Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Paul Molnar - July 24, 2002


German Jews.

German Jews who were the leaders of the camp you know, that really ran a lot of it. And they-we also had in Buchenwald people like uh, Prime Minister of France was held there, Leon Blum, head of the-Thalmann who was the head of the German Communist Party. I mean, these were in another section. This was a privileged people who were held there as prisoners. But anyhow, I was in Buchenwald and you know, it was a different camp because the prisoners could, could get all the news because they had shortwave radios in the barracks and everything that they built themselves to materials from the factories. So we knew that the Germans were losing the war. I mean, December of 1944, we knew that Americans were already in Germany proper and the Russians were almost all of uh, the East was already right near to the German border. So we knew it was just-if we can just survive you know, we can survive. There were about twenty-five thousand people in this camp in Buchenwald at the time. And the leadership at Buchenwald decided that uh, the Germans are not going to leave Buchenwald. They're going to raze it, they're going to do something because they don't want to leave this evidence of all these horrible things for the last eleven years they carried on there. So chances are they're going to come in and kill everybody, blow it up or do something. So they decided that us twenty children should not stay in Buchenwald but we should be shipped out to a smaller sub-camp because at the end of the war during the chaos we have a much better chance to survive. So all twenty of us from the Jewish barrack, all of us twenty children, Jewish children, we were sent to a place called Berga, which is B-e-r-g-a, which is right near Czechoslovak border near Sudetenland. And when we got there it was terrible cold. It was January. And we only had this little jacket, a pair of pants and a cap. Terrible cold. And this was a little camp of about 1500 prisoners, and there were some Jews and non-Jews. And when we got there all of us children were. And what the factory did was there, there was one factory, it was run by BMW. That's why I love all these lovely German companies today. Uh, and they were building uh, a V3 rocket which they're going to win the war with, which never happened. In the underground factory. Well, when we got there uh, all of us children were assigned inside the camp and I was assigned to work in the kitchen. And my job was, among others-there other people also-uh, to uh, peel potatoes from six in the evening 'til six in the morning. Now it was a terrific job 'cause I was not exposed to any of the Germans. They never came in the kitchen. And I was not exposed to the cold because the kitchen was warm. And I slept during the day while everybody was-the others were working in an underground factory. And uh, I didn't have any more to eat, because I think I would have been killed if I took one potato by all the prisoners in there. And this was run by a, a, a Serbian man. He was in charge of the kitchen, he was in charge of our, he was a prisoner, but he was our Kapo. And he was quite nice, he didn't-I don't think he ever beat anybody or. He may-he might have yelled at us, but he, he didn't do anything, he never. About six of us kids we worked in the kitchen, we all peeled potatoes. And that's what we did, we peeled potatoes night after night after night and. We went through the counting everyday and everything else. And in February, something happened to us which is unique to my story. A lot of this stuff is not, like with the other people. What happened was, that naturally all we could think is when are our liberators coming. We didn't care if they're American, British, Russian. Just liberate us. And one day the trucks come in, in our camp and they're American GIs. First time I ever seen Americans. First time in my life. And they have their uniforms on. But they're not our liberators, they're American prisoner of war. These three hundred and fifty were the only American GIs ever brought in concentration camp. And the reasons were numerous. Some because they were captured as one of the first American troops cap...cap, captured in Germany proper. Others because they were asked in the camp, prisoner of war camps whether they were Jews or not and they stepped forward and said yes, they were Jews. And others because they had Jewish sounding names, so they decided they were Jews. So these three hundred and fifty American GIs, they had-they were allowed to keep their uniform and they were allowed to keep their hair and they were separated from us within the camp with a barbed wire. They were put to work in the same factory where everybody else worked. They were guarded by SS guards. They were given the same food we had. They were treated just as badly as we were. And they were there ninety-nine days in this camp and a third of 'em died in ninety-nine days. Because they were, I guess, more used to better things in life and they died even faster than other people. And they were the only ones who were ever put in concentration camp. After the Second World War, in 1948 when I was already in United States, I was contacted uh, and I gave a deposition for that. Some of the guards in the camp uh, the head of the camp uh, who, and they were on trial because of the way they treated these American prisoner of war, they were specifically on trial. Not in the Nuremburg trial, but they were on trial. They were tried by German-American military tribunal.

Do you remember the Kommandant's name?

Uh, no I don't remember.

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