Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Bernard & Emery Klein - May 23, 1984

Conditions in Gleiwitz

E: I'm sorry. I went back to Birkenau. Yeah, you're right. I'm back at Birkenau. That's where actually Dr. Mengele did his selections practically--not practically, every day, and every day certain people were selected for the crematorium. But coming back to Gleiwitz, in Gleiwitz uh, my father uh, found out that there are some people assigned to kitchen work and Bernie being the youngest, he was made the decision taking his life literally into his hand, to approach the Camp Fuhrer. B: Lagerführer.

E: Lagerführer. To ask him to put Bernie into the kitchen. Just approaching was something unheard of for a Jew to start with, apparently he must have shaken up so much by this request, that he, he granted it, and luckily for all of us, he assigned Bernie to become a Kartoffelschaler. B: Kartoffelschaler.

E: Kartoffelschaler or potato peeler. B: Peeling potatoes.

E: Whereas my father and myself were assigned to a night shift to work in the factory. So this, I know if it can give you an idea, as to the type of nourishment we got, and no rest, to work at night and during the day you stop sleeping, being bothered by all kind of Appells, and here again uh, Bernie, you can pick up from here, your part. B: Yeah, being in the kitchen, of course, there was a lot of food that the prisoners never saw and never had access to, but I was able to get some extra bread. You couldn't, you know, hot food was not, we were not able to get out, but bread and potatoes and some vegetables, I was able to either steal or get, again, strictly by coincidence, the, one of the prisoners in charge of the section where I was working in the kitchen happened to be a landsmann from Czechoslovakia. Which was the fact that I was from Czechoslovakia and he was from Czechoslovakia besides being camp brothers, we became instantly, he being much older than I was, he became, he became instantly my guardian and would give me extra food whenever he could get a hold of it. And uh, since my brother and my father were working during the night, I was working during the day, we had to make up a meeting time during the day after they would sleep so that we can see each other. And during those meetings, usually it was in the latrine, we would, I would bring out whatever food I would be able to either steal or get extra. Hid it under my jacket and then hand it over to my father. He was usually the one that I met. In fact, at one point I remember that he was sick, and he was in the clinic then. And one day we were caught. And all I remember is that I was told by the Nazi guards to run while he really hit my father and I was only hoping and praying that I'll see him next day and fortunately I did. And, uh...

He beat your father while you were running...

B: Yes obviously, yes. I don't know why he don't...see like even when he stopped, the Lagerführer, as we mentioned, he was always walking through camp with his dog. And I remember the dog's name was Zieta, and he used to...and whenever he would, it was a sport. The dog was trained just to grab hold of a prisoner's jacket and not to bite or anything like that, but just enough to hold and scare the wits out of him.

E: Scare them. B: And I remember when father stopped him. Okay, and then he says, "Now, go." And then immediately he would say to the dog, "Zieta, fass," hold on and that's how the mental torture was going on constantly.

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