David P. Boder Interviews Leon Frim; September 25, 1946; Wiesbaden, Germany

  • David Boder: [In English] Wiesbaden...Wiesbaden Sept...Wiesbaden, Germany, near Frankfurt, September 25th, 1946. We have here a pec...special type of housing of displaced persons. The Jewish group is not located in the armory nor in the camp but is billeted by the UNNRA in private homes. We are going to interview now one of the members of this community. The interviewee is Dr. Leon Frim, a doctor of jurisprudence, who lives here as a displaced person. We are going to hear now from him personally.
  • David Boder: [In German] So, Doctor, will you tell me, where are you born...
  • Leon Frim: In Lemberg [L'viv].
  • David Boder: And where were you and what happened to you when the war broke out.
  • Leon Frim: When the Germans came to Przemyśl, where I was a lawyer, they put all Jews into the ghetto. All Jews. And the ghetto was guarded by the SS soldiers, so that nobody was allowed to leave. One could only cross the street in groups in order to go to construction work.
  • David Boder: What year was that?
  • Leon Frim: This was in the year 41.
  • David Boder: Describe the ghetto a little.
  • Leon Frim: Well, the ghetto had three sides...three streets, in which the most important houses in Przemyśls [inaudible] were. In these three houses, all 21,000 Jews of the town of Przemyśl were rounded up, which used to live all over the town before.
  • David Boder: What did you do in Przemyśl back then?
  • Leon Frim: I was deprived of my mental work, since no Jew was allowed to be an advocate, and was ordered to do a common job, as a common worker.
  • David Boder: But what was the job?
  • Leon Frim: I worked for a construction company as a painter. When, um, the month of July came, people had already spoken openly about an evacuation [Aussiedlung]. We have had news of other towns that allegedly Jews were lead to an area where they would carry out their forced labor. This turned out to be incorrect and a lie. This was...in July the camp was evacuated by the SS unit...and then...
  • David Boder: Was this a German unit?
  • Leon Frim: Yes, this was a German unit back then, German SS unit. Then the people were pulled from their apartments, the old ones were taken separately to the side, it was claimed that they would not...um, to this area where the forced labor was to be carried out, they would not endure travelling there, but one did not know what happens to them. When everyone was already in that square there, shots were heard, and we learned, saw back then, that all old persons were shot below a wall.
  • David Boder: How many do you estimate were they, how many people were they?
  • Leon Frim: Back then there were, those shot were a few hundred, and evacuated from Przemyśl were only about [inaudible] 5,000. This was the first action [Aktion].
  • David Boder: Where were you and what happened to you?
  • Leon Frim: I remained in the ghetto back then.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Leon Frim: I remained because the whole thing could not be combined, it was done in parts. So, those able to work were left for a while, and, um, weaker ones, then women and children were all put into waggons...and they were directed overnight towards [inaudible] a town that was called Belzec.
  • David Boder: Was there a Jewish committee in Przemyśl, and what role did the committee play in this selection?
  • Leon Frim: Back then [inaudible] Przemyśl was only the so-called, well, Judenrat. Judenrat. It has, the Judenrat carried out the directives of the SS authorities, of course under constraint. If this were not carried out, the, well, the Jewish population will suffer from it, since we did not know back then whether we would go to our deaths, in any case also the members of the Judenrat at the time. And on top of that it happened that during the first, um, during the first, um, evacuation, the elder of the Judenrat, I think it was Duldig back then, it was Duldig, Dr. Duldig, he was shot. Then...the second evacuation occurred, and...and it was in the month of November. Back then the second part, I think about 3,500 or once again 5,000 were evacuated, who suffered the same lot...the same lot as the previous ones. At the second evacuation they still let my wife, my son and me remain in the Przemyśl ghetto, and we were led from the ghetto to a labor camp Przekopana near Przemyśl.
  • David Boder: How large was your family and how old were your children?
  • Leon Frim: My family consisted only of my wife, who was about 40 years old then, and my son, who was about 17 years old then. Well, back then we came into this labor camp, and from this labor camp we went into town every day to work. My wife worked in the kitchen of the barracks then, in the camp kitchen. One day when I, um, came home one Sunday with the whole group of laborers, I did not find my wife in the camp any more. I was told, it was an SS unit, and has led all older women back into the ghetto. I was very distressed about this, because I did not know whether my wife really came into the ghetto. When I made sure about it, I discussed with my son that we should get my wife ouf of the camp...
  • David Boder: Out of the ghetto ...
  • Leon Frim: Out of the ghetto, because other actions were talked about already then. We succeeded back then, and my wife, um, who I, who I gave Aryan papers at that time, took the train to Lemberg.
  • David Boder: How did you arrange that? Tell me the details.
  • Leon Frim: A Polish woman from Przemyśl walked behind my wife, my wife went to the station at that time, at that place where we worked, and at the station this Polish woman bought a ticket for my wife, and my wife went to Lemberg then. Before she came to Lemberg, because she already wasn't in the ghetto any more, and was not allowed to be at our workplace either, she spent many nights, I believe three of four nights, in different cellars, without food and drink, because she could not show herself out in the streets, where the SS patrols were on patrol, and when a Jew was found alone in the street, he was shot immediately.
  • David Boder: But she had Aryan papers?
  • Leon Frim: She only got the Aryan papers from me at that time, when she was to go to the train. After a few days I had a message through that Polish woman that my wife arrived safely in Lemberg, and ...
  • David Boder: Why, did that Polish woman go with her?
  • Leon Frim: No, the Polish woman received a card from my wife, a postcard. Um, I wanted to go after my wife to Lemberg with my son, and we even made preparations for that, to, um, well, escape from the camp.
  • David Boder: Did you have to pay the Polish woman?
  • Leon Frim: No, I did not pay the Polish woman at that time, she was a friend of our family. Well, after a few days I received a message from this Polish woman, which she had received from my wife, to the effect that she is accommodated well in Lemberg, but that we should absolutely not come to Lemberg with the son, because terrible things occur there. Then two or three such messages came, and, um, on December 28, ‘42, the last message came, and it was the following, as the Polish woman told me: Because I should not receive news about my son and my husband, I do not know if they are still alive, um, I am going from Lemberg to Warsaw, as she said at that time. Back then I, um, investigated the matter and learned that she wanted to go to Przemyśl, that was to learn whether my son and I were still alive. This was the last message from my wife, and until this day, despite all, many investigations, I did not succeed, um, something, um, to learn something about her, so that I am now almost, um, certain, have certainty that my wife is not alive any more. I was now evacuated with my son in the year, um, 44, um, 43. The evacuation was carried out by, um, the SS unit together with, with Eastern men, who were also in SS divisions then. They put us in, um, rail cars to Szebnie...
  • David Boder: How many people in a rail car?
  • Leon Frim: In one rail car there were more than 100 people.
  • David Boder: Only men?
  • Leon Frim: There were men and women, so that we had no place to stand, and we have, we almost suffocated at that time, because all openings were shut with boards, and with wire, um, with barbed wire. Only in Szebnie were we unloaded. There was a unit waiting, and the, um, well, under surveillance of this unit we had to, um, run a few kilometers into the camp double quick. On the way a woman, if I'm not mistaken she was called Achtel, was shot because she could not, um, run so fast. All this was late at night. When we arrived in the camp...
  • David Boder: One moment. Did men and women go together?
  • Leon Frim: Yes, there were men, women, and also, um, almost non-adult, um, people running together with us. When we, um, well, arrived in the camp very exhaustedly, we were examined. We were looked at ...
  • David Boder: What camp [inaudible]?
  • Leon Frim: Szebnie, Szebnie, this was a camp near Jasło. We did not know it was an extermination camp. It was in fact an extermination camp. So, um, in the night we arrived, we were [inaudible], and the unit there, and also the Jewish regulators, which means Jewish police[inaudible] in the camp, supervised the whole thing, we were examined, everyone had to undress, and give every object of value he carried with him. They took my watch at that time, my wedding ring, um, and all the money I had, I did not hide anything, because we were told, if something was found with someone, he will be shot there and then. Thus they did with one who tried to hide something.
  • David Boder: Who was that?
  • Leon Frim: I did not know the person, because, um, I did not know everyone personally. But they said that it was found with someone, I think money or something like that, which he had not declared, and he was shot on the spot.
  • David Boder: Did you see him being shot?
  • Leon Frim: No, I did not see it. But afterwards they put us in a barrack, um, in some shacks, where we hardly found any room to lie next to each other.
  • David Boder: Describe the barrack.
  • Leon Frim: The barrack was a wooden shack, and it, it was [inaudible], well it was, it was intended for many people, there were no beds, only long boards, and one lay next to the other, even without straw underneath. Thus we waited for early morning, and in the early morning we were given coffee. On the first Sunday there was a roll call. This was the first roll call in camp Szebnie. All Jews, so all inmates of the Jewish shacks, were driven together in a square, we were about 3,500 at that time. There were men, women and also children from different areas, so not only from Przemyśl, but also from other towns, as for example Bochnia. There were even many people from Bochnia among the inmates of the camp. We were told that a Jewish driver [Fahrer]...
  • David Boder: A Jewish rabbi [Pfarrer]?
  • Leon Frim: Driver, driver, which means a chauffeur, who drove the car of the camp commander, well, um, escaped to Hungary with this car. The, the sentence of the camp commander was, for that, as a, um, punishment ten Jews had to be shot, ten men and ten women.
  • David Boder: But that's twenty.
  • Leon Frim: Um, five men and five women. One of the guards, I believe it was an SS officer, I did not know about the colors yet at that time, stepped up to us and, um, was supposed to select amongst the standing people those who should be shot. He passed us and I have seen such a scene: when a woman was, um, pointed out as one who should be shot, another woman came forward as her sister, asked that the first one be released, they should shoot her, because her sister, who, um, was selected for death, was married and had a child. An SS man, who stood near her, shot her as she was still speaking, and also her sister, so that one dead body fell upon the other.
  • David Boder: You saw that yourself?
  • Leon Frim: I saw that myself. Then the other people were selected...
  • David Boder: And what was the name of that camp?
  • Leon Frim: The camp was called Szebnie, near Jasło. They selected more people, and I saw how they made five Jews and four other women fall to their knees...
  • David Boder: Five men ...
  • Leon Frim: Five men and four women fall to their knees ...
  • David Boder: But why four, two had been shot already.
  • Leon Frim: No, well, eleven were shot together, because the sister asked for the life of the other sister, she was shot as well, so that eleven were [inaudible]. Then one of the SS leaders approached the kneeling people, ordered them to bow their head, and at everyone from behind he, um, fired a shot. One of them, before he received the shot, pleaded to be, um, given his life, because he did not escape and did not even know the person who escaped. So he cannot be, um, responsible for another man. Then the SS officer answered him: Be silent, you coward. So he, um, complied and received his coup de grâce. And this person lived on after the first shot, he breathed stertorously/his breath was rattling, so that he had to be given the second, the third, the fourth and the fifth shot in the neck, um, until he was finally dead. The women were dead immediately. This happened before our eyes, two steps away from us. Well then...
  • David Boder: How was that explained that he did not die of the first shot, fired at such close range?
  • Leon Frim: He was apparently a, um, strong man. So he breathed stertorously/rattlingly all the time...
  • David Boder: Stertorously/rattlingly?
  • Leon Frim: Stertorously/rattlingly, so, giving out such an unarticulated voice. And then he still reached with his hand for the place on the head where the shot rang, so that one wondered how much vital force is in that human being there. His last words before being shot were: [inaudible]. I can remember as if it were yesterday. My son held my hand and said all the time, father, do not look. But one had to look. Because there was no other way. After quite a while ...
  • David Boder: What do you mean, "one had to look"?
  • Leon Frim: Because, this happened before our eyes. One could not avert the eye, one was as if paralyzed, we saw that for the first time in our life. So, after... At that time I came to a new shop as a painter, as a painter. For... In a week or less I heard that once again a roll call, um, was to be called.
  • David Boder: Didn't you have roll calls every day?
  • Leon Frim: No, there were not roll calls every day. We even believed that roll calls were only assembled in order to shoot people, because at least one man was killed at every roll call. Well, another time they hanged a man, and hanging thus he remained a few hours, so, in this position he remained and asked to be shot.
  • David Boder: So he was hung by the arms?
  • Leon Frim: He was hung by the arms. In the presence of his wife and children. And he moaned, and asked to be shot. And he...
  • David Boder: Why was he hung?
  • Leon Frim: He allegedly insulted an SS man. Whether it was violently or, um, verbally, I don't know, only that the SS man claimed to have been gravely insulted by this person. A third time I was called to the place where the roll calls were carried out. We were sure that something would happen there. We were surrounded by the SS unit in black uniforms, they were Ukrainians, surrounded with machine guns. We were sure that we would all be killed. But only 440 people were selected to be killed, that was the quota at that time. Well, my son and I had the luck back then to stay longer, we were not selected, but we had to watch how our comrades, who were standing next to us, had to go to this side, who were then, um, loaded on a camion [truck] and led into a forest, where all of them were shot. Afterwards three people were selected among us, they were not told why they would be taken where they would be taken, and they did not return. We heard that they were used for burning the people and then were shot themselves. In any case they did not return into the camp. After a few weeks, well it was already two months of our stay in Szebnie, we were summoned to the place where they had the roll calls. They searched all adults, if a Jew wasn't hiding, and on this square we stood all day -- this was in November -- in the rain, without food, drink, tired... We saw then that we were surrounded on all sides by these Ukrainian SS soldiers in black uniforms. Yet there were no machine guns aimed at us. We suspected that something bad was going on. I comforted my son. And, um, after a few hours we heard that only the most important craftsmen, um, who were still needed in the camp, will be left behind, and, um, when their names were read out, I heard to my astonishment that my and my son's names were read as two painters who had employment in the camp. So we went to this side, where those who were to stay alive, um, gathered.
  • David Boder: Well, they hardly said that the others were selected for death.
  • Leon Frim: No, we didn't know that those were selected for death, but we knew that they were supposed to be displaced somewhere into another camp, as we were told. We learned later that they were all transported over to Auschwitz and ruthlessly found their deaths in the chimneys. We were 120, among them eight painters, and among the painters were my son and I. The next day, we were brought to, um, the camp Pustkow, under surveillance of course. Camp Pustkow or so-called "Heidelager" is near Debica. There we were first taken to disinfection, to disinfection all the others went as well, 120 all in all, and at this disinfection we had to get our clothes from these gas chambers ourselves. The result of this was that a person was, um, gassed there, by accident, because he stood too long in this chamber, and died in the course of events, before his father's eyes, who was an upholsterer. In this camp Szebnie we, my son and I, worked as painters for ten months. At that time we had, we were completely secluded from the world, this was an exclusively Jewish camp, and nearby was the Polish camp. We never fell together, only once a week, when we were to bathe, did we go over there into the Polish camp under strict surveillance, and after the bath we were led back into our shacks. Thus we spent the time, which means the whole winter and spring.
  • David Boder: Did you have hot water for bathing?
  • Leon Frim: Yes, there was hot water for bathing, but, when, um, the the facilities did not work, we sometimes went without bathing. We were in poor conditions with the, um, clothing and laundry. One saw to it that we didn't get lice, not because of us, only, um, because of the, the, the SS unit, so we would not infect it. So...
  • David Boder: Well, describe how you slept.
  • Leon Frim: Well, there were two-tier beds there. My son and I, we slept below. It was quite clean there, because we watched the cleanliness for our own sake. We were glad when we were locked into the barracks after the hours of labor, because at that time we were among ourselves, we were allowed to read back then, and some even tried to get a newspaper somewhere, and thus we knew what went on in the world. The food was less than poor. Well, um, we cannot say we were starving at that time, but it was hardly enough to stay able for work.
  • David Boder: And for whom did one work there? What was all that necessary for?
  • Leon Frim: The camp was for, because, um, drill ground or something we didn't know what for and where, for whom we work, orders came in, an SS man, who was camp leader and this leader of the shops, he gave us these orders, and we carried them out. I was employed as a worker, not even as master, and, um, Sundays we had off, Sundays we were off, so, Sunday was meant for cleaning, we have cleaned, and sometimes we even, this was two or three times, put on such evenings, these were performances, Jewish performances, so, we did not report it to anyone, but nobody barred us from it either. Because this was inside the shacks...
  • David Boder: Were people treated decently, was someone beaten?
  • Leon Frim: One was beaten very often. Well, if it was, um, a, um, well, a reason for beating or not, I do not know, I have seen many times that a Jew was beaten, but this was such a common scene that I did not even ask why this one was beaten.
  • David Boder: Were you mistreated as well?
  • Leon Frim: I was not mistreated by anyone at that time. I can only remember one case that... A Jew named Unger, I believe, a young man, whom I did not know, um, stood at the gate, to, um, support the surveillance. This means he watched out that nobody who was supposed to enter the camp came into the camp.
  • David Boder: Who was not supposed to enter...
  • Leon Frim: Who was not supposed to enter. He also had the right not to let SS people in who did not have the necessary papers at the time. This was almost in our Jewish camp, which is why a Jew stood there. He was suspected of, um, having allowed it that someone in the camp traded with soles or something. This fact was established, he was, um, recognized as guilty by the SS camp leader, was put into the bunker and given to understand that, if he did not put himself, um, to death, he will, um, suffer the same lost as anyone who comes into the bunker, this means, die he must. The next day they found him with his veins cut open.
  • David Boder: What was this bunker?
  • Leon Frim: I did not see the bunker. I believe it was a kind of cellar, a cellar of concrete. I was never there; I never got in contact with it. I only know this from telling. But I saw the bunker from afar and I know that the person did not come back. They even showed him from afar, the stretcher on which he was carried, the body of this deceased Unger. In July 44, I think this was because of the, um, war events outside, the camp was liquidated. We were put into rail cars, 80 to 100 people each in a rail car, and locked the cars so that we could not breathe. We had no water, no air, and the windows were, um, of these cattle cars, in which we had been led, with boards, um, nailed shut. Some tried to make holes in the wall or the floor of these rail cars in order to get air. Many passed out on the way, and in some places, right behind the station, um, stations, for some moments the doors of the rail cars were opened so that people could empty their bowels. Then we were put into the rail cars again, and again we go. After two days we came to a station, we did not know it was Auschwitz. When we were there, one of the SS guards who led us told us, you will learn in a few minutes what happens to you. We were certain back then that we are in Auschwitz, and someone called to us outside, we do not know who that is, you are already near the chimneys. We are in fact, the rail car in which we were, we do not know where we are, it drove onto this track that led to the chimneys. Panic broke out among us. It was, we were so hot that one could suffocate. Everyone undressed, because it was impossible to bear, it was in July. We lay there at night, many passed out, among them my son, because he did not recognize me at that time. He was told, your father is still alive, he said, no, that is not my father, he did not see in the darkness and he did not even recognize me by my voice. I addressed him, and he lay there like a dead body. Well, we all shouted, mass murderers, because we knew that we would experience death in a few minutes, and, about which we had been told many times. So we stood on this track all night, and only heard negotiations. When the door of the rail car was opened, they let us deboard. At that time we were beaten, why were we naked. This was already below this hall, where one entered to be burned...
  • David Boder: Gassed...
  • Leon Frim: To be gassed, yes. Below these gas halls. Well, um, we were ordered to dress. [Silence on the tape] And because in the rail car, in the rail car, it was so hot that it was impossible to bear, and we wanted that, that there was more room. It was such a mass of different bodies. We did not know if someone is dead or if he is just passed out. At that time we shouted from the rail car, we judged from different questions, where someone could find something. And if someone still... [Silence on the tape] Then we learned that an Unterscharführer, who had led us ... [Interruption]
  • David Boder: Wiesbaden, Germany, September the 25th, 1946. The interviewee is Dr. Leon Frim, doctor of jurisprudence, 47 years old, and we continue here from spool 156.
  • David Boder: [In German]Well, let's go on. So you were in Auschwitz.
  • Leon Frim: Yes. In Auschwitz we were subjected to a medical examination. My son and I were found to be able to work. We were sent to a barrack where the numbers were tattooed.
  • David Boder: What is your tattoo number?
  • Leon Frim: My tattoo number is A.180 41.
  • David Boder: No triangle, no?
  • Leon Frim: No, no triangle. My son had the same, only the next number. When we had already received the numbers, we were given food to eat. Then they sent us to the clothing chamber, where we got these, um, striped prisoners' uniforms.
  • David Boder: Did they cut your hair off?
  • Leon Frim: Yes, they cut out hair still in Przemyśl for the first time.
  • David Boder: All over your body?
  • Leon Frim: Yes, only on the head. And then a second time in Pustkow, in the Heidelager, we were shaved then, the whole body. For the third time we were shaved in, um, Auschwitz, bevor bathing.
  • David Boder: Completely?
  • Leon Frim: Yes.
  • David Boder: So you not only had your hair cut on your head?
  • Leon Frim: No, on the whole body. And then we went into this clothing chamber. There we got these striped outfits, wooden shoes. And we gathered outside, were instantly loaded aboard rail cars, and sent to a town, Gleiwitz. In Gleiwitz there were four camps. My son and I, we got into the camp... In Gleiwitz, my son and I got into the camp Gleiwitz III. The camp was made out of bricks. There I got a shop in the cellar and worked there as a painter, as camp painter. In the beginning we had...
  • David Boder: And your son?
  • Leon Frim: My son worked with me in the beginning. Instead of regular painting I also did artistic painting, and I have, there were these decorations on walls, in the dining hall, well, painted all four walls myself.
  • David Boder: In which dining hall?
  • Leon Frim: This was dining hall of prisoners. Was a big dining hall. I received orders to decorate the dining hall with murals. So, from memory I painted such four large paintings in Gleiwitz in this dining hall, it was, um, spring, summer, fall and winter. Then a commission came and found the work to be good, and, um, I received a pack of tobacco for it. This was the gratification for the work. Often I got some with my son, but this was common food, but we were glad at that time, because my son had it quite good with me. One fine day an SS man discovered a resemblance between my son and me.
  • David Boder: They did not know ...
  • Leon Frim: They did not know that I am father and he is son. When he, he asked me.
  • David Boder: Were you never summoned to roll call by name?
  • Leon Frim: No, we had numbers. We were numbers, numbered. Well, he asked me, whether he were my brother. I told him, that he was my son. I got for an answer, that it were impossible, to implement such conditions here, as if it were a sanatorium. After a couple of days he was commandeered off and went to heavy work. I asked the camp commandant to let him at least, um, stay with the painter work. And so it was, he was, he was painting in the mines or something, as varnisher. He had to walk to work every day with all the others. So we could only see each other for lunch an in the evenings, and we slept near, next to each other. In January ‘45 an order came that the whole camp was to, um, to move, they told us, um, to leave the barracks and they formed us, even though not everybody had a coat. [Translator's Note: Frim uses "Jänner," the Austrian expression for January here, not the German term]. My son had a coat, I was without a coat, we had to go out in the cold and then we got something to eat. When we have been on our way for four to six days....
  • David Boder: But you did not eat in the dining hall?
  • Leon Frim: No, no outside did we get this, um, food for our way. And forty on foot did, um, went out of Gleiwitz under the leadership of the SS-guards ... wandered out.
  • David Boder: Did the SS guards also march?
  • Leon Frim: The SS guards marched next to us. But the highest were in cars. The SS guards changed all the time, so that there were always other people guarding us. But we did march, um, all the time. Only at noon at the first day did we rest. Then we ate something from our reserves. Well, my son and I were, um, on the first day, it was stolen, all that we had on food was stolen, so that already on the next day we had to beg for food from our comrades, so that they would give us some bread. So...
  • David Boder: Where did you get the food from you had with you? [interrupting]
  • Leon Frim: We had gotten the food in Gleiwitz, when we started our way. Everybody got, I think, two breads, two loaves of bread and some margarine. I still had it on the first day, when I, when I was tired, then, I had put it on a wagon, which had all the food for the SS-guards. And the next day I couldn't find it anymore at the very same spot.
  • David Boder: Yes, you were tired, you were so tired, that you couldn't carry such a small package.
  • Leon Frim: Well, yes, it was winter. We were poorly dressed, and had been marching all day and we weren't trained for marching, as we had always been in the camp. Well, this was the first march, and on the first day in the evening, we were very tired. And ...
  • David Boder: And?
  • Leon Frim: And above this we had to carry the wagons, which weren't stringed. And on the wagon, well, the wagons which we carried, there was food ... food and also clothing and well the entire luggage of the guards. This we ...
  • David Boder: Whose? [Interrupting]
  • Leon Frim: Of the guards.
  • David Boder: Did they not have a car? Or a Auto... or horses?
  • Leon Frim: Our forces were cheaper, and so we carried. And we helped with the wagons, even when it was going uphill, we helped to carry and when somebody on the way did not work very well, he was, well, um, he got beaten by the guards. In this way, we almost passed entire Silesia. We got to various areas [inaudible] how the situation, where the [inaudible] how the situation was. Sometimes we even heard, and we heard that liberation was on its way. But the SS-guards had gotten instructions from somewhere to bring us always out of these regions, which were according to their views endangered, but in our views could bring us liberty. In this manner we had been marching for three weeks.
  • David Boder: Tell me, couldn't you run away? Couldn't you hide or something?
  • Leon Frim: Some ran away during the march. There were cases when they got shot. And some managed. Because I had my son with me, I did not want to try. I always thought that if I had managed to stay alive this far, maybe God would give that everything would become all right. If I had been on my own, I would have followed my son's advice, who always said, that we should run. But it was difficult, we were surrounded by the SS-guards and I was always trapped by my reason. I did not want to because of my son and I knew that if it were me, it would be a big blow for him. Well, that's why I let it go and went all the way.
  • Leon Frim: In this manner, on our way we hardly got something to eat and only on some places, some boiled potatoes. And we couldn't wash ourselves during all that time, we looked worse than animals. One didn‘t recognize the other. Well, we were overgrown, savaged, dirty, not washed, starved and not rested. Some nights we spent in, um, in, not in, in barns, yes. Well, but that was not that we should not spend the night outside, but only because that we could not run away. And so we were shut up in different barns. They rounded us up, hundreds of people from various regions, not only our camp, but also other camps met there. Sometimes we were a couple thousand people in one barn. It was so spurious and there were fights, because every one of us had to fight for his place for the night with his comrades.
  • Leon Frim: On our way, I have not yet mentioned this, many of us were shot: When somebody stayed behind, because he couldn't walk any further, because he was starved, tired and absolutely exhausted, well, then he was simply shot and thrown into the, um, the roadside ditch. Some begged the guards to shot them, because they couldn't bring themselves any further. With some it happened the way that, if they only stayed behind a little bit, one, um, said that he was suspected of an attempted flight and he was shot for that reason. Before us other camps had passed by and they had marked the way with various corpses. So that when we went along these roads, we, um, saw a lot of corpses in this striped clothing. These were all Jews, exclusively Jews, because only the Jews were marching. We... in this way we reached the camp Groß-Rosen. In Groß-Rosen they placed, they put us in a barrack, which hadn't been completed yet. It was all during the winter. To get to this barrack we had to take a path, which was so done, that the ground came up until over our knees, but seriously up to our knees. We could not get our feet out of this dirt. Then during the night, when we had already reached the barrack, we fell in ground and lay there until morning. The next morning they drove us out of the barrack and at a square there we got, um, we got food, well soup and some bread and a piece of a sausage for the way.
  • David Boder: How big was the piece of sausage you got?
  • Leon Frim: Oh, the piece of sausage, it was so big that we ate it right there, in one piece. It was meant to be enough for a couple of day days, because we still had a long way to go.
  • David Boder: Well, approximately, how much was it in gram?
  • Leon Frim: In gram it could be about ten dekagram, 100 gram, 100 gram. From the camp of Groß-Rosen, they led us, ... well, all the time we were guarded, to the train station. I already had frozen feet. They hurt a lot and it bled, I was afraid to take of my shoes, the wooden shoes, because I knew that something was wrong. I could not help my son and so I went on and it hurt a lot. Sometimes I trampled on the spot, sometimes so fast, ... when we stopped ... that my foot... well, when it was frozen, I couldn't feel the pain that much, the pain was eased. And then I did march well for some time until it defroze, then it started to hurt. I began to march poorly and my son was dragging me all the time. I always heard his words: Daddy, come daddy, come, because they are already watching you. You are always staying behind. He was afraid that when I stayed behind, I would be shot immediately. They put us in wagons in open wagons, in the train station of Groß-Rosen. And so we were for four days and four nights without something to eat and to drink in this open wagon, with snow, and thunderstorm, until Buchenwald.
  • David Boder: With thunderstorm you mean snowstorms, don't you?
  • Leon Frim: Yes, snowstorms. We weren't protected from the snow. The only kind of food we got was snow. One took off from the other the snow and in this way we appeased our thirst. When we reached Buchenwald, they told us to get off. Only then did we assure ourselves that at least one fourth had remained in the wagon. These were full of corpses. But three fourths still got off. We walked along the railroad embankment and on the way almost every third person fell over and did not rise again. These people weren't shot anymore. They found their death through exhaustion. The entire way was like paved with corpses in these stripped uniforms.
  • David Boder: But tell me: in these wagons, where you were. How does one die from exhaustion? What are the symptoms?
  • Leon Frim: Well, they lied down, one was almost laying on the other. There were so many people that it was impossible to sit. So, you were standing all the time, when you sat down, you were sitting on someone else. Then you were beaten by someone. It was night, snowstorms. During the days it was almost the same. We were no human beings anymore. We were rid of every kind of morale, so, you battled with the last of your strength, um, this mood we were in then. I am not, um, prepared, for these answers and so, I only speak so, well, so .... I cannot say it literarily... [hesitantly and with pauses]
  • David Boder: Yes, but I have already told you that we are not looking for literary answers.
  • Leon Frim: Good but, it is not, ... maybe it is not so, so coherent.
  • David Boder: This is very....very....
  • Leon Frim: Well, when we reached the camp Buchenwald...
  • David Boder: Look, if everything you said were so literarily, then there will sometimes be people, who say that I wrote it all down for you. [Interrupting]
  • Leon Frim: Well yes. Well, when we reached Buchenwald, they had us stand for hours under a barrack, because they said that first we had to be disinfected. We waited for three days and three nights for this disinfection.
  • David Boder: Where?
  • Leon Frim: In Buchenwald outside. They brought us into a, well, I cannot call it barrack, because there were only walls and no roof. It was an, an, um, an unfinished barrack, which did not have a roof. And so we sat on the dirty ground, which was all wet, and there we sat because we were so tired. We all trembled and shivered from cold. And then we, um, ... only got something to eat once a day.
  • David Boder: Please describe, what were you wearing then? From the skin on. What were you wearing?
  • Leon Frim: We were still wearing the clothes from Buchenwald. Well, I had...
  • David Boder: Buchenwald? [inquiring]
  • Leon Frim: From, um, Gleiwitz from Gleiwitz. So, I had underwear, pants, a .... a civilian jacket, somebody had borrowed to me and a stripped [inaudible]
  • David Boder: A shirt?
  • Leon Frim: And a shirt
  • David Boder: A shirt. Stockings?
  • Leon Frim: Stockings none.
  • David Boder: What kind of shoes?
  • Leon Frim: Um, wooden shoes.
  • David Boder: What kind of a cap?
  • Leon Frim: Such a cap for inmates it was.
  • David Boder: What kind of material was it made off?
  • Leon Frim: That was a cloth cap, it was striped [inaudible]
  • David Boder: What was your underwear made off?
  • Leon Frim: My underwear was civilian underwear.
  • David Boder: Well yes, but was it flannel or cotton?
  • Leon Frim: That was some kind of flannel. Oftentimes it was so, I think, stripped, it was particularly for prisoners. It was dark blue with white stripes. It was civilian or I only got always underwear for prisoners. So, my son, he also had one, well underwear, the same one I had. And wooden shoes and a coat. When we finally reached our stations after three days and three nights, well, then it looked this way. They had us, had us go .... all naked.
  • David Boder: Where?
  • Leon Frim: In a room, in this bathing room. And there they shaved us all, on the entire body. Then we moved into such a, well in such a pot...
  • David Boder: Please describe, what did they use for shaving? [Interrupting]
  • Leon Frim: These were such electrical machines.
  • David Boder: Yes, but then they only cut your hair, these were no razors.
  • Leon Frim: No, no, no, these were such hair machines.
  • David Boder: Shear machines?
  • Leon Frim: Shear machines, yes, electrical shear machines. But up to the body, they sheared us up to our body. Then we were in such a barrel, well one after the other went. And in it was some kind of disinfectant. And then it, um, burned in our eyes, so that you couldn't open them.
  • David Boder: Did you have to dive under?
  • Leon Frim: Yes, every one of us had to dive under for a couple of times. After this christening, um, we all went to that shower. Everyone washed himself and there you got these, um, this clothing. This was already very normal, dirty, a civilian shirt. And I asked them to also give me and my son some underwear, but they would not.
  • David Boder: So, please describe, what were you wearing?
  • Leon Frim: We only got these civilian shirts and nothing more. Then we went into the uniform store. There I got torn, thin, blue working pants. Around the knees they were all torn. I put them on, over my naked skin, so that my naked feet were visible through these spots, where it was torn. And a shirt for prisoners, a striped shirt for prisoners. My son got pants for prisoners and a shirt for prisoners. And we both got a prisoner's cap. And then I asked, I addressed a German Capo, he should allow me to at least get these rags of shoes and then he scolded me with the words: You Jew! With the end, at the end of the war you will get your rags. But now you can walk without rags. How dared the Jew! And I did not repeat something like that.
  • David Boder: Please explain. He also was a prisoner...
  • Leon Frim: He also was a prisoner. But the prisoners that guarded us, sometimes treated us so badly. And maybe even worse than the SS guards. They were known for many cases.
  • David Boder: Was this Capo Jewish? [interrupting]
  • Leon Frim: No, he was German. Then we were sure, that we finally would get to our barrack, to finally come after four days of standing outside without a roof, under a roof. Well, but because there was no space, they had us stay outside for yet another day and another night. We whined from, from, from, um pain. As it was winter outside and we couldn't warm ourselves, we didn't have anything to eat and such distress, ... and only in water, um, then. It was the snow we sat on, which melted in this unfinished barrack. This dirty we made a fuss the other day, because we didn't care anymore, when we would be burned. A little ways off, we saw the [inaudible] Crematorium. We already were with it, with a chimney. We already were related to it, and already we did not care, whether they burned us or not. So...
  • David Boder: Was this in Buchenwald?
  • Leon Frim: It was in Buchenwald. One bright day, so, after four days of our stay, they brought us to a barrack. In this barrack we hardly knew a place where we could lay. Some of us were selected as Chargen, as so called Buxen-eldest. [Translator's Note: With "Chargen" Frim is referring to a group of prisoners who were in charge in the barracks, which he calls Buchse/Buxe instead. An alternative term for Frim for those prisoners is Buxen-eldest. The term "Buxe" (Buchse?) itself is not a real German word yet can be found in German and Austrian Corps/Burschenschaften (fraternities)]. Every Buxe held twenty or thirty people. One of us was selected as Buxen-eldest, elected as Buxen-eldest. But they behaved in a ways, just as the Capos. One Buxeneldest, he was Czech, I think, then. When I asked him, he should allow me to lay on the upper not the lower level, on the ground, because the ground was all dirty, he hit me on the head. Did he tell me, that my place was way down. And as I was tired, well, I did....
  • David Boder: Were there others together with you?
  • Leon Frim: Yes, there were also others together. The stronger ones took the places on the higher levels. My son and I we were already so tired, that we could hardly keep ourselves up on our feet, we were simply content to be under a roof. So we crawled into the lowest level, low down on the floor, so that one could not hold the head up. You had to stay there in the lying, um, position. We had no air during the nights, when one wanted to get up, there was hardly a possibility to do so without getting in a fight with your neighbors. Also, the next evening my shoes were stolen and the following day when I told the Buxen-eldest about it, he only laughed at me.
  • David Boder: Were the shoes stolen when you had it on your feet or did you have them close in there with you?
  • Leon Frim: No, we had put the wooden shoes under our feet. We were sure that nobody would steal them. When they were stolen, I had this one, who had been in Buchenwald for a long time. He went to a pile, where there was the dirty trash, and there he found two other, um, wooden shoes and brought them to me. These were all [inaudible] and I had feet which were all wound, because they had died off and I put them into these [inaudible].
  • Leon Frim: So we sat there for three or four days. After this time, they called us to a medical commission. I didn't know at that time how the commission had decided, but after two or three days, I found out, that my son and I were to go the barrack for the invalids. This was barrack number 65. So, because we had not gotten any food for the entire time, and it was, that we only got food once a day. On the previous day during the roll call, when we had to stand for three hours up to long into the night without any interruption or at least a meal. So, then we got the stamps for the next day and for these stamps one could get on the next day, um, for lunch, well only once lunch.
  • Leon Frim: One time it happened to my son, that somebody had stolen his stamps. Then the next day, when he was already at the wagon to get his food, he realized that the stamps were not there anymore. Then he didn't eat for 24 hours. I had already been for lunch at that time and so I had to beg for food from a comrade and give him something from my portion the next day.
  • Leon Frim: So, then my son started to complain that he had pain in the area of the kidneys. So, when we moved to the barrack 65, he only stayed a night there, on the side of the sick ones and I was on the side of the healthy ones. On the next day he got temperature. But he didn't want to tell me and I...
  • David Boder: Describe the barrack [Interrupting]
  • Leon Frim: It was, um, on the one side, there were the sick ones [inaudible for about 30 seconds]
  • David Boder: How were you?
  • Leon Frim: With my feet that were frozen off, I was on the side of the healthy ones, because one could say that they could operate and it could heal. [inaudible for about 30 seconds]
  • Leon Frim: So the next day, I learned from a comrade, why, if I tell them, that my son is sick. And I begged them under tears, they should leave me. I told them that I would not separate from my son and that we had been together the entire time. How [inaudible] belongs together. Then someone yelled at me and brought to my consciousness that death would also separate us.
  • David Boder: Who said that?
  • Leon Frim: He was an inmate, a Jewish inmate. That sounded plausible to me. I approached a doctor, he was Jewish. He looked at my son and he took the [inaudible], um, the security from me. I begged that they should let him lay out here. [inaudible]This they didn't allow. I only accompanied him outside and I saw that they gave him something. Then for the last time, I ...
  • Leon Frim: [inaudible for about 20 seconds]... whether he had heard something about him. He comforted my every day. He was Polish. He told me that he had no news. So, it was this way that my son was still in ward. So when at this day, after eight days, I reported to the block-eldest and asked him whether my son had recovered, he explained to me Polish, in the Polish language: I am sorry, I have to, have to, um, tell you, that your son is dead. Then I collapsed. [Frim is almost crying]. He wanted to comfort me. [Frim is speaking very slowly and with a lot of pauses]
  • Leon Frim: I went back to my place, because then I was already deadly exhausted and sick. My feet were, it got worse and worse. It had already started to bleed, so that I didn't even go out to the roll calls anymore. I did not tell anybody that I had death in my feet. I only referred to my weakness and so the block-eldet allowed me to not leave the barrack, because he could see that I wasn't able to stay on my feet. One day one of comrades reported that it smelled in the area of my feet. Then they examined me and they transferred me to the Revier [the hospital ward for the concentration camp inmates] on compulsion. There at first I wanted to find something out about my son, but nobody could tell my anything. Then I lay there for two weeks. It was already too late for medical assistance, so the attending physician told me. That I had let me down, that the blood poisoning had already advanced well beyond the knee and that there was nothing else they could do. So I lay there and yet state of health improved on its own. It withdrew, so that even the physician was amazed and contested improvement.
  • David Boder: How did it heal?
  • Leon Frim: My wounds started to heal. And this, um, this black spot, which was already above my knee, it got lighter and lighter. And I could look reach down to my feet. A lot of people died in there, in this, in this, barrack, which was directly in Buchenwald. Every day, they brought out a lot of corpses. I was in the surgery compartment. There were fewer corpses there. But in the adjacent, in the adjacent compartments, it was full of inside-sick people. With lung disease and with stomach disease. These died by the score. One day a Czech physician approached me, the one that had treated me and he asked, whether there were Jews in here. If so, they should hide underneath the blankets. When one said, why, he said, tomorrow you will know the answer, now hide. So, we Jews hided.
  • David Boder: Where?
  • Leon Frim: Um, behind the blankets. In the Buchsen we were so close next to each other, that it was impossible to detect one person, if you simply passed by.
  • David Boder: Do you mean that in the Revier there were several people in one bed?
  • Leon Frim: These were no beds, these were long plank beds. So, they were separated into compartments. In one compartment, in which, for example two persons had been able to lay, five or six were lying. So, we lay one next to the other, so that we could not turn. And every one of us had, one had a toe cut off, another was wounded somewhere else. And they were afraid that if the pus would increase that I would harm them. There were questions about me. That I had to stay underneath. So after this night, when they had us hide, we were very nervous the next morning, but nobody of us asked something. But then you heard shooting nearby. We heard that the American army was approaching. And the eleventh the Americans came...
  • David Boder: When?
  • Leon Frim: On the eleventh, um, April, the American army reached us. So, I can still remember the first American, a tankist [Translator's note: Possibly, he means a tank driver?], who came into our barrack and he told us so. And then we know that we are in God's hands. We have heard that the SS guards had retreated. We kept on hearing shooting. We were only afraid that the Germans return. One sad evening was for us, the evening of the next day, when we heard, the, um, the sad message of the death of mister president, um, Roosevelt. We were really very distempered, very affected, when we, um, knew, that we owe him that we remained alive then. So, after a couple of days, I was, um, brought by the American army military into a room. They brought us into better shelters. There was a hospital, which had been opened in the barrack of the SS-guards. There we got better food and better clothing.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes Spool 157. At, um, Wiesbaden, Germany, September 25, 1946, Dr. Leon Frim, who will conclude on the next, who will conclude with this report on the next spool of Illinois Institute wire recording.
  • David Boder: Wiesbaden, September 25, 1946 in the colony of displaced persons, who do not live in a camp but in private homes. We will continue from spool 156-157, with the report of Dr. Leon Frim, a lawyer from a Polish, from Przemyśl from Poland. Poland?
  • Leon Frim: Poland
  • David Boder: Poland.... [In German] So continue.
  • Leon Frim: um yes,
  • David Boder: [inaudible]
  • Leon Frim: We were moved to better shelters.
  • David Boder: The sick ones or everybody?
  • Leon Frim: All, all the sick ones were transferred to better shelters, in better shelters. So the SS-barracks were better barracks and there I regained health fast. When I was almost recovered, when I could already stand up, they moved me to, um, Frankfurt, and because there was no space, to Wiesbaden, where I spent some time in the town hospital and after I left the town hospital I spent a short time in a, um, a, sanatorium Taunusheim, where I fully recovered.
  • David Boder: Who ran the town hospital?
  • Leon Frim: The town hospital was run by, so the town
  • David Boder: The Germans? [Interrupting]
  • Leon Frim: Yes, the German physicians.
  • David Boder: How did they behave then?
  • Leon Frim: They behaved well towards us. They, well also ... was good, the servants, the medical and the other servants. The ones in the sanatorium Taunusheim.
  • David Boder: These were Christian German physicians and nurses.
  • Leon Frim: Yes, these were Christian German physicians and Christian nurses.
  • David Boder: They did not show any rhetoric of Anti-Semitism?
  • Leon Frim: No, no, never, did we hear something from then, that was, um, that reminded us of Anti-Semitism.
  • David Boder: Now, would you, mister doctor, tell me what you're doing here?
  • Leon Frim: So, then, when I recovered, there were about twenty of us here in Wiesbaden. There were several people here, who had passed through the same tenure, as I had. We had heard that here was again a very big Jewish community. We did, um approach the circles, the, um, the ones that were leading the community then. And then we founded a Jewish community here. At first the community was headed by Mrs. Gutman, a widow of a, um, lawyer from Wiesbaden and then I was, um, elected head of the Jewish community in Wiesbaden. We had elections the beginning of January for the year 1946. And now the community is, um, run by me together with the support of committee of four people.
  • David Boder: Now tell me, do you intent to stay here in Wiesbaden?
  • Leon Frim: No, I don't intent to stay here. I was forcefully abducted to Germany. I never intended to come to Germany. And I could not stay here, alone because of what bad had happened to me. So, after these experiences, I cannot stay in Europe. The only possibility of life for me is to emigrate. As I have no relatives here. My wife, as I have told you and my son were killed and as I only have relatives in the United States, have I approached them and since April I am making efforts, to get over to America. I have a second profession. I am artist painter and I also know the profession of building painter, that means.
  • David Boder: Painter?
  • Leon Frim: No, that um, building painter.
  • David Boder: Well, now tell me, where do you relatives live in the U.S.?
  • Leon Frim: My relatives live in New York. One is doctor Frank Teller, uh, dentist. [Frim uses the word "dentist" in the original. At the time, this was a German word which now no longer is used, however.]
  • David Boder: Dentist?
  • Leon Frim: Yes, dentist, indeed. I also have his address and could ...
  • David Boder: Uh?
  • Leon Frim: And then I have two aunts, One is the sister of my mother, her name is Carla Stuch.
  • David Boder: Where does she live?
  • Leon Frim: She also lives in New York City. She has two daughter, they are my cousins. And then I have an aunt, her name is, um, Regina Burker. I have the addresses of all these persons.
  • David Boder: Now tell me, under which quota do you go to the United States?
  • Leon Frim: They took me in on the Polish quota, even though I was born in Austria. I was born in Lemberg and Lemberg was Austrian then. I had also attended the Austrian-Hungarian Army, in the year of 17 and 18 I served for the Austrian-Hungarian army.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes the interview with Dr. Frank, uh with Dr. Leon Frim, doctor of jurisprudence, 47 years old, who lives now in Wiesbaden, how he says temporarily, is head of the Jewish community.
  • David Boder: [In German] Um, do you work something here, do you earn money here?
  • Leon Frim: No, I don't get any reimbursement for this. This is only voluntarily.
  • David Boder: And you are supported by the UNRRA?
  • Leon Frim: Yes, the entire community is supported by the UNRRA and we distribute it evenly among our members.
  • David Boder: [In English] Aha, This kind of a corporate is an arrangement, um, Wiesbaden, September 25, 1946. At the home of the new Jewish community, um, the Illinois Institute of Technology Wire Recording.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Sascha Pöhlmann, Simone Müller
  • English translation : Sascha Pöhlmann, Simone Müller