David P. Boder Interviews Alfonsas Paulis; September 21, 1946; München, Germany

  • David Boder: [In English] This is Spool 9-144B - the interview features Alfonsas Paulus or Paulis - this section was separated from Spool 144A, which contains the interview with Father Johan Kharchenko. This is Spool 9-144B Alfonsas Paulis, November the 9th, 1950, Boder.
  • David Boder: 20th September, 1946 at the Baltic camp at Lohengrinstrasse. The interview is the same that we started at Spool 143. Alfonsas Paulis, who was kind enough to relinquish his turn to the parson of the Greek Orthodoxian Church Johan Kharchenko. We are now returning to the interview of Mr. Alfonsas Paulis who is going to talk Lithuanian.
  • David Boder: [In German] Uh, one more time—now tell me again, what happened to you, when the Soviets came to Lithuania? Where did you live, and what happened to you? How old are you, Mr. Paulis? How old are you?
  • Alfonsas Paulis: [In Lithuanian] I come from Suvalkija, and will tell you a few things from March 7, 1943 . . .
  • David Boder: [In German] Slowly.
  • Alfonsas Paulis: [In Lithuanian] . . . to April 5, 1945, until the Americans came to set us free. As you know, I am a simple worker and I was arrested for newspapers that spoke against the Germans, the Fascists, the Nazis. I was arrested by the Gestapo, had to do some time . . . was arrested, had to do some time at Fort 7, Fort 7. Then . . . had to starve for a while, as you know, that place has bunk-beds, and we were beaten a lot, that is, underground . . .
  • David Boder: [In German] Slower.
  • Alfonsas Paulis: [In Lithuanian] I had spent three weeks like this. Then we were taken to Pravieniškis. Pravieniškis had this initial concentration camp. We were forced to work at that concentration camp, doing logging. There, we were supervised by Gestapo officers. They would beat us a lot with sticks. We would not get enough to eat and waited for things to get better. Well, one day, we received a message that everyone had to get ready, they would be taking us at night to some place. They took us to Germany, drove us into railway cars, nailed them shut. There is barbed wire and guards everywhere. We are being taken . . . and we had to bring some saws. We had a saw, some knives, and decided to run. When we reached the German border, where Kybartai is now, we were trying to saw, but the train stopped. We did not think it would. We thought we would make it with the sawing and escape into the woods, but that did not happen, we did not . . . we were . . . they saw us sawing, stopped the train, and unloaded us one by one, stripped us naked to the waist and the Germans had cudgels made from telephones. We were being driven out one by one, I was the first to step out of the car so, I took the heaviest beating, because, allegedly, I was the main culprit, because it was I who had brought the saw. Then we were stripped naked to the waist and were told that they would give us the bat and told us to beat one another . . . well . . . you feel sorry for your friend. You cannot hit him, so the guard springs up and says, "Do it like this!", so he squirms and dies, just as civilians pass by, and women faint looking at this.
  • David Boder: [In German] . . . a little bit, until . . . straight, here . . . [interviewer may be instructing on the use of the microphone here]
  • Alfonsas Paulis: [In Lithuanian] We had a little food, well, some of as did, of course, we brought some along. They could give us some in Lithuania. Also, some of us had a little of it sent to them. They took all the food we had, loaded us back into the cars and then carried us along. They transported us for some four full days. They gave us nothing to eat or drink. Then they nailed us shut better, brought more guards, reinforced the cars better, and brought us as far as France. If they stopped, we would ask for water, but they would give us no water or food. That was how they were carrying us. We arrived at our destination. Lots of dead bodies were discarded in France. I do not know where that was, the location, but somewhere near France we were unloaded, driven into some camp, and given some soup, then we spent the night there. In the morning, they took us to work. It was very hard work. We had to lay some underground cable, seemingly a power line. We carried it around the fields, the woods, and across ditches. In spring, when the weather got a bit warmer, we thought of something . . . they were giving us nothing to eat, we were full of lice, hideous to look at, they were denying us sleep, we would turn in at eleven and rise at one, various inspections . . . one escaped, then another one, so I decided to run too. And I found a time to run out of the woods, away from the guards and escape. I am running for four days. Of course, you cannot approach anyone in Germany to ask, every small child recognizes you, says you're a bandit. So I had to sustain myself. I found a patch of potatoes, so I dug them up. found a peatbog burning in some place all covered with stumps, so I roasted my potatoes, and so on. I would have a drink of water and run. And I ran to an end—at some unknown place, in some strange town I was caught by gendarmes. Well, from then on they interrogated me, considered me a spy, and put me into a penal camp . . . a penal camp. That camp stood on the no-man's-land between the French and the Germans, and I was sentenced to serve twenty-nine days there. And once there, if you were given less time, they would keep you for less time too. We were being overseen by Gestapo men, Germans for most part, as well as Bessarabians, as they called them—they would just beat a man, beat them to death and then laugh. So we would get half a liter of some cut grass, and a hundred grams of bread, and coffee twice per day. We did not have to work there, very little was there to work, but they would usher us to sleep, make us get up and walk on our knees, and beat us so that in a week my arms and legs got swollen. I did not look like a man at all . . . thought I would say goodbye to this world. But I managed to survive somehow, and was taken from there to Natzweiler lager. In Natzweiler lager things were more or less the same; it was in those mountains, a wooded area. Once there, they would force us to work. Gave us some civilian clothes that were shabby, no underwear, only pair of trousers, and on our jackets we had a red cross painted, there were stripes on sleeves and legs of pants, and for footwear we had those canvas slippers with wooden soles that would only hang on the tips of our toes. So they take us to work, and some hard work it was. We would roll wheelbarrows full of rocks, earth and so on, various garbage there in those mountains. We would build those roads. Well, food was scarce, We would rise terribly early, they drive us out, wake us up at three or two. So first they kick us out bare-shirted, would chase us around in a circle, then drive us back for coffee, then drive us to work, give us coffee, so you drink it, we get a hundred grams of bread . . . we go to work, so they give us a hundred gram of bread with some margarine at ten o'clock to eat. Well, they bring us to work, there were troops residing—SS men, to peel some vegetables, so whatever you managed to scavenge . . . you eat those parings, you eat grass from hunger, what can you do? You eat everything. And so I was spotted by this "capo"—one of those appointed people that would beat us a lot, beat and torture us. And they did it themselves, in front of SS men, you had to walk with your hat off, if you take your hat off, he comes and smacks you on the head with a stick or whatever he might have at hand, or a rifle. So I had this sandwich, and he spotted me, after ten, and I had not finished it yet. So he says, "What's that in your pocket?", takes out the sandwich and smacks me on the mouth with it, got me all bloody. I am picking up the sandwich from the ground, blood was pouring, and he is kicking me with his feet. "What are you doing?", he says, sitting in those parings with the sandwich in your pocket. And just what can I do? As if I can help myself not to eat them. I eat the parings (thought I would save my sandwich) and here I grab some parings, but can't get all of them. So I eat the parings, whatever I can get first—a raw cabbage leave, you eat what you have. He beats me up, up and pulls off, saying you will eat and will have to do without lunch. I came home, there's no lunch for me, so I am waiting for the night. Then . . . well, some time passed . . . then something happened—evacuation or the frontline was getting closer, or some other thing . . . We got evacuated to Dachau concentration camp. In Dachau, I was locked up. There was this Dachau camp and a penal camp (a separate one for punished ones) it was called quarantine blocks, and everything was barred there. You could not see inside them, only that the blocks were six meters away from one another. Their ends were boarded shut . The bunkhouses were wooden, full of bugs, lice. We only had one bed and would lie on it four, five people at a time and someone would die every day, they would bring two, three corpses every morning, while you're going—to the wash-room, to the privy—you will find corpses everywhere. Simply heaps lying outside, they did not look like men at all, but were so dried-up, like branches, horrible to look at. You start to think that death itself is not so much scary, but then again there is the torture. And so we lived all the time—half-naked, they chased us out, if you don't make it in time for soup at lunch—you get none and are also denied dinner. Or they wake you up early in the morning, drive you out naked on the snow, and it's some sort of inspection again, something they have thought of. So they would make us do things and if you did not make it, you would get smacked in the head, would fall over, they would beat you, torture you all that they could. Well, later we just sat there, waiting for the war to end, wondering if we ever see it end, thinking we would still be around to see it, and the airplanes were dropping bombs all around as we waited. We seemingly were not afraid to die, only hoped the war would end faster, and that an end would come to the lives of those damned people. And so as we waited, on the 9th of April in 1945 explosives were set across the entire camp, and around nine o'clock in the evening, as far as we knew, the entire camp would be blown away. But then someone reported it to the American army, and the troops rushed to take over Dachau and set us free. And then we were liberated from Dachau, thanks to the American army for setting us free.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] How long have you been here now?
  • David Boder: [In German] How long have you been living here? In this—uh—in this exclave?
  • Alfonsas Paulis: [In Russian] In Russian, In Russian.
  • David Boder: In Russian.
  • David Boder: How long have you been here, in this camp?
  • Alfonsas Paulis: In this camp . . .
  • Alfonsas Paulis: [In Lithuanian] . . . since . . . since . . . I have been living in this camp since around the 20th day of Apr . . . May of 1945.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Do you have any relatives in America?
  • Alfonsas Paulis: [In Lithuanian] I have a brother in America . . . a brother and he has a son, a priest.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Two brothers?
  • Alfonsas Paulis: A brother.
  • David Boder: Where is he?
  • Alfonsas Paulis: That I cannot tell you.
  • David Boder: You don't know, where?
  • Alfonsas Paulis: I do, I have received a letter.
  • David Boder: Aha, you have?
  • Alfonsas Paulis: I have.
  • Alfonsas Paulis: [In Lithuanian] There is my brother's son, a priest in Najaukas.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Aha, and he what, will send you an affidavit?
  • Alfonsas Paulis: No, I got it a long time ago.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Alfonsas Paulis: [In Lithuanian] I also have two aunts.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Aha.
  • Alfonsas Paulis: [In Lithuanian] We have just exchanged letters.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Do you have anything else to say?
  • Alfonsas Paulis: No, nothing.
  • David Boder: Well then, thank you.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes the interview with Alfonsas Paulis, September 21st 1946, Munich, Lohengrinstrasse, displaced peoples camp for the Baltics, eh..in the camp where there are detained Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription (German) : S. Peters, P. Gaensicke
  • Transcription (Lithuanian) : L. Paulauskaite
  • Transcription (Russian) :
  • English Translation (German) : S. Peters, P. Gaensicke
  • English Translation (Lithuanian) : L. Paulauskaite
  • English Translation (Russian) :