David P. Boder Interviews Abraham Kimmelmann; August 27, 1946; Genève, Switzerland

  • David Boder: [In English] Geneva, August . . . August 27th, 1946. We are starting a new interview with Abraham Kimmelmann at eighth minute or so . . . seven and a half minutes of the spool.
  • David Boder: [In German] Now, Mr. Kimmelmann, will you tell me again, what is your name, how old are you, and where were you born?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: My name is Kimmelmann, Abraham. I was born at the 10th of the tenth, 1928.
  • David Boder: You mean the tenth of October, 1928. Where were you born?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: I was born in Poland in Upper Silesia in the city of Dabrowa-Wolnitza.
  • David Boder: Now tell me, you said you want to make a little introduction.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: You are not so much interested in that which we are doing now but you want to go in more in detail about our past.
  • David Boder: Yes, you are right. Especially about the times during the war.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: You told us before when we were eating what some boys from the lager [camp] have told you so far. And that they told it to you in different ways, that one said that it was relatively good and that the other reported that he was very badly off; and in spite of that both have told you the truth. Now you have to make it clear to yourself, that they have not only told you the truth but that they are not able to relate everything the way how it really was. Because if you look back to history, or if one writes a book about something, so it is usually said that one writes always more than is true. But in this case it is entirely in the reverse. One can never tell enough and present the things how they really were.
  • David Boder: You see that is why I talk to many. That is why I interview many and have them tell their story. So from the little that I get from everyone, the mosaic, a total picture can be assembled. Now you understand my purpose. Why I want to collect two-hundred spools of these interviews because nobody can tell the whole story. You understand that. Now tell me a lot of details, you don't have to hurry, we have enough wire and we have enough time, you understand. I prefer to listen to less people who tell me much than to people who tell me little. Where were you when the war started? What has happened to you? Tell me, possibly day by day, week by week, what has happened.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Now then, up to the start of the war I was only able to go to elementary school what education is concerned. I went through only a few grades, that is up to the fifth grade. Since my father was a religious man he didn't permit me to go to the public school. I went to a private cheder, a yiddish cheder and there we had a Polish teacher who could teach us [other "non-religious"] subjects. Now, when the war started I had no more opportunity to study.
  • David Boder: How old were you then?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: I was that time twelve years old.
  • David Boder: Why didn't you have the opportunity to go to school when the war started?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: When the war first started as you probably know, the Germans have arrived in Poland, and what ideas and what plans they had in mind is now known to everybody. As soon as they entered Poland [a Polish district] the first thing they would do is to start something against the Jews. Whatever that was. Sure enough they couldn't all at once shoot all the Jews, but they have arranged it this way. Since they did everything in a systematic fashion, so that nobody should notice it, and that nobody should be able to escape. So as soon as the Germans came in, they set a special hour when we could go out, and otherwise we could not go out.
  • David Boder: Did you have to wear any badges?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, that was not yet at the beginning.
  • David Boder: So how was it known when one went out late that he was a Jew?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Right from the start everybody had to be identified [take out identification cards]. They still were afraid that possibly there were some people belonging to some parties and they were looking for this kind of people. So they gave orders, and since everybody was afraid he would have to present his identification card, and on the identification card it was always written to what religion one belonged, whether Moseic or Christian that was right away noticeable. The second thing was that they immediately prohibited the religious rituals. They prohibited the ritual slaughter of animals and nobody was permitted to have moe than one thousand marks, that is 3000 zloty. The rest you had to give up. What concerns gold and silver that of course is understood.
  • David Boder: Let us not take anything for granted. What did they announce?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: It was announced that one had to surrender gold and silver. That happened right from the start. They didn't want to break their heads [worry].
  • David Boder: Did the people really surrender their gold and silver?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Each one did, according how he felt about it. If one was very much afraid, and he could not hide the things, so he surrendered them. But if one was more adventurous and wanted to take chances, then he hid it. And on that depended the life of people. Because if one had no money one could die from starvation. The worst thing that happened at the beginning was . . . we got bread coupons, and everything was rationed, but for us it was a question of bread, because other things one could still get. But if one had the bread coupons it still was not easy to get bread. We couldn't simply go to a store or a bakery and say, "Here are the coupons and give me the bread". One would stand from ten o'clock in the evening until six o'clock in the morning, whether it was cold or hot, whether it rained until one would reach the window to get the bread. And often . . .
  • David Boder: Were there also Jewish bakers?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Well, I will tell you everything. Often it was that the Poles would recognize the Jews, they knew them still before the war, and since they wanted more bread they would tell to the Germans, "yes, this is a Jew", and with a finger they would point at the Jew. It was the only word they learned to say in German. They would say, and in that way they would betray a Jew who had been standing for twelve hours in line and when he at last got to the window, "Jew out of here, go away". And under such conditions we lived right from the start, when the Germans came in. And still it was from the beginning in Poland that there were a lot of Jews so they arranged that concessions were given to Jewish bakers and they baked the bread for the Jews. In this respect it became a little bit easier, so that one was standing only among Jews. At least when one got to the window the words "Jew go away",wasn't heard anymore because all were Jews in the line. That was only the beginning what the Germans have done when they come in. But it went on and on. They evicted the Jews from various streets and even prohibited any Jew to appear on such a street. And so it went on and on and we were more and more driven together. Into one section where the Jews lived, and now an order came and it was necessary to clean the streets. So who was being taken. Of course, the Jew.
  • David Boder: How many Jews were in your town?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: In our city were about five-thousand heads counting approximately.
  • David Boder: How were they taken?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: By that time there was founded a Jewish Cultural Community. You see they founded the Jewish Cultural Community so that they themselves shouldn't have anything to do with the Jews. When the police had any special order the higher authorities or they themselves wanted to accomplish something, they simply notified the Kultusgemeinde, that they should fulfill it with all the precision and details. And with this work they did the same thing. They wrote to the Jewish Community Council that on such and such a day or every day so and so many workers have to be presented. But they did not tell them in what way to do it. We already knew if such an order is given to the Jewish Community Council it will be taken care of.
  • David Boder: And the Jewish Community Council handled these things with justice?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: If I have to start now with the Jewish Community Council that would be a little bit too early.
  • David Boder: All right.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Because this is not the only thing the Jewish Community Council was doing. Whether they were right or wrong we shall see later when I shall come to express my opinion, I cannot talk about it now on the basis of what I have told you so far. And the Jewish Community Council would get this kind of an order, they would take the lists, the card index of every Jewish inhabitant and would send him a note that on such and such a day, such and such an hour, and at such and such a place he should appear in order that, that work be done. Those with plenty of money, these would hire a poor Jew, pay him for the day according to agreement, and that fellow would work for him.
  • David Boder: Did the Community Council permit such a thing? That one should work for the other?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: They didn't bother about it. The main thing they were interested that the numbers of workers be correct. They did not look at the faces they just looked for the total number, and the whole scene would take place at the city hall where people would assemble, and there people were divided into groups, each master [foreman] got a certain number of Jews.
  • David Boder: The master was Jewish?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, the master was a German. But at the beginning they were mostly Polish. And so the hardest and the worst work, which one never had to do before. Because before the war such work also had to be done, but [although] before the war such work could be done, there were no people for it, nobody had interest for such work.
  • David Boder: For example.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Well for example, take a field or a street, where there is no people, all empty. In the worst frost, in the worst snow it had to be cleared so that it would make a clear road. That was the first thing. Then when it was a little warmer there were various ditches, various pools where there was snow and water; it didn't matter, the hard work [had to be done] here without any consideration when it was ordered the work had to be done. People had to sweat, people had to shed their blood, and with all effort one had to finish the work whether he wanted it or not. A German master was made responsible for it, and he saw to it that everything be done the way he wanted it to be.
  • David Boder: How could he accomplish that?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: There were various masters. They were silent, it really wasn't necessary that it should come to beating. One word was enough to make one grab the shovel and to do his utmost. But there were also among them such sadists who wouldn't talk at all, they were just beating. And that was "their life", possibly they weren't assigned as masters because they had to earn money for their subsistance, but because they simply chose it themselves. It was for them a greatest joy, the greatest experience, that now all at once they could beat the Jews and could do with them whatever they wanted.
  • David Boder: Were these masters poles or were they germans?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: They were Poles and there were also Germans. Because at the beginning we didn't see yet so many Germans. There was also a large part of the Poles who immediately registered as Volksdeutsche, Folk-Germans. And so the first winter everything went on that a lot of time one would be working for the City Hall.
  • David Boder: Did they pay for the work?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: From the beginning they didn't pay. It was forced labor. It was without pay. They did not pay. Later they paid 1 mark 70 per day for the work of eight or even ten hours. But you can imagine, what could one buy for 1 mark 70. Or what could one purchase for it?
  • David Boder: How much did bread cost?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: That depends what kind of bread. We got 250 grams of bread a day.
  • David Boder: Per person?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Per person.
  • David Boder: And that cost how much?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: And that cost 25 drachm, 25 German pfennigs. That would be all right, 250 grams of bread would be enough, but if one gets only bread, if one can't get potatoes or corn flour, and no fat; can one live on 250 grams daily? People had to support each other and help out each other. It is just impossible to be starving. When a person is hungry he is ready to do anything. So what could he do? One looked for somebody who would bring in bread on the black or flour and one paid more, and in order to pay more one needs money and so 1 mark 75 wasn't enough.
  • David Boder: And so what did one do?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: People began to manage in various ways. One would do business on the black, others would work over time, people would simply risk their lives somehow to get through, and those who could not do it, who did not have enough courage or were too much afraid, these had to starve. And so many went caput, died right before me. One may, so to speak, say as the first winter passed, the worst was not . . . I mean when I just look back, I think that during the first winter the cruelty of the Germans was not yet recognized. People as I said . . . a family, we were still sitting together. Sometimes we played cards. We still laughed. It wasn't yet so noticeable. People had still some money from before the war and so people could manage somehow.
  • David Boder: But you had orders to turn in the money.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: But a lot of people just didn't turn in their money. Because it is a thing that one can hide, and in the beginnings things were not so strict that they would come and search each and every house. It was a small thing. They didn't say that the money had to be given up because they needed it, because they could have as much money as they wanted. They made [printed] it themselves, but it was simply done to oppress the Jews with the surrendering of the money it wasn't so bad at first. The purpose wasn't to take away the money, it was to destroy us all. The first winter of the war, with great pains, sometimes we ate, sometimes we didn't eat, but we pulled through. But in the summer there began the bombardment of the German cities, and many Germans wanted to enrich themselves in spite of that because they could take away the property of the Jews and so they came to Poland from different corners of Germany they came. The first time it was so that they were put in Jewish businesses as custodians. They managed the business and at the beginning the firm remained under the old name. Of course it isn't important what the name of the firm is, but who gets the money from it. That were the Germans. On the one side it was good because to some extent they left the businesses in the hands of the Jews, and man . . .
  • David Boder: Now how was it. There was a custodian. The Jew still was in the business.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Correct. The Jew was still in the business. But there were already individual cases where the Jew was entirely thrown out and the Germans had taken the business away. But one can say that at the beginning the Jews to a large extent remained. But the German manager, he had the word.
  • David Boder: Who took the money?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: The German took the money. I am not entirely informed where the money went. I only knew that the Jews got some monthly salary.
  • David Boder: That he was getting?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: That he got. But he was getting it according to a rule. A Jew could get only so and so much and that he would get and that he would sign for, they would not pay according to work. It was all very official. But it was all right because the Germans, they were not so much Germans on the inside as on the outside. And when they were together with the Jews they could get along.
  • David Boder: Did your father have a business too?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, we had no business.
  • David Boder: What was your father doing?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: My father was making vinegar. He made vinegar and then . . .
  • David Boder: And he didn't manage to continue doing it?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Since the war we ourselves couldn't make it any more. But we were buying it from a factory and selling it to smaller businesses. But it was not permitted. We continued some time after the beginning of the war but then it didn't pay any more. It was too much of a risk. And so we gave it up. Shall I tell you all the details?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: And so there was again a time that we pushed through as good as we could. In the summer it was said again that workers were needed for Germany. First of all the young people between eighteen and fifty.
  • David Boder: Did you say fifty?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, fifty. Up to fifty. These had to go to Germany.
  • David Boder: They had to go, or they could go?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: They could, but if they didn't want, they had to. But it wasn't done in a way that they would notify the Jewish Community Council. They didn't send an order to the Kultusgemeinde telling them that they would need so and so many workers for Germany because they were afraid they couldn't trust the Jewish Community Council with such a thing. And so they went through with it themselves and in the following manner. From the early morning, it was about 4:30 they sent to the city a certain number of policemen. And they gave them the Jewish addresses and they simply got us from the beds. I still remember when they came into our house, my father wasn't home at the moment, by accident and fortunately so he was in Sosnowice.
  • David Boder: In Sosnowiec? Are you from Sosnowiec?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, twelve kilometers.
  • David Boder: That wasn't far from Bendzin?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, from Dabrowa.
  • David Boder: Not far from Myslowice?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes. And they came in and they pulled off my blanket and asked me, "How old are you?" And I said, "Born in 1928." "Oh," they said, "go on sleeping."
  • David Boder: When were you born?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: 1928, when I was born.
  • David Boder: And what happened in that year?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: In 1940.
  • David Boder: So you were twelve years old.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, go on sleeping because that time such boys were not yet taken. That was the first razzia [raid].
  • David Boder: The first selection?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, that wasn't a selection. That was a raid. They surrounded the city.
  • David Boder: All right, let's call it raid, In Russian it was called oblawa.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Oh yes. In Polish it was also called oblawa. And at that time it still made a very terrible impression. Because we were not yet accustomed to such things. Not accustomed so to speak. I have forgotten to tell you a story. But here in the middle I can come back to it. I remember it now. Just at the beginning of the war, when it started, we evacuated to Mekhov and of course people who ran still farther like to Warsaw to middle Poland, but we didn't care to go farther and we only got as far as Mekhov.
  • David Boder: Who evacuated you?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: We evacuated ourselves.
  • David Boder: You ran away?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, we fled. Thousands of people fled because we all lived near the German border and when the Germans came we had to return and we had to run on foot. There were no railroads, there were no automobiles, no autobusses, we had to run on foot with the belongings we still had with us.
  • David Boder: And how far did you get away?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: About seven days.
  • David Boder: And did you return to your old house?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Seven days after the Germans came in we decided to return because they were everywhere. What could we do? And when we came near Sławków, that is a village also not far from us, so when we came to Sławków we heard that all the Jews have been thrown from the bridge into the water. And that is the real truth. When they saw a Jew, that time one was still recognizable because the religious Jews still wore their beards and they were dressed in Jewish fashion, as they used to do in Poland.
  • David Boder: Was your father a Hasid?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes. Or they demanded an identification. And when it was a Jew they either shot him or threw him into the water alive. We were fortunate that we heard about it before and we waited through this crisis and then we returned home.
  • David Boder: How did you find your home?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Oh, we found everything. We were not that rich that we had to be afraid for our belongings. And now I will come back to the raid. [We have here a break in the original wire. —D.P.B.]
  • David Boder: And so?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: I mean to say we had already one blow. We heard what was done to too many Jews. They were shot and the like. It was only the beginning. We were not yet accustomed to it and so this razzia [raid] made on us a very bad impression. We were downhearted and in a very pessimistic mood. And how is it said in Yiddish, if one gets accustomed to trouble one can live with them in joy.
  • David Boder: What does that really mean?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Well, when one gets accustomed to the evil, one lives with it cheerfully. He doesn't notice anymore that it is evil. One thinks that it ought to be that way. As it is being said, old proverbs are true. In most cases I found that they are true and that they always have their application. And so here we adapted ourselves. The first raid made on us a terrible impression, but pretty soon there was another razzia. They have taken this one, they have taken the other one. It becomes like the daily bread. When one would go to bed he would say, well, tomorrow it will be this way or that way. Every day somebody would come and would tell, I have heard that tomorrow there will be again a razzia. They would come here one week or the other. And so it stopped making any impression on us. It was told just like fairy tale. Just like a story. These things were told and were talked about. Without anybody making a sour or horrified face. It began to appear very simple. With us, as I told you that through the business trustees the Germans and the Jews began to have, to gain some mutual confidence. It came to be that some people had favor in their eyes. These people became privileged. So for a sum of money they could save a Jew so that he should not go to the lager [camp]. And so there were occurring scenes quite often that one knew that you go to such and such a person and you give him such and such a sum of money till it has become practically [a matter of] a fixed fee for these things. A fixed prize.
  • David Boder: For example, how much?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: At the beginning it was set at about 10,000 marks and a man could go free. There were even cases in the beginning where people were returned from concentration camps for money. It was all due to the fact that while the Jews were in closer contact with the Germans they could accomplish it. That could only occur when Jews could still live in a German or Polish city.
  • David Boder: This concludes Spool 83 and we are going over to Spool 84.
  • David Boder: [In English] August . . . Geneva, August 27, 1946, Spool 84. Eh, Abraham Kimmelmann . . . Abraham Kimmelmann continues the report which we started at about the 7 minute position of Spool 83.
  • David Boder: [In German] And so Abraham, go ahead. As you told me that one could for money, say for 10,000 marks buy himself out and even be returned from the lager.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, that is what the rich people talked themselves into.
  • David Boder: Talked themselves into or managed to arrange?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Well, they talked themselves in and sometimes managed to do it. Well, you would ask me where were there still rich people. As I told you already, as long as the Jews could come in contact with the Germans they could help themselves by doing some business with them. They would buy merchandise and also sell it under cover.
  • David Boder: To the Germans?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, to the Germans, and among themselves privately because the mark just had no value. Merchandise went up higher and higher and the mark went down. And the 10,000 mark wasn't much at the time. Just a kind of an idea, a notion, just a notion of having 10,000 marks. It wasn't really very much. Just because everything was being sold some people felt themselves very rich because they had tens of thousands of marks. At that time they talked and said to themselves that if they already have the money, they are safe, because no person could ever imagine, nobody could ever think that it would come to that, that either money or a human being, any agreement will lose its value. That simply all Jews will be annihilated, that nobody could imagine then. People were thinking "they may take my enemies, they will take that many, well, just a certain number," but soon people noticed that that was indeed a systematic procedure.
  • David Boder: What did they think that the rich or the educated ones, the intellectuals won't have to go?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, because there was that kind of a notion that those who had money, or had a good job, for instance a skilled craftsman or a good engineer and the like were important to the Germans. These they kept until the last moment. Since they had contact with the Germans and these always promised them to do everything possible for you, they thought that they [the local Germans] are the people who have the last word in everything, have their say in everything.
  • David Boder: Yes, go on.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: And things continued. There were razzias [raids] on and on. Finally the German police thought things over, thought why do they have to get up at night, and take people to the police station to feed them there. They created a Jewish militia, that is the Jewish Council who had their say over the Jewish community, had an organization and they themselves had to run everything. This militia had, first of all, to keep order on the streets. And its first duty was to serve the Jewish Cultural Commonwealth. [By the Cultural Commonwealth is really meant the Jewish executive committee]. They had authority over everything, because in such times people move around a great deal and when somebody does something it is said that he is a bad man. They would not put themselves in his place to understand whether he really wanted to do it that way, whether he has done that on purpose. They simply say, and it isn't unusual, people say that people are dissatisfied when wrong is being done to them . . . some people go and complain. And so they have created a Jewish police, a Jewish militia to keep order. Furthermore, they needed the Jewish militia. It had to keep over that was so difficult to do. They took over now the razzias. Razzias were now done by the Jewish militia. They would get an order that so and so many Jews had to be delivered to go to a working camp or to Auschwitz, there was already an Auschwitz and we had heard about Auschwitz. So they would give an order to the Community Council and instruct them to make out a list so they themselves should settle everything. They would dispatch everything. Now when a razzia had to take place they would get the police from central Community Council in Sosnowice and would expedite everything. It was arranged so that when they would arrest a man, a Jewish militioner would lead him undeer the arm, and an extra police cordon would surround the locality to keep watch. This cordon was put up so there would be no disturbance. Well, the influence of the militia people . . .
  • David Boder: Who got the job in the militia? What kind of people were chosen for the militia?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: The militia was not chosen by the Jews. At such times there were no elections. They take the ones who are suitable.
  • David Boder: And who passed judgment on that?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: That was a decision of the Jewish Community Council. The Jewish Community Council named a certain Monek Merin. This man was the director of the whole district. The whole region as far as Lodz. He was the manager of the whole Jewish community. He was a Jew.
  • David Boder: Who appointed him?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: I don't know how it came about that he worked himself up so high. He had influence with the Gestapo and had everywhere his say. He had his own automobile, ha had a chauffeur and he led the life which he certainly could not have led before the war. [which he certainly could not have afforded before the war; which one could not have afforded to do before the war]
  • David Boder: What happened to him afterwards?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: that I don't know, but I met his wife in Buchenwald. His wife and daughter I knew in Buchenwald.
  • David Boder: Were they liberated?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes.
  • David Boder: Go on.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: And when it was resolved by the Germans to found a Jewish Community Council he took in such people who he first of all knew before the war, his friends and his relatives. He was not an intelligent person. [In this case intelligence means highly educated]. Possibly he had some education. His character was not so good. That became later evident from his deeds, and all that what this man had on his conscience what he could bear with at least in the beginning is proof that he did not belong to the noble souls. To his best friends he gave good jobs. Good positions. And these friends had again friends, relatives and so on. They had pull. These people had penetrated into the Community council, they worked there. And they fared well. Because from all the supplies that were allotted to the Jews they still could live [well]. Because if there comes an allotment for 5,000 people, say food, you still can one take off from each a little bit and then one has it in super-abundance, or much too much. And so the Jewish Community Council existed. They really did not have to take away from everyone too much in order to live a very good life. A very abundant life. With the Jewish militia it was the same thing. When there were already Jewish functionaries in the Jewish community council they got in there friends and these looked around in turn and they named them [their friends] as candidates. They were inspected, looked on, whether they were strong enough, whether he is of good health. First of all whether he will not feel embarrassed to drag a Jew across the streets to take him to prison—because there was a Jewish prison, and when he has to club a Jew, he would also not be embarrassed to do it. These were the Jews they would look for in the first place. They didn't have to search very hard because there are enough people of this kind.
  • David Boder: what happened to the Rabbi of the city?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: In our city the Rabbi felt reasonably well. Since he was still before the war selected by the community council they all belonged to a guild. That was a kind of labor organization. And they voted for him. They had a little bit of piety and consideration. It is understood that morally he suffered a great deal. I couldn't tell to what measure because this is a private affair. As a whole he still could exist. He was still receiving his salary. At the beginning he did not suffer from the war in the same measure as the whole population did, the Jewish population. And so with the organization of the Jewish militia it became much worse than before. It became especially bad for those who had no acquaintances among the militia and that was nearly the whole population, because a militia man did not mistreat his own family, he always tried to protect them somehow. Always to forewarn them, at least as much as was in his power. But the general Jewish population suffered much more [on account of the Jewish militia].
  • David Boder: And why?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: A German policeman, if he would be given the address of a Jew, if he would go there for the first time, he wouldn't know the man. He didn't know where he could hide and so on. He, the German, when he gets an order, he fulfills it. He goes there, if he doesn't find anybody, he comes back, files his report, and the issue is closed. A Jewish militiaman when he would get an order, well, he would watch the Jew, he knew him, he was acquainted with him, he knew him yet from before the war, he knew where he was or where he could hide, of course he would sooner be able to find him than a German, and so they were much worse. Under these conditions, a revolutionary spirit developed in each person stronger than ever before. Because if one says, a German has beaten me, I know the Germans. The Germans, well I can't expect anything from them. I can expect from them as much as I can expect from the whole world. It's the same thing like one lives his family, also one has his friends, also people who one knows from a distance. If one asks anything from those people and they don't grant it one can say, "Well, they are bad people," or they may understand him and say, "He possibly is unable to do it," and they say, "He is just a mean person, he wouldn't grant me this favor." On the other hand, if I request anything from a sister or my mother or any of my relatives, and he does not grant it to me, then I am greatly grieved, and I feel that I have a right to reproach him. And well, just the same thing happened with us. When a German would do some wrong, well, one knew to hide and he wouldn't find us, and if he didn't find us we would thank God, he hadn't found us. If a Jewish militia man would want to do to us something so we were very much perturbed and say, "One Jews wants to do that to another Jew. That is something horrible." But we got accustomed to this also. We have learned to guard ourselves, to be on guard against our militia as well as against the Germans. Even more so. I shall refrain from telling you much more about the same thing, but I want to tell you just a little episode at which I myself happened to be present. It is just an example, to see to what all that has led. The Jewish militia did not feel that they were merely functionaries to execute what was demanded from them and what was ordered them to do. They also felt that they were better, more important people. Here is a case that happened once. In Dabrowa-Wolnitza there was a shop. That is an industry where shoes are manufactured. This industry was founded by a German who was the manager, and only Jews worked there.
  • David Boder: Did they get paid?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, they were getting paid, but I told you already what the money was worth. They worked only to prolong a bit their stay at home. They were still thinking that if one works for the Wehrmacht they will be allowed to stay at home. Large numbers of the workers would arrive from Bensburg. Special Jewish street cars, electric street cars. They were given by the street car company. Jewish street cars. Every two hours a street car would go especially for the Jews. No Germans, no Poles could board such a train, a car, only Jews. There were Jewish conductors and the Jewish militia always controlled the street cars so that nobody would smuggle bread or anything else. Because there always used to happen that there was a difference in price between one city and the other. In most cases bread was cheaper in Dabrowa than in Bensburg. And so they always controlled the trams to watch that nobody should smuggle anything. They also stood guard otherwise on the street car. There happened to be on the car a Jewish militia man, tall of stature, and of strong build, and it was early in the morning when the working men were traveling to work. It is understood that if there is only every two hours a streetcar the cars were badly overcrowded. The Jewish militiaman felt to be better than we, the people, and he wanted that we make room for him. But the train was so packed that people were standing on the steps, so what does he do. He tells a man to make room for him. So the man says, "Have a bit of sense, it's impossible, it's all packed. We are pressed together like herring." But, he the militiaman, didn't say much, he just struck him. One doesn't consider in the first moments what the consequences may be and he struck back. But the other one was much stronger, and he beat him so that it didn't pay any more [to defend himself]. But the militiaman was not satisfied, and when they arrived in Dabrowa he takes that Jew to the Jewish police station and they beat him up to such an extent that the man was unrecognizable.
  • David Boder: Who did it?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Well, that one, the Jewish militiaman. He beat him up so badly, he blackened his eyes and he was swollen all over. There were outside a few Jews around, they somehow protested, but what could one do? One had to keep his mouth shut. [While the man went to his place of work] he [the Jewish militiaman] went immediately to the Bensburg police. He went to the Jewish police commandant too, and he brought with himself numerous militiamen and they wanted to get into the shop. To get the Jew. But it was fortunate that he [the gateman] called up the German manager and he gave orders that nobody was to come in. And that the gateman could not permit anyone to enter. That was a fortunate thing because otherwise I do not think we should have seen him alive. This is just an example to what that all has led. I mean, if you take people, and they only look for this and that kind of people, they looked only for a kind of people who had no morals. Who did not have too much of morals and not too much of sentiment.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes Spool 84. The spool had only about 18 indicator minutes of Kimmelmann's interview. The rest were the songs. We are now going over to Spool 85. This spool too has at the start some other material. Interviews with the ORT instructions, which we shall transcribe separately.
  • David Boder: This is Spool 85, at 10 minutes. We continue last night’s interview with Abraham Kimmelmann, who wishes to be permitted to give his evaluation of events together with the enumeration of facts.
  • David Boder: [In German] Also Abraham start. We have been talking about the Jewish police.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: When I saw all these occurrences at the time, I started thinking, What really is a human being? I have heard, I knew that time vaguely, that there are people of all kinds, and all kinds of governments. And I have asked myself is it possible that if somebody from birth has a definite character, whether such a character never alters, during life. But I came to a conclusion that the basic character never changes. But the detailed aspects change a great deal. For example, for instance, let us look at a tree. The roots, they are rooted deep and the base of a tree is always a tree. A tree follows the wind. When the wind blows in this direction, the branches follow the same direction. That is what I have compared with the character of man. Conditions demand that the character of a man bend itself a bit and he follow the conditions which contribute to it. One could see people, intelligent people, educated people, learned people, of whom one could never think that they are capable of certain things, or of such things. Nevertheless, the conditions of the Nazi terror have led them to a complete change. What could one expect from them? In general, you would say what could one not expect from them. And they, themselves, never thought probably, before, that they would be capable of doing such things. I now want to go to what I have seen in the camps and to prove my point I just want to state that in Dulag [a contraction of Durchgangslager, a transit camp] it was the same situation. They would trust those who would do such things that in some respects were worse than the Germans [did] themselves, and if I want to judge] such a person, I put myself into his situation. I imagine what would I have done if I would have been in his place? That's why I say, today one could say if one would ask me a question, if they would have offered you to become a militia man, what would you have done? Today one can say if one does not want to be [truthful], "Yes, I definitely would have refused." I would never have taken such a dirty job. But one can never be sure that if it would come to it, that one would simply have replied, "I don't want to do it." Because a human being is only a human being. If one stands over him with a gun and he is being threatened—if you don't do that you shall lose your life—one cannot be responsible for the deeds that one may perpetrate. And in such light one also has to see the Jewish militia. In this, thought, they too did horrible things in which I think that all people are alike. There are only a few heroes who have that much courage, who have so much will power to use it; that if one looks at the average man, it generally will appear to him that his life is of greater value. Or let us not say that it is of greater value—he has not the courage and not such a strong will to decline the proposition. Let us now go over to the facts. What has really happened? I don't want to go into the other details which have happened until I got into the camp. The razzias came on and on, and they took on increasingly threatening aspects. They took more and more Jews, and when it came to it, they took old people, sick people, people who had no occupation, whether they received lists or summonses, but the order was that [then and then??] On a Saturday afternoon they should appear in the Jewish synagogue. The synagogue wasn't any more a synagogue, it was just an empty house. Later it was even converted to a horse stable. The thing made a terrible impression and people thought—now it is coming to the worst—because it was known for what purpose people [were sent away??]. Those incapable of doing anything, sick, old, and children, and it was known that they were being led directly to death. Those who had the slightest chance went into hiding. Many were afraid even to hide. So were the people taken by terror that even, although they knew that they were going to a certain death, they were afraid to hide.
  • David Boder: They were afraid to hide?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: They were afraid—they knew that they were going to death.
  • David Boder: Ah, but then, why were they afraid to hide?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: That is impossible to explain. It is a matter of sentiment of a person—a matter of feeling.
  • David Boder: What were they doing with the people that they found in hiding?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: That depends. Many were hurt and many were brought back to the square and they were transported to Auschwitz. That was one reason, and second, the people were so misled, so to speak, as they [the Germans] ordered the Jewish functionaries that they somehow should calm down the population, that the people not be told that they were going to Auschwitz[??].
  • David Boder: They were deceived?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, they were deceived. They were told that they were being sent to a place where they would have light work, according to their ability to perform, and in this way they will be interned during the time of the war. And on the one hand, they wanted it to be a bit quieter. This also led to the fact that many people just didn't go into hiding. They thought that if they catch me here, my life is lost right now. And there possibly I will survive the war. And so on that Sunday the first transport departed and none of those people is alive. These things happened in the following manner; there were two German organizations who dealt in total with the whole Jewish population. The one was called the Special Task force and the other one the Gestapo. Under the first division came the old, the sick, as I mentioned before. But since there were not enough of these, they hit upon some other procedures. Each person who ever was subject to a penalty, if, for instance, he crossed the street not according to rules which were determined for the Jews, he then had to pay a fine. But if he didn't have the money on him, then a protocol [ticket] was written out. This protocol would go to the central police office and there a list would be made out, and that list be sent to the Jewish Community Council, indicating that these people were criminals. And these people had to sign an affidavit that as criminals they are going to Auschwitz[??]. These were the tricks that were played on people. It was simply, so to speak, chicanery, because if one wants to find something against a person, he can always find it. Once they would say that the Star of David was not properly sewed on—that one point was detached; such a person was already considered a criminal. And he was sent to Auschwitz[??]. But finally the Special Task Force began to notice that soon they would not have to do anything, so they also took it upon themselves the supply of Jewish labor; so that the Special Task Force would not have to return to Germany and go to war. That would have happened if they would have sent them all to Auschwitz. So when the Special Task Force and the contingent set up[??] a working camp [it is not very clear to which camp he refers]. From these people as we heard, the reports were very bad, and a lot of people had died from starvation and from the duress of labor. A very small number of these, we later heard, were still alive. Otherwise they all went kaput. [One should notice here the meaning of the word "kaput." "Kaput" is applied, usually, to objects, not to living beings. It is applied to objects when one speaks of breaking it to pieces. A child makes a toy "kaput". A machine, improperly handled, goes "kaput". And that was the term that one heard consistently—"kaput gemacht"—the term that apparently has been used by the Nazis for the designation of a person who was killed or otherwise perished. The concept of man was used as an object, not a living being.] I had luck at that time. Two days before this deportation[??] [apparently the first of the deportees was sent to a labor camp] I was accepted to work in a metal shop. At that time I was accepted on trial to see whether I was at all fit for this kind of work. I wanted to work but there was nowhere to get the training. There was no chance to learn. One had to produce. It was a munitions factory; I was accepted, and they gave me a certificate that I was admitted for a try-out. And on this certificate I was set free [was left at liberty]. Because that was a plant belonging to a German and under such conditions I got a blue card which meant a certificate for [people] who were working for the Germans. These people were permitted to stay at home and at that time everybody said—these people will remain at home for good. And I was happy that I was accepted at such a plant. Soon they ran short of pink cards [he did not explain what a pink card meant; apparently they were for people who were not working for the Germans]. They were all sent away to Germany and so the turn came now of the others. So they started taking people, who, though they worked for the Germans, did not work in war plants, As for instance, the large business houses, or a kind of private business and the like. The turn came for these people, But they did not make a selection. That in a certain place, a former orphanage, which was the point of assembly, and there each master with his Jewish employees, each German master had to appear with his workers and a committee appointed by the Special Task Force . . . they investigated the matter and each proprietor and each manager was forced to surrender a certain per cent of his workers for transportation to Germany. At that time I fared very well because my plant was a war plant. He had no other Jews but me, it took only a few minutes and I was set free right away. You can imagine that my mother was immensely happy when she heard how easy I got by. And the Chief told me then, "Well, Abraham, you should not be afraid. As long as you work for the shops of Walter Hefke, the firm's name was Walter Hefke, you have nothing to fear, [do not be afraid] that you will be deported. We have a good plant and you are a good worker, and we will take care of you." A human being is a human being. In general one finds himself in a bad situation and every good word which one hears from a person one believes. That is innate in a person. I believe it to be so, and then it was already 1942. I worked then in the war plant. I endeavored to produce the most that I believed would help me to remain home and the first transports of blue cards have left meanwhile for Germany. Things have quieted down a bit, but then came the turn of my father. The father was then still at home. He was ill.
  • David Boder: What was the matter with him?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: He was doing nothing; he was sick, but since my mother, my sister and I were working, that is, the majority in the family, he was permitted to stay at home.
  • David Boder: What was your mother doing?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: My mother was also admitted to a war plant. This was called . . . I have forgotten the name.
  • David Boder: What has she been doing there?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: She worked there on uniforms for the Wehrmacht. And my sister was doing the same.
  • David Boder: How old was your sister?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: My sister—at that time my sister was thirteen years old. [He stuttered at that point he apparently wanted to say that she was born in 1928, and then simply calculated her age, it also appears that he was blocked emotionally by the memories of his sister.] She was possibly fourteen. She was one year older than I. Well, we managed somehow to arrange things. Then came the turn of the girls. Up to then the girls were safe. They did not send girls to labor service[??]. But then it occurred to them that young girls also can work, and orders were given that all girls from sixteen to twenty-five years of age, shall appear at the Community Council to be examined, to see whether they are well, whether they are healthy, and then to be sent to a work camp. Although then they were still paying attention to the conditions of health, and those who were not very well were told that they can still remain at home and work, but only on the condition that they continue working. And of course nobody was avoiding work. Whether he wanted to or not, everyone had to work in order to remain home. And by that time, the shop of which I have told you, it existed for some time, but not many girls worked there. But since a cousin of mine was an overseer over the whole shop, so we had a pull with him and among the first girls he also put my sister to work—he took on my sister. And in such a way, she remained home. [It seems they were playing safe; the girls had to appear from the age of sixteen and his sister was only fourteen.]
  • David Boder: What shop was it?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: The same shop where they were making the uniforms for the Wehrmacht. She remained at home. Otherwise, several hundred girls were sent to Gruenberg. This Gruenberg was a woman's camp. From there I heard of many that they had died there. In general, girls are not accustomed to that kind of work and a girl does not have as much endurance as a man, and they cannot submit to such conditions.
  • David Boder: What kind of a camp was it?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: I can't tell you exactly. I think they worked in various plants. What they manufactured there is not entirely clear to me. We were reasonably lucky. We remained constantly home from the deportations[??]. Because we had the good cards. We too would say always, maybe it will remain so until the end of the war. Maybe we shall manage to remain together. One day, that was on Swuot, that was a Jewish holiday, Swuot, at night, maybe it was 12 o'clock, came the Jewish militia, they had a long list, they took my father out of his bed, and then [led him away??]. But in the morning I heard that the Community Council in Dabrowa took them to the Polish Police, in the white building in Bensburg, and there I saw him through the window. I talked to him a few words, then there came an SS man and we were not permitted anymore to stand there, otherwise they would have taken us to work. If one would go into the cellar [in hiding], one had no strength to work in the morning. [Abe apparently has lost here the verbal continuity of his story, possibly due to memories about the fate of his father; but I did not interrupt him.]
  • David Boder: Were the cellars concealed?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, the cellars were hidden. One would go in there form the rooms. But imagine what kind of cellars they were. They were in clay or sand, and we didn't have anything there, we couldn't take the beds from the house. Otherwise they would have noticed immediately that something is going on.
  • David Boder: Who constructed these cellars? Was it an old cellar?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, it was an old cellar still from before the war, but it was so hidden it was covered with blankets [rugs?] so that they should not notice it.
  • David Boder: Was is under the floor?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, under the floor. They were already so refined so they could explore whether it was hollow under the floor. It wasn't really an especially good hideout, but a human being constantly thinks—maybe still, maybe still [it will work out]. It really wasn't any special hideout. There were people who constructed special cellars. Cellars which were really hidden, but we couldn't afford it. So again some time passed with all these events. [The spool here is very noisy; the interview took place in a shop and at times the door was opened and we were working against a background of noise of machinery.] Finally, life becomes revolting. One simply becomes pessimistic, one has no more desire to live, one does not believe that it ever will get better. But one has to. Even if one doesn't want to, one lives, automatically. Everything is being done automatically. Yet how is a person feeling? It was especially with me that way because I had it reasonable well. It was then already my turn—they looked already for people like me, but I don't know—I learned from some kind of a source that on a certain night there will be a razzia [a raid], and I told it to my Chief.
  • David Boder: Your own chief?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes. The Chief was an SA man. A great Anti-Semite. When he would see a Jew on the street, he could kill him. I had luck. I worked well and he took a liking to me. That happened right from the start.
  • David Boder: This concludes Spool 85, Abraham Kimmelmann reporting. We are going over to Spool 86. [There is apparently a break in the spool but it seems that not much has been lost. —D.P.B.]
  • David Boder: [In English] Geneva, August the 28th, 1946 at the ORT Shops. Abraham Kimmelmann reporting from Spool . . . from Spool 84 and 85.
  • David Boder: [In German] Now we are starting with you saying that your Chief was an SA man, who was very bad to the Jews, but who acted very good toward you.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes.
  • David Boder: Now go ahead.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: When I told him that there is a peril that one day I might be dragged away to Germany, so he told me to come to the night shift and to sleep in the daytime because mostly, as I already told you, the razzias occurred at night. And they really proceeded in doing it that way because one morning when I came home at six o'clock, I was told that they came looking for me. I became completely perplexed. My blood stopped functioning when they told me that. Because it dealt not only with me alone, because I was ready to work hard, I had courage and was always imagining the worst, because if one expects the worst it is much easier to stand it than when one acts in the opposite fashion. But the worst was for me the separation from my mother and my sister. And that drove me to premonitions. I endeavored to do something because I knew my mother will not be able to stand a separation from me.
  • David Boder: Wasn't she already reconciled with such things? Already your father has been taken before and she survived that.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: That is not [a sensible??] question. I told you already, one can get accustomed to things. One can get accustomed to calamities if this same calamity is frequently experienced. Such a thing I have never yet experienced, because i spite of all the misfortunes, I always was together with my mother. That [the separation from her] could happen only once, and at this one time I was afraid. And so, I had luck several times. Three times I managed to hide. I worked always on the night shift. Whenever I heard something, I would always go to work. They looked for me three times. The third time when I came home I found the door broken down, the beds all turned over, they have searched everywhere.
  • David Boder: Didn't your mother tell them where you were?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Excuse me, but my mother and sister also worked on the night shift. They were not afraid. They did not hide, because it was not yet the turn of their shop. The arrangements in the shop were that there were two shifts. That is, one shift in the daytime and the other during the night. Each for twelve hours, so that each week the groups or the shifts were changed. There was no arrangement that one group always worked in the daytime and the other at night. But they were working interchangeably. And then my mother and my sister were also on the night shift. [There was a telephone interruption in the interview office, which, by the way happens very often.]
  • David Boder: So you found that everything was turned over?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, and I only waited until my mother came home and I went away again to the plant. I was there the whole week. I had an aunt in Bensburg. There I ate, and I slept in the shop and I did not go home. Things quieted down again, and we didn't hear anything, people were not telling anything. With people it is this way. They tell—they always tell something, whether they know or whether they don't. And this something causes fears. But that was a quiet time, nobody came with tales and I went back home to sleep. [There was again some interruption in the interview and I reminded him of the topic of which he was talking—that he was coming home to sleep.]
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: [continues] One evening when my sister was gone for the night shift, that was about seven o'clock when she went to the night shift, and until nine o'clock the jews were permitted to go out. So five minutes before nine, she comes home and tells me I should dress immediately; she has heard that there will be again a raid, I must hide. Besides, [they are after] boys of my age and with the same identity cards as mine. I didn't think long, I dressed with whatever came into my hands. I went to a comrade of mine, and we hid in an attic; it was rather unrecognizable and we slept there. It was winter, it was cold, you can imagine that we couldn't sleep from sheer cold, but we passed the night. I tell you that only to give you an example. To give people kind of general review of the horrors in which we lived. We were never sure of the moment nor of the hour. We never felt at home. Always there was the fear that an SS man, a Gestapo man, may come, or the Jewish militiamen who could fetch us. Again some time passed; I worked, I earned normally, and one day we heard again that such a thing will happen. Again I went to the night shift and I was sleeping in the daytime. It so happened that my mother also worked on the night shift. My sister was on the day shift and the two of us worked during the night.
  • David Boder: Where did you sleep?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: At home. Because in the daytime it was not so dangerous to sleep at home. Twelve o'clock noon, somebody knocked. I had a very hard sleep. I did not hear a thing. My mother was also very tired from the work, and she also slept. But then it appeared to her, as if in a dream, that somebody has knocked. And with us it was that customers were always coming because my mother had to work also at home because [from her earnings at the shop,] one couldn't buy even bread.
  • David Boder: So what was she—a dressmaker?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, she was a girdle maker, such as corsets.
  • David Boder: [I did not understand the meaning of the German word Muedermacherin, so he explained it.] She was a corset maker?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, a corset maker.
  • David Boder: Who, in those times, wore corsets?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: In those times it was like this. There was already a ghetto. That is, the Jews had to live in a concentrated fashion, in certain section, but they were not permitted to go out—could not go on the streets where non-Jews lived. On the other hand, the Poles could come in [to the ghetto]. She worked for Christians. That was not permitted—to work for Christians. But, as the Poles could move through those streets, they could take walks through those streets, so it was possible to work for them. As long as I talk about it I will tell you how that work would proceed. When my mother worked in the daytime, she would return home by five o'clock and work then until one or two o'clock at night. When she was through with her work, her sewing machine was hidden, because it was not permitted to us to have sewing machines. The machines had to be surrendered. But on the machine depended her life. If we have nothing to eat, we have to die anyway. This risk we had to take, whether we wanted to or not. So after work, we would hide the machine in the attic or in the cellar. And so at that time, too, my mother thought that it was possibly a customer who is calling for some work, or wants to order something—and we wanted to earn something—so she quickly opened the door and asked, "Who is there?" But she did not see anybody outside. But the policeman who was outside heard a voice calling, he was glad he came on time, and so he entered the house.
  • David Boder: What that a Jewish policeman?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, that was a German policeman. I will tell you why it happened to be the German Police. He comes in and asks for me, where Kimmelmann Abram lives, and my mother was already not anymore[??] a human being. She already did not know what was happening to her, because she knew that the last minute has come. The minute of decision. And she asked [The sequence is lost again, apparently through emotional stress] . . . I said, "Yes, that's I," and he ordered that I should dress immediately. I had my work clothes on the chair, these were clothes full of grease because I worked at the stamping machine always with oil, very dirty, just for work. Otherwise, one couldn't wear them. One would become all greasy and dirty, from the dirty oil. I wanted to put on something else because I knew I would not return anymore home but he did not permit it. I should put on these things and so I should come with him. And while I was dressing he did something else, and that was to start searching whether we have any food. Because they were so shrewd, they knew we have a card that would give us only the utmost minimum to live on. It was as people say, not to live and not to die. And when they would find any more food, any kind of edibles put away, they inquired immediately how we managed to have it. That would give a reason to punish one or consider him a criminal. And then they had reason to send one to the lager. They found some beans in our house but my mother managed to explain, saying that we have not eaten anything [any beans] for weeks in order to cook once a real meal. I don't know what happened afterwards. Maybe he has written it down, maybe not. I was all crazy, I didn't think of such things at the moment; we thought only of the fact that now the time has come that I won't see anymore my mother. I knew right away that I shall not return anymore and when I finished dressing he told me to come with him and when we left Mother began so to scream, it was something terrible. When somebody [who] doesn't know at all about such things [and] he hears a woman so screaming, he must definitely think that she is off her mind. And it's no wonder when one hears such hysterical screams. But even if one cannot imagine [it] one should still be able to know what it is when a child is being torn form his mother, when one knows at the time for sure that she wouldn't see him anymore. This cannot be compared with a case when a child dies, is sick and dies in its own bed. It's perfectly different when one knows that it is going to be together with the mother and then, all at once, being sent, so to speak, to death. And if I live today, I don't know to this day how I was saved from all that. But then I was sure that I am going towards death. So was my mother. So one should not wonder that my mother screamed that way. He [apparently the Gestapo man] heard it, yet from the outside. And I don't know how it affected him—it made some impression on him. He returned with me and asked my mother why she screamed so. But she was afraid to say why she screamed.
  • David Boder: Was that an SS man?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, that was a Shupo—a simple policeman.
  • David Boder: A German?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, a German. I also will tell you how he happened to be there. And he quieted my mother, telling that I will return, that it was just some kind of a formality, simply to investigate something, that they have to have me—they must see me. This quieted my mother a bit because as there is a saying—the drowning grabs a straw. When she heard such words, although from the German from whom she could not expect anything, in spite of that, she consoled herself within and thought that maybe he might be telling the truth. She quieted down a bit—I knew that that wouldn't last long. It was a matter that was decided in a few hours—what was there to do? He mounted his bike and told me to run along beside him. And the faster I would run, the faster he accelerated the speed of his bike.
  • David Boder: So he mounted his bicycle?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes.
  • David Boder: Couldn't you run away from him?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes. To run away. But he had something that could kill me at a distance—you know they all wore arms. And they only waited for a moment for an opportunity that they could shoot the Jew. And that I didn't want, and even if I had wanted to, I said, I told you already, one doesn't have the courage. One doesn't have the courage. One always thinks—there is always still a spark in a human being that tells, maybe there still will happen a miracle. One tried to hold only to one thing. One thinks only of one thing. I was running and I had no strength anymore. When I came to the Police station, which was from us about a kilometer and a half, there I had to run. So he was on the bike, so he tells me I should put the bike into the stalls. I was then for the first time in the police station. I didn't know where the stalls were. So I only asked him where, and he right away slapped my face once, and once again.
  • David Boder: The same man who consoled your mother?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, the same man. He put away the bike himself and led me into the police station. When I entered, there sat the "gentlemen," one smoked his cigarette, as I told you already, it was twelve o'clock; I arrived there at lunch time and they were—what you call it—at the noon recess, and policemen came in for letters and packages and I just stood there. All at once one came in, looked at me, he saw that I wore the star of David so he knew that I was a Jew, so he disliked that I turned my face towards him. So he took me in a corner with my face to the wall, my hands down, just like a criminal. I was not permitted to move. At the slightest move I would get a slap in the face or a kick with a boot. So I stood for an hour and a half and then they brought in two Polish women to the police station; they were those who did business on the black. They had with them eggs, butter, and all kinds of foodstuffs, and we were sent together to Bensburg, to the lower police division.
  • David Boder: Which police division?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: The lower police division. The main police division was in Sosnowice. On the street car they performed such a trick. They didn't want to transport me just in a simple fashion although they were not much ashamed or much embarrassed in any way, but still they did it better. They took all the packages which the two women brought with themselves. They made me carry them, so the people should think that I have smuggled something—that I was trading on the black. That's why they are taking me. In spite of all that, first I was ashamed; and second, these were heavy bundles. What the two women were carrying, I had to carry by myself. When we arrived there they took the bundles away from me and they did not present me to anybody but sent me down right away into a cellar, and there were assembled many Jews, that is, several hundred Jews, and we spent there a few hours. Now I want to come back to explain how it happened that they looked for me at lunch time at home. And why. Precisely this Shupo . . .
  • David Boder: What is a Shupo?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: A Shupo, I told you before, is a policeman, a kind of guard. It happened like this. They looked for me at that time at night. But they looked for me in Bensburg, because I was registered as working in Bensburg. Since I did not live in Bensburg, the could not find me in Bensburg because it did not occur to them that I was at night in the plant. They have taken only those who they could find at home. And so they caught many of those who were sleeping at home, and when the Police Chief, when the Shupos would come to the Police Chief and would make the reports, and I was not among them, so they started thinking where I could be; and they looked up the registers and saw that I don't live in Bensburg at all, that I lived in Dabrowa. So they quickly telephoned to the police in Dabrowa and they looked for me at home. [There is one word that I cannot understand.] That time I was unlucky. And they caught me. And that is how it happened; otherwise maybe I would have remained yet for some time at home until the general deportation—until the place became Jew-clean. Fate governs man and he can't do different. One can't fight against it, and so I arrived in time to be at the police station in Bensburg together with all the Jews. They did not give us anything to eat, they even wouldn't let us out when one had to go to the toilet and in the evening they brought again a cordon of police which was supposed to take us to Sosnowice. Sosnowice was the transit camp. It was called for short Dulag [which meant Durchganslager] which means a transit camp. All those who were taken to Germany, that is, to the work lager, were sent to Dulag. On the other hand, those who were going to Auschwitz were sent to Bensburg, to that orphanage Sirotinez. Since I was still well and young they took me to work and I was sent to Dulag. They led us on foot. We had to run. They did not order any transport facilities, we had to run about eight kilometers and you can imagine that for every five men, we marched five abreast. There were two soldiers and one dog. That is, they marched on both sides, and for each row of five men.
  • David Boder: Two policemen?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Two policemen and one dog.
  • David Boder: Where did they get so many dogs? What were they, police dogs?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, police dogs. Especially large dogs.
  • David Boder: Such dogs had to be fed.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: For those dogs they sooner had food than for the Jews. They would say, when they shot a Jew that they have one bread left over, and then they could feel the dog. Moreover, there was not yet any scarcity for the Germans, so to speak. They could have enough, and precisely because they could take away from us. When the Germans would run short of something the ration of the Jews would be diminished and the problem was solved. Nobody cared whether some Jew would die of starvation. That was their purpose. But they couldn't stop giving to eat. Maybe they figured it might result in epidemics of tuberculosis or typhus which would harm them as well. That was the only reason why they gave the Jews to eat at all. Otherwise they would have let them die of starvation right away. When we arrived at the Dulag, we had not eaten all day, that means I slept during the day time and when one sleeps one doesn't eat. At ten that night they gave us two potatoes, two potatoes in jacket and that was our whole supper. At the transit camp thing were like this. The employees of the camp were Jews. They were free. Then in Sosnowice were still many Jews. They were permitted to go home and they were simply there [in the lager] employed. They were there as employees. They took care of everything. They saw to it that there was order. There were also ten Western Jews. These were Jews who were already once in the lager, and I don't know, I can't remember anymore how they happened to come to this transit camp. At any rate, they became the personnel of the transit camp and it was necessary to sweep to keep things clean and take care of the kitchen, and that was done by the ten Western Jews. Otherwise, we were guarded by police of the special task force. As I told you already, the special task force was responsible for the workers. Also they were guarding us. And there was the lager chief, not the lager chief but the lager Fuehrer, a German, an officer, that was a scoundrel of a kind that I haven't seen anybody worse until then, also a plain sadist. A sadist of the greatest order that one can imagine.
  • David Boder: What do you call a sadist?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: To me a sadist is a man who in general has no human feeling. From the incidents that I have seen there I can judge that person, not only as an enemy of the Jews, but as an enemy of mankind. He happened to be a lager Fuehrer where there were only Jews, but I'm sure if other people would have come there the same thing would have happened. It was a man without any feeling. A plain murderer. I shall relate to you later a certain incident. Here we were getting to eat twice a day. The conditions were such. In the morning we would get up—we could sleep rather long. We slept there on such bridges [plank-beds]. You have heard of these sleeping bridges. They were bridges that were sufficiently high, one over the other about one meter apart.
  • David Boder: How many people on each bridge?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Well, that depends on the fact how many people happened to be in the lager.
  • David Boder: For example . . .
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: When there would be a large transport, then they would all be simply shoved in. Whether one had room where to sleep [or not], nobody bothered about that, because there we were not working. It was just a transit camp for the few days. When there were less people, they had where to sleep. We were that time only a few hundred. The hall was reasonably large so we had quite a bit of room.
  • David Boder: What do you mean, quite a bit of room? How many people were on each bridge?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: I can't tell you exactly but there was enough room. Maybe there was a meter of width for each person. There were not many people so that's what it was.
  • David Boder: And what did you sleep on?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: On plain boards.
  • David Boder: No mattresses?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No mattresses, nothing. But it was so hot, because everything was locked, we were not permitted to open the window. At nights they even locked the doors so one could not go to the toilet because the gentlemen did not want to disturb their sleep. And if somebody passes through the hall, one of course can hear it. We were there two days so all at once we hear, I don't know how, it must have come from the personnel of the lager,—they were Jews,—they apparently must have heard it from the Germans, that tonight there would come a transport from Krakow. You have heard of Krakow. Krakow is also a Polish city. [He did not pronounce the name of the city clearly; it may not be Krakow.] There were great war plants. They manufactured locomotives. There were many Jews, most of them were occupied in those plants, and there were also shops. Now I remember, the chief of all the war plants where these uniforms were made was Rosnler [not sure exactly of the name]. Rosnler was a German.
  • David Boder: What was the name?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Rosnler. He was about twenty-five year old, limped on one leg, and that is why he didn't go to war. He had lost a leg in the war and he was rewarded by being made a chief of all the shops and he managed them. He, as people were talking about him, they were telling that he was a very good man. He has done a great deal for the Jew, but an order came to Grenow [the previously mentioned town might be Grenow, not Kradow], that it should be made "Jew-clean" and he couldn't do a thing about it, and so we were thinking that tonight there comes a whole transport from Grenow [could also be spelled Krenau]. Men and women, mostly young people, because in Grenow there was a selection. The old men, women and children—they were sent directly from there to Auschwitz, but the younger ones were intended for a working lager so they were sent to the transit lager in Dulag near Sosnowiec. When they arrived—and there were several hundred people—you can imagine how crowded it became. And we really didn't have any more room to sleep. At night, when they shut the doors . . . and it was something terrible. There was, so to speak, no air in the hall. We were just waiting for the morning when the doors would be opened again. And when the doors were reopened the people were simply stuck in the doorway [from crowding] and they couldn't get out anymore. Probably you will ask why? When a few people squeezed themselves into the doorway first to catch some air, and they all remained standing because it was narrow and they couldn't get ahead and from behind they were pushing. There would not be a day when somebody wasn't trampled or killed [kaput beaten]. They were pushing him and they were yelling, "Why don't you go ahead?" Under such conditions one ceases to be human, one gasps for air, one wants to get it, and wants to get out, and one doesn't consider that it is nobody's fault but the Germans whose fault it is. But one doesn't consider it any more. One isn't anymore a human being. And so things happened every morning. From Grenow had come mostly young people. And so it was with all transports. Various people have crowded themselves in with them. In Grenow there was made a selection and the parents were sent to Auschwitz. There were still some small children and women who, in an unnoticeable fashion, have mingled in among those sent to the labor camps and in that way, they arrived in Sosnowiec. They would say, yes, these are saved, they will get into a work lager, but in the transit camp there was a new selection. Daily there arrived trucks from the Gestapo and transported the people to Auschwitz. Selections were something terrible. Because every day we were lined up on the square and counted, whether someone was not missing, and a man from the Gestapo would go through the lines. If he would dislike somebody he would simply send him to Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: Whom did he not like, what does that mean?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Did not like? I couldn't tell why he didn't like him. Maybe he didn't like anybody, but he simply picked, he would throw a look at the fellow and say, "Come out." I don't know whether he liked him or not, I simply express myself that way, because he really didn't like any Jew . . . would like to kill all the Jews. Well, I have forgotten to tell you a very important fact. One cannot help missing things when one is not prepared.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: So I am going back and later start again from here. Before I left home there was announced a law. A few weeks before I left there was made a law, the whole district including Dabrowa, Bendzin, and Sosnowiec, all the Jews on the same day should appear at definitely assigned places. There were no privileged. All people. Every living being. Every Jewish living being. A child one day old or an old man who could not stand on his feet. All had to come to the square and their photograph identification cards had to be stamped. I shall have to tell you what these photograph identification cards are. One constantly forgets to tell of things which afterwards may appear of great significance. One cannot help it. One is not prepared, one talks in a simple way.
  • David Boder: Very good, very good.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: The photograph identification cards were such. At the beginning when the Germans [arrived], they were taking fingerprints of the whole Polish population, Jews or no Jews. It was right at the beginning. Then they wanted to make a distinction between the Poles and the Jews, so they made for the Jews special photograph identification cards. Everyone had to have his picture taken to get his identification card and the photograph was pasted on the identification card, so that when they demanded from a Jew his identification card, they could immediately see whether it is the corresponding person. Since with finger prints you have to make all sorts of experiments to control it—so this was for them much easier.
  • David Boder: Then the picture was just pasted on or photographed together with the identification card.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: It was just pasted on in a way that it was later stamped by the police and the stamp was half on the identification card and half on the photograph, so they could not cheat on it. Now you will know what a photograph identification card is. So they played such a trick in Wolbrom [I don't hear the name clearly] which was not far from us. There Jews still lived. They assembled all on the square and had their photograph identification cards restamped by the Gestapo by the special task force, and they were sent home again. Later it resulted to be just a trick. That is, in Wolbrom, there weren't any Jews, but in the district of Dabrowa, Bendzin, and Sosnowiec there were still some fifty thousand Jews or more and all these they wanted to get in one day, so they let all the Jews free in Wolbrom [after the checkup] so we should not be afraid any more. And so they posted announcements on all the streets that, on such and such a day, that we should assemble in a certain place. They will only stamp the identification cards and everybody will go home afterwards. We didn't like the idea very well.
  • David Boder: Did you also go home?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: In order to quiet us down a bit there arrived a Monek Merin of whom I talked before, that was the main director of the community council of the whole district, and he made a speech that we should not be afraid, the same thing happened in Wolbrom and everybody went free [we have here apparently a break in the wire and I do not remember when that happened, whether during the interview or during the rewinding, but it continues this way;]
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: We had to stand again before a committee [that refers apparently to a second group] and the third were supposed to go to Auschwitz. [As far as I can restore it, that short break tells that when they were assembled, the first group was to go to the lagers, the second group was to reappear before the committee and the third were assigned to Auschwitz.] He [I do not know to whom it refers, apparently the Gestapo man making the selection] didn't say anything, he only put up the Jewish militia inside the square. Outside the square there were German police, which gathered us, and when we were inside Jewish policemen were organizing things and keeping things in order that there be quiet. And he pointed with his finger at group one, group two, group three indicating where the person had to go. I don't want to tell much what happened until my turn came.
  • David Boder: Were you and your mother together?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, the posters instructed us also to appear in family units. Pretty soon, it became clear why they arranged it that way. I want to tell you briefly what occurred. The screaming was terrible because the families were simply separated. Young men who had a colored card were sent there, a mother was sent to another place, and in a family where only the minority was working, the whole family was taken. It was really the reason for the rule that people were to appear in family units, so that those, even if they were working, but made up the minority in the family/that seems to be the meaning, the wire is not clear] should also get their turn [which means should also be deported, maybe he clarifies it later]. We stepped forward, my mother, my sister and I, and here my sister had a good card, my mother too, I too had a good card, but my mother looked that time very bad because we didn't earn very much and she would not eat well [here are a few words all unintelligible but it seems to mean the Gestapo man has noticed her] and so he thought that such a woman cannot work anymore. Although she possibly has produced more than has another who was much stronger than she.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes Spool 86 of Kimmelmann, we are going over to Spool 87. Geneva, 28th of August 1946.
  • David Boder: Geneva, August 28th, 1946 at the Shops of the ORT. Abraham Kimmelmann continues.
  • David Boder: [In German] As you were telling me, if only the minority of the family was working, the whole family was deported.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: In our case it happened so that we all were occupied, and as I told you before, my mother and sister were working in a war plant; so when we passed before the man who had to decided about our lives, first my sister passed and he immediately set her free. They sent her to Group No. 1, but my sister somehow felt . . . she didn't know, she stood waiting, she was still afraid, it was something instinctive. And a feeling of fear came to her mind and she still hesitated. She had a premonition that something will go wrong. And sure enough the mother was immediately assigned to Group 3 which meant the worst, and I went with her.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: If I now take it in retrospect, I was then very little developed, I looked more like a child; I looked very infantile and since they sent my mother in that direction, "A young boy," he must have said to himself, "What can such a boy do?" and I was placed there, with her. But I had a very good card and when we got there the president of the Jewish Community Council was there, and he looked at me. And I still had my card in my hand. He said, in Polish, "What's going on? Why were you sent here?" And I didn't know myself. But I was so lucky, I am telling you that it's undescribable; because the Jewish Militia was acting this way. He [the German] would point with the finger that one belongs to a certain group, and he wasn't given any time, even a second, even to say goodbye to somebody. He was immediately dragged to the corresponding place and he could not show himself anymore. Whether the father was put there and the son here, they could not say anymore a word to each other. But not so with me. They looked at my card, and to some extent they were taking a chance, because if the Gestapo would have seen it they would have immediately slapped him in the face, or taken notice of it in some other fashion. But I was sent back in line again. I should stay there again. My mother was happy. She didn't think anymore of herself, that she is in such danger, and in danger she was. She only thought how to save me from it. And when I passed again he set me free and I went to No. 1.
  • David Boder: Then your mother remained there?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: My mother remained there.
  • David Boder: In no. 3?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: In no. 3, and all day I didn't hear anymore from her. We had an acquaintance among the employees of the Community Council. We told him, "If you possibly see our mother, tell her that she should console herself," but in these times, who had a mind for somebody else? Everybody was busy with himself. Nobody was safe with his life. We stood there for a long time; it took hours to process so many people, to look at every one and to tell where he was to go. By about two o'clock it was finished. It was so hot, up to two o'clock.
  • David Boder: In the daytime?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, in the daytime. All at once at two o'clock there broke out a thunderstorm. It began to thunder and to rain. It was something terrible. And children, such young children, still in their baby carriages. And here it begins to rain. And nobody had anything with them, because who thought that on such a nice day it will all at once begin to rain. But the parents simply laid themselves over the baby buggies so that the rain should not get in. And now the rain has depressed us still more. We started to wail and to scream. The screams were rising to heaven. It became like a choir, together with the rain. They started to scream in such a manner, and we all wept. All at once there gets up a man, his name was Smetana, he also was a Jew, he was once, so to speak, a council member in the central council of Sosnowiec. He made a speech and said thus, "Now this selection is over. Those who are in number one, who are free, will pass before a table, and will have their photo-cards stamped. Those who are in number two remain for the time being in the Community Council in Dabrowa. They will be re-examined again. And the third group goes to Auschwitz."
  • David Boder: Did he say so?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, that is what he said. And he said thus, "Nobody should dare to show himself on the street, because if anyone shows up on the street he goes with No. 3; that is, he shall be evacuated." Of course, then—although we knew it before—but when it is being put into language, it makes a still greater impression, on a person—the people started to scream to such an extent, that the Germans thought that something is going to happen, and they started to shoot in the air. Well, they calmed us down with the shooting. We had to calm down. They stamped out photo-cards and through a different street we went home. We made a kind of semicircle.
  • David Boder: And your mother remained there?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: My mother remained there, and I didn't know anything more about her. Only No. 1 was set free. We were going home. We were only young people. Only strong individuals.
  • David Boder: Your sister, too?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: My sister, too, yes. A fellow who was about twenty-five years old—he was so excited; maybe he was nervously sick, or maybe he became nervously sick that time . . . and he passed a fence, you understand, a picket fence [they were thick logs deep in the ground], and we don't know how he got the strength . . . that wasn't his strength but the strength of his nerves, I am sure of that, because there is no human strength of that could in such a moment do such a thing. We barely noticed it. He simply put his hand down, and a log was pulled out. Just out of fear and excitement. And we were walking as if from a cemetery, so we wept and we wailed. When we arrived home, the door was locked. We forgot to take the key from our mother. The door was locked, and we broke a window and got in. What could we do? One was forbidden to show himself on the street. But still we couldn't obey. Soon I went out. I saw only a single Jew on the street, and I approached the Jewish Community Council. I don't know. Although I knew that my mother was sent right away to Bensburg because she was in No. 3, still I went on. The police were still around and we were hiding from behind one house after the other so that they shouldn't see us. Finally I arrived at the Jewish Community Council. Upstairs there was a balcony, they were locked up upstairs, but they did them a favor and let them out on the balcony, and all at once I hear my name being called. I turn around and see my mother. I saw my mother; she held the key in her hand, and threw it from a distance. I didn't know what was happening to me. I didn't know how she got into No. 2, because she was assigned to No. 3. Well, I was overjoyed because it said that No.2 will remain overnight in Dabrowa and they will be re-examined. I went home. I told it right away to my sister; I told my sister right away that she is in No. 2, and she cheered up a bit. But barely an hour passed that all these people were taken, with them my mother, and they were driven to Bensburg, on foot. As I learned afterwards they were driven like cattle. They were forced to step on each other's feet.
  • David Boder: Men and women?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Men and women. And when they would not do it, somebody immediately took a club and the club was their interpreter. As they used to say, "They wouldn't dirty their mouth or their hands." They took the club as an interpreter and when one would not fall in line, he would be clubbed. We remained home. We could not go out after ten o'clock. We did not know for sure where the people were taken. Still we had a kind of feeling that they were also taken to Bensburg, to the orphanage. Came six o'clock in the morning, and I told you before I had permission to travel to Bensburg from Dabrowa because I worked there, so I took the first streetcar and I went to Bensburg. I came to the orphanage, along the street that led to the orphanage. A Jew told me I should not go there because they may arrest me too, because there are standing Gestapo people. When they see somebody they just grab him. So I thought thus, "I want to be together with my mother, but as long as I am free I still can possibly do something; maybe I still could save her. But if we two are there, there is no more hope." I took the streetcar and I traveled on without any consciousness of myself. And all that happened at the same time in Dabrowa, Sosnowiec, and Bensburg. And the only difference was that in Dabrowa everything was over in one day because there were only five thousand heads, but in Bensburg and Sosnowiec it still lasted until the next day. It was Wednesday and Thursday and it still continued the next morning. I took the streecar, I traveled on, without any aim. And here there was a stop. I went off without knowing what I was doing and here I stand before a house where my aunt lived. I was running as if in sleep. I come in and here my cousin was crying. I didn't need to ask her about anything. I understood what was going on. Neither did I tell her about my mother, because how could she help me? I didn't tell her anything. I wept with her, and I left. I left the house and all at once I was taking the streetcar on my way back. There on the streetcar I see again a girl cousin of mine, from Sosnowiec. Her parents also lived in Dabrowa. Precisely on the day of the selection her parents lived with us. They lived with us then for about a week because they were evicted from a street. They still had no apartment, and so they lived with us. I know that her parents also were assigned to No. 3. I didn't want to tell her, but I saw right away that she knows it already because she wept terribly. I just greeted her, but we didn't say a word. But she had great connections in the Community Council. At first I had the intention to turn to her for help, but since her parents were in the same situation, she, of course, would, and I in her place would have done the same thing, first try to do something for her parents. To save them. I didn't say anything except I told her that my mother, too, is there in the orphanage and I went home. When I arrived home there were at the streetcar people and more people. All those who remained home. And they begged the militia, maybe one could do this and one could do that. And that same day a Jew had given twenty thousand marks to a Jewish militiaman that he should save his father. I want to tell you it was within the possibility of a militiaman to save some individuals. It was so. At night the guard was assisted by the Jewish militia; so they could pass up certain things. If somebody would escape, they wouldn't report them. That was for money. So it was just a single case where a son saved his father with twenty thousand marks. So when we returned to Dabrowa the people were waiting for the militia. Even to transmit a letter you had to pay an awful lot of money, just to transmit a little package. What could I expect? We had no money. There was nothing for me to do but to hope. Oh, I had some hope, but I did not believe myself that I will see my mother again. So I come home, tell everything to my sister, and again I go to Bensburg. Now I go to my plant where I was employed, where I worked. As I entered there stood my boss, his assistant, and here I all at once began to scream and to weep. And he says, "What's going on?" And so I say, "Why shouldn't I cry if my mother was taken to her death." So he says, "Who?" So I say, "What do you mean, who. I don't have to tell you. You know very well." So he says, "Wait, when Matisha come (that was his manager) he shall go with you to the special police. Maybe something could be done." I told him if I don't have my mother I won't come anymore to work. "It's all the same to me." He didn't do it because he was afraid of me, but possibly he took pity on me.
  • David Boder: You told me before that he was a very mean person.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, a very mean person, but to me he was very good. As I was waiting I stood before the gate. I was waiting for Matisha, his manager, as if for a Messiah, like the Jews were expecting a Messiah. I turned back again; I had no patience. And so I went back again. I went behind the plant and wept. Here was the toilet. A few women workers passed from the plant to the toilet and when they saw me they said, "Abraham, what has happened? Why do you weep?"
  • David Boder: Were they Christians?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, they were Christians. I was the only Jew there. There were only Christian workers. I was the only Jew. So they say, "Why do you weep?" So I told them the whole story. And so they just shook their heads and what could they do. As they returned to the plant they told it to the foreman head. He came out right away and said, "Why do you cry? Your mother is upstairs with the Deratishes. Your mother is with the family Deratish upstairs." Now I shall tell you who the family Deratish was. In the place where I worked, that place was formerly a barn for cattle feed. And when the war started, the owner of the place had a lot of money, and so he bought some machinery and wanted to open a shop. But the Germans came and confiscated the place.
  • David Boder: Was he a Jew?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, he was not a Jew. He was a Pole. They found that the place was good for a plant. They wanted to expand it, they made wonderful plans, they wanted to build it up and put in more machinery. They confiscated the place in such a manner that the whole business was transferred in the name of the German, and the Pole remained there as some kind of a supply man. His business was to obtain materials. He had to supervise the work, see that things were properly done, well, be a sort of supervisor. But he was on a straight salary, nothing else. And in the house where he lived, also lived his in-laws. They were very nice and because I worked in the plant, and my mother frequently used to come over there, although she had no right to go to Bensburg—but people were running across the fields on foot; sometimes it was necessary—when I slept there as I told you before. Well, they got somehow acquainted so they knew each other. And the man says, "She is upstairs." In that moment I just did not understand what he was saying. I think—well, if it would have come to my consciousness what he is telling me I would have kissed him; I don't know myself what I would have done. And so I let him stay there and I run upstairs. Lo, there is my mother in bed, and the old man puts compresses on her knees, and the old woman is preparing some food for her, and so on, like one acts in such a situation. And then it didn't occur to me at the moment even to ask her how she happened to be there. I let her stay there, lie there. I immediately returned home and told it to my sister, and took again the next streetcar and returned again. I brought her some food and when I got upstairs I asked her, "Mother, how did you do it? How do you happened to be here?" And she told me thus: That night she was led to the second story of the orphanage, that is, her group, No. 2. On the other hand No. 3, that is, those who were definitely assigned for deportation were on the third floor.
  • David Boder: How did she get on the second floor?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Wait a minute. That's precisely what I asked her. How did you get to No. 2? She told me this. When I was freed she began to think of herself. She knew that is is not only a question of herself, but the fact that she will be separated from us. And when the rain started and it got dark and the people began to wail, the militia was trying to create order among the people. So she took advantage of the situation and went over to No. 2. She could then even pass to No. 1, but she didn't know yet what it really meant, 1 or 2. People didn't know because various people were in each group. As I told you before, if only the minority of a family were working the whole family was assigned for deportation. But they didn't know that they were selecting them according to age and general appearance and so quite different people were seen in each group. For example, in a family of which only one son was working, and the son was well developed, was good looking, he nevertheless was put, too in No. 3. And we didn't know, that it is on account of only a minority working in the family. In other words, we didn't know which is the best group. But my mother thought that No. 2 was good. So she went over there. So she managed to smuggle herself over to No. 2 and she thought that already she was safe and free. But she right away started wondering why I and my sister were not there. She understood that she had made a great mistake. She couldn't do anything more and she remained in No. 2. And in this manner she meanwhile has saved herself for No. 3. So when she got to the first floor [in Europe the first floor is really the floor above the street level, what we would have called here the second floor], she tried to do everything possible to get away from there. They were sitting there all night, and people got out through the door and wanted to pass through the gate. When one was caught he was taken immediately to the third floor. So this she couldn't do. So you see it was a great risk to attempt to get away from No. 2, because a lot of people wished that they were in No. 2 on the first floor, that is, those who were on the third floor wished it. All the things that occurred that night and the fights and the like, and so on, are not to be told here. I want to tell how my mother saved herself, was saved from there. It was five o'clock in the morning and at half past five the Gestapo was to take over the guard service. Nobody knew it, but that is how it happened. It was five o'clock and my mother noticed that a man took off his belt from his trousers, hung it at the window and jumped out of the window. He jumped down. She could not see whether he escaped or not, but the belt remained hanging. Without thinking much she got an idea which is rather unusual for a woman. She did the same thing.
  • David Boder: How high was it?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: It was the first story.
  • David Boder: Is it really the second story?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, and it was quite high because the ground floor was very high. It wasn't a simple building, and it was quite high. One had to have quite a bit of courage to do such a thing. And since she had no experience in such things and didn't know how to do it, so instead of coming down in the jump on her toes she came down on the entire foot. And she dislocated the joint. She couldn't run anymore and she couldn't get up. The guard noticed it and went to drag her through the gate, this time into No. 3. And here appeared all at once a girl who lived with us together, a neighbor of ours, also a Jewess whose mother also was in the orphanage. She also tried to do something for her mother. When she saw that the militiaman wanted to drag my mother again into the orphange, she got inspired with courage. She was a strong and healthy girl, and she told him that if he didn't let my mother go she would start something. I don't know why and my mother didn't know either, but he simply let her go free and went back to the gate and resumed his guard duty. He paid no more attention to my mother. And my mother ran on her knees (she couldn't walk anymore on her feet and she was about a kilometer away from the place where I was working) and she went up to the Deratishes and in this way she was saved. We had to take her back to Dabrowa and she couldn't walk. If she could walk we thought we could run through the fields and nobody would see us, but she couldn't walk. I went to my boss and asked for some sort of certificate, if only temporary, to say that my mother is working here, and that she could pass in case somebody meets her on the street. So he told me to call the coachman, he should harness the horses to the car, pack it with hay, and hide my mother underneath. And so I did, and I brought my mother home. Five weeks my mother was lying home.
  • David Boder: How could she remain home when she was there on the list?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: I don't understand what you mean?
  • David Boder: Your mother was put in No. 2, as a matter of fact in No. 3. Didn't they make out a list who belonged where?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No. There was no list. Those who were held were held. They didn't need any listing if they could watch the people so that nobody could escape. Not many did escape.
  • David Boder: Didn't they have an appell there—a roll call?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, no, no, nobody's name was written down. The only thing was that my mother's photo-card was not stamped. Now in connection with this I want to tell you one more thing about these pictures. My mother was wearing a rain coat. She was upstairs. She took off her raincoat because it was hot. In that raincoat she had all her identification papers, the special card and the photo-card. Now when we got home we were afraid to get out again without some registration papers. First of all one has to have an identification paper and second that identification paper had to be stamped. All those who were assigned to remain had their photo-cards stamped, but she had lost her raincoat (she left it upstairs; it was all so sudden she did not bother about such minor things), and without an identification one could not appear on the street. Even at home one was not safe. If somebody comes, say an official, and says: "Show me your photo-card," and if one doesn't have it . . . We tried to ask various militiamen maybe they could fetch it. But who cared? They had of course to take care of their own. My mother remained in bed for four weeks. Her leg was put in a cast.
  • David Boder: Who did that?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: That was done by a physician.
  • David Boder: By a Jewish doctor?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, it was a Polish physician. He called on us illegally. He had no right to do it. He was well paid, and so he came.
  • David Boder: Where did you get the money to pay him?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Well, we were selling things. We sold our clothes, we ate less, if such a thing is at stake. One day there comes a certain Judkevitz, that was his name, also from Bensburg. He comes to my mother and says, that I or my sister should come over to Bensburg in order to fetch the photo-card and the raincoat for my mother. We opened our eyes. We just didn't know what he was saying. Well, I went immediately to Bensburg and there my cousin tells me this: She has an acquaintance, a militiaman who visits her—she was already married; he was just a friend who would come to see her. And he tells her that he has found a photo-card and he doesn't know to whom it belongs. So he takes out the photo-card and when my cousin saw on it my mother she recognized her and said, "That's my aunt," and in this way my mother got back her photo-card, and also her raincoat. But I tell you the whole story just sounds more like a fairy tale, like a legend. Things fitting together in such a way. Here her identification card all at once is being saved through a neighbor, and she gets her photo-card back. It's just unbelievable. In my case also it was a miracle. And here such coincidences! That's all about the evacuation. The rest were sent away to Auschwitz. You can't imagine what happened at those times at the railroad stations when the people were being sent to Auschwitz. They were all so packed together, children, old women and men, all in the same railroad car, without space even to stand, and the whole thing was going on in such an unusual way. They didn't get any food; it was summer still. It was the tenth month.
  • David Boder: In October?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, in October. Well, we remained home. And things continued to happen. It was only then that we recognized how many were missing. Because until then they took them a few at a time, a few people. Although if one would have added it up, it would have made quite a large number. It is the same in case of a person. When one lives with him together one doesn't notice how he develops. If you see a person after ten years' absence you hardly recognize him. One sees the difference, the tremendous difference. And so it was there. All at once we noticed the difference. How many were missing! And only young people were around, because all the old ones had been sent away. The mood was terrible. And we somehow felt that things won't last long. One saw that everything goes to naught. We just lived on. Up to then people were still trying to look kind of properly dressed, one would take care of his clothes, but from then on all the desire disappeared. One would go to work because one had to do so. People worked and people were trading because they had to live, they had to eat. But there was no special interest for it. And I already told you what happened afterwards. I was finally taken . . . [Here Abe returns to the story of his own deportation, started on a previous spool.]
  • David Boder: How about the people from Renow?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: They came and it was terribly crowded, terribly dirty. We soon, excuse me, IT WAS TERRIBLE. [He apparently makes a descriptive gesture.]
  • David Boder: Lice?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, lice. It was thus. There was a transport of girls and a transport of boys who came to Dulag. The girls lived on the ground floor and first floor. We lived on the second and third floor. We were not permitted to see the girls. One girl had there her boy friend, her betrothed, and you know that in such a case, people take chances. She took a chance. She went upstairs and the Lagerfuhrer caught her. And now I want to tell you about the sadism of that man. He did not care that it was a woman, a young girl, and he beat her until he beat out her eyes with a whip and that is the first time in my life that I saw such a beating. And I thought: "That is the worst."
  • David Boder: You have seen that yourself?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, I saw that myself. And I thought, "That is the worst." I could not imagine then that there may be something worse. Until then I always would have thought: "This is the worst."
  • David Boder: How old were you then?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: That was at the end of 1942, so I was fourteen years old. I thought then, "That is the worst that can be." But I later found out that there were many steps beyond that, so many that one simply can't imagine. Well, some other details how things happened. One was hungry and the food was not always eatable. In time one got accustomed. One would see to it that one got a second plate of soup, even if one would take a chance to get slapped in the face. It was the food that mattered. We were there seven days. Under these very bad conditions, we spent seven days. Then there came, well, we were told that one hundred twenty-nine persons are to go to Markstadt, a work camp Markstadt. If you want to know where Markstadt is, well, it is near Breslau. Near Breslau they were building a plant for Krupp. They were erecting shops. There were already two thousand Jews when I arrived. A lot more workers were needed. The work had started and they needed a lot of workers; and the Poles were already all taken so they had to take the Jews. One hundred twenty-nine people of us were sent over there, among them twenty-nine women. These women were mostly the ones who had somebody among the men. That is, they were married, or they were engaged, or they had good friends among them. There were several hundred women, but these had arrived at other times. This time twenty-nine women came. Almost all of them had some relatives among the men. That time we still traveled in passenger cars. We arrived at Markstadt. It was already winter. It was cold. When we arrived there we saw nothing. We came the square and there comes the chief of the guard. The chief of the guard didn't look in any way terrible, we were already accustomed to these uniforms, but here comes a man with a leather jacket. And he spoke in a firm voice, a voice of command. He spoke German. And here I noticed a Jewish star. I understood that he was a Jew. He didn't make any special speech, but he immediately called around the pushers, the Jewish capos who were appointed, and told them to which barracks they should go.
  • David Boder: What did you call them, "pushers"?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes. Division pushers, Schieber, or division leaders. And they told us to step forward four abreast. In that lager they marched four abreast. Until then, from the railroad station to the square we marched five abreast. And when they ordered us to step forward, we didn't know the customary orders of the lager so we stepped forward in fives. There were among us three brothers and they wanted to stand together so that they could sleep together. But since they stepped forward in fives, so it came out that every fifth person had to step aside. And so it was the lot of one of these brothers that he was separated from the other two. He wasn't yet accustomed to the fact that one cannot contradict a capo. And he hit him, but real hard.
  • David Boder: That was a Jewish capo?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, that was a Jewish capo. But that torments a person. It makes one a revolutionary. Here he is a Jew, and he beats me. He is the same as I am, but because he has more to eat and because he is longer in the lager ha has to behave that way. And there he beats us. And I couldn't do a thing. I couldn't open my mouth. It does something to a person. It does something to a bystander more than to the one who is actually beaten. And to my great regret I also have to tell you, it is true, and I am still ashamed that I have to tell such a thing, but it is the pure truth.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes spool 87. We are going over to 88.
  • David Boder: [This is spool 88. Geneva, August 28, 1946.] [In German] You say that the division pusher [trusty] had beaten up the man very badly.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, and now a German policeman, one of those who has brought us to Markstadt . . .
  • David Boder: A German policeman?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes. He stepped forward and told to the pusher: "I brought these people up here, and I didn't have any trouble with them . . . they have been here only a few minutes and already you have beaten them." . . . I must tell you, I have to make here a remark.
  • David Boder: What kind of remark?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: It is sad enough that I as a Jew have to relate about such a situation, and precisely because in this case the question involves the Jews. The floggers were Jews, and possibly when all this conversation would be later listened to, people will think that I am contradicting myself, because once I talk bad about the Germans and the next time I talk well of them, and then again I speak bad about the Jews. But I am telling the truth and I am giving the various details. It was sad to see a German put himself in our place, and have more understanding for us than the so-called "brother-man." I don't want to go further into that subject. I want to tell how things occurred in that lager, and the main thing that happened to me. Thus, the lager was located as I told you already in Markstadt, in a locality surrounded by barracks around and around, a place of approximately ten thousand kilometers square this apparently is a slip of tongue and should possibly mean ten thousand square meters. We were behind wire, guarded by the German Wehrmacht. In those times we were still guarded by the Germans Wehrmacht, and round and round were also barracks of civilian laborers such as Poles, Czechs, Frenchmen and also Germans. That is, from all possible regions of Europe they imported people to work there. We were exactly in the center. In the morning when they could wake us—and we were waked at about five—the appell would take place; but I didn't yet know what an "appell" was. All I knew, I was waked early in the morning, it was completely dark because it was winter, and we were told that as soon as we hear three whistles, that is, when they whistled three times, we should present ourselves for the appell. What appell? How appell? I didn't know. I only knew that we had to appear. Each word they were speaking to us would give me such a fright, that out of fright I didn't know what I really should do. Because it is always that way. When one first comes there, one is not accustomed to it. It does something to a person. He doesn't know in what kind of a world he really is. And so we stepped forward for appell. We were counted. Well, then I understood that appell means, when people line up and are being counted. They check whether anybody is missing. And we went back, we were told that at nine o'clock everybody has to be in the barracks because they will call for us. Until nine we were in the room, at nine there came the pushers. They belonged to the lager management who always stayed home; some were from the night shift, because there were pushers for the people who worked nights, and slept in the daytime. But when the pushers heard that a new transport had arrived, they wanted to know what kind of people they were. There were people who lived also near us at home and they might have known some of the people.
  • David Boder: Were they Jewish?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, only Jews. The lager of which I am talking now was an exclusively Jewish lager. Jews only. At nine they came for us. We were told we are going to the barbers and they will shear us and clean us up. Well, we had to line up. When we marched across the lager, here and there one would get beaten, according to custom. In general, whenever a new transport arrived, I found out later, it was customary to beat them, and they were told all kinds of things so that they should be penetrated by terror. We were led into the washroom. When we arrived in the washroom there were sitting two barbers, ready with their machines and there comes in a man with a whip in his hand, beautiful boots, a good jacket, dressed warm and beautiful.
  • David Boder: Was this a German?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, that was a Jew. And so, one of the pushers, one of those who works at night, that is, from the night shift . . . he happened to be a very nice chap . . . He knew . . . so he says: this is a kat. Do you know what a kat is? Kat is an executioner, one who performs the executions. When one is sentenced to death, and has to be executed.
  • David Boder: In what language is it, kat?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: In Polish they would say kat.
  • David Boder: An executioner?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: An executioner. Well, we were told he is a kat. You know when I was a child and I read books, they contained all kinds of legends, so I heard about a kat. And I never could imagine that he could do such things. I never could imagine that I would look at a dead person. Now they tell me that his is a kat. And still I couldn't realize what was meant by the word kat. He the pusher of course, understood it well, but I wouldn't understand what he meant. In reality a lot of people are being executed, being killed, but I just couldn't imagine it . . .
  • David Boder: What was his name?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: His name was Hershel Mukh.
  • David Boder: Mukh?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, Mukh was really not his name. It was a kind of a—
  • David Boder: Alias?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: An alias. That was the first one I met. I stepped back immediately so he shouldn't look at me. I didn't want to look at him. We were bathed, we were led fifty people at a time into a small bathing room. At the most, under normal conditions, say like in the army where they bathe together, there could have entered ten, fifteen people. But we were shoved in fifty at a time. Our things we had to leave outside and we, ready, (without even a towel, we were not permitted to dry ourselves) we had to get out an dress quickly and go to . . . Well, excuse me, I have forgotten. Before we had to pass through the barber. The barber sheared off all our hair and after that we went into the bath. We were led again home, into the blocks. We were told there will be again an appell, a special one for us, that is, we will be called to fetch our food cards. In this lager there was a rule that every one of the inmates was given a monthly food card on which he could get his dinner. He had the dates on it from the first to the thirtieth according to the month, every day the date was punched out. And if one would lose such a card, he would eat no dinner. We got there, if I remember, exactly the 25th of February.
  • David Boder: Were you tattooed?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, people were tattooed only in Auschwitz, in Blechhammer which belonged to Auschwitz. Well, I don't know, in Treblinka. In Buchenwald we neither were tattooed. We stood in line waiting for our cards, but the question was not about cards. They were taking down what one is, where one is from, what kind of trade one has, and so on. It lasted for hours. They called out the names, and finally we got our cards, went to the counter, and fetched our dinner. When I stood in line for my dinner I saw a sick-waiter. There was an infirmary and the infirmary had some male nurses [side-waiters]. There were two kinds of sick-waiters, one kind who were stationed in the lager, and others at the construction plant. This one was a lager sick-waiter who always stayed home, treated the sick on the "revier" [ward]. And this treatment I shall take in quotation marks.
  • David Boder: Why so?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Well, like in Polish, to make it ironical. I saw him carrying a large dish. This dish was about a liter and a half in size and he carried such a dish packed full. Well, here is what I saw: red turnips I saw, potatoes with their peelings and rotten, and something else red. And I thought, I saw there some dogs, I thought he carried it for the dogs. I couldn't imagine that it was food for humans. But when I came to the dispense window, I was immediately convinced that that was cooked for me. You know people in general did not eat well during the war, it was so even when I was home. But still, one isn't accustomed to such things. One cannot get immediately accustomed to such food. If one isn't starved for a long time, and one is just simply hungry, one cannot eat just everything. At that time I couldn't imagine that I would ever get accustomed to such kind of fare. But afterwards I learned that it is dinner to the barrack hall and we see dozens of prisoners, inmates of the camp, trudging towards our hall. We didn't know why. Soon we had a chance to find out for ourselves. They knew (they were already a year in the lager), they knew that all the transports..that when one is worried one cannot take to such food. They knew that we won't eat our rations. And so they waited for it. You may ask how there happened to be people during the day in the lager? What were they doing there? Well, I have already told you that there were sections that worked at night. When they heard that a transport had arrived, it was for them the greatest event. Because then they could at least gorge themselves to a fill. And then there were some sections that worked inside the lager in the barracks and so on. There was always a need for workers in the lager. Such people had the good fortune to come to us and to eat our dinner. They didn't know how to thank us. And that did again something to me. I asked myself, what in reality is man?
  • David Boder: How old were you?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: I was that time fourteen years old. A human being, who before the war sure was a human being whether he was a bit poor or not, for example, the average man, how is he today? He doesn't look that the potatoes are rotten, whether they stink, whether the food is hard or soft. He takes it, he waits for it. They simply fight each other for the food. When two were waiting or watching one person, till he shoved away his plate, both of them would throw themselves at it. Sometimes the plate would break, and nobody had anything. So that's how it was. It was the first day, and I just prayed to get again to work. Only not to have to remain in the lager; I shouldn't have to look at all this. I thought maybe on the job things will be better. Well, we managed to live through the day, we imagined the worst things, we discussed various matters, like when one is new in a lager. In the evening there is appell. And it meant appell for the new transport. What was going on? Well, we will be assigned to the various firms. Tomorrow when we shall have to go to work, we shall know when to step forward, where to go. They arranged it in this way. They had made already a list and they were calling [the roll]. It could not take a second to say yes or here. And as I have told you already, we were a hundred twenty-nine. When we stepped forward and the trusty counted, all at once there is one missing. There were twenty-nine women, and twenty-nine women were exempt as they were assigned to the personnel of the lager; for the kitchen, and for the laundry. As personnel of the lager, they did not go to the shops. And there had to be one hundred of us but one man was missing. I didn't know yet the order of this lager. I have seen that the trusty, that is the leader of the lager who was also a Jew, I told you already about the fellow who was wearing the leather coat when we arrived . . .
  • David Boder: You told me that he was the kat.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, no, that was a different one, I will tell you about him later. I'll tell you yet later something about the kat, too. But I saw that here is a man who was maintaining discipline, and demanded that everything be just so. I saw already that he is getting excited so he said . . . well, he called immediately the pushers, the pushers were two whistles, and when they whistled twice it meant they were calling the pusher, the division heads. I didn't take five minutes, imagine a large square where there were about three thousand people. It didn't take five minutes, everybody was assembled and stood like one man.
  • David Boder: The three thousand men?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Not the men, all the pushers. All these pushers. They were in various parts of the lager, he only whistled, how far can one hear a whistle?
  • David Boder: Were these pushers the same thing as capos?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, the capos were only in concentration camps. In our place there were no capos, only division elders or pusher. The there were also group leaders. There were various categories. A division elder, for instance, was the superior of a group that worked in one firm. Then there were group leaders. These group leaders were subordinated to the pushers. One has to say that the division elder was responsible for all the Jews in his division. On the other hand the group leader could already shift his responsibility to the division elder. He had less responsibility to the division elder. This isn't especially important.
  • David Boder: Well, a man was missing.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, and they all gathered together. Immediately, a command was given that it should not take more then five minutes for that man to appear. It didn't take a second and the pushers all disappeared. And it didn't take five minutes and the man was caught. What happened to that man? Among those twenty-nine women there was his wife among them. His wife and his sister-in-law, that is, the sister of his wife. He went over there for a moment to the barracks, she didn't work that time, it was still the first day, he didn't work yet the first day, so he went over to his wife and they sat there a bit, and he naturally didn't hear that appell was taking place. And so he sat at his wife's and they were talking. He didn't think of anything and never could imagine what was in store for him. So when they came he only asked him in the dirtiest language which I heard then practically for the first time; in Jewish he asked him, and he said . . .
  • David Boder: Who asked him?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: The lager leader.
  • David Boder: And he spoke Jewish?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, all of them spoke Jewish. The inner management of the lager—that was all Jewish.
  • David Boder: And this one questioned him?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, well, it is not place here to repeat what expressions he used, at any rate they were not specially nice ones. He asked him where he was, so he replied at his wife's, that he hadn't heard the call. A man still thought that that may be an excuse, because till then one was still accustomed to find an excuse. From then on we had to get accustomed unfortunately to something else, that is, that one immediately was to expect something, some kind of thrashing. There wasn't much of a debate. A stool was brought, they made him take off his pants. Two men held him, and then another kat, his name was Moshe Nachtinger, that was, of course, what did you call it before—a false name?
  • David Boder: An alias.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: He was called Moshe Phoney. That was the second kat and he had that time the honor to flog him. The first time in my life have I seen such a beating. His pants pulled down, a whip with a steel wire twisted along, it was about half a meter long so that when one would beat with it on the back it would wind itself down around the stomach, where it made large cuts. Can you imagine steel wire and covered with a piece of leather? It was then the first time in my life that I heard an older person, a grown-up person wail and cry, and ;lead in such a manner. That was for me something that I never have experienced and never expected. You can imagine what an impression it made on me, when I saw it for the first time. I . . . I . . . I then imagined different things. I had only one wish. I only wished then to get for five minutes the authority to avenge him. I was taken by such a rebellious mood, something was going on in my heart. What can one do? One has to keep his mouth shut, and see to it that one himself is not getting a beating.
  • David Boder: What happened to that man?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: He was flogged and he was told, that this time he is getting off with little because he was new and ignorant, and he should know for the next time. You can imagine, it made a bad impression on everyone. Everyone was just in fear that his name might be called. Afterwards it started. They began to assign people to various firms. Each one had to work. And they would call such and such a name, he had to reply immediately "yes" or "here" and step over to the other side. We were already accustomed. We knew that in the lager we are marching four abreast, that is, when we had to march we would march four in a row. In a moment it had to be done. One had to listen when his name was being called, run out from the line and get into another formation, and watch that there be only four in a row so that one should not happen to be the fifth, otherwise one would ge such a beating that he couldn't assigned, told the name of the firm, and then each division elderly was told that he should check up whether we knew that name of our firm. And he asked everybody. To many it didn't occur to remember. Nobody had such a great interest in it. So when one would have forgotten he would get "what was coming to him."
  • David Boder: When were they checking up?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Immediately after we were told. Well, and so we were assigned to the various firms. We went again to bed. We went to fetch our ration for tomorrow because in the lager Markstadt the ration was always retched in the evening for the next morning. If you are also interested what kind of rations we got I can tell you that.
  • David Boder: Well, so you got your rations in the evening for the following morning.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes. The ration consisted of the following: 330 grams of bread, a piece of margarine, and once or twice a week 25 grams of sausage. About the dinners I have told you already before.
  • David Boder: Oh, yes. But did they give you the same thing every day?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes. Every day the same thing.
  • David Boder: Rotten potatoes and the like?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Rotten potatoes and the like.
  • David Boder: So you didn't get anything liquid, hot?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Only for dinner [Mittag]. In the morning we would get hot coffee, bitter coffee which one couldn't drink anyway.
  • David Boder: Well.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: With the dinner it was this way. Suppose they brought a shipment of potatoes. They had to be cooked. Well, there was no arrangement that one day the potatoes were cooked with vegetables, and the next day with some different ingredients. He used the work "Eintopf". That was the famous German meal at the time of scarcity, so much propagandized by Goebbels which was supposed to combine all the food available into one pot. It was what they called the one pot meal devised to save labor and fuel. Here they cooked always the same thing. Of course, with three thousand people to feed you cannot be very choosy. Still one cannot talk it into himself, one cannot create for himself the illusion that there was something good about it.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Well, one thing appeared definite. With such a ration one could not live longer than about three months. I mean, if one has been working, then consequences were such, that is, if one lived on the ration and worked for twelve hours on the job. Of course from home, one still had some muscle, [there he] still was fed and had strength. And so, first of all, one would ge thin and weak. The second consequence was that one would begin to swell, that is, first the feet, then the face, then the eyes, forming large bags under the eyes, and the third consequence was that one would go to the revier [sick barracks] and die. Or he would be killed before that at the plant because such a man, of course, cannot work any more. And at the plant they were not interested whether a fellow was sick or has no more strength; he had to produce and that was all. And so there came for us the first day to go to work. If I still remember it was the company of—
  • David Boder: Then you had to remember, isn't that so?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: [As if recollecting] A few times . . .
  • David Boder: Well, let it be. You will recall later.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: It was near Barta, I can't remember anymore the name of the firm. It was the first firm.
  • David Boder: Oh, go on.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: That was a construction company that was building streets, transport facilities, and in other words, it was all just common labor. I was given a shovel for the first time, and I had to work specially with the shovel. Because, of course, one had already a shovel in his hands before, but not in a manner that one had to work all day. It was very windy. In general it was terrible there. You can imagine, a field, a big field, an even plain without any hill in sight. The wind was blowing and we were very badly dressed. It would, so to speak, throw us off our feet. We were working all day up to dinner time [midday]. I still remember the first day when I got those 330 grams of bread.
  • David Boder: How much?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: 330 grams. That is 33 decas.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: I still could split it up. I talked it into myself that as long as I will be in the lager, I will distribute the bread so that I will eat some of it in the morning, some of it at nine o'clock and before dinner time again something. I shall not do like the others, like the other people, who devour everything all at once, and then they get swollen.
  • David Boder: What do you mean, they get swollen?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: [Impatiently] Well, I told you already before.
  • David Boder: Yes, but that wouldn't swell immediately.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: [Still with misgivings] Yes, not immediately. Three months is, of course, not immediately, but I have told you about it already.
  • David Boder: Yes, yes, go on.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: If I don't want to be swollen within three months, then I have to do something about it. That's what I thought. The first day it still could be done, one ate a piece of bread.
  • David Boder: Where could you keep the rest?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Then I still had pockets. I still had my civilian clothes. I only had to cut a piece from the back and from the front and sew on underneath a white rag, that is in the form of a star of David.
  • David Boder: That is what you had to cut out?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, on the back and on the front.
  • David Boder: Tell me again, where was that piece cut out?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: It was like this, every piece of clothing that could be separately worn, for example, a pair of pants, a coat or an overcoat, these had to have the cutouts so that they be recognizable. First of all that there be no possibility or danger that someone would run away.
  • David Boder: So you would cut out a hole.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, a hole in the form of a star of David and a white rag would be put underneath so that it be well recognized from afar. One could recognize that the person was from our lager. How did I get talking about it? Oh well, I put the food again in my pocket and I worked again. And how do you think we have been eating? We had no time to eat, we would look around and see if the master doesn't look or maybe he is at the other end of the section, then one would take a piece of bread in his mouth. So we ate. It would not happen that we specially would sit down to eat. So things happened the first day. It went on up to midday. At noon we had a half an hour "lunch" time, but we didn't have anything to eat. Because the noon meal, the supposedly noon meal, we would get at night when we would return home and so a twelve o'clock we had nothing to eat. Now after the noontime there would come the Polier. Do you know what a polier is?
  • David Boder: No. [The dictionary translation of Polier is foreman, but the word was unfamiliar to me at the time.]
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: That is the main master of a firm.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Well, one shouldn't say a master of the whole firm, but of one project. So he tells us that there have arrived several carloads of slag and they have to be unloaded and we should come immediately. And did I get black that time. The stuff was still hot. It just came out of the foundry. It was loaded immediately on trucks and driven to the highway.
  • David Boder: What month was it?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: That was in January. Oh, no, it was in February, I already told you. I got red eyes because I wasn't accustomed to such a thing. The wind was blowing and everything got into my eyes. I almost couldn't see anymore and finally . . . the hours appeared so long that the day appeared to me a year. And so it was five o'clock. We were lucky. We were working for a firm that only worked from seven to five and we came home again. We came home, it still was the first day, we fetched our dinner and before we passed the threshold of our barracks we saw a crowd of people waiting, and they waited for our dinner, because the first day we still couldn't eat that dinner. As I told you, for seven days we didn't eat it.
  • David Boder: You couldn't get accustomed to it?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No. We couldn't stand yet that food. But soon we got gradually accustomed to the work and to the food as well. And then one would eat a plateful, or two, or three and if we only had it, many more. Because a man in the lager can eat so much that a normal person cannot understand it. I should tell you now of a thing that happened only much later, about a year later, but since I am talking about eating, we can just as well tell it here. It was already in Ka-zet. And here I come to . . .
  • David Boder: Ka-zet means concentration camp?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Concentration camp. I come to the kitchen once and I see a boy sitting over a kettle which measured fifteen liters. Well, the kettle was about three quarters full and he ate. So I asked him, "How do you happen to get so much food?" And so he said, "I brought back from the construction place a puch-cart and so the cook gave me this food."
  • David Boder: Fifteen liters?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Fifteen liters, well it was so big, ten liters, [he demonstrates]. And here I had my dishes, I also brought my dishes, I also brought something and I got my food and here I had bad luck. I slipped, my pot fell out of my hands, and everything was spilled on the floor. As soon as the boy saw this, he abandoned his kettle, and started licking the stuff from the floor. He did it as fast as he could. He devoured it quickly and then returned to his kettle and finished that. Can a man believe it! Is it possible to believe it at all? Even I believe it now that a person could eat ten to fifteen liters of soup.
  • David Boder: Well, tell me, Abe, what is your idea, why have people eaten so much? Is it because ordinarily one wouldn't get enough? Was it because they worked very hard? Why were they so greedy for food?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Both circumstances contributed to it. You said it yourself. First of all, when one is so many hours in the air, in the fresh air, the climate was good, the air was good, so one has an appetite. That's first of all. And second, if one knows that one has sufficient bread in the cupboard, as much as one wants, so one isn't hungry. Why isn't one hungry? One asks himself, isn't the normal person hungry? He also eats. Fundamentally a normal person eats much more than one of those who ate here ten liters of soup at one time. Because ten liters of soup one can eat only when he didn't have anything to eat for a long time.
  • David Boder: [With laughter] Do you really believe that one can eat ten liters of soup?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: What do you mean? [raising his voice] The case I have told you about, I have seen it myself.
  • David Boder: And you estimate that there were ten liters?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: And five and six liters of soup at a time I have eaten myself.
  • David Boder: At one time?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: At one time. And the same goes for three kilos of bread. Three kilos [six pounds] of fresh bread I too have eaten, at one time. I mean if one has bread in the cupboard and one knows that he can at any time go there and cut off a slice and eat, so one doesn't crave it. One just eats it. When one wants to eat, one takes it, and precisely for that reason, that one can go to it whenever one wants to, one doesn't realize how good it is that one can cut himself a slice. But when one doesn't have it, then one notices it. And then one feels a much stronger hunger than a normal person, and second, if one is starved for a long time and one gets the food, one can eat it . . . One has as they say in Yiddish, "a gut without bottom." It just goes in there and one doesn't know where it goes. And when one is for a moment satiated, in five minutes one is hungry again.
  • David Boder: And so, one is capable of eating ten liters of soup?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes. Well, I want to ask you here a question [rather timidly]. You are a professor of psychology?
  • David Boder: Yes . . . Speak louder. [He apparently wanted to avoid the microphone.]
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Are the psychologists really so far advanced that they really know human nature so well, that they really can "imagine" the various human qualities? [Verbatim: Do they really have a picture of his various qualities?] And that they really understand so well the human qualities?
  • David Boder: Absolutely no.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: You are entirely right. I didn't ask you simply because I wanted to know, because I know it already. I just wanted to hear it from you. Because after all that what I have seen, I know that one knows nothing yet.
  • David Boder: Oh, one never should say that one knows nothing. A science covers certain aspects. Some things are known, and some things not. There is yet much more left to be learned than what man knows already. Isn't that so? But if one says that one knows nothing one of course tells again a falsehood.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: [Interrupting] No, no, I don't mean to say that one doesn't know anything at all. That is out of the question.
  • David Boder: [Interrupting] But one knows very little?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: [Interrupting] The psychologists, well, they have said that they have ascertained something. But after this war it became apparent that they were very wrong.
  • David Boder: Oh, no.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: They said that they had found out. But after this war it became apparent that they were greatly mistaken.
  • David Boder: No . . .
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: [Continuing] That they are absolutely incapable to appraise what really can happen. And although this war has revealed such things one still cannot be sure that it may not come to much worse situations.
  • David Boder: Excuse me, Abe, you a very fine young man. Therefore, you should never argue about things you really don't know. The psychologist never claim that they have ascertained everything. The psychologists never said that. A psychologist, a scientific psychologist, unlike writers who call themselves psychologists, always insisted that they know very little. How could a psychologist know what will happen under Hitler when such a situation has never occurred before? Isn't that so? . . .
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Well, we may still have an opportunity to discuss this when I shall talk about the Buchenwald period.
  • David Boder: One moment please . . . [In English] This concludes Spool 88, and in view of the fact that we had some other interviews in between, we are going over to Spool 91 on which Abe continues. August 28th, 1946, eight o'clock in the evening at 6 Rue de Prenie, across the street from the League of Nations. We were several hours together and we continue . . . [the wire come to an end in the middle of a sentence].
  • David Boder: [This is Spool 91, a continuation of Spool 88. Spools 89 and 90 were taken up by interviews with other individuals and with some songs which have been recorded at the dormitory occupied predominantly by "Buchenwald children". By way of remark,one may state that the back windows of this dormitory face the sumptuous buildings of the League of Nations. —D.P.B.] This is Spool 91, an [word] continuation of Kimmelman, a report from Spool 88.
  • David Boder: [In German] So you have worked here for a year and gradually got accustomed to the food.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: It is only a small part about the food that I have told you. Now I want to tell you something about . . .
  • David Boder: You have told me about the boy who was able to eat 10 liters of soup.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Now I want to talk about the general conditions in the lager and how we lived in the lager as well as about the food. Suddenly at five o'clock we were called, "Get up." We had to get up that minute and had to dress very quickly and wash—that means whoever wanted to wash, at the beginning everybody would wash himself because they were still accustomed to that from home. At 5:30 there was the appell, that meant, "step forward" and appear on the appell square. So there was a custom in this lager that people had to appear in three different groups. First the groups that worked far away from the lager. I belonged to one these: we marched away at 6 o'clock. There was [??] an early shift group, that is the ones who had to start working at 6 o'clock and they left at 5. The late group went at 6:30; those who worked near the lager and did not need more than half an hour for their walk. Things [??] would take place in such a manner that we would step forward according to the firms in which we worked. [The foreman would report ??] that he has to have so many people, the leader would appear 15 minutes to 6, he quickly would give two whistles so that the pushers should assemble, calling them according to the firm. For instance he would call a firm of Basow and then the leader would report saying "twenty-two" or that many, distribute the work slips . . .
  • David Boder: What does it mean, "work slips"?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: These were such slips that one had to hand in to the foreman. The foreman had to sign that everybody was at work and the pushers would approach their divisions, and exactly at 6 o'clock the lager commandant with his thick belly would come in very elegantly. The lager leader had to report, tell him, had to make a report—everybody at attention—still standing and with caps off.
  • David Boder: And was he a Jew?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, he was a Jew. He served before in the Polish Army, with the Polish Army, and he did it very efficiently—"Sir, Commander, I respectfully report so and so many Jews."
  • David Boder: Was the lager commandant a Jew?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, the lager commandant was a Christian, a German, the lager leader was a Jew. He would say, "Mr. Commandant, there are so and so many Jews ready for work; so many at the hospital; and so and so many for the early shift; so and so many for the day shift; and total, so and so many." Every day it was the same report and when that was done—it took a few minutes, sometimes a little bit longer if they appeared earlier—until the guards would assemble and the chief of the guard would appear before his division; he had his assignment to lead us under guard to work. When we would come work . . .
  • David Boder: Were the guards SS?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, at that time, they were not yet SS, as I told you it was the Wehrmacht.
  • David Boder: Yes, the Wehrmacht—military people.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, it was the army, such people who came either on leave or those who were somewhat sick or could not fight any more on the front but were good for guard duty and they took over this function. When we came to our plant each one who worked in the firm went to his foreman and had to stand at attention. The foreman would come out and look at us and look at us and then assign each one to his place. There were various plants, there were plants where they looked just for skilled labor. These people . . . of course their work, their situation was much better. Where one works at his own profession, at his own calling, the work is more interesting in comparison with doing just common labor in which one has absolutely no interest. In the broader sense, nobody had any interest to accomplish something for the Germans, but if one is already—if one has to do the work, one feels much better if his work is more interesting. Then, though, the divisions had mostly road labor, road work. If the division was large, more guard masters would come with us and the guards had to stand all day and watch over us. I worked for quite a long time for this firm in transport and road work, road construction, another time I was assigned to another firm, of which I will tell you more. I want to tell you yet how things would occur at work; then again about the lager. We worked until 12 o'clock without any interruption, constantly being coaxed by the foreman and by the guard, listening to their yells; every mistake was immediately taken notice of and we simply were trembling at our shovel. At noon we had a half an hour; those who had such a strong will that they could have saved some bread would eat something at 12 o'clock while the others had to look on, and each one had the desire to tear out the bread from his mouth. With aching eyes they would look at the bread as I know for myself that when I had no bread for lunch, which happened often; for it was very seldom when I had some, but mostly I had none—to look only at those who were eating. Sometimes I would turn away; I couldn't look—look on at the others eating. I was terribly hungry. At 12:30 we returned to work and worked again. During the day there would come various officers to check on the guard and at the same time they would also check up on us; and when they disliked somebody or in general to instill fear they would write down their names and a note would go to the lager and punishment would be meted out by the Jewish executioner; by the so-called hangman; they had to mete out the punishment in the presence of the lager commandant.
  • David Boder: And for what reason would they do it?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Well, it was like this, for example; not like it was at home, we could not live from the ration allotted to us. We had to find something to eat by some means. And so it was in the lager. There were in the lager a number of civilian workers who tried by some means to turn some tricks. If one still had a good shirt from home, one would sell it and run around without a shirt. If one managed to snatch a cigarette he would sell it for bread which was [considered] a great crime. One would get beaten for such a thing. But it didn't work out especially good for there are all kinds of people—it was in comprehensible. The Germans didn't understand it or they didn't want to understand. They would come daily to the lager and for it one would be beaten for it, as I told you already it depended—I mean the quantity of strokes depended on the lager leader, as I told you before.
  • David Boder: Did something of the kind happen to you?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, I will tell you. I worked with a firm [the name does not come through clearly on the wire]; it was a firm that constructed railroad tracks and communications. It was very cold; one group was assigned to work in a ready built barracks when we arrived, they were there already about a year. I was assigned to a ready building where they worked on cannons. I had to repair the tracks, and I had on me a few cigarettes. So a Czech, a civilian, passed by and he asks me whether I got some cigarettes. They knew, already, that we had cigarettes. Sometimes we would get an allotment of cigarettes.
  • David Boder: Wasn't the Czech a prisoner?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, he wasn't a prisoner.
  • David Boder: Did you get cigarettes allotted?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, not always, but sometimes. Since I didn't smoke, I collected them. I looked around whether the guard isn't here and I go with him to the toilet to give him the cigarettes. But the guard has observed me without me noticing it and he saw where I went with that man. He slowly followed us and quietly opened the door. The man wanted to give me bread.
  • David Boder: The Czech?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: The Czech, yes, and I had my cigarettes in my pants, I had them hidden as it was not permitted to carry them on you. The guard comes in and turns towards me and say, "What are you doing here," and I said, "I was just stepping out." He says, "Yes, you are swindling, you are trading," and I couldn't say a word any more, I knew what was in store for me. He took me immediately, led me to a place where he wrote down my name, then he undressed me, asked me if I had any money on me or such things, but he found nothing, and then there went a report to the lager.
  • David Boder: Did he find the cigarettes?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, the cigarettes he found. He took them away and reported to the lager, and when I returned to the lager I was called immediately. The leader knew already about it, and he called us to the "cold food room," that's the place where the [uncooked] "cold food" was handed out; and there they would beat the people. The lager leader came in, a few other boys were waiting—at that time five boys had returned to the lager but without a guard, they belonged to a group which worked in a shop, but had no guard—the foreman was responsible for them. When they were through with their work, the guards with part of the division were already home; so they had no guard.
  • David Boder: Should they have waited, what were the rules?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: The rule was that they should call for a guard or join another group or report. They didn't do it. And there was one who had stolen at the railroad station some turnips . . .
  • David Boder: What do you mean, he stole it?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: He was hungry and glad that he found the turnip, that had rolled away from a carload; there were many turnips on the ground which fell there, and also a report came in on him. When they were beaten . . . I saw such a thing for the first time, I became so terrified that I let down my pants and laid down [before my turn]. I struggled to such an extent that both of them—the two who held me—I threw them to the floor. The stool from under my stomach . . . it slipped out and we all three fell. When I got my allotment, I couldn't get up any more. I had to get up because they continued beating me. They beat me so long until I run out of the "cold food room," that long they have been beating me, both of them.
  • David Boder: What do you mean?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: I had to get up. When one was beaten he would lose all his strength and he himself can't get up; one has to remain lying for a moment; they would take advantage of the situation and continue beating him. If one doesn't have the strength to run away immediately, one could get so many wallops that one just had to get out or one would remain lying there—that's how it was. So they would let go of you after so and so many strokes. After the beating they would let you loose, but you couldn't get up; and you were more beaten and finally one would get up. I had to put on my pants, and I got out and came to my barracks; the people with whom I lived together put on cold compresses; the next morning they could see what I had on my body. They called it a map, there were lines, blue and black ones, and that formed a map. Returning again to the work conditions. After lunch we worked in the firm where I worked until 5 o'clock. At 5 o'clock we had to step forward and about 6 o'clock we were home again. They fetched our dinner. It was still good enough, modern, that we had bathrooms. One could go and bathe.
  • David Boder: Hot or cold water?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, in the winter there was some hot water. There was a special bath master who had to see to it. We bathed and back again into the cold rooms.
  • David Boder: The rooms were not heated?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: The rooms were not heated. There was no coal. When we were done with the dinner, we bathed, and every day there were two other people who would go and get the "cold food," clean up the rooms, and by 10 o'clock it was "lights out" and everyone had to be in his bed. Then it was when the real tragedy would start. After all, whether it was winter or it was cold, all night there had to be a night watch. There were 26 men in one room, so we arranged at every hour another one was holding watch. That amounted to about every third day to be on watch—about every third day one had to take over the watch for one hour. It was only one hour but imagine that in the middle of one's sleep—and we really didn't have too much time for sleep—so one has to get up whether it is cold or not, with nothing to wear, to watch for an hour—such an hour—if you, yourself have not experienced it, it would be to demand too much that you could imagine yourself what it was.
  • David Boder: Tell me, what was it?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: One had to get up—there were also division elders who had night watch and they would go through all the rooms—they would come in—one had to step forward and report. "I report, respectfully, Room such and such"—we had room number 26—I would say, "Room 26 occupied by so and so many Jews."
  • David Boder: You would not say "men," you would say "Jews?"
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, "Jews." He would look around and if he would not want to find anything, he would leave the place.
  • David Boder: He would go out?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Mostly it was so, they were not yet the worse, these supervisors. There were many, there were all kinds of people, some of them would become division elders [?][See page 128] had good workers, so they were not specially selected; most harmful in the lager were those three kats [Polish for executioners], and as I told you already it was Hershel Moch, the second Moishel Foney, the third one was . . .
  • David Boder: Jews?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: All Jews, only Jews. Every night they would go through all the rooms and would look in around anywhere, they looked for some dust and would look under the bed if there wasn't some straw; and we had to arrange things in such a manner that we would not move because otherwise there was immediately a piece of straw under the bed, each piece of straw the room trusty—in each room there was a room trusty—he was just responsible for the room; he didn't get anything [paid]; he was just reponsible; if things were not just so, he would be the first one to be punished. And a little piece of straw; can you imagine a piece of straw, if that was found—the room trusty was so badly beaten he would remain lying on the floor, in the place. Then they would take each one, that is, each one of us 25 and they would get their portion for the straw.
  • David Boder: After the room was cleaned up?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, after the room was cleaned up. But imagine yourself, we had no good brooms, we had to find brooms ourselves; gather weeds in fields and make brooms of them. We had no allotment of brooms. It was impossible; it just doesn't fit together. It was like this. The first days we were trying to do everything possible; crawl under the beds and look for a piece of straw. Then we got accustomed, one says, "Well, let them beat me," but one can't anymore, one doesn't have the strength [to clean up]; can't anymore; "I will get the beating but I am tired from work; I can't anymore." They would come in, two, three of them, and of course they would not look under every bed; they had no time for that; each one had to keep clean under his own bed. They would take a kind of sample and some nights they would not come in, but the fear was every night. I tell you every night until1—2 o'clock I could not sleep until I got accustomed to it, always looking for straw.
  • David Boder: Looking for straw during the night?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, during the night. As I have told you before, if one tuns around a piece of straw falls down. That's how it was. When one would go to bed, he would look below to see whether by lying down I [he] didn't in any way dirty up or that a piece of straw hasn't fallen down. They came in the first night; we were still new; what cleanliness is concerned they didn't find anything special; they didn't find anything, we took care of it; then they took up something else; that one had—some had dirty feet, so they immediately beat up the room trusty that he had to be taken to the Revier [hospital] and everyone of us got twenty-five.
  • David Boder: What do you mean, everyone?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Everyone in the room got twenty-five.
  • David Boder: Why? It wasn't their fault that one had dirty feet?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Was anybody asked if he was guilty? Did one have the right to defend himself? We wouldn't dare to say a word; he would get it right away double. In the beginning we tried—we didn't know it yet, so we tried to defend ourselves, so we would get still more.
  • David Boder: That was at night?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: That was all at night.
  • David Boder: And they would start then beating people?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Right there in the room, they would take a stool and they would beat.
  • David Boder: 26 people? But that takes time!
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, but of course they would not beat in every room that many people.
  • David Boder: But you say that they beat everybody else?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, when they would find something or when they would want to find something. Finally it was this way, they were sometimes tired just from beating. They would get tired only from beating us and when they would get tired, they would themselves go home to sleep.
  • David Boder: Who?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Well, those leaders.
  • David Boder: Was this under the supervision of the Germans or would they do it on their own?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: It was on their own initiative. Yes, the lager commander would demand that it be clean.
  • David Boder: That was the German?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, that was the German; he demanded it from the trusties.
  • David Boder: And when it wasn't clean and the lager commander would find out, who was then punished?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: It never yet happened that anyone from the lager trusties was punished because they managed in such a fashion that it never happened. One can imagine, because when they were beating in another barracks, the outcries and the screams would be heard from there and at the beginning I would never fall asleep without hearing "woo—woo" and far away—the lager was very big—one would hear the outcries—the screams. It does something to a person; I am telling you—I can't describe it to you now,—but that does something to a man and he becomes like paralyzed. It would happen at the start. They wanted to terrorize more the new ones and hit us indiscriminately; one was bleeding; the night was terrible. While at work I would think, how could the work be over so that I could get to the lager. And when I was in the lager. I would pray to get out again of the lager. There was no place for me where I could say, "Well, here I am satisfied." Such a thing didn't exist; not a single hour; the best moment was for me before I had eaten because when I had my ration of bread in my pocket, in my knapsack—we sewed ourselves some sacks—that was the most happy moment for me, I knew I still have something to eat and when I want to eat, I have something to eat. But as soon as it was eaten, I had no hope any more. And so time passed. We would return from work, would look at each other and often we would not recognize each other for we would remember how we looked before.
  • David Boder: Did they shear off your hair?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Everything, everything was shorn off, we did not look any more like human beings. Our clothes which were at the beginning reasonably good, at work, you know, when one wears his clothes at work, you know when one constantly wears the same clothes they get torn, they go to naught, they become rags.
  • David Boder: Was there no tailor to keep your things in repair?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: There was a tailor shop, that is the women worked there, but when one has only one pair of pants and they are torn, in what can one go to work? One could give it to repair only when one wouldn't go to work. For instance, there was a plant that did not work on Sunday, then Saturday night they would give their clothes and Sunday night call for them, 3,000 people! How much could they mend? It was rarely we could get something from the tailor shop. The tailor shop mostly worked for the lager personnel. They would make for themselves nice clothes and in the shoemaker shop . . .
  • David Boder: What personnel, the SS?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, the SS and the other personnel; the block leaders, the division pushers would order themselves nice boots—the Jewish personnel would order themselves boots, all kinds of other things.
  • David Boder: Did the Germans permit that?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, precisely that was the principle and the plan of the Germans; if they feed well and dress well one Jew, this person would always be afraid to lose his job; and on that depended, also, his life. If he loses his position he would go down just like the others and he was ready, rather, to kill a hundred others than to lose his position. The Germans, didn't have to bother with the whole lager population at all; just appoint one Jew and then he would arrange everything in the best order to their satisfaction and very often, much beyond their demands. That was their basic principle in all camps. That was about how I told you in general about the lager life, from the time I went there. Sundays there was a special appell, that is, the rooms had to be specially cleaned and the lager commander would go through Sunday every hall to see whether it was clean. So up to 12 noon we had no place in our rooms, whether it was cold or not we had to remain outside and when the rooms were cleaned, nobody could enter any more. Before 12 o'clock, that is, at 11:30 there was roll call. We stepped forward, were counted, counted again, again we were standing half an hour and we continued standing until the lager commander with the trusties and some other prominent people would go through the rooms. If they disliked something, they would say, such and such room remain standing. These either would get no dinner or they would have to exercise, exercises which do not lead to physical development but are to destroy a person. Punitive exercises were ordered—that was our Sunday! There were a few hours in the afternoon we had to ourselves. When the personnel of the lager themselves wanted to rest, they would leave us in peace. That was the only case—Sunday afternoon. Otherwise we never had peace. I am speaking now about [name of the lager not recognizable—see on previous record].
  • David Boder: Which lager?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: That was the Jewish lager [a word is missing]. I cannot remember any more all the details. If I have to tell it in a few words, I must tell you that I never could imagine such a life. Although I have seen the Jewish militia at home—I have observed all the terrible things that they have done—I never could imagine that one Jew could do such a thing to another Jew. But in time I became convinced . . . I don't know how to say it. I also cannot decide to say that these people were little conscious [had little understanding]. As I told you in the introduction, if I should imagine what I would have done in their place—I have no answer—I am by means sure today to say, "No, I would not have accepted such a position." A man is not responsible for what he is doing, but it is a fact that it had to be so. We were beaten, so many were killed, that one can hardly count [He apparently has become very emotional and his sentences are not very coordinated]. That was a Jewish lager; one was only under Jews and still one Jew was ready to kill the other for a little bread, just so out of irritation, the other fellow was not considered a human being and the [one word is not clear] was also not a human being.
  • David Boder: [After a long pause in which Abe apparently could not find the words to continue] How did you get away from that lager?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Well, in this lager I was about a year, more than that—about 14 months, no 13 months, and it was in March, well, it was from 1942 to '43. However, we got a bit accustomed to the lager, there were 26 men in one hall and the 26 men where I was, we behaved a little bit better, they were more human. There were among us people of higher intelligence of high moral character, who restrained themselves a little bit and maintained a somewhat different attitude than the total population of the camp and they lived somehow better together. It was a great misfortune for me that we had to be separated. At the beginning of March, 1943 . . .
  • David Boder: Have you heard anything all this time from home?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, that I also have forgotten to tell. The first months we received letters from home but the idea is that I had received them illegally. The civilian Poles who worked in the plant together with us would get money, a lot of money, to transmit to us some messages.
  • David Boder: How far were you from home?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Well, from Breslau to Katowice, it is about 100 kilometers. It is not very clear to me, at any rate, it was not specially far and they would always travel home, they would take down the addresses.
  • David Boder: They were Polish civilians?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Polish civilians, and in 1943, I learned a few months earlier that Dabrowa was made Jew—clean and that all of them were sent to Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: Which city was made Jew—clean?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: All Zagrumbia [??], that is, Dabrowa, Bensburg and Sosnowiec.
  • David Boder: All what?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: All Zagrumbia [??].
  • David Boder: Well, go on.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Well, from then, I have not any information about my family up to today.
  • David Boder: Who remained that time at home, your sister and your mother?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: My sister and my mother.
  • David Boder: Go ahead. [There follows a long pause.]
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, Meanwhile, when they were making that district Jew—clean, there arrived a transport of 50 militiamen to Markstadt, our camp. Many people took their revenge. Although many of them [the prisoners] lived under bad conditions and themselves were oppressed, they still did that what they wanted, that is, they would beat up the [former] militia people because they knew well what they have done to their families at home.
  • David Boder: If one prisoner would beat another prisoner, was he punished for it?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: It depends, it all depended on the mood of the block trusty.
  • David Boder: The people now and then would fight?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, and they were glad if people were fighting and then they would come and kill both of them. A human being was of no importance. And in March, 1943, when rumors came that all civilian lagers, ours was still called a civilian lager because we would not wear the prisoner uniforms, wearing only the star of David; word came that all those who were under the Wehrmacht—that has to be canceled and they have to be subordinated to the SS, and so the SS took over all the lagers, and of that we were still more afraid than of the Jewish camps. It happened then, that during the time while we were at the other lager, we have built a new lager, not knowing for whom the lager was built and what kind of lager it will be, we became convinced that we, ourselves, have built that lager for ourselves. It was the concentration camp of Funf Teichen [Five Lakes].
  • David Boder: Where?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Five lakes.
  • David Boder: What was the name of the place in Polish?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Well, in Polish—that was a German city—it was 5 kilometers away from Markstadt. One day, I don't know exactly any more the date, I wouldn't know, but it was in March, there came several Storm leaders of the SS, and they started a selection. That is, there came a doctor and if one wasn't very well, he was sent immediately to Auschwitz and the rest they sent over to the concentration camp Five Lakes, and so we were then 1,800 people who were sent over to the concentration camp. Well, there started a new life. And what happened from that day . . .
  • David Boder: [Interrupting] Did you continue working in the same factory?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, the plant remained the same, I continued working in the same plant because I told you it was only 5 kilometers away; that is why we built the lager nearby, so that we continued working in the same plant because they needed us; we produced a great deal. But when they made the selection, they made the following arrangement. Remember, it was in March, it snowed, it was terribly cold. There were two blocks. If I remember well, it was block 9 and block 10. In block 9 we undressed and totally naked, without shoes, without . . . just like when one is born, we had to run to the other block. There was a doctor and he just looked; he really didn't examine us, he didn't care if we had any internal illnesses, and it wasn't their intention to cure us. So he would just see how one looks and when he—when disliked somebody he was right away crossed off from the list and was sent to Auschwitz. I did not look especially good but I was lucky—I say "lucky" because now I have thought it all over and I see that it has led, that it was to the good as I hardly believe that the other ones have survived.
  • David Boder: Permit me one question, you told me before that the whole organization of the camp, of the first camp—what did you call it?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Markstadt.
  • David Boder: Markstadt. That organization was such that nobody could live there longer than three months. How long were you there?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: I was there a year.
  • David Boder: How do you explain that?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: I remarked it before, that when one would live only from his ration, he could not stand it longer than three months.
  • David Boder: So what did you live from?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Well, I lived in this way, I worked with civilians, I sold my shirt . . . sometimes I would beg so I would get a little piece of bread, a bit of soup; I simply begged. In those times one wasn't an important gentleman, and some people had pity—then when I would get cigarettes, I would trade them, and so it would go.
  • David Boder: The cigarettes you would get from the lager?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: The cigarettes that we had, these we only would get from the lager.
  • David Boder: And when could you smoke them?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: At any rate, not during working time.
  • David Boder: So how would you sell them to the civilians? Is it possible that the civilians couldn't get even such cigarettes?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, in Germany it was very difficult with cigarettes; even the Germans bought cigarettes [from us]. Then there were many who were—who would have applied themselves very much and the master would bring them some food; he would not question whether it was a Jew—when people live crowded together—when one is a good worker, one earned or pleases somebody, one gets something. There were many such cases. And those who had no "luck" and had to live only from their rations, they just didn't survive, because it was just impossible.
  • David Boder: And how many of your 26 did survive?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: I don't know any more. Those times I didn't think any more of the 26—one thinks only of himself—and so we got to the camp, we marched in, everybody had to take a stool from the old lager; they didn't have any stools—it was a new lager; when we marched in there, there stood the troop leader who said, "Here are Jews, ain't that so?" He said it with some irony.
  • David Boder: The SS man?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes. "You are still marching today but I can guarantee you that in two weeks you won't be marching any more." These are the words he told us. One could recognize right from his face who he was. He wasn't very long there, he was only one day, and then he was transferred to another lager. To Gross-Rosen, there he got another job. The lager Five Lakes belonged to the command of Gross-Rosen, and then there cam another "report" leader, but the "report" leader did not play such a great role as the lager leader.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes Spool 91. Geneva, Switzerland, August the 28th, 1946. That was Abraham Kimmelmann’s report. I think we will have to conclude tonight. I am leaving tomorrow for Milan and it is already 9 o'clock.
  • David Boder: Spool 92, Geneva, August the 28th, 1946, 9 o’clock in the evening. At the Rue de Prenie. Kimmelmann . . . Abraham Kimmelmann reporting.
  • David Boder: [In German] Well, you told me how you arrived at a new lager.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, and we were talking about the block leader. Now things happened that way. When we arrived in this lager there were already a few Russian prisoners. There we were regular prisoners in prisoners clothes, those striped clothes.
  • David Boder: What was the name of that lager?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Funf Teichen, and there it was thus. 600 Jews arrived a few months later from Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: From Auschwitz?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, from Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: 600 Jews?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: They came to work here into the buildings which were already finished which we have built before. They installed immediately machinery and they were manufacturing cannons. Since much prisoners were considered dangerous they were put in shops where they appeared safer. That is, the SS were more sure that they could not escape because they were indoors, in closed shops.
  • David Boder: Were these Jewish prisoners?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, these 600 of whom I am talking about were Jews. But otherwise the capos, and the whole management of the lager were Poles and Germans.
  • David Boder: Also prisoners?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Also prisoners. But these were "professional" criminals, or such criminals who have spent ten or twelve years in prisons yet still before the war, and the Germans took them and now they have advanced themselves, and they have become block leaders, so what can one expect from such people. People who were bandits still before the war and have been murdering before. And when we arrived and they heard that we were Jews, that a Jewish transport has arrived, so they had the best opportunity to show their morals and to deal with us just how they pleased, because they were given complete authority. And I was assigned to block 17. Here we had a Pole from the Ukraine. He was just a real bandit. Just a real criminal. And with dirty language, the only one he knew with his intelligence. And that wasn't all that he was hollering. But he started right away to beat us and it was just terrible. I wasn't beaten that time, but the others were beaten, and I was the same candidate, I could have been struck down just as well as the others . . . We brought our stools.
  • David Boder: What kind of stools were they? I thought you were sitting just on your beds.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No. Oh, we were also sitting on our beds, I will tell you later how that came about that we were sitting on our beds. So we brought the stools from the Jewish lager. In the Jewish lager we had tables, we had beds, and we had chairs. So these stools we brought with us. [Apparently chairs and stools are used here interchangeably.] And so we [they??] said that we had to clean them. He gave us some paper. Very small pieces. With this small piece we had to clean up the whole stool, so that it should look exactly like new lumber. But [while] we were sitting there together cleaning he grabbed a chair from one and threw it and immediately he opened two heads. Blood was streaming. One could not go to the dispensary. One could not go out. It was the first night. One could not do a thing so what did one do? He took off his coat, wrapped it around his head until the blood was dried and went to sleep. But the first night he already killed three Jews. And the next morning . . .
  • David Boder: You mean really killed?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Really killed. They were taken right away to the crematories to Gross-Rosen. And about 50 had to be taken to the sick quarters.
  • David Boder: If afterwards at the appell three people were missing didn't the SS inquire where they were?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, but to the contrary, they were glad that the block leader does such things. Because according to their opinion that was the real duty of the block leader.
  • David Boder: Did the block leaders in the other lager kill somebody?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: You mean in the Jewish lager?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Well, that also happened.
  • David Boder: That the block leader killed somebody
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No. In that lager there were no block leaders.
  • David Boder: What were they, pushers?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Pushers, yes.
  • David Boder: And it happened that these pushers killed somebody?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Not the pushers. They didn't go so far but those three.
  • David Boder: Oh, those three. Three executioners.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes. They have killed many.
  • David Boder: Were they ordered to kill people? Or did they simply beat them until they died?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Sometimes they had orders and sometimes they just wanted it themselves. They had the say over our life. And that did not happen only in our block. As I heard later. But everywhere around. In our block.it was so. He was such a terrible man, and he did such bad things. When we were all exhausted and there was so much blood on the floor, so he ordered to wipe off the blood, to clean up the floor, and to line up in rows inside the room and so we had to stand all night. He chose an assistant by name . . . he was a deputy block leader and they slept in shifts. One two hours, the other two hours, and they stood guard over us so that nobody should sit down. And when he would discover that somebody sat down, such one isn't seeing any m ore the sunrise. Obviously one didn't sit down. We stood all night and just shortly about a half an hour before the appell, that it was before 5 o'clock he ordered us quickly to lie down on our beds and we barely had time to lie down when the call came for appell. We went out for appell. They took away our overcoats. It was cold. And all our coats, our civilian coats were still reasonably thick. We had them yet from home. All that was taken away. Some were running around just in bars shirts and so we got out to the appell. About these things there is nothing to tell. Everybody has experienced cold and everybody can imagine it, what it is being cold. And so we were standing there for an hour, sometimes two. In general, in the beginning before we were assigned to work, we stood much longer. They ordered us then to the blocks. When we came to the blocks. we got breakfast. Well, the breakfast was better than in the Jewish lager. Because here we got hot soup, gritz soup in the morning, and that we would not get in the Jewish lager. After the soup we had to clean up the block, that is, make the beds. The beds had to be so level, like a table, just like this desk. So level had they to be. And when something was just not so the person was given some experience! When it was reported that the beds are ready he would come in and when he couldn't find anything [wrong] he ordered all from the sleeping room . . . You see the block was divided into three parts, the eating room and from both sides sleeping rooms. At the start each one of us had a bed to himself. Each one slept in his own bed, a blanket; in spite of the fact that it was winter it was very cold and the beds had to be in the best order. And when he wouldn't find any thing, each one had his bed in good order, he would chase us out all from the sleeping room, then would do something to a bed, then he would call us back, "Look what kind of beds you make." Although we knew that he did it. One couldn't say a thing. And from that all suffered. They were beating us so and they were not beating us just because they wanted to. And I wonder why did he have to play such dirt. He could just simply go at somebody and beat him. Nobody could defend himself, and when, thank God, we were done with the beds, we had to start to scrape the lockers. [That previous sentence about the beating isn't exactly clear but that is how it is on the record. Abe was at times a bit emotional and what I noticed happened is the negatives or no's would disappear from the sentence or sometimes unnecessary negatives would be put in.] We had to stand there all day. A lager would be all clean, we had to stand.
  • David Boder: What did they clean it with?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: With sandpaper or with a rag. And then he said thus,—we had brought with us various eating utensils from the Jewish lager, so he threw it all out on the garbage heap and said thus—"When you go to work you have to organize dishes, you must organize, paint the block. You have to organize everything." But then I didn't know yet what it means organize. Well, it simply meant that we had to steal it. The block leader demanded from us that we should steal at the construction works, and when we were caught at the construction works, then they would come to the block leader and he would beat us for it. So you can imagine in what situation we were. And so it was at the beginning. We were beaten in the blocks for that what we would not bring, and we were beaten for bringing things. Whatever one did he was beaten for it. And I want to tell an episode which made a great impression on me, and in particular a good impression. There were in our block a father and a son. The father was already fifty years old and I don't know how he got to Funf Teichen. He was already a bit swollen. [The expression swelling or swollen was a general term for conditions that would arouse the suspicion of the camp authorities that a person was hopelessly sick. As a rule people with swollen feet or swollen joints were assigned immediately for destruction.] And he had a son who was very strong. While in the Jewish lager he worked in a good plant and he knew how to take care of himself. Otherwise he worked around the Czech barracks and at the beginning, the Czechs had a lot to eat so they would throw away some moldy bread on the garbage heap and from that a person could nourish himself well. (*This is not an exaggeration). [The access to garbage heaps near kitchens or military barracks of the SS was considered a very lucky break and saved many a person from a death from starvation.] One was lucky when one could find such things. So he was sufficiently strong. And the father because he was old and couldn't move so fast would always fall the first victim. He was beaten so badly that he really couldn't take it any more. And on that day that the father got the first beating and the son couldn't stand it any more. Somehow he got up courage, and he stepped forward when he approached the father to strike him again. He said, "Mr. Block Leader, why do you beat my father?" And as soon as he heard it he raised his club but he didn't strike him yet, and he said, "What, you dare to ask me such a question? You know that I have the say over the life of the father, and your life, and over the life of the life of these 150 cursed Jews; and that I can do what I please. You dare to tell me something?" So he said, " Mr. Block Leader, you may beat me as much as you like, I won't say a thing and I won't cry, but let my father alone." And I don't know how it made an impression on him, but he did not touch the father any more. On the contrary he gave him more soup and he gave the son an assignment inside the block and he could always scrub the floors and he would get more to eat. Of course, one can't say that if everyone would have done that, he would get away with it, because many certainly acted in a similar manner and were killed for it. Such things were not tolerated in the lager. Because there wasn't so much decency, but this one got away with it and it made on me a very good impression. Of the block, of the 170 men where I was, became less and less every day, many went to sick quarters, many did not return, many died, and then there again started the . . .
  • David Boder: What did they do with the dead?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: With the dead it was like this. There was no crematory in this lager. But every Wednesday and Saturday there would come a truck and the dead were sent to Gross-Rosen and there they were cremated.
  • David Boder: And where were the dead lying until Wednesday or Saturday?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: That was the dead room. A special room for the dead.
  • David Boder: And so . . .
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: And so the beating wasn't all. They wouldn't let us sleep. Every evening when we would return he would detain us in the eating hall, one couldn't go out to the toilet, we could go only in groups and only when one would take the responsibility for it, and every evening we were up until one, two o'clock at night, and at five o'clock we had to get up.
  • David Boder: And where was the toilet?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: The toilet was far away from the block. There was a special block building for the toilet. The bathrooms and the toilets were together.
  • David Boder: Did people from the various blocks come to the same toilet?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, the block that was near to the toilet was of course fortunate but we were very far away. We were located near the fence.
  • David Boder: And so . . .
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: And so a human being, no matter how much you force him but still there is always a limit. When they were beating us, and beating us so much, and with little food, one just doesn't have the strength to work. And when we would come to work we simply would fall asleep on the job. When one doesn't sleep one has to sleep. The foreman had understanding. At first they were beating us, saying you don't accomplish anything. People simply slept. They made a report to the construction authorities.
  • David Boder: Where did one sleep?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: On the job. One would hold a shovel in his hands and would fall asleep over it. So they made a report to the construction authorities that they cannot comprehend because when we were in the Jewish lager we accomplished more, we produced well, now we are unable to work. If the SS want to annihilate us, so let them not send the Jews to the construction plant. Because we cannot use that kind of workers.
  • David Boder: That was done by the construction authorities?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, the construction authorities put up that demand. They interceded with the lager commander and said, "Either you keep the lager and do with them what you want to, but when you intend to send them to the plants you have to see that they would produce at least a minimal amount." So an order was issued by the lager commander that at 9:00 everybody must be in bed and no more beating. Oh, when we returned and heard the news we were all gladdened. We said Messiah had come.
  • David Boder: How did you learn about it? Did they inform you?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: One just sensed it. Moreover there were in the lager not only block leaders but there was kitchen personnel and they managed to hear about it because they were all day in the lager and they told us about it, and so from the Auschwitz Jews were a few among the kitchen personnel and they told us about it. From the 600 Jews that have arrived, there remained less than 100. At the time we arrived, they lasted only about three months.
  • David Boder: From the Auschwitz Jews?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, for the Auschwitz. They made immediately acquaintance [one word is not clear] and they got more to eat. They managed to become included in the personnel and so they survived.
  • David Boder: The people who worked in the kitchen, they ate well?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Very well. In general the whole lager personnel. As I told you before, that was the policy of the Germans. They know that they had to satisfy somebody, otherwise nobody would be interested in oppressing the other, I mean to especially oppress.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: When we heard about it, we were over-happy on the way home, nobody was beaten, but he said, thus, "Yes, I can't beat anymore—that he admitted himself—I can't beat anymore, but I will make louse appells, that is, the one who has lice will not go to sleep until he has no more lice." Well, he had them by the thousands. You can't imagine.
  • David Boder: You mean to say you had lice by the thousand?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: By the thousand. And until one gets them all off that would have taken an eternity.
  • David Boder: How would you get them off?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Well, we just had to squeeze them dead. Simply with our fingers. And that he made us do. And there wasn't of course anybody who had no lice. So in spite that we had to go to bed at nine, he made us do it and so we were again up until two o'clock at night and then he took pity and let us go to sleep. Only at two o'clock. And again we went to work next morning and we slept again and we reported it so there came an order that he shouldn't do that either and we should be able to go to sleep at nine o'clock. This lasted for a week. We had more peace in the block, and the block leaders just couldn't stand for it. They had to beat us. That was their urge like a person has to eat, so they made a report to the chancellery that we are not conforming to the requirements of the lager.
  • David Boder: What kind of a bureau was that?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: The clerical bureau, that's what it was called, the clerical bureau. There would go all the reports. And they complained that we don't keep any more order, that we let dirt lay around and so on; and on the other hand it is demanded from them that there be order in the blocks, so they arranged it that beating was again permitted, but not killing. Only dry blows that there be no marks afterwards. Well, the beating was permitted again, so he prepared right away at the door two clubs, so when we arrived the first two he immediately stretched over a chair and beat them. And so in three months we didn't see anything else but beatings, killings, again killings, nothing to eat, and hard work. The morning appells were something terrible. We stepped forward daily for appell. For the block trusties we stepped forward by blocks. And after roll call we stepped forward in working platoons. That is, those who worked in the same plant stepped forward together. We marched outward in division of 100, for every hundred men there was one responsible that they should march straight, and that they behaved decently on the street. So they arranged us in three files. We were at that time 1800 men so we were 600 in each file. If they would have done it in a proper fashion, if order would have really been their aim, we would have marched from the block according to assignment; we were there in groups of 600 men. But they simply ordered "working divisions forward" and each one started running and stepped in wherever he happened to do so, because everybody wanted to get in the first row. If a large division walks, of 800 men, and they don't march in military formation, in orderly steps so it results, if one marches a little bit slower those behind are being retarded. If those in front walk a little bit faster then it comes out that rows and rows fall behind; they have to start running, and so we were already fatigued entirely before we arrived at the plant, so it was best to walk into the shops with the first hundred. Everyone pushed forward to get into the shops first. There was no order that that is what they wanted because if there was no order they had a job to do, they could beat us. So everyday there were found dead ones, they would not arrive to work because they were simply killed. It was going on so, the first three months, that during the first three months they have taken from us 800 men to the crematory
  • David Boder: And that was not an annihilation camp?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: They called it a labor camp. It was an annihilation camp, but not officially, the name designated something different.
  • David Boder: And so . . .
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: And so we got accustomed to it again. When people live together, and for some time we have worked at different construction jobs, so we made acquaintance with the foremen and started trading again. In this lager it was better in that respect that we were getting more cigarettes. And that was in such a matter, good workers would get more[??]. Each one according to his work and it also depended upon the foreman from whom we would get some premium coupons, worth a mark or two and for these there was a canteen and he could buy for them cigarettes. Well, these cigarettes one could peddle forward, and it went so far that some did real business with the foreman and they would get premium coupons worth several hundred marks and for them they could get a lot of cigarettes, and they would give the cigarettes to the foreman and the foreman would give them chocolate in exchange, or alcohol and that they would bring to the lager and give it to the block leaders, and so they would make friends with them.
  • David Boder: The foreman was not a prisoner?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, the foreman was not a prisoner. He was just a civilian. And so they would get together with the block leaders and they started to get together and live together with the Jews. The Jews were useful to them, they gave them good things, and so a time came that nearly a half of the block trusties were Jews and in the kitchen and the majority were Jews and the office nearly the whole personnel were Jews. The Jews almost took over the lager, and it became for the whole lager much easier. We weren't threatened any more so badly. We weren't any more under constant danger. Oh yes, they would beat people because the Jewish block trusties would also beat people. But one was beaten not specially as a Jew. Do you understand? We were beaten and one would see that in some way one submits to the discipline although it was impossible, but at least a certain amount of beatings were omitted. One could manage to avoid them. And so I was there until 1944. In 1944, when at that time I also started some trading, I also got bonus coupons because I worked well, I told you about it before, and the foreman started to like me a bit, sometimes they would give me a bit of bread, and they started to give me premium coupons.
  • David Boder: At what were you working at that time?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: At that time I worked in the Hellgolder. That was a Vienese company. They made roofing material. We would lay out a bit of cold and warmsheets together and from such material we made roofs. This was very dangerous work. These were like asbestos[??] sheets. The sheets were a mixture of wood shavings and some poison. We could not step on them when they were freshly laid. If one would step on them one would fall down.
  • David Boder: Did you actually build the roof?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: We built the roofs.
  • David Boder: For what buildings?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: For the Krupp plants. That was the only firm.
  • David Boder: And you worked on the roof?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Worked on the roof. And we had many cases of falls. Still many fell from the roof were dead on the spot. And it was already known that when somebody would be brought back during the day to the lager, I am still talking about the Jew lager, one knew that it was from the firm Hellgolder. Well, I got accustomed to the work. I can say I had luck. I got accustomed to run over the roofs. We were not permitted to run on the sheets but we had to run on the planks, that is, on the wooden planks that were laid. They were about 30 centimeters thick and on these we could step. I got accustomed to it and for two years I worked for the same firm. I was very much liked there and at the end I got a lot of premium coupons, I would buy for them cigarettes, in the canteen, and sometimes I would buy for it bread and sell the bread again in the lager for more, and so I would earn something. And so I managed to get a hold of some marks because in this lager money had value, because many civilians worked in the plant, and they could make use of the money. That's how we could say that business became big. We and people were trading. And finally it came to that I have earned 100 marks, And these 100 marks I gave to an acquaintance who worked in the kitchen, that he should intervene with the chief of the kitchen so that he should take me in as kitchen help. That meant that evenings when I would come home from work I would go there to work. [Here is a break. As far as I remember the interview, it meant that by getting work in the kitchen after a full day's work in the plant one could get more liberal quantities of food and also eat the leftovers.] And the enemy was very near us and we had to evacuate. That was in January, 1945. It would be of no value to tell about the individual cases where one was beaten again. I have given you already some inside how things were going on at this lager. To sum up at the end it was reasonably good for us. We got accustomed to minor things, and one could manage somehow. We learned to help ourselves in some manner. January there came the order to evacuate and this is the beginning of a new period. We were given for the journey 500 gms. of bread, a piece of sausage, each one took two blankets, and so we marched on. Whether one had shoes or not, nobody bothered about it. In the deepest snow we ran forward. We left on a Sunday afternoon at three o'clock under SS guard, and we ran until two o'clock at night without sleep, but then the SS got tired so they drove us into a barn. A barn where hardly 500 men could crowd in, 500 men at the maximum. We were shoved in 2,500 people. We were altogether in a transport, 5000 people, so they put at our disposal two such barns. Well, you can imagine when we got up in the morning the dead were stapled like railroad ties. So they were stapled up and abandoned. And so we marched 5 miles and we didn't get anything more to eat, than that which was given to us for the journey, the 500 gms. of bread.
  • David Boder: That was what you got before the march?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Before the march. Well, it wasn't a trip, an outing, and outing.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: And so we marched. Many fell on the way and the one who couldn't keep up any more would step aside waiting for death.
  • David Boder: How would he wait for death?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: That was something that one is not able to tell. A man full of his senses in whom everything is still functioning, he is feeble and can'' run any more, he stands by himself under a tree, his eyes shining like, like reflectors. And he waits for the moment when the whole formation will have passed by till the hindmost guards will arrive with the block leader, also an SS man, who will shoot him. Can you imagine what this is? A man with his full mental abilities, who knows what is going on and he waits for death. And so every 3, 10 meters one saw somebody standing under a tree, or sitting down and such a man would be shot and thrown into the ditch. 12,000 men have left Markstadt and our destination was Gross-Rosen. Well we arrived at Gross-Rosen no more than 4,200. 800 died on the road or were shot. [The 12,000 mentioned before is probably a slip of the tongue.] In Gross-Rosen [here he interrupts himself] every night we slept in a barn for a few hours, and every night.
  • David Boder: [Interrupting] Gross-Rosen is near Auschwitz?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, Gross-Rosen is in the vicinity of Breslau, about 3 kilometers from Breslau.
  • David Boder: Oh yes, Birkenau is near Auschwitz.
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes. In the barn it was terrible. People would kill each other so that one could sleep on top of him. If one had enough strength he killed another one so that he could sleep on top of him, so that he had more room. But because there wasn't even enough room to stand, you can imagine if a place only holds 500 people and they stuff it full with 2500 people, five times as many. Finally we [he interrupts himself] I went through all that I don't myself know how. When you should ask me such a question I would not be able to reply because until this day I don't know how I survived, that is hard to conceive how people were saved. I arrived at Gross-Rosen, that is all of us, we came to Gross-Rosen, so we were taken to that so cold new lager. That was a camp where they were building new barracks, that is, they were not yet ready and it was winter. So we were shoved into the cellars where there were no doors.
  • David Boder: Did the barracks have cellars?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Yes, they had cellars.
  • David Boder: What for?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Also for housing. They made use of the space and above there was no glass in the windows, the doors were open and so we slept. But it was warm because we were so crowded together that only those who slept at the window or at the door didn't feel it, but the rest were much too much in the heat. And some people never got up any more on account of the terrible heat. But it was this way, there were no beds, no plank-beds, just a plain floor, but on a floor of about 25 meters length and 10 meters width, packed in 2000 men. So can you imagine how it was? And so we passed the first night. It was still disorder. One didn't know anything about conditions, one didn't know to which block one belongs. They haven't taken our names well. By that time we had no more names, we had just numbers and in the KaZet [the word KaZet stands for concentration camp] we were given numbers. My number was 247093. There we slept over the first night. We were not given any nourishment and in the morning we were told we have to step forward for appell. It was 5 o'clock in the morning. Pitch dark, and we stood for appell until 12 o'clock noon, in the winter.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Just simply because it pleased them that way. Then appeared the block trusties, made the appell and distributed us in the blocks.
  • David Boder: Did they keep any notes when somebody died on the way?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: Nothing was written down.
  • David Boder: So when they were making an appell they had to see who was missing . . . [the conversation becomes confused]
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, that was the reason they made an appell, just to see how many were left alive, so that nobody should now escape. They didn't have to bother about the dead. The dead wouldn't rise to life again, but to the ones alive it may occur he may have the opportunity to escape, and that is what they wanted to control. And that is why they made an appell, and distributed us over the blocks, and the things that were going on in Gross-Rosen!
  • David Boder: Were there women also with you, or were there only men?
  • Abraham Kimmelmann: No, we were only men. Afterwards women arrived at Gross-Rosen also. They lived in separate barracks and I have not seen them. Under normal conditions the lager could not house even 5000 men. And here were 25,000 people, because from everywhere, from the small lagers, everybody was evacuated to Gross-Rosen. What was going onthere is not to describe. Because at the end, in 1945, we were not beaten any more so badly in the lager, but here they didn't know anybody, and the block leaders were doing whatever they pleased. They would take out the best from the food and we wouldn't get anything. In general, in Gross-Rosen we hardly got anything to eat. We would get 200 gms. of bread, and a half a liter of turnip soup that one couldn't take in his mouth. That we would get a 2 o'clock at night when we were already sleeping. Because the kitchen couldn't keep up, they worked day and night. Do you understand?
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes Spool 92, and we have to conclude the interview, we have no more reserve of spools. This is Kimmelmann’s report, which stops at Gross-Rosen. He will continue for me when I return. Geneva, August the 28th, 1946 at the home for boys maintained by the Swiss Government. [unintelligible] [I did return to Switzerland but here I received a telegram of my clearance to Germany and so the interview for which I specially returned could not take place. It is a pity because judging from that which we got from him so far, the description of the liberation would have been most instructive. —D.P.B.]
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Dagmar Platt
  • English Translation : David P. Boder