Seventy years ago U.S. Army soldiers liberated the prisoners of the Dachau concentration camp. On April 29, 1945 a new life began for many prisoners. Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz wrote in his diary: “The day is over, this April 29. I will celebrate it for the rest of my life as my second birthday, as the day when I received the gift of life anew.”
As part of this year’s anniversary, the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site asked survivors to depict their memories of the day of liberation in a video message. Here nine survivors from different nations tell of the suffering they had to endure while imprisoned, how they experienced the events surrounding liberation, and give some details of their life afterward.
|Jack Adler||Eugeniusz Bądzyński||Maurice Cling||Giuseppe Covacich||Nick Hope|
|Bela Löwy||Morris Price||Jack Repp||Agnes Sassoon|
Jack Adler was born in 1929 in the Polish town of Pabianice, where his family owned a textile business. The persecution of the Jewish population began immediately after the German Army occupied his hometown on September 8 1939. Szlama Adler – his official name at the time – lost his entire family in the Nazi genocide: his mother and brother were killed in the Łódź ghetto (Litzmannstadt), his two sisters were murdered in the concentration camps Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen, while his father died as a result of the brutal working conditions in Kaufering, a subcamp of the Dachau concentration camp. Jack Adler himself was deported to Auschwitz and from there to one of the Kaufering subcamps. There the prisoners, almost all of whom were Jewish, were forced to construct a giant bunker for manufacturing fighter planes. On April 23 1945, the SS began to send the prisoners of the Dachau concentration camp on death marches, forcing them to march southwards in the direction of the Ötztal in Tyrol. Jack Adler was among their number. After his liberation on May 1 1945, the 16-year-old was taken to the Displaced Persons Camp at Föhrenwald near Wolfratshausen in Upper Bavaria. The U.S. Army had set up the camp immediately after the end of the war to accommodate liberated forced laborers and survivors of the Dachau concentration camp. In December 1946 Jack Adler was taken into a foster family as a war orphan in Skokie, a largely Jewish satellite suburb of Chicago. He served in the U.S. Army, married in 1953, graduated from college, and made a career in the judiciary. Since his retirement he has publicly discussed and related his experiences during the Holocaust in talks, interviews, and publications. In 2012 his memoir was published under the title of A Holocaust Narrative.
Eugeniusz Bądzyński was born in 1928 in Wilno, today Vilnius. As was the case for the whole of southeast Lithuania, the city was part of Poland until the Second World War. Later the family moved to Zielonka, close to Warsaw. From there Eugeniusz Bądzyński, aged 16, was taken to the transit camp 121 (Dulag 121) at the beginning of September 1944. The German occupiers had set up this camp in Pruszków during the Warsaw Uprising (August 1 to October 2 1944) to imprison members of the civilian population from the Greater Warsaw area. The conditions in the camp were catastrophic: overcrowding, starvation, and completely inadequate hygiene facilities led to epidemics. Between August 6 1944 and January 16 1945, around 650 000 persons passed through the camp. As with Eugeniusz Bądzyński, the SS selected most prisoners after just a few days, either sending them to Germany to perform forced labor or deporting them to a concentration camp. On September 12 1944 a transport with 3 042 persons from Warsaw arrived at the Dachau concentration camp. On the same day Eugeniusz Bądzyński was registered in Dachau under the number 106535. He was assigned to the “herb garden”, one of the largest work details in the main Dachau camp. While this official name almost quaintly played down what took place there, the language used by the prisoners captured the brutal reality of the working conditions: on the “plantation” around 1 600 prisoners had to cultivate medicinal and aromatic herbs for the war economy in 1944, working in all weathers, severely undernourished, and under the constant threat of physical abuse. After liberation the U.S. administration placed the Dachau camp under strict quarantine because of a typhus epidemic. Eugeniusz Bądzyński was sent to quarantine at the Munich-Freimann camp. He returned to his hometown in August 1945.
Together with his parents and older brother, Maurice Cling was interned in the Drancy collection and transit camp in occupied France on May 4 1944, his fifteenth birthday. From there the SS deported 65 000 Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the family of Maurice Cling among them. The SS murdered all his relatives in the extermination camp. Maurice Cling himself was assigned to the work detail that had to clean the prisoner latrines in the main Auschwitz camp. He was transferred to the Dachau concentration camp on a murderous “evacuation transport” before the Soviet Army reached and liberated the camp in January 1945. On April 22 1945, the SS began sending the prisoners on death marches, forcing them to march southwards in the direction of the Özttal in Tyrol, Maurice Cling among them. He was finally liberated in Mittenwald by U.S. troops and together with the other survivors provisionally accommodated in a barracks in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. In mid-May 1945 Maurice Cling returned to his home city of Paris. He studied English and became a professor for linguistics and phonetics, later for comparative literature, working in Metz and Paris. In 1999 he published his memoir under the title Vous qui entrez ici…Un enfant á Auschwitz.
At the age of 19, Giuseppe Covacich was arrested along with his father, mother and sister on March 1 1944 in his hometown of Trieste by Italy’s fascist political police because of the family’s Slovenian origins. After being subjected to brutal interrogation, he and his father were deported – via the Dachau concentration camp – to Leonberg. The SS sent his mother and sister to Auschwitz. At Leonberg, a subcamp of the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp, a few hundred prisoners had to perform forced labor from the spring of 1944. By January 1945 their number had risen to over 3 200. Deported from 24 countries, the majority of prisoners were deployed in the construction of wing panels for the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter, working in 12-hour shifts. At the end of March 1945, Giuseppe Covacich was evidently transferred to Ganacker via the Dachau subcamp of Kaufering. Set up at a very late stage, this subcamp of Flossenbürg, located near Landau an der Iser, existed only briefly. The situation in the camp was marked by disorganization, an appalling lack of provisions, and, consequently, a high death rate. Working in catastrophic conditions, the prisoners from 17 countries were forced to build new runways and extend the existing ones at the Ganacker military airfield. On April 24 1945 the SS evacuated the subcamp. After trying to escape during the evacuation march, Giuseppe Covacich was deported to the Ebensee concentration camp in Austria on May 3 1945. His recollection of what took place during the late phase of this subcamp to Mauthausen matches those of other survivors. Originally the SS had planned to deploy the prisoners at the camp – built to accommodate between 6 000 and 7 000 prisoners – for the production of the V1 and V2 rockets. From January 1945 the camp became completely overcrowded, so that Ebensee turned increasingly into a death camp, the SS murdering prisoners unable to work through starvation and systematic neglect. Some 4 500 prisoners died in the month of April alone. Immediately after being liberated by American troops Giuseppe Covacich and his father headed for Trieste. His mother and sister survived Auschwitz.
Nick Hope was born in 1925 in the Ukrainian town of Petrovka. The youngest of six children, his original name was Nikolai Choprenko. In 1933/34 both of his sisters died as a result of the mass starvation in the Ukraine instigated by the Stalin regime. During the German occupation the SS deported him to work as a forced laborer in a German munitions factory, where after an explosion Nick Hope was accused of sabotage. He was then sent to the subcamp of Dachau-Allach in February 1943. Here the SS hired out the prisoners to BMW. The prisoners were forced to build plane engines in 12-hour shifts. Day in day out they had to work despite constant hunger and the ever-present threat of physical abuse, which was also meted out by company employees. The Dachau-Allach subcamp and the OT camp of Allach-Karlsfeld formed a giant complex housing 9 300 prisoners. On the evening of April 26 1945, the SS began to forcibly march off 6 887 prisoners in columns from the Dachau main camp. Just a few hours before, the SS had sent around 2 000 prisoners from the Dachau-Allach subcamp on a march southwards. Nick Hope was among them. Food rations were minimal, while the winter weather with rain and snow added to the adversity. Prisoners who collapsed or were unable to keep up were shot or beaten to death by the SS. The last survivors of the Dachau death march were liberated by the U.S. Army first on May 2 in Waakirchen. Nick Hope weighed just 40 kg at liberation. After a lengthy convalescence, in 1951 he began to work as a warehouseman at the Alabama Depot of the Seventh Army in Munich. He married in Munich before the couple immigrated to the United States in 1961. Nadya and Nick Hope have three children.
Bela Löwy was born into a Jewish family in 1928 in Hajdúhadház, a small town in eastern Hungary. During the Second World War Hungary was an ally of the German Reich. Although the politics of the rightwing authoritarian regent Miklós Horthy were anti-Semitic, with the Hungarian Army committing acts of violence against Jews, the regime nevertheless at first resisted the demands of its German ally to deport Jewish citizens. As the German Army then occupied the country on March 19 1944 to prevent Hungary from leaving the Axis alliance with the German Reich, some 725 000 Jews were directly threatened with extermination. From mid-April Hungarian public authorities and gendarmerie, supervised by a 200-strong SS special task force, began rounding up the Jewish population in ghettos, and just a month later deportation trains were heading for Auschwitz-Birkenau. By the beginning of July the SS had already sent 438 000 Jews from Hungary to the extermination camp. Most of those deported were murdered with gas immediately upon arrival, including Bela Löwy’s parents and four siblings. The SS excluded around 100 000 Hungarian Jews from the killing, deploying them as forced laborers in the German war economy. Bela Löwy, aged 15, was one of them. As the SS was arranging a transport for another camp, he volunteered so as to get away from Auschwitz, hoping that even the most punishing of work details would offer a chance of survival. In June 1944 he was transferred to Dachau and was assigned to the OT camp Allach-Karlsfeld (known as the “Jew camp”). In this camp attached to the Dachau-Allach subcamp, more than 1 100 prisoners, working under the direction of the Organisation Todt, a state construction and civil engineering group, had to construct bunkers for BMW. U.S. troops finally liberated Bela Löwy in Mittenwald while he was on one of the death marches heading for Tyrol. In January 1948 he immigrated to Canada, where he married and started a family.
Morris Price was born Moniek Prajs in 1927 in the Polish town of Wolbrom, the youngest of six children. His father Manela Prajs was a livestock dealer and the Jewish family was part of the town’s middle class. In September 1942 the deportation of Wolbrom’s Jewish population began, which led to the family being split apart. Morris and his brothers Machel and David were sent in cattle cars to the “Jew camp” Prokocim (Julag II), a forced labor camp in southeast Krakow. Here Morris Price had to dig trenches for the laying of pipes. On March 13 1943 the SS liquidated the Krakow ghetto and Morris Price was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. He survived the selection only because he jumped from a truck in an unobserved moment and could fall into line with his two older brothers, who had been classified as fit for work. In 12-hour shifts Morris Price had to do extremely arduous work building canalization. Even when he was struck with typhus he dragged himself to his work detail to avoid being sent to the gas chamber. In October 1944 Morris Price was transferred to Kaufering. In the subcamp complex of Dachau Jewish prisoners, mainly from Poland, Hungary, and Lithuania, were forced to build large semi-subterranean bunkers for the serial production of the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter. Their “extermination through work” was a calculated strategy, although the regime considered the construction of the jet fighter to be decisive for the war effort. Thousands of prisoners died from illnesses, physical abuses, and the catastrophic hygienic conditions, but above all due to the hard physical work on completely inadequate food rations. In the final days of April the SS forced the prisoners on death marches in the direction of the Alps. Morris Price was liberated by the U.S. Army on May 1 1945. While returning to Poland he found out that his two sisters Sabina and Helen and his brother Machel had survived. With his siblings he first settled down in Munich. In September 1949 he then immigrated to the United States. A year later he was called up to serve in the Korean War (1950/51). After his discharge from the U.S. Army he managed a pawnbroker shop in Portsmouth, Ohio. He has lived in California since 1955, where he opened his own jewelry store after working 26 years for a mail-order firm. He married in 1961 and with his wife has had three children. For the last ten years Morris Price has been active as a contemporary witness for the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.
Jack Repp was born Yitzhak Rzepkowiz to a well-off Jewish family in 1923. His father owned a department store in Radom. With Poland occupied, in October 1939 the fifteen-year-old was forcibly taken from school, the start of his odyssey through the Nazi camp system. First he was forced to work for the armaments industry in the labor camp located in the Radom ghetto. On July 24 1944 the SS evacuated the camp ahead of the arrival of the advancing Red Army and sent the prisoners on a death march to Auschwitz – four or five days march without food or drink. Just two weeks later, on August 9, 2 189 prisoners were transferred from Auschwitz to the Vaihingen/Enz concentration camp (Baden-Württemberg), where they were to be “exterminated through work”. The transport was made up exclusively of Polish Jews from the Radom camp, amongst them Jack Repp. In Vaihingen, a subcamp of the Natzweiler-Struthof in Alsace, the prisoners had to build large bunkers in which plane parts for Messerschmitt were manufactured. Work on “Project Stoffel” was abandoned however in October and Jack Repp was transferred to the Hessental concentration camp. The airbase there hired the prisoners from the SS to repair runways after air raids. Here everyday life in the camp was also characterized by brutal physical abuse, murder, systematic starvation, catastrophic hygienic conditions, and disease. On April 5 1945 the SS forcibly marched the prisoners to Dachau-Allach, many dying on the way. Jack Repp was finally liberated while in the Dachau concentration camp. His sister Nanette in Paris was the only other family member to survive, his other sister, four brothers, and parents were all murdered. In 1949 Jack Repp immigrated to the United States and for 44 years ran a department store in Dallas. As a contemporary witness he regularly tells of his experiences, foremost for the Dallas Holocaust Museum.
Agnes Sassoon was born as Ágnes Lichtschein in 1933 in the Czech town of Vylok (today in Hungary). Her Jewish father was a teacher. Up until 1939 the family lived in Bratislava (Pressburg). As the German Army marched into Czechoslovakia her parents fled to Budapest with Agnes and her brother, three years her senior. But the family was once again in danger when German forces entered Hungary in 1944. On November 6 the SS began to send almost 50 000 Jews on death marches from the capital to the border town of Hegyeshalom (Nickelsdorf). Aged 11, Agnes, arrested directly after lessons at her Jewish school, had to march 200 km in cold and wet weather without sufficient provisions. In an overcrowded livestock car she was sent to Kaufering, a subcamp complex of the Dachau concentration camp. Agnes Sassoon survived another death march, although she was shot by a guard. Severely wounded she was eventually liberated by British troops at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. She returned to Budapest a few months after the end of the war. She attended school in Prague, where she took the decision to immigrate to Israel. While still in Czechoslovakia she worked for the Zionist underground organization Breha, which helped survivors enter Palestine. Since 1957 Agnes Sassoon has lived with her husband and their two sons in London. In 1983 she published her memoir, Agnes, How My Spirit Survived.