David P. Boder Interviews David Lea; August 12, 1946; Paris, France

  • David Boder: [In English] Paris, eh, August 12, 1946 at the headquarters of the American Joint Distribution Committee. The interviewee is David Lea with tattoo number 120930 of Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: [In German] Eh . . . Well, Mr. Lea, will you tell me, where you were born?
  • David Lea: In Saloniki.
  • David Boder: You were born in . . . ?
  • David Lea: In Saloniki.Salonika (Thessasloniki) was home to Greece's largest Jewish community, a number of whom were descendants of Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 who had sought refuge in the city, then part of the Ottoman empire. Salonika was the most significant Sephardic Jewish religious and cultural center in the world. For four hundred and fifty years, the Jewish community, whether as a majority or as a plurality, was a dominant factor in the city.1
  • David Boder: In Saloniki.
  • David Lea: Greece. [Interrupting]
  • David Boder: In Greece. And, eh, what nationality do you have? I mean, eh, of which country do you hold nationality? Eh, I mean, eh, are you Greek or Spanish, or what are you?Boder knew about the Sephardic heritage of the Jews of Salonika. Along with Greek, they spoke Ladino, a language which contains elements of Hebrew, Spanish and Arabic.2
  • David Lea: Greek.
  • David Boder: You are Greek, all right. And you were born in Saloniki?
  • David Lea: That's right.
  • David Boder: Well, tell me, what has happened there when the war broke out?
  • David Lea: I have done soldier in military, after, war prison in Krebv [unclear?]. After . . .
  • David Boder: You were a soldier for whom? For the Greek? [Interrupting]
  • David Lea: That's right.
  • David Boder: For the Greek?
  • David Lea: To Albanien [uses the German pronunciation]
  • David Boder: To Albania? [uses the English pronunciation]Italy invaded and conquered Albania in April, 1939 as part of Italian dictator Mussolini's dream to build an Italian Mediterranean empire in imitation of his Roman predecessors. 3
  • David Lea: Albania [now also using the English pronunciation]
  • David Boder: And with whom were you fi- . . . , against whom did you fight?
  • David Lea: Against Italia.
  • David Boder: You were fighting against . . . . ?
  • David Lea: I was fighting [simultaneously with Interviewer] . . . war against Italia.
  • David Boder: Against Italia.On October 28, 1940, Italian forces crossed the Albanian border and invaded Greece. Mr. Lea was one of the some 13,000 Greek Jews who fought against the invaders. The Greeks acquitted themselves well against the Italian aggressors and forced them back into Albania.4
  • David Lea: Yes.
  • David Boder: Well and then . . .
  • David Lea: Well [Interrupting] and after Germans come on, eh, April 6, Mai 6, April, come to Crete. After, 42 days in prison with the Germans to Crete.Following the German invasion of Greece on April 6, 1941, the Greek army and monarch were evacuated to the Greek island of Crete with the help of the British navy. The Germans launched a massive airborne invasion of Crete on May 20,1941, and the island soon fell to the Germans.5
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: Then after, three months war prison.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: Come home. After six months . . .
  • David Boder: Where did you get home to? [Interrupting]
  • David Lea: In Saloniki . . . [Noise in background] to Saloniki.
  • David Boder: To your house in Saloniki?
  • David Lea: Yes, that's right, in Saloniki. Then deport Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: How long did you live in Saloniki?
  • David Lea: Lived in Saloniki?
  • David Boder: After you came home. Yes, before you were deported.
  • David Lea: Five months.That is five months after he was released from prison as a prisoner of war to the time of his deportation from Salonika.6
  • David Boder: You lived in Saloniki for five months.
  • David Lea: Five months. That's right.
  • David Boder: Who was in Saloniki, the Italians or the Germans?
  • David Lea: The Germans, also the Italians.Salonika was taken by German troops on April 9, 1941 and from then on was in the German zone of occupation. Italian forces controlled Athens and the Peloponnesus.7
  • David Boder: The Italians and also the Germans?
  • David Lea: The German, but together with the Italian.
  • David Boder: Well then, why did they deport you?
  • David Lea: Because I Jewish.
  • David Boder: Aha, how did they make known, that the Jewish should come, or what?
  • David Lea: The Germans have made Ghetto.Towards the close of January, 1943, the Germans created three separate neighborhood ghettos in Salonika in which Jews were incarcerated prior to their deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau.8
  • David Boder: Oh.
  • David Lea: Have said in Jewish, ever Jewish of Greece will travel to Polonia, to Cracow. Work. Will have work good, food good. And are you Greek, cannot imagine, when, I, eh, speak German is correct. Will travel together with family.These false assurances offered to Salonikan Jews were typical of German deceptions. This, along with family solidarity and the inability to imagine the horrific fate that awaited them, inhibited resistance9
  • David Boder: You traveled with your family?
  • David Lea: That's right.
  • David Boder: They took the whole family?
  • David Lea: Took whole family. [Simultaneously] My . . .
  • David Boder: Where from? [Interrupting]
  • David Lea: From Saloniki. My family is 37 persons. Only I remained, 36 person in Crematorium of Auschwitz. Burned in nine, eh, two, eh, little people.Mr. Lea came from a typically large Sephardic Jewish family in Salonika. His family members were among the 37,000 Jews from the city gassed immediately upon their arrival in Auschwitz-Birkenau.10
  • David Boder: Ok, wait. You are telling me, that there were 37 persons in your family. Who were they?
  • David Lea: Mother . . .
  • David Boder: You father. [simultaneously]
  • David Lea: Father, mother, brother . . . [constant noise in the background]
  • David Boder: How many brothers? [Interrupting]
  • David Lea: Three brothers with two brother.
  • David Boder: Three brothers with . . . ?
  • David Lea: with two brother . . . Three brothers.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: Two Fräulein as well.
  • David Boder: What?
  • David Lea: Two Fräulein
  • David Boder: Two, eh, two girls.
  • David Lea: That's right.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: My mother, my father, my mother of my father, my mother of my mum and cousins.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: All together.
  • David Boder: Did you all get arrested together? [Interrupting]
  • David Lea: That's right.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: Well, all together. April 2. In nine May . . . .Jews scheduled for deportation were assembled in the Baron Hirsch quarter of the city. Deportees on the first transports were forced to send attractive postcards to their co-religionists still in Salonika describing their "positive experiences" in Auschwitz-Birkenau.11
  • David Boder: Wait, they arrested you on April 2, and then, how did they send you away? [Interrupting]
  • David Lea: eh, sent away, eh . . . in transport.
  • David Boder: Yes, what kind of, eh, what kind of transport was it?
  • David Lea: In transport no water, no food was made there, none has made the German for us.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: Nine days in transport, barred the door, half of transport when coming to Auschwitz, finished, dead.
  • David Boder: Oh, in, in . . . [Interrupting]
  • David Lea: . . . no bread, no bread, in the wagons . . . [Continues talking]
  • David Boder: Yes, and they died in . . . .
  • David Lea: . . . died in wagon, half of transport.
  • David Boder: Yes. Didn't they open up the . . . every day.
  • David Lea: the wagon?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: Every day. Only they said, the SS a little bit of water, eh, makes finished. The SS . . . . You cannot wash yourself, eh, finished all the Jewish in wagon.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: Coming . . . [Noise in background] in May 43 to Auschwitz. The same day two separated according to . . . [unintelligible], 36 persons. Only . . .
  • David Boder: What do you mean you were separated? [Interrupting]Mr. Lea is referring to the notorious "selections" which took place upon the arrival of prisoners in Auschwitz-Birkenau which identified those whom the SS deemed were strong enough for slave labor. Everyone else was sent immediately to the gas chambers.12
  • David Lea: In Crematorium.
  • David Boder: Yes, why had they not taken you?
  • David Lea: Why—why, I not number of 25 years.
  • David Boder: Oh, were all the others older than 25 years?
  • David Lea: That's right, 25 years old to 30 years.
  • David Boder: Aha. So 25 to 30 in age was ok.
  • David Lea: 25 years [simultaneously] . . . Yes in Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: Yes, and what about the others?
  • David Lea: The other, they burn.
  • David Boder: Did you see? Did you see, how they . . .
  • David Lea: I came together, no introduction made the German, only has made selection. The young, until 7 and 13, until 20 years, until 30 years [is correcting himself] and the others, say Germans, go to car, the mother and the father, come to "Revier."The "revier" was the so-called hospital in Auschwitz. The lie that Mr. Lea's mother and father were to be taken to the "revier" is another example of German deception.13
  • David Boder: Oh. They were taken away in cars?
  • David Lea: That's right.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: Away in cars. German said, who sick, the mother, the father, not good eater, go to "Revier." After two days, the SS told us, where is my family [unintelligible], say, three, four days more and they are finished. After a month, can you imagine, my family, all family, Jewish, to Crematorium. I, eh, was 44 Novem . . . .
  • David Boder: Yes, eh. Please take your hand down.
  • David Lea: Yes, 44 Novembre,Translator's Note: He is using the French pronunciation of November.14 I was in Auschwitz, in the camp of Auschwitz. Have burned, six, eh, a moment. . . .
  • David Boder: [In English] He's writing down the number. All right. [Pause]
  • David Boder: [In German] Six hundred thousand.
  • David Lea: In Novembre.
  • David Boder: In one month?
  • David Lea: Wait, in Novembre.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: The German have burned, made nonsense. The commando, special commando, working special commando crematorium. In seven . . . .By his use of the word, "nonsense", here and elsewhere, Mr. Lea might mean that those in the Sonderkommando under German supervision helped reduce those selected for death to ashes, to nothing.15
  • David Boder: Did you work in the crematorium? [Interrupting]
  • David Lea: Yes in c. In 27 days, they have burnt six, sixty, hundred thousand Jewish Hungarian.Mr. Lea is speaking about the murder of the Hungarian Jewish community in Auschwitz-Birkenau between May 15 and July 9, 1944. During that time, some 434,000 Hungarian Jews, from outside Budapest were deported to the extermination center at Auschwitz. where some 320,000 were sent immediately to the gas chambers. The remainder were sent to slave labor from which many perished. Mr. Lea's figure of 600,000 is exaggerated.16
  • David Boder: 60.000 Hungarian Jews.
  • David Lea: Yes . . .
  • David Boder: Did you work in the crematorium? [Interrupting]
  • David Lea: That's right. [simultaneously] That's right, I work crematorium.The Salonikan Jews in Auschwitz-Birkenau constituted a significant part of the Sonderkommando at the time. Mr. Lea was one of the strong, young Jews selected to perform the hellish tasks assigned to this unit. There is no definitive answer as to why Jews engaged in this work. One may note that some sought to survive to seek revenge, others to bear witness to heinous German crimes and still others because their will to live overcame their revulsion at what they were forced to do. There were Jews who committed suicide rather than serve in the Sonderkommando.17 I self have burnt. Six and thousand, eh, sixty, eh . . .
  • David Boder: Six hundred thousand.
  • David Lea: Six hundred thousand Jewish have burnt until, two, two, eh until twenty-seven days. After days, every day burnt the crematorium of, eh, Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: After, the Russians come. April 18. June 18 from Radom to the camp of Auschwitz, the Russian come June 28.Translator's Note: He seems to be mixing up June with January. Auschwitz was liberated by the Russian Army on January 27, 1945.18 After, I travel to Buchenwald. Special . . . [Noises in the background]Mr. Lea was indeed confusing June with January. On January 18, 1945, as the Red Army was approaching Auschwitz, the SS forced marched 58,000 prisoners from the facility on what became for many a death march.19
  • David Boder: When were you in Buchenwald?
  • David Lea: In Buchenwald I have done three months, two were in Dachau, one week in Fürth, after, April 29, American troop come to Dachau on order.Mr. Lea's subsequent testimony reveals nothing about his time in Buchenwald. Furth is located north of Dachau near Nuremberg. Mr. Lea does not mention it again.20
  • David Boder: Aha, yes. And liberated you.
  • David Lea: That's right.
  • David Boder: Well, you are saying, that you worked in the crematorium of Auschwitz?
  • David Lea: Yes, Yes, that's right
  • David Boder: Eh . . .
  • David Lea: Special commando.
  • David Boder: In the special commando. Well, tell me, how . . . what happened in the crematorium? What was the crematorium? [Pause] Oh. [Pause]
  • David Boder: [In English] He's lighting a cigarette. He wanted to roll one, but I offered him an American cigarette and light my own.
  • David Boder: [In German] Well, tell me, you worked in the crematorium. Would you tell me, how did you work in the crematorium and what did the crematorium look like?
  • David Lea: In, well, how one has worked . . . ? [hesitates]
  • David Boder: Yes, well, so how did you, what did the crematorium look like?
  • David Lea: That's right, Yes. Come transport from every . . . . Come transport from all of Europe Jewish . . .
  • David Boder: Come a little closer. [Interrupting]
  • David Lea: Come transport from all of Europe, Jewish. Boy of two months, of five years, of seven years, of ten years, of eighteen years. Person of 80 years, of 90 years stays there. Comes to, eh crematorium. Is a big hall. Write French, eh, German. My, eh—say, an "Affiche"Translator's Note: He uses the French word for announcement.21 in Crematorium say, all undress. Make bath. People make bath. I, the, eh, I healthy, when I . . . when I bath, I healthy. Things, I cannot understand, what spoken correct, all undress, together, men with the Fräulein together, the women of 80 years and the girls of 20 years, all together. Eh, when all together, they get soap and the—what is that . . . .The effort to deceive those condemned to death continued to the very end when they were told they were going to take a shower. All the gas chambers in the extermination camps were disguised as shower rooms.22
  • David Boder: Towel.
  • David Lea: Towel, soap. An SS from the other room look, all already, all already . . . done, all already finished. All is out. Has opened up the Luminette and the gas. In two minutes, one to two minutes, finished two- three thousand men.In the gas chambers known as Bunker One and Bunker Two, the SS used vents in the side walls to discharge the Zyklon B gas. In Crematoria II, III, IV and V, constructed between March and June 1943, the gas was introduced through columns shaped like pillars in the gas chambers. Zyklon B was poured into the columns from an opening in the ceiling here referred to as a "luminette". Some two thousand human beings at one time could be crammed into the gas chambers in Cremtoria II, III IV and V. These units had combined gas chambers and crematoria. The murder operation in the gas chambers took from twenty to thirty minutes.23
  • David Boder: Did they all really die?
  • David Lea: Really died. After, the little boys, two, eh four years, three years. Only they get . . . eh . . . eh here . . . [seems to be pointing to his nose] blood, eh, blood, bleeding.
  • David Boder: A bleeding nose.
  • David Lea: Nose, . . . a bleeding nose from the poison. Only the little one cried, Mummy, Mummy, Mummy. But the mother after, after one, eh, two minutes the mother was finished, the entire family. Then come nonsense. I Ventilateur,Translator's Note: He uses the inology.24 Ventilateur.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: Has also done nonsense, the same, the special commando, the Ventilateur.Mr. Lea might be indicating that one aspect of his job was to drag the bodies out of the gas chamber while wearing a gas mask after the ventilation of the chamber in preparation for the next set of victims had taken place. He also might have been involved in burning the bodies of the victims in the crematoria.25
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: The gas off . . . out
  • David Boder: Out, yes.
  • David Lea: (unclear)
  • David Boder: Yes, Yes.
  • David Lea: Get noisy
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: Throw the dead in the wagonnetTranslator's Note: He uses the inology.26 . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: . . . and after into the crematorium.
  • David Boder: Well, yes. What was the crematorium? An oven? [Pause] What was it? An oven, eh, a . . . ?
  • David Lea: Co-, Co-, Coal.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: Coal, Coal . . .
  • David Boder: Eh, yes. Was it an oven or . . . ?
  • David Lea: No. Eh, crematorium, crematorium . . . [Interrupting] and the . . .
  • David Boder: Yes, yes. How many people could you burn in there at one time? [Interrupting]
  • David Lea: When I, eh, with transport come every day ten transports of 20 to 40 thousand people. Eight people in one crematorium, twenty minutes burn. After the days, every day made burn in crematorium. Every day, after Sabbath, every day burning in crematorium. In crematorium there was work, about five, eh, 1500 men. 500 men every hour, every eight hours work. After change, other 500 men work. And those who work special commando eat good.Mr. Lea is speaking about the arrival of large numbers of Hungarian Jews. The daily murder of arrivals is exaggerated. The burning capacity of the crematoria was about 8,000 bodies in a twenty-four hour period. The Sonderkommando unit did indeed work around the clock at peak times during the arrival of the Hungarian transports. They did have better rations and accommodations than the other prisoners, but the SS would periodically murder the Sonderkommado because they sought to eliminate witnesses to their mass murder and then replace the Sonderkommando with a new group of prisoners. The number of prisoners working in the Sonderkommando during the extermination of the Hungarian Jews was approximately 1,000. Then in late 1944 the gas chambers ceased to operate followed by the evacuation of Auschwitz.27
  • David Boder: They gave you good food?
  • David Lea: Yes, that's right. After, the 1500 men only work for three months. Because after, the SS has finished them, with, eh, the, 1500 men.
  • David Boder: How did they finish them?
  • David Lea: Why—Not want them to speak about what they are doing in crematorium.
  • David Boder: But how did they finish them. Also in the crematorium?
  • David Lea: Also in crematorium. And the SS finished in crematorium the same, the, the, eh special commando. After three months with it, then crematorium.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: Burned the same. I did not burn, then come the Russian.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • David Lea: When my commando, the special commando, 1.500 men did not burn, then come the Russian. And the Germans, no time, no time. When I have time, hundreds have burned.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: In, eh, 43 . . . the crematorium four, four . . . [noise in the background] number crematorium four, the Greek from Saloniki, Athens, has made a bomb. Bomb destroys.On October 7, 1944, some 450 members of the Sonderkommando organized an uprising that destroyed Crematorium IV. Some 135 Greek Jews took part in the rebellion. All of those who participated were executed. Mr. Lea was spared execution because he was in the Auschwitz sickbay at the time. The destruction of Crematorium IV was the single most significant act of resistance in Auschwitz. Some Sonderkommando prisoners found other ways to resist. They kept diaries of the horrors they had witnessed and buried them in the ashes surrounding the crematoria. Several were discovered after the war.28
  • David Boder: Who has done that?
  • David Lea: The Greek from Athens. In, eh, 34.
  • David Boder: In eh, eh 44.
  • David Lea: 44.
  • David Boder: Were these Jewish Greeks?
  • David Lea: Jewish Greeks together with the Polacks.
  • David Boder: Together with the Polacks they did such a thing.
  • David Lea: Yes. Had . . .
  • David Boder: Torn.
  • David Lea: Torn, yes, had munitions in crematorium four. Greek from Athens and Polack, Jewish, from the Ghetto of Warsaw.The explosives used in the destruction of Crematorium IV were supplied by a group of young Polish Jewish women from Auschwitz III (Monowitz) led by the intrepid Roza Robota. They too were executed after having endured excruciating torture.29
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: Have destroyed crematorium four.
  • David Boder: Where, in, eh Auschwitz?
  • David Lea: No, in Birkenau.
  • David Boder: In Birkenau. Exactly, Auschwitz and Birkenau. Eh, how did they destroy the crematorium?
  • David Lea: The Jewish—eh, Greek and Jewish Polack.
  • David Boder: Aha, and what did they do to them? [Pause] Eh, did they survive, the people?
  • David Lea: All destroyed in Crematorium.
  • David Boder: The people that were in it?
  • David Lea: . . . they too. The people that were in it. [Interrupting] When the, the, eh, person went out [unintelligible] it was with machine gun. The SS said, that when I make nonsense in the crematorium, we is finished. Everything destroyed, inside, with the people, the Jewish Polack and the Jewish from Greece. After two minutes . . . finished.
  • David Boder: Did you see that for yourself?
  • David Lea: I have seen it not, when I am in Revier [noise in the background]
  • David Boder: What?
  • David Lea: I am sick.
  • David Boder: Oh, you were sick and you were in the Revier.
  • David Lea: [unintelligible, as simultaneously with Interviewer] . . . was in Revier, did not see, but bum.
  • David Boder: You have heard it, when it happened.
  • David Lea: Everything, yes. [Interrupting]
  • David Boder: And after they had destroyed the crematoria, were there still people being burnt in there?
  • David Lea: Not.
  • David Boder: No, they did not . . .
  • David Lea: No. [simultaneously]
  • David Boder: None.
  • David Lea: Eh, for two days they evacuated the camp of Birkenau. SS has destroyed all crematoria.Murder in the gas chambers came to a halt following the revolt of the Sonderkommado. On November 25, 1944, Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, ordered the demotion of the crematoria. Elements of two of the Auschwitz gas chambers and crematoria were transferred to the Gross-Rosen camp.30
  • David Boder: They destroyed it all themselves.
  • David Lea: For two days evacuated the camp of Birkenau. April 18, they evacuated with us camp. 16 no 18, eh 18 . . .
  • David Boder: No, no, no, take the hand down. [Interrupting] Yes.
  • David Lea: June 18,Translator's Note: Again, he seems to be mixing up January and June.31 in April, June 18, 45 they evacuated the camp of Auschwitz. June 16, 45 the German destroyed all the crematoria. Six crematoria did destroy the German.
  • David Boder: They themselves? And how many did the Greek destroy?
  • David Lea: The Greek destroyed and also the Polack destroyed.
  • David Boder: Yes, but how many of the crematoria did the Greek . . .
  • David Lea: One crematorium. [Interrupting] One crematorium. One crematorium number four. The same, the Jewish Polack has destroyed crematorium four.
  • David Boder: Aha, and the rest was destroyed by the SS.
  • David Lea: destroyed by SS.
  • David Boder: Now, but, where did you go to after, eh, who has liberated you, the Russians or the Americans?
  • David Lea: American. April 29, 45.
  • David Boder: From which camp?
  • David Lea: From Dachau.
  • David Boder: From Dachau. Eh, was there a crematorium in Dachau as well?
  • David Lea: In Dachau crematorium, 44 they made only one crematorium. Why—has done. In Dachau, it is forbidden for the Jewish.
  • David Boder: What?
  • David Lea: In Dachau it is forbidden . . .
  • David Boder: In Dachau it was forbidden for Jewish rank. There were no Jews in Dachau.
  • David Lea: Yes. No Jews, non crematorium.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: After, five, eh, five, eh 45 I come, have made another crematorium. For all, for the Jewish and for the Arian. After in April, in April 29 . . . .Dachau was established on March 10, 1933 as the first of the SS organized concentration camps. It became a training ground for SS personnel who staffed other camps and a model for these camps. Contrary to what Boder indicated, there were significant number of Jews in Dachau. Gas chambers were built at the camp but were never used. However, as Mr. Lea notes, there was indeed a crematorium in the camp. It is unclear what Mr. Lea meant when he said, "It is forbidden for the Jewish." At least 31,000 prisoners perished in Dachau some of whom were victims of inhuman medical experiments.32
  • David Boder: Yes. Tell me, have you seen any gypsies in one of the camps?
  • David Lea: Yes indeed.
  • David Boder: Tell me about the gypsies.
  • David Lea: In camp, in camp of Birkenau.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: Have seen gypsies—seven, eight thousand gypsies, not Jewish. All together with the children, with everything. Eat good, three, five, seven Months. After, one night, one hour, one before dawn the Germans have made call for the whole camp of gypsies.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: Have called the entire camp of gypsies, after two hours, eight, nine people, eight, nine thousand people together with the children small finished, all gypsies. And after, one has not seen gypsies anymore in camp of Birkenau.Gypsies in Auschwitz-Birkenau were incarcerated i n what was known as the Gypsy family camp (Birkenau IIe) beginning on February 26, 1943. Most of the Gypsies were from Germany and Austria. In Nazi ideology they were considered "a-socials" who were parasitical and "biologically harmful." No conclusive documentary evidence exists as to why the Gypsies were allowed to live in Auschwitz with their families. . On August 2, 1944, after removing some 2,900 Gypsies for slave labor, the remaining nearly 3,000 residents of the Gypsy camp were gassed.33
  • David Boder: So they killed all the gypsies?
  • David Lea: All dead.
  • David Boder: Were they also sent through the gas chambers?
  • David Lea: All, all through the gas.
  • David Boder: Mh. Why did they do that?
  • David Lea: I don't know why.
  • David Boder: You don't know why.
  • David Lea: That's right.
  • David Boder: Eh. And who lived in the block the gypsies had lived in afterwards?
  • David Lea: Yes. In block there lived the gypsies. Or block for gypsies, only gypsies. Why is—gypsies stay, why not Arian, no SS let them live together.
  • David Boder: But when all the gypsies were, eh, when all the gypsies had been killed. Who lived on that block afterwards?
  • David Lea: The block is out.
  • David Boder: The block is . . . ?
  • David Lea: Barred. [Interrupting]
  • David Boder: The block was barred.
  • David Lea: Barred.
  • David Boder: Yes . . . And what are you doing now, Mr. Lea?
  • David Lea: I work in the committee of . . . [unintelligible, noises in the background]
  • David Boder: You are working in the committee . . . [unintelligible]
  • David Lea: I have no family.
  • David Boder: What?
  • David Lea: No family.
  • David Boder: You have no family.
  • David Lea: 36 persons - finished.
  • David Boder: Aha, and eh, what do you intend to do afterwards? How did you get to France?
  • David Lea: Why in Greece? I have . . .
  • David Boder: How did you get here? [Interrupting] From—How old are you? How old are you?
  • David Lea: I am, how old I am? . . . . 28.
  • David Boder: You are 28 years old. All right. And now you are with the Joint?
  • David Lea: That's right.
  • David Boder: Do you have relatives in America?
  • David Lea: Not.
  • David Boder: None. Do you have relatives in Palestine?
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes eh, eh Spool 41, of which half is Ms. Precker and the other one is Mr. Lea. After the machine stopped, he suggested that he has something more to tell.
  • David Boder: This is Spool number 42. Mr. David Lea continued.
  • David Boder: [In German] Mr. Lea, you said—what did you want to tell me about Auschwitz?
  • David Lea: About Warsaw.
  • David Boder: Oh. You said you were in Warsaw. Why did you come to Warsaw?
  • David Lea: I went to Warsaw from Birkenau, 6 Septembre.He uses the inology.34 Yom Kippur.
  • David Boder: Yes. Why, were you liberated from Birkenau?
  • David Lea: From Birkenau transport for the Jewish to work in Warsaw.Mr. Lea was sent to Warsaw along with other Greek Jews several months after the collapse of the rebellion to clean up the ghetto area. He notes that he and other Greek Jews were sent there because they did not speak Polish, and the language barrier would hinder their escape. They were imprisoned in a camp not far from Warsaw's Jewish graveyard.35
  • David Boder: Oh, the—who took you there?
  • David Lea: The SS.
  • David Boder: The SS took you from Birkenau to Auschwitz, eh, to Warsaw. Now tell me, what happened there. [Lea continuously interrupts in the affirmative.]
  • David Lea: Work in ghetto in the house of the Jewish. All of the ghetto is, the ghetto from Warsaw [noise in the background] two hundred meters, so long from the graveyard of Warsaw is Jewish. I not understand the city, why—I not speak Polack.
  • David Boder: Polish,yes.
  • David Lea: The, the people deport Polack. When I now to, eh, in America, as city, two, two hundred, eh, two hundred meter is long the graveyard of the Jewish up to my camp.
  • David Boder: Aha
  • David Lea: Work . . .
  • David Boder: Why did they send you from Auschwitz to Warsaw? [Interrupting]
  • David Lea: Why I sent? As young, healthy persons. Work.
  • David Boder: Who—where did you have to work?
  • David Lea: Work in the town, with the pickaxe, with the pickaxe, with the shovel. No food, only 150 gram bread every day, noon one liter of water. This way work, eh, 40 hours.
  • David Boder: Mh. So, what has happened?
  • David Lea: I, after, SS has spoken.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: Every Jewish from the work, in the camp of the Jewish is finished. The camps is as long as, as wide as 50 meter from Pawiak to Warsaw.Pawiak was the main prison in Warsaw. What Mr. Lea is saying about it in unclear.36
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: Work in the Bunki,Translator's Note: "Bunki" is not a German word—they are obviously talking about "The Bund" (The General Jewish Labor Union, usually just called "Bund"). "Bunki" is possibly Lea's pronunciation of "Bund."37 [unintelligible], the same German. Boy has had finished whole family, Jewish, with the children little. The fight with the Germans of 39. Afterwards, SS with, to, perhaps come over to us, in the Bunke. I too much Jewish in the Bund. Because Jewish, when they search, when they search Jewish in the Bund. I too much Jewish in the Bunki, not finished, so finished, eh, so not finished. I took machine gun, eh, stole it.It is also unclear what Mr. Lea means when he is talking about the "Bunki". At one point, he might have meant the Bund, as the translator notes, but another point he seems to be referring to the warren of bunkers in the Warsaw ghetto which sheltered Jews during the rebellion. What became of the "machine gun" he said he stole is not revealed.38
  • David Boder: What are the Bunki? What is the "Bund"?
  • David Lea: The Bunki is Jewish organization, make sabotage, who make sabotage inside the guetto. And look in the street, finish the German. At work, work eight, nine months in, eh, Warsaw.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: After, camp of Warsaw evacuated.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: In the camp of Warsaw big transport came, Jom Kippur, came to, eh Warsaw, only Greek Jewish barrack. Why—Nonsense, this barrack Greek, does not understand Polack, understands England. The German has said, those who do not understand Polack come to Warsaw. Has said, good [unintelligible], good [unintelligible]. Nonsense, the Jewish barrack go to Warsaw. Why—the Germans afraid. When I work in Warsaw and I understand Polack, must go. But only Jewish barrack not understand Polack. The Germans had no fear with us. After Jewish barrack finished, come . . . Polack Jewish. Polack Jewish, Hungarian Jewish . . . Lithuanian Jewish . . . from Cracow Jewish, from Ukraine Jewish. 40 hours work at day, German camp, after at night call for three hours. Shoes, no shoes, no stockings, shoes of wood . . . no gloves, Work, one time shoe, one time jacket . . . , one jacket. When come to, to place of work, the Capo, German, say, take off the jacket. ("Nonsense" or "Us"; German: "Unsinn" or "uns") take off the jacket, have done so, as he had said. Why—beat to death. Outside cold every day, with the shovel and the pickaxe, one hour work, then finished.What one can glean overall from this difficult to interpret testimony of Mr. Lea in this segment is that the Jews from Auschwitz sent to work in Warsaw had to deal with intolerable working conditions due to lack of adequate food, contagious diseases, sadistic kapos and inclement weather.39
  • David Boder: What do you mean by finished?
  • David Lea: From, eh, . . . from cold, no food, no . . . no food, no vitamins, no sleep, to many lice. The . . .
  • David Boder: Lice? [Interrupting]
  • David Lea: Lice, too many. Typhoid, every day, 80, 90, 100 people finished. In Revier, no food in Revier. Now there comes SS, the [unintelligible] SS, one German say all Jewish finished. With the, what is . . . makes finished.
  • David Boder: With what? With injection?
  • David Lea: Yes, so [Seems to show it to him].
  • David Boder: With injection.
  • David Lea: Yes, injection in Revier. In the camp of Warsaw, the Revier is the block number 7.
  • David Boder: [In English] He demonstrates by hand, he didn't know the word. There were people that were killed by injection. No?
  • David Lea: In the camp of Warsaw, the Revier is block 7 or block 8. Boss of Revier is a German. Bad, all the Jewish finished. [unintelligible].. in the Crematorium, all Jewish, finished anyways. There is no Jewish coming home. After, gone to camp Landsberg. This is in Bavaria. I work in Landsberg. The camp official understand me from Birkenau. The, eh, have worked in special commando. One day he said, come, work in graveyard commando.Mr. Lea's testimony here is a bit disjointed. He first speaks about the slave camp in Warsaw where sick prisoners were murdered with injections but then begins to speak about his experiences in Landsberg, a sub-camp of Dachau where he worked on the burial detail. Insofar as the latter is concerned, it is worth recalling that there were 150 branches of the main Dachau camp in southern Germany and Austria.40
  • David Boder: In which commando?
  • David Lea: In graveyard commando to Landsberg, Bavaria. I have the same, my commando, still 15 people, me, 16 people all together. 12.000 . . . 5 . . . 1537 Jewish in one month work. This camp . . .
  • David Boder: How did you know the number? How did you count? [Interrupting]
  • David Lea: This are doing the [unintelligible]. I 200 dead, 180 dead, the command of the camp made report. Now I fetch 50 Polack dead, 20 Greek Jewish dead, 10 Hungarian, 10 Slowak, make report. In one month work, 12437 finished. This graveyard, no measurement, no person can understand, only the 16 people that worked.
  • David Boder: How did you make the graves? Was there a separate grave for everyone? [Interrupting]
  • David Lea: 400 people one hole. 300 people one hole. After, digging two meters and 40 centimeters.
  • David Boder: What?
  • David Lea: Two meters, 40 centimeters thick.
  • David Boder: Deep.
  • David Lea: Deep. There come wagons, every wagon 40 dead. Come together the wagons to the dead. The SS, nonsense. One Jewish wanted do a little (unclear). The SS has not allowed. Have seen comrade, work in the, with the [unintelligible], has said, is my brother, my cousin. Has read a little. No little reading.
  • David Boder: No little what?
  • David Lea: Reading.
  • David Boder: Ah . . .
  • David Lea: Nothing. Dead, dead, the human, the brother . . .
  • David Boder: Ah pray.
  • David Lea: Reading. Bracha
  • David Boder: Aha, to make Broche. No? Did he . . . [is interrupted]"Bracha" is the Hebrew word and "Broche" is the Yiddish word for blessing. Mr. Lea's comrade wished to say the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, for his relative and was killed by the SS man for attempting to do so. In recounting this incident later in the interview, Mr. Lea will note that it was the prisoner's sister for whom he wished to say the Kaddish.41
  • David Lea: SS has stroken him dead. SS has, one day the comrade got, the comrade got for praying. Against the SS, saying, take my portion, say the SS.
  • David Boder: Now wait, you are saying . . . [Interrupting, Lea continues however]
  • David Lea: . . . my comrade said, this, the dead, is my brother. Wanted to do a little reading. The SS tock the pickleaxe and the shovel and hit him on the head, finished together with the brother.
  • David Boder: Aha, eh, a person has asked permission to pray over his brother who he had to bury. But he tells the SS killed him with the shovel and buried them both. All right.
  • David Lea: After, one day. 400 dead, eh, 400. In every hole 400 dead, 300, 350. After closing the dead with the [unintelligible]. The camp there has said, do, one can say, the hole, so that no one understand why these people dead. The graveyard has done and I in Bayern, in the middle.
  • David Boder: Where is that ? In Warsaw?
  • David Lea: Not in Warsaw. In Landsberg, Bayern. Translator's Note: He uses the German term for Bavaria, which the interviewer does not seem to understand at first.42
  • David Boder: In, in . . . ?
  • David Lea: In Landsberg, Bayern.
  • David Boder: Bavaria?
  • David Lea: Bavaria.
  • David Boder: Yes
  • David Lea: Bavaria.
  • David Boder: What kind of camp was Landsberg?
  • David Lea: In Landsberg, there is, the entire of Landsberg is final camp.Does Mr. Lea mean that Landsberg was the final camp he was in before liberation or that many met their final fate (death) in Landsberg? The camp numbers he goes on to relate might have been the sections into which Landsberg was divided.43
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • David Lea: Camp one, camp two, camp three, camp four, camp five, camp six, camp seven, camp eight, camp nine, camp ten, camp eleven. In camp number four, camp seven, camp seven, there is only quarantine.
  • David Boder: Only quarantine?
  • David Lea: Quarantine finishes the Jewish with injection. In camp one, there is main, in camp one, it is a camp, work camp. The name is Tannberg. The bad people . . .
  • David Boder: What is it called? [Interrupting]
  • David Lea: Tannberg. German. Tannberg, Tannberg. Those SS people are now in Nürnberg. A comrade of mine, Russian Jewish. His name is Kosakov. Went to trial in . . .It is possible that what Mr. Lea terms, "Tannberg" was a part of Landsberg. He claims that SS personnel in "Tannberg" were placed on trial in Nuremberg, a city in southern Germany known for its Nazi rallies, by the victorious Allies after the war. The Nuremberg trial of major Nazi war criminals lasted from October 18, 1945 to September 30 and October 1, 1946. Subsequent Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals took place between December, 1946 and April, 1949.44
  • David Boder: Nürnberg.
  • David Lea: Nürnberg. Watch this. During the trial, he spoke with commander of tribunal, American. These, the bad people and the Jewish has made 29, and the same. After I don't know, what I would have done with this SS. In camp four, it is the same as camp five, camp seven. Quarantine. April 27, 44, 45. FDG, head SS.of Revier.
  • David Boder: What is the FDG?
  • David Lea: FDG is the head of Revier SS. Among the Déporté, head of Revier SS said, FDG, burn. The people, there are too many, there are too many, has burnt. Healthy people, more than 3.000 people with the gas. After two hours, the Americans come. The Americans have said, eh, have said to every German from Bavaria, come and see, what the Germans have done. The people, healthy, have burnt, with the gas, with the flames.Mr. Lea's testimony here is somewhat garbled, but the gist of it is that the SS murdered prisoners with flame throwers as the Americans closed in on the camp. Until the very end of the war, the Nazi obsession with murdering every single Jew possible was undiminished.45
  • David Boder: Yes, Yes.
  • David Lea: One comrade . . .
  • David Boder: How did they burn them? With . . . [Interrupting]
  • David Lea: With the, eh, the flame.
  • David Boder: With flame throwers?
  • David Lea: That's right, that's right, that's right.
  • David Boder: He had healthy people burnt with flame, eh, throwers.
  • David Lea: Why done. The FDG has seen that the Americans are, are twenty kilometers to Bavaria. Thus he done finishing the Jewish. Not Jewish, can't imagine, why, is too much sickness, no food. Until March, until April 45, one got only 80 grams of bread every day. No, no margarine, no food. Noon time, only one liter of water. So every day, 200, 300 Jewish finished. In two months, the entire camp was finished. After, two months carry other Jewish from camp five, from camp three, from camp two, from camp nine, from camp eleven, eleven. It is the same, have seen it, have watched. In camp three. April 3, 44. Jewish Lithuanian, finishes Jewish, sick, the dead. Jewish. Eats them.Mr. Lea goes on to describe incidents of cannibalism engaged in by the desperate, despairing, dehumanized, starving prisoners in Landsberg. On occasion, cannibalism did occur during the Holocaust. It is mentioned in a few survivor accounts. The practice was also carried out by some Soviet prisoners of war who were deliberately and systematically starved by the Germans.46
  • David Boder: Mh?
  • David Lea: The Jewish, the jewish . . . .
  • David Boder: Have eaten . . .
  • David Lea: Have eaten the dead Jewish. Have . . .
  • David Boder: Yes, in which, in which . . . [Interrupting]
  • David Lea: Yes, have eaten [simultaneously] In camp three. In Bayern. Bayern.
  • David Boder: Eh, where was that? In Dachau, in . . .
  • David Lea: Not. In Landsberg, Bayern. Camp three.
  • David Boder: Aha. In Landsberg. Did the Jew- , eh, did people eat other people?
  • David Lea: Yes. I self have seen it.
  • David Boder: Yes, you yourself have seen it.
  • David Lea: I myself. In camp three.
  • David Boder: Yes, well. Didn't they give you anything to eat then?
  • David Lea: Ate nothing at all. After, the SS has barred the camp, has said, no dinner.
  • David Boder: All right. Tell me . . . . Could you say the same in Greek? In Greek? Do you speak Greek?
  • David Lea: Yes, a little.Mr. Lea's native language was Ladino, a mixture of Hebrew, Spanish and Arabic. This language was commonly spoken by the Jews of Salonika and was part of their Sephardic Jewish heritage.47
  • David Boder: Then, tell me the same in Greek.
  • David Lea: Don't you speak Spanish. Why not Spanish?
  • David Boder: [In Spanish] Do you speak Spanish?
  • David Lea: Of course, I speak Spanish.
  • David Boder: Oh. And why didn‘t you tell me so? Well . . . tell me again about the case when . . . the cannibalism case.
  • David Lea: In Spanish?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: Ladies and gentlemen. I came across two soldiers, three soldiers, in Landsberg camp –camp 3- in Bavaria. After 15 to 20 days without any food to eat we, deportees, there were many dead people, we took one afternoon, at 10 and one quarter of an hour in the afternoon, we took the knives and cut our Jewish fellows who were already dead. And we ate the flesh of them.
  • David Boder: And you did, too?
  • David Lea: ‘course. I remember, it was February 3rd, 1945. In the whole camp, we were there, Spanish Jews from [unintelligible] and the others were Jews from Warsaw, from Lithuania, from [unintelligible], from Belgium, from [unintelligible], from Italy, and from other cities which were occupied by the Armed Forces enemies of Europe.
  • David Boder: And . . . ?
  • David Lea: We suffered so long, so much time. Three years in camp. The food was so scarce, not enough, and we worked 14 hours a day.
  • David Boder: Speak slowly, please. What work did you use to do there?
  • David Lea: We worked building forts.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: With a shovel and a [calm]. After working [unintelligible] as we could, they battered us, they battered us with the sticks and beat us to death.
  • David Lea: On a transportation that came from Warsaw, in 1944, when the Russians were approaching Warsaw. The biggest transportation, and the biggest disaster in Jewish history was in Warsaw where they deported us on train for 18 days. On animal trains, locked day and night, guarded by four barbarians of the SS, with their machine guns, no water, no food, and under the sun . . . And more than 8,000 people died. We were 8,726 people and 725 people returned to the Dachau camp. The 8,000 people were killed by starvation, or by the SS, or by the drought.
  • David Boder: Right, and from where did that transportation come?
  • David Lea: The transportation came from Warsaw . . .
  • David Boder: From Warsaw to . . .
  • David Lea: To Dachau. The Russians were coming from Warsaw and the Germans wanted us . . . somehow needed us to work and take the interior of Germany. They didn't want to kill us and then they locked us in some train cars, 120 people in an animal car.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: Locked night and day, without a . . .
  • David Boder: Why do you call it animal car? Wasn't it a freight car?
  • David Lea: No. They didn't have . . . And they didn't have, it was . . . it . . . it was forbidden . . . it was forbidden for Jews.
  • David Boder: I see . . .
  • David Lea: We were there, battered by these beasts, and we raised our hands to God [unintelligible] 'cause we could suffer no more. And we wanted to pee, all side by side. The SS would ask "Who wants to pee?" but we saw that our comrades went to pee, to do whatever . . .
  • David Boder: I see . . . In the railway car.
  • David Lea: In the railway car. And then the SS came and killed them with the machine gun, and we were [ininteligible] of peeing in our pants . . . hem . . . all. And sometimes we wanted to defecate, we would do it on our hands and throw it away through a hole we had made to the railway car.
  • David Boder: And that was in the month of . . .
  • David Lea: June and July, '44.There is an inconsistency here in Mr. Lea's testimony. In June and July of 1944, he was working as part of the Sonderkommando in Auschwitz during the deportation of Hungarian Jews. It is more likely that after working in Warsaw in 1943, he was sent back to Auschwitz where he remained until its evacuation on January 18, 1945. It was subsequent to this that he was put on the train he describes and, after a horrific journey, ultimately ended up in Landsberg.48
  • David Boder: June and July . . .
  • David Lea: Yes. June and July, because I cannot remember exactly.
  • David Boder: Yes. It is not important.
  • David Lea: [unintelligible] because our morale was broken, we had lost our family, our finances, and we didn't have any strength. All the Jews who returned from the German concentration camps, we may look good physically, look well, but we are not well inside. We are all [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: Why?
  • David Lea: Because work was much, food was scarce, we were beaten to death, and it was very cold. We are all [unintelligible] our lungs, some with rheumatism, some with asthma, some with the lungs . . . and . . . most of all have . . . lose . . . they lose their morale. I am talking, a Greek Jew, [unintelligible] Sephardic. If I remembered more . . . we could [unintelligible] talk more frequently, I am not recalling much.It is perfectly understandable that a man who had suffered as much as Mr. Lea would find it difficult to sequence correctly all that had happened to him. The emotional and psychological traumas he had endured affected his memory though the individual incidents that he describes in the interview are vividly recalled and remain firmly etched in his mind.49
  • David Lea: The tragedy that occurred in '44, in Birkenau camp, more or less, I could not speak because my German isn't good . . . I don't speak well, but now, I will speak in Spanish. In 1944, by the end of 1944, in November, in Birkenau camp . . . in September, October, or November, 600,000 Jewish Hungarians came in Birkenau. When the crematories were not enough to burn the Jews, the SS ordered 3,000 men to dig holes.
  • David Boder: To make what?
  • David Lea: Holes, pits. [The interviewer says something in another language to make himself clear].
  • David Boder: Ah . . . whole . . .
  • David Lea: Yes. Pits.
  • David Boder: Pits.
  • David Lea: Yes. And, in 27 days, they burned 600,000 Jews alive. We saw them because I worked [unintelligible] commando to the crematory, and I saw them by the front side, they burnt them alive, with wood and benzene. The transportations coming, sometimes . . .Though the 600,000 figure that Mr. Lea states is not correct, it is accurate that the crematoria in Auschwitz-Birkenau were not able to cope with the great number of Hungarian Jews who steadily arrived at the camp. The overwhelmed SS therefore murdered some by burning them alive in huge fire-pits that Mr. Lea describes. Among those murdered in this way were infants and children. In all, some one million one hundred thousand Jews were sent to Auschwitz. One this number approximately one million perished making Auschwitz the largest Jewish graveyard in the world.50
  • David Boder: They burned them in pits, not in the . . .
  • David Lea: They did not burn them . . . they did not burn them in furnaces because they didn't have time.
  • David Boder: Yes. They did not send them to the chambre . . . gas chamber.
  • David Lea: No. They didn't put them in the gas chamber because the Germans didn't have time.
  • David Boder: And then . . . ?
  • David Lea: They burned them in the pits we had made, with wood and with essence.
  • David Boder: With what?
  • David Lea: With essence, benzene.
  • David Boder: Benzene.
  • David Lea: Benzene.
  • David Boder: Right. did they kill them before, or what?
  • David Lea: They burned them alive. They didn't kill them, they burned them alive.
  • David Boder: They burned them alive?
  • David Lea: Alive. Six hundred thousand Jewish Hungarians, in November or in September. I don't remember exactly the date and the day, but I remember that I witnessed this, as [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: Pardon me.
  • David Lea: [unintelligible] I saw this as if the [unintelligible] were mine.
  • David Boder: Right.
  • David Lea: The transportations coming there were guarded by thousands of SS and, in the whole convoy, there were about 20 to 25 or 50 [unintelligible]. And in the last one I saw, there was a German Jeep -they said it was from the Croix Rouge. And the Jews, when they were put in the convoy, they said they would take them to hospital, and the Jews believed it because they saw they were accompanied by the [unintelligible] of the Croix Rouge.The vehicle with the "Croix Rouge", the Red Cross emblem that Mr. Lea describes was used by the SS to transport canisters of Zyklon B gas to the gas chambers.51
  • David Boder: What did the [unintelligible] have? A red cross?
  • David Lea: The [unintelligible] had the Croix Rouge and it had . . .
  • David Boder: What is Croix Rouge?
  • David Lea: The Red Cross.
  • David Boder: The Red Cross?
  • David Lea: Yes. It had in the [unintelligible], it had a white flag with the Red Cross, and he said we are taking you to the hospital to examine you, and we are taking [unintelligible]. And then, inside, he opened the gases.
  • David Boder: I see . . .
  • David Lea: But [unintelligible] knew that, the transportation [unintelligible]. Even us . . . we ourselves when we first arrived at the camp. But after one month, two months, three months that I worked in the crematory, we knew what it contained. The gas was brought with the Red Cross. With the [unintelligible], with the Red Cross car.
  • David Boder: From the Red Cross. Yes.
  • David Lea: From the Red Cross. As I am explaining . . . I am explaining that [unintelligible] caros brothers [unintelligible] you will not to be able to feel. This is the greatest tragedy, the greatest ever in the crematory. [unintelligible] our brothers and sisters. Six million Jews died in the camps, some battered, some of starvation, some [unintelligible] to be put in the gas chamber, children and parents. They could no longer stand the suffering and the starvation, and lice, and the forced labor any more, and they went voluntarily to the gas chamber.
  • David Boder: So, tell me . . . er . . . what is it that you said about the . . . ?
  • David Lea: About the sterilization?
  • David Boder: Well . . . yes.
  • David Lea: In the Auschwitz camp, which is in the same direction as the Birkenau camp -about twenty minutes on foot- they sterilized eighteen to twenty-seven-year-old women. They were sterilized in Block 10 in Auschwitz. In Birkenau, they sterilized twenty-two to thirty-year-old youngsters, in Block . . .Mr. Lea is describing the ghastly medical experiments conducted in Block Ten of the main Auschwitz camp. As he later explains, the sterilization experiments were conducted so that the Nazi regime could perfect methods to prevent "inferior races" from breeding. The first experimental sterilization's were carried out on Greek Jewish women, most probably from Salonika, ages fifteen to eighteen. They were sterilized by x-rays, and their ovaries were removed. After this mutilation and unbearable suffering, they were sent to the gas chambers. The experiments were performed by doctors operating with no medical ethical restraints to limit their sadistic practices.52
  • David Boder: Men?
  • David Lea: Men, yes, men.
  • David Boder: How were they sterilized?
  • David Lea: They took them there and sterilized them using injections. They sterilized them with injections. In Block 26. This happened on Juin 4th, 7th, 8th of Juin.
  • David Boder: What month was it?
  • David Lea: Juin.
  • David Boder: June.
  • David Lea: June. Yes. In 1943. After they did this -sterilizing women and men, and the SS lay, there were some chambers, special for men, young people, and women after certain age, they lay together . . . the SS doctors wanted to have . . . if the breeding of a new race could be prevented. And most of them, would not bear children. Most of them, 95%, would not bear children.
  • David Boder: Well, and what about the others . . . what . . . ? Did they get pregnant? Or what? Er . . . What does it mean, 95% could not . . . hem, no . . .
  • David Lea: The 95% could not any more, they took their sperm.
  • David Boder: Oh. They could not have sex again any more.
  • David Lea: They could not have sex any more.
  • David Boder: Right. Then, they put men and women together.
  • David Lea: Together with the women, and they couldn't do anything. But even if these men were given good food to see if they could do things . . . but of course, even if they were fed the best food in the world, it was impossible for them, because they had been well sterilized.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: And every day, in Birkenau camp, there was a selection of men, from 2,000 to 3,000 men, every night they burned deportees who had been in the camp for three months, or five months, or a year. Such as [unintelligible] Jews, Sephardic Jews, Lithuanian Jews, Hungarians, and they took them to the crematory.Mr. Lea is referring to the regular "selections" that took place in Auschwitz designed to find those prisoners who could no longer work. They were placed in special barracks for a time and then sent to the gas chambers.53
  • David Boder: Tell me again about the case when you asked for permission . . . permission to pray over the dead.
  • David Lea: Over . . . ?
  • David Boder: Didn't you say that they burned the dead and you asked for permission to pray, that you could . . . hem . . . ? You said earlier that you were not allowed to say your . . . hem . . .
  • David Lea: Ah, yes. I was in Landsberg, in the '45, in Bavaria. I worked in a commando of fifteen Jewish men, and me, sixteen.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: One day, the sister of one of the working commands died in concentration camp number 7. Naturally us, as Jews, called a young man who had a friend, a colleague, to [unintelligible] dig.
  • David Boder: [The interviewer says the word dig in another language to check whether he understood correctly].
  • David Lea: [The interviewee confirms what the interviewer understood]. And then, when we made the pit, the SS came to us and said "what are you dirty Jews doing with a book?" The man said . . .
  • David Boder: Oh! You had a book?
  • David Lea: Yes. We had a book . . . the Hungarians and the Polish Jews, when the Hungarian, in '44, when we were deported, they brought books [unintelligible] and [unintelligible]. And we kept them in holes in the earth, in our pants, we kept the books of the Law to [unintelligible].Mr. Lea is referencing Siddurs, Jewish prayer books, which had been taken from Jews on the 1944 Hungarian transports by prisoners and secreted by them for religious use.54
  • David Boder: To pray.
  • David Lea: To pray. When he sees it, he says . . . says "what is that dirty book you have, Jew?," but . . .
  • David Boder: Speak slowly, please.
  • David Lea: "What is that dirty book you have?" My partner stood up and said "she is my sister and I wanted to pray." And he says "for the dirty you don't need to [unintelligible]." Then he took the shovel and hit the man on the head, and he died instantly. And we buried him with his sister, and other 400 people, in a pit. In each pit we dug, we put 300, 350, 400, 450 people. After two meters and forty centimeters in depth, we threw the earth, and before covering them, we threw [unintelligible] or lime to avoid [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: To avoid what?
  • David Lea: [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: Ah.
  • David Lea: And then, we would throw rocks and earth, and cover the pit and leave. The following day, we would do the same job, because it was a quarantine camp. It was a camp to kill Jews with the injections. The injections we put, either in the arm, or in the foot, after three to four minutes, the blood would go up to [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: Where to?
  • David Lea: When the injection was shot, the blood would come up [unintelligible], they were already preto.The meaning of "preto" is not clear. The injections of phenol Mr. Lea is describing were given directly into the heart of the victim. The "points" he then mentions might have made by the needle injecting the phenol.55
  • David Boder: Who would put the injections? Did you?
  • David Lea: No. The SS.
  • David Boder: The SS.
  • David Lea: And in many camps, the SS ordered the Jews to put injections, but they did that mandatorily because otherwise, the SS had the machine gun, and it was behind them and "if you don't do this, I will kill you".
  • David Boder: And . . . ?
  • David Lea: And of course, the Jew came, and they shot them the injection.
  • David Boder: But tell me. Where did the blood come from?
  • David Lea: In the [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: Here in the . . .
  • David Lea: And preto and here.
  • David Boder: Did it seem to flow out?
  • David Lea: No. It looked all preto, the center of the [unintelligible] with two points, three points, and that was it . . . they died instantly. But after two to three points . . .
  • David Boder: What did three points do?
  • David Lea: Three minutes.
  • David Boder: Three minutes?
  • David Lea: Two to three minutes, then everything became preto. The [unintelligible] preto. And we took them and threw them in a [unintelligible] and we buried them. Also, in camp 1, in Landsberg, there was the big SS medical. The name was Blanca, a Spanish name . . . tall, dark. As big as myself.
  • David Boder: A woman?
  • David Lea: No. A man. His name was Blanca. A tall, dark man, about 35 or 34 years. He couldn't stand Jews, even those who wanted to work, who were healthy, quite many . . . he gave the order to give them shots. This one was killed, this same one, he had a child and a wife. He was . . . he killed himself . . .
  • David Boder: What do you mean? A child?
  • David Lea: A small boy.
  • David Boder: I see . . . A boy?
  • David Lea: A boy. He had a little boy and a wife with him.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: When the Americans were approaching Lager 1, he saw that they were coming; he didn't have anything to do, nothing to save . . . he took the little boy, sent him to the [unintelligible], then he took a syringe and killed [unintelligible] his wife in the first place, then [unintelligible], and himself. And an acquaintance of mine, who is currently in Paris, took the time and the ring from his hand and . . . When he saw he was already dead, he took the ring and the time from his hand.Mr. Lea is saying that the SS man he calls Blanca killed his wife and child with injections of poison and then himself as the Americans were approaching. Hitler, Himmler and Josef Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, were among other fanatic Nazis who also committed suicide before they could be captured. Before their suicides, Goebbels and his wife poisoned their six children.56
  • David Boder: What do you mean "the time"? The watch?
  • David Lea: The watch. The time and the ring. This comrade is now in Paris and we see each other every day and every night.
  • David Boder: Right.
  • David Lea: I wanted . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: In camp 5, camp 5, after the occupation . . .
  • David Boder: Camp 5 where?
  • David Lea: Camp 5 of Landsberg, Bavaria, after the occupation, we were working in commandos, very hard, with trees, to cut trees down for [unintelligible] we couldn't do the job because we didn't have any food and we would say "if you want us to work, give us food," if not [unintelligible]. We can't work 14 hours a day; it's better if you kill us. The SS didn't want to kill us.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: They didn't want to kill us. We are going to make you suffer, we are going to beat you to death and then we are going to kill you when we wish, and as we like. This happened in the Lager (camp) of Landsberg. In Lager 5, in Lager 6, in Lager 7, in Lager 8, in Lager 9, in Lager 10 and in Lager 11. We worked at the [unintelligible] station, that was the commando.This was typical of the SS who saw themselves as the masters of life and death.57
  • David Boder: [Unintelligible]? [The interviewer confirms the name of the commando in German].
  • David Lea: [Unintelligible]. [The interviewer repeats the name of the commando in German]. I worked in Lager 7, in commando Tot. My name . . .
  • David Boder: Tot commando?
  • David Lea: Tot commando, yes.
  • David Boder: That was bad! What was it?
  • David Lea: The Tot commando was a specialized commando for burying the dead, because in Germany it was forbidden to make crematories and burn the dead, because the greatest part of the civil German population ignored that there were crematories and furnaces. Many a time we would come from . . . we came across German civilians and explained to them. And the civilians would say: "German people never do that atrocity." But we told them: "but we told them one day . . . we already know that [unintelligible] Germans, but the story will come to be known, or [unintelligible], or even [unintelligible], that crematories existed in Germany."Mr. Lea is speaking about German civilians after the war. Their willful ignorance and criminal indifference made them complicit in Nazi atrocities.58
  • David Lea: The largest and cruelest crematory was in Buchenwald camp, in which I have a companion, that we sleep all together in the [unintelligible] of Maison de la Rue [unintelligible]. 9 Rue [unintelligible], Paris. We are 4 of them, 4 Jews. Three are from the Buchenwald camp, and one is from Dachau camp [unintelligible]. One is called [unintelligible], the other's name is Henry Suchami, who currently works with the American Joint. Henry Suchami is the first Sephardic transportation from Greece to Auschwitz. 109,957, first transportation from Greece, who lost his mother, father, family, three children aged five, seven, and eleven, and his wife. And the wife was pregnant.
  • David Lea: [Unintelligible name], a young man, about 35 years old, lost a child and his wife. And he is included in the Palestine migration list, and there is no chance to leave, not a single chance to leave. The [unintelligible] Palestinian from Paris, who is at 83 Avenue [unintelligible], says, "tomorrow, after tomorrow, five months from now, one month from now, three months from now, you are leaving." This young man has relatives in Palestine, but, as he is thin, he can't leave illegally, he is scared, he is staying with me.
  • David Boder: Cause he is thin . . .
  • David Lea: From camp [unintelligible]. As he is [unintelligible] the camp, [unintelligible], he can't even work, nothing. Naturally, what does he expect from me, a partner with whom we were in the camp three years, a piece of bread, or a pant he will have to adapt to his size. If I don't give him a pant, shoes, he doesn't have anything to wear, and . . . he can't work. He has thin, he has [unintelligible] his lungs. This isn't the only case of deportees, there are many deportees here in France, who . . .
  • David Boder: Of course.
  • David Lea: There are many deportees here in France, who are still suffering. And we want to go to Palestine, and we see the British barbarism, that if we . . . the young people who came from the camps, if we don't go to Palestine, we would never start working. I, a Lebanese, who am talking to you, wouldn't think to go to work to Palestine ever, I would think of taking the rifle or the machine gun, and claim for freedom. If you don't get freedom through war . . . if I don't get freedom with politics, I get freedom with war. I would never think of going to work. If I die in Palestine, some day my children or my siblings are going to come. Because I have already seen the camp when I was three, I saw the extermination of 6,000 Jews, and would never like this British politics. We, the survivors from the camps, want to go right now fight that dirty rac . . . that dirty British politics and we don't have the possibility because of where we are. Because there are currently in France many Jews, young people, that are migrating illegally.Despite all that he had been through, Mr. Lea was attempting to care for another survivor. He expressed the hope of many survivors at the time to be allowed to emigrate to Palestine, then under British control, and fight for a state where Jews could live in freedom. His reference to "I a Lebanese" is not clear, but it could mean he was a "Levantine", a former inhabitant of a country, Greece, in the eastern Mediterranean.59
  • David Boder: Migrating to France?
  • David Lea: No. Migrating to Palestine.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Lea: And one day, Palestine . . . one day, Palestine we will take it and even if 50,000 Jews died in Palestine in combat, or 100,000 Jews. It is not the important point.
  • David Boder: [In English] This ends Spool 42 of Mr. David Lea.
  1. Salonika (Thessasloniki) was home to Greece's largest Jewish community, a number of whom were descendants of Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 who had sought refuge in the city, then part of the Ottoman empire. Salonika was the most significant Sephardic Jewish religious and cultural center in the world. For four hundred and fifty years, the Jewish community, whether as a majority or as a plurality, was a dominant factor in the city.
  2. Boder knew about the Sephardic heritage of the Jews of Salonika. Along with Greek, they spoke Ladino, a language which contains elements of Hebrew, Spanish and Arabic.
  3. Italy invaded and conquered Albania in April, 1939 as part of Italian dictator Mussolini's dream to build an Italian Mediterranean empire in imitation of his Roman predecessors.
  4. On October 28, 1940, Italian forces crossed the Albanian border and invaded Greece. Mr. Lea was one of the some 13,000 Greek Jews who fought against the invaders. The Greeks acquitted themselves well against the Italian aggressors and forced them back into Albania.
  5. Following the German invasion of Greece on April 6, 1941, the Greek army and monarch were evacuated to the Greek island of Crete with the help of the British navy. The Germans launched a massive airborne invasion of Crete on May 20,1941, and the island soon fell to the Germans.
  6. That is five months after he was released from prison as a prisoner of war to the time of his deportation from Salonika.
  7. Salonika was taken by German troops on April 9, 1941 and from then on was in the German zone of occupation. Italian forces controlled Athens and the Peloponnesus.
  8. Towards the close of January, 1943, the Germans created three separate neighborhood ghettos in Salonika in which Jews were incarcerated prior to their deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
  9. These false assurances offered to Salonikan Jews were typical of German deceptions. This, along with family solidarity and the inability to imagine the horrific fate that awaited them, inhibited resistance
  10. Mr. Lea came from a typically large Sephardic Jewish family in Salonika. His family members were among the 37,000 Jews from the city gassed immediately upon their arrival in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
  11. Jews scheduled for deportation were assembled in the Baron Hirsch quarter of the city. Deportees on the first transports were forced to send attractive postcards to their co-religionists still in Salonika describing their "positive experiences" in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
  12. Mr. Lea is referring to the notorious "selections" which took place upon the arrival of prisoners in Auschwitz-Birkenau which identified those whom the SS deemed were strong enough for slave labor. Everyone else was sent immediately to the gas chambers.
  13. The "revier" was the so-called hospital in Auschwitz. The lie that Mr. Lea's mother and father were to be taken to the "revier" is another example of German deception.
  14. Translator's Note: He is using the French pronunciation of November.
  15. By his use of the word, "nonsense", here and elsewhere, Mr. Lea might mean that those in the Sonderkommando under German supervision helped reduce those selected for death to ashes, to nothing.
  16. Mr. Lea is speaking about the murder of the Hungarian Jewish community in Auschwitz-Birkenau between May 15 and July 9, 1944. During that time, some 434,000 Hungarian Jews, from outside Budapest were deported to the extermination center at Auschwitz. where some 320,000 were sent immediately to the gas chambers. The remainder were sent to slave labor from which many perished. Mr. Lea's figure of 600,000 is exaggerated.
  17. The Salonikan Jews in Auschwitz-Birkenau constituted a significant part of the Sonderkommando at the time. Mr. Lea was one of the strong, young Jews selected to perform the hellish tasks assigned to this unit. There is no definitive answer as to why Jews engaged in this work. One may note that some sought to survive to seek revenge, others to bear witness to heinous German crimes and still others because their will to live overcame their revulsion at what they were forced to do. There were Jews who committed suicide rather than serve in the Sonderkommando.
  18. Translator's Note: He seems to be mixing up June with January. Auschwitz was liberated by the Russian Army on January 27, 1945.
  19. Mr. Lea was indeed confusing June with January. On January 18, 1945, as the Red Army was approaching Auschwitz, the SS forced marched 58,000 prisoners from the facility on what became for many a death march.
  20. Mr. Lea's subsequent testimony reveals nothing about his time in Buchenwald. Furth is located north of Dachau near Nuremberg. Mr. Lea does not mention it again.
  21. Translator's Note: He uses the French word for announcement.
  22. The effort to deceive those condemned to death continued to the very end when they were told they were going to take a shower. All the gas chambers in the extermination camps were disguised as shower rooms.
  23. In the gas chambers known as Bunker One and Bunker Two, the SS used vents in the side walls to discharge the Zyklon B gas. In Crematoria II, III, IV and V, constructed between March and June 1943, the gas was introduced through columns shaped like pillars in the gas chambers. Zyklon B was poured into the columns from an opening in the ceiling here referred to as a "luminette". Some two thousand human beings at one time could be crammed into the gas chambers in Cremtoria II, III IV and V. These units had combined gas chambers and crematoria. The murder operation in the gas chambers took from twenty to thirty minutes.
  24. Translator's Note: He uses the inology.
  25. Mr. Lea might be indicating that one aspect of his job was to drag the bodies out of the gas chamber while wearing a gas mask after the ventilation of the chamber in preparation for the next set of victims had taken place. He also might have been involved in burning the bodies of the victims in the crematoria.
  26. Translator's Note: He uses the inology.
  27. Mr. Lea is speaking about the arrival of large numbers of Hungarian Jews. The daily murder of arrivals is exaggerated. The burning capacity of the crematoria was about 8,000 bodies in a twenty-four hour period. The Sonderkommando unit did indeed work around the clock at peak times during the arrival of the Hungarian transports. They did have better rations and accommodations than the other prisoners, but the SS would periodically murder the Sonderkommado because they sought to eliminate witnesses to their mass murder and then replace the Sonderkommando with a new group of prisoners. The number of prisoners working in the Sonderkommando during the extermination of the Hungarian Jews was approximately 1,000. Then in late 1944 the gas chambers ceased to operate followed by the evacuation of Auschwitz.
  28. On October 7, 1944, some 450 members of the Sonderkommando organized an uprising that destroyed Crematorium IV. Some 135 Greek Jews took part in the rebellion. All of those who participated were executed. Mr. Lea was spared execution because he was in the Auschwitz sickbay at the time. The destruction of Crematorium IV was the single most significant act of resistance in Auschwitz. Some Sonderkommando prisoners found other ways to resist. They kept diaries of the horrors they had witnessed and buried them in the ashes surrounding the crematoria. Several were discovered after the war.
  29. The explosives used in the destruction of Crematorium IV were supplied by a group of young Polish Jewish women from Auschwitz III (Monowitz) led by the intrepid Roza Robota. They too were executed after having endured excruciating torture.
  30. Murder in the gas chambers came to a halt following the revolt of the Sonderkommado. On November 25, 1944, Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, ordered the demotion of the crematoria. Elements of two of the Auschwitz gas chambers and crematoria were transferred to the Gross-Rosen camp.
  31. Translator's Note: Again, he seems to be mixing up January and June.
  32. Dachau was established on March 10, 1933 as the first of the SS organized concentration camps. It became a training ground for SS personnel who staffed other camps and a model for these camps. Contrary to what Boder indicated, there were significant number of Jews in Dachau. Gas chambers were built at the camp but were never used. However, as Mr. Lea notes, there was indeed a crematorium in the camp. It is unclear what Mr. Lea meant when he said, "It is forbidden for the Jewish." At least 31,000 prisoners perished in Dachau some of whom were victims of inhuman medical experiments.
  33. Gypsies in Auschwitz-Birkenau were incarcerated i n what was known as the Gypsy family camp (Birkenau IIe) beginning on February 26, 1943. Most of the Gypsies were from Germany and Austria. In Nazi ideology they were considered "a-socials" who were parasitical and "biologically harmful." No conclusive documentary evidence exists as to why the Gypsies were allowed to live in Auschwitz with their families. . On August 2, 1944, after removing some 2,900 Gypsies for slave labor, the remaining nearly 3,000 residents of the Gypsy camp were gassed.
  34. He uses the inology.
  35. Mr. Lea was sent to Warsaw along with other Greek Jews several months after the collapse of the rebellion to clean up the ghetto area. He notes that he and other Greek Jews were sent there because they did not speak Polish, and the language barrier would hinder their escape. They were imprisoned in a camp not far from Warsaw's Jewish graveyard.
  36. Pawiak was the main prison in Warsaw. What Mr. Lea is saying about it in unclear.
  37. Translator's Note: "Bunki" is not a German word—they are obviously talking about "The Bund" (The General Jewish Labor Union, usually just called "Bund"). "Bunki" is possibly Lea's pronunciation of "Bund."
  38. It is also unclear what Mr. Lea means when he is talking about the "Bunki". At one point, he might have meant the Bund, as the translator notes, but another point he seems to be referring to the warren of bunkers in the Warsaw ghetto which sheltered Jews during the rebellion. What became of the "machine gun" he said he stole is not revealed.
  39. What one can glean overall from this difficult to interpret testimony of Mr. Lea in this segment is that the Jews from Auschwitz sent to work in Warsaw had to deal with intolerable working conditions due to lack of adequate food, contagious diseases, sadistic kapos and inclement weather.
  40. Mr. Lea's testimony here is a bit disjointed. He first speaks about the slave camp in Warsaw where sick prisoners were murdered with injections but then begins to speak about his experiences in Landsberg, a sub-camp of Dachau where he worked on the burial detail. Insofar as the latter is concerned, it is worth recalling that there were 150 branches of the main Dachau camp in southern Germany and Austria.
  41. "Bracha" is the Hebrew word and "Broche" is the Yiddish word for blessing. Mr. Lea's comrade wished to say the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, for his relative and was killed by the SS man for attempting to do so. In recounting this incident later in the interview, Mr. Lea will note that it was the prisoner's sister for whom he wished to say the Kaddish.
  42. Translator's Note: He uses the German term for Bavaria, which the interviewer does not seem to understand at first.
  43. Does Mr. Lea mean that Landsberg was the final camp he was in before liberation or that many met their final fate (death) in Landsberg? The camp numbers he goes on to relate might have been the sections into which Landsberg was divided.
  44. It is possible that what Mr. Lea terms, "Tannberg" was a part of Landsberg. He claims that SS personnel in "Tannberg" were placed on trial in Nuremberg, a city in southern Germany known for its Nazi rallies, by the victorious Allies after the war. The Nuremberg trial of major Nazi war criminals lasted from October 18, 1945 to September 30 and October 1, 1946. Subsequent Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals took place between December, 1946 and April, 1949.
  45. Mr. Lea's testimony here is somewhat garbled, but the gist of it is that the SS murdered prisoners with flame throwers as the Americans closed in on the camp. Until the very end of the war, the Nazi obsession with murdering every single Jew possible was undiminished.
  46. Mr. Lea goes on to describe incidents of cannibalism engaged in by the desperate, despairing, dehumanized, starving prisoners in Landsberg. On occasion, cannibalism did occur during the Holocaust. It is mentioned in a few survivor accounts. The practice was also carried out by some Soviet prisoners of war who were deliberately and systematically starved by the Germans.
  47. Mr. Lea's native language was Ladino, a mixture of Hebrew, Spanish and Arabic. This language was commonly spoken by the Jews of Salonika and was part of their Sephardic Jewish heritage.
  48. There is an inconsistency here in Mr. Lea's testimony. In June and July of 1944, he was working as part of the Sonderkommando in Auschwitz during the deportation of Hungarian Jews. It is more likely that after working in Warsaw in 1943, he was sent back to Auschwitz where he remained until its evacuation on January 18, 1945. It was subsequent to this that he was put on the train he describes and, after a horrific journey, ultimately ended up in Landsberg.
  49. It is perfectly understandable that a man who had suffered as much as Mr. Lea would find it difficult to sequence correctly all that had happened to him. The emotional and psychological traumas he had endured affected his memory though the individual incidents that he describes in the interview are vividly recalled and remain firmly etched in his mind.
  50. Though the 600,000 figure that Mr. Lea states is not correct, it is accurate that the crematoria in Auschwitz-Birkenau were not able to cope with the great number of Hungarian Jews who steadily arrived at the camp. The overwhelmed SS therefore murdered some by burning them alive in huge fire-pits that Mr. Lea describes. Among those murdered in this way were infants and children. In all, some one million one hundred thousand Jews were sent to Auschwitz. One this number approximately one million perished making Auschwitz the largest Jewish graveyard in the world.
  51. The vehicle with the "Croix Rouge", the Red Cross emblem that Mr. Lea describes was used by the SS to transport canisters of Zyklon B gas to the gas chambers.
  52. Mr. Lea is describing the ghastly medical experiments conducted in Block Ten of the main Auschwitz camp. As he later explains, the sterilization experiments were conducted so that the Nazi regime could perfect methods to prevent "inferior races" from breeding. The first experimental sterilization's were carried out on Greek Jewish women, most probably from Salonika, ages fifteen to eighteen. They were sterilized by x-rays, and their ovaries were removed. After this mutilation and unbearable suffering, they were sent to the gas chambers. The experiments were performed by doctors operating with no medical ethical restraints to limit their sadistic practices.
  53. Mr. Lea is referring to the regular "selections" that took place in Auschwitz designed to find those prisoners who could no longer work. They were placed in special barracks for a time and then sent to the gas chambers.
  54. Mr. Lea is referencing Siddurs, Jewish prayer books, which had been taken from Jews on the 1944 Hungarian transports by prisoners and secreted by them for religious use.
  55. The meaning of "preto" is not clear. The injections of phenol Mr. Lea is describing were given directly into the heart of the victim. The "points" he then mentions might have made by the needle injecting the phenol.
  56. Mr. Lea is saying that the SS man he calls Blanca killed his wife and child with injections of poison and then himself as the Americans were approaching. Hitler, Himmler and Josef Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, were among other fanatic Nazis who also committed suicide before they could be captured. Before their suicides, Goebbels and his wife poisoned their six children.
  57. This was typical of the SS who saw themselves as the masters of life and death.
  58. Mr. Lea is speaking about German civilians after the war. Their willful ignorance and criminal indifference made them complicit in Nazi atrocities.
  59. Despite all that he had been through, Mr. Lea was attempting to care for another survivor. He expressed the hope of many survivors at the time to be allowed to emigrate to Palestine, then under British control, and fight for a state where Jews could live in freedom. His reference to "I a Lebanese" is not clear, but it could mean he was a "Levantine", a former inhabitant of a country, Greece, in the eastern Mediterranean.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription (Spanish) : Adriana Barrós Tomé
  • Translation (Spanish) : Patricia Sanner
  • Transcription (German) : Simone Müller
  • Translation (German) : Simone Müller
  • Footnotes : Elliot Lefkovitz, Simone Müller