Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Josef Slaim - February 7, 1982

Life in Camp

What was, what was it like in the camp? Describe a little bit uh, living conditions, the food, the work, clothing...

In this camp like I said, was not uh, concentration camp. Completely different. This was a working camp. Of course it was one room--we slept in one room--all the people, we were there--one big room, like a whole--of course, we had this uh, bunks, you know, was like bunks, but uh, was just uh, two bunks. One--I mean, one on the other one. It was--I had a little office. In this office we had also two beds. I was living there mit my secretary, who was in the office, which was just ??? in the hallway. The life--first thing, we all was in the mind, after three months got passed by we're gonna be released. And uh, as a matter of fact, I asked my Lagerführer I said, "Say, listen. We was promised that after three months we gonna be released--replaced mit other ones." He started smiling. I say, "Why are you smiling? That we was fooled? I thought the German--if they say something, a word should be a word." He said, "Well, let me tell you something. Forget about going home. Not that I can do something bad or that I can do something good. I'm just drafted like you. I'm a German, but I'm drafted to be Lagerfürer, you know." But he said, "Going home, who knows if you ever go home." So, what could you do? You couldn't tell them too much. The food was not too good, but wasn't the worse ones. To those times we still could get packages from our homes. They hadn't got in the home what to send, but once in a while you received something. We could receive still mail. We could send out, once a week, mail because this was just a working camp.

What year was this?

Hm? This was '40, '41--beginning '41. Over a year--from beginning '40 'til around the middle '41. Then I was transferred--as a matter of fact, before transferring was coming an order, they wanted to take out from our camp sixty people, and to send them to Russian front. They got an order to take sixty people and to dress them in German uniforms and to send us on uh, behind the border on Russian fronts, to repair the tracks from the uh, street cars. But we heard from new transport that arrived that--every week--couple weeks a new transport was coming--ten people, twenty people. The Lager--the camp got larger and larger, you know. And uh, we heard a lot of stories that people going over there--were sent over there, and were coming home--if somebody still survives there, so cold, comes home mit frozen ea... ears were frozen, mit frozen, mit frozen fingers, you know, it's just--and I start begging mein uh, officer--commandant, not to do it. He said he cannot help, and he--I talked to the Lagerführer, and, and they said they got an order. Finally as a matter of fact, they had an order me to send too mit the group. What he did? He just pitched it. He said, "I have to send you away, to another camp, so nobody would know that you wasn't going to the uh, Russian front." So a day after a transport was...

[interruption in interview]


So they sent me away mit another transport to a camp which was called Tarnowitz. From there out--I wasn't too long over there, and I was again transferred to another camp, Peiskretscham. And in Peiskretscham I was there 'til...in the middle of 19...uh, or the beginning of 1944. Which was, was bad, but was in consideration taking other places what we heard, and what I, myself, after saw was this very good. Even mit every bad things: we hadn't got enough food, we got frozen, we hadn't got good dress--dress up warm, but still to compare it was a big story-- a big difference. Anyway...

[interruption in interview]

We gonna skip this one and we gonna--I wanna just make the story short, and I gonna start when we came in the beginning 1944, we came to Blechhammer. Blechhammer was already a different story--was not comparison to the other camps, what we was told there.

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