Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Paul Molnar - July 24, 2002

Conditions in Magdeburg

No Jewish Kapos.

No, not where, not where I was, there were almost all Germans. There were some non-Germans, there were a few Czechs and some-and mostly Germans. And uh, we were all assigned a, we were each assigned to a barrack. Their barracks were much smaller, maybe we had about I would think maybe a hundred in a barrack, we must have had like twenty-five barracks, something like that. Or maybe twenty barracks, I'm not exactly sure anymore. And uh, we were put to work at a factory which was uh, run by I.G. Farben, a chemical factory. And let me describe to you our daily routine. Our routine was we were woken up at four o'clock every morning. And we were fed. And we were fed the same food I described to you earlier, but we got coffee in the morning instead of soup. That was ersatz coffee, it just was some brown liquid. But we drank it and we ate whatever they gave us because by now-after a few weeks we were pretty hungry. I mean, I, I ate the liq...all the same garbage that I wouldn't eat a few weeks earlier, so. And after that we were counted, which was a regular routine every morning. We had to go to the Platz, to the square and the Germans came and they counted every-make sure none of us were missing. And, uh.

What if somebody had died?

If somebody was-if somebody died you had to drag 'em out there and they also had to be counted. And if somebody was missing, sometimes people tried to hide in the barracks, hoping to escape. They kept us there if it would take a day until they found the body of a prisoner and uh, or they decided to give up if it was hot or cold, it didn't matter. I didn't have it happen to me very often, but I know it did happen and if they did catch the person, they would next day take-after they beat the daylights, they'd take him out in front of everybody and they hang him. That happened a couple times. But not in Magdeburg. It happened to me later. So anyhow, they uh, after that we-they started marching us and we-it, the factory was about four miles from us. It took us about an hour. And we marched to the factory and this factory was a factory that was converting brown coal into artificial gasoline, because the Germans did not have enough uh, oil. They had to have some alternative to run their machineries. And they had lots of brown coal. So what the factory did was, it was making coal uh, gasoline out of coal. It was run by I.G. Farben. And besides us slave laborers. There were also a lot of Germans working there.


Civilians. And even more uh, workers who were sup...who were volunteers to work in Germany, which is not true. They were not volunteers. But these were nationalities. We had French there, we had Poles there, we had some Dutch there. And if I remember uh, we had some, yeah, we did have some Yugoslavs there. And these were people who uh, who wore their civilian clothes, not like clothes like we had. But they had an armband and the armband said what nationality they were. And for all practical purposes they were prisoners. They had to live in barracks. Not in, not in the same condition we did. Nowhere bad or anything like that and they were fed more than we were. But they were prisoners 'cause they went to a factory and they were taken back the barracks at night and they come in the next day. So they were basic-so this whole factory was run by some German tradesman and the rest of us were all prisoners. Slave laborers.

Did you ever talk to any of the civilians?

Uh, to the Germans?


Well, let me tell you that my experiences were very bad with them because I really felt that we, they saw us there and I, there was no sympathy from anybody. I had some other prisoners, of these other nationalities who slipped us a cigarette or said a kind word to us. Only thing I remember the-these Germans do is yell at us. I never felt-and this is not everybody's experience, but that was my experience. I was terrified of 'em. I wouldn't even go near 'em because if you did they just, they just yell at you, "Move, move, ??? ??? ??? faster, faster, faster! Work faster." And naturally we were guarded at all time by uh, these SS guards. So you had to be very careful if you uh, tried to make contact with anybody. Now, what did I do at the factory? They never produced anything while I was there because the British and American planes came once a month, destroyed the factory. So they were always in rebuilding. And what we did was we worked on construction work. We uh, we cleared debris, we unloaded lumber, we unloaded cement, we unloaded metal things. Whatever, whatever they told us, unloaded brick, we just worked there and did all sorts of jobs. And then at twelve we got fifteen minutes off and we got fed again and then we went back to work. And we worked 'til six o'clock. At six o'clock we were marched back to the uh, camp. And if anybody died or was beaten to death or if anything happened to them uh, they had to be-or injured we had to carry them back to the camp. Nobody could stay behind because when we got back we had to line up again at the square or Platz and everybody was counted, everybody had to be accounted for there-as many left came back. And sometimes it took a long time, sometimes it didn't. After it was done, whatever, we got fed again. And we collapsed, we went to sleep, we got up four o'clock uh, we did the same routine uh, seven days a week. So in spite of it all, I was managing okay, I was a strong kid. And uh, you asked me before, yeah by now I knew the chances are, I didn't know it for a fact, but you know, they already told us some of the older prisoners, the Germans, they told us that uh, what, what Birkenau and Auschwitz was. They explained to us that this is a work camp where you have a chance to survive as long as you don't give up and you have the strength, but in those places, there was no chance because they really took people there to kill. So I knew that all, that my younger cousins or my aunts if they wouldn't give up their children uh, and all the older people I knew and so on, chances are they all been killed. But my uncle, my cousin and I, a lot of us other, others from R ákospalota were managing, we were not doing well, but we're managing and, and.

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