Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Bernard & Emery Klein - May 23, 1984

Incidents in Gleiwitz

Do you recall any incidents, specific incidents, while you were in Gleiwitz where you or your father had a dangerous close call, closer than normal say?

E: I had in Gleiwitz an experience before we were assigned to, to work in the factory. We were doing different work. We were carrying some things into a cellar, and in the cellar there were potatoes. Naturally, anything resembling food was of such value that I didn't hesitate to fill my pockets with potatoes. This was enough reason to be shot. Fortunately, as I was walking out, and again, these things do not forget, a metal staircase, I was slapped so hard that I was quite like a ping-pong ball between the two walls. And again, why didn't shoot me or didn't send, didn't send me back to crematory, I don't know. But uh, this was one of another lucky breaks I got, painful, but still lucky that I remained, remained alive. B: No, by the same token, the incident I mentioned when I, when we were caught, me handing the bread, the stolen bread to my father was cause enough for both of us to be shot; so it was a matter of the individual's whim that happened to catch you. If he was one of those that uh, trigger happy, and wanted to kill you, he could have done that right on the spot. There was no trial or jury necessary. Then again, if it was the kind, kind of individual who felt like a slap in the face or a kick in the behind is enough, that was the punishment. They all knew very well that our constant punishment and harassment is uh, perhaps it's more punishment to stay on and suffer than to uh, be put out by a bullet. Who knows the philosophy of those guys. It will probably never be figured out, and uh, this is the way we went, from day to day. We really did not have any assurance or any kind of an inkling what will happen next day. It was just a matter of surviving from hour to hour, more or less.

E: In those days uh, I recall again when the bombers were above us, the Americans or the Allies, we were not concerned that we would be hit by the bombs. The Nazis were immediately taking shelter. Our hope and pray was that there would be bombing, and, or hope and pray naturally was that one day, soon enough before we are dead, that the Germans will lose the war. This is the only really... B: We were hoping to see the camp leveled regardless whether we were in it or not.

E: Oh, we were never afraid of, of something which uh, could hurt the Nazis just as much as us, and we were praying for the bombers to bomb, but, eh... B: As I mentioned that the, most anything and everything while we were prisoners in camp was the individual whim of the Nazis, but by the same token, after I finished my duty in the kitchen, I don't know how it came about, but I was transferred to the same factory as my father and Emery were working. But surprisingly, which is another shocking surprise, they decided, most of us in the kitchen were transferred there, and we were mostly young kids, 15 year old. They decided to start a tool making class right in the factory, and there was about twelve of us I recall that they gave us a piece of steel. And they, in fact, the first thing we were working on is to shape a hammer out of a raw piece of steel. Don't ask me why, because I don't know.

Who taught you? Was it...

B: The German uh, uh, workers, or they decided to start teaching the young Jewish prisoners how to become tool makers while every day we went, and we went into, like into our classroom, there in a separate section.

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