David P. Boder Interviews Ludwig Hamburger; August 26, 1946; Genève, Switzerland

  • David Boder: [ In English] Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, August the 26th. The interviewee is a young man, Hamburger, nineteen years old. [In German] And so, Mr. Hamburger, tell us what is your full name. Where were you born? And what are you doing here?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: My name is Ludwig Hamburger.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Born in Poland...Poland.
  • David Boder: In what city?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In Katowice.
  • David Boder: Oh.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Nineteen years old.
  • David Boder: You are nineteen years old.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Now tell us, Mr. Hamburger, where were you when the started and what happened to you then?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes. It is a long story.
  • David Boder: Yes. But tell us. We have time.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: It is like this. In the beginning of the war everything was all right.
  • David Boder: You may speak Yiddish if you wish.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes. Everything was nice and right. I was in Katowice together with my parents and then [words not clear]...
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I was torn from my dear parents...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...and I was left alone.
  • David Boder: yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: From there I was sent to concentration camp Auschwitz and then to Buchenwald. In Buchenwald I lived through the worst, but also the best. I was liberated there.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: By the American Third Army.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And then I came to Switzerland.
  • David Boder: All right. Now then.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: [ Sobs.]
  • David Boder: And so, would you go back again. Tell me how and under what circumstances were you separated from your parents? Where was it? When was it? And so forth.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: It was...[still in tears] in the nicest period of the summer
  • David Boder: Well[?].
  • Ludwig Hamburger: It was summer. The Nazis had it in their minds to exterminate all the Jews. We were assembled on a big...on a big square, together with my parents, with my only sister, and then were separated.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Men separately...
  • David Boder: Tell ,me... Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Men separately, women separately, and children separately. The children...they experienced the worst.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: They were simply murdered. They were exterminated. Not like human beings. They treated us worse than animals.
  • David Boder: How? Were you with the children?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: No, I was already with the young people.
  • David Boder: You were with the young people. Have you...
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I observed everything, and I...
  • David Boder: What did you see? Tell me everything that you have seen.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I saw an event I myself lived through, in Upper Silesia in the ghetto.
  • David Boder: But I would like you to tell me how it was in Katowice.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In Katowice we were assembled on large...on a large square...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...and we were sorted out, men , children, young people, and women.
  • David Boder: And you were with...
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I was with the young people.
  • David Boder: Yes. Were there among the young people boys and girls?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: No, only boys.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And then we were [?] taken to the work-lager, and the older ones were sent back to Auschwitz...burned.
  • David Boder: The older ones were sent...And so, where did your parents remain?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I never saw my parents again, since 1941. Since then.
  • David Boder: Since the time when you were called out to the square?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes. Have you tried to find your parents?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes, surely.
  • David Boder: Where did you look for them?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I inquired with the OSE, in Switzerland, and the refugee aides and with the Red...with the International Red Cross.
  • David Boder: You inquired.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes, but...
  • Ludwig Hamburger: But no news.
  • David Boder: And so, you were taken to the work-lager.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I came to the work-lager still as a child of only fourteen years.
  • David Boder: Yes. Did they know that you were fourteen years old?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: No.
  • David Boder: What did they know?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We all told them we were older.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Because as fourteen year old children we had no right to live under the Nazis.
  • David Boder: Oh. So all of you told that you were older.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We told that we were older.
  • David Boder: How old did you say you were?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I told them I was sixteen years old.
  • David Boder: Yes? And then?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And then I was appointed to a work detail. Very hard for me.
  • David Boder: What did you have to do?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I worked in a quarry.
  • David Boder: Yes? How did you work in the quarry?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The stones were simply bigger than myself.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And with clubs...with the beatings, with hollering all day long... We worked sixteen hours a day.
  • David Boder: And what kind of tools did you use? [Pause.] What did you break the stones with?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: With the hand. Oh, no. We carried them.
  • David Boder: Oh, you carried the stones.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Carried...
  • David Boder: Well.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And the SS, the guards, they always chased us like dogs, like animals with their rifles [?]. They beat us. That was their first [task?].... They had to...just so they could beat us.
  • David Boder: Well...
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And so we worked sixteen hours a day, one can say, without food.
  • David Boder: Nu.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We received daily a piece of bread made of old flour, and one simply couldn't stand it [digest it].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Water...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...and a half litre of soup.
  • David Boder: Yes, nu.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: These were the rations.
  • David Boder: Yes. And where was that?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: This was in Auschwitz, at the beginning in Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: This was in Auschwitz?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: And did your parents go to Auschwitz together with you?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes, we went together in the car.
  • David Boder: Railway...
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In the railway car, and then in Auschwitz we were separated.
  • David Boder: Oh, you were separated in Auschwitz? And what were you told when they separated you from your parents?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: No, they didn't tell anything. They were very much afraid...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...to say anthing. We saw the men...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...with the clubs, with the dogs, everything, and...
  • David Boder: What kind of dogs?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Well, very big dogs they had...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: They are called shepherd dogs.
  • David Boder: The shepherd dogs. Why did they have dogs?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: They had...One can't say. They were always so set against us. They simply didn't want to soil their hands on us, so they needed special dogs.
  • David Boder: Uh huh. And what did the dogs do?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: They were specially trained dogs...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...against people. When they noticed a prisoner's uniform or detected a Jew, [word not clear] they immediately jumped on him, ready to tear him apart.
  • David Boder: Aha. Well, were not the dogs on chains? Were not the dogs...
  • Ludwig Hamburger: They were on chains. But they released them at will when they saw that a Jew in some way...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...acted [?]...
  • David Boder: Yes. And...you were separated from your parents...in Auschwitz. And you never saw them again?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: No.
  • David Boder: And how long were you in Auschwitz?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I was in Auschwitz two months. Then I was sent on a...to a lager, Blechhammer [Footnote: The correct name is Blechhammer, meaning sheet-metal works, but it was pronounced Blechame.]. It is not far from Auschwitz. Blechhammer.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: It is a branch of Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: It also stood under Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: There I worked at [not clear].
  • David Boder: What did you do?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We carried machinery.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: [ Word not clear] machinery.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Mostly youngsters, fourteen years old.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: There I went 'to naught'. [That was my doom.]
  • David Boder: What do you mean 'to naught'?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I came there with twenty boys...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...from my town.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And three remained.
  • David Boder: And three remained?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: After four months.
  • David Boder: What happened to the others?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The work was too hard.
  • David Boder: What happened then?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: They simply collapsed...collapsed at work.
  • David Boder: And what did they do with them?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Thrown away like a sack!
  • David Boder: Now...that does not make sense. Tell me the details. Tell me, for instance, what does it mean 'everyone collapsed'?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The work was so hard. He was beaten.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We didn't eat. We didn't have anything to eat, and we worked sixteen hours daily.
  • David Boder: Nu...
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Even the young strength could not take it. All of us were...
  • David Boder: Now what happened to them?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: At work...
  • David Boder: Take one boy, for example, whom you remember and tell me exactly what happened to him. Well?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The boy suddenly, while carrying machinery...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...he said he had a headache.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: He bent down, and we thought he is searching for something, and he went on [?] searching....And we said to him, 'You, why don't you get up?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: So we didn't receive an answer any more.
  • David Boder: Nu.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We looked him over, and he remained lying [there].
  • David Boder: He remained lying? Tell me, what was done with him?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Then the SS men....They came running and [we] wanted to lay him aside and to take him to the lager. So they said, 'Leave him alone, this boy. He could not stand [?] the work. The same will happen to you.'
  • David Boder: And so, did the boy die then, or what happened to him?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: He died.
  • David Boder: He died. And so let's go on. Where was that?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: That was in Blechhammer.
  • David Boder: In Blechhammer.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu. How long were you in Blechhammer.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I was in Blechhammer two years.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Then came the evacuation [?].
  • David Boder: You were in Blechhammer two years.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Tell me how a day passed there. What time did you get up and so forth.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And so, every day we were awakened at four or three...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...by the block elder, and to appell.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The appell lasted variously....If one came late it lasted longer. The lager-leader came and report-leader and the block leader [?], and they received the report whether everything is in order.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: After that we returned to the blocks again and we received a litter hot water. This they called coffee.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We were given a little piece of bread.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The dry bread...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...and immediately to work.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: But in winter [word not clear] dressed, one may say, in nothing. We had the striped suits with wooden...wooden [shores?] without shirts. [Sobs.] I suffered there so much. I myself had to wash my shirt. I didn't have another one.
  • David Boder: Well, to wash a shirt, that one can do.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: It was winter.
  • David Boder: Oh. Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: So I washed my shirt and went to work without a shirt, only in a thin jacket.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: But the only lucky thing was that we didn't lose our courage.
  • David Boder: 'We didnt lose courage.' How did that come about?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I always had in mind my parents.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Many times, when a child, my parents told me many stories from books. I also read them myself.
  • David Boder: What kind of stories?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes. I read it myself that one should not lose courage, and I always heard my mother's words near me [?].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Many times I was tired of life. I couldn't stand it any more. I received once twenty-five blows...for nothing. An SS man stopped me.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: He asked me, 'How much is three times seven?' I said, 'Twenty one.' He stretch me out and gave me twenty -one blows.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: That cannot be explained [?]. He simply came over to me and said 'Boy, can you figure?' So I said, 'Sure.' So he said, 'Tell me how much is three times seven?' I answered him. So he said, 'Come here,' and he gave me 'twenty-one' for nothing.
  • David Boder: Nu.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We went out ot work. It reained. The SS men well dressed, warmly. Winter...and we, frozen, hungry. There...inside there was [rest of sentence not clear]...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I had a friend in the lager, and we shook hands every day and said, 'Aufwiedersehen.' None of us knew whether we shall see each other again. The supervisors [?], the foremen , were all murderers. They were the scum [?] of Germany. They beat us at work...for every-thing. For the least...[Sobs.] They...they beat us. They said we were saboteurs. And many friends, many of our comrades have lost their lives [?]. If they lost a screw, if they dropped something...it was too heavy for them...it was called sabotage and...murdered!!
  • David Boder: Where did you work then?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We prisoners did any kind of work. Um. It was....We were put to do the worst jobs.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Digging bunkers.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Trenches [?].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Excavations [?].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In mines...
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...where...where we were under the greatest hazards.
  • David Boder: Yes. And this lasted how long?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: This lasted all time time until the evacuation.
  • David Boder: Now tell about the evacuation.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The Russians approached [he mispronounces the word].
  • David Boder: Approached.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And it came that all of us had to be evacuated. It was on the twenty-first of December.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: It was very cold. Snow. Suddenly comes the order...
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...'Step forward.'
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We are going. Where? Nobody knows. We got up. Everybody took a blanket...
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...a thin blanket, a bread, a piece of butter.
  • David Boder: Butter?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes. The only time! Margarine.
  • David Boder: Margarine.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Ha ha... We said butter.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We didn't know any other expression.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: It tasted then better than butter for us.
  • David Boder: Nu.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We went out. The snow was very deep [high]. Wind, frost...We left, four thousand people, from Blechhammer.
  • David Boder: What do you call it? Blechhammer [mispronounced: Blechame]?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: From Blechhammer.
  • David Boder: Blechhammer. Yes. Nu.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Direction, Gleiwitz.
  • David Boder: What? Gleiwitz?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes. In Upper Silesia.
  • David Boder: Marching on foot all the time?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: All the time on foot.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And so, the first hours were still tolerable. We ran. But farther on it became worse. We marched at night as well. Still it was lucky.
  • David Boder: Your marched at night? Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We marched at night. Many times, when they couldn't any more, they chased us into a barn...in a barn, four thousand people.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: It was terrible, indeed. The SS men were around. They were strongly armed. We were chased inside. There was very little room, so that one climbed on top of the other. When we came out in the morning, many comrades remained behind.
  • David Boder: What does it mean, 'remained behind'?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We ourselves have trampled them to death.
  • David Boder: Yes. In the barn.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: With only...with our own feet have we trampled our brothers to death.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Everyday it became worse. The bread had ended. No water. I wanted once to drink a little bit of water at a well. It was near Rabibor [Raciborz].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: So an SS man came over to me and hit me with the rifle over the [part of body not clear] that I simply doubled over [?].
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: For a tiny little bit of water.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We went farther till we all came to Grossrosen. The way...
  • David Boder: Grossrosen?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Grossrosen
  • David Boder: Where is Grossrosen?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Near Breslau.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: It is....The road, from Blachhammer to Grossrosen, that was a road of many deaths. We arrived in Grossrosen. From four thousand people, we arrived two hundred and eighty.
  • David Boder: What does that mean?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We were...
  • David Boder: What has become of the others?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Shot...
  • David Boder: But...
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In the barn we...in the barn we ourselves have trumpled them to death.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And so, the bread....We ran for seven days.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The bread lasted...lasted for three days.
  • David Boder: Hm, and then...you didn't get...
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And then we received nothing.
  • David Boder: And?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: [ Laughing.] It is indeed hard to believe. We ourselves don't believe it any more. How can one survive seven days on one bread? Without water. It was lucky that we had snow. We had...we ate the snow.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Instead of water.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We arrived...
  • David Boder: And so, tell me more about the journey. Say the night you spent in a barn. Well, then you got up. What happened then?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Then we ran. Always on foot.
  • David Boder: And the SS men also walked?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes. The SS men walked, but they rotated.
  • David Boder: What do you mean? Where did the others remain?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: They traveled in cars.
  • David Boder: Oh. You mean some traveled in cars, others marched on foot.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: What happened during the march? Tell me about specific cases.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: When we left we were still in a good mood [?]. We thought that the Russians were close.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: That the liberation has come.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We heard the shooting and we said, 'Thanks, God. We are already liberated.'
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: But then, when we noticed that it was getting ever quieter, we continue marching, nothing in sight, then our will went totally kaputt. We became morally exhausted.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We had no more faith in anything. Hope was lost. We lost every-thing. We said, 'We were so near to...so near were we to the happy day of liberation, and again it has failed [?].' We thought fate wants us to perish.
  • David Boder: Yes, nun.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And with many the will....They said, 'Now I'm not going through with it.' They ate up their bread in the first day. They wanted at once to sated. They said, 'To die..."
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Our only wish was to die sated.
  • David Boder: Hm, nu.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And...
  • David Boder: To die sated?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: They ate it up, but they ran ahead. The cold was terrible. And they said, 'We can't any more.' So they sat down, and the SS men asked...and asked, 'why are you sitting down?' So he says, 'I can't any more.' He shot him.
  • David Boder: He shot him. Did you see it yourself?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Everybody saw it themselves. The road from Blechhammer to Grossrosen was strewn with dead. Every ten or fifteen meters, a corpse.
  • David Boder: Nu. And how then did you go? Tell about yourself. How did you...How did you get through?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I had a friend.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We always marched together. We both...held on [to each other?].
  • David Boder: Where is the friend now?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The friend is here.
  • David Boder: He is here? Nu. And so?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We always maintained the will [?] to endure [?]... We said, 'No. Now we shall endure it. We are already three years... We have already endured three year, so it will last another year. We shall endure it. If we have endured that, we shall endure this to the end.'
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Like one, so the other. We always cheered up one another.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We rationed our bread. We washed ourselves with snow.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Many of us had their hands frozen, the legs. We washed our hands and feet every day with snow. We knew it yet from home, that it is the only thing against frost and [word not clear].
  • David Boder: Against what?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Against the frost.
  • David Boder: And against what?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: [ He repeats the second word, but it is still not clear on the wire.]
  • David Boder: [ Repetition also not clear.] Nu.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We have.... We rejoiced together. We gave each other support and we...everything.... We told one another stories from home.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: So was the journey.... On the whole journey we talked to each other. We had memories of our parents. We had them so beautiful.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We reminded ourselves of the hours when we were still at home and the school and everything. We said, 'It is impossible that all this should have passed forever. It will surely come back again,'
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And so we marched until Grossrosen.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In Grossrosen...we suffered the worst yet.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: It was.... It was not a KZ.
  • David Boder: What?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: It was not a KZ. A KZ.looked too good.
  • David Boder: What is a KZ [Ka-Zet]?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Concentration camp. [Konzentrazions lager.]
  • David Boder: Yes, hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: [ Pause - tearful voice:] It was simply not to endure. Worse yet than Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: For instance?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We were chased, four thousand people into a house about a hundred and fifty meters square.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: One lay on top of the other, sat or stood and received nothing to eat. Absolutely nothing!
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Mornings from four o'clock till ten in the evening we stood outdoors - - appell - without moving.
  • David Boder: Yes. Why.... How come the appell lasted for so long?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: It was an extermination camp, directly aimed [?] at extermination.
  • David Boder: Now tell me, for instance, you came out. Where did you stand?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: There were many SS men.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The worst, one can say, that I lived through [met].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: All at once they rushed into the block...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...with clubs and started to beat and to call, 'Appell.'
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We ran. We came outside. They started to count. If one was missing, or was a few minutes late, or one didn't stamd straight,...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...and it was always so, that, according to them, nobody was standing straight.
  • David Boder: Nu.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: So we had to stand two hours for every man.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We had once.... We stood once for twenty-four hours without moving.
  • David Boder: Day and night?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: A day and night, because three had remained lying in the block. They couldn't any more...
  • David Boder: Nu.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: For twenty-four hours.
  • David Boder: what does it mean 'remained lying'? They fainted or what?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: They had no more strength left to stand.
  • David Boder: Nu, so what happened?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We said, 'You can do anything you want with me. I have...I have no more strength.
  • David Boder: Nu. What was done with them?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: They were beaten to death inside the block, and we had to stand twenty-four hours.
  • David Boder: They were what?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Beaten to death. Not only...
  • David Boder: What does that mean? Beaten to death with what?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: With cudgels.
  • David Boder: Who did it?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The block elder.
  • David Boder: Was he a Jew?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: No
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In Auschwitz, in Grossrosen...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...there were the 'green' - - what they were called. With the green triangles. Professional criminals.
  • David Boder: The professional criminals. They were the block elders.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: They were in concentration camps for fifteen years, for twenty years.
  • David Boder: In prison. The lagers were not that old.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes, yes. In prisons. And then they came...and the beating...
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...the way they used to beat.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And that they...that they tortured us so.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: That is why they became capos and elders.
  • David Boder: Hm. [Pause.] Nu?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And when a block elder or a capo had beaten to death a prisoner, whether a Jew, a Czech, a Pole, or any other nationality, he received a commendation. He received a bread for it.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I have once lived through a case. It was in Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We left for the stone quarry.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Then it was so, that every SS man who had beaten to death a prisoner...
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...received twenty-five...eh...marks...Reichsmarks and five days leave.
  • David Boder: And so why didn't he beat someone to death every day?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: He had to have a reason for it.
  • David Boder: Oh. He had to have...
  • Ludwig Hamburger: He had to have certain grounds. So he connived with the capo...
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: At work we had a fence of...from the sand heap...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...up to here we could go.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Whoever crosses this border gets shot.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Then the SS man made it up with the capo so that the capo receives a package of tobacco...
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...so that the capo should send him out, Jew or a...
  • David Boder: Hm. Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Then the capo saw...took.... I myself witnessed it. I saw it myself from a distance of five meters. He called over a Jew...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...and older man...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...and he took off his cap...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...and threw it over...over the fence.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: There was no fence yet. There were only a few markers [?] on the ground...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...and said, 'Go fetch the cap.'
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And he said, 'How can I fetch the cap? When I cross the border I'll get shot.' So he says, 'Nobody is there. Go and fetch it.'
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: He didn't want to. Then he said, 'If you don't go, I'll kill you. And he began to beat him. Then he went. The SS man was hidden behind a tree...
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...and when he crossed the 'fence'...
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...he immediately shot him.
  • David Boder: Oh!
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The SS man said...
  • David Boder: He said that was the reason. He was shot while trying to escape.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: No! [Both speak together.]
  • David Boder: Well, he said he wanted to run away.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes, yes. And the SS man received twenty-five Reichsmarks and five days leave, and the capo received a package of tobacco.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Our life...was nothing! The capos played [tricks on] us. They took our bread away from us although we had very little ourselves. They took our soup away. The soup was emptier [?] [than water?]. The soup was everything. Without the little bit of bread and without the soup we were quite lost.
  • David Boder: Nu. And so you were there in that lager, what was it called?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Grossrosen [distinctly].
  • David Boder: Grossrosen, nu.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Near Breslau.
  • David Boder: And so?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes. We saw this will be the end of the road.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: From here we won't get out any more. The crematory burned day and night.
  • David Boder: Yes. Was there a crematory?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In every concentration camp. [Not clear. Speaking together.]
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: It was like this. If anybody.... In Auschwitz...in Auschwitz...
  • David Boder: If anybody in Auschwitz...? Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In Auschwitz the crematory has - - it is an unbelievable number - - has burned four million people! Mostly Jews! [Not clear. Speaking together.]
  • David Boder: Who counted that?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The statistics tell.
  • David Boder: Hm. Nu?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: [ Pause.] Mostly Jews, Hungarians...
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...Poles, French, and Dutch.
  • David Boder: Were there no Russians?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Also. And so all nationalities. There were Englishmen.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: There were Americans. There were Swiss, black, red, all colors...had there.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And the crematory was Birkenau. It was not far from Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: How far?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: A few kilometers from Auschwitz. There the large crematory stood. [Pause. With feeling:] It burned by day and night! Transports came every day of forty, fifty thousand. People from the evacuations... [The statistics may sound somewhat figurative but are not entirely impossible.]
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: From Hungary a transport of sixty thousand people came. So he took out the strongest, really the strongest...
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...there were a hundred or two hundred and to the others he said, 'You are going to wash up.' [With feeling:] Nobody knew what was up. We were divided into small groups, 'left, right, left, right.' In the middle stood an SS man, a doctor, and we had to pass through, and so undressed to the waist. With white gloves, dressed nicely, and he laughed like in a theater play, and with the index finger he pointed at us, 'left, right, left, right.' Nobody knew what means left and nobody knew what means right.
  • David Boder: Were you personally present?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Unfortunately that left meant [words not clear].
  • David Boder: And so where did you go from...from this place?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: From this place...
  • David Boder: From the lager where you were, that you told me about.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: You mean from Grossrosen?
  • David Boder: Yes, from Grossrosen.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: From Grossrosen...we were transported to Buchenwald.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The Russians approached. They were already near Breslau.
  • David Boder: And how were you transported to Buchenwald?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In open freight cars by railroad.
  • David Boder: In which month was that?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: It was exactly...the third of February.
  • David Boder: February. And so you were transported in open RR-cars to Buchenwald.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu? How many days did you travel?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Thus, on the ninth of February we were in Buchenwald.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In Weimar.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: There we went through the bombardment.
  • David Boder: How come? The Americans?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The Americans came, and it was on the ninth of February when they bombed Weimar. We were on the train...on the...on the...station, and the American airplanes arrived.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We said, 'For God's sake! Men, don't you recognized us [?]?' And nobody knew that we are here.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: They began to bomb, but luckily we were...we only lost four comrades.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: One could not believe [?] it today. The bombs fell three meters from us. A bomb fell two meters away from me so that I was under the...under the cloud that formed over me.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I was completely covered with debris, but nothing happened to me.
  • David Boder: You were on the railroad station?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes, yes.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Then it passed...
  • David Boder: And where did the SS remain when this happened?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: They were with us.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We came to Blechhammer [correcting himself] to Buchenwald.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In Buchenwald...[pause]...we arrived in the evening, hungry. We received nothing, not even bread, only one bread [during] six days of travel on the [word not clear] ...on the railroad...and we came to Buchenwald. It was like every other concentration camp, but one thing was better.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: There we were comrades. There we had only on enemy...
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...the SS.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Buchenwald...
  • David Boder: How is that? What kind of enemies did you have elsewhere?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In Auschwitz we had the capos and the block elders, the greens.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The professional criminals.
  • David Boder: And in Buchenwald?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In Buchenwald there were political prisoners.
  • David Boder: Yes? Nu?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The political [prisoners] said that we were all brothers. There were no exceptions [distinctions between].
  • David Boder: Hm
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Between Jews and Arians...
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...between a Negro and a White. They were all the same.
  • David Boder: Together.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: They made the same victims.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We had one enemy, the SS.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And against them we had to fight.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: So that it was...a great relief for us.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In Buchenwald...the fact that we live today, the majority of the youth - - we are to be grateful to the lager elder.
  • David Boder: Who was he?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: He was an Austrian.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: He really sacrificed himself.
  • David Boder: Was he a prisoner?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: He really sacrificed himself so as to keep us together and to give us a feeling of comradeship.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Buchenwald was at one time also partly a camp of the greens, of professional criminals, but in part...
  • David Boder: The greens you call the professional criminals.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In 1938 the socialists, the Reds, the political prisoners have taken the reigns.
  • David Boder: Already the thirty-eight.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Then the fight was on. In thirty-eight the political prisoners were in. Then the greens came again...
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...so that the fight had...till forty-three, forty-four it was always very bad in Buchenwald. It was the same as in Auschwitz...[Noise of machinery in the background in the ORT training shop. Some-body must have entered the room. Also some loud voices from a distance.]
  • David Boder: And so in Buchenwald?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Then in forty-four the Reds came to power. That means the political prisoners.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The lager has become [?].
  • David Boder: [Words not clear.]Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Then there were no more distinctions between Jew...
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...and Aryan. All of us were the same.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We were all the same under the supervision [?] of the SS.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And we had only one friend [enemy?]. The food was, of course, like in any concentration camp. [Pause.] Long appells...from four hours[and more] ...and so we have endured till the beginning of April. In the beginning of April we have received news that the offensive of the Allies was already very near.
  • David Boder: How [by what means] was the news received?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We worked in war factories in the town, in Weimar...
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...so that at work one observes.... We saw the expressions on the faces of the Germans. We said, 'There is something new [something is happening].'
  • David Boder: Nu.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: [ Pause.] Nu. So it was.... The hope was again renewed.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Maybe...maybe stil...maybe we are the remains, the lucky ones that will pull through. [Pause.] At once, in the morning, we don't leave any more for work. All of us remain in the concentration camps. What's up? Nobody knows [?]. All at once we hear.... We had radios...that is we had loudspeakers in rad-...in the lager.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: 'All Jews to the appell square at once.'
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We all knew what for. Evacuation.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And so the lager elder...
  • David Boder: Louder [please].
  • Ludwig Hamburger: But the lager elder...
  • David Boder: Nu.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...said, 'Either everybody or nobody.' And the Jews were mixed together with the Aryans.
  • David Boder: Mixed together. Yes? Didn't you carry markings?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The markings were torn off.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And so it was not known [any more]. And nobody knows who was Jewish, who was Aryan. That was done by the 'council' [?] in Buchenwald.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The SS men came down and they started simply to identify them, but not many have they found out. Then they started to take simply everybody, Aryans, Jews, everybody in a row. [Pause.] We already saw daily the fighters, the American fighter, over the lager.
  • David Boder: The American what?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Fighters [he uses the term Jaeger meaning hunters, apparently fighter planes].
  • David Boder: What is that?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Well...
  • David Boder: The flying ships [airplanes]?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The flying ships, yes.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And hope was renewed.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: On the eleventh of April...
  • David Boder: And so where did they take them, whom they gathered together?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: They simply took them out and then evacuated.
  • David Boder: Where?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Nobo-.... We didn't know.
  • David Boder: Hm. Nu?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The lager didn't receive any more food on account of the evacuation, because nobody wanted to go.
  • David Boder: Nu.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: [ Coughs.] But we told ourselves if already...I have already gone through one evacuation, I know exactly what it is.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: So I did not go [?] for the evacuation. Under no circumstances would I have gone for it. I told myself I'd rather here...
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...rather die here than to endure another evacuation. The same thing that I have endured in Auschwitz I could never endure any more.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Because the strength that I had then, alas, I had then no more in Buchenwald. I was already too tired. The eleventh of April, this is the day that nobody among us will forget. This is the day of our liberation! [Raises his voice.]
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: At three forty-five...
  • David Boder: Day or night?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...on the eleventh of April, daytime, in the afternoon...
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...the first American armored tank cut the fence of Buchenwald.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The joy, it is impossible to describe.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: It is impossible to [de-]scribe. The soldiers...
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...who went through the fighting...who have.... They couldn't shed any tears...when they saw us.... When they saw us they wept like little children.
  • David Boder: Which soldiers?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The American soldiers. They could never imagine that we, now, in this century, could live through such things. The people... I'll never forget their faces. They were all covered with dust. Only their teeth and eyes were seen. And when they saw us, they cried. They took everybody of us.... They kissed us. They gave us everything. One took off his jacket. He saw someone of us was without a jacket and took it out [?]. [He becomes almost incoherent.] They could never believe that now, here in Germany, near Weimar[Footnote: Weimar is most often associated with the name Goethe. Buchenwald, according to reports, was the location of the famous Goethe's Oak. [See the Bramson story].], one of the most cult-...cultural cities in Germany, something like this can be found. [Pause.] Yes!
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Then...came the others. [Pause.] They couldn't believe that they were already free. I asked a woman.... Even today, when I am home [weeps] and I reminisce, then I say to myself one of the two is impossible: either I dream now or the past was a dream.
  • David Boder: This concludes spool 72 reported by Mr. Hamburger. What is your first name?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Ludwig.
  • David Boder: Ludwig. In Geneva at the shops of the ORT. An Illinois Institute of Technology Recording.
  • David Boder: [ In English] This is spool 73. [Noise: test.] This is spool 73. [Noise of microphone test.] Geneva, August the 26th. The interviewee is Ludwig Hamburger who just finished spool 72. I'll try to see if I can make him answer a few questions. [In German] And so, and so tell me, Mr. Hamburger, what did you do all day in Buchenwald?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In Buchenwald we got up in the morning at six o'clock, and the appell was held, as in any other concentration camp, and then after appell to work.
  • David Boder: What did you work at?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In Buchenwald is known the stone quarry.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We broke rocks, we carried rocks.
  • David Boder: What was done with the rocks?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: They were as.... They were used for road building...
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...over all Germany.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Then there were also the repair shops.
  • David Boder: Yes. With what were the rocks broken? Did you have a hammer?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Tools they gave us.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: There were very near to Buchenwald the large repair shops.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: There were also parts for the V-1's.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Many, many prisoners worked there the supervision, under strict control of SS men, of masters, capos, foremen, and so forth.
  • David Boder: Now then...
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The work consisted mostly of transportation. That means, carrying of iron.
  • David Boder: Transportation. Carrying of iron, and?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And communication between machines, that means transportation of one part of machinery to the other.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The work was heavy, responsible, and under very strict control.
  • David Boder: Why was it responsible?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Because it was...we manufactured there the parts for the V-1's.
  • David Boder: Aha. V-1's.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And if only one screw...if one screw was missing, or it was not properly fit, and this possibly could have been done by a worker, a German worker...
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...then the whole blame was transferred to the prisoners. [Test of microphone.]
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And looked upon as sabotage, and...death sentence.
  • David Boder: What does that mean, death sentence? How come? Was one brought to court, or what?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes. The SS men made up their own court. He was simply brought to the lager, and...tortures... [he uses a makeshift Latinism].
  • David Boder: What?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Tortures.
  • David Boder: What's that?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Tormented.
  • David Boder: Oh, oh. He was tortured. Tormented. Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Beaten up. He was left hanging of...from...that is, tied from a tree by his hands.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And left hanging for ten hours.
  • David Boder: Did you see that?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I hung once for two hours myself.
  • David Boder: How did you hang?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: I mean how come?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: They tied the hands behind the back...
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...and quite slowly pulled up with the rope. Pulled up, the rope made a burn.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And I hung two hours.
  • David Boder: And so, how high were your hands?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I mean, well, the main idea was that the feet had to be five centimeters from the ground.
  • David Boder: Oh, five centimeters off the ground
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: When they say that the bones [joints] have stretched...
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...then they always pulled one up. So that we could feel, one can say, the ground under us.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And we could not stand on it.
  • David Boder: Hm. Your feet could not touch the ground.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Five centimeters over the ground.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And so with outstretched toes, I had the five centimeters under my toes.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: From the ground.
  • David Boder: And so you could not touch the ground?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: No, no, no!
  • David Boder: No. Nu? For what was this done?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In Germany just for the smallest trifle. For not saying good morning in Auschwitz. Also in Buchenwald I went through this many times. I am passing an SS man. I take off the cap.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And I stop. Then he calls me over and asks me, 'Ah, are you my friend?' I don't give any answer. Then he beats me. The next time I say to myself, 'So I won't take off my cap.' And I pass by him and I don't take my cap off. He calls me again. 'You don't know one must take his cap off?' So that I did not know myself what to do.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And so it was with everything...every day.
  • David Boder: You said you were hung by the hands for two hours?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: But, yes, where did you feel the pain? How was it?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And so...[he points].
  • David Boder: In the shoulders?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In the shoulders.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And here in the...connections.... What is it called?
  • David Boder: In the elbow?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In the elbows.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And in the hands here.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And in the legs.
  • David Boder: Now tell me...
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In general the breath. I could not breathe.
  • David Boder: You could not breathe. Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Everything was twisted, and I.... The hands were pulled downwards...
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...not frontward. Thus.
  • David Boder: How was that done? Why? For what was done?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And so...
  • David Boder: In your case?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In my case, I wanted to say something to my friend during work...
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...and spoke to him, and a master complained about me, that I am not working. All I told him was, 'Watch out.'
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: 'Watch out."
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And just for that word only I was left hanging by my hands for two hours.
  • David Boder: Were also others at the same time in these circumstances?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes. There were every day very many. It was a room arranged with hooks.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: There were about fifteen hooks. At that day the fifteen hooks were occupied.
  • David Boder: Yes, And who did that?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The SS.
  • David Boder: The SS, not the capos?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The capos, but under the supervision of the SS. The SS.men stood.... They had the greatest joy...had...when they knew that one is supposed to receive a beating, or...or done something to him. Then they all came and watched. They laughed. It was...was the most beautiful thing for them.
  • David Boder: Hm. Nu? And so you worked in Buchenwald?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu. Tell me how....Could you write letters?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In Buchenwald one is permitted to write letters, thirty words.
  • David Boder: To whom did you write?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I did not write at all.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Because I knew that the letters were under strict control. When one writes one must write, 'Things go well with me.'
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: 'I miss nothing.'
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: 'I do not need anything. I am satisfied.'
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Such letters I never wanted to write.
  • David Boder: And to whom were they written?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Well, to the family, or to friends [?].
  • David Boder: Did you receive any letters from your family?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: No.
  • David Boder: Tell me, what was your parents' occupation in Sosnowice...in Katowice?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: In Katowice
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: My father had a factory.
  • David Boder: Now Katowice was in olden times German, and then...
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: ...it became Polish.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Became Polish.
  • David Boder: What kind of factory did your father have?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Building hardware.
  • David Boder: What is that?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Well, construction metal. That means metal parts for building construction.
  • David Boder: Yes. And did you have brothers or sisters?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: One sister.
  • David Boder: And where is she?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: She was brought to Auschwitz together with the parents, and since then I have no information.
  • David Boder: You have had no information. Nu? Tell me, what are you doing now in Switzerland?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Then came a commission to Buchenwald...
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...from the...from the Swiss Red Cross...
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...and they took the youths to Switzerland to recuperate.
  • David Boder: To recuperate. Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We were approximately three hundred boys...
  • David Boder: Boys, yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...brought from Buchenwald to Switzerland to recuperate.
  • David Boder: To recuperate. Yes? Nu?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And here in Switzerland we have recuperated. We were...
  • David Boder: Where did you live? Where have you...
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We were brought to Reinfelden.
  • David Boder: Yes? And who provided for you?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The Swiss Red Cross. They sent nurses...
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...to care for us.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Then we were brought to different homes.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And we were shown life from a completely different angle than we have know till now.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: They wanted to show us. They took pains to show us what life really looks like...
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...to show us how one should behave in company, and the showed us /the ways of/ friendship and family [life].
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Then we arrived in Geneva.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: And so...
  • David Boder: And so? Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I came to Geneva...
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...in order to attend the ORT schools.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I knew one thing. Now, if after all the things I have endured, in spite of my being very young...
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...I know though that every man must work in order to live. And we especially.
  • David Boder: Whom do you mean by 'we'?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We who have endured so much.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: We know that nothing....And we do not ever demand anything to be given us as a gift. We are young. We are strong. Strong because we endured everything. And we wanted to build our own existence. We know how to appreciate work. And we...we know very well that one must educate himself. We have to catch up with the lost time that we spent in concentration camp. We came out wild from the concentration camp, like animals. During the first days we simply did not know how to walk in the street. We were locked up behind an electrified fence, always under beating, always afraid of being murdered without cause [?]. Slowly we got used to the new atmosphere which we have entered. Then I told myself I must have knowledge. I have to learn a trade in order to better build my future life. I began to search. I have reported voluntarily. I have made an application, a petition...
  • David Boder: Where to?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: To ORT...
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...to accept me.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I was accepted.
  • David Boder: What are you learning now?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Now I am learning, here in Gent [Geneva], ORT, to be a mechanic.
  • David Boder: You are learning to be a mechanic?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: And how long will it take till you become a mechanic.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: It takes...the course takes two and a half years.
  • David Boder: Two and a half years. And where do you think to go then?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: [ Pause.] I only have one desire.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I should like to learn my trade.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: The first and most important thing is to have something in the hands. We know too well, a man who knows nothing, is nothing. [This is a play on words. With a different spelling of the verb, isst instead of ist, it means: One who is nothing, eats nothing.] We must....And all of us are learning a trade...
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: ...so as to build our future existence.
  • David Boder: Nu. Tell me, were there any poems or stories...songs in Buchenwald?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Yes.
  • David Boder: Do you know any poems from Buchenwald?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: No. I know a song.
  • David Boder: Well, would you sing it a bit.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I...I am not much of a singer.
  • David Boder: No, you do not have to be, so long as the words are heard clearly. Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: [sings] "When the day awakens / And the sun is laughing / The columns go forth / From the day's toil / Through the grey of the morning. / And the woods are black / And the sky red. / And we carry in the sack a piece of bread, / But in our heart, in our heart the worry. / Oh, Buchenwald, I can never forget you, [Refrain.] / Because you are my fate. / Who leaves you, he only is able to comprehend / How wonderful freedom is. / Oh, Buchenwald, we do not cry and complain. / Whatever may be our future / We shall in spite of it say yes to life, / Because once the day shall come / When we shall be free!" [Repeat last four lines]
  • David Boder: Now did the SS hear you sing it?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: No.
  • David Boder: When was it sung?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: After the liberation.
  • David Boder: Was it composed after the liberation?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: No. It was a song of Buchenwald. We have....The SS men knew quite well that... But the words were changed after the liberation. For instance, the last word, 'The day will come when we shall be free!'
  • David Boder: And what was it before?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: Before...it was....I do not remember too well.
  • David Boder: Hm. Can you remember any Jewish songs from Auschwitz or anywhere else?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: There are quite a few.
  • David Boder: Yes. Try one. I want to have....Can you remember 'It Burns'?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: One moment. [He thinks.]
  • David Boder: Yes. [Pause.]
  • Ludwig Hamburger: I know a song from deportation.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: When we were sent on the transport.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ludwig Hamburger: When we returned home, alone, without parents, so we sang this song.
  • David Boder: All right.
  • Ludwig Hamburger: [sings] "We have wandered throughout the night, / Not knowing where we are going. / What will be our destination? / Because, without a home and without an end, / We have wandered throughout the night. / Through forests [?] we were driven / Surrounded by [words not clear]. / With clubs we were beaten / Not knowing what for. / The children cry out, 'Mother! I am hungry!' / And the mothers had no bread for them. / oi, oi had, oi oi had! / Because, without a home and without a roof, / We have wandered throughout the night, / Not knowing where we are going. / What will be our destination? / Because, without a home and without a roof, / We wandered throughout the night!"
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes the interview with Mr. Ludwig Hamburger. At Geneva, August the 26th, 1946, at the ORT School. An Illinois Institute of Technology wire recording.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Dagmar Platt
  • English Translation : David P. Boder