David P. Boder Interviews Jacob Minski; August 23, 1946; Paris, France

  • David Boder: How old are you?
  • Jacob Minski: I am thirty-nine years old.
  • David Boder: [In English] This is Spool 70 . . . [Test of microphone] This is Spool 70, taken in Paris on August 23, 1946, at the headquarters of the Joint Distribution Committee. The interviewee is Mr. Jacob Minski, thirty-nine, who will speak in German. [In German] Now them, Mr. Minski, will you give us your full name again? Tell us where you were born and where the war found you.
  • Jacob Minski: My name?
  • David Boder: Louder please . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Yes. My name is Jacob Minski . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . born the . . . the twenty-fifth of November, 1907, in Zurich.
  • David Boder: Oh! Are you a Swiss subject, Mr. Minski?
  • Jacob Minski: No-o . . . I am Stateless. My parents are from Poland, but they have left Poland since an early age; and . . . I hardly cleared my citizenship. You see, I was brought up in the orphanage in Hamburg.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And so I was there during my whole sojourn in Germany. I lived for about twenty-five years in Hamburg, without interruption.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: I had . . . I lived on a Stateless passport. And due to that I also had immigration difficulties. Otherwise, I would have emigrated a long time ago.
  • David Boder: Yes . . . Now tell me this. Are your parents living?
  • Jacob Minski: My parents are not living anymore. I shall tell you briefly . . .
  • David Boder: Yes, please.
  • Jacob Minski: . . . When we . . . in October, 1941, I received from the Gestapo by way of a registered letter the invitation [order] to appear on a certain day at Mohrweiden street with twenty-five pounds of baggage.
  • David Boder: Where . . . on what . . . ?
  • Jacob Minski: In Hamburg, Mohrweiden Street.
  • David Boder: Yes. That was in forty-one?
  • Jacob Minski: That was '41, Yes.
  • David Boder: And the war started for Germany?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . '39 . . . on . . .
  • David Boder: '39. So for two years they left you alone?
  • Jacob Minski: For two years we could relatively . . . That is, we wore the Jew-star—were 'tagged;' we had to buy in designated stores . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And it is self-understood that we had no right to go to theaters and other [public] places . . .
  • David Boder: Don't make that so 'self-understood;' we in America don't know that. You were not permitted to go to theaters, to movies . . . ?
  • Jacob Minski: No theaters, no movies, . . . We were, of course, through the Jew star so 'branded' . . . That is, one had no right to cover up the Jew star by means of a brief case so that . . . because that was a severely punishable act. One was . . . it was [considered] an act of camouflage—it came under the law of camouflage and camouflage was subject to penalty.
  • David Boder: [He uses for camouflage a rather uncommon word 'Tarnung' which is the reason for the question] And what is 'Tarnung?'
  • Jacob Minski: Tarnung, that means to walk under a false banner, so to speak [to act under false identity]
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: That means one covered the Jew [star] . . .
  • David Boder: What kind of a word is 'Tarnung?'
  • Jacob Minski: Tarnung? I would almost say that here in German . . . It is a kind of defense, a cover up, when one . . . one . . .
  • David Boder: Camouflage?
  • Jacob Minski: Yes. Camo . . . Something like it. One may also say camouflage.
  • David Boder: Yes, Yes. Sit more comfortably. Now then . . .
  • Jacob Minski: [Words not clear]
  • David Boder: You may now see, when the indicator light flashes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Yes . . .
  • David Boder: . . . then it means that you are talking loud enough.
  • Jacob Minski: Aha . . . Aha . . .
  • David Boder: That it flashes just a bit.
  • Jacob Minski: Aha . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And we journeyed from Hamburg . . . We journeyed . . .
  • David Boder: Now then . . . You were assembled there . . .
  • Jacob Minski: We were there . . . we were there assembled in a large building and that was the first transport for Lodz in Sile . . . [word not finished] for Lodz . . . [searches for words]
  • David Boder: . . . was compelled to go [to Lodz] ?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . was compelled to go.
  • David Boder: Why to Lodz? Were you considered a Pole?
  • Jacob Minski: That means . . . One cannot say that there were exclusively Poles. There were all nationalities. There were also German . . .
  • David Boder: Jews?
  • Jacob Minski: German Jews.
  • David Boder: Yes. Now then . . .
  • Jacob Minski: This was the only transport that went to Lodz. There were about twelve hundred Jews under the 'leadership' at that time . . . the 'transport leader' was at that time Dacke from the Department of Emigration.
  • David Boder: Yes . . . What kind of RR-cars were you given?
  • Jacob Minski: Those were . . . in that case [??] there were relatively decent RR-cars. As an exception, these were not cattle cars.
  • David Boder: They were third [class] such wooden . . . ?
  • Jacob Minski: Wooden cars.
  • Jacob Minski: Wooden cars. So he said that time to those assembled at the rr-station . . . He said ironically, 'You will now travel without [?] tickets.'
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And so then . . . When we . . . In two days we arrived in Lodz.
  • David Boder: The train must have gone fast?
  • Jacob Minski: No . . . It was comparatively slow. One cant' say [that it went fast] .
  • David Boder: Were you fed on the way?
  • Jacob Minski: We got something from the Jewish community . . . We were fed, that is, we were given [word not clear] provisions. Possibly . . . I don't know whether the Jewish community was informed that we . . . that we were going to Lodz. At any rate, we were given sufficient food . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . and when we arrived in Lodz we were assembled in a school . . . That is in Lodz . . . in a school . . . It was in a frightful condition . . .
  • David Boder: [Few words not clear]
  • Jacob Minski: We, of course, were unable to imagine what that meant to live in a Lodz Ghetto.
  • David Boder: Oh . . . You were taken to the Ghetto?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . to the Ghetto—Yes, to the Ghetto.
  • David Boder: Now . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . to the Lodz Ghetto . . . There we had [to live] under the most frightful conditions, one would say from a hygienic standpoint—under conditions worse than in a concentration camp.
  • David Boder: Now then. Continue please.
  • Jacob Minski: I . . . I . . .
  • David Boder: Wait a moment. [Apparently adjustment of recorder] Now then . . .
  • Jacob Minski: From this . . . form this single transport, which went to the Lodz Ghetto, as far as it is known at the most three [persons] have survived. Most of them either starved to death in the Ghetto—part had died of typhus, or were immediately 'resettled.' What does that mean 'resettled?' The people who were idle, who did not . . . did not accept [find] a job. Most lived under the belief that the war would soon be over. Why then should they accept a job, and that was their misfortune. I don't know what moved me to accept a job; that is . . . I was . . .
  • David Boder: Did one have a choice, to accept?
  • Jacob Minski: One could . . . Yes . . . Everyone could get a job in his own trade because the Lodz Ghetto, as the Germans . . . as the Germans themselves claimed, [was] a model Ghetto.
  • David Boder: Oh!
  • Jacob Minski: Under the leadership of the Jewish elder, Chaim Rumkowski.
  • David Boder: Rumkowski?
  • Jacob Minski: Yes . . . who was, I would almost say, an exploiter . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . in favor of the Germans. If the Germans . . . [demanded] a hundred percent, he would deliver a hundred and fifty percent. And so he . . .
  • David Boder: What do you mean, a hundred percent?
  • Jacob Minski: A hundred percent production—labor production.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: He . . . Of course, what I [?] got [?] for it . . .
  • David Boder: Have you any idea of what has become of Rumkowski? Where is he now?
  • Jacob Minski: Rumkowski was 'burned' with his whole family as soon as they arrived in Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: Rumkowski was 'burned?'
  • Jacob Minski: Yes . . . Yes.
  • David Boder: So much was reported about Rumkowski in Lodz . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Rumkowski was actually like a king; he behaved . . . if according to his theory . . . according to his point of view every person belonged . . . belonged to him . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . Everything that one possessed, that one had, belonged to him.
  • David Boder: Now who has elevated him to this height?
  • Jacob Minski: The Germans.
  • David Boder: The Germans.
  • Jacob Minski: At any rate, they were very satisfied with him; that as a reward [with a chuckle] he had to go to the crematory, is a separate issue . . .
  • David Boder: That was the German gratitude . . .
  • Jacob Minski: That was the German gratitude.
  • David Boder: But wait, since you have come to the topic of Rumkowski I have already heard from others [about it] Have you heard anything about the speech he delivered when he requested the mothers to surrender their children?
  • Jacob Minski: Yes . . . He . . . he . . . of course, when the Germans demanded a thousand or two thousand people for work from him, so he, of course, could not explain it to them in the manner in which the Germans informed him about it. Because in such case nobody would have presented himself voluntarily. He was compelled of course . . . He attempted in a round about way . . .
  • David Boder: . . . to convince?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . to convince the people—that they would present themselves voluntarily for work; under the pretext that they would go to Germany to work and would be fed much better . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . and there were, of course, many, since most people suffered greatly from starvation. So he knew how to persuade them to present themselves voluntarily.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And this 'voluntary' presentation was . . . meant practically death.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . death.
  • David Boder: Now . . .
  • Jacob Minski: We . . . I presented myself as a fireman—for the fire brigade . . . And I based that on the contention . . . [He searches for words; apparently not on account of a general language difficulty, but either due to emotional stress or the 'high scientific plane' on which he attempts to base his explanation]
  • David Boder: Yes . . . That . . . ?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . that the body, in . . . Let us say . . . in the process of great work output . . . Well . . . [a pause] or much . . . Let's say better . . . with the scarce nourishment which we got.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . They really did not want [they could not] to do much.
  • David Boder: . . . wanted to do . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . They did not want to do . . .
  • David Boder: They had to save strength . . . ?
  • Jacob Minski: Yes . . . You should not forget that we had to work twelve hours in the factory on a water soup and two hundred and fifty grams of bread.
  • David Boder: What kind of factory was that?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . There were, of course, all kinds of factories. Every . . . I mean . . . [Word not clear] factories . . . There were all kinds . . . all kinds.
  • David Boder: . . . of work opportunities?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . work opportunities. Indeed, everyone, according to his abilities . . . He worked, let us say, in a shoe factory, or . . .
  • David Boder: And where did the shoes go to?
  • Jacob Minski: The shoes were, of course, delivered to the Germans . . .
  • David Boder: Ah . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . according to orders.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: There were orders [for merchandise] given . . .
  • David Boder: Aha . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . for fixed dates [of delivery] ; and delivery was made accordingly.
  • David Boder: Was there any pay for the work?
  • Jacob Minski: What do you mean? For it they delivered provisions.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: They delivered the merchandise—the raw materials in the Ghetto.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . and for the work they [delivered] . . .
  • David Boder: . . . provisions?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . delivered provisions.
  • David Boder: Yes . . . But if one did not work he also got his food?
  • Jacob Minski: Well . . . At the beginning . . . at the beginning it was not so bad. Later on the people who . . . who did [singular] not work . . . who did [plural] not work . . . were . . . they withdrew [from them] a certain ration . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . That is when the period of deportations had begun.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: I joined, as I said, the fire brigade; and in consequence I had only outdoor service. That is, I only had to watch that there were no fires.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: My colleagues who arrived together with me, all of them, more or less, as said before, died of starvation or were deported. Because the people who could not work were a useless [word not clear] element . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And they were shortly, after a brief stay . . . sent immediately to Auschwitz, or some other concentration camp. [Pause] Later, that was about in 1944.
  • David Boder: Were you in Lodz that long?
  • Jacob Minski: Yes, I was . . . I was in Lodz that long . . . In 1944, about in July . . . in July, '44, it reached also the fire brigade. We were, of course, the last . . . And so . . .
  • David Boder: What does that mean, you were the last?
  • Jacob Minski: Everybody . . . everybody was deported according to orders . . . That is, the Ghetto was to be cleaned out; and you were told, the then chief official Dieburg . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . would tell you that we were going to Germany, to work, and that there were opportunities to be better fed, and . . .
  • David Boder: . . . and the lager supervisor . . . What was his name?
  • Jacob Minski: Rumkowski?
  • David Boder: What?
  • Jacob Minski: Not Rumkowski, you mean . . . ?
  • David Boder: Yes, . . . was Rumkowski already away?
  • Jacob Minski: Rumkowski was there still up to the last moment.
  • David Boder: Yes. Well . . .
  • Jacob Minski: You see, Rumkowski departed one transport before us.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: I had really a chance to remain in the Ghetto, because the director in chief, Dieburg, has said that a number of single young men will remain to clean up the Ghetto.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: I don't know what made me [to decide] to abandon the Ghetto . . . I don't know . . . Possibly I was convinced by the speech of Dieburg, which he directed especially to the fire brigade. I could have as well remained in the Ghetto.with my friend with whom I lived together, and who was a fireman; but I decided there and then to join the transport which presumably was to go to Germany to work. We were loaded into cattle cars—into lead sealed cattle cars; that is, eighty [persons] in each. On the average eighty per car [?] . . .
  • David Boder: Men and women together?
  • Jacob Minski: Men, women, and children . . . I must say that at that moment I almost regretted that I had taken that decision. Because even if I did not know exactly that I was going to a concentration camp, I still had a peculiar presentiment that if we were traveling to work under the [favorable] conditions which were presented to us, then it appeared to me strange that we were sealed in cattle cars, without the possibility to even step out [to the toilet]
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And no light . . . Fortunately one of us had a drill on him . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . that he drilled a small hole in the floor . . .
  • David Boder: . . . in the floor?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . in the floor, so that we could throw [?] 'it' out. And so we were two days en route without . . . without the slightest possibility to move. You cannot imagine in what conditions we . . .
  • David Boder: . . . arrived . . . ?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . arrived in Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: Now wait a moment. I want to have more details, more particulars about this trip. Now then, how many people do you estimate were with you in the RR-car?
  • Jacob Minski: We were eighty people?
  • David Boder: How do you know the number?
  • Jacob Minski: Well, we knew that about eighty [per] car were . . . We saw that they were driven in by the SS or by . . . by the SS with clubs; and to the extent to which a RR-car could at all hold a person—that many were crowded in . . . I mean, in some RR-cars there could have been a few less than eighty, some had more . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: But we can accept an average . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . of eighty people.
  • David Boder: Well . . . And there were men, women . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Men, women, and children, you see, with their baggage, of course . . .
  • David Boder: They were permitted to take baggage?
  • Jacob Minski: Yes. They were permitted to take their baggage. This was not prohibited.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: As much, of course, as one could carry.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Of course, the people thought that if they are going to Germany to work, so they should take working clothes . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Everyone took his kit and caboodle—all his possessions he took with him.
  • David Boder: And then you were sealed in the RR-cars? Were there any windows?
  • Jacob Minski: There were no windows. There were some small cracks here and there . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . in the . . . in the RR-cars . . .
  • David Boder: Now . . . How . . . how did you take care of your needs . . . ?
  • Jacob Minski: Indeed! I told you already . . . Fortunately, that person has broken a hole in the floor, otherwise we could not have taken care of our extreme needs . . .
  • David Boder: How big was that hole?
  • Jacob Minski: That hole was . . . It had a diameter of about ten centimeters.
  • David Boder: One could throw out also the feces?
  • Jacob Minski: Possibly [a few words not clear]
  • David Boder: And what did the women do?
  • Jacob Minski: Of course, you can imagine that with the excitement [nervousness] that prevailed that everyone had the need to relieve [?] himself . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . . and . . .
  • Jacob Minski: That of course, led to utmost indecency [??] We arrived . . . under the most frightful conditions . . . we arrived in Auschwitz . . .
  • David Boder: Could you describe the conduct of individual passengers, certain passengers for me? Let us say, were there . . .
  • Jacob Minski: At the beginning . . . at the beginning we were, so to speak, not in such a bad mood. We expected [?] that possibly . . .
  • David Boder: Were you sitting or standing?
  • Jacob Minski: We were partly sitting, partly standing. It was so crowded that we simply could not move, you see?
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: We were unable . . . to move in any direction.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: The mood was at the beginning, as said before . . . We endeavored . . . the mood . . . Well . . . How should I say it . . . ?
  • David Boder: . . . to keep up your courage?
  • Jacob Minski: Yes, possibly to keep up the courage. Well . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . . Did you talk . . . ?
  • Jacob Minski: Afterwards . . . Yes, we were conversing; in part we were in good spirits—some even attempted to tell some jokes . . . in order just to disguise the situation.
  • David Boder: . . . to overcome?
  • Jacob Minski: Only as the trip began to appear endless, certain individuals began to become suspicious . . .
  • David Boder: Did you get any provisions in the RR-car?
  • Jacob Minski: Only that what we have taken with us.
  • David Boder: . . . what you had with you. Did they provide water?
  • Jacob Minski: No. No. Just until we were sealed up, water was provided.
  • David Boder: What did you have?
  • Jacob Minski: Only something . . . [He becomes very erratic] whatever was passed around . . . People attempted . . . and whoever stretched out a beaker or something of the kind . . .
  • David Boder: They would fill it up?
  • Jacob Minski: He would get . . . to be sure, not always . . . not always did the SS agree to it.
  • David Boder: Yes . . . Were the SS in Lodz?
  • Jacob Minski: Yes.
  • David Boder: . . . or were these Poles or Ukrainians?
  • Jacob Minski: I cannot say for sure. They were . . . most of them were Germans . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Or . . . or, what were they called—Folk-Germans?
  • David Boder: Yes, Folk-Germans . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Yes, Folk-Germans . . . Also the arrival in Auschwitz was also somewhat remarkable. At any rate, when the RR-car was opened we saw the prisoners for the first time.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Prisoners, in striped suits. One of them turned to me and asked me to give him my wristwatch, with the remark that anyway, I was now going to Petrus [Saint Peter]
  • David Boder: What does that mean . . . to Pet. [rus] ?
  • Jacob Minski: To Petrus, that meant to the Merciful God.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: I could not . . .
  • David Boder: Was that a Jewish prisoner?
  • Jacob Minski: I could not judge exactly . . . At such a moment . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . being nervous, one is unable . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: What that was to mean I found out later.
  • David Boder: Was it not known in Lodz what was going on in these lagers?
  • Jacob Minski: We are . . . We were actually cut off from the outside world.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: That is why we knew much too little . . . We were not . . .
  • David Boder: Well . . . He asked you for your watch . . . What did you say?
  • Jacob Minski: Well, to that—nothing. I would not dream of giving him the watch. [Only in a dream could it occur to me to give him the watch] You see?
  • David Boder: Is this the same watch?
  • Jacob Minski: No, that is not the same. This one I got already here.
  • David Boder: Well . . .
  • Jacob Minski: When we . . . Afterwards . . . Yes, we were to get out of the RR-cars; and to leave all the baggage there.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And in addition, we had to get in formation five in a row; and one in uniform . . . a uniformed [person] who revealed himself later as the physician of the lager, indicated by gestures right and left, where each one had to go. That the going to the left, looking from where I stood, meant to go into the lager, while those people who were to stand to the right were going immediately into over . . . into the crematories—that we could not . . . that, thanks to God, we did not know.
  • David Boder: But did you . . .
  • Jacob Minski: At any rate, a Jew noticed . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Now a Jew noticed how a prisoner who at . . . a so-called 'Canadian'—they were called Canadians— . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . one who worked at the railroad. I don't know why . . .
  • David Boder: . . . Why were they called Canadians?
  • Jacob Minski: Yes . . . They were called 'Canadians.' There is no explnation for this name. At any rate, I [?] noticed how a . . . how a prisoner who worked at the railroad, was tearing away the child . . . the child from a young woman . . . from a young woman in order to force it on an older woman.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: This had the following meaning: an old person, an older person was . . . was to go under any circumstances, to the crematory . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . while the young, a young person, alone, not accompanied by children had a chance . . .
  • David Boder: Aha . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . to go into the lager.
  • David Boder: . . . And so he has taken the child away from her.
  • Jacob Minski: Of course. Of course, he could do that only at a moment when, by chance, the lager physician would not notice it.
  • David Boder: Did she know that . . . ?
  • Jacob Minski: She, of course, did not surmise what that could signify. He took her child from her arms and transferred it [attached, forced it upon] to an older woman . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Since she later, anyway . . .
  • David Boder: Anyhow . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . was to be burned . . . would be burned anyhow.
  • David Boder: Nu . . .
  • Jacob Minski: That was explained to us much [?] later.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: The march into the lager was neither, a specially cheerful one; that is . . .
  • David Boder: . . . Tell us the details. We have to have the particulars. Well . . . ?
  • Jacob Minski: We marched into the lager; that is, the whole fire brigade, except the ones who departed before us.
  • David Boder: Which fire brigade . . .
  • Jacob Minski: The Lodz Fire Brigade. I, of course, belonged to the Lodz Fire Brigade . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: The Jewish Lodz Fire Brigade.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: When I heard from the . . . about the transports in which the Jewish Police, too, were present—You see, we also had a Jewish Police . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . that a large part of them were burned . . .
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Jacob Minski: They allegedly did not behave decently towards the population . . .
  • David Boder: . . . towards the Jewish population?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . the Jewish population.
  • David Boder: Well . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . Of course. And since the police had a very bad name among the population, and [since] many prisoners were already in the concentration camp who previously too, were in the Lodz Ghetto; that is, those who arrived before us. So they came to an understanding with the supervisors about this . . .
  • David Boder: . . . police?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . this fact, and for them [prisoners—supervisors of the crematories] it, of course, made no difference who they were burning—true?
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And so . . .
  • David Boder: What kind of supervisors? Were the supervisors Jewish prisoners?
  • Jacob Minski: There were not only . . . No, there was among them, let us say . . . as a consequence of their own situation [?] . . .
  • David Boder: . . . a certain solidarity with other prisoners?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . There were some who occupied a privileged position—such as capo . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . and the like.
  • David Boder: Let me see whether I understand you correctly. The prisoners who had something against the Jewish policemen—the Jewish . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Yes . . .
  • David Boder: . . . prisoners, . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Yes . . .
  • David Boder: . . . had them . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . later, as these [policemen] arrived . . .
  • David Boder: . . . later, as these arrived . . . made arrangements . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . took notice of them [??] or made such arrangements [arranged it] that these were immediately shoved into the oven.
  • David Boder: . . . were shoved . . . Well . . .
  • Jacob Minski: We were then assembled in a square, and we were ordered to throw on the ground anything that we had in our pockets; that means watches, gold, etc.,—that is, everything that we still had because we had to abandon the baggage anyway . . .
  • David Boder: Now, who . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Say, somebody had a watch—a wristwatch, a ring . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . or anything else that presented any kind of value; so he was compelled to put in on the ground . . .
  • David Boder: Even a wedding band [ring] ?
  • Jacob Minski: Just the same. Any object. He could not keep anything.
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Jacob Minski: We were . . . After this took place we had to undress, the clothes . . .
  • David Boder: . . . on the street . . . ?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . on a . . . No, that was in an open square, in an open square; that is, it was closely fenced in . . .
  • David Boder: Yes. But outdoors, under the clear sky?
  • Jacob Minski: Yes . . . [under] the clear sky, the . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . clear sky . . . Then we were . . .
  • David Boder: What month was it?
  • Jacob Minski: That was in the month of July.
  • David Boder: Yes . . . Well . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Then we were taken into a hall. Various prisoners sat there with razor blades, who shaved our whole bodies—shaved us completely . . .
  • David Boder: Jewish prisoners? [?]
  • Jacob Minski: In part Jewish—part non-Jewish [??]
  • David Boder: Did they use soap?
  • Jacob Minski: No. And [painful?] shaving—with dry razor blades, dry, dry . . .
  • David Boder: Razor knifes?
  • Jacob Minski: Razor apparatus . . . No . . .
  • David Boder: Oh, electrical?
  • Jacob Minski: No, No, No, No . . . Plain shaving apparatus.
  • David Boder: The so-called safety razors?
  • Jacob Minski: Yes, Yes. And, of course, dry—without soap . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And the people were expressedly shaven on the whole body . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . Wherever there was a single [little] hair at all on the body . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: You can imagine how painful that is, when one is being shaved a tempo [in a hurry] and then being smattered with various tinctures [chuckle]
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Jacob Minski: I don't know. Possibly for disinfection.
  • David Boder: . . . disinfection.
  • Jacob Minski: . . . smarting, then one had to run through under a shower. At any rate, all kind of experiments [antics]
  • David Boder: How?
  • Jacob Minski: I mean the whole procedure . . . I mean, was so awkward. The worst part was only the shaving, which was so unpleasant. Then they threw us some prisoners' clothing, size estimated on sight. The shoes . . .
  • David Boder: Were you tattooed?
  • Jacob Minski: No. That . . . That I shall explain to you later.
  • David Boder: Yes. Now . . .
  • Jacob Minski: We . . .
  • David Boder: The shoes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: The shoes . . . the shoes we could keep on bare feet [?] That means, later one got rid [was deprived?] of them, too . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . in a peculiar manner. We . . . After we camped the whole night outdoors in this manner—it was rather cold that time . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . We were led into the lager proper. We were then assigned to various blocks . . . to various blocks . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: They were kind of like horse stables—just like such a horse stable . . .
  • David Boder: Were these old buildings?
  • Jacob Minski: These were such barracks, barracks . . .
  • David Boder: Specially build barracks?
  • Jacob Minski: No. We were taken into the Gypsy lager.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: We were led into the Gypsy lager; that is, before us it was occupied by the Gypsies who were all burned [Footnote 1: See story of Anna Kovitzka-Kaletzka] .
  • David Boder: Do you know anything more about the Gypsies?
  • Jacob Minski: No. I cannot . . .
  • David Boder: What was told about them?
  • Jacob Minski: At any rate, I know only that the Gypsies were completely—the major part of them were burned. We were led into that so-called Gypsy lager. And so we were assigned to the various blocks, crowed up to a thousand people in a hall where normally about thee hundred people possibly could find room.
  • David Boder: Have you an idea by whom and when these blocks were built? You are talking about Auschwitz now?
  • Jacob Minski: Yes. I am talking about Birkenau.
  • David Boder: Birkenau and Auschwitz are one and the same? [Footnote 2: They were different camps but closely located and under the same management.] where were the crematories? In Birkenau or Auschwitz?
  • Jacob Minski: [Hesitantly] I cannot [tell you that] either. I have really never thought about it. One actually had no chance to think.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: We were really like a herd of wethers [rams]
  • David Boder: Yes. But you have seen the crematories—you have seen the chimneys . . .
  • Jacob Minski: One saw them smoking. Personally [from nearby] I have not seen them. One has to . . .
  • David Boder: Have you seen them smoke?
  • Jacob Minski: Smoke—of course! And particularly . . .
  • David Boder: How did that smoke look?
  • Jacob Minski: Well . . . dark smoke.
  • David Boder: yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Dark. The . . . As already said, these blocks . . . they were thoroughly damp [?? The word he uses 'hineingefercht' or 'hineingeferzt' seems to have a colloquial meaning]
  • David Boder: Who built these blocks? When were they built? When were they built?
  • Jacob Minski: This I cannot . . . tell you either.
  • David Boder: Were they built before or were they built especially?
  • Jacob Minski: I cannot tell you that either, for sure.
  • David Boder: Well . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Neither do I know that. At any rate, the block elder who gave the instructions—that was a Pole, not a Jew.
  • David Boder: What did he say?
  • Jacob Minski: He said that he knows . . .
  • David Boder: He was a prisoner?
  • Jacob Minski: A prisoner, yes. He knows especially about the Jews of Lodz, that they had gold and diamonds in their possession, and that they, in order to hide them, were capable under certain circumstances to swallow them . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: They should surrender them voluntarily; otherwise they would do all kinds of things to us and we would feel sorry later.
  • David Boder: He said that right out openly?
  • Jacob Minski: Openly before us. Yes, in our block.
  • David Boder: Was there no Gestapo man present.
  • Jacob Minski: No, no. He told it to us in the block.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Subsequently, afterwards, in order to give us an idea, so to speak, of what it means to be in a lager, he picked out one and beat him up in such a violent manner that he fell nearly unconscious [the German stereotype, 'that he lost hearing and sight']
  • David Boder: A newcomer?
  • Jacob Minski: One of us.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . of us.
  • David Boder: And he, himself, was a capo [a trustee]
  • Jacob Minski: He was . . . he was a block elder.
  • David Boder: Yes. But he was a prisoner.
  • Jacob Minski: A prisoner . . . He was . . .
  • David Boder: What . . . What did he beat him up with?
  • Jacob Minski: With a bar . . . , a thick club . . .
  • David Boder: With a stick?
  • Jacob Minski: With a stick. Frightfully . . .
  • David Boder: And where did he hit him?
  • Jacob Minski: Over the face, on the back, and all over . . . So that he could not move anymore. That made, of course, a terrible impression on us . . . And afterwards he said that everyone should lay down whatever he possesses—what he still possesses . . .
  • David Boder: Now, you said he beat up the man, and then he said . . .
  • Jacob Minski: He beat him up frightfully and . . . he . . .
  • David Boder: For what reason?
  • Jacob Minski: For no reason whatsoever, only to make a certain impression on us, that if anyone of us . . . of us . . . still had something in his possession, that he now . . .
  • David Boder: . . . give it up?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . give it up. That means—in order that it proceed unobserved [safely??] we were driven to the other side and the people could then leave in that place whatever they possessed.
  • David Boder: Yes . . . That was already inside?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . already in the block . . . in the block.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: After he had 'established' that what the people had left, there was too little . . .
  • David Boder: . . . was . . .
  • Jacob Minski: He gave us . . . He delivered a speech to us again, and said that we would be led out in the square right away and that there shall occur a much stronger recheck. Thus, an exhortation again . . . that in case we got something . . .
  • David Boder: . . . to surrender . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . to surrender it.
  • David Boder: Now how could people surrender it if they had swallowed it?
  • Jacob Minski: That is [was?] of course, a ridiculous remark. He simply wanted to instill fear in us.
  • David Boder: Were there people who had swallowed some gold?
  • Jacob Minski: No. That is, of course, a ridiculous notion of that man. He wanted to bluff us into it [Footnote 3: Other interviewees definitely claim that such was the case, and that prisoners were threatened with X-ray examinations. See story of Kaldore.] .
  • David Boder: Well, I heard differently.
  • Jacob Minski: Did you hear something about it?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Minski: Well . . . I knew nothing about it. At any rate . . .
  • David Boder: Nu . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . were then called to the appell square, and I . . . I had then still comparatively decent shoes . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . on me . . . And I observed how somebody was sort of circling around me, eyeing my shoes.
  • David Boder: Who was that, a prisoner?
  • Jacob Minski: Also a prisoner.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Well . . . He ordered me to take off my shoes so he could try them on. They did not fit him well, but he liked them all too much to part with them. And he threw me a pair of old tatters in return.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: At any rate, I was told not to do anything about it, since there is a frightful punishment for it, I [?] would be punished.
  • David Boder: Who?
  • Jacob Minski: [He dismisses the subject with a mumble] Sleeping was the worst . . . in such a block.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: The conditions of nourishment . . .
  • David Boder: Now will you please tell me . . . Please describe how did you sleep in such a block?
  • Jacob Minski: I have told you already that in such a block three hundred people could lay down normally.
  • David Boder: Where? On the floor?
  • Jacob Minski: On the floor. Naturally, on the floor. Since it was made of lime [stone] squares, the floor was covered with boards. Every night these boards were laid out; in the morning they were collected.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And every evening they were laid out again.
  • David Boder: The floor was of stone?
  • Jacob Minski: The floor was of stone. Now the floor would be laid out with boards, and one stretched out; that is, one could not stretch out—that was impossible; and it was perfunctorily measured out [estimated] how many people . . . let us say . . .
  • David Boder: Were there no plankbeds, no beds . . . ?
  • Jacob Minski: No . . . Such things did not exist. Such things did not exist by us.
  • David Boder: Not a . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . There was only the floor.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . and specifically, we had [to take on] a hop position.
  • David Boder: What is a hop position?
  • Jacob Minski: A hop position means one sits down on the floor and the legs have to be . . .
  • David Boder: . . . pulled in?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . pulled in to the chest . . . to the chest pulled in.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: So that about five people were sitting on each side.
  • David Boder: Not back to back?
  • Jacob Minski: It meant, one with the back against the wall.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And the other five ahead of him.
  • David Boder: Yes. Well . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And so you can imagine in this . . .
  • David Boder: And so people slept?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . in this hop position one had to spend the whole night. That meant until four o'clock in the morning . . .
  • David Boder: Yes. From what time in the evening?
  • Jacob Minski: From . . . We entered the block in the evening at seven o'clock.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Then the ration was haded out. The ration depended on the kindness of the particular block elder.
  • David Boder: Well then . . . What was the ration at its best?
  • Jacob Minski: The ration consisted of a piece of bread, a spoonful . . . a spoonful of meat; that is, canned meat . . .
  • David Boder: [Not clear]
  • Jacob Minski: . . . and a bit . . .
  • David Boder: [Not clear]
  • Jacob Minski: Yes. We marched, how does one say that?—in line, into the block; and in passing by they gave us, one with a spoon . . .
  • David Boder: [Not clear]
  • Jacob Minski: The piece of bread, a spoon of meat; eventually a spoon of honey that would be dispensed as a supplement to the ration. Since the block elders liked to drink liquor . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . and a certain black 'trading' existed in the lager . . .
  • David Boder: . . . between whom?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . between prisoners who worked outside of the lager . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: There were also prisoners who outside the lager . . . who worked outside the lager. who consequently had some contact with the peasants . . .
  • David Boder: Tes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: They then brought liquor into the lager, . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: probably . . . of course, in a concealed manner.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And for this the block elders paid with breads.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: A liter of liquor corresponded approximately to eighty breads—eighty kommiss breads [army breads or rations]
  • David Boder: [He speaks loudly without interruption, covering with his voice the voice of the interviewer] How much [rest not clear] ? Yes. A kommis bread was enough for a person . . . Say for how long?
  • Jacob Minski: Yes. Officially we received one kommis bread for four—eventually for five persons.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: [but] the block elder would distribute the rations so that ten or fifteen people [had to share one bread]
  • David Boder: Yes. And then he would keep the rest?
  • Jacob Minski: And the rest he used to obtain liquor for himself.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: [A chance for] a complaint, of course, did not exist; because if you would dare to complain that your portion was . . .
  • David Boder: . . . was . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . too small, he would beat you up frightfully—near the unconscious.
  • David Boder: Well . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And so [chuckle] one would accept what he got. We compared our portion among ourselves at times, going around from block to block [words not clear] inquiring, 'How does your portion look?' At any rate, the sleeping, as I already have said, was frightful. At times it was possible to stretch out, but then we were lying lengthwise just like herring. One was unable to move. Now imagine those many who had bladder trouble . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . who had to get out at night, had either to walk over the head or the feet of the other.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And in addition . . .
  • David Boder: Now . . . now . . . How was that . . . ? You were sitting down [see above] you were . . .
  • Jacob Minski: No, eventually one could also lie down. That was by mutual agreement . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: You see? But that was a lying like herring, without a chance to move at all. One could not move at all. That was, of course, unbearable. At times, one had to turn around . . .
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . or stretch, at times, his legs or pull them in. Now if one had to step out, he had to step over the leg of another, or inadvertently step on his head. There was not enough light to see well, and so some individuals would begin to yell. The block elder who slept nearby, would start a 'sport.' 'Sport' was called, for instance, standing on the knees with stretched-out arms for about a half hour, [or] to sit in a squatting position [with stretched-out arms?]
  • David Boder: [Not clear]
  • Jacob Minski: In such a squatting position. That was, of course, [done by] the block elder.
  • David Boder: How did he sleep? Did he have a bed [?]
  • Jacob Minski: Yes. He had a little room for himself, such a couch [He uses the English word] .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Minski: . . . a divan . . .
  • David Boder: Well . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . and food was to him nothing unusual, because they had contact with the kitchen most often, since they had deals among themselves . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . and they had [enough of] everything. A . . . a block elder was like a king . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . because . . .
  • David Boder: [some whispers, apparently about the position of the mocrophone] Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: I was exceptionally lucky, that after a comparatively short time, I got out from Auschwitz again.
  • David Boder: Well . . .
  • Jacob Minski: When they were looking for skilled workers; you see, skilled workers were . . .
  • David Boder: One moment . . . This ends Spool 70 of Mr. Minski; and we are continuing on Spool 71. August 23, 1946. An Illinois Institute of Technology recording. Paris.
  • David Boder: Spool Number 71. Mr. Minski continues. August 23, 1946, Paris. At the headquarters of the American Joint Distribution Committee, of the Immigration Division of the American Joint Distribution Committee. A recording of the Illinois Institute of Technology. Well . . .
  • Jacob Minski: [Talk in whispers; apparently a question where to start]
  • David Boder: Yes. Now then, you were telling how the block elder would come in, and then proceeded to 'do sport' with the people. [Her is an example that due to the necessity to manipulate the equipment, the interviewer too, could lose track of the narrative]
  • Jacob Minski: Yes.
  • David Boder: Now then . . .
  • Jacob Minski: This 'sport making', as said before, proceeded in the following fashion. We had to take on a crouching [squatting] position. [He uses here Hockstellung]
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . with stretched-out arms. And in this squatting position we had to remain for half an hour.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: That was, of course, unbearable.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And after . . . ten or fifteen minutes, somebody was sent to the block elder with a plea to suspend this punishment—we shall . . .
  • David Boder: . . . be . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . be quiet.
  • David Boder: He did not even remain present?
  • Jacob Minski: No. He ordered some of the prisoners to supervise, a specifically . . .
  • David Boder: How was it to be known that the half an hour was over?
  • Jacob Minski: Well, at times that took place also outdoors, under supervision; in which case he too, walked up and down. Well, that could not be avoided . . .
  • David Boder: Well . . . but I asked how would they know at night that a half an hour has passed?
  • Jacob Minski: [Chuckle] Well, at any rate, the time appeared to us frightfully long . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . . Well people did [word not clear]
  • Jacob Minski: . . . frightfully long . . . We were, of course, were glad when he suspended the punishment and one could get out [chuckle] of that . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . terrible position. In the morning at about four 'oclock, or half past four, we were driven out of the block. We were served a cold coffee . . .
  • David Boder: Outside?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . that was outdoors. It could rain, or pour out and no chance for shelter, because the hall, the stable had to be straightened up.
  • David Boder: And what kind of utensils were used?
  • Jacob Minski: For the food?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Minski: The dishes were tin plates; of course, there were never enough for all—so a part had always to wait . . .
  • David Boder: . . . until the others . . . the others [were] through?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . until the others were through.
  • David Boder: Could you wash meanwhile?
  • Jacob Minski: Water was fetched in buckets, and there was . . . of course, there was nothing else besides a tin plate. That is, everything was stuffed directly into the mouth in the most primitive way and manner. We had, for instance . . .
  • David Boder: There were no knifes or forks?
  • Jacob Minski: No. That was, of course . . . Of course, prohibited. We attempted at the beginning to make some little wooden sticks . . .
  • David Boder: [In whispers] Remove your arm [from the microphone]
  • Jacob Minski: We tried to manufacture wooden sticks, and to consume our food with these wooden sticks . . .
  • David Boder: [Chuckle] In a Chinese manner?
  • Jacob Minski: [Laughter] . . . in a Chinese way, Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: This naturally, was prohibited to us; and whenever such sticks were noticed they were taken away.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Well . . . No work was done in the Gypsy lager; that is, the major part were idle . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: That also was intolerable. All day one had to ramble. Even a pin had a value, and for a cigarette one would give away his soup, which actually meant life . . .
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . and as I have told you before, I had the unusual luck that after a comparatively short time I again got out of Auschwitz. I had never believed that I would get out from this lager alive. Imagine! As far as I may judge, it was the greatest concentration camp in Europe—of fifty-six square kilometers in size. That is, as far as the eye could ever see, you see only barbed wire. So if you could succeed to overcome one barbed wire [fence] . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . which is hardly possible; so you would have innumerable barbed wire [fences] to overcome. You see, that was practically out of the question.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And so one day there was a search for skilled workers . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . and one from the Labor Division, also a senior prisoner, examined the people on their skills . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . He was especially strict, and was very nasty at the inquiry . . .
  • David Boder: A Jewish . . . ?
  • Jacob Minski: No, that was not a Jewish prisoner. He . . .
  • David Boder: What was he?
  • Jacob Minski: He was, I think, a kind of Pole. At any rate, he spoke German very well . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . and he examined the people concerning . . . I must say, as to their general knowledge . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . this [man] form the Labor Division . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: So, for instance if they looked for mechanics, then he asked certain questions. And when you were unable to answer instantly to these questions he would slap your face . . .
  • David Boder: [Not clear]
  • Jacob Minski: [Laughter] . because he was not a mechanic. Of course, the people who in their nervousness could not give immediately an answer, even if they were actually skilled workers, he would box their ears, and then they had no more right to apply.
  • David Boder: Do you have an idea why this man was a prisoner?
  • Jacob Minski: I don't know what he had committed. At any rate, he carried an armband . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: [Saying] Labor Division.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And he was put in charge of assigning people to work outside of the lager.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And so one day when that business started with . . . with the transport; that is, a lot of people were sent away from the concentration camp Auschwitz . . .
  • David Boder: Where to?
  • Jacob Minski: That's what we did not know. But one could request to be registered . . .
  • David Boder: . . . for work?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . for work. Only nobody knew where they were going. I caused myself to be registered at three different places [occasions] There was some anxiety . . . The work transport had some kind of a tang. We believed that meant a trip to the oven [Footnote 4: Such registration could prove at times fatal for the prisoners. There was a definite policy of the Nazis in Eastern Europe, at least at the beginning of the war, to bleed the occupied countries and the ghettos of their intellectual manpower. In a perfideous fashion calls were made for academically trained people with the alleged purpose to put in order the city archives, libraries, etc. Prisoners were zealously competing for these assignments, and the interviews gave the appearance of strict selective examinations. But the 'lucky' winners of these contests were in many cases secretly assigned for direct extermination [Kovno Ghetto] ] .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Minski: It often happened that it was said a transport was to go away to work, and instead of work they went into the oven. We all were very suspicious. However, we registered at the various places [categories or occasions?]
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Jacob Minski: I myself, did not know for what reason. I . . . My friend who came with me from Hamburg, prevailed upon me to register with a group of three hundred skilled workers. That I should . . . they were looking for three hundred skilled workers . . . and for this group I also registered.
  • David Boder: What was your trade?
  • Jacob Minski: I had no trade whatsoever. I just told them that I was some kind of a specialist [laughter] . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: There was an older gentleman who selected those people.
  • David Boder: . . . from the outside, a German?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . from the outside, a German in civilian clothes . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And we explained to him what we could do; and as a result of that, he assigned us to the right or to the left; that is, the people selected were to go to the right . . .
  • David Boder: I see you wear glasses. Did you wear your glasses also in the lager?
  • Jacob Minski: No. I did not have them. Unfortunately I had no glasses in the lager and consequently my eyes suffered a great deal. And I have changed my glasses here already about three times. And I am afraid that I shall have to change them for a fourth time because my eyes are very, very weak.
  • David Boder: Well . . . What are you doing here now for the Joint?
  • Jacob Minski: I am here in the Filing Department . . .
  • David Boder: Well . . .
  • Jacob Minski: I . . . as said before, presented myself for this group. Fortunately the man from the Labor Division did not object; and since I addressed myself to the man in High German—so he had more confidence in me than in the others who were mostly Poles.
  • David Boder: Yes, and spoke Yiddish.
  • Jacob Minski: And spoke Yiddish.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: I told him that I worked for the firm Hochstrom [?] and Associates; that was a large company for surface and underground construction . . .
  • David Boder: Was that true?
  • Jacob Minski: That was true. I have never worked there [true apparently refers to the existence of such a firm] I only used it as a pretext to get out.
  • David Boder: Aha . . .
  • Jacob Minski: You know if one is in such a lager, then every means is right and proper, only to get out of such an inferno.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: I had some 'pangs of conscience'. I thought that if I should be examined . . .
  • David Boder: . . . Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . and fail to pass the examination . . .
  • David Boder: Well, these were then not pangs of conscience—you were afraid . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . Of course, I mean I was afraid. At the beginning I was not afraid, only when I was selected . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: You see, I told the man that I had worked for the firm Hochstrom [?] and Associates, and this name of Hochstrom and Associates was sufficient for the man to . . .
  • David Boder: [to have] . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . to have certain confidence in me, and to assign me to the right with my colleague who accompanied me in all the lagers right from Hamburg. Also one of the few survivors with whom I was from the beginning [?]
  • David Boder: And what was your colleague?
  • Jacob Minski: He was a tinker [tinsmith]
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Now for him it was much easier . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . because I was not an artisan.
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Three hundred people were then selected from among us, and we were to leave already the next day. We were dragged around from block to block, into all kind of blocks, and in the last moment the block elder also embezzled our bread . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: That is, the complete allotment—because he knew we would depart the next day, so he was able to embezzle the bread allotment for three hundred people. My . . . A friend of mine, a dentist who is now in Lodz, had the courage to demand the rations. For that . . . for the he 'befogged' him terribly and he was . . .
  • David Boder: You mean he beat him up terribly? [He used the term Vernebelt, which sounds like a makeshift word meaning 'befogged' or 'blacked him out.']
  • Jacob Minski: Yes. He thought that . . . that in the last moment since he was designated to leave [word not clear] he worked up courage and demanded the ration [s] for us all.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: In response, the block elder 'befogged' him terribly, and he could not say a word, so that nothing worse would happen to him. We were then . . . We got a ration of breat—about 250 grams, a little piece of sausage, and we traveled then in open RR-cars . . .
  • David Boder: Which portion of bread did you get then—the evening [ration] the regular one . . . ?
  • Jacob Minski: No, no, no. We got a ration that was [to be our] travel provision.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . and our regular ration he embezzled from us.
  • David Boder: Well . . .
  • Jacob Minski: The ration, the travel ration, we consumed in a half an hour because we did not have the ration of the evening before.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: So we were very hungry. So we traveled for a day. The RR-cars were open, open on both sides; accompanied, escorted by two SS men.
  • David Boder: That means the doors of the cars [were open] ?
  • Jacob Minski: The doors, Yes . . .
  • David Boder: But they were cattle cars?
  • Jacob Minski: They were cattle cars which were open.
  • David Boder: See Manuscript.
  • Jacob Minski: And so we had a chance to breathe [fresh] air; and for us it was a certain comfort that we were already on . . . that we traveled. Through that we knew that we were not going into the oven.
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Jacob Minski: We landed in Goerlitz . . . in Goerlitz . . .
  • David Boder: Where is Goerlitz?
  • Jacob Minski: Goerlitz is in Silesia . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . In the proximity of Breslau—about a hundred kilometers from Breslau. It is a peculiar feeling when one, after such a long time, sees a civilian person again. When one is in a concentration camp, I was already in '38 in a concentration camp, in Oranienburg as a consequence of the murder of von Raat in Paris.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: When all . . . a large part of the Jews were arrested; I mean, those that they could lay their hands on, and they were sent to Oranienburg . . .
  • David Boder: Where is Oranienburg?
  • Jacob Minski: Oranienburg is near . . . from Berlin about . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . A few kilometers from Berlin . . .
  • David Boder: And when were you released from Oranienburg?
  • Jacob Minski: I was then released from from Oranienburg? I was about ten weeks in Oranienburg . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Life there was not too 'rosy,' one may say. We were . . . the so to speak, 'lager ripening' [softening up for lager conditions]
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . consisted [in the procedure] that upon arrival we had to stand about ten hours lined up before the barbed wires [fences] motionless—without moving. It was then . . . I don't know anymore what time of the year it was [NOTE: in the winter of 1938-1939. DPB] At any rate, it was unbearable. Motionless. And up there . . . there . . . there were sentries in such towers [turrets] . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . These were such towers . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . and the sentries had to, of course, watch that . . .
  • David Boder: . . . that you stand. And how many hours, do you say?
  • Jacob Minski: Well, we stood then twenty-four hours.
  • David Boder: That was called 'lager ripening?'
  • Jacob Minski: 'Lager ripening.'
  • David Boder: Were you given anything to eat?
  • Jacob Minski: Yes. Afterwards.
  • David Boder: That was in '38?
  • Jacob Minski: Yes. Then various persons were strapped to the rack; that is such a towerlike contraption.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . You know, these . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . and they got about twenty-five on the behind, . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . with an ox-pizzle [Ox-penis. German: Ochenziemer]
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: That means . . .
  • David Boder: . . . an ox tail?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . an 'ox tail,' yes [Footnote 5: The German word Schwanz means in regular parlance 'a tail;' in slang it stands for 'penis.' It was common in the Russian Czarist Army for higher officers, viz the Grand Duke Nikolas, to use a dryed and specially stretched ox penis as a riding crop, with which in moments of 'noble ire' they would strike even subordinate officers. The ox penis makes apparently not only a hardhitting whip, but a stroke with it implied a component of contempt for the victim.] .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: That was, of course, unbearable. The skin on the buttocks [chuckle] would break. There were specially . . .
  • David Boder: Did that happen also to you?
  • Jacob Minski: No, it did not happen to me . . .
  • David Boder: But you have seen it?
  • Jacob Minski: Yes, we have seen it. Also for smoking at work they would . . . there were some prisoners who absolutely had to smoke.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: They did it, of course, on the sly; and if they were caught they then got three . . . one or two hours of pole hanging.
  • David Boder: What is that?
  • Jacob Minski: That is, they were hanged on a pole by the hands tied behind; that is, the rope was pulled up so that only the tips of the toes touched the ground [Footnote 6: See the Bramson story. In 1946, this form of torture was demonstrated in Dachau to sightseers by means of a manikin apparently to demonstrate the deeds of the Nazis.] . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Minski: So he hung in this position . . .
  • David Boder: But the tips of the toes could touch the ground?
  • Jacob Minski: [With emphasis] . . . but only the tips of the toes.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: You can imagine that when they cut him loose after two hours, he would collapse like a sack. You see? Because first of all . . .
  • David Boder: Now, how high were the hands?
  • Jacob Minski: The hands were pulled up as far as it would go—he floated in the air . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: That was terribly painful . . . [as I was told] by those . . . who went through it themselves.
  • David Boder: Well . . .
  • Jacob Minski: That time reigned in Oranienburg, it was the worst . . . the worst cold prevailed that could ever be remembered. I worked at the canal that time and . . . we had to shovel sand under quota, into lorries.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . into such small lorries; and I only remember that my portion of bread, which I had in the side [?] pocket . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . of my prisoner's suit, was frozen into ice. So you can imagine how cold it was. The wheels . . . the wheels would not turn anymore . . .
  • David Boder: Of the lorries?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . of the lorries. We were four people assigned to a lorry, regardless of whether old or young. At times the old people could barely stand up and we had to cart them in addition. And the that time lager leader, Bugdala, an SS man, the boxing champion of the SS, an infamous scoundrel . . . he spoke little, but when he slapped one's face one tumbled over twice. And so I remember that I had to carry heavy rocks together with a colleague, and it was glazed ice [on the ground] and everything had to be done with running pace. And that, of course, is impossible. So he caught us once carrying the stuff at a walking pace, so he took down the numbers and we got then three hours 'before the charged barbed wires' . . . We had to stand three hours . . .
  • David Boder: What does that mean, 'before the charged barbed wires?' They had . . . It was . . .
  • Jacob Minski: One could not touch it, because otherwise . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: It was charged with ten thousand volts.
  • David Boder: Well . . .
  • Jacob Minski: So one had to stand motionless, after work. You see, that meant that after work . . .
  • David Boder: But why before the charged barbed wire?
  • Jacob Minski: That was such a . . . I don't know . . . the reason.
  • David Boder: Did something to anybody, did somebody . . . against . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Many, many, of course sent to the barbed wire [made contact with the barbed wire] because they simply could not stand it anymore.
  • David Boder: Oh . . . They threw themselves against it . . . ?
  • Jacob Minski: They threw themselves against it. They, of course, remained stuck to it.
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Jacob Minski: You see . . . and they were dead. I still remember, at night . . . when we were driven at night in Oranienburg by the SS, and there was such a slope. And so we could not see that it was going downhill abruptly. The first one came stumbling . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . fell down . . . They . . . You can well imagine if two thousand people came in crowding so they could not get up so quickly, we trampled over them; so that we, right from the start, brought the first dead into the camp.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: These were the little, painful memories . . . Yes, at times . . . Well, there were unfortunately humorous instances . . .
  • David Boder: Yes. I should like to hear something about it.
  • Jacob Minski: For instance, we had . . . we were at that time ten thousand people in Oranienburg, at my time. The lager elder was at that time member of the Reichstag, and we were always compelled to sing some songs. One would stand up on a platform . . .
  • David Boder: Where? During work?
  • Jacob Minski: No, no. After the end of work, when we entered the lager . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: We had to . . . They made an appell—whether all were present. We once had . . . we had to stand for twelve hours because one man was absent; that is, he had hanged himself and we had to . . . we had to search for him.
  • David Boder: Aha . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And we still had . . .
  • David Boder: And where was he found . . . ?
  • Jacob Minski: Oh somewhere . . . In a corner, he . . .
  • David Boder: . . . hanged himself?
  • Jacob Minski: If not . . . We simply had to stand until he was found, and even if we had to stand twenty-four or thirty-six hours . . . He had to be found.
  • David Boder: And how long did you happen to stand?
  • Jacob Minski: At that time . . . we stood twelve hours once . . .
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And so it came . . .
  • David Boder: Didn't you have to go to work?
  • Jacob Minski: In that case . . . That is, that depended . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Oh . . . Yes. Only at one Christmas we were not compelled to work for one day. That is, in place of that [work] we had to 'do sports,' drill.
  • David Boder: What was that?
  • Jacob Minski: Marching . . . Right, left, right, left . . . You see? In a military fashion . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . and my humble self, and a few others wanted to duck out, and reported that we had sore feet. So then one of the platoon leaders said, 'Well, we shall then march slowly.'
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Jacob Minski: But now there came an SS man walking up and down, and said [mocking his voice] 'What is going on?' This man [platoon leader] reported in military form, 'These people can't run.'—'What, they can't run? Run, lie down; run, lie down;' and so . . .
  • David Boder: What does that mean?
  • Jacob Minski: 'Run, lie down,' that means, you know, [first] running and then stretching out at full length. That was then in the winter, in the snow.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: He made then his . . . his 'sport' with us.
  • David Boder: That was . . .
  • Jacob Minski: [A few words not clear]
  • David Boder: . . . in the lager in Oranienburg?
  • Jacob Minski: Well, that was then . . . I am just telling short episodes . . .
  • David Boder: [Not clear]
  • Jacob Minski: Yes . . . And so I took advantage when a detail . . .
  • David Boder: You said, you would tell some humorous . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Oh yes . . . [chuckle] Unfortunately I went off the subject. I was telling about the singing.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Minski: And so they simply gave a theme, say, 'It sat a birdie in the tree,'
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Jacob Minski: So then I ask you, do you know the song? So you will give me the answer 'No, I don't know it.' I don't know it either.
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Now you had to sing a song that you didn't know.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Well, so an SS man passes by and sees that I am standing there—I am not participating in the singing [chuckle]
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: So he says, 'Why don't you sing? So he answers, 'I don't know it.'—'What, you don't know the song?'—So he slaps him over the snout and he says, 'You should at least tear open your snout.' And in the evening there was practice in the block; that is, we had to sing in the evening in the block a song which we did not know.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: So you see, they demanded simply impossible things. You should sing a song that you don't know. Of course . . . Just to return to the other topic—Since we did not know the terrain, . . . we were delivered and there were already . . . we already brought in the first dead. We had to line up before the charged barbed wire and an SS man passed from one to the other and inquired, 'What is your profession?' So he says . . . so one would say—'Physician.' So then, 'You have dishonored our women.' You see . . . and he would slap him, a pair right and left. To another, 'What are you?'—'A lawyer.' So then, 'You have done in [put in prison] many of ours, of our kind of people.' So he too, got his face slapped twice. I could not understand one thing. Next to this lawyer stood a state's attorney. Apparently he was so confused that he replied to his question about his profession, that he was a state's attorney. So you can imagine what an effect it had on such an [SS] man. You understand?
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Jacob Minski: A state's attorney at that time! And so he told him, 'You will be shot today with cat shit.' Of course, you know how one felt. I don't know what they later did with him. At any rate, they had . . . with people who were very stout they had special fun. They were ordered to make [play] stork. They were compelled to bend in order to pick up something. Of course a person with a big belly, and the clothes did not fit them well either; they had to fasten the prisoners' garb with a rope so that the pants would hold. They knew, of course, that it was strictly prohibited to leave the block at night to eliminate. Of course, at the beginning that was not known and whoever would step out of the block was, of course, immediately shot down, because the . . .
  • David Boder: In Oranienburg?
  • Jacob Minski: In Oranienburg, because the kleg lights, those were the machine guns . . .
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Jacob Minski: They illuminated every block; and as soon as something . . . if somebody somehow began to move in the yard he was immediately shot down. It also happened that the patrol which . . . the place . . . which guarded up, simply would attract a prisoner and tell him to come over there.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: We were told that it was strictly prohibited to pass beyond the patrol line, since the patrol was to shoot immediately.
  • David Boder: Aha . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Many prisoners, uninformed about this . . .
  • David Boder: . . . rule . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . rule, followed unsuspectingly the 'call' and were, of course . . .
  • David Boder: shot down . . . ?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . shot down. Yes, I was telling you about . . .
  • David Boder: [A few words not clear] And so you went from Auschwitz. Where to?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . to Goerlitz.
  • David Boder: All right.
  • Jacob Minski: I mean, from Goerlitz . . . In Goerlitz, that was a work lager. Of course, in comparison with Auschwitz, a paradise.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: A work lager; it was an ammunition factory. We had to work at an ammunition factory as prisoners, always escorted by the SS. And evenings we were taken to the lager, returned.
  • David Boder: The factory was outside the lager?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . the factory was outside the lager.
  • David Boder: . . . and you say that for the first time [since Auschwitz] you have seen other people.
  • Jacob Minski: Yes, yes. That naturally was . . . it had an effect . . . It made a completely unusual impression on us. More so, that we worked with [free] civilian people. It was, of course, prohibited to talk to them. Still now and then one exchanged with them . . .
  • David Boder: . . . a word?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . a word. And since there were Frenchmen also working, and all possible nationalities. So there was a chance to get some bread now and then from them, or by the way of barter for cigarettes to acquire now and then some supplementary food. That appeared, however, less interesting than certain aspects of the life in the ghetto.
  • David Boder: Where?
  • Jacob Minski: I mean . . . if we speak again about Lodz.
  • David Boder: [Not clear]
  • Jacob Minski: I think, especially about the terrible hunger. The hunger was so great that we collected rotten potato peelings in order to convert them with saccharin into . . . a kind of mush. Thus a goo just fit to clog up the stomach. You see? And with it we got a little coffee grounds, with saccharin something that we called, cutlets, you see? Dry on the skillet . . .
  • David Boder: Oh, out of the coffee grounds.
  • Jacob Minski: . . . of the coffee grounds. Yes . . . of the coffee grounds, and two [tablets] of saccharin. Life was insanely expensive. We were getting one bread for the week.
  • David Boder: . . . one bread?
  • Jacob Minski: Yes, an entire bread. Thus, one had to distribute it in rations. You would get a bread of two kilos. Sometimes it did not weigh two full kilos. We . . . people made a special effort to get really stale bread. A fresh bread stimulated the appetite and that was dangerous.
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Jacob Minski: One pleaded [for a special favor] the exact opposite of [the attitude] today [chuckle] One pleaded for very stale bread so that one would not eat so much.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And so, I generally distributed it for myself, so that everyday I would eat about two slices . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And now and then I managed a loan [chuckle] so that the last three days I had no more bread [He apparently means that he loaned the bread to others] The prices corresponded . . . It was this way for a long time, that the values of objects . . . in general, had no special values, while foodstuffs . . .
  • David Boder: . . . were expensive . . . ?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . had an unbelievable value. I remember, for instance, I had a new suit of clothes with me among other things—a new suit of clothes for which I paid 350 Marks in Hamburg. So you see, it was quite a piece of wealth. And I got one kilo of flour for it.
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Jacob Minski: You could purchase a pair . . . a pair of shoes for a hundred grams of margarine; and you see that from these prices things, objects other than food or cigarettes, were worth nothing. And they could . . . the Germans who . . . who would at times come into the ghetto with one pound of bread or margarine, would afterwards leave with a trunkful of new things. [As often in these interviews a flashback occurs without warning] Then, for the sake of saving one's life, one was ready to sacrifice all these things. I, too, was at one time . . . I was so run down from hunger that I barely could do my duties . . . I was twice . . . I remember, I was twice brought home in a state of faint . . .
  • David Boder: As fireman [in Lodz]
  • Jacob Minski: As fireman, because I was actually too weak. When I looked at myself at times in the mirror I saw death before my eyes. I remember from these times, there were one hundred and sixty-five thousand Jews at the beginning, and they came down to forty thousand Jews.
  • David Boder: Well, many were, of course, deported . . . ?
  • Jacob Minski: Many were deported, but a large part died from typhus. The . . .
  • David Boder: Now tell me, did you know a Dr. Falk there in Lodz, in Lodz [a cousin of the interviewer] ?
  • Jacob Minski: It is possible. You see, I have no more . . .
  • David Boder: You don't remember?
  • Jacob Minski: I cannot remember for sure. First of all, the housing conditions were terrible. There was . . . They have selected for the Lodz Ghetto the worst . . . the worst section of Lodz; that is, where the worst skum had lived before. Those were mostly broken down dwellings; and people [in the Ghetto] lived under the most frightful conditions. At times the people lived ten families in one flat. You can imagine what the results were under these most horrible hygienic conditions.
  • David Boder: Could you . . .
  • Jacob Minski: When one, for instance, was in need of something . . . It was very hard . . . say medicines. One had to get it by way of so-called undercover trade [sneak trade]
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Jacob Minski: The price was, of course, prohibitive. For instance as fireman I earned three marks, three ghetto marks . . .
  • David Boder: Per day?
  • Jacob Minski: Three ghetto marks per day.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: The cost of a bread on the black market—one thousand eight hundred marks. You can then imagine how much bread I could buy for it [three marks] The bread . . . the soup, the water soup that one got for it, corresponded to a 'dollar course.' If there were plenty of potatoes, if the Germans would send in [to the Ghetto] plenty of potatoes, then the soup would fall [in price] say from fifty marks—it would at times reach a 'quotation' of fifty marks -
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . down to a price of two fifty . . .
  • David Boder: But you were to get some soup 'for free?'
  • Jacob Minski: Yes . . . The soup [a portion] we got 'for free.' But, let us say one had diarrhea or something else . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: So he would sell it.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Thus, there always stood before the kitchen a kind of trader [middle-man] who would buy up . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . the tickets . . . the soup tickets for a certain price; . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: In order [to resell it] to another, a hungry one, who say [had sold] something else.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Say he had sold a piece of bread . . . There were people of a rather peculiar point of view. They would sell a bread for one thousand eight hundred marks—their own bread . . .
  • David Boder: Well . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And bought preferably for it, soups, in order to stuff their belly full.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: That was, of course . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . from a standpoint of health completely wrong. Thus, if they wanted to buy something equivalent to two, three hundred marks, they would sell a piece of bread. He weighed it . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . as if he would weigh gold; and the bill was then settled with bread.
  • David Boder: Will you permit me a question?
  • Jacob Minski: Yes.
  • David Boder: Could you tell me anything about . . . about the sex life from the time in Lodz and afterwards in the lager?
  • Jacob Minski: Well [pause] that was, of course, an unhealthy situation since male and female were housed together . . . you understand; I would almost say the people were not ashamed [embarrassed] at all.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: They lived a complete . . .
  • David Boder: Now let us say, when one family lived together . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Yes . . .
  • David Boder: How did they go about sexual intercourse?
  • Jacob Minski: I would almost say, completely without embarrassment. Because the people . . . I remember we were . . .
  • David Boder: . . . in the presence of the children?
  • Jacob Minski: I remember, when we came from Hamburg a certain group of us took lodging somewhere. We were eight people, among them one woman. And she did not show embarrassment at all. She undressed completely naked in order to wash. And the people became in time . . . the same as in the lager. The life in the lager has, of course, made the people so to speak, hardsensed [devoid of sensibilities—feellings. See story of Roma Tscharnobroda]
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Completely devoid of feelings. One did not feel anything. Let us say, when at night . . .
  • David Boder: You mean to say, without a sex drive?
  • Jacob Minski: Without any sex drive. Because the hunger . . . You should not forget that when the hunger is so intense, then one, I would say, does not think about it. I believe that one who is satiated could have such thoughts rather than the one . . . one who is starving. That comes; first of all the stomach must be full. ( It may be pertinent here to sum up the answer to a question most often asked: The sex drive was suppressed by protracted starvation and a continuous state of terror. )
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And so . . .
  • David Boder: So that was no problem.
  • Jacob Minski: With me, you understand, that was no problem. It was indeed no problem. Whatever the people . . . possibly . . . Of course, if one worked in a bread factory he could always save himself a piece of bread . . .
  • David Boder: [Not clear]
  • Jacob Minski: And you know, with a piece of bread . . . that was a fortune.
  • David Boder: Well . . .
  • Jacob Minski: With a piece of bread he could buy anything. I know, at the beginning when I came into the Ghetto . . .
  • David Boder: Let us return to the sex question [?]
  • Jacob Minski: . . . prostitution was so intense. On the street, for instance, girls would cling to you for a piece of bread. For a slice of bread . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . . Jewish girls?
  • Jacob Minski: Jewish girls, of course. We were in the Ghetto.
  • David Boder: So where could they go?
  • Jacob Minski: They would . . . would go into a yard or somewhere. Possibly the mother was working, so the daughter . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . would use the opportunity . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Minski: Of course, later this led to misfortune; because the girls who were not working were, of course, in time deported.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Minski: Who was not registered . . .
  • David Boder: . . . as a worker?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . One had to be registered in some kind of industry. Since he was not registered . . . As an unemployed . . . every unemployed, as well as people who had committed the slightest offense, were deported.
  • David Boder: Now let us return [to the original question] Let us say, a block elder in the lager . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Yes . . .
  • David Boder: . . . who had enough to eat.
  • Jacob Minski: Yes . . .
  • David Boder: . . . Have you any idea how he satisfied his sex needs?
  • Jacob Minski: About that I must tell you [a chuckle] I did not make myself any headaches, since one had so many worries . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . that one . . . that one thought about it less as one [could imagine]
  • David Boder: Well . . . Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: Of course, it was known . . . Later on I learned at the [word not clear] that many block elders had such boys . . .
  • David Boder: . . . had boys . . . ?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . had boys, with whom they amused themselves. I know . . . there were children from ten to twelve years old.
  • David Boder: And what kind of children were these?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . They had them . . . These, too, were prisoners.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . They were actually supposed to go to work, but they always found a pretext to retain them in the lager. A block elder could, of course, do that.
  • David Boder: . . . and . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . He would be registered as sick, and then . . .
  • David Boder: . . . then he would be retained?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . and then the block elder would retain him.
  • David Boder: Well. Now let us return to the general situation in the Ghetto of Lodz.
  • Jacob Minski: The Ghetto of Lodz . . .
  • David Boder: Or let us say it this way. Where were you liberated?
  • Jacob Minski: Yes. I was liberated indirectly by the Russians, because I had left earlier . . . I left the lager one day early . . . It was already . . .
  • David Boder: Where was that?
  • Jacob Minski: In Goerlitz . . .
  • David Boder: Goerlitz, where was that?
  • Jacob Minski: That is in Silesia. I told you already, about one hundred kilometers from Brelau . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Minski: The Russians were entrenched already, for weeks, at about eleven kilometers from Goerlitz.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And strangely enough they did not advance further. They remained entrenched there, I believe, for about ten weeks.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: And one never knew . . . I only remember that the people from the factory often approached in automobiles almost up to the line where the Russians were, in order to fetch materials. It was completely incomprehensible to me how they could do it.
  • David Boder: That must have been a form of Sitzkrieg [sitting war]
  • Jacob Minski: Yes. A kind of Sitzkrieg. They just did not advance. But certain preparations were made. We were already twice in flight from the Russians; that is . . . an order was given to us . . . to the lager . . . to evacuate the lager since, of course, the Russians were someday bound to march into the lager . . . They did not want that any evidence be left against them [against the Germans]
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Minski: And so we found ourselves on the march; and unfortunately a great number of our prisoners were shot down, especially by the Ukrainian SS who hardly spoke a word of German . . .
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . because they could not walk. 'Everything' that could not walk was shot down on the road. At times, loaded on a truck and en route graves were dug in a forest. And I remember one day I was assigned to a commando [detail] to dig; that is, to excavate, to dig graves.
  • David Boder: How come. [?]
  • Jacob Minski: . . . a detail of fifty people who had to dig graves in order to . . .
  • David Boder: . . . to bury . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . to bury the dead from the jorney. Now the following would happen. The prisoners who were unable to march—of course, they couldn't . . . They did not want to let them remain simply laying shot down on the street; and so they [the exhausted prisoners] were loaded on a truck and together with the dead; they were then shot in the nearest forest and buried with them. Thus, I remember an SS man. He was twenty-four years old [who] made the impression of an innocent . . . [chuckle]
  • David Boder: . . . youth?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . youth; as if he could not count to three. And he was the champion marksman. Every day he used to shoot down about thirty-forty [people]—he himself helped to dig the grave.
  • David Boder: Yes . . . And what for?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . Probably . . . that was . . . for him it was a kind of sport. Then he ordered the dead placed in them, counted up how much room he still had left.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . And then he ordered those innocent, unsuspecting people to get off the truck, saying 'Step down' [the word is apparently in Ukrainian and is a tentative translation] They had to step forward; and he would shoot them down with the carbine—trampling [holding down] the person's head with his foot. And so one after the other had to look on how . . . You can, of course, [imagine] how . . . [the speech tapers off]
  • David Boder: Was that a Ukrainian?
  • Jacob Minski: That was a Ukrainian SS.
  • David Boder: Yes, now then . . .
  • Jacob Minski: He was one of the people who were subsequently sent away at the last moment, apparently out of fear that the Russians . . . that they may fall in the hands of the Russians . . . The whole Ukrainian SS attached [to this service] were sent away—were sent away. They were frightful [people]—they were the worst evil.
  • David Boder: Well, now tell me this . . . Now where were you liberated?
  • Jacob Minski: Oh, yes. And so one day before, on the 7th of August . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Minski: The Russians marched in, about the 8th of August—the 8th-9th. We got out of the lager. We could do already whatever we pleased. It was a change of affairs after the lager.leader had explained to us that we were practically free . . . We could remain in the block . . . in the lager.
  • David Boder: Was the lager leader a prisoner?
  • Jacob Minski: No, he was an SS.
  • David Boder: And he did not run away?
  • Jacob Minski: He . . . I really must say, that as an exception he had behaved, so to speak, comparatively decent; that is, I have never seen him touching a prisoner. Such was the lager elder—he was a super-gangster.
  • David Boder: He was a prisoner?
  • Jacob Minski: This one was a prisoner. But he was not a Jewish prisoner.
  • David Boder: Now what did this SS man say?
  • Jacob Minski: He said that we were actually free. If we desired we could go over to the Americans . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Jacob Minski: . . . and who wanted to remain with the Russians could remain in the lager. And from . . .
  • David Boder: But he did say that the place [?] was being abandoned?
  • Jacob Minski: Yes. After that [?] there was already such a confusion that everybody did what he pleased.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Jacob Minski: There was . . . The army was in retreat and en route . . . I was still with various colleagues [of mine] so we crossed all of Czechoslovakia . . .
  • David Boder: So you went away . . .
  • Jacob Minski: We got away, and in an SS truck at that.
  • David Boder: In an SS auto?
  • Jacob Minski: Yes . . . No, no, no—with horse and wagon [chuckle] We took it. It was still full of provisions, and with all real SS boots and all possible [things] And so we crossed the whole of Czechoslovakia, until we arrived in Vienna . . .
  • David Boder: [Chuckle] And nobody stopped you, nobody . . . ?
  • Jacob Minski: . . . Of course, en route we met the Russians. They saw that they were dealing with prisoners so they were . . . They always let us pass. We then arrived in Vienna. That is, on the way we were, of course, very well received by the population. And you can imagine what a moment it was for us to enjoy freedom after we had given up the thought that we would ever get away.
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Jacob Minski: As said before, we arrived in Vienna; and in Vienna we were not permitted to remain . . . [NOTE: The spool, as often happens, ends abruptly in mid-sentence. The interviewer apparently felt that it would be of little use to continue with a new spool, since the post-liberation phase was reasonably cleared up at the start of the interview; and the interviewee himself seems to have felt that there was not much to add. —D.P.B.]
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Dagmar Platt
  • English Translation : David P. Boder