David P. Boder Interviews Friedrich Schlaefrig; August 23, 1946; Paris, France

  • David Boder: [In German] Just speak in this direction, so the light does not disappear, no?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes, I understand.
  • David Boder: [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: [In English] Paris, August 1946, at the offices of the American Joint Distribution Committee. The interviewee is Mr. Friedrich Schlaefrig, 71 years old. He is here with his wife planning to go to South Africa, and is expecting at this moment a telephone call from Lisbon for clearance on the ship. He graciously agreed to be interviewed.
  • David Boder: [In German]. And so, Mr. Schlaefrig . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: [In English] May I speak English too?
  • David Boder: [In English] Oh! He says he may speak English . . .
  • David Boder: [In German] . . . but it goes better in German, is that not so? Let us better do that. [Note: Many DPs had some English lessons at school, many have studied or improved their English after liberation. They are very proud of their accomplishments and insist on speaking English. However, the results were, in most cases, highly unsatisfactory, since the effort and search for words would result as a rule in curtailment, straining, and oversimplification of content. However, to please them, one had to permit at times that at least portions of an interview proceed in English. See story of Max Feuer, Microcards Nos. 28, 29, Second Series 1953, pp. 787-954. —D.P.B.]
  • David Boder: And so, Mr. Schlaefrig will you give us your full name and where were you born? . . . Yes.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: My name is Friedrich Schlaefrig and I was born in Mistelbach in Lower Austria.
  • David Boder: How old are you now, Mr. Schlaefrig?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: I am now in my seventy-second year?
  • David Boder: What is your profession?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: I am an architect by profession and was a 'Ministerial Counsellor' in the Austrian Railroad Ministry.
  • David Boder: When were you a 'Ministerial Counsellor', in . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: I was [that] . . . until 1933.
  • David Boder: Yes . . . Now then, Mr. Schlaefrig, will you tell us then . . . don't fear the details. It is better for us that we have a small sector of your story with all the details, than to have the whole story in general terms. And then, you still have time, we could possibly get together in the afternoon . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Oh yes!, I am in the afternoon . . .
  • David Boder: I should like possibly to talk with your wife.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes.
  • David Boder: Now then, where were you when the war started and how were things with you?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: When the war started we lived in Vienna. I was . . . already before the war started, I got into an unpleasant situation, because I was at the Hitler invasion of Austria in March of 1938, the president of the B'nai B'rith Lodge.
  • David Boder: Oh! Now, please wait, Mr. Schlaefrig. Let us take it then chronologically. Let us count for you the beginning of the war from the time when the Nazis had taken the upper hand in Austria, the Anschluss, etc. That we will call for you, the time of the war.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: All together . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes. Now then, you were . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: I was at that time . . . I was in the year 1938 elected for the second time, president of the lodge 'Eintracht'.
  • David Boder: It was called 'Eintracht'?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: 'Eintracht' [Unity] in Vienna, the largest Viennese . . . Viennese B'nai B'rith Lodge.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . and then . . . the Jews of Austria, of course, have chosen the side of their Chancellor, of Schuschnik, because the Nazi propaganda threatened first of all the Jews of Austria.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: It is obvious that everything was being done in order to . . . preserve an independent Austria and to support the government to the extent of our strength. That had led to the circumstance, that, when Schuschnik was planning in Austria a plebescite on the question of the Anschluss with Germany, this plebescite, this decision of the people, which of course had to be prepared, had to be prepared financially as well, was supported [also] with the resources of the B'nai B'rith and other Jewish resources. I, personally, participated in these things and I did not know, because I did not happen to read these particular newspapers, that on the evening of the Hitler Invasion, my name . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . together with other names as one, let us say, of the prominent Jews, was given as one who supported the government of Hitler [corrects himself] the government of Schuschnik; that my activities were described in a long newspaper article, and so I was already politically delivered [pause]
  • David Boder: Now will you then continue.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: As a consequence of this, the night following that evening . . . that that night I was arrested, and together with a large number of prominent B'nai B'rith [members] was submitted to a political . . . political interrogation, to a night interrogation. [We were accused] of connection with communist parties, first of all with Moscow . . .
  • David Boder: [not clear]
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . [three words not clear] we were accused of that . . .
  • David Boder: Was it true?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . but not even remotely . . . they searched for our correspondence with Moscow, they searched all our archives, they incessantly inquired about our connections with New York, with the 'Wise o Zion,' and . . .
  • David Boder: Yes! We call them in English the 'Elders of Zion'.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes!
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . we were after this interrogation, which lasted until about 3 o'clock in the morning, transferred to the police jail . . .
  • David Boder: How did they treat you?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Of course, there was no lack of personal, of physical mistreatments . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: We were beaten with those . . . with rubber truncheons.
  • David Boder: You personally, too?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: I, personally, too. We were thrown into those closed box-carriages [patrol wagons] like cattle, and driven to the police jail, where we . . . the night . . . spent the night. On the following morning, we were distributed in the . . . in the separate rooms, and placed like common offenders. In one of the cells . . . I personally was placed with six other arrested with me, in to a cell for serious criminals . . . which measured about three by three meters.
  • David Boder: Where was you wife?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: My wife remained home.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . remained comparatively unmolested during the time. All this time . . . for these weeks were full of night interrogations, we were regularly called for with that Green Henry [synonymous apparently with the 'Black Maria'—the slang designation for a patrol wagon] with that closed box-carriage. We were taken to the main police station for night interrogations and in the morning we were returned home . . . to jail.
  • David Boder: Mr. Schlaefrig, how old were you then?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: I was at that time . . . 63 years old.
  • David Boder: Yes. Now then . . . [a pause] and so you were interrogated every night. How long did that last?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: That has . . . that has lasted two to three weeks . . . I shouldn't say every night . . . but a large part . . . a large part of the nights were spent in night interrogations.
  • David Boder: Now, Mr. Schlaefrig, will you reproduce for us one of such interrogations as near as possible. What were you questioned about? What did you answer and so forth?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The questions are to a large extent pointless, because, because a large . . . a large part of the questions were limited to personal viewpoints. Attempts were made to establish the political orientation of the individual, whether he was not in some way, in opposition, in opposition . . . in order to establish that the B'nai B'rith [?] represents a political, a communistic, or some other kind . . .
  • David Boder: American?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . of organization. Yes, American. At any rate, something opposing the present ruling regime, so that these people could be rendered politically or possibly even physically, harmless. They did not succeed from a single one of the apprehended belonging to the circles of the B'nai B'rith to extract any confirmation of these suspicions or accusations. They were compelled after a 'shorter or longer' time to release us. Of course was the unburdening [correction] the release . . . [Footnote 1: Here we have a definite Freudian slip of the tongue. In German the difference between "unburdening" and "releasing" consists only in one single letter in the middle of the word: "entlastung," and "entlassung." —D.P.B.]
  • David Boder: Could you engage lawyers?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: My wife had endeavored to engage not a Jewish . . . a non-Jewish counsel. And that was successful. And a Nazi lawyer had succeeded, so that by the end of March, I was released from the arrest.
  • David Boder: So you were held from . . . when?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: I think, all together, it lasted from two to three weeks.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: By the end of March, at the beginning of April . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . I was home again.
  • David Boder: Now . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: These . . . the questioned . . . it was impossible . . . it was impossible against a single one of us to produce any positive . . . positive accusations. None were founded. We were then gradually released to go home. This time of [our] being home was, of course, hardly bearable, because one was not safe for a single night against searches.
  • David Boder: Have you any children, Mr. Schlaefrig?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes. I have a son who, at that time, was already in South Africa.
  • David Boder: Oh. So you now are going to your son.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: I am going to my son. He worked already in '36 in South Africa as an architect.
  • David Boder: As an architect?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes.
  • David Boder: Did he graduate in Vienna?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: He studied in Vienna, graduated, and has emigrated in '36 to South Africa.
  • David Boder: That is your only child?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: That is my son. My daughter lives presently in Canada.
  • David Boder: So . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: At that time she was still with us in Vienna. She preferred then to leave Vienna and went as a domestic servant to England, where she was taken as a domestic into the home of an English baronet, . . . was readily engaged by the family of an English baronet . . .
  • David Boder: So, they were able to bring people over who worked as domestics . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The English have fired the Aryan domestics from Germany and Austria[Footnote 2: This appears to have been first of all a security requirement, in view of the growing international tension.] and have frequently engaged Jewish . . .
  • David Boder: Servants . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Jewish ser . . . 'manpower', first of all girls from Jewish homes, and accepted them in their households.
  • David Boder: Oh. Now, what kind of education did your daughter possess?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: My daughter was . . . she had graduated from a Middle School[Gymnasium] in Arts.
  • David Boder: Yes, and she went as . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: She went as [he says it in English] 'parlor maid'.
  • David Boder: 'Parlor . . . parlor . . . ' Where is she now?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: She is now married in Canada, and is contemplating . . . I hope it will be possible in a short time, to live with us together in South Africa in Johannesburg.
  • David Boder: Aha! I shall later give you some regards to be transmitted to Johannesburg.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: With pleasure!
  • David Boder: Now then. Have you seen here Dr. Weiler [?], the Rabbi from Johannesburg?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: No . . .
  • David Boder: He is here in the city.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: So!
  • David Boder: You ought to see him if he is still here.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes.
  • David Boder: Possibly if you come with me to my hotel afterwards, when we are through . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes.
  • David Boder: And you may then . . . he is there a very big man, and he happens to be here, precisely here . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes.
  • David Boder: He could probably make use of you there.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Well . . .
  • David Boder: Now, you see. Now then, what happened then? You had returned home, there were searches.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: there were many kind of searches . . .
  • David Boder: What did they want?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: They searched for arms, and under the pretext of searching for arms, they ransacked everything that could have looked like concealed objects of value. Valuables were simply taken away, they were seized under assurance that these things could at anytime be reclaimed from the Gestapo. But in fact, it happened that a great deal of the jewelry, of every valuable, simply disappeared. It simply was taken; that in apartments where the owners failed to show voluntarily their possessions, everything was searched, all the leather . . . leather furniture coverings were cut, the upholstery searched in order to establish whether there were not concealed anywhere jewelry, pearls, diamonds, or valuables.
  • David Boder: Nu . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: That happened in my house, to other parties [tenants?], while with me personally they contented themselves to take with them whatever they found in the strong-box, and some other valuables.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: This was a frightful time because one never knew when one would be arrested. One was repeatedly arrested. It happened to me three times, that I was arrested. However, twice I was released again in the same manner, and have lived in Vienna from the year nineteen hundred and . . . from the [advent] of Hitler, 1938, up to September, 1941. However, I was unable to retain my apartment. We were compelled to sell our buildings. In one of my buildings I had my apartment, and I had, of course, to give that up too. We were compelled to 'retract' into furnished rooms, more crowded and more crowded. During these . . . during these three years I moved five times.
  • David Boder: Did they pay for the buildings which you were compelled to sell?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The buildings were paid with a 'fraction', about from a fourth to a fifth part of their real value.
  • David Boder: Who purchased them?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: These buildings were purchased by people who had to have from the party a . . .
  • David Boder: A certificate . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . an affidavit, so to speak, that they had rendered serviced to the party, and therefore are deserving to obtain Jewish property, upon payment [?].
  • David Boder: Yes. Now then . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: So the buildings were sold. We were . . . we had prepared ourselves for the emigration to South Africa before we abandoned our apartment. Unfortunately nothing came from this emigration, since I was unable to obtain the 'permit' [word in English] for South Africa, in spite of all efforts of my son, who by that time was not yet naturalized. Also my daughter, could . . . who wanted to go to South Africa, was unable to go to South Africa,. We then tried to emigrate to Australia, and again we were unable to obtain the 'permit'. All attempts to emigrate, the attempts with the he . . . help of American lodges, to . . .
  • David Boder: To obtain an 'affidavit'?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . to obtain and 'affidavit' for America have dragged out so long, that the conditions for emigration became impossible . . . when by the beginning of the year 1941, when the whole system of the emigration to the 'U.S.A.' was changed and a new system [established] that gave a chance only to very few to go to America, although by that time I had already an affidavit.
  • David Boder: How . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: We had then to attempt with the help of my relatives in America . . . I tried to get to Cuba, but also that . . . this possibility could not be realized . . . and in August of the year '41,we were informed that we have to expect our deportation . . . our evacuation from Vienna . . . within the next few weeks.
  • David Boder: Who informed you about that?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The Cultural Council [Kultusgemeinde] informed me about that . . . I belonged for years to the Cultural Council of Vienna as an elected member, and had there my acquaintances. They then informed me that in the next few weeks we shall be deported . . .
  • David Boder: Was it their duty, or they simply let you know?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: No . . . I got to know . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . you see, that it hardly will be possible for me longer in Vienna; I was told that all Jews will be deported from Vienna, which proved to be . . .
  • David Boder: False . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . false. However, we had to count on it, and indeed, we [were sent away] with a transport on the 8th of September, '41; no '42; excuse me, '42 . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: All the '41 dates are '42 . . .
  • David Boder: We shall correct that—'41 date is '42.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes.
  • David Boder: Now, tell me, what had the Cultural Council to do with the deportation?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The Cultural Council had taken unto itself to select [the word is not clear, could also mean find those individually selected by the Gestapo. The difference in terms is, of course, tremendous—the word in German sounds like auszuweben] the people and get them ready for transport.
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: It was thought, I don't know whether that was correct, it was thought that if the Jews did it themselves, it will proceed in a more 'humane' form.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Otherwise the Gestapo, themselves, would do it.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: But it appeared that the Gestapo was not eager to undertake this matter as its function, and had found it more comfortable to press in the foreground the Jewish . . . the Jewish institutions, and to let the Jews make these selections. In fact, the Cultural Council was compelled to devote its whole personnel to these selections.
  • David Boder: Who was the director of the Cultural Council?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: That was Loewenherz . . .
  • David Boder: Dr. Loewenherz?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Dr. Loewenherz . . . Joseph Loewenherz.
  • David Boder: Joseph Loewenherz?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes. The Cultural Council had its whole . . .
  • David Boder: Where was Dr. Friedman?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Dr. Friedman was in Vienna, and Stricker was also in Vienna.
  • David Boder: Where?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Both . . . in Vienna. For a time they were imprisoned; were afterwards set free, but were under continuous surveillance by the Gestapo and were obliged weekly to present themselves.
  • David Boder: Present themselves. What was the other name, Friedman and . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Friedman and Stricker.
  • David Boder: Stricker . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Stricker, the [one word not clear] one time 'National Council' . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . and representatives of the Cultural Council. Stricker and Friedman, both were free, had an apartment, a rather nice apartment in the city, where I visited them, but they were under police surveillance. In the Cultural Council the leading people were Loewenherz, and at the end especially, Dr. Murmerstein [?].
  • David Boder: Murmerstein [?].
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Murmerstein, the one time Head Rabbi [?] of the Cultural Council, and who played in Theresienstadt a hardly laudable role, and as I have heard, was by the Russian and Czech courts in Prague, sentenced . . .
  • David Boder: was sentenced . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . to eighteen years imprisonment.
  • David Boder: Now then . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: They . . . The Cultural Council as such, then organized it . . . the service of the expulsion, and specifically with its own personnel. All the employees of the Cultural Council also had to lend themselves—with some exceptions most of them did so. I regret to have to say that—they did it because in this manner—now how should I say it -
  • David Boder: their own person . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . they believed their own person protected. And indeed they were protected until nearly the last moment—until the winter of '42-'43.
  • David Boder: Yes . . . And so you were informed that the deportation was coming. What did you do then . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . was coming . . . We did not do much . . . we did not possess much anymore. We had become more and more poor through the various instances of moving [from apartment to apartment]; we packed the most indispensables in our trunks, and made ready for the voyage, and indeed we were sent off on the 7th or 8th of September, with a transport from Vienna to Theresienstadt. There were . . .
  • David Boder: Now, how did they come? How did they inform you? What actually happened? I want to get at the human side of the events. How were you informed about it?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: This . . . this transport proceeded in a comparatively humane manner, because I voluntarily entered in an agreement [??] . . .
  • David Boder: Aha . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: I was already once before 'selected', . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Already before arrangements were made, and in a manner customary in Vienna. Our house would be 'occupied' [in a police or military sense] by the employees of the Deportation Service of the Cultural Council.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The house would be blocked off . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . one of these 'deporters' would be assigned to each floor.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: He then [would take charge] of the people in the separate apartments . . . the apartments were thickly populated, because in each room lived two, often three or four persons; each family had one room . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: So that in one apartment of four to five rooms, lived twenty . . . twenty persons.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: All these people were then assembled in one room . . .
  • David Boder: . . . the people of the Cultural Council?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . by means of the people of the Cultural Council, who had one functionary [deputy] on each floor.
  • David Boder: One representative?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . One . . . Yes. And he made them wait until the arrival of a functionary of the Gestapo.
  • David Boder: You mean an 'employee'?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Not an 'employee', a 'Gestapo' . . .
  • David Boder: . . . well
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . person, . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . a functionary of the Gestapo, some platoon leader, or Strom-leader, or whatever else he was.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . he then would go through the whole building from bottom to the top, would look over each and everyone, with reference [to] . . . and would decide whether the particular person was to be deported or remain here.
  • David Boder: Aha . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: On what basis such a decision was made—I don't know. In fact, it was that this Gestapo . . . this Gestapo.functionary would decide who was to pack immediately . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . and who could remain in the apartment.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The people of whom it was decided that they had to pack, went to it immediately, and with the help of the functionaries of the Cultural Council, its deportation service would proceed to get ready their effects [?] for the trip.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: They had right [were compelled], the same night, to pack up everything and usually had to be ready by 6 o'clock in the morning . . . there would come the large . . . the large vans [?], automobiles . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . at times trailers [anhaenger] and so the people . . . were from here . . .
  • David Boder: 'Anhaenger'—we call them trailers . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes . . . Yes, yes, and the people were loaded on them, with their bundles [?]
  • David Boder: Were they picked up from their apartments . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes . . .
  • David Boder: . . . according to addresses?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes. The people were not permitted to leave their apartments anymore. In the morning then appeared such an automobile . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . eventually and automobile with an additional trailer.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: And the people with their bundles were loaded on them, and they were taken to the assembly station.
  • David Boder: Yes . . . and then?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: And at the assembly station they now had to wait until the general transport was ready, was assembled.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The transports were usually about two thousand people strong.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: these two thousand people were assembled at the assembly station. These were one-time 'homes' or one-time 'schools' of the Cultural Council. And in those 'homes' the people were assembled , and from there, they were on a certain day . . . often the people had to remain eight days in these homes . . . they, of course, had no means to take proper care of themselves; it was impossible . . . they were sparsely fed . . . they were given some breakfast, they were given dinner, they were given supper . . .
  • David Boder: Who took care of that?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: That was taken care of by the Cultural Council through its 'feeding' units.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: And in a few days, when the organization [?] of the transports was completed, they came again with the trucks, and again they traveled with their bundles to the embarcation.
  • David Boder: Now tell. You say you have presented yourself voluntarily? What was that?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Because I was . . . I said, I . . . I believe . . . I believe to have rendered such services to Jewish public life, that I, at least, have the right to demand the privilege that I should not again have to spend five, or six or eight days, in a lager in which one is exposed to vermin and lice, and has to spend the time unable to sleep. That they should do for me . . . that they should arrange it in such a way that I should not have to spend more than say, at most, one day and one night in the lager, in order not to go through too great . . . too great . . .
  • David Boder: hardships?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . hardships . . . That was the reason, and that is why, why I was told 'You must hold yourself ready for such and such a day, present yourself on that day at such and such a 'home', and that is what I . . . did. [His voice fades at the end].
  • David Boder: Now . . . and so you arrived there with you wife.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: [In loud voice] We then . . .
  • David Boder: How much baggage did you have?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: We had . . . we had [counts recollecting] one . . . two . . . we had two large trunks, two small trunks, and two bedrolls.
  • David Boder: Yes . . . Now . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: We hoped that one would really be able to take with us this baggage. Assurances were given that it would not be taken away . . . It turned out differently. On the 8th of September we were . . . we were embarked into a train which departed from the East railroad station of Vienna, and arrived on the 9th of September Via Prague in Theresienstadt.
  • David Boder: That took only twenty-four hours?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: That didn't take even twenty-four hours.
  • David Boder: In what kind of coaches were you transported?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: We were sent in regular third-class . . .
  • David Boder: Passenger coach?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . passenger coach. Crowded . . . crowded . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: But we had . . . we could, we could manage [?] . . .
  • David Boder: Where is Theresienstadt?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Theresienstadt is about sixty kilometers northward of Prague . . .
  • David Boder: Aha . . . That is in Czechoslovakia.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . between . . . Yes . . . between Prague and the border of Saxony.
  • David Boder: Aha . . . Yes. Did it not have a differnnt name?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Theresienstadt—in German. Teresin in . . .
  • David Boder: [one word not clear]
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . in Czech.
  • David Boder: Now then . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Now then, in Theresienstadt we were . . .
  • David Boder: Now tell me about the arrival in Theresienstadt? Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The arrival to Theresienstadt was . . . very sad [drop in voice]. We were disembarked and were compelled to carry ourselves, our hand-baggage . . . that is what we were able to carry. The large pieces . . . since a person could barely carry two pieces of baggage . . . so the large trunks or the bedrolls were . . . on . . .
  • David Boder: On a 'camion'?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: On a carriage, on a camion, later brought into the city. The railroad station is located about a half an hour's walk from Theresienstadt. It is obvious that for such a distance . . . with all these old people . . . there were predominantly old people, . . . who had to carry their heavy . . . heavy bundles . . . required for such a distance much more that half and hour. It took us more than an hour and a quarter and we did not present an especially beautiful sight . . . a sight which we in the following years repeatedly observed during our stay in Theresienstadt. Always the new ones . . . the trains that constantly arrived with newcomers, how they were heavily burdened by the weight of their baggage; carrying what they could carry . . . because . . . [few words not clear] the large part simply got lost.
  • David Boder: Your wife was with you?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: All of us. Together with the others we crowded in, we dragged ourselves in. And in Theresienstadt we were received by the Gestapo and the Czech Gendarme. Our baggage was searched, and everything prohibited was taken away . . .
  • David Boder: And what was prohibited?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Prohibited were, of course, everything that just smelled of alcohol, brandy . . . prohibited were medicines . . . prohibited were books and newspapers . . . my wonderful English dictionary was taken away from me, as the first sacrifice [chuckle]. Everything . . . everything of that kind was taken away.
  • David Boder: Jewelry?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Jewelry was, in general, not to be possessed. Jewelry and money was prohibited [?] already in Vienna. At the most, one was permitted a marriage ring.
  • David Boder: A wedding ring?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: A wedding ring. Otherwise one was not permitted to take any jewelry nor money. The money we surrendered already in Vienna; whatever we had in marks, in paper marks, or small change. In Theresienstadt we were unfortunately assigned to the worst armory. There were . . .
  • David Boder: Were there armories?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: In Theresienstadt . . . Theresienstadt is an old fortress from . . . which was constructed in the year 1770 in the time of 'Kasanusa' [?] the second . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . and is a place . . . now we have to conclude?
  • David Boder: No, no, no . . . We shall continue in a few minutes, it's not the end.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes.
  • David Boder: I still want to talk to you after lunch.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes, yes. I shall be here after lunch.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Theresienstadt is a city which owes its existence only to the military needs. It was a city which was built at the times of Maria-Theresa.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: That is, at the times of Frederick, the Second [two words not clear] and which contains about eight or ten large armories . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . and every kind of constructions necessary for the defense of the fortress . . . and which is from the outside completely cut off by a system of water trenches, deep trenches, which could be filled with water, which could be flooded. These were trenches about eight or ten meters deep and a width of thirty meters [one word not clear]; that is, with adjoining mason walls on the outside facing the surrounding terrain. Some of these positions were artillery positions.
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: On the bastion was located the heavy artillery and the trenches were aimed at . . .
  • David Boder: . . . the defense of the city?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . to make safe the city from every kind of attack; because the trenches were flooded from the River Ager [?] and through such deep water trenches, attacks in those times could not be effective.
  • David Boder: Aha . . . and so you were established there.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: There were about eight large armories and the rest . . . the rest of the city in between these armories consisted mostly of one-story structures in which everything was located that the military could use in their sparetime such as restaurants, cafes, small and large stores, artisan shops, and all that was required for a garrison of about eight thousand . . . eight thousand military men [two words not clear] . . .
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The homes were completely evacuated by the Czech population. By the time when we arrived, at the beginning of September, at the beginning of September, nineteen hundred and . . .
  • David Boder: thirty [??] two . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . forty-two, nineteen hundred and forty-two, the Czech population was already evacuated. Of course, the place was not in a condition to offer to some extent, to such a multitude of people, the possibility of a human way of habitation.
  • David Boder: What is your estimate, how great was the population of . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The population?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . the Jewish population of Theresienstadt was in normal times about eight thousand men of the military, and about four thousand of the civilian population.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . That is twelve thousand people. From our . . . from our statistics, I know that the population of this, this Jewish Ghetto of Theresienstadt reached at one time, over sixty-five thousand people.
  • David Boder: Aha . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . that is in excess of five times of the normal population. The consequences of this was that the older premises . . .
  • David Boder: [two words not clear]
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . had to be populated.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . that in an average room of about twenty-five square meters, up to twelve or fifteen people had to be accomodated; which, of course, was not possible unless the wooden beds were put over each other up to three levels high.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: That appeared, of course, unthinkable to do, but since the aim . . . the aim of the deportation was only to . . . that the people, as fast as possible, be . . .
  • David Boder: . . . exterminated?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . be exterminated, so also this, a condition of producing all kinds of illnesses, was a means toward the end.
  • David Boder: Were you then from your wife . . . separated? . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Of course, we were . . . we were separated. But since we spent the first few months in this [word not clear] armory, where a separation was impossible because [few words not clear], so it could happen that a husband and wife were located next to each other, and so a separation . . . a special separation was altogether impossible. They . . .
  • David Boder: [In English] [interrupting] This concludes Spool 67 of Mr. Schlaefrig, from Vienna. We shall continue, I hope with another spool right after noon.
  • David Boder: [In German] Mr. Schlaefrig, won't you have lunch with me?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: No, I thank you!
  • David Boder: [In English] Paris . . . Paris, August 23rd, 1946. This concludes the Spool . . . 67. An Illinois Institute of Technology Wire recording.
  • David Boder: This is Spool . . . this is Spool . . . this is Spool 68. Mr. Friedrich Schlaefer . . . Schlaef . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Schlaefrig.
  • David Boder: . . . Schlaefrig continues. We had lunch together and Mr. Schlaefrig gave me some . . . . hm, some more of his background. As he said before he is an engineer, architect, was in Government Service, was retired. He had in the middle '30s a pension amounting to about six hundred marks, or about one thousand schillings; possibly the equivalent of about two hundred or two hundred fifty American dollars, on which he could live well. His, hm, besides being an engineer—from his retirement he returned to an old hobby . . . And that is the construction of violins and a theoretical study of acoustics of wooden instruments in general. As a matter of fact, he intends . . . he intends in Africa to do something in that line.
  • David Boder: [In German] Now then, Mr. Schlaefrig, you have described Theresienstadt for me. Now let us return again to personal matters, after all, the description of Theresienstadt may be found in the literature, and will you please return to that what happened to you personally.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: From the beginning of our sojourn in Theresienstadt, we two, my wife and I,endeavored . . . to show ourselves useful to the commonweal, as we have already decided to do in Vienna. In line with that, we both started steering in Theresienstadt toward this goal. [This narrative becomes slow. He apparently searches for words of a 'higher' vocabulary level.] My wife reported immediately as a nurse for a hospital, and I have undertaken the 'liberation' of about one hundred of my comrades in transport, with whom we together were lodged in the so-called . . . in the so-called armory of the Border Riflemen. This armory of Border Riflemen was an ancient structure which consisted only of casemates, that is arched vaults, which were high-up covered with a layer of earth, about four to five meters thick, and on this layer of earth were originally located the artillery positions of the fortress . . .
  • David Boder: Now that was in the casemates?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: We were lodged in the casemates.
  • David Boder: You were, so to speak, underground, in subterranean . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: In subterranean . . . they were visible . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . the mason structures, but they were from above . . .
  • David Boder: [covered] like with a mountain?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . like with a mountain, above were lawns . . .
  • David Boder: Yes, were there windows?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: These were very small, [and] very dark rooms . . . rooms about five to six meters wide, and about forty meters deep. On both of the narrow sides was a small, double-window. Consequently the rooms were very dark. In each of these casemates were lodged ninety to one hundred men, and we, too, had to live in these casemates. We did not know that in this armory of the Border Riflemen was also housed a hospital, that next to our casemates were located casemates in which were kept typhus patients and 'Ruhr' patients.
  • David Boder: Ruhr . . . that is something like intestinal typhus?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Ruhr—is dysentery . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Dysentery and typhus . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . And indeed, from the first few days there occurred cases of grave illness. From . . . From the . . . from the general inmates of the casemates every day died a few, and in the hospital where my wife rendered her services, it happened . . . it happened of course, daily that people . . . people deadly sick . . . [found] their end . . . ended there their lives. At this time we did everything to help the others. It was an extremely sad existence. At the beginning we had nothing to lay down on. The stone floors of the casemates . . . we covered with strawsacks which we later on [had begged for] . . . later obtained. We put on them our clothes, and the pieces of bedding we had brought with us, and so managed to arrange [?] for ourselves a place [?] for the night.
  • David Boder: You had 'two roll-beds. [that was a slip due to the bi-lingual situation] with you, wasn't that so? Did you get them back?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: [correcting] bed rolls . . .
  • David Boder: . . . bed rolls . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The bed rolls were given to us in . . . returned to us in Theresienstadt. They were, of course, in part wet, but we dried them out and put them to use again.
  • David Boder: Were men and women put together . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Men and women were together. There were mostly . . . mostly old people, rarely were there with the parents a son or a daughter. There were hardly any young people. And the old people were frequently in such a state, that they perished already during the first few weeks of such a regime. Beside,, after eight and fourteen days there were again selections, and a large part of my comrades were again sent away, to Polish lagers. I never saw them again.
  • David Boder: Hm . . . Which were the Polish lagers . . . Treblin . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The Polish lagers were . . . I don't know where these people went . . .
  • David Boder: What kind of lagers were that . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: That nobody knows. They were sent up to Poland, whether to Treblinka, to Auschwitz, [one word not clear] . . . whether to other lagers, nobody ever knew where these transports went . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . and there were never anymore letters from these people. The . . . the inhabitants of these casemates suffered, of course, badly from vermin and under the danger of becoming 'louse infested'. Nobody could properly undress or change clothes, because nobody could properly wash himself . . . Washing belonged almost to the things impossible, 'louse infestations' had greatly increased, and people in the casemates became actually 'louse-infested' and died amidst their own excrements. The saddest of sadnesses of our sojourn in Theresienstadt was the dwelling, during these weeks, in the dysentery and typhus-infested casemates of the armory of the Border Riflemen . . . After two months my wife suffered a breakdown; she was not up to the strains of night watches. She had to give that up and took over another service.
  • David Boder: Now, were the physicians Jews or . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The physicians were Jews, and I must say . . . , the best that may be said about Theresienstadt is that the Jewish physicians were indeed good, that we had good physicians, and that they, within the possibilities, were endeavoring the people . . . to help . . . the people. Of course, there was a great shortage of drugs, and the drugs which were available were not enough for the large number of people who fell sick. After about two months I left, with my wife, the premises of the armory. The premises . . .
  • David Boder: Now tell me, did your wife return to you every evening to the armory . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: My wife only . . . in these casemates men and women [husbands and wives] could lie next to each other, to sleep . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . they were together . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . and there were . . . there were no provisions for the separation of the sexes.
  • David Boder: Aha . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: In the casemates . . . about eighty or ninety people had slept in each casemate, strawsack next to strawsack, one next to the other; others slept in the aisles, so that one had to step over the strawsacks when one wanted to go out at night to the latrine.
  • David Boder: Where was the latrine?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The latrine was at the end of the casemate, in a precarious condition, so that . . . one shuddered when one had to use it.
  • David Boder: And did men and women use the same latrine?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: No! The women had a toilet at the other end of the building.
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: A toilet, which with its four or five sections, was, of course, by far insufficient for the approximately twelve hundred people who were housed in this armory, so that people would stand in line, the women would stand in line . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . in order . . . to use the toilet . . . And the men had the latrine at the . . .
  • David Boder: And how would the women change clothes or dress?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The women had . . . one had to hang up something, or the men looked away.
  • David Boder: Aha . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: I was . . . a special existence . . . people got accustomed to a great deal . . . under these conditions.
  • David Boder: Yes . . . now then . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The . . .
  • David Boder: . . . What was done with the dead people, the ones who died?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: These were . . . in one . . . put together in another casemate. . . . The bodies were then called for a day or two later, for interment . . . at these times we had an epidemic of dysentery and typhus, which affected so many victims, that in one night two hundred and twenty or two hundred and forty people happened to die.
  • David Boder: Where, in the casemate, or . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: No . . . in Theresienstadt.
  • David Boder: Yes, but I mean did they die in the hospital or in the casemate?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: No . . . in the casemates.
  • David Boder: In the casemates . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Of course, the hospitals were unable to accept these many people . . . people were . . . it was . . . , people were lying, so that one would not know one from the other . . . My neighbor . . . in the morning he was dead.
  • David Boder: Yes . . . Aha . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Death was a 'light' matter under these conditions . . .
  • David Boder: Now tell me, were there any religious manifestations [satisfactions], did they permit the people to pray, to a have a 'minjen' [prayer meetings], a synagogue . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes . . . in a short time . . . in a short time the opportunities had . . . had presented themselves, that regular prayer hours were held in prayer rooms, in synagogue, Premises were converted into synagogues and the hours of prayer were normally maintained. There were always . . . there were always services [meditations] maintained through all the time, and there were always many Jews who participated in the services.
  • David Boder: Do you remember any Rabbi from Theresienstadt?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes, I remember Dr. Neustadt . . .
  • David Boder: Where from . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: As far as I know, from Frankfurt on the Main . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . Dr. Leo Beck from Berlin . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . Otherwise the names . . .
  • David Boder: the names . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . have slipped my memory.
  • David Boder: Were there any Jewish actors or artists?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: There was a large number of Jewish actors . . . I . . . Jewish actors, Jewish artists, such as artists of the piano, violin virtuosos, such as actors proper, singers, women singers, there were people of the films . . .
  • David Boder: E . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . people of the films, directors of films. There was no shortage in cultural life. Of course, during the first months . . .
  • David Boder: Did they have their instruments with them . . . , some instruments?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: We had . . . During the early period there were no instruments whatsoever, And the cultural life came to develop itself only when the . . . when the whole management of Theresienstadt was steered into an organized course. All the time . . . it took the whole first year of my sojourn there. During the first year conditions had to be created so that people could live. We had no water system in Theresienstadt. When sixty-five thousand people are crowded together in such a small locality, and are dependent on well to obtain their water from wells, so it is obvious that, due to the communication between the various sections, a number of wells were contaminated in a short time with typhoid fever. That was the reason [??] that we had to close a number of wells, and had to undertake to extend the existing water pipe system. That was really a great piece of public works created under Jewish inventiveness and by Jewish labor. They expanded the water supply system, and have achieved [a condition] that we not only produced for the people good drinking water or, at least, not objectionable drinking water, but that also the toilet installations could be flushed with water, so that these unhygienic conditions were removed.
  • David Boder: And the Germans have permitted it?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The Germans have permitted it, and we even obtained through them the material, because otherwise it would have been impossible in Theresienstadt.
  • David Boder: Yes . . . now . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Afterwards . . .
  • David Boder: Did you say that Dr. Friedman was in Theresienstadt?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Friedman and Stricker, both were in Theresienstadt. Friedman was . . . was the director of the financial department, that is, . . .
  • David Boder: In Theresienstadt?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: That is, of the ghetto. Afterwards it was not called anymore 'Jewish Ghetto—Theresienstadt', but Jewish self-government of Theresienstadt.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: And Friedman was the director of the financial department in Theresianstadt . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . and handled that department. Stricker, too, was in the Council of the Elders. Both made an adjustment and worked very much . . .
  • David Boder: And what happened to them?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Friedman and Stricker were in the 1944 . . . they were, together with their wives, assigned to a transport which went to Auschwitz, and to my knowledge, were there gas-killed. They had dead . . .
  • : You did not have any gas chambers in Theresienstadt?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: We had no gas chambers in Theresienstadt. But during the final months of the Nazi rule, we had such gas chambers also in Theresienstadt.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Gas chambers which, however, never came to be used.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: It is being said, that the last leader of the Gestapo in Theresienstadt—it is being said -
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: I don't know, I don't know whether it is really true [?]—it is being said that it was the last leader of Theresienstadt himself, who revealed to the Red Cross that it was intended also to install gas chambers in Theresienstadt, and proceed with gas-killings, and that he pleaded that, for this salvation of the Jews of Theresienstadt, he, be permitted a free departure for Switzerland.
  • David Boder: Was that done?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: I don't know whether that was done. Whether that man got out or not, I don't . . .
  • David Boder: What was his name?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: His name was Rahm.
  • David Boder: Rahm. Did he belong to the Storm troops?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: He was an SS, or Superior Storm leader, Rahm . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: As far Is I know, a Viennese.
  • David Boder: Aha . . . now . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Returning to my personal fate . . . in two months . . .
  • David Boder: Yes, that is what we want.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . the armory of the Border Riflemen was in two months abandoned because of the need of a thorough disinfection, due to being infested with lice and other vermin. And we were distributed into other dwellings. We ourselves, were assigned to a so-called block building. Those are the one-time private dwellings in Theresienstadt where we, my wife and twelve or fourteen other women, I and eleven other men, occupied one room, in which we were housed the whole winter of '42 and '43. In view of the urgency to keep all rooms in strict darkness against air attack, and the severe penalities that threatened for infractions against the black-out rules, it was impossible for the inhabitants of such rooms to maintain a supply of fresh air. The nights, therefor, were painful. I, for example, one night had not enough air to breath. I spent the whole night until morning without sleep, and I was glad when an inhabitant of the room had to go to a certain place and consequently, open the door so that a bit of fresh air could penetrate through the hallway . . . [he uses a special term]
  • David Boder: What did you call it?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The exit, . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . the stairway to the first floor [corresponds to second floor in U.S.A.], because my room was at the first floor, the room of my wife on the ground floor [?]. We then . . . afterwards . . . in the spring of 1945, the inhabitants of Theresienstadt were . . . were screened. The Gestapo made a classification, and took note of prominent individuals. And these prominent individuals were granted somewhat better living conditions. So that the people who were put in the class of the prominent were given usually a room for two, so that a family of husband and wife obtained a room for two, and could live for themselves, also a better . . . a better . . .
  • David Boder: maintenance?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . maintenance. But the large [majority] . . . there were not too many, there were about one hundred and fifty . . .
  • David Boder: Where you among them?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . two hundred prominent persons. No, I was not counted in [?].
  • David Boder: You were not among them.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: I was not among the prominent. Among the prominent were Murmurstein.
  • David Boder: The Murmurstein who was in Vienna?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Murmurstein was among the prominent. A few of his people of the Cultural Council, whom he brought with him . . . they were included among the prominent due to his influence.
  • David Boder: How did it happen that Murmurstein was deported at all?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Oh, that I don't know. 'One nice day' the Gestapo sent him away with his devotees [?] and his followers [?].
  • David Boder: Aha . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: I don't know the reasons. And so, there were not too many of these prominent [individuals], there were about one hundred and fifty to about two hundred. The large masses . . . it did not change much the fate of the large masses of other prisoners. The prominent were also . . . the prominent were also, to some extent, protected against the fate of further deportation to the Polish lagers . . .
  • David Boder: Now then. Friedman was not among the 'prominent', and . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Friedman . . .
  • David Boder: . . . and Stricker.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . Friedman . . . yes, Friedman and Stricker were also among the 'prominent', but lived for themselves in a house in which otherwise lived not only the prominent. Friedman and Stricker were under the 'prominent'.
  • David Boder: And still they were afterwards sent away?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: They were sent away in spite of that.
  • David Boder: You were not among the 'prominent'?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: I was not among the 'prominent' and also, I too, was put into the transports, but twice, one must say due to the play of fate, or God's help
  • David Boder: will . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . will, I was counted out again from the transports.
  • David Boder: Now let us continue, now then . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes.
  • David Boder: Return now to your personal story.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: I have . . . I have in November . . . in November, 1942, I have presented myself at the disposal of the technical services, and worked in the technical services. I have mentioned already, that we had to build up the water . . . the water supply, to make the existing water installation serviceable for the needs of the present large population, to lay new water lines through all the streets, to work on the installation of large tubes. We had to do not only that, we had to put the houses into such conditions that they would fit better sanitary requirements. And that kept us very busy. We also had to take care of the circumstance, that since we had to occupy the attics of the buildings because the [regular] floors did not offer enough space to house [all] the people . . . we had to look out for fire hazards, to fight the fire hazards . . . We had to form among the Jews a fire brigade. The Gestapo supplied us with a motor pump and two other pumps, and so there was established a real fire brigade under a fire chief, and we . . . we had also . . . we had also to organize a fire police, which had always to inspect so that . . . so that the dwellings be, from a standpoint of fire [safety], beyond reproach. We had to create a procedure of fire fighting, and that kept us busy for a few months. We had to proceed with an immense number of other technical tasks which are contingent upon the management of such a mass of buildings. Besides—and that, of course- occupied greatly the technical service—the Gestapo with its . . . with its contingent, with the whole personnel of the Gestapo, placed a great emphasis [on the requirement] that their quarters be maintained under most perfect conditions. There always had to be built something, they always had some demands, nothing was good enough for them, because the 'gentlemen' from the Gestapo lived in Theresienstadt in their own dwellings, in their own buildings—that was a special section of the city which was separated for the Gestapo alone, the large park outlays, which had the beautiful, the modern . . . the best buildings of Theresienstadt; there had to be installed marvelous accommodations for the passtime of the Gestapo—cafes, restaurants, a cinema theatre, a magnificent one; clubrooms—all that had to be created by us, and that took a large part of the efforts of the construction service, which had to do the job. And to . . .
  • David Boder: In these contacts with the Gestapo—were they friendly? were they polite?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The large part of the Jews had nothing to do with the Gestapo.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: What the Gestapo was concerned, one was glad not to see them. One was . . . one had naturally to be at attention and saluate them on the streets . . .
  • David Boder: Hm . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The same courtesy [?] had to be shown to the Gendarmerie . . .
  • David Boder: Oh . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The police . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . because they formed the guard service used by the Gestapo, all [carefully] chosen [?]; and . . . the city was guarded by the Czech police.
  • David Boder: Aha . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: And so it was the duty of the inmates to salute everyone of those people, without . . . these people were under the strictest 'interdiciton of gratitude', they were prohibited to thank . . .
  • David Boder: Who?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Czech gendarmerie was not permitted to thank . . . the Gestapo, of course, did not thank. They were walking through the city with their riding crops, in their high boots, and everyone who just say them got out of their way [avoided them] . . .
  • David Boder: Oh, they were prohibited to thank when they were greeted . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: No, they could not . . .
  • David Boder: They were not permitted to return the greeting . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: They were not permitted to return the greeting, and they did not return the greeting. One was glad not to have anything to do with them. Unfortunately, it came to that, that when people somehow would get careless . . . the chauffeurs of the Gestapo drove their tractor, their automobiles in the most inconsiderate manner, and there were quite a few cases where people were run over because they were unable to get out of the way in time. It even was said that one of the chauffeurs made it his business to run over Jews . . . Well . . . that is all just [told] in passing.
  • David Boder: Now then . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The . . . the technical service has . . . has taken on a large scope. It took on . . . indeed the work demanded from the technical service was very large in scope. By the beginning of the year 1944, it appeared that the Gestapo got orders to convert Theresienstadt into a 'model' lager [better demonstration lager] . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . that means to make out of Theresienstadt a lager that could be shown to visiting [not clear] people and possibly to the Red Cross. And so all at once there came an order to beautify the city. Beginning with the year '44, the technical service had an unspeakable amount of work, to attain the beautification of this city. Everything was to be put in order, everything had to be shined up, painted up; the streets had to be kept meticulously clean. No scrap of paper could be thrown away. It became, indeed, a rather clean little town. The armories had to be vacated in part because the Gestapo had transferred to Theresienstadt a large central archive from somewhere in Germany, a whole card index of the members of the Party.
  • David Boder: . . . to Theres . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: And so a large armory had to be cleared out within a few days and all the premises had to be adapted for this archive. In a few weeks this archive was indeed installed, and it was serviced by Gestapo personnel, The Jews did not have anymore access to it, except those who were doing maintenance work, the attendants, those who were tending the stoves . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . people who were doing some kind of chores . . .
  • David Boder: But not office work.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: No office work of any kind. That was blocked off from the Jews. The year '44 stood under the 'sign' of beautification of the city. We had repeated visits by foreign representatives of the press, . . .
  • David Boder: For example . . . there were not many foreigners who were not involved in the war . . . Sweden, Switzerland, . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes, obviously these were only the ones who still had their press representatives in Germany.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: And it was customary not to give any answers except to that what the Gestapo would ask. One could not answer at all the questions which the representatives of the press happened to ask.
  • David Boder: Could the representatives of the press see the people?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes. The representatives of the press have seen the people, but of course, they were shown only 'that', they were led only to such places, that route [of the tour] was determined beforehand, according to a most definite red line and they distributed to the press . . .
  • David Boder: What kind of a red line, there was a line drawn?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: On the map . . .
  • David Boder: On . . . , Yes, on the map . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . a red line, and they followed that route, and all the dwellings which were included in the plan of the tour had to 'shine in their glory' [had to be 'spic 'n ' span']; they had to present and appearance that would be free of any objection.
  • David Boder: Now then . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: That occurred a few times . . . and in order to show to the representative of the press something more [better], provisions were made for shops, ghetto currency was printed . . .
  • David Boder: Ghetto dollars or marks?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: dollars . . .
  • David Boder: No!
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Real ghetto 'dollars', Theresienstadt ghetto dollars.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: In units from one up to, I think, one hundred . . . up to one hundred dollars[Footnote 3: He uses the English word dollars. However, there was at one time German, an Austrian currency called 'der Taler' equivalent to three German marks.].
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Ghetto money. And such ghetto money was earned by the working people. All those who rendered any kind of labor for the community were paid in Ghetto dollars.
  • David Boder: What would one buy for that?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: And so, in order to present this [one word not clear] village with complete reality, stores were opened, and the inmates of the ghetto were able to but all kinds of things that were allotted to these stores.
  • David Boder: For instance?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Predominantly there was that merchandise, which was taken away from the Jewish . . .
  • David Boder: Stores?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . members of the transports; which were taken from the trunks . . . which were withheld, taken away.
  • David Boder: Aha . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The people who came to Theresienstadt were rarely permitted to keep their 'large baggage'. The large trunks were simply kept under lock, and every week so and so many hundreds, so and so many thousands of trunks were emptied by working women of the ghetto, [the things] were sorted-out; and all the underwear, all clothing or other gear that was found in the trunks, was stored in one of the armories, the so-called 'ware house' [?] armory. In this warehouse armory was deposited all . . . all the property and belongings of . . . of the Jewish inmates of the ghetto. I frequently had there some business, because I had to build the shelves on which the goods were arranged, and to reinforce them because they became overloaded . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The largest . . . No underwear factory in Germany, I believe no underwear factory of the world had such a large inventory of mens' shirts, womens' shirts or the like, as I have seen in the warehouse armory of Theresienstadt. There were in readiness, without exaggeration, hundreds of thousands of pieces of underwear of any kind. Not only was there in that armory the baggage . . . there was in that warehouse armory not only the baggage of the inmates of the Theresienstadt Ghetto which was, so to speak, snatched [on the sly] from them . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . as one said, 'inspected and sorted-out', but from all parts of Germany, the baggage taken away from the Jews was sent to Theresienstadt, and there it was packaged, sorted-out in order to be sent out all over the country, to various cities, for the people who were bombed-out and suffered a shortage of underwear and clothing.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: It was an immense storehouse of clothing, underwear, shoes, of objects of necessity of any kind. And with this . . . with part of these supplied sto . . . stores were fitted out, and the Jews were now able to buy with their ghetto dollars the merchandise which was taken away from the Jews.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Naturally, there was often among the things very beautiful merchandise, very good merchandise, but 'pull' played here a part. And with good connections one could get good merchandise, and the one who had no connections, got no merchandise, only bad merchandise.
  • David Boder: And who worked in the stores?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The stores were served by Jews. They had there . . . one was the manager, the others were employees in the store—Jews and Jewesses were there, the salesmen and saleswomen. And then, in order to complete the picture of a community, steps were taken toward the organization of a social life. They created a cafe. On the premises of the cafe were given concerts. On orders of the Gestapo the ghetto was compelled to organize a Jewish orchestra. There were found enough musicians, the instruments were obtained, and concerts were given in the cafe hall. Within the landscapes of the park which were laid out on the grounds in order to embellish the city, was erected an orchestra pavilion, where concerts were given nightly, which by the way, were not bad at all . . . where the Jewish musicians did very well . . . very well indeed. Also . . . all activities directed toward an agreeable leisure time for the workers and the old people, and so arrangements were made for lectures, there were formed committees for the utilization of the leisure time, lecture societies, language courses were given, and were given scientific lectures in all possible fields, in the technological field, in the medical field, in the religious field. There was a quite active life [interest] in all these fields. Stage plays were given, the actors got together. In the attics stages were erected, arrangements made for the audiences, and so a . . . a quite active spiritual life got slowly, and slowly in swing. That was in the year '44, and by that time the life of the Jews in Theresienstadt, as seen from the surface, has become quite tolerable [?].
  • David Boder: So, in most cases, men and women were housed together . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: However, one may . . . only very few were housed together. They were separated, men and women. [This apparently does not include married couples, See page 29 of this interview] That would have been immaterial. What made the stay at Theresienstadt so terrible was the anxiety about where one may find himself between today and tomorrow.
  • David Boder: People were sent away?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Every week transports were sent away, with the exception of a short spell during Christmas time and Easter time. With the exception of these two periods, there were always transports sent to Poland; from the various regions of Germany and Czechoslovakia [Spool ends in middle of the sentence. Continuation on Spool 69 which had to be reproduced anew from the 'carbon wire' original. —D.P.B.]
  • David Boder: [In English] This is Spool 69. Paris, August 8, [correction] August the 23rd, 1946, the continuation of Spool 67 and 68 of Mr. Friedrich Schlaefrig.
  • David Boder: [In German] Now then, you have more or less, described the situation in Theresienstadt which was supposed to be a demonstration place [unit] for concentration camps, and was therefore, so to speak, very 'elegantly' reinstalled; but the main anxiety at those times was about the possibility of a 'selection' . . . You say that every week . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: And so, every week transports arrived, twelve hundred, fifteen hundred, to two thousand people, often even more, but since the size of Theresienstadt and the installations in Theresienstadt, accommodations cooking [?] facilities and the like, could not take care [of people] beyond a certain number, people in equal number had to be continually deported.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: These deportations were unpredictable. Nobody knew whether he would be put in one of the near transports. One could only surmise from a certain . . . from a certain activity in the offices of the management that transports were in the offing, and then 'one nice evening' this business . . . this was set in action.
  • David Boder: [Short break in the wire, a few words missing]
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: As a rule, the lists were compiled by the 'ghetto' itself.
  • David Boder: That means . . . by the Jews?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The Jews were compelled to compile a list, and were simply compelled to name to the Gestapo twelve hundred or fifteen hundred, or two thousand people, who were to depart with the next transport. Eventually the Gestapo itself, designated certain people for the next transport; people who had committed, in the judgment of the Gestapo, and kind of offence, who had some black mark, who had done something not to the liking of the Gestapo. These [people] were assigned to the next transport and they would then depart as ordered [?].
  • David Boder: Now, according to what kind of criterion did they act?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: In fact, there was no criterion.
  • David Boder: People were composing lists . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes, for a time the criterion was adhered to, that the first Czechoslovakian transports, the so-call Construction . . . the so-called Construction detail [Aufbau Kommando] . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . designated with the letter AK . . . that these were exempt from all transports [deportations], that they considered themselves secure, and would surely remain in Theresienstadt.
  • David Boder: Czechoslovakian Jews?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Czechoslovakian Jews, who had arrived with the first construction details, who, so to speak, have dedicated [inaugurated] Theresienstadt . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . and had taken care of the first installations. And this criterion was indeed adhered to until the autumn of 1944. Only since the autumn of . . . of 1944 these construction . . . the Jews who had arrived with the construction detail were being deported to Poland, and this . . . this distinction was not made anymore.
  • David Boder: They did not consider age . . . [one word not clear.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: For a certain period of time . . . the over-aged were sent to Poland . . . In early . . . in the early period; for instance, take my transport-all people who were over seventy-five years old were 'simply' taken, transported further to Poland, where they probably perished, or were simply gas-killed within the shortest time. In the case of other transports, certain age groups were taken according to another principle. Say . . . up to sixty-five for example . . .
  • David Boder: Over . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . up to sixty . . . [there were given different instructions]
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . the young ones . . . from below up to sixty . . .
  • David Boder: Oh . . . Yes.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . from below up to sixty. It was simply ordered that those over sixty, or over sixty-five, shall not be taken into the transport [Footnote 4: It is possible that these transports were drafted labor.]. Then also this criterion was abandoned. Things used to change according to changes in instructions from Berlin or according to the instructions of the Gestapo, or the particular Gestapo Commander who would issue the orders. These . . . against such deportatonns there was no protection, and it was most fortunate for the poor people in Theresienstadt that almost up to the end, they were completely ignorant of what would happen to these transports.
  • David Boder: . . . where . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: It was said that they are simply being transferred to another lager, and will live in the other lagers, not any worse than they had lived in Theresienstadt.
  • David Boder: Oh . . . it was not known what happened [?] to them . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: It was not known that the people were going to their death. That was not known in Theresienstadt.
  • David Boder: Now . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: In Theresienstadt conditions improved during the last two years, also due to the fact that people were permitted to receive packages from relatives and acquaintances. The Czechs could receive every month one package, they were issued a stamp to that effect . . .
  • David Boder: The Czech Jews . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The Czech Jews . . . and later on also the German and Austrian Jews could receive packages, although not of such a large size [good quality?]. But by that time, the Foreign Organization had come to life and started sending to the Jews of Theresienstadt small packages from Portugal, as well as some packages from Denmark and Swede, without names [addresses] . . .
  • David Boder: Only in general . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: There were already packages with specific names. However, soon a drawback became noticeable in that the Gestapo, and that the Gestapo appropriated from these packages whatever they pleased to . . . that later was organized a Jewish postal service, but the personnel [?] of this postal service was not entirely beyond reproach; that the packages arrived frequently in a ransacked condition, so that the recipients did not really receive much. Nevertheless, these packages saved many people from a death of starvation.
  • David Boder: Now how could they be sent? Have, for instance, people abroad known about your family?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: My family . . .
  • David Boder: . . . that you were in Theresienstadt?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes. My family has . . . had known through . . . through an 'information' of the Red Cross. You see?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . through an 'information' of the Red Cross. They knew in Vienna that we were deported to Theresienstadt.
  • David Boder: Which [?] Red Cross.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The International Red Cross . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . acted as intermediary of 'information' and it was also possible through the International Red Cross to communicate with one's relatives abroad. Of course, it took about three-quarters of a year until they received the communications. It took a very long time for the communications to be transmitted. These packages have saved the life of many people . . . And the food provisions in Theresienstadt were such, that in the morning one got a weak broth of chicory drips, a black broth, which for certain period of time was sweetened—as long as there was sugar—and later was unsweetened.
  • David Boder: Did you not get any saccharin?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: No . . . saccharin was not issued at all. But when . . . when those who worked were remunerated, they who were working were given sugar . . . small sugar boxes, and when the mortality became rampant, small rations of sugar and small rations of fat were issued also to the non-working [inmates]; so that the non-working would receive twenty grams of fat per week . . . twenty grams of fat per week . . .
  • David Boder: . . . per day?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . sugar? No, per week.
  • David Boder: . . . per week.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . received fifty grams [1.8 oz.] of sugar per week. The working person received eighty grams [2.8 oz.] of sugar per week. Not very much [?] but it was, of course, something.
  • David Boder: Was that distributed free, or did one have to buy it?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: That was . . . no, that was distributed . . .
  • David Boder: [word not clear]
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: That was the ration. This [quantity] was, in general, steadily maintained. On the other hand, the bread ration . . .
  • David Boder: Now, let us skip that. This is known from the [general] descriptions, from the archives, etc.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: That is how it was [?].
  • David Boder: Now, how did you fair personally?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: [as if recalling] In the year . . . the year nineteen hundred . . . forty . . . four, in the spring of 1944, I and my wife were nearly at the limit of our strength. My wife worked then in a . . . in a war shop; there was in Theresienstadt a shop which was called the mica splitting shop [he then translates the term into English] 'Glimmer', that is mica.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Mica . . .
  • David Boder: Mica . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: This mica had to be split very thinly . . .
  • David Boder: Yes, with a knife . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . with a thin . . . to split it with a knife so thinly, so that it could be used for purpose of insulation.
  • David Boder: Yes . . . in telephones . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . in telephones, radios, and the like. And there were from twelve to fifteen hundred women occupied in this war shop. These women had to produce a certain quota, and were compelled to reach that quota. Those who would not attain it, they were assigned eventual [?] deportation, or they were made to catch up. They were given longer hours. There were . . . the work proceeded in two shifts. One shift started in the morning, from six o'clock until—I believe—two o'clock in the day . . . [he figures] six and six, Yes!, until two o'clock; and the second shift was from two . . . half-past two until eleven o'clock at night. And in this mica-splittery my wife has been working. I worked in the technical service and due to the shortage in nutrition we became so depleted that we could barely drag along. For me the . . . the walking of one flight up to . . . to my office in the armory, in the [word not clear] armory had become almost impossible. I then [his speech becomes unclear] was lying for weeks in bed, completely devoid of strength. Heart symptoms appeared, and in such circumstances the only thing that the physicians could prescribe was to tell one in confidence, if it is impossible to give you nourishment, you should save the vitality [?] of the body, by providing the body with rest. And so, I was lying in bed. At this time, one of our woman-cousins who was with us in Theresienstadt, was . . . was sent away with a transport to Auschwitz. But this cousin had, fortunately, connections abroad, and through these foreign . . . foreign connections she had received from Portugal, from Denmark and Sweden, mercy packages [love packages]. When she departed she told us . . . told my wife, 'See Fanny, I would not like that the packages which should arrive here, should get lost, that the Gestapo simply should take them, or other people to whom they don't belong. I am leaving here for you an endorsement, so you should get the packages. Take the packages, unfortunately you cannot forward them to me . . . '
  • David Boder: Did she know already where she was going?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: She knew only . . . only that she was going to Birkenau. About Auschwitz, the gas-killings and the like, nothing was known. She took with her everything she needed, since she expected to be relocated into another lager. That she was heading for death, that she did not know. But the packages which our cousin . . .
  • David Boder: Transferred . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Not transferred, but left behind with us, have kept us afloat during the next few months. They returned us to a condition; the little bit of fat, sugar and cheese, and what else we got—has literally saved us from a hunger death.
  • David Boder: How did you apportion that? How come one was not tempted to eat all of it up in a few days?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Well, that one did not . . . because one knew that one shouldn't. One has so . . . one was so thrifty with the rations, with a cheese or sausage . . . I know that I had saved a sausage, a little piece of bloodsausage, Danish bloodsausage, eating only in little pieces from May until October . . .
  • David Boder: Now where could you keep it, did it not spoil?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: What would spoil, what would be perishable had to be eaten. But such a salted bloodsausage does not spoil. It kept. The cheese would get hard, and was eaten hard.
  • David Boder: Aha . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: And what there was otherwise, a little . . .
  • David Boder: Coffee? [??]
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . condensed milk; as to coffee, I don't remember whether we got it. But I believe we got some condensed milk. And . . . such things did not spoil.
  • David Boder: Now . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: In addition, I began to receive by that time 'mercy gifts' from my Viennese relatives, my brother, who had remained in Vienna—he was able to remain in Vienna, and a woman friend, they could—a Catholic woman friend—they could send us 'mercy gift' packages, even if at times they consisted only of a few kilos of potatoes . . .
  • David Boder: Could potatoes be sent?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes, yes, a few kilos of potatoes, five kilos of potatoes, even seven kilos of potatoes; or two kilograms of bread.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Even if it arrived hard [stale?] it still was bread, isn't that true? There were potatoes, there was bread—and [so] we had something to eat. And so we pulled through the worst period. In . . . in the fall . . .
  • David Boder: Potatoes . . . where could you boil the potatoes?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: We had . . . in the dwellings there was a little stove. In every room there was a stove and in this stove we made fire, and wood . . . we gathered wood, or wood cuttings [scraps], purchased or searched for, in some way it was gathered together. Coal—that was stolen wherever it was possible to steal it. In Theresienstadt stealing was the 'order of the day'. Yes, yes, I say it frankly . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . . naturally?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Stealing was the 'order of the day' [or in the day's work]. And wherever . . . whenever something was unobtainable . . . one appropriated whatever one could appropriate in order to get the room a bit warm.
  • David Boder: Did the inmates steal from each other as well?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Unfortunately, that too. There happened also thefts among comrades, misdeeds [?], but that is just such a thing . . .
  • David Boder: Was there not a tendency to share with the others what one would receive?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Unfortunately, no. I must say, frankly, that the solidarity among the Jews left a lot to desire. Because I know . . . I know that people had received very much, especially the Czech Jews, and that what they would not use, they used to sell for dear money, in order to obtain other things which they could use. Unfortunately, there was no such solidarity that one would give the other. Everyone, fearfully, endeavored—I should say, of course—with a few exceptions; unfortunately, I know none—everybody endeavored, anxiously, to use for himself whatever he would get.
  • David Boder: . . . a bit louder, Now then . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: And so, came the autumn of 1944. There came about very great transports. These were the largest transports, which . . .
  • David Boder: Were they coming or leaving?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: No, which were leaving. When Theresien . . . when it was said that Theresienstadt was to be completely evacuated during the next few months. All the people were to go to Poland. In fact, during these . . . in the . . . in the summer and autumn months, the population of Theresienstadt was reduced to twenty-four thousand, and [afterwards] to eighteen thousand. To so few, from a peak of sixty-five thousand down to eighteen thousand. All the others went to Poland, and with them also went a large part of those people who believed themselves safe, due to their belonging to the construction commando [detail] due to their special status. They sent away the [word not clear]. From the technical service an exorbitant number of engineers went to Poland. By that time, I received a different assignment in the technical service; I have undertaken the management of a . . . a . . . a . . . a . . . a quadrant, that is a 'quarter' of the city, and I had my own office with adjoining small service apartment, with my shops nearby—carpenter shop, locksmith [machine] shop, installation [electrical, plumbing] shops. And that gave me the advantage, that in the winter of 1944, from the late autumn of 1944, I was able to live together with my wife. I had then a small, very lovely, service apartment, which my predecessor had fixed up. He went to Poland . . .
  • David Boder: He was deported . . . he belonged to AK [construction detail], and it did not protect him . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: No! . . . He was . . . [word not clear], it did not protect him.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: And we . . . and we lived in this apartment up to the liberation by the Russians. This period . . . was a very disquieting period . . .
  • David Boder: Which period?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The period between . . . between December'44, and the liberation.
  • David Boder: When was the liberation?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The liberation took place at the end of April and the beginning of May, '44 [he, of course, means '45].
  • David Boder: For about four months . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes, four months. These four months were very alarming [?]. The Gestapo, due to the foreign . . . the efforts of the foreign . . . the efforts from abroad appeared to be prevailed upon to send abroad a part of the Theresienstadt Jews. And so a 'Swiss' transport was organized. In February, 1945, twelve hundred people were selected who were sent to Switzerland by the efforts of the International Red Cross. These twelve hundred people had actually reached Switzerland. There were . . .
  • David Boder: How were they selected?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: These twelve hundred people were . . . one could register. Now . . . of course, far more than twelve hundred registered. Three thousand or four thousand registered. Some people deliberately did not register, because they feared . . . afraid that the transport still may not go to Switzerland.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: These registrants were then, according to registration . . . according to the numbers . . . the numbers . . . The order of their registration, called before the Gestapo. One was brought before them and the commander of the [Gestapo] asked his question, and decided [then] who of the people was to go to Switzerland and who was not. Unfortunately, were . . . my wife and I were rejected, because I possibly appeared suspicious to the man of the Gestapo. He asked a few questions, 'Where were you? What are you? An architect? Where about were you? In Vienna? You were—as it said on my passport—ministerial councellor in retirement? Where were you then a ministerial councellor?—In the ministry of railroads.'
  • David Boder: Now . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: 'You may go [that is all]'
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: We were not . . . not permitted to deport. I think they picked people who were not dangerous, who possibly could not do much harm.
  • David Boder: Now . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Now then . . . this one transport was to be followed by several other transports. These other transports, to which were to be assigned the eligible people from those who had registered, did however, not materialize, and for the simple reason that the Red Cross . . . that the Red Cross had sent a representative to Theresienstadt for [word not clear—means possibly 'control'] At that . . . that time there were people who were obscurely talking about gas-killings, and it was also obscurely talked about, in Theresienstadt also the installations have been assembled, and that things will soon come to a head, so that also in Theresienstadt gas-killings will take place. It happened [??] that the technical service did get ready certain premises, which could serve this purpose. We had to construct doors in places where we could not exactly imagine for what purpose they were installed. The doors were padded [with weather strips] as if for cold storage rooms.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: It was definitely thinkable that these premises which we built, could be made use of for gas-killing purposes. But the Red Cross sent in April a representative to Theresienstadt. This Monsieur Durant [?] . . .
  • David Boder: That was then a month before the liberation?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: A month before liberation there arrived a representative to Theresienstadt, and the alarming rumors which circulated among the population of Theresienstadt, and the anxious rumors were now countered that . . . that . . . that the management . . . the management of Theresienstadt . . . the Jewish management had taken a turn . . . a new turn, that Monsieur Durant is here and that the population of Theresienstadt be not alarmed; nothing would happen in Theresienstadt that could be to the detriment of the inmates . . . the inmates, since the Red Cross had its observer [present] and he would . . .
  • David Boder: And the Gestapo permitted it?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . yes, the Gestapo permitted it . . . he would keep his eyes on Theresienstadt and will return . . . he had his regular station [office] in Prague and the rumors, the anxieties lingered on. On the 21st of April, this Monsieur Durant definitely moved to Theresienstatt, posters were posted that for sure, nothing will happen that could cause the people . . . the people alarm, because Monsieur Durant is here, add remains here, and nothing will happen that . . . that in someway might appear disgraceful [?]. That happened the 21st of April and indeed . . . there were battles already in the nearest vicinity of Theresienstadt. Up to this time we had seen nothing of the war, except for the large American flying squadrons which now and then flew over Theresienstadt, when it was not permitted to be on the streets, to look at . . . We knew, of course, that the Americans knew [were instructed] not to throw any bombs over Theresienstadt By that time the situation was well known, that the battles in . . . in the Rhineland were in the offing, and that the battles in the Rhineland . . .
  • David Boder: How did you know that?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: That we learned through the Czech gendarmes. The . . . The Czech gendarmes.had radios . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . And the radios were so set up that the inmates could listen to the loudspeakers. And so we were practically in the course of events. Also sometimes people were getting out and smuggling in some newspapers . . .
  • David Boder: Well . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . and so one sketchily knew what was going on in the world. And by the end of April the battle contingents came nearer and nearer, the bombardments became more and more frequent, one already . . . one already in the . . . in the last days of April heard about shooting encounters in the nearest environs, and indeed in these days began to appear exorbitant numbers of refugees, Jews, from other lagers which the Gestapo had emptied, and with the retreat of German armies, had crowded them into Theresienstadt. That was already at the end of April. Unfortunately, all these [people] were brought half-dead, the lagers were evacuated, the people half-dead or altogether dead were loaded in wagons, and these wagons were brought to Theresienstadt. Lice ridden, starvation depleted, poor people, who brought with them epidemics, and brought spotted typhus. We had then unexpectedly [?], and epidemic of spotted typhus of such dimensions that eighty, ninety, a hundred and over a hundred people would die in one night.
  • David Boder: Also of the old [previous] inmates . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Of the inmates of Theresienstadt. We had a fabulous epidemic of spotted typhus. We then established quarantine, into which the sick were removed. The influx . . . The influx of inmates of the dissolved lagers . . . they were placed in quarantine. But it was impossible—too many arrived . . .
  • David Boder: It was impossible . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . It was impossible to hold such . . . such multitudes in the quarantine station, because they frequently would break out of the quarantine stations and so, of course, increase the danger of the spread of the epidemic.
  • David Boder: Nu . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: In spite of that the epidemic subsided by and by [slowly and slowly].
  • David Boder: Did you have physicians?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: We had physicians; of course, also physicians were struck by the epidemic.
  • David Boder: . . . and died?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Physicians also died because they were struck by the epidemic of spotted typhus. But, however, the epidemic was slowly and slowly subdued and was extinguished. At the beginning of May the battles stretched as far as Theresienstadt, at the end of April and the beginning of May, and then we had in Theresienstadt . . . in Theresienstadt proper [incidents of] shootings. The retreating German troops, specifically among the SS, from their . . . the motorized troops have repeatedly fired into the city—at times they even threw hand grenades which have cost the life of several people, but these . . . these incidents were soon over.
  • David Boder: And the representative of the Red Cross was there all the time?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The representative of the Red Cross was present. At the end of April, Russian troops actually entered Theresienstadt, received with joy by all inmates. And the Russians furnished us immediately with food supplies for [all] Theresienstadt.—[Here is a bad noise on the wire. This comes from a motor, which off and on operated in the adjoining room, a shop of some kind.]—They saw how starved we were, and that the starvation was our main disease. They set order in the quarantine, they did not let anybody out, they did not let anybody in, but they supplied them with food. And thanks . . . thanks to the Russian . . . the Russian food supply the people regained their strength comparatively fast. Each one got [word not clear], we even got meat, we were supplied with food . . .
  • David Boder: Was it mostly canned stuff?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: That was fresh butter, fresh meat; meat was procured from all . . . from all the possible sources.
  • David Boder: Probably form Germany.
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: From Czechoslovakia, from Germany. Beef was delivered, pigs were delivered and . . . and slaughtered, and care was taken that the population, at last, gets something to eat. The Russians, in general, took good care of us, but it was difficult to make ourselves understood with them. Of course, only through interpreters. A few inmates of Theresienstadt spoke Russian and we had our interpreters.
  • David Boder: Yes . . . Now were there no Russian Jews among the Russian troops?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Oh, there were also Russian Jews. A Russian captain—a Jew, was in my . . . in my armory. The one who had immediate contact with him, who directly transmitted his orders, a very charming Russian. Fortunately, I could make myself understood with him through one of my . . . my technicians . . .
  • David Boder: Did he understand Yiddish . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Nu . . . he did not know Yiddish either . . . Through one of my technicians, who spoke Russian, who was the translater.
  • David Boder: Now tell me, how did the Germans depart from Theresienstadt? Did you know the day of when they finally had departed?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The Germans . . . the Germans just disappeared from Theresienstadt, all without a peep. We just didn't know how they got away. One day there were no more SS men in sight . . .
  • David Boder: And the Russians were there . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: The Russians were here and how it happened . . . The Russians were present, Murmurstein was locked up.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: And a few other, too—they were put behind lock and bolt. The Russians, of course, continued with the maintenance of order, they set up another management. A good friend of mine from Vienna [?], the counsellor [antiquated honorary title], Dr. Klang [?? possibly Klein], took over the direction of the council of elders; that is, the direction of the former ghetto. And another good friend of mine, engineer Vogel . . .
  • David Boder: Another [there was a noisy interruption again] . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Another good friend of mine, engineer Vogel, I believe from Prague, stood by me in the management and we alternated. Now we got busy to register the various Jews according to their various nationalities, according to their particular desires, and to keep the records, since we did not want that this whole system [body of people] just fall apart. It would have been completely impossible. First of all were registered those Jews who wanted to go to Germany, then were registered the Jews who wanted to go to Austria. Those who wanted to go to Czechoslovakia were separated, and departed immediately in all possible conveyances, in autos, in carriages, in automobiles of all kinds, to their home towns. But the exodus, the return to Germany the Austrian Jews—they had to wait until the conclusion of the Armistice [last sentence not clear]. And so after the conclusion of the armistice we got busy every night [?] with the registrations. And we registered the group of Austrian Jews. I had the twelve hundred or thirteen hundred Austrian Jews who remained out of the seventeen thousand who were sent to Theresienstadt. The contingent [?] of thirteen hundred were registered; and then after that was over, at the beginning of June, since my friend, Klang, was unable to leave because he was in charge of the management of the ghetto, I journeyed to Vienna with a few [word not clear] and two other gentlemen whom I took with me . . .
  • David Boder: By train or auto?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: By train. The railroad communication, however [?], did not yet function competely. We traveled to Bratislava, and from there we reached Vienna by auto and on foot. And in Vienna, I then negotiated with the Austrian government and with the burgomaster of Vienna, and with the functionaries of the former Cultural Council, who were still here . . .
  • David Boder: Who was there?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: There was a . . . a Mr. Weinstein, a certain Mr. Weinstein; then a former . . . a former representative by the name Zweig. These, I found again in Vienna, and had still a few other people of the Cultural Council present . . . These people I found, and with them I negotiated. I told them: 'Here, you have this list of thirteen hundred people or twelve hundred, who want to return. I shall now negotiate with the government about the railroad trains, so that we could transport them, and I shall negotiate with the burgomaster so that the buildings be reinstated to the Jewish community, in which the homes for the aged were located; because a large part consisted of old people.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: [a few words not clear] and then I came to and understanding [?] with the burgomaster.
  • David Boder: That was a new burgomaster?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: Yes, that was Mr. Wohlbekannt [the name is not clear; may also mean 'I knew him well', 'he was well known to me'], who was a social-democrat . He was now burgomaster of Vienna, and he readily assured me that the [Jewish] community shall get back its buildings. And the formalities [?] were completed, and the community got its buildings back; and the government arranged that we were given two railroad trains from Theresienstadt to Vienna, in order to return to Vienna these twelve or thirteen hundred people. And that was done. I, myself, spent about fourteen days in Vienna [the spool becomes indistinct] until things were settled [??], and then the management of the Jews [??] in Vienna consented [promised] that I should not have to return with my wife to Vienna.
  • David Boder: Your wife did not return with you to Vienna?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: No . . . So that after completion of my mission I returned again to Theresienstadt.
  • David Boder: And from there . . . ?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: And from there was assembled a so-called foreign transport. That was for the Jews who did not want to return to their homeland, neither to Germany nor Austria,—they could register for a foreign transport. And this transport, which was under the auspices of . . . of—I don't know whether of the Red Cross or the 'Joint' [JDC]—proceeded to Buchenwald, to Bavaria. I mean, the UNNRA took us over then [??] . . .
  • David Boder: Now, how did you come to Paris?
  • Friedrich Schlaefrig: . . . And then we arrived in Paris, and now we are waiting, already three months, until . . .
  • David Boder: [In English] [wire apparently was running out] This concludes Spool 69, the interview with Mr. Schlaefrig, Friedrich Schlaefrig from Vienna. An Illinois Institute of Technology Wire Recording, in Paris, August 8, [correction] August 23, 1946.
  • David Boder: Mrs. Schlaefrig, now you say a few words, Do you want me to see your daughter in Windsor?
  • : I ask you very kindly if you could talk to my daughter . . . [she apparently weeps] My daughter . . .
  • David Boder: Say something to you daughter.
  • : Dear Mieze. We are now [??] in Paris, and are expecting to get the visa to South Africa, and we hope that we shall see each other there real soon . . . , since you, too, are coming over . . . [pause] I send you these greetings through Dr. Boder from Chicago.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Dagmar Platt
  • English Translation : David P. Boder