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

  • David Boder: [In English:] This is Spool 81. Geneva, August 27th, 1946. The interviewee is Abraham [?] Heisler, eighteen years old, from the Czech territory which presumably has become Russian now. He carries a tattoo number A [A is possibly just a triangle] 4470. [In German:] And so Mr. Eis-...Heisler, would you tell us again your full name and where you were born. Speak slowly and [words not clear]. Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: Well, my name is Adolph Heisler.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: And I come from Czechoslovakia, from Carpatho-Russia. I am eighteen years of age, and was later deported to Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: Yes. And so, tell me, where were you and what had happened to you when the war began?
  • Adolph Heisler: When the war began we were put into a ghetto, and there we were very much mistreated. And after the ghetto...we were in the ghetto one month, and after a month we were transported away by train to Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: Now wait a moment. I want to know the whole story. That did not go that fast. And so how did they make it known? How were you...Who were your parents? What did you father and mother do?
  • Adolph Heisler: And so, we had a large farm and my father had a large lumber business. We were working the forests [?].
  • David Boder: Yes. Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: And it was...and all that was then taken away from us...
  • David Boder: Now wait. Your father was a lumber merchant, and he [also] had a farm?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes. and also [?]...
  • David Boder: In the town or near the town?
  • Adolph Heisler: Near the town.
  • David Boder: Near the town. Did you have any brothers and sisters?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes, I had two brothers. One brother is still alive today. He is in the Russian territory. He is living with an aunt.
  • David Boder: In Russia.
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: And the other one?
  • Adolph Heisler: The other one...about the other one I know nothing, and about the parents I neither know anything.
  • David Boder: You know nothing about your parents.
  • Adolph Heisler: No.
  • David Boder: No. Did you receive any letters from your brother in the Russian territory?
  • Adolph Heisler: Not from him personally, but a girl wrote to me, a girl, an acquaintance. She was there. She was...she had lived as a neighbor next to us, so she wrote me that she had talked with my brother. I also sent once a telegram and everything, but I received no answer. I do not know...I cannot get in good communication with Russia, and I do not know how he is getting along and all that.
  • David Boder: Yes. Nu, and so you were living there in your town. What was the name of the town?
  • Adolph Heisler: Chynadiyovo
  • David Boder: Chynadiyovo
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: How is it spelled?
  • Adolph Heisler: C...
  • David Boder: Aha. C...
  • Adolph Heisler: ...Z...
  • David Boder: Chyna...
  • Adolph Heisler: Chynadiyovo.
  • David Boder: Chynadiyovo.
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes. That is a Czech city at the [word not clear].
  • David Boder: Yes. and so, good. Now tell me. The Germans arrived. How did they enter [the city]?
  • Adolph Heisler: Right away the army entered. We saw the German occupation with the army, and all of a sudden it became black before the Jews' eyes. And two weeks later one morning they came, and we did not know why the houses were occupied, and they said in two hours everybody has to be packed up to be taken away. We did not know where to. The men [people] were led into a building. They were driven together into a large building, and they were taken in trucks to the ghetto.
  • David Boder: Yes. Where...where was the ghetto? Where did they make the ghetto?
  • Adolph Heisler: The Mukachevo Ghetto. There were large barracks of a brick factory. There were large wooden barracks where the bricks were stored, and there we were quartered. It was very crowded there. We could not stand it, because there were terribly many people. In one barrack lived three thousand persons, because there was no room. And they crowded the people terribly, and...
  • David Boder: Men, women, and children together?
  • Adolph Heisler: Everything together. The families still were...the families were still together.
  • David Boder: Yes. Nu, and you were the olde-...yes, you have a brother and a [feminine ending: eine]...
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes, the two brothers.
  • David Boder: You had two brothers.
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: Were they older or younger?
  • Adolph Heisler: Younger brothers.
  • David Boder: Younger brothers. Now, and how long were you there, in that brick factory?
  • Adolph Heisler: In the brick factory we were four...four weeks.
  • David Boder: Yes? Who gave you to eat? What were you given to eat?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes, the Kehille [community] still supported itself. All the food supplies which we still had, had to be moved [taken along?]. We did not have much any more, because everything had been taken away.
  • David Boder: Hm. Yes?
  • Adolph Heisler: And what was short [insufficient] was brought from the town.
  • David Boder: Yes. And who was the Kehille?
  • Adolph Heisler: That was the Jewish Community [Council?] which took care that there should be sufficient. Everything was still not taken away due to money protection [bribery] and so forth. They were in [words not clear], so they permitted to bring in some food supplies.
  • David Boder: Food supplies. Nu, and after...that lasted, you say, four weeks.
  • Adolph Heisler: Four weeks, yes.
  • David Boder: What happened then? Tell me all the details. How was it?
  • Adolph Heisler: And so one morning comes, and it was said that whoever has citizen's rights of that and that city, the citizenship, then it is possible for him to remain there...for him to be released home. And so everybody brought his papers. We, too, showed [ours], all good [valid] papers. They were taken away. And suddenly we see he makes a big fire with those papers. They were just making fun of us. And the next day...
  • David Boder: And so you say that the papers were collected, and then what did they do?
  • Adolph Heisler: And they were burned. They only said so [about citizenship], because they did not want us to have anything to show [identification] for the right to travel.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adolph Heisler: And on the next day in the morning we were not permitted to leave the barracks. We saw a great number of RR-cars arriving. And they packed in many [?] people in those RR-cars, a hundred people to a wagon, without food, without anything, and we were transported...where we are being transported to nobody knew. We were riding and riding, two weeks in the train. And then we arrived in Auschwitz. We did not know...
  • David Boder: Yes? Nu...
  • Adolph Heisler: We did not know about any Auschwitz, about extermina-....We saw people dressed in prisoner clothes, but we did not know what it meant. Only afterwards we found out the entire story.
  • David Boder: All right. And so let us go back a little. You were put into RR-cars.
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: What kind of RR-cars were they?
  • Adolph Heisler: They were those freight cars for cattle.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adolph Heisler: Not passenger cars. And they were very crowded, without water. They did not supply any water. Food, there was none, because from home we had not been able any more to bring any food along. Because we had already been four weeks in that ghetto, everything had given out.
  • David Boder: How many persons were you in one wagon?
  • Adolph Heisler: We were a hundred people in a wagon.
  • David Boder: Were there any seats, any benches?
  • Adolph Heisler: No, no, just so. They had taken away the bundles. They had taken away everything. We lay on the bare boards.
  • David Boder: Was your father and mother with you?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes, still there in the RR-car, but...
  • David Boder: And the two brothers?
  • Adolph Heisler: Also. All of us were still together. Only in Auschwitz, when we arrived, were we all dispersed [separated].
  • David Boder: One moment. And so you were shoved into the RR-cars. Was there a toilet?
  • Adolph Heisler: Nothing, nothing.
  • David Boder: So then, how did one do it when one wanted to go to...to...to relieve oneself or...?
  • Adolph Heisler: We had a few pots, so we...
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adolph Heisler: ...made a toilet in the pots and poured it out.
  • David Boder: Poured it out where?
  • Adolph Heisler: Out of the RR-car, outside [?].
  • David Boder: Were the RR-cars open?
  • Adolph Heisler: There was a small opening, through the window...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: ...and covered with wire.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: We could barely put the hand through.
  • David Boder: And how did the men and women use the pots?
  • Adolph Heisler: Well, everything was the same [did not matter]. People there did not look [care] so much any more.
  • David Boder: Nu. And so, how long did the journey last?
  • Adolph Heisler: Two weeks.
  • David Boder: [With surprise:] Two weeks?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: Were the wagons opened every day?
  • Adolph Heisler: No.
  • David Boder: And water?
  • Adolph Heisler: Neither. We had...everybody had taken along a bucket of water from the ghetto, and we had received a bread, that means two kilos of bread, and on this we lived the whole time...
  • David Boder: And so?
  • Adolph Heisler: ...per person [apparently still referring to the bread].
  • David Boder: Did you and your family have enough to eat?
  • Adolph Heisler: From enough it was very far, but what could one do?
  • David Boder: Yes. Nu, did all of you.... What did the people do all day in the RR-cars?
  • Adolph Heisler: Nothing. We were sitting. One said we are being taken there, and one said this will happen. We did not know ourselves. We were completely mixed up. We were already not normal from all the 'story' that had happened.
  • David Boder: Aha. Nu, and thus you arrived where? In Auschwitz?
  • Adolph Heisler: In Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: Now tell, when the train arrived, what happened then? And so what happened there?
  • Adolph Heisler: And so we arrived there.
  • David Boder: [Testing the microphone.] Wait a moment. Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: We arrived there in Auschwitz. An SS Storm leader was standing there, and he separated the older people and the children to one side, and those capable of working, those who looked very capable of working, they put to the other side. About the others, where they were led, no on knew only the next day we saw the huge flames and the smoke from the crematory where they were being burned. And we went into barracks.
  • David Boder: Who is the we?
  • Adolph Heisler: We the capable of working. I was also among them.
  • David Boder: And so what happened to your family when you arrived in Auschwitz?
  • Adolph Heisler: To my family happened that, that my brother and I stood on one side and the remaining stood...
  • David Boder: Who were the remaining?
  • Adolph Heisler: The mother. The father was not there, because the father had been drafted for service, for military service, still at home.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adolph Heisler: And the mother with the smaller brother was...went...were taken away to the other side to...with those...those not capable of working.
  • David Boder: And so, I did not know that. Your father then was not with... When, where was your father taken for military service? Was your father there with you in the ghetto?
  • Adolph Heisler: No.
  • David Boder: No. And so where was he? Was he in the Hungarian army?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: In the Czech army?
  • Adolph Heisler: He was in the Czech army. And then they called the strong people, those who were well capable of working [word not clear] to dig trenches.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adolph Heisler: And he still remained there. And we were in the ghetto.
  • David Boder: Aha. And you...he did not see you before you left?
  • Adolph Heisler: No.
  • David Boder: And you did not hear from him at all?
  • Adolph Heisler: No.
  • David Boder: And so your mother with the small boy went in Auschwitz to the other side?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes
  • David Boder: Nu, go on.
  • Adolph Heisler: And the brother and I, we went to bathe.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: And after we were bathed, everything was shorn off, and we were led into a barrack.
  • David Boder: What do you mean, everything shorn off?
  • Adolph Heisler: The hair, everything shorn off.
  • David Boder: From the whole body?
  • Adolph Heisler: From the whole body.
  • David Boder: [A ringing noise.] And so, go on. [In English:] There was a telephone interruption. [In german:] Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: And there we were...after the shearing off, in the bath, we were dressed in the prisoner uniforms just like the others. We did not know what was going on there. When we came out we already saw the sticks [clubs] flying over the backs and over the heads, those beatings there.
  • David Boder: Who was beating you?
  • Adolph Heisler: There were the SS, and there were the German war-...not war criminals, but professional criminals who yet in the year '36 were put in concentration camps. They were worse yet than the SS men themselves.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adolph Heisler: And they were appointed there as capos. That means in the lager they would be over the prisoners. So in the lager proper they had detail, and they had [were in charge of] the supervision.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: There we were driven into a barrack. And the second day we still did not get anything to eat, and sleep we could neither, because it was cold. It was on the stones, a barrack of stones. And there we...
  • David Boder: A stone floor.
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes. And there we sat. It was still in Birkenau proper.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: It [Birkenau] was not yet in Auschwitz. It was the quarantine lager for Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: Yes. What kind of a lager was it?
  • Adolph Heisler: Quarantine lager.
  • David Boder: A quarantine lager for Auschwitz [?]?
  • Adolph Heisler: There people were bathed, had their hair shorn off, and dressed [were outfitted]. And Auschwitz was already.... It was near Auschwitz, and Auschwitz was already the work lager.
  • David Boder: Yes. Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: And we were then asked there [about] the occupations, what occupation one has. And they said we will be sent to work.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adolph Heisler: And I reported as...that I was a locksmith [metal worker], because I knew that it is always better to have a trade than to work some place on a field, but...
  • David Boder: Did you know anything about locksmithing?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes. I went to a school at home. I always liked to play around with these things.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: And I knew exactly that they are calling for locksmiths, then they need locksmiths, then...then one can somehow...if one has some sort of idea, when one understands [?]...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: And I presented myself for it. And anyway I had no luck with it, because I was...I was not accepted for it.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adolph Heisler: And on the next day we were called out. We had...we already had the...we had no numbers yet.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: We were just called out, and we were led to Auschwitz, to Lager Auschwitz. Arriving there, we were given a soup to eat. It was already the third day, so everyone received a liter of soup, and we were led to be numbered...to tattoo the numbers.
  • David Boder: To be tattooed.
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: If everyone received a liter of soup, in what was the liter of soup given?
  • Adolph Heisler: There were there such bowls, various broken bowls which had been collected from the transports, because they had taken along pots...
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adolph Heisler: ...from the RR-cars.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: Then they collected them. And in them the soup was given...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: ...to eat.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: And after getting the liter of soup, we were tattooed. We still stayed there two days, and on the third day we were taken away. I was separated from the brother, and I was taken away to work in a coal mine. It was eight kilometers from Auschwitz, in Jawiszowice.
  • David Boder: Jawiszowice.
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: In a coal mine.
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: And so, were you given hammers? Were you given...
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes. The same as everybody, the same as every worker, I was given...
  • David Boder: And a lamp on the head?
  • Adolph Heisler: Not on the.... We had to carry lamps in the hands. The lamp weighed six kilo. The lamp itself was taking one's strength.
  • David Boder: Why? How come the lamp was that heavy? What was it?
  • Adolph Heisler: It was...I don't know. They were those carbide...not carbide lamps, but...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: ...such a lantern, an electric lantern [?].
  • David Boder: Oh, they were...yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: And they were...
  • David Boder: With batteries.
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adolph Heisler: And they were large lamps so as to last the twelve hours. We only worked eight hours...
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Adolph Heisler: ...but they had to light [burn] for ten hours, to come out...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: ...and the appells, and that and that.
  • David Boder: And then the lamps were re-charged every night?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes, returned. Everybody had a lamp number, and everybody...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: ...returned the lamp.
  • David Boder: Aha. Had you every worked before by coal?
  • Adolph Heisler: No.
  • David Boder: No.
  • Adolph Heisler: I have...I have...
  • David Boder: How old were you then?
  • Adolph Heisler: Sixteen years.
  • David Boder: Aha. And with whom did you go? All the prisoners or were you...
  • Adolph Heisler: All prisoners.
  • David Boder: Yes? And how deep did you go down?
  • Adolph Heisler: That was...it was four hundred and sixty meters deep.
  • David Boder: Four [hundred] and sixty [mistake: sounds like 64] meters deep.
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: You went down in what? In an elevator?
  • Adolph Heisler: In a lift.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adolph Heisler: We went down in a lift.
  • David Boder: Who showed you how to work?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes, there was everywhere a Polish civilian, a foreman.
  • David Boder: Yes? Were they good to you?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes, they were still worse than the Germans themselves.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Adolph Heisler: They treated us much worse than the Germans. They informed on us. They beat [us]. It was terrible the way the Poles treated us there...
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adolph Heisler: ...in the coal mines.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adolph Heisler: And they beat us, the prisoners, to death.
  • David Boder: Did you not try sometimes to hit back?
  • Adolph Heisler: But who had the strength? We were completely worn out. Completely starved from that liter of soup and two hundred grams of bread, and working in a coal mine, we had no mine [?] any more to fight back.
  • David Boder: Nu, go on. How long did you work there in the coal mines? And where did your brother go?
  • Adolph Heisler: I knew nothing more about the brother.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Adolph Heisler: From the brother I have only now through that girl...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: ...received news.
  • David Boder: And so how long did it last?
  • Adolph Heisler: It lasted until the year...year...until the Russians arrived. Then [?] in Auschwitz...they started attacking Upper Silesia. That was in '45.
  • David Boder: Then how long were you in Auschwitz?
  • Adolph Heisler: Two years.
  • David Boder: Did you work in the coal mines all the time?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: As a coal miner
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: [Jokingly:] So you are now a good coal miner, no?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes, a pretty good one.
  • David Boder: Yes. Nu, and...and then when you came out from the mines, what would happen then?
  • Adolph Heisler: When we came out we were counted [to see] if everybody is present, if none is missing, and we were led into the lager. There we bathed. Everyone had...
  • David Boder: Every evening?
  • Adolph Heisler: Bathed every evening.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: That was a good thing, that bath, that we were still able to bathe. And after the bath we were...
  • David Boder: Yes...[?]
  • Adolph Heisler: We got the supper which was a piece of bread and a [portion of] black coffee, and we went to bed.
  • David Boder: Yes. What kind of beds did you have?
  • Adolph Heisler: They were wooden plank-beds, such tiered beds, four stories high. We slept on the boards. Every...
  • David Boder: How many people to a plank-bed?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes. There were...on...approximately on one meter slept four, five people. There were...
  • David Boder: Did you take off your clothes?
  • Adolph Heisler: No, it was too cold for undressing.
  • Adolph Heisler: Did you have any blankets?
  • Adolph Heisler: We had one blanket for [number not clear], and sometimes not even one.
  • David Boder: Did you have lice?
  • Adolph Heisler: There is no question about it. We had very many lice.
  • David Boder: And so, slowly. You had many lice.
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: And so you say you had many lice, but you said you were bathed every day. Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes, we bathed and still there were lice. For the reason...because we did...we did not have enough soap, and in the underwear and in the beds the lice always remained. When we would come home, at home we always lay down in the same things.
  • David Boder: Nu, what was done about it?
  • Adolph Heisler: And so, not much was done about it, because there was a very great crowd of people. In one barrack there were two, three hundred people. And there could not...care was taken so that it should go away [rid ourselves], but not enough care could be taken.
  • David Boder: Nu, what happened when someone became sick?
  • Adolph Heisler: When someone became sick he was taken away, or he was given a thrust [injection] to make him die faster. And if not...
  • David Boder: What does that mean? He was given what?
  • Adolph Heisler: Given a push [injection?, booster?] to make him die faster.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: He would even...even request it himself, because he would...life was not that good that he should desire to recover.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: And if one was not so critically ill, there was a...a sick-ward. It was a hospital. And the wounds would be bandaged when one would hurt himself, or something like that.
  • David Boder: Aha. Nu? And thus you worked all the time in the...
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes, we worked. We had no free Saturday nor Sunday.
  • David Boder: No Sunday?
  • Adolph Heisler: No, nothing.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adolph Heisler: Always working.
  • David Boder: Was there any holiday that you did not work?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes, on New Year's we had a free day.
  • David Boder: New Year.
  • Adolph Heisler: New Year.
  • David Boder: Or Christmas?
  • Adolph Heisler: Christmas, no.
  • David Boder: But New Year.
  • Adolph Heisler: New Year, yes.
  • David Boder: So what did you do that day?
  • Adolph Heisler: What we...There were three shifts. I always worked on the noon shift. So we got up at eight o'clock in the morning.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: And we washed up and got a coffee, a black coffee. And until dinner we idled around.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: And I went...I was not...I was young, and I was able to get along [?], so I went there to a block to sweep up. I had a little protection [favoritism] from the block elder, so I would always get a little extra soup.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: And that kept me going.
  • David Boder: Aha. But you worked for it.
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes, for that I did extra work in the lager.
  • David Boder: Aha. Nu, and then?
  • Adolph Heisler: And then came...
  • David Boder: From there you walked every day eight kilometers to work?
  • Adolph Heisler: No. The work was not so far. We walked three kilometers.
  • David Boder: Three kilometers there.
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: And three kilometer back.
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: Go on.
  • Adolph Heisler: At eleven o'clock we ate dinner. Everyone got the liter...the liter of soup, and we went down to work. We marched out by details, guarded...guarded by the SS, and we went down.
  • David Boder: Did you sing while going to work?
  • Adolph Heisler: [Bitterly:] It was already singing for us. - - - - without...without our singing.
  • David Boder: What do you mean by that?
  • Adolph Heisler: We had no mood for singing.
  • David Boder: Yes, but it is said that the SS demanded it.
  • Adolph Heisler: From us they did not demand it. There were some lagers, yes. There were lagers where they did demand it just to make fun, but not from us.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Adolph Heisler: They just yelled all the time. The people were falling on their feet, so they would call, 'Left, two, left, two,' to keep in step.
  • David Boder: Nu, and then?
  • Adolph Heisler: And then we would ride down. There [in the mine] everyone knew his work-place.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: We arrived there. The civilian [foreman] arrived, too, and we worked in the...in the props. That means in the coal...it was sixty meters high. There we had to bend down...[corrects himself] sixty centimeters...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: ...high. And there we had to work lying down the whole eight hours.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: And to throw, shovel beneath yourself. And that lasted for eight hours without...without rest. Nothing. Thus we worked the eight hours. Every eight hours the shift was changed. The others came, and we left. We arrived in the lager, and like I said, we bathed and went again to bed.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: Thus it went on until [one] thousand, nine...until '44.
  • David Boder: You told me you had a free day on New Year.
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: What did you do on that day?
  • Adolph Heisler: What? We caught up on our sleep. We were very happy that we could get some rest.
  • David Boder: Yes. Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: Everyone slept the whole day.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: Whatever one could.
  • David Boder: And so that lasted how long?
  • Adolph Heisler: That lasted until, I believe, '45. Then the Russians...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: In December of '44 the Russians made an attack on the region. So we started to go away from there. We left the coal mines, and...
  • David Boder: What do you mean, you left? You were led away?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes, taken away.
  • David Boder: Nu, and where were you led?
  • Adolph Heisler: And so, we took to the road on foot.
  • David Boder: What did they do with the coal mines? Were the mines...
  • Adolph Heisler: Abandoned.
  • David Boder: Yes, abandoned.
  • Adolph Heisler: And so we...we had...we were eight kilometers from Auschwitz, so we saw Auschwitz burning. They set everything on fire, the entire lager. The crematories were bombed [blasted]. They demolished everything. And we walked on foot. And so everyone had...in the last moments everybody was able to loot bread and everything, because everything was open. So everyone...
  • David Boder: You could steal bread?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: And everyone grabbed a loaf. We killed each other for a piece of bread.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: And we walked on the road. There was snow of forty centimeters, a half meter of snow.
  • David Boder: Slowly. Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: And we were not dressed well. But of course we had to walk very fast, because they were afraid of the Russians, that the Russians will catch up with us.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: And we had to...
  • David Boder: Why did they not want the Russians to get hold of the prisoners?
  • Adolph Heisler: Why? Why should they want [that]? They were afraid, of course, that we would tell all those stories so that the whole world would know. Now the whole world does know all the stories, but...and then we were of use to them for work. We were then transported to Buchenwald.
  • David Boder: Aha. And so you were walking. How far did you walk on foot?
  • Adolph Heisler: We walked a hundred and forty kilometers on foot. It was in two days.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adolph Heisler: And one night we slept, because the SS themselves could not walk any more. They were healthy, it is true, but they, too, had no more strength, because we made eighty kilometers.
  • David Boder: Slowly.
  • Adolph Heisler: [After] the eighty kilometers we arrived there. We were chased into a field...
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adolph Heisler: ...of snow, and there they began to shoot, and then they said for everybody to lie down, because they did not want us to stand.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: And there was no room to stand on that field. And they said to lie down. And they began to yell. One simply fell on top of another, because they were shooting over our heads. Many also fell there.
  • David Boder: Why did they want you to lie down?
  • Adolph Heisler: They had such a fantasy in their heads.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: And everything [everybody] lay down. And there was snow and a severe frost. The night was terribly cold. I myself was surprised how I lived through it a whole night. I had fallen into the snow, and I slept there. In the morning I arose completely wet, because the snow had melted. I am surprised today how I pulled through that night. And in the morning we got up, and fifty per cent remained lying there in the snow. And the rest that had remained, we had to bury them there, dig ditches and bury them. And we went on.
  • David Boder: With what did you dig the ditches?
  • Adolph Heisler: They had brought tools.
  • David Boder: They had brought tools.
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: And what was done to those who were not yet dead?
  • Adolph Heisler: We had to bury them?
  • David Boder: The living?
  • Adolph Heisler: No. The living had to bury the dead.
  • David Boder: Yes, but the ones who were sick?
  • Adolph Heisler: They were also while still ali-...alive thrown into the grave. Who...whoever was not able to walk was shot and thrown into the grave.
  • David Boder: Shot and thrown into the grave.
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes. But there were also many people on the road who were not able to walk any more, so they would take a blanket over the head, put the head in it...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: ...and sit down. The SS man would pass by and finish him off with a shot.
  • David Boder: Did he at least see if the man was dead when he shot him?
  • Adolph Heisler: If he was not dead he remained that way. He waited until he died [?].
  • David Boder: Hm. Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: And the next day, after we buried them, we walked on. They said we still have fifty kilometers to a train. And there we will board a train, because here they do not have a free [proper] railroad station for...
  • David Boder: One moment. [Adjusting the equipment.] And so go on. It was fifty kilometers to the train.
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes. And we walked the fifty kilometers still on foot. Many people fell on the way, because they could not...not make it. So they were shot there on the road, and left lying thus on the road. And we, who were still able to make it, arrived there, at a railroad station. It was in Breslau, I believe. And there we waited for RR-cars. And after several hours -- we sat there in the snow -- after several hours rr- cars arrived, and we boarded the RR-cars. But the RR-cars were also terrible, because the RR-cars were, of course, completely open, without roofs. They were those half-RR-cars [flat cars or gondolas]. There was much snow, and we had to sit in the snow.
  • David Boder: There was snow in the RR-cars?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes, because they were without roofs.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: And we sat there in the snow. And the journey to Buchenwald took eight days. We did not know...
  • David Boder: Were there any SS with you in the RR-cars?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes. There was an SS man in each RR-car.
  • David Boder: And where was the SS standing, also in the snow?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes, but he, of course, was well dressed.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: And they were constantly changing [the guard]. On ever...every stations others would take over.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Adolph Heisler: And at the end there were two RR-cars, passenger cars, which were heated.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: And the SS were living there.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: And the guards would always be changed.
  • David Boder: Well, if you were together for so many days, didn't people talk to the SS man? Didn't people talk with him? Didn't he himself talk?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes, he said.... There would be a good one. So he wanted to talk, and there would be a mean one who would take the rifle and beat one if one said a word to him.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adolph Heisler: It was the response [?] if one still dared to open [one's mouth] to say a word to him.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: The same trick they would also do in the lager. One would be walking along, and he [the prisoner] greated him. So he [the SS] would come over to him and ask whether he is his comrade [implying that such an idea was, of course, presumptuous] that he greets him. If he [the prisoner] did not greet, then he would ask why he does not greet him. So he would also beat him. So we would not know ourselves what to do.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adolph Heisler: If there was a good one, he would talk. So we would ask him where we were being taken.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: So he said he does not know himself. He also has [just] an order from the headquarters, and he does not know either where we are being taken.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: But then we saw that we are arriving in Buchenwald.
  • David Boder: How?
  • Adolph Heisler: When we arrived...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: ...there, after eight days riding on the...on the train...
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: We arrived there in Buchenwald. But we were already very weak from the journey.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: My own head was spinning after the bath. We were bathed there, because by the Germans the ones arriving in an...another lager were bathed.
  • David Boder: Nu, what does it mean...
  • Adolph Heisler: Disinfection.
  • David Boder: ...your head was spinning?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes. I could not...I could not come to myself.
  • David Boder: What does that mean?
  • Adolph Heisler: I became weak after the bath. I was very weak and after a hot bath...
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: That sort of melted my bones, because I was completely frozen.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: I was hardly able to walk over to the bath.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: And then I was...after a hot bath my head was spinning. So I sat down for a little while and more or less came to myself.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Adolph Heisler: Then we were sent...after the bath we were sent into.... There they again shore us everywhere [?]. The hair was shorn off all over, and we were led into blocks...into barracks. And there we were for two days in the barracks. And suddenly we hear [that] we are going to work again, to another place. And in the other place we were chased out one early morning in the snow. The whole block was called out, and we were not told where we were going, and it was also a cold day, and we were packed into RR-cars. And we rode one day. It was good that it did not take any longer.
  • David Boder: Again from Buchenwald?
  • Adolph Heisler: From Buchenwald to ano-...it was in Germany itself, in Thuringia.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: Karawinki [or Trawinki -- the recording is not clear; both names appear incorrect unless we deal with a makeshift name invented by the prisoners].
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adolph Heisler: And we arrived in a lager. And so there [it] was much worse yet than in the coal mines.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: It was a lager [word not clear]. There were munition depots. And we lived in a cellar, in underground bunkers.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: In a forest.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: And there the...the...the treatment was much worse than anywhere else.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Adolph Heisler: Because there we did not bathe. There [in other camps] one still could bathe. We had no water. Three months passed that we did not have any water on our faces whatsoever with which to wash ourselves. And the lice ate us up completely.
  • David Boder: What did you do there?
  • Adolph Heisler: Worked. Dug various ditches. Loaded munitions.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Adolph Heisler: They were building there a large factory in a...underneath a forest.
  • David Boder: In '45 already?
  • Adolph Heisler: In '45.
  • David Boder: An underground factory...
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: ...they were building there. Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: And there it was something terrible. I talked there to some people from Poland who had been there already for six years. They said they had gone through the worst lagers, Majdanek, Treblinka, but they were never in such a place.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: And there we were.... Then I, too, became sick from the many lice, in the last two weeks before the liberation.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adolph Heisler: When I became sick, I went to a doctor for eight days. Would always go in the evenings, pleading that I cannot work. He did not want to believe me.
  • David Boder: Was he a Jewish doctor?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adolph Heisler: From Poland, a Jew. He...he was a very mean one. There were also among the Jews themselves very bad people. Because they would...very brutal persons.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adolph Heisler: And then he...he spared me, because, after all, I was young. I was then seventeen years old. And he put me in the hospital, in the sick-ward. There I was eight days. Then I was sent on a transport that was being sent to the crematory.
  • David Boder: Where were the crematories there?
  • Adolph Heisler: They were near. Eight kilometers from there was also a lager, a big lager, Ohrdurf [?]. And there they also had set up a crematory.
  • David Boder: Did they gas the people there?
  • Adolph Heisler: No, they would just kill them, finish.... They were anyway already half dead. So they would just kill them with rifles or what not [?]. But it was our luck that the Americans were already...
  • David Boder: Now where were you when the Americans arrived?
  • Adolph Heisler: We were there in that...in that lager where we had been taken to be pulver-...to be gassed. And we...
  • David Boder: What does it mean, in a lager to be.... In which lager was it?
  • Adolph Heisler: It was in Ohrdurf. After I became sick I was naturally taken away from there.
  • David Boder: Where to?
  • Adolph Heisler: Eight kilometers away there was a lager where people would be...there was a crematory. The people who...from there would come very many sick people. Because of the...it was terrible there.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: So they were there killed and burned.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: And when we arrived, it was already the last transport. They did not have any more time for it. They...they were already busy with themselves, because the Americans were already approaching it [the lager].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: And we lay there another eight days. And we were supposed to remain there until the lager will be shot...all the people there will be shot, or they will blast the lager [with explosives], or something like that.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adolph Heisler: And luckily we were taken and transported to Buchenwald from there.
  • David Boder: Transported back to Buchenwald.
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes, and so...
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: But with me it was a special stroke of luck. I don't know how I succeeded in that whole affair, because all were transported in the rr-... [correcting himself] on foot.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: And I had told myself -- there were [other] sick people -- I am not going on foot any more. Let them kill me here. I have to go and suffer and then die? I decided to die here on the spot.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: And then there came, in the last moment, trucks, and the sick were loaded on the trucks, and they were taken away.
  • David Boder: To Buchenwald?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: And that was our luck. [The following note was inserted in the first-draft translation by Mr. Bernard Wolf who himself was in Buchenwald at that time: He is probably referring here to the death march from Ohrdurf to Buchenwald. 'Twelve thousand prisoners left Ohrdurf, less than half arrived in Buchenwald.'] From there we came to Buchenwald, and we were pushed into.... We believed that.... In Buchenwald we were put near the crematory, so we believed that we were being taken to the crematory, but luckily...
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Adolph Heisler: ...we were not [taken] to the crematory, but were [taken] to the old lager, among the people who were in quarantine. And we were lodged there for a few days.
  • David Boder: And then?
  • Adolph Heisler: But we knew that the Americans were already near, because they were advancing rapidly. Every night we could hear the shooting. And Buchenwald, too, began to be evacuated to...to take away the people.
  • David Boder: Where to?
  • Adolph Heisler: Well, I don't know where to.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: Because I remained there still. And it was said that those who could walk, go, and who cannot walk, he...then the lager will be destroyed.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: In the last hour.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: And the healthy people went, but our block said we are not going. They should kill us here, and we shall remain here.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adolph Heisler: And...but still on the next day -- it was on Sunday -- the SS came and began to throw [us] out through the windows and to chase.
  • David Boder: Threw out, what?
  • Adolph Heisler: Threw us out the windows.
  • David Boder: Yes. They threw out the people?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: Through the windows. And started to drive [them] to the appell square, and from there we should be taken for evacuation.
  • David Boder: On what story [floor] was it [in the hospital]?
  • Adolph Heisler: It was on...it had no stories.
  • David Boder: Why through the windows and not through the doors?
  • Adolph Heisler: Because nobody wanted to go.
  • David Boder: Aha. And?
  • Adolph Heisler: Everyone was reluctant to be evacuated.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: And they poured water over these people. Nobody wan-...they still did not carry it out, because the people told themselves.... They called to their faces to shoot them.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: But they did not shoot. I do not know why. And on the next day, the same story. Finally they succeeded. They assembled the people on the appell square.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: And I went up there, too. And I saw standing there a transport of youths [youngsters].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: And that was for a reason [?]. They had been selected to remain in the lager. They were not suitable for transport. And so I went over there. I, of course, am young too.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Adolph Heisler: And I went over and mingled in, and returned to the lager. And these people left on a transport. And this was on Tuesday already. And on Wednesday...that day was the eighth day that we were completely without food. Wednesday morning we heard the shooting on the part of the Germans [?], and at ten o'clock we heard an enemy...enemy alarm [to be sounded on the approach of the enemy]. The Americans had arrived, one American tank, and went back. And by eleven o'clock planes came over. And at three-thirty we were liberated by the Americans. The first Americans had arrived. The Germans had abandoned the lager entirely.
  • David Boder: When did the Germans abandon the lager?
  • Adolph Heisler: They left at one o'clock in the afternoon.
  • David Boder: What did they say?
  • Adolph Heisler: Nothing. We only saw them leaving the watchtowers. It was so. Afterwards we dis-...dis-...discovered...heard that from Weimar the lager commander had telephoned to demolish the lager, [he telephoned] one hour after the liberation. He did not know yet that the lager had already been liberated. It was at half past four. So the lager elder -- he was a prisoner -- answered him, 'Yes, yes, we will demolish their heads.' If we had not been liberated an hour before, they would have demolished the lager.
  • David Boder: What did he answer him?
  • Adolph Heisler: That [now] he should already telephone to Lord God and not to us.
  • David Boder: Aha. Nu?
  • Adolph Heisler: And thus we were liberated. And so, [about] this liberation, people had imagined whole stories, great happiness, but many people also died after the liberation, because they received very fat food. And they completely ruined their stomachs. They got stomach aches, and they died from that, too.
  • David Boder: Yes. And then where...
  • Adolph Heisler: And then I was taken away to a youth block, and there I was for a certain time. There I became sick with spotted typhus.
  • David Boder: After the liberation you had spotted typhus?
  • Adolph Heisler: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Adolph Heisler: There I lay four weeks, and then I heard about the transport going to Switzerland. So I reported for it, to go to Switzerland.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Dagmar Platt
  • English Translation : David P. Boder