region were infamous for their hellish conditions, but Heisler recalls Jawiszowice as being less unbearable than the camps he experienced later in Germany. He mentions that his block senior protected him, without providing many details. He was evacuated with the rest of the Auschwitz contingent in early January 1945. Taken on foot and by train to Buchenwald and then on to a satellite camp near Nordhausen, he fell ill and could not join the death march to escape the approaching American army. Miraculously, at the last minute the Germans supplied trucks to evacuate at least some of the sick to Buchenwald. His inclusion probably saved his life, since a very large proportion of those marched out of Ohrdruf did not have the strength to finish the journey, and those left behind at Ohrdruf were massacred by the SS. At Buchenwald Heisler unhesitatingly attached himself to the young people's barracks which was liberated by the Americans a short time later. In his description of the events, he provides another variation on the story about the commandant's tardy telephone call so dear to the memory of the survivors.

For reasons that can no longer be determined, Heisler volunteered little about his personal life either before or after the Holocaust, and Boder made no effort to draw him out on the subject during the interview in Geneva.

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