David P. Boder Interviews Sigmund Reich; August 26, 1946; Genève, Switzerland

  • David Boder: [In English] Geneva, August the 26th. Geneva, August the 26th, 1946, at the ORT School. The interviewee is a young man, Sigmund Reich.
  • David Boder: [In German] How old are you?
  • Sigmund Reich: [In Yiddish] I am twenty years old.
  • David Boder: [In English] Twenty years old. He made his way through various concentration camps, then to Switzerland and the ORT Schools.
  • David Boder: [In German] And so, Mr. Reich, tell me again your full name and how old you are. Speak Yiddish.
  • Sigmund Reich: [In Yiddish] Yes. I speak Yiddish better.
  • David Boder: [In English] Yes.
  • Sigmund Reich: [In Yiddish] I was . . . I was . . . I was born in Austria.
  • David Boder: In Austria, yes.
  • Sigmund Reich: In Austria. But I did not live in Austria long. Only a year and a half.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: Later we went to Belgium. There we were six years, and we went to Poland.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Sigmund Reich: In Poland I lived until the war . . . I was seven years . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Sigmund Reich: Till the beginning of the war.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: And at the beginning of the war I became sick.
  • David Boder: What town in Poland did you live in?
  • Sigmund Reich: In Kraków.
  • David Boder: Where?
  • Sigmund Reich: In Kraków.
  • David Boder: Kraków?
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes. Kraków in Poland.
  • David Boder: [In German] In Kraków. And so, you lived in Kraków. Yes? Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: [In Yiddish] And I remained there only with the mother. My father already had gone. Rumors . . . rumors were out that all . . . all men, Jewish men from eighteen to forty five, will be taken for slave-labor.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: Nu, my father was afraid so he left . . . he left. He left for Lemberg.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: So I remained with the mother.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: I remained alone with the mother. And I started to earn . . . for food . . .
  • David Boder: yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: . . . in many ways. I worked with the snow. I worked . . . eh . . . eh . . . I carried packages. I worked once in a store there. Finally I worked with a tailor. So I earned now and then a few groschen [pennies].
  • David Boder: Nu? Go on!
  • Sigmund Reich: And so in thousand nine hundred and forty was made . . . made the ghetto in Kraków.
  • David Boder: In Kraków?
  • Sigmund Reich: In Kraków.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: They deported . . . all . . . the whole . . . all the Jews of Kraków were deported to . . . to Podgorz, the second [a certain] part. That means, the . . . ah . . . were . . . many were deported.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: But . . . but there were left something like thirty . . . thirty thousand people. The rest were deported. I too was deported with the . . . with the . . . with my mother. There were . . . I also had there a grandmother with a grandfather. And so, we were deported. My grandfather and grandmother [?] went to Tarnow, and I went thirty-two kilometers from . . . from Tarnow to Radomyszl Wielki.
  • David Boder: By yourself?
  • Sigmund Reich: Just with the mother.
  • David Boder: With the mother. Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: We went there . . . we stayed there with . . . with my mother's sister.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: There . . . there I already had to work.
  • David Boder: Where was your father?
  • Sigmund Reich: My father was in Lemberg . . . when . . . until . . . until the 'Russian' war.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: Later . . . I have now received a letter from my uncle in Belgium that he received news from Dombrau.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Sigmund Reich: I know no more.
  • David Boder: But Dombrau is Russia?
  • Sigmund Reich: Russia.
  • David Boder: You don't know anything more?
  • Sigmund Reich: I know no more.
  • David Boder: Nu? And so?
  • Sigmund Reich: We esc- . . . esc- . . . escaped to Radomysl. There we still received a few letters . . . a few letters.
  • David Boder: From whom?
  • Sigmund Reich: From the father. And that . . . on this . . . later the 'Russian' war broke out, and the Germans gave an order that from every family one man must present himself so that the family can remain [in the place].
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: Nu, so I . . . so I did thus I . . .
  • David Boder: How old were you then?
  • Sigmund Reich: About thirteen, over thirteen years.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: I was . . . I did thus. I wanted for my mother to remain there in the town.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: I went and reported.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Sigmund Reich: I reported and came to the square . . . I cannot remember what day it was.
  • David Boder: That is not important.
  • Sigmund Reich: So I went to the concentration . . . to the lager. It was promised [that] every three weeks we will be able to go home.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: In the meantime only two weeks passed and the whole town was depopulated [of Jews]. Since then I have no more word. Not from the mother, not from anybody.
  • David Boder: How come? You went to work?
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes. It was said to a lager in a nearby town.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Sigmund Reich: It was said every three weeks we will have leave.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: And so, well, only two weeks passed, the whole town was . . . was depopulated. They were . . .
  • David Boder: They were . . .
  • Sigmund Reich: They were sent . . . deported. And since then there is no word [from them] at all.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: Not at all. From the whole transport there is no word.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: And later I came. There was Mielec [?]. We worked mostly at flying . . . I personally worked there at flying machines.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: There we worked . . .
  • David Boder: And you didn't hear from the mother?
  • Sigmund Reich: Nothing.
  • David Boder: Did you hear anything afterwards?
  • Sigmund Reich: No, nothing.
  • David Boder: Nothing. Nu.
  • Sigmund Reich: And somehow we managed. We . . . we . . . stole some potatoes . . . and other things only to maintain a hold of that little piece of soul.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Sigmund Reich: Thus we spent there two years. After the two years, when the Russians began to approach, they were near Rzeszow, we were evacuated. We were evacuated to Germany. Then we travelled through Auschwitz, then through Plaszow [?]. We thought we will remain somewhere in a lager there, but we were farther . . .
  • David Boder: How long have you been in Auschwitz?
  • Sigmund Reich: In Auschwitz . . . we were there only a few hours in the RR-cars.
  • David Boder: Yes. Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: Afterwards we travelled on.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: We . . .
  • David Boder: Now who were you? Men . . . men or [and] women?
  • Sigmund Reich: Men only. There were about a hundred women, but they were . . . I think they were taken off in Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: Yes. And otherwise you were men only?
  • Sigmund Reich: Men only.
  • David Boder: How many men to a RR-car?
  • Sigmund Reich: In a RR-car could have been eighty, ninety men.
  • David Boder: Were you let out if one had to go?
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes, not . . . not always, not always. Once a day, twice a day they let us out.
  • David Boder: Nu, you all were a labor force.
  • Sigmund Reich: Labor force. We were . . . they said we were demanded by the Heinkel Airplane Works.
  • David Boder: Oh. The Heinkel Airplane Works?
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: We were demanded for Germany, because we were good workers. Nu, we were . . . we went to Germany. We came to Flossenburg, maybe six kilometers from the Sudet- . . . Czecho-Sudeten border. There . . . there was one of the worst lagers. A lager of the third . . . third class. Only professional criminals [so-called BV's]. German criminals. Lately also Russians came and different nationalities. They were all sent to that lager. In the camp there, I spent also . . . I spent also . . . maybe . . . maybe a . . . a year. Not a full year. Later, when the Russians approached, we were again transferred. There were also airplane works, Messerschmitt . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: Later, we were . . . from there we were taken to Kamenz. Maybe . . . seven hundred men. In Kamenz it was very . . . it was very . . . was already very bad. It was a 'Commando' from Grossrosen.
  • David Boder: From where?
  • Sigmund Reich: Grossrosen.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: The 'Commando' leader was a very, very bad . . . [no sound from the wire].
  • David Boder: You said he was a bad man?
  • Sigmund Reich: Very bad.
  • David Boder: How long did you live there?
  • Sigmund Reich: It is like this. In the beginning we were . . . it was . . . we worked there. There was a mechanical section, by machines. We worked with lathes. Later, when we already . . . we already heard that the Russians are approaching, the work stopped. We didn't work there any more. We were sent . . . It was already winter then. Then we were sent to dismantle barracks. That means the wooden houses that were built there. A lager was once there, or something. So . . . so they ordered us to dismantle them.
  • David Boder: To dismantle them.
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes.
  • David Boder: What was done with the wood?
  • Sigmund Reich: With the wood? It was piled up. We had to carry it for a . . . maybe a half kilometer to . . . to the unloading place. And an auto came there and we had to . . . and later we had to load it on an auto.
  • David Boder: Yes? Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: The food there was very, very, very bad. It was plain water.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: It was bad generally in all the lagers, but there it was worse than anywhere else. There it was plain water. We received an eighth of a bread. And on this . . . on this we lived the whole day. We lay on straw. The straw was altogether neglected. There was a lot . . . a lot of dirt in it. Nobody cared any more. Towards the end, when they ordered [us] to evacuate the lager, a lot . . . a lot of people were annihilated there. Also a lot became sick, so that from all . . . there were still about a thousand five . . . eh . . . thousand five . . . five hundred men or about that. We were . . . we were left only six or . . . or . . . or six fifty . . . six hundred and fifty people.
  • David Boder: What does it mean, they were annihilated?
  • Sigmund Reich: They were . . . it was . . . we were inoculated there. There they were inoculated.
  • David Boder: What does it mean, they were inoculated?
  • Sigmund Reich: They were given hypodermics. Injections.
  • David Boder: [In English] Yes.
  • David Boder: [In Yiddish] And what happened then?
  • Sigmund Reich: They were put to sleep. After the injections, a few hours after the injections, six hours, he was . . . the man was dead.
  • David Boder: In which camp was that?
  • Sigmund Reich: Kamenz
  • David Boder: Kamenz?
  • Sigmund Reich: It is near Dresden.
  • David Boder: Near Dresden. What is the name of it? Kamenz?
  • Sigmund Reich: Kamenz. K-A-M-E-N-Z.
  • David Boder: E-N . . . ?
  • Sigmund Reich: Z?
  • David Boder: Kamenz?
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes, yes.
  • David Boder: Now were you [too] given an injection?
  • Sigmund Reich: Not us. To those that they saw . . . the men can't . . . can't . . . that they can't hold out [any more].
  • David Boder: What were the people called who were very weak.
  • Sigmund Reich: They are sick.
  • David Boder: Wasn't there a special name for them?
  • Sigmund Reich: No.
  • David Boder: What was a Musselman? Have you heard?
  • Sigmund Reich: Musselman, that . . . they were people who were completely sick.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: People who simply could not walk any more.
  • David Boder: So, what was done? They made . . .
  • Sigmund Reich: They were . . . in one lager they were inoculated. In another, other methods were used.
  • David Boder: For instance?
  • Sigmund Reich: There where I was . . . in Kamenz they were given inoculations. Everybody . . . these that they saw that . . .
  • David Boder: Were they taken into a sick ward? Or . . .
  • Sigmund Reich: Into the sick ward. There was . . . on the . . . they were taken up on the second floor. There was the sick ward. One was called in and the people were inoculated and after five, six hours they were dead.
  • David Boder: Did he know what was going on?
  • Sigmund Reich: We . . . those people didn't know.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Sigmund Reich: However, later on these . . . later we saw that they do not come down any more, and once we noticed one was being carried down, who we knew went upstairs. We knew that if they are called it was done to them.
  • David Boder: And what was done there with the dead?
  • Sigmund Reich: With the dead? They were . . . there was a boiler that was heated for central heating.
  • David Boder: What kind of a boiler did you say?
  • Sigmund Reich: That . . . that was [used for] central heating. Water was there . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: It heated the whole house.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Sigmund Reich: Such a boiler we fired underneath, and the people were thrown in there. They were burned. Once it was a textile plant. I don't know for sure of what. And the factory was . . . the factory was . . . was liquidated. And into this factory we were sent and we were there some four or five months.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Sigmund Reich: Afterwards the Russians approached. We were evacuated. We travelled for fourteen days. They didn't . . . we weren't given even a drop of water.
  • David Boder: Nu? And where did you go then?
  • Sigmund Reich: Then we already travelled to . . . to Dachau.
  • David Boder: Nu. What happened in Dachau?
  • Sigmund Reich: In Dachau I was already . . . in Dachau I was already altogether weak. There we didn't work any more. We were already like Musselmen one can say. Everybody was. Only a few exceptions were . . . were still well.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: And . . . and only these who were well, these were taken and sent away with a 'transport.' Because . . . because lately the Americans bombed the place terribly—Munich, the whole region.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: So every . . . we knew every time that at one o'clock at night, at twelve midnight, the Americans came and . . . and bombed the region.
  • David Boder: Nu.
  • Sigmund Reich: They always threw . . . when they flew over . . . over our lager, they always threw the flares, such rockets that illuminated.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: And so they knew . . . they saw what was going on the . . . on the ground. They knew where the lager was.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Sigmund Reich: The camp was never bombed.
  • David Boder: The lager was never bombarded?
  • Sigmund Reich: No. Never.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: And so it became worse and worse. The Americans came nearer. We were two thousand Jews there, but a thousand could not walk. There was a total of one thousand six hundred men.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: These were still able to walk, but not all.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Sigmund Reich: The rest were already so sick. They had swollen legs, or else they were swollen all over. They were so weakened they really couldn't make a [single] step.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: And we . . . we were called to appell. All the Jews in Dachau were . . . all Jews were called together. They were called out by name. On the twenty-fourth was the first appell. On the twenty-fifth we were also again . . . again called together. And on the twenty-seventh, in the morning, we were awakened very early, five o'clock. We were . . . were made to stand in rows and we . . . were later taken to the . . . to the RR-cars.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: We were taken to the RR-cars. To every RR-car was a hundred people.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: They did not . . . they did not have any more freight . . . freight . . . cars, so they gave such half-passenger RR-cars [4th class] for the trip. However, they piled in so many, we were hardly able to stand. And so we travelled as far as a certain station of Austria. There the tracks were blown up, and we had to . . . we had to get off.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: So we got off and they told us that we still had to walk twenty kilometers to the next station, so that we could continue to travel. So when they . . . they have this . . . we stopped. We were ordered to march. We marched six kilometers. It started to snow. It already was dark. It was winter. They started to billet us with the peasants, billeted there where they keep straw and all such things. We were billeted there. Our RR-car was exactly the last to be billeted. We were . . . everyone was told . . . there were soldiers . . . a few . . . that every soldier should take a few men and should go to the village and look for quarters. Nu, we have . . . with us, too, went a soldier. We were something like nine . . . nine men. We went with him. While he went upstairs to look for quarters, we . . . we walked away. So we wandered . . . wandered till we came to Switzerland. We walked about four, five kilometers, and we met a . . .
  • David Boder: Wait a moment. When did you go . . . separate yourself? When did you run away from there?
  • Sigmund Reich: We ran away perhaps on the twenty-eighth, twenty-ninth.
  • David Boder: How many ran away?
  • Sigmund Reich: Nine men.
  • David Boder: Nine men?
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes.
  • David Boder: And you were able to walk through Germany?
  • Sigmund Reich: We had . . . we had prepared an excuse that the Red Cross had demanded us. We had an excuse that the Red Cross had demanded us. We had such packages. Before we left we were given packages from Belgium, from the Belgium Red Cross. There were canned foods. There were cigarettes, some biscuits, and that was the whole package.
  • David Boder: Now wait. I do not understand. When were you the last time with the Germans? In Dachau?
  • Sigmund Reich: In Dachau. We left on the twenty-seventh.
  • David Boder: Nu? And then?
  • Sigmund Reich: We travelled maybe for a day or two. I can't tell for sure.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: And then later, we couldn't continue to travel, because the tracks were blown up.
  • David Boder: [In English] Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: [In Yiddish] And it was blown up so we had to get off the train.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: And we had to . . . we had to march on . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: . . . for another twenty kilometers so that we could reach another station where the connection could be made to go on.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: We . . . we only walked six kilometers before night fell and it began to snow.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Sigmund Reich: It was winter, and we . . . we began to be billeted there with the peasants.
  • David Boder: Peasants?
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: We were put in a barn where one keeps straw.
  • David Boder: [In German] Yes. You were Polish prisoners?
  • Sigmund Reich: [In Yiddish] What? We were . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Sigmund Reich: . . . political prisoners. All the Jews had red badges as political [prisoners]. [See Note 1 at end of chapter, page 31 - (2185).]
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: And our . . . our RR-car fell short on lodgings.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: So the Kommando-fuehrer ordered that each soldier should take six or seven men up to ten men, and go to look for something like . . .
  • David Boder: Where to stop [?].
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes. To look for a place to sleep at night.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: So with us went . . . we had a soldier who went with us. He went upstairs to look for . . . to look for a night's lodging, so . . . so we walked away.
  • David Boder: You ran away.
  • Sigmund Reich: We walked away.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: Simply walked away. Later . . . we wandered the whole night till we came to a village . . . into a German village, and we said that we were . . . someone came up to us on the road . . . something like from the Security Police.
  • David Boder: [In English] Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: [In Yiddish] From the Red . . . possibly from the Red Cross, I don't remember exactly . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Sigmund Reich: . . . who he was. And he took us to the mayor. There we were, so we said we are . . . we are . . . we are lost from a transport, and our transport is supposed to go to Switzerland.
  • David Boder: Oh! Nu? And how far were you from Switzerland?
  • Sigmund Reich: We were a hundred and fifty kilometers [?].
  • David Boder: Nu? So how could you go on? Were there no SS?
  • Sigmund Reich: There . . . there were no SS in the town.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: Perhaps such . . . perhaps those who were . . . because all of them were at the front, except maybe such . . . except such who couldn't [were in no condition] to be at the front.
  • David Boder: So where did you meet the man from the Red Cross?
  • Sigmund Reich: He met us . . . we walked along the road. So he met us.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: And he . . . he . . . he took us to the mayor. He said he came upon us on the road, and we told the mayor that we were demanded by the Red Cross to go to Switzerland.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Sigmund Reich: Nu. We were . . . were . . . like . . . He became confused so that he believed us, our story.
  • David Boder: Yes. Nu? So he let you go [?]?
  • Sigmund Reich: He did. He even gave us a little soup there . . . and . . . eh . . . and he led us to . . . to the road that . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Sigmund Reich: . . . leads to Switzerland.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Sigmund Reich: He told the soldier to let us go on this road because we are demanded by the Red Cross to go to Switzerland.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: Nu, we went along the road and we came to another village. We wanted to stay there overnight, but the mayor didn't want to. He was very mean, that mayor. [A commotion in the room.]
  • David Boder: All right, why didn't he want to? Why?
  • Sigmund Reich: He said he had many soldiers . . . now . . . and everytime come . . . [the spool ends abrutply]
  • David Boder: [In English] Also . . . this is Spool 74, continuation of 73, Sigmund Reich, the interviewee.
  • David Boder: [In Yiddish] And so, you came to another city.
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes.
  • David Boder: And you came to the mayor and told him you were demanded by the Red Cross?
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes.
  • David Boder: Didn't he ask [you] for papers, or anything?
  • Sigmund Reich: He didn't ask anything.
  • David Boder: When was it, in '45 already?
  • Sigmund Reich: In '45.
  • David Boder: Yes. Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: And we came later to a little town . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: . . . into a little town, and there we presented [?] ourselves, but the mayor didn't . . . didn't permit it. He said there were many soldiers, and he didn't have room for us.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: And so, we walked on. We had no choice, and we came upon a peasant who was working. He was one of . . . one of the railroad employees.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: We went over and begged him about . . . he should . . . he should let us stay in the barn overnight. He said he had a small . . . a small barn, where he keeps a few leaves that he needs for the cows and also the horses.
  • David Boder: Leaves?
  • Sigmund Reich: Leaves, leaves.
  • David Boder: Leaves. Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: And it is very small and all of us would not have enough room. We said, 'No, there surely will be enough room.' He should let us in.
  • David Boder: Did he ask you who you were?
  • Sigmund Reich: He asked us. We told him that the Red Army . . . [corrects himself] we told him that the Red Cross demanded [invited] us to Switzerland.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: And so he . . . he let us in. He later even brought us a little milk, and in . . . in the morning we found out that he is a railroad . . . railroad employee. Se we asked him whether he could not arrange it so that we could travel to the Swiss border. He said, 'Yes, I will be able to arrange everything.' He said we should . . . that at seven o'clock . . . I cannot remember at what time . . . we should come to the station and we will be able to board the train.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: So we . . . in the morning we got up, we washed up, and we ate there something.
  • David Boder: What kind of clothes . . . what kind of clothes did you wear?
  • Sigmund Reich: We have . . . I had civilian [clothes] but the others had those . . .
  • David Boder: Striped suits. Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: Striped suits.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: And . . . and later we came to the railroad station. There we sat at the station and we waited for the train. The train came and we got on. We . . .
  • David Boder: Without tickets?
  • Sigmund Reich: Well, without tickets. He ordered it, so that we could ride without tickets. Later we travelled till . . .
  • David Boder: Who was he, the station master?
  • Sigmund Reich: No. He was a . . . this was a small station and he was the railroad employee [in charge].
  • David Boder: Aha. Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: And . . . we . . . we boarded the train and we rode . . .
  • David Boder: Was he a German?
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Sigmund Reich: . . . and we rode till Bludenz. There we got off and . . . and we went . . . we went straight to the German police, and we told them to give us some paper so that we could travel on, till the Swiss border. He said like this: He can't give us any paper. He can give us a permit to travel on.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: So.
  • David Boder: He can . . . he can give you a ticket.
  • Sigmund Reich: A ticket. But a paper that . . . that we were liberated . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Sigmund Reich: . . . that we are allowed to travel, he couldn't give us. And so . . .
  • David Boder: Did you tell him you were prisoners?
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes. We told him . . .
  • David Boder: He was the mayor, yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: It was in Bludenz. He was not the mayor . . .
  • David Boder: A policeman?
  • Sigmund Reich: Policeman.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Sigmund Reich: A German policeman. Later he told us to go somewhere where we . . . where we were supposed to get the money. We went to get the money, and later we went . . .
  • David Boder: Where were you to get the money?
  • Sigmund Reich: There was some office. He sent us there.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: There we received the money, and we went to buy the tickets. We went to buy the tickets. The train wasn't leaving till nine o'clock. At nine o'clock we came to the train station, and we . . .
  • David Boder: [Amused] And you were not afraid? You had run away?
  • Sigmund Reich: [Laughing.] What was there to fear? We took a chance to the finish. If we succeed, we succeed! If we don't succeed, we don't succeed!
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: And so at nine [o'clock] we went into the sleeping cars, and later, about ten o'clock, the train left so we . . . about eleven o'clock we were in . . . in Feldkirch.
  • David Boder: Feld- . . .
  • Sigmund Reich: Feldkirch. That is near the Swiss border. There we already knew . . . we knew we had to wait till the morning. In the morning we waited. We started. We went over to the border. There was . . .
  • David Boder: Were there no SS men?
  • Sigmund Reich: No. At the border stood the Wehrmacht.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: And so, we saw that we couldn't go over. We saw there some sort of a . . . a . . . higher official. We asked him to arrange for us so we could pass, because we are completely exhausted and we . . . and we want only to get to a hospital of the Red Cross.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: We were invited [by the Red Cross]. And so he said that he will take care of everything. We had . . . we had a few potatoes with us, so we even cooked them there.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: And this was our breakfast and our dinner. Later, we . . . we started to shove to the border. We saw . . . people started to shove to the border. In general not many people were permitted to pass. Every day a few. And so . . .
  • David Boder: Germans too? Or . . .
  • Sigmund Reich: No, no. They were mostly foreigners.
  • David Boder: Nu.
  • Sigmund Reich: And . . . and when we saw they are shoving, and they saw that we wouldn't get through, then we . . . so we also started to push ourselves and we pushed ourselves near the wires, I was already very weak, and we . . . we started to cry for help. And so a German sentry came over.
  • David Boder: A German or a Swiss?
  • Sigmund Reich: A German, a German, a German. We told him we want only . . . only to get to a hospital because we are completely exhausted. Well, he said he couldn't do anything. He called over the Swiss sentry.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Sigmund Reich: The Swiss sentry called over the . . . the . . .
  • David Boder: Officer?
  • Sigmund Reich: The officer. We told him we only want to get to a hospital, because we are completely exhausted. So he immediately ordered to let us pass. There . . . it was . . . it was somewhere near Lichtenstein.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: And there we were . . . we were . . . were soon given biscuits to eat, coffee to drink, light things that we . . . we could eat. And we were told . . . right away there came a . . . a certain doctor. I forgot his name, and . . .
  • David Boder: A Jew?
  • Sigmund Reich: A Jew, a Jew, and he talked with us. There were even journalists from America. I think there was even a Jewish woman-journalist.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: I can't say for certain. And later we were taken into an auto, and we were driven to a hospital in Buchs [?].
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Sigmund Reich: We were there something like two weeks. We were treated very well there. We didn't eat any bread because it was forbidden by the doctor, but we ate only biscuits and light things. Later we were already bett- . . . recovered, and we received some clothing, and we already received bread.
  • David Boder: [Verifying the word] You mean clothes, yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes. Civilian clothes.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: And after the two weeks we came, here in Switzerland, to a quarantine camp, Gattikon [?].
  • David Boder: [In German] What?
  • Sigmund Reich: Gattikon [?].
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: [In Yiddish] A quarantine camp.
  • David Boder: What kind of a camp?
  • Sigmund Reich: Quarantine.
  • David Boder: A quarantine camp.
  • Sigmund Reich: Three weeks . . .
  • David Boder: Yes. Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes. We had to stay there three weeks. But, in this lager it was very bad.
  • David Boder: Bad?
  • Sigmund Reich: Very bad.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Sigmund Reich: First, the food was no good.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Sigmund Reich: There was very little food.
  • David Boder: [In German] What?
  • Sigmund Reich: [In Yiddish] There was very little food.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Sigmund Reich: They cooked only potatoes.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: Nothing else. Meat we did not receive altogether, so we only ate . . . we only ate potatoes and the fifth of bread that we received.
  • David Boder: That was in the Swiss quarantine?
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: And there . . .
  • David Boder: How many people were there?
  • Sigmund Reich: There were about a hundred people.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Sigmund Reich: There were also . . . but all were from concentration camps. They were from other ones.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Sigmund Reich: And we were . . . we were there three weeks. After the three weeks we came to Waedenswil, and . . .
  • David Boder: Where?
  • Sigmund Reich: To Waedenswil.
  • David Boder: Waedenswil?
  • Sigmund Reich: Waedenswil.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: There we were also some . . . something like two weeks. There came a woman doctor, Emma [?] from Switzerland and took us out, because we wanted to go to a religious lager, there where one eats kosher.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Sigmund Reich: And so, we were taken out and we were sent to Attenberg [?]. In Attenberg [?] it was . . . it was very good.
  • David Boder: It was not very good?
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes. It was very good there.
  • David Boder: Was this in a Jewish, a kosher lager?
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: And we studied there a little, and we worked a little. Something like every six weeks we went on . . . on leave, three, four days.
  • David Boder: Where did you go on leave?
  • Sigmund Reich: And . . . I . . . When we went to Waedenswil, we were sent to Zurich on the first Saturday, so we went there. I was assigned there to a woman, and I went there often.
  • David Boder: To a family?
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes. To a family.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Sigmund Reich: And I went there to the family every six weeks.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: And later was established in Morcote [?] a . . . also a home for those . . . those boys who are from concentration camps. And we went there. We were there three months. We were in Tessin, near Lugano. A very nice . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Sigmund Reich: It is a very nice region. It is very hot there in a very warm climate. And we did not work there very much. I . . . I worked at house service. I only cleaned the house.
  • David Boder: The what?
  • Sigmund Reich: House. The house.
  • David Boder: In the house?
  • Sigmund Reich: In the house. The house . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Sigmund Reich: Cleaned. And we studied there. Half a day we studied a little.
  • David Boder: What did one study, Hebrew?
  • Sigmund Reich: Heb- . . . not Hebrew, but the Pentateuch, Rashe, the Talmud.
  • David Boder: [In English] Oh yes, I mean a . . .
  • Sigmund Reich: [In Yiddish] Yes.
  • David Boder: . . . Jewish [education]. Nu. Was there a rebbe? [This word has two distinct meanings: (1) a teacher; (2) a rabbi. The interviewer meant teacher. The boy apparently did not understand him and used the word in the second connotation.]
  • Sigmund Reich: No. There was no rabbi. Only in . . . in Attenberg [?] was there a Rabbi.
  • David Boder: Nu.
  • Sigmund Reich: Reb Yoine [?].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Sigmund Reich: He is now in Zurich.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Sigmund Reich: In Morcote [?] we were there something like three, four months, and later we arrived in Genf [Geneva]. To . . . to the ORT school.
  • David Boder: To the ORT school?
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes.
  • David Boder: And where do you live now?
  • Sigmund Reich: Now we live on the Avenue de Champelle [?].
  • David Boder: This is a home for the youth? And . . .
  • Sigmund Reich: It is private. It is not a home. It is private. We . . .
  • David Boder: How many are you there?
  • Sigmund Reich: We are there something like twenty persons.
  • David Boder: And where do you eat.
  • Sigmund Reich: We eat there.
  • David Boder: Hm. Tell me, what are you studying?
  • Sigmund Reich: We are studying there . . . two, three times a week we are studying the Pentateuch, Rashe.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: We study . . . we study there Hebrew. We study . . . we study . . .
  • David Boder: Tell me, what are you studying here?
  • Sigmund Reich: Here . . . here I study for a . . . a mechanical . . . a mechanical trade.
  • David Boder: And how long will it take to learn it?
  • Sigmund Reich: However long it will take, it will take.
  • David Boder: Yes. And then what do you want to do?
  • Sigmund Reich: And then? Then I hope I'll be able to go to Eretz.
  • David Boder: [In English] Where?
  • Sigmund Reich: [In Yiddish] To Eretz.
  • David Boder: [In English] Where is that?
  • Sigmund Reich: [In Yiddish] Eretz Yisroeil.
  • David Boder: [In German] You want to go to Palestine.
  • Sigmund Reich: [In Yiddish] Yes.
  • David Boder: And where do you have any relatives in Eretz Yisroeil?
  • Sigmund Reich: In Eretz Yisroeil I have no relatives.
  • David Boder: Do you have any relatives in America?
  • Sigmund Reich: I know my uncle has some cousins there, but quite distant. She is quite distant from me. I . . . I don't write to her and she does not write . . .
  • David Boder: So then you have nobody?
  • Sigmund Reich: No.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Sigmund Reich: Only the uncle who . . . whom I have in Belgium.
  • David Boder: In Belgium. Do you correspond with him.
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes. He is now here . . . here in Switzerland because he was also three years, together with me, in a concentration camp.
  • David Boder: He was in [a] concentration camp. So what is he doing now in Switzerland?
  • Sigmund Reich: So now he came to Switzerland to recuperate. He is sick with his lungs.
  • David Boder: Oh.
  • Sigmund Reich: And now he is getting much better than before.
  • David Boder: Hm. Now, please tell us which times were the worst that you had in the concentration camp.
  • Sigmund Reich: In Kamenz I had it the worst.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: There we were . . . also quite a few months. There the food was very bad. The treatment also was very bad. The . . . generally, even . . . even also the people who were in concentration camps, the prisoners themselves, the goyim, [gentiles], were very mean. They could not look at a Jew. And besides that, the guards were all Hungarians. The Hungarian guards were very . . . were very mean.
  • David Boder: [In German] Were they Hungarian SS?
  • Sigmund Reich: SS.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Sigmund Reich: [In Yiddish] They reported voluntarily as . . . eh . . . [as] 'Germans' . . . to the German army. And they guarded us. Every time in the morning we left at the break of dawn. We were . . . we got up, and we were marched to work, and when it got a little dark we were marched back. [Interruption in the room.] Shall I repeat [?]?
  • David Boder: [In English] In Kamenz.
  • Sigmund Reich: [In Yiddish] There the guards were Hungarians, and they treated us very badly. And . . . and they beat us with the rifles. They beat everybody. And every Sunday . . . came every Sunday, we performed gymnastics in the morning.
  • David Boder: What is that?
  • Sigmund Reich: This . . . that means we were ordered to kneel. [This was known as punitive sports.] The people who had no strength, we, thanked God that Sunday comes so we can rest. We were chased out every morning [Sunday?] to perform gymnastics. And if one did not do it well, he was . . . he was . . . he was . . . he was beaten for it. And so at the beginning we received there a bread for four people. The bread . . . the bread weighed something like a kilo, a kilo twenty. Something like that. And towards the end, when it became very bad, we were given such a bread for eight men. Later even for . . . for ten men.
  • David Boder: How was it divided?
  • Sigmund Reich: We were given a whole loaf.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Sigmund Reich: And we were told to divide it.
  • David Boder: What kind of tattoo do you have here?
  • Sigmund Reich: This . . . the . . . this was made in Poland. In . . .
  • David Boder: Who did it?
  • Sigmund Reich: In Mielec. The German SS made it. Everybody . . . Before . . . before, Mielec . . . before, Mielec was a 'civil lager,' but later it was changed into a KZ. Then everybody was given a KL tattooed on the head.
  • David Boder: What is . . . what dies it mean, KL?
  • Sigmund Reich: KL means 'Konzentrations Lager.'
  • David Boder: Oh! KL. And . . . and the Germans did it to you?
  • Sigmund Reich: Yes. The Germans.
  • David Boder: They did not . . . [abrupt end of the spool].
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Rivka Schiller
  • English Translation : David P. Boder