Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Martin Water - 1982

Forced Labor

I realized if I stay in this camp, I won't survive. So every day those buyers, from various enterprises or factories, like Krupp, or IG Farben or whatever or building enterprises, came to take people to work--slave labor. And I was a small man, as I said before, so maybe I was not good enough for them; I wasn't strong enough for them. But I eh, I didn't give up. Every day I would get in line. On the fifth day, they took me. They marched me to a room for Häftlings which means inmates of concentration camp, tattooed a number on my arm. The number is B6827. People ask me why I don't take it off. I say, "Why should I?" It's not my shame, it's their shame, and I'll have it for as long as I live, hopefully a long time. So they gave us different clothes with stripes, and they put us in a truck the next day and about two hour drive--or I should say ride, rather--and then we came into a camp: Gleiwitz, Gleiwitz IV. And all kinds of work to be done in Gleiwitz. I was a shoemaker. Now I told the ???, which was in charge of the Arbeits...Arbeitseinsatz, or the workers' group, I said, "I'm a shoemaker. I would want to work at my craft." He says-- he-- "You're not old enough to be a shoemaker." I says, "Try me." He wouldn't even give me a chance, to try me out. So I had to work outside, and the weather got different, colder. I had to dig ditches and we had to build barracks. We had to pour cement, and we had to lie down tracks--was about twenty-four inches wide--and put a wagon on it, and with a little truck, and we mixed the cement with keys, which is a fine sand and stone, and we used a fifty kilo cement bag. We emptied into a um, a machine that was run by gas--by kerosene, I believe. We call it ???. And we pour in water. After was mixed, it was emptied into that wagon--little truck and we guided this wagon on the tracks, and we came to a spot where it was dug for the, for the uh, foundation, and we pour it and emptied it. But this was not a chore. First of all, I had uh, twelve keys. And when the--if the keys was--that mountain was closed to that mixing machine, it was very easy to throw in a shovel. But if you took away the keys, to close to the mountain--to close the machine--we uh, it was harder. But I became so proficient, that I didn't miss. I threw a shovel fifteen, twenty feet away, and I hit this--I hit the mark. And there was this doctor--he was a gynecologist--and I felt that, well, he never probably held a shovel in his hand. So I said, "Doc, you sit down, the Germans won't bother you, and I'll do, I'll do the work for you." He paid me later back in kind, and I'll tell you later how he paid me back. Then, they took me to a different spot to work, to push that little cart. And those guys, who were not good enough, they used to spill the cement on the tracks. And you know, as far as they were concerned, it was sabotage, and those guys who were guiding the cart, or the little wagon, got beaten around uh, mercilessly--kicked around, they split their heads. So I said one day, "You know what? Give me the job, and I'll do it." Well at the end, we didn't have no curves--it was a straight ninety degree angle, so there was a turnstile. And the trick was to guide that cart on the turnstile and make a sharp turn, so the front, the front wheels would hit the tracks. And I became so good at it, that I actually was very good, and the Germans lauded me, for being so good at it. I never spilled any cement, because I couldn't afford to get beatings, maybe that's why I was so good. Then, they took me out of this Kommando--this was Kommando Twelve--and they put me in a Kommando where this Gustav was the Kapo. He was the, he was the lord and master and people told me that he is a killer. He was only looking for ways to kick around the guys. I said, "Well, I'll try him out."

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