Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Alexander Schleifer - August 1, 1982


All right. So, let's talk about that. You were at this camp in France for six months.

About six months, yes.

And uh, then what? Then, they just all of a sudden they decided to round you up again ???

They just picked us up and we got into a wagon again. No--well, actually, yes, from France we went in a wagon to, to Kochendorf.

Now, a wagon you are talking about what? Some type of transport train?

Transport train. Just they transported cattle.

All right. Again, you were able to stay with your father.

Yes, correct.

All right and you were taken from there to...

To Kochendorf.

All right. Now, this is, uh...

In Germany

In Germany. Okay. Uh, describe this place.

Well, Germany there was a camp where, where we was working in the some kind of airplane factory. It was underneath the ground. It was uh, some kind of a salt--it used to be salt mines and they made a uh, airplane factory underneath the ground. That's where he was working.

All right. Where did you live?

Oh, we lived in Kochendorf in camp. These camps were uh, much uh, worse uh, situation than we had in France.

Could you describe the conditions a little bit?

Conditions. There were uh, number, number one uh, there were much more people there in Kochendorf than we were in France. And, anytime you have more people you have more uh, disoriented things and, again, they, they don't have nothin', nothin' comparable what we had in France. Again, we were in Germany already now. And France--some of the French people used to help you a little bit with all these guys with some food. Over here was no help. So, the guys uh, uh was getting less and less eat so, no, it wasn't the same thing in France. The, the conditions were worse, much worse because the uh, work starting again just about winter time when we got there. Late fall, beginning of winter we got there.

Um, food. Were you given food?

As, as I said, you had morning about the same. You can go anyplace you wanted except in France we had it better while we had this German cook. Nine times out of ten before the prisoners get it, somebody's got his fingers in something and half what it gets stolen before it gets to the place where it is supposed to be. Uh, you still some coffee in the morning and you had, as I said, a slice of bread and had a bowl of soup. That's about for the day.

What was your uh, routine there?



Uh, you worked--over here you was working two shifts about twelve hours a day. One shift was working and the other shift was sleeping or working in the airplane factory.

Were you working with your father at this time?

Oh, I was working a different shift.

Were you able to see him, however?

I was able to see him because we stayed in one barracks until he got his uh, his toes on his foot frozen and he ended up in the hospital where he had--they cut that's off.

But, did that happen here at this camp?

In Kochendorf.

All right. Spell that, Kochendorf.

I don't know exactly how you spell it.

Okay. All right. Uh, were there, were there just Jews in this camp?

Oh uh, to tell the truth, there were more different type of nationalities. I don't know. Maybe, maybe could have been some. I would say about ninety-five percent were Jews.

Any women?

No woman. It's all male.

All right now, you say you are working twelve-hour shifts. Describe if you would, Alex, the kind of work you were doing.

Oh, you worked in, in the, in the factory--an airplane factory. Now, there was, there was somebody got it. It wasn't working uh, uh, they was building, as I said, the factory. Some of the factories they were ready. There were some that was--there was a salt mine, okay. They were laying cement which were finishing up for hangars, you know, where they was puttin' to production. That is what he was doing.

Were you trained to do this type of work?

There is no such a thing as training.

I understand that. Well, how were you able to do this then?

Oh, they tell you. You do so and so and you do it. That's all there is to it. They don't train nothing. Do it or else.

Did people uh, become exhausted at this kind of work.

Oh, naturally, they got exhausted. Actually, actually, you was asking, I know quite a few Russians was with us. I mean, they weren't, they weren't Jews. So, as I said, approximately about 5% because I seen one Russian was a soldier. He lost it and said he was going to take his own life. He was hitting in his head against, against the, uh, salt. In other words, against the wall. I mean, not just hit him. He wanted to kill himself.

Was he stopped?


Did he die?

I don't know if because they took him away.

Were there any other children your age there?

Uh, were some. As I said, we were ten of us in France and then when to got to Kochendorf, everyone of us was--had to go to work. So, we worked. I said nine more approximately might.

Again, any kind of resistance that you might have seen?

Resistance. What resistance can you see? You have to do or else. I mean, we do resistance or you die. So you don't want to die and you suffered through. That's what we was doing. [pause]

How was it that your dad uh, how was it that your father had his feet frozen?

Well, as I said, when we went to uh, [pause] to Auschwitz they took your shoes away and they gave you some shoes which were some you can't wear, some you don't, some were out of leather, some was out of wood. And, it so happened that my father got a pair of shoes which they were out of wood or somethin' and the uh, during the winter was always wet, always his feet wet and that's what the froze his toes. I mean it is so bad that they had to amputate it. That's when he ended up in the hospital.

Was, was he working outside?

Well, you didn't have to work outside but still he was walking from the camp to the work. That was a few miles to get to the work.

Ah, let's talk about that. You had to leave the camp then every morning.

Every morning and you walked to the, to uh, to your destination where you went to work at the mines.

Did you have some sort of uh, educated guess as to how far it was?

Oh, I would say three, four, five miles. Something like that.

Was it snowing out?

Oh, naturally. [pause] Naturally, there is no way--snow, rain, whatever it was, you had to go. That's--that was it. The SS who was guarding us ??? if it was raining, they had the raincoats but we didn't.

Between the camp and the actual factory you were working, was there any town, townspeople, uh...

Well, there was. There was--it was a farm--like a farming community and then we didn't have no contacts--close contacts with none of those.

Did they see you walking?

Oh, they generally most likely see us walking, yes.

When it was discovered that your father's foot was frostbit, who did the actual uh, uh, surgery?

We had a doctor in, in the camp. We had a hospital--so-called hospital.


Yes, it was I believe some are Frenchmen--some French Jew.

Oh, he did the actual operation?


It wasn't a German doctor?

No, no. It was one of the prisoners.

So uh, would you say that he was given, as far as you can go with these conditions, he was given uh, a decent operation?

Well, yeah, he got a decent operation, whatever he could, done with the conditions what they had and what he had to work with.


Yeah. That, that I know.

How long was he allowed to uh, convalesce?

Well, as, as I said, he was in there uh, I don't know uh, must have been a couple of weeks. One a couple of weeks and then, again, the Allies was gettin' close to us and they begin--they shipped everybody was in hospital with the wagons on a train, and the rest of the prisoners they were marching from there to Dachau.

All right, now, you say marching. You were talking about how many miles?

Well, I don't know how many miles you have between uh, Kochendorf and Dachau. I mean you can find out if you look at the map. I don't know exactly but we must have marched, if I'm not mistaken about--what is it. Ten days, two weeks, something like that.


No, as I said, we was marching at night. It's not during the day because the Allies was bombing all those places so, so many times--so, we always used to march during, during the night and slept during the day.

Where did you sleep?

Outside on a--anyplace in the fields.

Under guard?

Marched with a guard all the time, all of us. I mean Germans.

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