Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Samuel Offen - December 27, 1981

Forced Labor in Płaszów

You cleared away the monuments? Were they--did you just throw the monuments away?

Used them for like sidewalks. You used them as stones. And also the skeletons, a lot of skeletons on the bare grounds. Right there we built, we had to build barracks. And uh, whatever other facilities, we had to build our showers and uh, dining halls or whatever they were. And uh, a horrible life started. We had to--at first there was no real work per...they did not send us out to work outside of the camp at first. We just had to work in the camp. But there were thousands of us concentrated in a small camp behind electrified barbed wires. And guards and machine gun towers, search lights at night, dogs. So there was no work for us. But this was located on a side of a hill so we had to like create work for us. So we had to like dig. There was--it was on a side of a quarry actually, the camp was on a side of a quarry, a stone quarry. So we had to just dig stones, dig the stones, carry them from one pile to another pile a few hundred feet away. Then a few days later we have to taken the very same stones from the same pile put them back to the original pile. Just, it was just to create work, just--it was makeshift work at first and that's what we had. Other than and others, of course, were, were busy building these, as I say, barracks and other things that were of use to us, but they didn't have work for everybody. So that's what we were doing at first. We had it terrible. SS--Nazi, SS guards. They were just shooting people at will. One guard in particular, I remember, young SS soldier, I don't, I never knew his last name, but first name was Uli, he was a terrifying man. People were very much afraid of him. His execution record was horrible. He used to walk with a whip in his hand and a gun at the ready. He used to walk by people carrying these stones and if he didn't like you, he just didn't like the way you carried the stone, just right on the spot, he'd shoot you right in the head. Just drop dead. And the rest of us were not even allowed to say one word or to remove the body, do anything. Just continue work and don't pay attention. Of course, after he left, we would remove the body and, you know and bury it someplace. One of his tricks was where he'd walk by and he would see two men wa...working. He wanted the two men to sort of beat each other up, for no reason at all. He'd say, "Go ahead, why don't you hit him?" So, you had to hit your friend. Then he'd say, "No, you didn't hit him hard enough." So what he made you do is he carried a whip. And this happened to me--I'll never forget it. One day, I was working next to one of my best friends. His name was, what, his Polish name, his first name was Nytec, his last name was Tepper. His father owned a little grocery store in our apartment building. And the two of us were working, I think we were stringing these barbed wires. We were working on the guard watch, stringing them together by the fence. For some reason he di...just, whatever, for whatever reason, he told my f...he told me--he was notorious for that, for doing what I am going to tell you. He made me, he told me to take my pants off, pull my pants down. He gave my friend the whip and he told him to whip me twenty-five times. So he started whipping me and of course, blood start coming out and welts. And he finished doing it. So he say's to me, "Hey, what kind of friend do you have? How come he's hittin' you? How come he's hitting you?" You had to do it back, right back to him. So we did it in reverse he had to pull his pants down and I had to start whipping him. And I remember, I started whipping him and for some reason I don't know, I just--I just couldn't do as hard as he wanted me to do it. So he started whipping again and again and again and I guess I must have whipped him more than he would be because finally he told me to, to stop, I don't know after how many times. And a lot of times the procedure was after we pulled our pants on he used to take his gun out and shoot both of them. But for some re...I don't know what happened on that day, he just did not do it. He just continued going. So that was just one--not to do it. It was smarter anyway, just sheer luck, one way of surviving. One of many, many ways that I survived. I say one reason it's, it's sh...sheer luck.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn