David P. Boder Interviews Ernesto Moeller-Arnold; September 20, 1946; München, Germany

  • David Boder: [In English] München, September the 20th, 1946, in an UNRRA transient camp in the Funkenkasernen [former armories of the German signal corps]. The interviewee is Mr. Ernesto Moeller-Arnold, fifty-one years old, nacido en . . . [chuckle, correction] born in Chile. I am beginning to mix the languages. Also . . . ah . . .
  • David Boder: [in Spanish] Senor Moeller-Arnold, come, please, nearer so that . . . no [words not clear].
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: I am sitting quite comfortably . . .
  • David Boder: I wish that you speak in a normal voice . . .
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes.
  • David Boder: . . . since then the recording will come out better.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes.
  • David Boder: Will you do us the favor of telling us again your name . . . what your name is, how old you are, and where you were born?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: My name is Ernesto Moeller-Arnold, and I was born in Santiago, Chile, in the year nineteen hundred . . . [correction] 1894.
  • David Boder: Now tell me then, where were you, Sr. Moeller-Arnold, when the war started?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: At the start of the war I had a post as manager of [farm-] estates in Upper Silesia. I was administering the estates which belonged to people who simultaneously owned estates in Polish territory, Czechoslovak territory, and in German territory. And in consequence it was very difficult to find a person to administer them who would have the confidence of all, in all these countries.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: And I was such a person, as a Chilean, as a neutral person from a faraway country.
  • David Boder: Now, Sr. Moeller-Arnold, tell me, how did you get to Europe in the first place? When?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: When I came the first time to Europe, I came to Vienna to study in the famous Hochschule der Bodenkultur [Institute of Agriculture], because I had decided to study agronomy.
  • David Boder: Yes? So then you remained in Europe from that . . .
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: No. I returned to Chile. I spent a considerable time in Chile, but during the world crisis in '28 [onset of the depression] which happened in those years, I did not have enough money to buy a good [farm-] estate, and since I was offered a good position in Upper Silesia, where I know some local people [whom I met] during my studies in Vienna, I accepted it.
  • David Boder: Well . . . well now, who were the proprietors of that estate in Upper Silesia?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: There were various [ones]. There was among others the mining company Shakoch [?] in Gleiwitz, the mining company Godula in Katowice, the mining company Henkel [?] Limited in London.
  • David Boder: Now then . . . yes? How . . . Now were these farm-estates?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Those were estates which belonged to the companies, and which the companies maintained to feed their workers, whom they had . . .
  • David Boder: Oh, whom they had in their mines.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes.
  • David Boder: Oh well. And so? You administered these estates. From what year?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: From the year '29 . . . '29, '30, '31, '32.
  • David Boder: Good. And until what time?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: To the last moment. Until January '45 when these estates were occupied by . . . by the Russian army.
  • David Boder: Aha. Well, now tell me, sir, where were you when the war started?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: I was in Upper Silesia, exactly there where I worked.
  • David Boder: Yes. And what happened to you during the war?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: During the war not much happened to me. I had plenty of difficulties with the German authorities, above all with the military authorities.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: The difficulties on account of the war were very great, because it came to a great need for food for the people. And for that reason, at the beginning, I was left in peace [unmolested].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: But because I also endeavored to protect persecuted individuals, and because, above all, I endeavored to feed as well as possible the workers who were brought over as foreign prisoners, and to guarantee them better rations, I had sufficient difficulties with the types [kinds of people] who ruled in those times.
  • David Boder: Aha. Well tell me, in order to work at your estates, at the estates in your charge, foreign workers were brought in?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: No, no. The foreign workers worked in the mines.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: And I had . . .
  • David Boder: Oh, you . . .
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: . . . to take charge . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: . . . of feeding them. Not directly, but to supply them with the provisions needed for the kitchens of for the canteens which fed them.
  • David Boder: Now how did they live? In lagers, in barracks? How did they live?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: It was different. Part of them lived in barracks and in lagers [? sounds like lavas], and part of them lived . . . lived privately.
  • David Boder: . . . were billeted in private homes? Now tell me, sir, what kind of people did you have . . . did they have to work in the mines? Of what nationality, of what religion?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Oh, they had people of nearly all nationalities. They had English prisoners. They had people of all countries, but mostly there were Ukranians which they had brought from Russia.
  • David Boder: Ukranian people. Women, too?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Women, no. I have not seen women at that time in the mines . . .
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: . . . there.
  • David Boder: Well, and indirectly you had the responsibility for their feeding. And who worked in the fields of your estate?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: In the fields worked . . . the remainder, mostly the workers who worked before. They also worked in the time of war, because the major part of [field] workers in Upper Silesia are the women. The men are [working] in the mines, and the women work on the estates. So it was for a long time before the war.
  • David Boder: And that was a tradition. Good. And then when the Russian army arrived, then what happened?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes. When the Russian army arrived, all of us who lived there were evacuated by the Germans. We were ordered to Thruingia.
  • David Boder: Yes. And where did you live in Thuringia? In . . .
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: I was located with my family in Thuringia. I was thrown there in a village into very bad quarters, but since I intended to negotiate with the Russians about continuing my work also with them, I returned to Silensia.
  • David Boder: Yes. And what happened then?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: I found all the estates more or less devastated and destroyed. Moreover, all the machinery was taken away, all the horses.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: And the estates proper were confiscated by the Polish authorities.
  • David Boder: Aha. They were confiscated in order to distribute them among the people as homesteads?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes. They said that they wanted to distribute them, but I wanted somehow to negotiate the continuation of my work and met with very pleasant cooperation of the part of the Poles. I cannot complain about them. But since there were no means [facilities] whatsoever to work with, it was not possible to do anything. And to sit there only as a chief without doing any real work, I did not want to continue. To do that was just a farce.
  • David Boder: Where is your family now, don Ernesto?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: My family, too, is here in the camp with me.
  • David Boder: An UNRRA camp here. Well. Now tell me, how . . . when did you leave those estates, [and] the Russians?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: The Russians told me frankly and clearly that I as a foreigner of an American [Chilean] nationality have nothing to do there but to return to my native country.
  • David Boder: Good.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: And . . .
  • David Boder: [Words not clear.]
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: They attempted at first to ship me home via Odessa, like so many other foreigners, French and Belgians, with whom I was together.
  • David Boder: Yes. How come you say you were together? Were you placed in a lager?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: No. I just lived ther. The Belgians and the French were . . . they had been locked up there in camps, but I for the short time was not in a camp. They endeavored to persuade me to go there to a camp. But since they told me that they intended to repatriate me via Odessa, that appeared to me a bit strange, and I took to the road at first on my own . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: . . . with some Belgians who too had no faith in the repatriation through Odessa.
  • David Boder: Well. Your family was already in Thuringia, so that you were alone and had not much difficulty in marching through?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: No.
  • David Boder: Now then, how did you get out of there?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: I left with some Belgian prisoners.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: We marched together.
  • David Boder: Illegally.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Illegally, but we had no great difficulty. Even the Russians helped me . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: . . . from time to time, and I marched with them [the Belgians] as far as Thuringia.
  • David Boder: Aha. Now how long did you march in this manner through Polish or Russian territory?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: I do not remember well. It took at least, from Upper Silesia as far . . . as far . . . as far . . . where should I say? . . . as far as Wurzen in Saxony . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: . . . it took me about three weeks, more or less.
  • David Boder: Aha. Oh . . .
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: And at times by bus, at times on foot, at times . . .
  • David Boder: By . . . by . . .
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: . . . by train, in freight cars.
  • David Boder: Did you have any money?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: No. The money was taken away from me en route by soldiers who were pillaging.
  • David Boder: How? Did they search you?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes. There were always soldiers who were doing there business on their own.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Of all nations, that there were.
  • David Boder: Soldiers of all nations.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: But these, regretfully, were Russians. [Both laugh.]
  • David Boder: Aha. Well.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: They were Russian friends [chuckle].
  • David Boder: And so you reached Thuringia? And how did you get here, from Thuringia to this place?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: In Thuringia the Russian authorities declared again on their part that we had to leave their zone.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: And I assembled my family and entered a Russian [DP] camp, and I was transported by the Russians to the Amer- . . . American Zone and handed over by the Russians themselves to the American UNRRA.
  • David Boder: Oh. From the Russian camp. Well. And the UNRRA brought you here.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: And the UNRRA sent me here.
  • David Boder: And Thuringia? Is that in the Russian Zone?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Thuringia is in the Russian Zone.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: At the start it was an American region, but from the beginning of July, 1945 it has been a Russian region.
  • David Boder: Russian. And so you were sent over here. Well, now how much time have you already been here?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: I? Nearly a year.
  • David Boder: And why does it take you so much time?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Because up to now they did not permit a single South American to leave officially. Only those people could leave who left on the black [illegally]. And a father of a family cannot travel on the black.
  • David Boder: Oh. By black is meant the illegal route.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes.
  • David Boder: Well. How many people are in your family?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: I have five children, all minors.
  • David Boder: And your wife?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: And my wife. Yes.
  • David Boder: And your wife is a Chilean?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Of Danish descent.
  • David Boder: What?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Danish.
  • David Boder: Danish. Did you get married here in Europe?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes. I married in Europe.
  • David Boder: Oh. Well. Tell me, you are going not to Chile? Who pays your . . . your transportation?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: I could . . . could have paid for it at least twenty-fold with the money that I had at my disposal. But since part of it was lost, and the other part is worth nothing . . .
  • David Boder: What kind of money is it?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: It is German money, because all other money was confiscated by the Germans . . . by the Germans, [the funds] that I still had in South America, and only . . .
  • David Boder: [With suprise] Money that you had in South America . . .
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: South America.
  • David Boder: . . . was confiscated?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes.
  • David Boder: How did they do that?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: It was confiscated by the German currency control [surrender of foreign deposits].
  • David Boder: Now wait. You had Amer- . . . money in Chile.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: I had money in Chile.
  • David Boder: What could the Germans have to say over your money in Chile?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes. They demanded a declaration about money kept abroad—under oath.
  • David Boder: And this money . . .
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: For this they offered in exchang . . .
  • David Boder: Marks?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: . . . marks, and they took it away.
  • David Boder: Well. But you were a Chilean citizen.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes, but that meant nothing.
  • David Boder: The consul could not protect you in any way?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: No. He could not protect me, because everybody who belonged . . . found himself here in Ger- . . . German territory was subject to the German laws, as I was notified, and I could not avoid it.
  • David Boder: But look here. It seems that Chile was in the war on the side of the Allies, no?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes, but it declared war the twelfth of April, '45 [this appears at least approximately correct].
  • David Boder: Oh. That late? [Both laugh heartily.] Consequently before that they could get your power of attorney and take your money.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: No. From 1943 the diplomatic relations were . . .
  • David Boder: Interrupted.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: . . . were interrupted.
  • David Boder: Now how can you say that they got hold of your money?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: But . . . Of my money? That they got hold of still before.
  • David Boder: Before.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes.
  • David Boder: Well, does the UNRRA supply passage for people?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: No. I don't think that the UNRRA will supply the passage for us. We figure that our government will help us.
  • David Boder: Well, have you heard already anything from your government?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: No. I know very little, because up to now it was very difficult to establish communication with the government.
  • David Boder: Don't you have a Chilean consulate in Germany?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: There is no Chilean consulate in Germany yet.
  • David Boder: Now then, the nearest consulate is where?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: The nearest consulate . . . consulates are in Zurich and in Paris.
  • David Boder: In Paris. And what? Do they have a kind of representative who came to see you here?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: No, up to this time—nobody.
  • David Boder: And how many Chileans are there in this camp?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: In this camp there are seventy-six Chileans.
  • David Boder: [Suprised] Seventy-six Chileans?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes.
  • David Boder: That is rather a large number.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes, because there are assembled here almost all [Chileans] from the American Zone.
  • David Boder: Now tell me something else. Since you were a person relatively free in Germany during the war, how do you appraise the whole situation? You knew Germans. You had German friends or [the like].
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes.
  • David Boder: What was their opinion, their attitude so to speak, to all that which took place in Germany during the war?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes. I know the situation as it was understood in Upper Silesia, because I was in Upper Silesia.
  • David Boder: Well.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: In Upper Silesia . . .
  • David Boder: Upper Silesia is somewhat Polish.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes, Upper Silesia is something per se.
  • David Boder: Yes, well. Tell me.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: It cannot be considered as representative, let us say, of the total German mentality, because, let us say, they talk among themselves . . . they talk Polish.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: And among them, of course, a great part of them were not very eager to participate in the war, and were hostile towards everything that was going on, towards all politics, and justifiably so, because they considered themselves in fact [?] Poles.
  • David Boder: Aha. Well, there was a group which considered themselves Reichsdeutsch [possible wanted to say Volksdeutsch], or something of the kind.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes. Those were not many. The people who came there, first of all the engineers of the mines, had come from Westphalia. These were Catholic people who, too, were in a certain . . . certain opposition, since Upper Silesia is indeed a very Catholic country.
  • David Boder: Hm. And then . . .
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: They never wanted . . . did not want to work with the Prussians who were not Catholics.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: And they preferred to associate [?] with people from Westphalia. And since the people from Westphalia are mining people as well, that appeared very appropriate.
  • David Boder: Now tell me, sir, you know the situation in which the Jewish people found themselves. Now you as a person from the side, as an observer . . .
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Well.
  • David Boder: . . . what do you know about the situation, and how do you appraise it?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes. The . . .
  • David Boder: Frankly.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: The situation of the Jewish people was terrible. We had not far from there the lager Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Never did anything come out from there, anything about what happened there. It was indeed well isolated.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: But still it came out from there that the people are being treated very badly, and they suffered a great deal, those poor people who were transported there, and whom we saw being transported. We did not see much, because these transports passed either by night or by roads that one could not observe.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: There were only rumors [?] about them, and one did not know whether they were true or were exaggerated, but we knew enough that they suffered.
  • David Boder: Well. Near to Auschwitz was Birkenau. Well. Go on.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes, Birkenau was not far from there.
  • David Boder: Well.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes.
  • David Boder: It is said that in Birkenau were located the crematories, and that there people were led through gas chambers and all that. Was it known by the people around there? Was it known that such things were done in Birkenau?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: No. In our region where I worked . . . It was more or less, let us say fifty kilometers from . . . from Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: And there [in our region], frankly, nothing was known about those gas chambers and those crematories. It only was known that a lot of people went there, and where they remained—nothing was exactly known.
  • David Boder: Well, were there no people . . .
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: We only knew that the people who worked . . . There were also Jews among the people who worked there on the roads.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: And that these were treated very badly. This we know, because this we saw. This was possible to observe, while about all the other [things] one only heard now and then a rumor, and nothing else.
  • David Boder: Hm. Well, were there no Germans, Poles who worked in Auschwitz who had . . . who were there as soldiers, and when they returned did they not report anything about that?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: No. In our parts we did not meet such soldiers. Well, I don't kow whether they were impeded in establishing contact with the rest . . .
  • David Boder: [Words not clear.]
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: . . . of the world. How that was done—I do not remember these things. I know only that it was said that people have been taken there, and what I personally have seen is that they were people who have suffered much under conditions of monstrous work, on the roads . . .
  • David Boder: [Words not clear.]
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: . . . on a road, precisely on a railroad, where I could observe it.
  • David Boder: Could you describe a bit what I . . . [correction] you have seen?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes. I saw that the people worked in . . . with . . . [were] nourished very badly, and . . . that . . . what . . . most of all it could be observed . . . and they were [ditch] diggers, that they were treated rather badly.
  • David Boder: Diggers? Were they physically mistreated?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes. This too could be observed. One saw it happen from time to time, not often, but from time to time one observed that they were mistreated.
  • David Boder: Well. You . . .
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: It was enough, for a person with human sentiment, for him, it was enough.
  • David Boder: Hm. Was enough. You were near Katowice, Sosnowiec?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Let us say between Katowice and Gleiwitz.
  • David Boder: Near [?] Katowice and Gleiwitz. There is where you were approximately. Well. Did you know that in the cities like Katowice or Sosnowiec ghettos were built?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: In Katowice I don't know whether there was a ghetto. There was no ghetto.in Katowice. I believe they were taken . . .
  • David Boder: Were taken to another . . . another place?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Another place. Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes. And Katowice was made—what was it called?—Judenrein [literally, "clean of Jews"].
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes. And there were no Jews.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: There were no Jews since the advent of Hitler.
  • David Boder: Well, [about] the other Chileans that you have here. What kind of people are they? How did they get here?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: They vary a great deal. There are among them people who had come for medical treatment. For example, one . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: . . . who had a terrible disease of his eyes . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Many were here to study [go to school], because it was customary to send their sons, their children to Europe . . .
  • David Boder: From Chile?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: . . . from Chile. For a time, at least for some time. Not for all the time, but for some two, three years, to Europe. And others have come here to visit their parents.
  • David Boder: Aha. They were . . .
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: They had here parents . . . parents..
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: . . . or grandparents whom they desired to visit, here or in Austria.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: And in central Europe.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: There were still some who were here on their own business . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: . . . for instance, working, perfecting themselves as engineers and similar things, in order to employ what they have learned in their own country.
  • David Boder: And how? Were they forced to enter the army? Were they dragged into service?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Some of them. Some . . . some of them, some young people among them, were certainly forced to join the army, although some of them could avoid it.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: But only a few knew how to avoid it. Of those that we have here, most of them . . . there are but a few young ones among them, boys and mostly girls that we have here, only a few young ones.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: We have also here a few who first were in the army, but managed to get out of it, and had found employment in the country in general.
  • David Boder: Hm. Well, they . . . there are some among them who are half German, half Chilean?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Oh, yes, surely. They [some of them] are first of all, at least of German descent.
  • David Boder: Yes. Were there many [such] in Chile?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: No. Oh, there are . . . are quite a few. Still there were people of German descent first of all in the south of Chile, which was colonized . . .
  • David Boder: Oh . . .
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: . . . by people of German descent. In the provinces, Osorno, Temu- . . . Temuco are cities where one finds many German names.
  • David Boder: But it appears that they [the Germans] were, in South America, very good and useful citizens, and . . .
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes, certainly. Even . . . up to now, up to the war these people had in Chile a very good name, and they never interfered in Chilean politics, or disturbed the politics. Neither during the war did I hear something of that sort, and for that reason there were no great discords [?] among the people like, for example, existed in the Central Americas.
  • David Boder: Yes. Now tell me, you say you left Chile in what year?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: '28.
  • David Boder: '28. Well then, at that time . . . and you came to Germany, to Silesia, at that time?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: I came at that time first to Austria.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: And afterwards I established my home in the country which played a part . . . which was the country over which the whole world was fighting. [Laughter.]
  • David Boder: Which was that?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Upper Sile- . . . Upper Silesia.
  • David Boder: Upper Silesia. But at that time you were in whose hands? Of the Czechs?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Part belonged to the Czechs, part belonged to the Poles, and part to the Germans. And they [these regions] were of special [separate] jurisdiction.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: They were . . . they belonged to those countries, but . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: . . . the sovereignty [of these countries] was restricted, especially by administrative laws, and especially by economic laws. For instance, they did not have to pay taxes on certain products which they transported . . .
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: . . . from one side to the other.
  • David Boder: Tell me this. You are an agronomist. How does it appear to you? Has German agriculture suffered much during the war?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: [Pause.] I know only—because it was not possible to travel during the war—the agriculture in Upper Silesia.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: And this one [agriculture] one may say is ruined.
  • David Boder: And that is why? Because the machinery was taken away [by the Allies, Russians], or . . . [words not clear].
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Because everything was taken away that was possible to take. The animals, the machinery, the seed, everything that there was has disappeared.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: The battles did not cause great damage, and the aerial raids did not cause great damage, because there were not many raids. The Russians did not launch . . . launch raids . . .
  • David Boder: Air attacks.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: . . . by air. Yes. But the termination of the war created the greatest damage.
  • David Boder: Good. Well. Since you had the opportunity, you speak German, you had the opportunity to talk to the Germans now, what is the sentiment, what do they thing is going to happ- . . . happen to Germany?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes. I know . . . among the Germans I know predominantly the unfortunate people who were thrown out of Silesia, They have no other sentiment than the desire to return to their native homeland where they were . . .
  • David Boder: To Silesia.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: [Chuckle.] To Silesia, yes.
  • David Boder: They desire to return to Silesia?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: They desi- . . . they would like to return to silesia where . . .
  • David Boder: So why don't they return?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Because . . . according to present treaties they have been de-classed [deprived of status] by the Poles. They were thrown out.
  • David Boder: You are talking about people who [during the war] considered themselves Germans [in Polish territory].
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: The Poles considered everybody who lived there before as Germans. [Words not clear.]
  • David Boder: Did it not happen that Hitler imported many Germans to Silesia during the war?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: No. Because Silesia was sufficiently populated already before . . .
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: There was no room for the importation of Germans. The Germans who were imported were imported to Wartagau [region of the Warta River] or what was called the Posen [Poznan] province. There . . . there Germans were pressed in, but to Silesia they did not bring a single person.
  • David Boder: And . . .
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: There was not a single one of those people.
  • David Boder: Where [words not on wire; apparently: these Germans at present]?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: They are mostly in the Russian Zone, in the German part of the Russian Zone, and in the British Zone, and some of them, possibly a hundred thousand, are in the American Zone.
  • David Boder: [Suprised] A hundred thousand? Well, how many did they expel?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: They expelled more or less . . . Silesia was inhabited more or less by seven million people. All were expelled. Now there are left only, more or less, one million [the numbers are apparently incorrect].
  • David Boder: Who were considered, in fact Polish?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: No, whom they still want to expel from there. All the people [Germans?] were expelled up to [word not clear].
  • David Boder: From Silesia?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: From Silesia, yes.
  • David Boder: And then, when they are being expelled, are they given something of their property, are they given something of . . .
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: What they are able [to carry?] . . . Those who were expelled until now were expelled like paupers, without anything.
  • David Boder: Well, it is being said about the Sudeten, for instance, that in connection with the expulsion of the Germans there is a commissar . . . commission which sees to it that everybody has fifty kilos or so of his proper- . . . of his personal belongings.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes.
  • David Boder: But the same thing was not done in Silesia?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: In Silesia up to last year, or up to this year—what I have heard, what I was told by Silesian people with whom I talked—they were unable to take anything.
  • David Boder: Well. Now who do they blame, Hitler or the . . . or the Poles?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Their sentiments in their hearts [?] are . . .
  • David Boder: . . . for the Russians . . . ?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: . . . for the Russians and for the Poles are not very friendly, because they were treated quite badly by them. It is clear the one who treats [people] badly much pay for it with bad sentiments [against him].
  • David Boder: Yes, surely. But on the other hand they could think, could understand, that if Hitler had not started all that . . .
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: That is clear. That is said by people who think, but the majority of the people do not think, but they suffer only at the moment [of misfortune] and see only the one who makes them suffer. And that is the thing that causes great harm. One may beat the other and say you are guilty because you have beaten me. But the one who is beaten sees only the one who is right in front of him [who does the beating]. He does not see the causes which are more distant.
  • David Boder: Now this is a very interesting observation, don Ernesto, because at times we think whether humanity would have learned a lesson from this catastrophe. What do you think?
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: Yes. The lesson that must be learned is simply that one day the hostilities [animosities] must be ended. and one has to start with ending them, because if we are to continue with the payment of accounts [retaliations] that would last until the Last Judgment [Judgment Day].
  • David Boder: Well, don Ernesto. Thank you so much. I wanted an informative report from a person who lived in Germany during all the time and could observe the events somewhat like a foreigner [outsider]. I believe that all of us would be very interested in studying what you have told us.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes Spool 135. The interviewee was don Ernesto Moeller-Arnold, a Chilean by birth who spent during the time . . . time of the war as manager of various estates, agricultural properties, and had some opportunity to observar . . . [chuckle and correction] to observe—I am mixing my Spanish with my English—what has happened. Muenchen, September the 20th, 1946. Spool 135, An Illinois Institute of Technology wire recording. Thank you very much Mr. Moeller.
  • Ernesto Moeller-Arnold: [In Spanish] Don't mention it. [He apparently understood the last sentence spoken in English.]
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Roberta Hopson
  • Reviewer (transcription) : Andrea Castro
  • English Translation : David P. Boder