David P. Boder Interviews Bernard Warsager; September 1, 1946; Tradate, Italy

  • David Boder: [In English] Italy, September the 19th, 1946 . . . [correcting himself] September the 1st, 1946. In the community Tradate, halfways between Milano and Como. A camp for Jewish displaced . . . or a castle which houses a community of Jewish displaced persons, mostly the so called kibbutzim. Mostly the so-called kibbutzim. and the interviewee is Mr. Bernard Warsager, an artist, a painter, thirty years of age who spent some six years in Buchenwald. We will also, instead of taking the whole detailed story, try to get at some high points. This is an experimental approach for the second time of this in this fashion, instead of letting them tell the whole story, just to see whether the high points will bring out sufficient material.
  • David Boder: [In German] And so, Mr. Warsager, won't you come a little closer. Speak here. Speak sufficiently loud that you see the light [the neon indicator on the recorder] lights up there. Right?
  • Bernard Warsager: Hm.
  • David Boder: Now and then. It does not have to light up constantly. And would you tell me . . . you told me that you were in Buchenwald, right?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes, I was.
  • David Boder: Yes? How long were you in Buchenwald?
  • Bernard Warsager: I was in Buchenwald . . . on the 13th of the 9th I was arrested.
  • David Boder: What? What?
  • Bernard Warsager: On the 13th of the 9th I was arrested.
  • David Boder: What does it mean 'the 13th of the 9th'?
  • Bernard Warsager: In the year 1939 . . . [13th of September]
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: . . . I was arrested, and . . . and then . . . later I came to prison, in which I was three weeks. It was near Posen, in Braniewo.
  • David Boder: And so? And afterwards how long were you in Buchenwald?
  • Bernard Warsager: In Buchenwald I was . . .
  • David Boder: Altogether . . .
  • Bernard Warsager: . . . from . . . six years.
  • David Boder: Six years.
  • Bernard Warsager: From '39 to '45.
  • David Boder: And so tell us please why you were arrested, where you were, of what country you were a citizen, and how you fared personally in Buchenwald. Now.
  • Bernard Warsager: It began as follows. When the war broke out between Poland and Germany, I was drafted into the army.
  • David Boder: Yes. By whom?
  • Bernard Warsager: In the Polish army.
  • David Boder: Where did you live in Poland?
  • Bernard Warsager: I lived in the town Tomaszow-Mazowiecki.
  • David Boder: Yes. Which district is it in?
  • Bernard Warsager: It is a hundred kilometers from Warsaw.
  • David Boder: Aha. Nu?
  • Bernard Warsager: And so our battalion was taken prisoner near Warsaw by the Germans. I succeeded in escaping from captivity by donning civilian clothes, and to come home. The road was very difficult. In the towns through which I passed I saw thousands of Jews shot, thousands of Jews wounded, and also thousands of Jews walking to be shot . . . who were being led to the execution [by shooting].
  • David Boder: Nu.
  • Bernard Warsager: Luckily I succeeded in coming home. That was two days . . .
  • David Boder: Not so loud. Talk towards here. Yes, go on.
  • Bernard Warsager: . . . two days before Rosh Hashana.
  • David Boder: Yes? In what year '39?
  • Bernard Warsager: In the year '39.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: My brothers and sisters and my parents were very happy that I have remained alive and have returned home from this war.
  • David Boder: Tell me, where was your regiment when the Germans surrounded you and took your prisoner?
  • Bernard Warsager: It is a town, Skierniewice.
  • David Boder: Far from Warsaw?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes, it was far. It was approximately around . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: . . . seventy kilometers.
  • David Boder: Seventy kilometers. Nu, yes. And?
  • Bernard Warsager: And I was at home, alas, only one day. Later the Germans found themselves a method. They would search out all young people from seventeen to fifty-five, and under the pretense that they are taking them for labor they loaded them into a large truck and drove [them] away.
  • David Boder: Talk, please, in this direction. Talk in here. Yes. Nu?
  • Bernard Warsager: And this happened to us, too. We came by auto to be a town, Czestochowa.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: There . . .
  • David Boder: Didn't they ask . . . didn't they find out that you had escaped?
  • Bernard Warsager: No.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: For four days we were thus exported . . . ex . . . escorted by armed soliders on all sides so that there was no possibility of escaping.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: In Czestochowa they beat [us] very much, and afterwards they surrounded us, embarked us, and sent us at once to Posen to a prison.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Bernard Warsager: There we were three weeks under very frightful conditions. We were beaten. While getting off the train we were beaten so that . . . never in my life did I dream that a man could survive such beatings.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: Never in my life did I see an animal beaten as we were beaten. After three weeks we left again that prison and arrived in Germany. We didn't know what we came for. We were told that we are going to work. And we arrived in a concentration camp,. Buchenwald.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: The first [thing] that I saw there made a terrible impression on me. I saw people who are bloody, and they are being chased and beaten. I saw people who are tied in chains by a window and stand that way a whole day, the pants let down. In terrible positions and [in] terrible conditions. We arrived first in a town, Weimar. This town is at eight kilometers distance from the concentration camp Buchenwald. [A few words not clear.]
  • David Boder: [A few words not clear.]
  • Bernard Warsager: We got off the train and went on foot. We had to hold the hands up and in running steps [on the double]. And the guards who were escorting us beat us. And the people who were not able to keep up were shot right on the way.
  • David Boder: Did you see it yourself?
  • Bernard Warsager: Oh, that I have seen myself.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Bernard Warsager: When we arrived in the lager we were, on the second day there, written down. Everyone had to declare from what town he is, his ancestry, and how old he is. We arrived in a large appell square. On that appell square stood four tent barracks, very large. One barrack could hold a thousand people. And these barracks were enclosed by a wire. This wire was also . . .
  • David Boder: This was in Weimar?
  • Bernard Warsager: In Buchenwald.
  • David Boder: In Buchenwald. Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: This wire was also supplied with a current, an electric current. The first days we still received [something] to eat. Afterwards there began hungry times. In the morning we got up at three . . . three o'clock, and we had to stand outside till eleven o'clock, not dressed, in the cold when it was raining. It was a . . . these were constantly cloudy, autumn days, and we were . . .
  • David Boder: Which month was it in?
  • Bernard Warsager: It was . . . it was already in the tenth month.
  • David Boder: Yes. It was in October?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: And?
  • Bernard Warsager: And we were standing. The third day that we were there we had to go out to work. The work was as follows. We had to run down a large stone quarry, very deep, and fetch very large stones . . . fetch them from that stone quarry. The stones were used for road building. He who couldn't take a large stone, he . . . he was so [badly] flogged . . . flogged and beaten by the SS men and also by the German capos that he became immediately bloody and . . . and fell unconscious, to the ground. I saw very many cases that people were seeking death. They couldn't endure those beatings any more. It is a . . . The capos or the SS men, without . . . without [any] fault on our part . . . they called out prisoners and flogged them to death. I saw how the . . .
  • David Boder: The capos? Who were the capos?
  • Bernard Warsager: The capos were Germans. There were also among the capos very many political Germans. Political Germans. He [wore] a triangle . . . wore a red triangle. There were also capos . . . there were also capos who wore green triangles. These were . . .
  • David Boder: What were the green triangles?
  • Bernard Warsager: Criminal prisoners.
  • David Boder: Yes. And?
  • Bernard Warsager: They had committed great crimes [?].
  • David Boder: Who? The political ones also?
  • Bernard Warsager: The political ones also. One capo, a certain political capo . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: He wore a red triangle. His name was Herzog.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: He has hundreds of Jews on [his] conscience. He killed them just with a club or his fist. Healthy [strong] people. They, alas, couldn't defend themselves. But when that capo got out, he had been released, there came another capo, also a political. A certain Vogel. He conducted himself more sadistically yet. And that capo had been before . . .
  • David Boder: What do you mean by sadistic conduct?
  • Bernard Warsager: Sadistic conduct I take [understand] as follows. When a . . . when a man is taken and he is told to lie down, pull down his trousers and given twenty-five sticks on the naked . . . so that the man can't get up anymore, and then hit in the face with the fist so that he is entirely covered with blood. And if that does not help then he has to . . .
  • David Boder: What do you mean 'if this does not help'?
  • Bernard Warsager: When that man is not dead.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: Then he has to carry a very large stone from the stone quarry. And when he carries up that stone . . . it is approximately two hundred meters upwards . . . he has to carry it. And if he can't walk, then he is hit in the head with the clubs and on the hands where he holds the stone. And if he [drops] the stone, and if the stone falls from his hands, he is again beaten. And when that . . . and if he is still that strong that he does not fall, then they take the cap off his head and throw it there where the SS sentries stand and . . . and order that man to run and fetch his cap. When the man runs to fetch his cap he is shot like a dog by the SS sentries. And under these conditions we worked . . . we worked for two weeks. Very many of my comrades have found death during that time. Many have also sought death. They couldn't look at that and endure all the ways in which we were tortured. After . . . but after these conditions were so bad in the tent-lagers that dysentery broke out. A disease. And the Germans . . .
  • David Boder: Eine Ruhr.
  • Bernard Warsager: Eine Ruhe. [He mispronounces the word Ruhr.]
  • David Boder: Ruhr.
  • Bernard Warsager: Ruhe. [In Polish.] Biegunka. [This may also mean diarrhea.]
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: The Germans were afraid that it can spread all over [so] they isolated us. And . . .
  • David Boder: Did you have it yourself?
  • Bernard Warsager: I was, alas, in the . . . in the beginning I was not sick, but later at the end I did become sick.
  • David Boder: When was that 'at the end'?
  • Bernard Warsager: That was approximately before New Years.
  • David Boder: Of what year?
  • Bernard Warsager: The year '39. [Words not clear.]
  • David Boder: [Words not clear.] Yes. Nu?
  • Bernard Warsager: And to eat we received very little. And there had happened at that time in the lager a case that a pig was stolen from the pigsty, and for that the entire lager had to fast. And for four days we received nothing to eat. And every day we had to stand from three till eleven in the evening. And many times it rained. And there were such cloudy days and so cold. And the people couldn't endure it. The people were dropping like flies, it was so bad.
  • David Boder: Weren't you working? How could they let you stand all day?
  • Bernard Warsager: No. We didn't work because this disease was too . . . it was too great a danger for the Germans. They didn't want this danger to spread outside, because there would be a danger outside the lager. And outside the lager also SS men stood [lived], and so it should not spread outside. And so it was very bad. From our town had been arrested with my transport a hundred and seven Jews. Seven Jews remained alive. [Pause.] Every day . . . every day people became weaker from [too] little food. I, myself, weighed at the end of '39, also '40 . . . also '40 I weighed thirty-nine kilo. I was wondering a great deal, when I was already in the dysentery barrack looking out through the window, how the people are moving. They were nothing but skeletons. And it could be seen, as the people were walking, how the small heads on these skeletons were moving, left and right. And it was a wonder that such a . . . a creature can walk around. When we went to the bath . . .
  • David Boder: Where to?
  • Bernard Warsager: To bathe.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: We went a few times to bathe. Never in my life have I seen anything so frightful. Never in my life could I imagine that the bodies of people can look so repugnant and frightful as we looked. It was just bones. Just bones that moved. And the times became constantly colder and colder.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: And constantly more people would die. People died while eating. There were very many cases that people would have a spoon full of food in the mouth and with the food . . . and with the spoon in the mouth they died, and the food would pour out of the mouth.
  • David Boder: What did they die of?
  • Bernard Warsager: From hunger . . .
  • David Boder: Nu, yes. Hunger was the cause.
  • Bernard Warsager: . . . hunger and cold.
  • David Boder: Hunger and cold.
  • Bernard Warsager: And from beatings that we frequently received.
  • David Boder: But the end . . . the final, so to say, situation, what was it? Heart attack, or what was it? How did they die?
  • Bernard Warsager: They have . . .
  • David Boder: I mean what was said? There were, perhaps, some doctors there.
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes, the SS men made inspections. We were not permitted doctor's care. We were sentenced to death.
  • David Boder: Yes. Were they . . . were they called Mussulmen? Was the word Mussulman used in Buchenwald?
  • Bernard Warsager: No. In the beginning this word was unknown to me. Only later, after a later . . . when I came out after a while from the Small Lager did it become known to me.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Bernard Warsager: When our circumstances beccame very well known, I believe it was known already abroad. At that time were still relations between America . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: We were let out.
  • David Boder: From where?
  • Bernard Warsager: From the small tents. We came to . . . to the Large Lager. Luckily, I got into the sick-ward because my feet had frozen up and one of my toes was cut off. There, thanks to my being an artist-painter by profession, I succeeded in remaining for three months. I made there many drawings [possibly for the SS among whom were often art connoisseurs].
  • David Boder: Where did you study painting?
  • Bernard Warsager: In Warsaw in the Art Academy.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: When . . . when I came out I was assigned to a detail of Jewish stone carriers. And I enduredthere very hard times. Day in and day out . . . the whole day, we had to [run] down and up with stones. When we got up there with the large stones and had put down those stones, we had to run down on the double into the quarry. And we received beatings from the German capos and from the SS men. And that was day in, day out, day in, day out. The people . . . our comrades . . . Jews ran at the head of the formation. We had no more hope of holding out and sought death. It was this. The sentries who stood around would shoot at everybody who came near them or who wanted to run through. And very many of our people were murdered by suicide, or were forced by the capos to find death . . . to seek [death] because it was too hard. After a year and a half I got into a detail. Buchenwald started to be built up. Barracks began to be erected. I started working at masonry as handy man, as helper. I was helping. We carried lime up three stories. We carried bricks. We also carried stones, and we were beaten. And when we, after that very hard day, returned to the block, every day we were so beaten up we couldn't move. And yet we had to stand for appell on the appell square. And when all that was finished and all the Aryans returned to the block . . . to the blocks, we had to go out yet for night work. And that night work was still worse. The German capos beat us so much that very few people returned home from that night work.
  • David Boder: What did you work at?
  • Bernard Warsager: At that time Buchenwald was developing inside, too. Canteens were being built. Various cellars were being built for the kitchen. And the Jews had to do the hard jobs. The very hardest labors, carry stones. Whatever was the hardest was done by the Jews. The Jews had to act as [word not clear], as . . . as horses to pull carts. And this was also very hard. The Jews were so beaten and the carts were so loaded that we couldn't pull them. All day long one only heard at the dray columns, 'One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. Left, two, three, four.' All day long. The people were so beaten. Then it was in the year '42 that a training school opened for the masonry apprentices. And Jews were entered in this school. They were taught masonry. Two hundred . . . two hundred Jews reported they wanted to become masons. And one nice day, during the appell, it was ordered, 'All Jews remain on the appell.' When other details had pulled out, the Jews had to stand. They separated the Jews who are masons and apprentice masons, and the rest were isolated and sent to Buchenwald [apparently from a sub lager]. The Jews, tradesmen, had to begin working as masons. And they were building factories [word not clear], factories where later on arms were also manufactured. And also, towards the end of the year '44, they wanted to manufacture V-1's. Luckily, they were, by the air attakcs of the American forces, blown in the air. For a long time I worked at . . . at masonry. And they did a lot of chicanery. We starved a lot. Other . . . other Aryans received supplements. And from Jews the supplements were taken away. There were very few cases of Jews . . .
  • David Boder: What does it mean, 'supplements'?
  • Bernard Warsager: Supplements means that . . . that each prisoner who works received three times a day . . . [correction] three times a week, a quarter of a loaf of bread as supplement to that which he receives, for instance, in the block.
  • David Boder: Tell me, Mr. Warsager, you will probably know it better than others, what kind of bread did they give there? It is said that it was a special bread.
  • Bernard Warsager: The bread that we received, that in Buchenwald . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: . . . was army bread.
  • David Boder: And how . . . was it freshly baked?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes. That . . . that bread was pretty good.
  • David Boder: Yes, but do you know about another kind of bread which they had? It is said that there was bread which had been baked six weeks before . . . six months before, and then preserved in certain . . . It was a special, pressed bread. Do you know anything about it?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes. We received little of that bread.
  • David Boder: But do you know what it is?
  • Bernard Warsager: That I have seen that bread?
  • David Boder: What was it?
  • Bernard Warsager: That was a pressed bread. It was so limy [lime containing], that bread.
  • David Boder: Was it preserved [packed] in sawdust?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: What for?
  • Bernard Warsager: That I don't know.
  • David Boder: You don't know. And so, go on.
  • Bernard Warsager: We also received bread which was often moldy.
  • David Boder: Yes. Nu, and so? You received no extra supplement. What was the supplement, meat? I saw . . .
  • Bernard Warsager: That . . . the supplement was a quarter of a loaf of bread and a little piece of sausage.
  • David Boder: Aha. But the Jews did not receive it.
  • Bernard Warsager: No.
  • David Boder: And so?
  • Bernard Warsager: And we were tortured very much at work. For every trifle we received twenty-five sticks. There was a case that . . . that people . . .
  • David Boder: What was it? Were they special sticks, those which they gave them, or what?
  • Bernard Warsager: Those were such sticks [clubs] of wood.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: And a punishment, a normal [ordinary] punishment was that with those sticks they would get on the naked [buttocks] twenty-five. That was a normal punishment. And besides that the SS men would allow themselves to beat so that one would find death [fall dead] at the instant. In the year '39 they made the following experiment. They took twenty Jews down the quarry and shot them right away, for nothing. They claimed that they wanted to learn how to shoot. And they learned. They shot twenty Jews.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: Later, when the Russian prisoners of war arrived, they searched out the Jews [from among them]. And the Jews were immediately shot.
  • David Boder: What does that mean. Who? What Jews? Oh, the Jews from among the Russian prisoners of war?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes? And they shot them immediately?
  • Bernard Warsager: Immediately shot.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Bernard Warsager: It was there so that when a Jew received a note [of paper] to go to the sick ward, nu, he already knew that it was his death. He does not come out any more. And there were always cases. They made once . . . they wrote down fifteen people, young people, the oldest was twenty-five years old, and they gave them a note to the sick ward.
  • David Boder: The sick ward was a hospital?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: And what was there?
  • Bernard Warsager: There . . . there they received injections.
  • David Boder: So? And . . .
  • Bernard Warsager: Such injections they have . . . in a few days minutes they didn't live any more.
  • David Boder: [In English] This is the end of Spool 104. We are going over to 106 because [on] 105 are the songs which we have taken this afternoon. Illinois Institute of Technology wire [recording].
  • David Boder: [In English] Spool 106. Camp Tara— . . . no, Camp Tradate between Milano and Como. Mr. Warsager, a painter, reporting. All right.
  • Bernard Warsager: [In German] And so, there were such times that we would go out to work but would not know if we will still return from the work. Thus the time passed slowly.
  • David Boder: Nu, and so?
  • Bernard Warsager: In the meantime Buchenwald became steadily bigger and bigger. And it became [to consist of] two lagers.
  • David Boder: What is that scar on your face?
  • Bernard Warsager: That I got in Buchenwald. Already in the year '39.
  • David Boder: What, were you operated on?
  • Bernard Warsager: I was operated on in the sick ward at the same time when they amputated the toe from my foot.
  • David Boder: What were you operated on your throat for?
  • Bernard Warsager: I . . . I was completely swollen and that swelling was cut through, and . . .
  • David Boder: The glands. Was it glands [adenitis] or was it goiter? What was it? You don't know.
  • Bernard Warsager: I only know I was completely festered. It was from the cold.
  • David Boder: Were you completely . . .
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes. And?
  • David Boder: [In English]. He . . . he has a scar.
  • David Boder: [In German] Is it all around the neck or only on one side?
  • Bernard Warsager: From here to here.
  • David Boder: [In English] He has a scar very similar to a goiter operation, but somewhat deeper on the left side. He does not know exactly what the character of the operation was, but it happened at the same time when they amputated one of his toes.
  • David Boder: [In German] Yes, and?
  • Bernard Warsager: It was thus. We were not permitted, even when we sick, to go to the sick ward, because if one had been there a few times it was a sign that we had no more justification for living. If a prisoner was [there] twice or three times in a month, then he received a 'paper.' And he had to report to the sick ward in the morning [?]. He returned no more to the block. We knew that he had been sentenced to death by an injection, an inoculation. There were very hard, hungry time. We were so starving. We had nothing to eat. [Pause.] The Aryans received supplements [supplementary rations], and we did not receive any supplements. And the second lager consisted of . . . it was called the Small Lager of Buchenwald. It was fenced in with wires. And there came all new arrivals, for quaran— . . . quarantine. From there they came to the big lager.
  • David Boder: Do you know [word not clear]? Nu.
  • Bernard Warsager: [Pause.] By the time when the German retreat had begun, the treatment had changed somewhat.
  • David Boder: In what year was it?
  • Bernard Warsager: It was in 1943. It had eased a little.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: And also in Buchenwald the 'inside' offices [services] had been taken over by the political prisoners. This was also a certain alleviation because up until now the 'green ones' . . . those were the B-V's, the professional criminals . . . had held all the power over the prisoners.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: But the Jew was still among the German prisoners considered as 'something of inferior worth.'
  • David Boder: Among the political prisoners?
  • Bernard Warsager: Among the political prisoners.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: Always considered as 'something of inferior worth,' not as humans. Those were rare cases when a Jew was looked upon as an equal with a German. Also the . . . It was a rare case that the German communist should not consider himself first as a German national and then only as a communist. The Germans always . . . were always first of all Germans and only then 'politicals.' The feeling that he is . . . that he is a German was much more important to him than that he is a polit— . . . a political prisoner. And under the mask of [being] a 'political' [prisoner] various dirty things went on among the political prisoners. The Jews were at every opportunity subjected to chicanery. The German prisoners, too . . . they had to . . . they wanted . . . they wanted to make for themselves a good name by the SS. [So] they would perpetrate chicaneries at every opportunity and also carried out such activities that we were treated worse than dogs. Only when the situation had changed in the last years, they began to think a little differently. But when it happened . . . [that] the German . . . the German army was still victorious, then it was very bad for us. Not . . . not that . . . that we knew [believed] that we shall never come out from the lager, but that we were absolutely unable to defend ourselves. Among ourselves. Among the prisoners themselves we could not defend ourselves.
  • David Boder: What does it mean? In what way were you unable to defend yourself?
  • Bernard Warsager: Also in the inside [of the lager] life.
  • David Boder: Did you hope that you will come out?
  • Bernard Warsager: Hope? We did hope, but, considering it logically, we saw that there is no possibility of coming out to freedom. We were like [people] condemned to death. A Jew had altogether no right any more to come out from the lager. He has a right to live as long as he is healthy, young, and strong. In the case that he is sick, then his life is already at an end. And it was that at work we were always 'written down.' We did not know for 'what and when.' And we received a special [?] paper for the sick ward, and did not return from the sick ward again. In the meantime the lager had enlarged. The lager in the year '39, numbered seven thousand prisoners. In 1944 . . . '45 the lager numbered already one hundred and sixty-seven thousand prisoners. A part of these prisoners were also in outside details, Dora [name of a lager or industrial plant] and various other lager. Any prisoner who did not conduct himself accordingly there went on . . . on transport. And also every prisoner who was not in favor with the political prisoners went on transport.
  • David Boder: What does it mean 'went on transport'?
  • Bernard Warsager: Transport [means] he was assigned to another lager. And that was . . . that was already a threat of a much sooner and bad . . . and a very bad death. And in 1945, when the Americans were already near, one day it was said that no more details are to leave for work. And we were also hoping maybe we, the Jews, will succeed to remain alive. And we hear through the micro— . . . microphone [loudspeaker] . . . that was when we were in the blocks, 'All Jews fall in on the appell square.' And we could already hear the shooting of the American troops in the proximity. And the commandant of Buchenwald had promised us, all the prisoners, that he will hand over the lager as it is, that nobody will be in danger. All at once . . . [?]
  • David Boder: Whom did he promise that? Who . . .
  • Bernard Warsager: To the political prisoners.
  • David Boder: He promised that to the political prisoners.
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: Could they talk to the commandant?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes. They held various offices.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: As clerks, as [word not clear]. When we heard, 'All Jews fall in on the appell square,' and we saw . . . we felt already that the American troops are in the vicinity, it became very bitter for us. And we felt that our only chance to be able perhaps someday to save our life . . . this chance is now gone. We did not go out to the appell square. We left the blocks and we scattered over the whole . . . the whole lager. A part of us ran to the Small Lager. A part hid itself wherever they could, in the cellars, in various holes. And that night when we were thus hiding there was also a . . . a terror raid of the bombs. And we were thinking thus, 'Maybe they [we?] will succeed in blowing the whole lager in the air, the SS as well, and it should not exist any more.' We don't want any more to sell our life that cheaply. The second day, in the morning, the whole lager was told to fall in for appell. The Jews, too, had to fall in. When the whole lager was at appell, we heard, 'All Jews remain standing on the appell square. All [others] step out.' When we heard that we ran down on the double. And a part hid in the political blocks. A part hid in the Small Lager and part in the sick ward.
  • David Boder: Nu, did the political [prisoners] allow them to hide.
  • Bernard Warsager: Well, the political [prisoners] did not allow [them] to hide. And the SS . . . and afterwards the SS came down and they found many Jews, and so they shot the Jews.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: In the Small Lager we tore off our Jewish insignia and sewed on other temporary numbers, because there was a great number of prisoners who were without insignia and half dead. And there was already a great confusion in the lager because very many outside details had come in from lagers. Because they had to leave . . . because the troops, the American troops were in the vicinity, they had to evacuate numerous lagers.
  • David Boder: So what did you do? Did you take away the insignia from the other prisoners, or what?
  • Bernard Warsager: No. Every Jew carried a . . . a 'Jew-star'. It was a red triangle and [over?] a yellow one.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: But the American troops did not come. So they began to evacuate the Small Lager. I, myself, had no chance anymore of remaining in the lager any longer. And I did not want to be recognized by the SS as a Jew, so I, too, went out with a transport.
  • David Boder: With a transport . . .
  • Bernard Warsager: From there . . .
  • David Boder: . . . of Christians?
  • Bernard Warsager: From Buchenwald.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: Together with Jews also. There were also a few Christians, and so forth. It was on the 10th of April, 1945. We arrived in . . . in Weimar, and we boarded the trains.
  • David Boder: How far is Weimar from Buchenwald?
  • Bernard Warsager: Eight kilometers.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: We received nothing to eat. We left hungry. The road from . . . from Buchenwald to Weimar was covered with many prisoners who had been shot by the SS. When we boarded the train we traveled. On the second day, the 11th of April, American bombers shot up the locomotive, and we had to leave the trains. And we continued on foot. Hundreds of kilometers we went on foot.
  • David Boder: And the SS went along?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes, the SS went along. They were changed many times. Any prisoner who could not continue walking or had stopped for a moment was immediately shot. The road was covered with hundreds of prisoners, of our Jews. One nice day, it was on the 13th of April, I contemplated my chances [?]. I looked upon the death, and I saw that I have no way out, to live. So I decided, this night I must run away. If they shoot me, then I am out of luck. If not, then perhaps I will succeed in remaining alive. And that evening I ran away.
  • David Boder: From where? From the train?
  • Bernard Warsager: No.
  • David Boder: No.
  • Bernard Warsager: From that transport.
  • David Boder: From the throng.
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: Where was the entire throng that evening?
  • Bernard Warsager: It was not far from a village, Eisenberg.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: So . . . The SS were firing at me, but they did not hit me. And I fell down on the field. It was already very dark, and there I lay near a small tree. Later I heard how the . . .
  • David Boder: Didn't they have the dogs along?
  • Bernard Warsager: One moment.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: Later I heard many people, many from [among] our Jews, running. Many shots I heard, and then it became quiet. Later I saw the electric illumination onn the highway, on the streets, and all over. That was the SS with the dogs looking for the prisoners who had escaped. And any prisoner . . .
  • David Boder: Weren't they afraid to illuminate on account of the air force, on account of the airplanes?
  • Bernard Warsager: At that time they had special lights for small [?] spots.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: For them it was a great danger to let a prisoner get away alive, let him run away.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Bernard Warsager: And I also heard very many shots. Every prisoner who was found was immediately shot. Thus I lay through the whole night, weak, famished. And at dawn, when it became light, I saw them keep on looking. I saw the streets. I saw very many . . . It was approximately forty meters awway from me where they shot one prisoner after another, whoever was caught. Thus I lay for two days and two nights.
  • David Boder: And the throng had left?
  • Bernard Warsager: The throng, I believe, had left. I did not . . . I was already so . . . I did not know already what was going on with me. It was on the second day, after I had lain thus for two nights, I was thinking, 'I cannot endure it any more. It does not pay to live any more, and I shall myself go to the SS. They would shoot me.' I did not have any more to eat. I did not want to torture myself any more and die of starvation. I wanted to have a quick death. And I got up. When I got up I took a few steps and fell unconscious and fell asleep again. I was much too weak from hunger. And while lying thus I looked . . . I saw very many military coming out from the woods and from all over. They went out without weapons. I was wondering, 'What is this?' And suddenly I see a few people are walking, and I recognize that they are also Jews, prisoners. And they came over to me. I got strength. They said, 'Look. Look in the woods. The Germans are running away.' So we went into the woods. I saw very many weapons, everybody running away, weapons thrown away, things, everything. And I found a few pieces of sugar there by . . . that a German SS man had left with his entire rucksack. So I took [it]. And suddenly we see many German soldiers of the Wehrmacht, SS are standing, and they listen how the bells are pealing. We understand that something must have happened. We went over [to them]. The Germans extended their hands and said, 'Nu, now we are comrades. The American is here already. You have suffered. We too. We are again [?] comrades. We have . . . '
  • David Boder: The SS had said that?
  • Bernard Warsager: The SS, too. The Wehrmacht and the others. We said nothing and passed by, and there were already American troops. That village was called Eisenberg.
  • David Boder: What?
  • Bernard Warsager: Eisenberg.
  • David Boder: Eisenhower?
  • Bernard Warsager: Eisenberg was the name of the village where I . . .
  • David Boder: The village was called Eisenberg?
  • Bernard Warsager: Eisenberg.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Bernard Warsager: There I was three days.
  • David Boder: Where were you there?
  • Bernard Warsager: In the . . . I was there by a land owner.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: For three days. From there . . .
  • David Boder: Nu, what did he . . . did he take you in? Did he know you were a Jew?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes. He already saw what was going on.
  • David Boder: Yes? Nu, what did he say . . .
  • Bernard Warsager: I did not tell him at first that I was a Jew. Later upon going away [I told him].
  • David Boder: Nu. What did he say during the three days? What did he [say] about the political situation?
  • Bernard Warsager: He [claimed that he] had nothing to do with the . . . with . . . with . . . with the SS men. Later we found out that he had also belonged to the 'SS party.' He was a very rich man.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: But we were so weakened that the whole world did not interest us. We could not move.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: From there we came to Erfurt. Erfurt . . . there [?] . . .
  • David Boder: Permit me as a psychologist to ask you a question.
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: I cannot ask you that question in any other way. You say that you lay two days and two nights without eating.
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: How does one feel? What did you think? What . . . what . . . Did you sleep? What did you . . . generally, what was happening to you?
  • Bernard Warsager: Now I had . . . I underline it. When we left Buchenwald we had not gotten anything to eat either. And we were very starved. The first thing was the fear of death. A man wants by any means to remain alive. And the feeling of hunger–in the first moment it is strong. Later on one cannot help himself. I took leaves from that tree and grass and took it into the mouth, and I . . . it was so bitter that I could not stand it. I felt very bad. I could not. So I lay. I lay and slept and watched what was going on in the street, what the SS [was doing] there. I saw everything. But with time the hunger passed. I did not feel the hunger any more. But I was suffering. I became constantly weaker. I saw that . . . that . . . a terrible feeling. I did not want to die this way. I come [?] from . . .
  • David Boder: Where was the feeling, in . . . in the stomach, in the chest?
  • Bernard Warsager: In the stomach.
  • David Boder: In the head?
  • Bernard Warsager: In the chest. I felt constantly weaker, weaker and so . . . in the mouth, too, I had a bad sensation.
  • David Boder: Yes. Nu?
  • Bernard Warsager: Later we were taken to Erfurt. A lager was already there. There [it] was already better. We were cared for by UNRRA and the Red Cross. And there I was for a time. The American troops had liberated Buchenwald and also Thueringen, the whole Thueringen, Weimar. And all of us a sudden it became known that the American troops have to withdraw and the Russian army takes over the entire zone.
  • David Boder: One moment. I would like to ask you another 'anecdote.' There are a few things which you told me before this interview. First you said you had studied psychology in Buchenwald.
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: How did that come about?
  • Bernard Warsager: Now the thing is as follows. I had very good friends.
  • David Boder: From among the 'political' [prisoners]–Christians?
  • Bernard Warsager: Jews.
  • David Boder: Jews. And?
  • Bernard Warsager: Jews. [These were] people from various corners of the world. And they would, in their spare time, impart to us much of their knowledge. And Buchenwald had a library in various languages, a library of thirty-five thousand works.
  • David Boder: Do you have an idea how that library got there?
  • Bernard Warsager: Each prisoner had a right to get books from that library.
  • David Boder: But I mean where did Buchenwald get that library? How did it get there?
  • Bernard Warsager: Many prisoners had donated books.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Bernard Warsager: Contributed books.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Bernard Warsager: There were books in various languages, and very good books. And thanks to these books, I had the opportunity to further my knowledge.
  • David Boder: When did you read and where?
  • Bernard Warsager: After the . . . in the free time I read, every evening.
  • David Boder: Was there enough light in the barracks?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes. I always had an hour, or half an hour, to read about three times a week.
  • David Boder: Aha. Why three times a week?
  • Bernard Warsager: Oh, one did not have time every day.
  • David Boder: Aha. And?
  • Bernard Warsager: Because we would . . . Seldom did the appell pass normally. Two, three, four, [and] also five hours we had to stand on the appell square, may it rain or be cold. And . . . because it [the number] did not always check .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: The count did not always check, and if a prisoner was missing, or the Germans were bad [in a bad mood], then we would have to stand all through the nights. Yes . . .
  • David Boder: And so then you came where? It was said that the Russians are taking it over? Was it true?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes. Then the Russians came.
  • David Boder: Where were you then?
  • Bernard Warsager: I was in Erfurt.
  • David Boder: Did the Russians take over Buchenwald?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes, later on.
  • David Boder: And they gave it back afterwards? Now Buchenwald is under . . . Buchenwald is under . . .
  • Bernard Warsager: Is under the Russian regime.
  • David Boder: Now? Buchen . . .
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes. I shall tell you now [?], but I would like to go back and emphasize something.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: I had very many comrades and . . .
  • David Boder: Please [words not clear].
  • Bernard Warsager: And we all were . . . we all were Zionists. We could not show it. Whoever was a Zionist in Buchenwald went immediately on transport.
  • David Boder: Under the Germans.
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes. And we also had to carry on that work illegally.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: I rejoice that many of any comrades with whom we were together for six years [are] now in Eretz [The Land, meaning Israel].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: And also during the appells which were very long, many times four, five hours in the cold, we talked. If we should have the great fortune to come out to freedom when the war is at an end, then we shall be greatly uplifted. The Jews who will have remained alive will be greatly uplifted, and . . . and . . .
  • David Boder: Greatly what?
  • Bernard Warsager: Uplifted [unburdened] in life. And Eretz will surely be open for all Jews who want to come to Eretz. Alas . . .
  • David Boder: I did not understand. What do you mean uplifting? [The word was not clearly enunciated and was given in the form of a makeshift noun.]
  • Bernard Warsager: That if someday we shall come out to freedom and the war will be at an end . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: . . . then any Jew who wants to go to Palestine will not have any obstacles.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: That England will do everything possible . . .
  • David Boder: [Whispers] Not so load.
  • Bernard Warsager: . . . to give all Jews free entry to Palestine.
  • David Boder: [Whispers] One moment. [Adjusting the microphone.] Nu?
  • Bernard Warsager: Alas, we were liberated, but that freedom which had cost us so dearly, that [freedom] has disappointed us very much.
  • David Boder: Tell me, you had family in Poland. Didn't you go back to see what had happened there?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes, I was in Poland. Two and a half weeks I was.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: I was also on that street on which I had lived. I was also at the flat in which I was raised. I was in the yard. I was not allowed to pick the fruit, to take any fruit which was our own, our property.
  • David Boder: Why not?
  • Bernard Warsager: Why? First, because I am a Jew. Any Jew who still owns anything in Poland, then it is better he . . . that he leaves, because if he remains then death threatens him. And it was too painful for me when I saw strange people who have . . . have my property, live in my flat. But the most terrible was that I found no one any more. From a family which had numbered seven persons I alone had remained.
  • David Boder: Who was in your family?
  • Bernard Warsager: There was a father and a mother and six siblings.
  • David Boder: Were none of them . . . Didn't you find anyone?
  • Bernard Warsager: No. They had been in the year '42, as I was told, in the first deportation. They went to Treblinka, and there they were murdered in the gas chamber.
  • David Boder: Weren't there any younger people [amongst them] who might have been picked for work?
  • Bernard Warsager: They . . . they wanted that . . . From what I have heard, they wanted to annihilate all Jews. Nu, they only spared the trades people who could have been useful. My brothers were . . . my father was manag— . . . he had graduated from a school of business. He was not to be any more [in double meaning: not permitted to continue as manager]. And my brothers had . . .
  • David Boder: What did your father do?
  • Bernard Warsager: He was a bookkeeper.
  • David Boder: A bookkeeper. Nu?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes. And then he was a director of a clothing factory.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: And my brothers also were at school. One was a [university] student. They were . . . None is alive any more.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: That shook me so that I did not want to remain any more.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: And the attitude of the Poles toward the Jews was none too friendly either. Any Jew who was on the street . . . when they met him, they said, 'Oh,' in Polish, 'Patrz sie, znowu kot.' That means there is again a cat. Another is already here.
  • David Boder: Oh, that is what the Poles said.
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: They were not at all happy that the Jews returned.
  • Bernard Warsager: On the contrary. The Jew who still had something to be taken away . . . there were very many cases that he was killed.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: I returned to Germany. I was to Schwandorf, from there to Deggendorf to a Jewish camp where he had established a kibbutz, a very active one.
  • David Boder: Nu, how does one establish a kibbutz? Does one need to have permission from some organization?
  • Bernard Warsager: It was . . . we, as Jews, formed a group.
  • David Boder: Well, does one need permission from the Zionist committee to establish a kibbutz?
  • Bernard Warsager: Naturally.
  • David Boder: Now explain it a little.
  • Bernard Warsager: There establishes itself thus a group of people who want to go together to Palestine and live together.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: And they get together. They also live together and they study Hebrith, Hebrew together. They do various ticha [?]. They learn [to live] a cultural life, Jewish history, and everything goes according to the Zionist aspirations. Also culturally we put out our own newspapers. One teaches the other science, and we prepared ourselves for a future life in Eretz.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: Alas, the English have treated our problem quite differently, and not like friends but like . . . like the most hor— . . . most horrible enemies they viewed us. They did not want to let us enter Palestine any more.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: We who have no other way out, and we have no other road. It is our only goal, and we have a right to attain this goal. To us there exists no border, no law. Especially no laws of people who have no understanding, who . . . who carry on only imperialistic policies. And we said, 'Nothing will scare us, no borders, no law. We will reach the goal.' I have . . . I wanted to go to Palestine. And I left with a group of forty-six persons.
  • David Boder: Nu.
  • Bernard Warsager: Alas, we were stopped at the . . . at the Dutch border.
  • David Boder: From where did you travel to where?
  • Bernard Warsager: I went from . . .
  • David Boder: With these forty-six persons?
  • Bernard Warsager: I went from Deggendorf.
  • David Boder: Germany?
  • Bernard Warsager: Germany.
  • David Boder: Where to?
  • Bernard Warsager: I wanted to go to Holland.
  • David Boder: And then?
  • Bernard Warsager: Then I wanted to go to Palestine from there.
  • David Boder: From Holland directly?
  • Bernard Warsager: We have to take such a road that we should get there. It is not important what sort of a road.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: For us there are no laws, because for us the laws are unjust.
  • David Boder: Why? No, I don't mean the laws. How does one have a chance to get in Holland a ship to go to Palestine?
  • Bernard Warsager: If there are no ships in Holland we go to another country where we will get ships. We have to get through.
  • David Boder: Was it not logical right from the beginning to go either to Italy or to Greece?
  • Bernard Warsager: No, we had at that time better chances of going from there.
  • David Boder: Yes. Nu, and so?
  • Bernard Warsager: Unfortunately we were stopped by English patrols at that . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: . . . at that border.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: And we went to prison. From there we went to a . . .
  • David Boder: Why? Do the English have patrols on the Dutch border? Oh, on this side. Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes. We were still on the English side.
  • David Boder: In . . .
  • Bernard Warsager: In Germany.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: It was thus. There we were a few days. Then we were taken to a . . .
  • David Boder: Where were you a few days, in prison?
  • Bernard Warsager: In prison. Later we went to . . . It was on the 4th of January [when] we were arrested.
  • David Boder: '46?
  • Bernard Warsager: In the year '46.
  • David Boder: Yes, this year.
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes, this year. We went from there to a lager. It is called an internment camp.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: In reality it is a concentration camp. In a lager where the biggest war criminals, SS, Nazi criminals were, there we were shoved in. And we Jews, who had suffered so much from the SS, who had annihilated six million, the Germans [the English] permitted themselves such a crime. To put forty-six Jews, only because they want to go to Palestine, together with the biggest war criminals. This is the biggest crime that one can permit himself against . . . against Jews.
  • David Boder: Nu, tell with what sort of people . . .
  • Bernard Warsager: And so . . .
  • David Boder: . . . were you there together?
  • Bernard Warsager: I was there together with Krupp, von Buelow. With Hitler's secretary I was there together. I was together with that . . . with a good friend . . .
  • David Boder: Von Buelow was Hitler's secretary?
  • Bernard Warsager: No. I do not know if he was, but I was . . .
  • David Boder: Who was Hitler's secretary?
  • Bernard Warsager: I do not remember the name.
  • David Boder: Nu, yes. I just wanted to take down the name [?]. Nu?
  • Bernard Warsager: And all . . . various Gauleiters, generals.
  • David Boder: Nu, that is [supposedly] 'an honor'. Then the English did treat you very well [chuckles].
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes. The English wanted . . . wanted to get out of us very many things about us. Who is our leader? Who is sending us to Palestine? They gave us nothing to eat. They gave us one bread for eight for a whole day. The Germans could receive packages. We could not receive any letters or send letters to anyone. And thus we were tortured for three months, morally. They interrogated us for twenty-five hours at a time. They had us in the bunker. They conducted the investigation in a special locality [name not clear]. I can't now . . . I can't recollect at the moment what the name of that locality was. Various officers interrogated us. They undressed us completely nude during the search. We had it still worse than in the concentration camp. Only [however]the feeling that we Jews who had the fortune to be liberated are imprisoned together under one roof with the biggest war criminals, that was the worst. Among us was a girl who had married, and she was already in the eighth month. And they did not even want to send her to the hospital or to set her free. In the case when a German woman [was] only in the third month or the fourth, she was immediately set free. But not us. By an accident a Jewish captain, an Englishman, found out that here were imprisoned Jews. And that was our luck.
  • David Boder: What did he do?
  • Bernard Warsager: He made the greatest effort to free us.
  • David Boder: Nu. Did you talk with the German prisoners? Did you talk to Krupp?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes, I talked to Krupp. We also stood [together] at appell twice a day.
  • David Boder: Did he also stand at appell?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: What sort of clothes did he wear?
  • Bernard Warsager: Civilian clothes. They all wore [them].
  • David Boder: Nu? Did you see how he lived? Did he have his things along?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes. He received packages. All Germans received packages. We were not permitted to receive [any].
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Bernard Warsager: We also talked with the English. We said we had suffered for so many years in the KZ. Six years. We have lost all relatives. And the same murderers are together with us. What sort of crime did we . . . ? The English officers promised us everything. Just like always, they promise everything, but they did not keep a word. During the interrogation, too, they are so cold-blooded. Never in my life did I see such cold-blooded people behaving as they behaved. In one . . .
  • David Boder: But they did not beat you during the interrogation, the English.
  • Bernard Warsager: There were instances when they beat us, too. They kept us naked for four days.
  • David Boder: That means each time [when they searched you]?
  • Bernard Warsager: In the bunker.
  • David Boder: What is a bunker?
  • Bernard Warsager: A bunker is an underground hole. It is built against a raid, an air raid. There they shoved us . . . us into.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes Spool 106, the report of Mr. Warsager . . . Warsager. We are going over to Spool 107 with the continuation of his story.
  • David Boder: [In English] September 1st, 1946. Tradate, a little camp for displaced people, especially kibbutzim [i.e.,] Jewish groups which are preparing to go to Palestine; between Milano and Como.
  • David Boder: [In German] So then, Herr Warsager . . .
  • David Boder: [In English] This is a continuation of Spool . . . this is a continuation of Spool 106. This is Spool 107. Mr. Warsager is reporting.
  • David Boder: [In German] And so, Mr. Warsager, you say that the English interrogated you in the bunkers. Why did one go to the bunkers?
  • Bernard Warsager: They wanted . . . they say [that] they wanted to know the whole truth from you. Then nothing will happen to you. Who is sending you to Palestine and who is the leader?
  • David Boder: Yes, but why the bunkers? Why, did they not have any rooms? What are bunkers?
  • Bernard Warsager: Why?
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: Bunkers, I have explained it to you.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Bernard Warsager: Those are special underground rooms which are against air-raids. Against bombs.
  • David Boder: Nu, yes, but there was no more war.
  • Bernard Warsager: But we were to be punished. We had to be punished so that we tell the truth.
  • David Boder: So that you were sitting in the dark?
  • Bernard Warsager: Entirely in the dark. We received bread and water.
  • David Boder: By the English.
  • Bernard Warsager: By the English. By the highly cultured English.
  • David Boder: Could you swear to it?
  • Bernard Warsager: I can swear. I can sign and swear to it.
  • David Boder: Nu, go on.
  • Bernard Warsager: We lost twenty kilos each. Fifteen and twenty kilos each.
  • David Boder: How many people were you there?
  • Bernard Warsager: Forty six people.
  • David Boder: Women and men?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes, also. Among them also a pregnant woman who was in the eighth month. She . . . she could not be set free because she was a Jewess. And the SS men . . . the wives of the SS men, the great criminals who also have many Jews on their conscience, they would be set free if they were pregnant.
  • David Boder: Were the husbsands and wives of your group kept together?
  • Bernard Warsager: No separately. If a husband wanted to see his wife, then he could not see [her]. And if it happened that he could talk [?], then they immediately wanted to shoot [at] him.
  • David Boder: Nu, go on.
  • Bernard Warsager: I never imagined that the English would behave themselves so mean toward us. And that was the sad distillusionment which we experienced. I imagined that . . . The English . . . they have a cultured people. They would not be capable of such sadistic barbarities, just like the Germans.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Bernard Warsager: I never imagined that they . . . that they would treat us like the Germans. Worse yet, like the biggest Nazi criminals.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Bernard Warsager: We have . . .
  • David Boder: What does it mean, 'worse yet'? Don't say any . . . One ought to be careful. Did the English beat you?
  • Bernard Warsager: And so I am telling you. I am responsible for my words.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: I tell [that] to every Englishman I can swear to it in court.
  • David Boder: Nu, yes. And so, let us see. Did the English beat you?
  • Bernard Warsager: I will tell you. The English have all . . . many methods which are worse than beating.
  • David Boder: For instance.
  • Bernard Warsager: For instance, they let us starve.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: But that is not worst yet. We are used [born?] to hunger. The worst is that how can one imprison a Jew, who is not a criminal, together with such war criminals? I cannot grasp it in my brains. I cannot. How Jews could be imprisoned together with such Gauleiters who, with one signature, have sent thousands of Jews to the crematory, how one can imprison the same Jews, who have the fortune to remain alive, together with these criminals.
  • David Boder: Did you tell them you do not want to be together with these . . . ?
  • Bernard Warsager: We have told. We have placed, did everything possible.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: They said, 'Unfortunately we have no other lagers.' And that is the greatest lie. There are many lagers where they could isolate us. But they wanted to break us. And they will never break us. But they do know the methods which the Nazi criminals used who had murdered six million Jews. The English can do that, too. Against force we can do nothing, but spiritually they will never break us. Physically they can do a lot to us. And that is a great disgrace that they allowed themselves such a thing.
  • David Boder: And? Let us go over to another question. You say that you talked with Krupp and the others.
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: Did you ask them how Germany could have fallen so low that they could treat people and the Jews in such a manner?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes. We have told him that. I must tell you he was . . . he was an educated person, and he said that he had known nothing about these acts. He just had to carry out orders. And he was against them. He was a great friend of Jews. That is what he said.
  • David Boder: Nu, and the others?
  • Bernard Warsager: It is interesting. All Nazis say the same thing, that they were very great friends of Jews. The English say, too, that they are great friends. The officer who had questioned me for twenty-five hours, he also says he is a great friend of Jews.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Bernard Warsager: And many others. But the treatment was very far from friendship.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Bernard Warsager: And that will for our whole life . . . for me personally it will remain[in memory]. These three months are perhaps more strongly imbedded in me . . .
  • David Boder: Why did they keep [you] so long? Three months?
  • Bernard Warsager: I believe they wanted to keep us as long as possible, except for an accident that an English captain who was also in this service [region?] for [pertaining to?] all Jewish soliders in the English army. He found out about us. He made the effort to free us.
  • David Boder: Now, was it his special business to take care of the Jewish question?
  • Bernard Warsager: His business was with the Jewish soldiers. He was a preacher.
  • David Boder: [Words not clear] English-Jewish soldiers?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu? Was he a chaplain? Was he?
  • Bernard Warsager: And it is interesting that every German who is released receives a special book that he is liberated from this lager. And we were liberated from that lager. We were released so [in a manner] that nobody should know that we were once imprisoned in that lager. It was too great a disgrace for . . . for some officers to have permitted themselves such acts.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: When we departed from there we were again full of spirit [courage]. We were also singing, and English soldiers, also officers, who were passing by were cursing [in English], 'Jews, F–-ky Jew.'
  • David Boder: They were cursing you?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes, they were very . . . all, all were 'kindly' [?] disposed. And we said to that, 'We will continue to search our road. If we should again fall into your hands then we already know with whom we are dealing, but we are not scared.' And that woman. We were pleading that they should release that woman who was in the eighth month. It was of no avail. At the same time many German women were liberated who were in the fourth, fifth month. And that woman they did not want to liberate.
  • David Boder: So how did she come out, and when?
  • Bernard Warsager: She . . . she came out together with us.
  • David Boder: Did she still have time to go to the hospital?
  • Bernard Warsager: In . . . in . . . two weeks later she gave birth to a baby, a girl.
  • David Boder: Was her husband in that group?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes. The husband was not permitted to see her.
  • David Boder: Hm. And so, go on.
  • Bernard Warsager: I also have documents. I can show them.
  • David Boder: And so what happened then?
  • Bernard Warsager: And so, we have . . . we succeeded . . . we have, by an accident . . . there was a Jewish guard, so we sent out a few letters. And the letters arrived at the Jewish aid societies and the Joint learned that we are in prison. So they came to us with a car with food. But the English did not permit the food to enter.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Bernard Warsager: Why? It was not in their interest for us to become sated. They wanted us to stay always hungry.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: They only wanted to know who gave us the possibilities and who is behind the organization that wants to go to Palestine. And many things I had not seen by the Germans that I have seen by the English.
  • David Boder: For instance?
  • Bernard Warsager: The treatment.
  • David Boder: Be specific. What was it?
  • Bernard Warsager: When we passed by, while in the lager, we had to take off the hat to every Englishman and stand at attention.
  • David Boder: Did they order that?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes. We had to. We were forced to [do] it.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: And the German was treated better than we. In any respect he was better treated.
  • David Boder: Nu, and so? Where did you go from there? How were you released?
  • Bernard Warsager: It was Paderborn bei Staumuhle. The place is called Paderborn bei Staumuhle. And when we come out we had become very weak. And . . .
  • David Boder: What did they say when they released you?
  • Bernard Warsager: They released us . . . The Jewish cars from Joint had come and they took us.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Bernard Warsager: They said nothing. We were not like the Germans that we should be given documents that we have been released. That should never become public, that we had been in a lager [under the English].
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: And at the release very many of our friends, of our comrades, had things missing. Watches, many, many, of the comrades had very good watches. They had been exchanged and also many watches were missing.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: And that is also not right.
  • David Boder: And so where did you go from there?
  • Bernard Warsager: From there? From there I came right here.
  • David Boder: With the whole group or alone?
  • Bernard Warsager: With the whole group.
  • David Boder: Nu, did you . . . did they let you into Italy?
  • Bernard Warsager: [With a chuckle] Herr Professor, you ask me a question, 'Did they let me in?' I will tell you. During the interrogation, when the English captain asked me, 'And so how can you go without documents and so forth?' I say, 'We are forced to go. You do not give us a chance. You do not give us any documents.' So I ask him this question. I say, 'What do you do if you don't get any [?]? He says, too, 'If I do not get [any] I have to go [without].' I say, 'We, too, were forced.' We have to go. There exists no border for us. To be or not to be, we have, alas, no other possibilities. And the only, only goal is but Palestine.
  • David Boder: You are from Poland.
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu. The Polish Government says, in the UNRRA and all over, that the Jews now . . . that the Jews now are treated the same as the others, that they have punished the people of [involved in] the Kielce pogrom and all that. What do you know about it?
  • Bernard Warsager: With the punishment it is this way. It is true they were punished, but the dead will never come to life. And if another hundred Jews or the rest of the Jews in Poland would be killed and if the others will be punished, the dead will never live . . . come to life again. The Jew is now looked upon in Poland as something inferior, and at every opportunity . . .
  • David Boder: But there are no laws against Jews in Poland.
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes, [but] the population. If one murders another one, he needs no laws. It is against the law. What do laws help me if at every step . . . if I am looked upon [with hatred] on the street or in the house. I cannot go out in the evening. On every street I may get a knife in the back or a bullet. Is that a life? It cannot be compelled that the Pole should live socially together with the Jew.
  • David Boder: Nu. So you came to Italy. Where did you arrive first? Were you in Rome?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes. I was in various cities. I also made an effort to study here. I was accepted as a third year student in the Art Academy in Rome.
  • David Boder: You are a . . . a painter.
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes, I am an artist-painter.
  • David Boder: You were accepted.
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu, why did you not remain there?
  • Bernard Warsager: I want to get to Palestine. I resign from my further studies, and I want to get to Palestine. This is the most important [thing]. I am already at the point where, as a painter, I can work by myself, and in the future I will have the chance to go on with my studies.
  • David Boder: Are you married?
  • Bernard Warsager: No.
  • David Boder: And so what are you doing here now? Tell me a little about the Hachshara. How was it founded? What does the word Hachshara mean?
  • Bernard Warsager: I will explain it to you. Hachshara has the following connotation. We are learning to work together. We are also learning to work on the land, how the land is cultivated, how to plant, how to plow.
  • David Boder: But you have no agricultural school here is this place.
  • Bernard Warsager: [Wistfully] Herr Professor, we are here not for long[Footnote: It appears that this camp was in direct contact with the organization that was making arrangements to ship the Jews to Palestine illegally. Hence, the cagey tone which is often taken by the interviewee.].
  • David Boder: Nu, yes, but others were here before.
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: How long has this place been in existence?
  • Bernard Warsager: This place has already been in existence a whole year.
  • David Boder: And? How come no arrangements were made for regular study facilities?
  • Bernard Warsager: From here we go to a place where there are fields, where we can learn in a more practical way [?].
  • David Boder: Where is that?
  • Bernard Warsager: [In a low voice] I do not know the name of the place? [Sounds also: I must not tell, etc.]
  • David Boder: In Italy?
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: Aha. That's all right [?]. And? So how long do you think you will be here?
  • Bernard Warsager: Herr Professor, you ask me this question. I don't know. I explained it to you. The English do not let us enter. And for us, there exists no border, there exist no laws, because we consider these laws as being unjust laws against us.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: And our goal is Palestine, Eretz Israel.
  • David Boder: Tell me, who holds . . . who holds and who distributes those fifteen hundred 'certificates' each month? Who gets them?
  • Bernard Warsager: The English deduct them from the Jews [for those] who have come to Palestine illegally.
  • David Boder: And? So few [certificates] remain. Who gets these?
  • Bernard Warsager: The people get these who have very rich relatives . . .
  • David Boder: Where does one make the application for it?
  • Bernard Warsager: That is done in Palestine. But you must understand that so many people have remained without a country. And the number is much larger than a hundred . . . than the thousand five hundred certificates. The number is much larger than a hundred thousand . . .
  • David Boder: Nu, yes. I wanted only to know the technical aspect.
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: Where are the certificates, in Palestine?
  • Bernard Warsager: The English give them to the Jewish Executive [body]. They distribute them.
  • David Boder: And the Executive [body] is in Palestine.
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: And then one writes there or one asks there? How is that?
  • Bernard Warsager: The technical procedure has never interested me.
  • David Boder: You don't know.
  • Bernard Warsager: No, this is unknown to me.
  • David Boder: Nu, yes. And so, and as long as you are here you are simply preparing yourselves and waiting.
  • Bernard Warsager: They are waiting. Herr Professor . . .
  • David Boder: Talk in here [in the microphone].
  • Bernard Warsager: For the time being I should not . . . everything . . . there are things which I cannot so simply tell [you].
  • David Boder: Yes. And so, I do not want you to say things which you must not. I simply wanted to know. You understand, one logical question evokes another logical question.
  • Bernard Warsager: Yes.
  • David Boder: And it is perfectly understood that you need not answer when you think that you should not.
  • Bernard Warsager: Our situation is as follows, that we have nothing to lose any more in life.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: You understand? And the man who has nothing to lose any more can only win. [This is a paraphrase from Karl Marx.]
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Bernard Warsager: We can only lose our lives. For this we are fighting. If we remain alive, we want to live. And we do not want to remain any more among other nations who hate us. If to remain, we want [to remain] alone, among ourselves. We want no more pity from other . . .
  • David Boder: Nu, yes. Will the Arabs not hate you?
  • Bernard Warsager: We Jews are in the majority [in Israel]. We can make for ourselves everything that we need. We hate no other people, but we can't stand any more pity nor hate. We want to be alone for ourselves. We have enough, for thousands of years, sacrificed everything for other peoples [nations]. We have given from among ourselves great men. What do we have for it? In every land every man [Jew] sacrificed the best that he could. He wanted to be the best citizen. What was he given for it? There is no land in which the Jew, when he sacrifices everything of himself, should be recognized a hundred per cent. He is always looked upon as a Jew. [Pause.] The experience of two thousand years taught us that. And there is no instance in all those years that one of those great men, that the Jewish people had given, should be looked upon on the same level as other people. Always have they . . .
  • David Boder: Don't you think that it is so because the Jews, too, kept themselves apart?
  • Bernard Warsager: There were various attempts when the Jews have sought a way out through assimilation. Alas, that road also has demonstrated not to be the right road. And the last happenings in Europe have underlined that.
  • David Boder: Nu, is there anything else that you want to say?
  • Bernard Warsager: Herr Professor, I will tell you one thing. We will permit ourselves everything in the future. But we have to be recognized in the world history once and for all . . .
  • David Boder: Slower. Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: . . . as a political nation independent of others. Then we will be looked on as other healthy, normal nations. If not, then everyone will [again] be considered as something inferior.
  • David Boder: Nu, you say yourself that we have no Jewish force. Then how can one carry it out? The English are arresting all who want to enter illegally. They are putting them again into concentration camps. And so what will be done?
  • Bernard Warsager: Well, it is this way. When the English use the same methods as the Germans, then they can . . . they can break us. They can annihilate us.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Bernard Warsager: We do not need any more protection from the English. We will protect ourselves. We will live in peace with the Arabs. And the English did not want that to happen. That does not fit into her imper— . . . imperialistic affairs. And therefore, she breaks us at each step. And as long as we live we will go on fighting. Alas, we are somewhat weaker than the English. The English have a quarter of the [world?] . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Bernard Warsager: But one thing I have lived to see in life. Germany was also big.
  • David Boder: Yes? And?
  • Bernard Warsager: And it has become small. And I hope that England, too, will once look different than she looks today. Not through violence and bloodshed does one become great. The . . . history shows how they . . . how England became big, through the pirates on the sea. And any man who took an interest in the developments knows exactly what that . . . how all that has come about.
  • David Boder: This concludes the report of Mr. Warsager which started on Spool . . . which we started on Spool 104 and concluded on Spool 107. Tradate, a little town in Italy between Milano and Como. A place of a castle which was first a castle, then a convent, then an armory, and finally has become a displaced peoples' asylum maintained by the American Joint Distribution Committee and partly in the co-operation with UNRRA. Illinois Institute of Technology Wire Recording.
  • David Boder: This section of Spool 9-107 is being separated and goes under the number 9-107A. It concludes the story of Mr. Warsager. Stop.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Dagmar Platt
  • English Translation : David P. Boder