tv Surviving Auschwitz Concentration Camp CSPAN December 30, 2018 6:40pm-8:01pm EST
>> you can watch archival films in their entirety on our weekly series real america. saturday at 10 p.m. and sunday at 4 p.m. eastern. >> next, on american history tv, a holocaust survivor recalls his experiences as a young boy after the nazi's occupied his hometown in czechoslovakia. he talks about his deportation to the auschwitz concentration camp. his friendship with a fellow prisoner, and a last-minute maneuver by a man who spared his life. this event was part of the greensburg immunity high school program in greensburg indiana.
it's about an hour and 15 minutes. >> will come to greensburg community high school goddard auditorium. we are flattered to have everyone here for our annual program. we are excited about this year's guest. i would like to welcome john -- to thehe stage who stage to begin our program today. >> good morning. 2018 aber 19, philadelphia newspaper ran an opinion article entitled why we need holocaust education now more than ever. according to the anti-defamation league, anti-semitic incidents 2016 andly 60% between
2017. the largest single jump the organization has ever recorded. understanding how and why the holocaust occurred helps to demonstrate not only the horrors that humans are capable of in conditions conditions but also the hope that can survive even the most terrifying comments. teaching students about the holocaust shows the dangers and prejudice and how daemon -- howation dehumanization and scapegoating are used to advance the agenda. it's one thing to hear about it in the history books. it's completely another to experience history through the eyes of a survivor and to hear the stories firsthand. nine days after this was written , on the other side of annsylvania in pittsburgh, gunman walked into the tree of
life congregation synagogue and killed 11 people. this was the worst attack on worshipping jewish people in american history. holocaust education is absolutely necessary today. which is why i'm honored to introduce you to frank grunwald, a holocaust survivor here today to share his story with all of you. let's give a nice welcome to mr. frank grunwald. [applause] thank you, john. can you all hear me? you want to thank john and the faculty for arranging this seminar. i think it's a great idea. and i am honored to be here. as you can probably tell, i have done this before so i'm not too
nervous. not too excited. and what i'm going to talk about is my personal experience and my family's experience during world war ii. i was only 9, 10 and 11 and 12 years old when this was going on. so i was just a young kid. much younger than most of you here in the room. i do remember all the important things that happened. i have forgotten some of the details. a couple things i want to mention to you is that the photographs that you're going to see here either readily available over the internet. there are three types of
photographs here. some of them are taken by german military or the german ss and were found shortly after the war. there's another group taken by. american soldiers when they walked into some of these camps and they are available through the internet. this is a third segment that came from my family and they were taken care of by a housekeeper and after the war she gave us the photographs and there are two types of information i'm going to give
you. the second time of information which is also really interesting is is information we found out after the war. so this is information that came from german documents. things that we didn't know about him while we were in the camps. so with that as an introduction, there's only one important thing to mention to you and that is that the story you're going to hear is typical rather than atypical. it's typical. so by that i mean that most jewish families went through this kind of experience. so what is not typical in this story is the fact as a 9, 10 and 1 1-year-old that i survived. because as you may know, most 11 and 12-year-olds did not survive. children were the primary target of the nazi regime so they wanted to dill kiln as many
jewish children as possible. 1.5 million jewish children died during the holocaust. so that's a huge number. just imagine 1.5 million jewish children. if everybody in indianapolis was a child today, i'm talking about greater indianapolis including the suburbs and everybody is a child, everybody in the suburbs is a child, and everybody that's living there right now is killed. so that's the number of jewish children that were killed between 1939 and 1944. so with that as an introduction, here is the town i grew up as a child. the substitute of prague. and it's an old city.
a a lot of beautiful old architecture. and this is a dirt apartment house which locks really dirty and grubby right now in this picture. the reason is because this was taken immediately after the communist regime folded up in the late 1990s. it was not taken care of. this was really a nice, well- well-built apartment building that belongs to my grandparents. and it's now fixed up and painted and looks like a new building. and we were living on the second floor.
you can see that rectangular white window. there was actually my brother and i used that room and the rest of that belonged to my parents, my father and mother were living and my dad was a physician. he was a doctor and he has h his office as part of the apartment as wl. we grew up actually this is sort of embarrassing, but we grew up not even realizing that we were jewish because we were not practicing jews. so we were brought up in a sort of universal religious philosophy of ethics, behavior, how you treat other people, how much you need to respect other people regardless of who they are. it was a very universal dogma that was taught to us by our mother.
so on march 15th, when i was a bt 5 years old when the nazis occupied czechoslovakia it was a surprise. it was also a surprise that we found out that everybody suddenly became very antijewish and we saw signs all over the city, jews not allowed in front of the public library, in front of the cinema, in german and czech where the signs jews not allowed. and we were totally shocked when my brother and i walked one day.
it was march 15th, 1939, we were going out to play in a nearby park and we were shocked to see this german what looked like a foreign. we didn't even know it was german, but it was a foreign piece of millitary equipment. it was a big gun this was set up on the river bank about two blocks from our house. and so we were surprised to see this huge gun in placement and behind was a soldier and we found out it was a german soldier. when we got home that same day, that same afternoon, we found out that we were occupied by germany, by the nazi government of germany. so everything just suddenly started happening. particularly the strong antise anti-semitic movement in newspapers, over the radio and about all the signs that you saw
all over the place, above every store and above every public building. so soon after this, we were forced out of our apartment. i wouldn't say soon. about a yore after this, we were forced out of our apartment and just before then, both my brother and i were kicked out of school. so i was just beginning second grade and my brother was just starting fifth grade. actuallysivity sixth grade. and so. we were both kicked out of public schools because jews weren't allowed to go to public schools. my dad was not allowed to
practice medicine. he had to work in a hospital. he wouldn't work on his own. and our whole life just really began to change dramatically. through all this, my parents never complained, never showed any hay dread or anger towards anybody. the motto around the house was keep your chin up. be positive. be proud of who you are. keep your chin up. you are a good person, so don't worry about a thing. it was a very positive attitude. and when my parents spoke at the dinner table about any political issues and they want theed to say something that was serious or that was happening that was very dangerous they would speak in french. they were smart enough to know that 7-year-olds and
11-year-olds should not necessarily know everything that's going on. that there are things that children should not know. so it was an interesting period. about two years after the occupation began, we were kicked out of the apartment. we had to leave everything behind. all the carpeting, the piano, all the furniture had to be left behind. all we could do is take our personal belongings and we were moved to a smaller apartment that belonged to friends of ours and we were there for about eight or nine months. and then from there, we were told one day and this is now approaching 1942, this is three
years after the occupation, we were told to assemble at the nearby railroad station. and we were transported to a small town, which had a wall around it. this was an old medieval town, many of these in europe have defensive walls around them. so the germans picked this town. it was a town built maybe 350 years ago with this 14-foot defensive wall and they kicked everybody out of the town all the czech people that lived there. maybe 9,000 or 10,000 people. they kicked them out of the town and made it into a jewish ghetto.
and here we had 20,000 or 30,000 jewish families living and the boys were separated from the girls and the women were separated from the men. so my parents were living separately and my brother and i were brought up in this boy's school. this was a little public school that was converted into dormitories. i was with the 10 and 11-year-olds. these classrooms were converted into dormitories and we had had these bunk beds. this is an actual picture taken right after the war of that school. that mostly housed children. my main hobby and my passion was
art. it was something i really enjoyed doing and in the morning we typically had very short lectures on history and maybe a little bit of math and some social studies and all very impromptu, very casually presented. it was not really a school-type education. we didn't have any books. we didn't have much pap tore write on.
we didn't have any lesson plans. it was mostly discussion. most of who were not trained to be instructors or teachers. in the afternoon we had pretty much time to ourselves to do whatever we wanted to do. i would go out and watch some soccer games. so i take a piece of paper and do some sketching and drawing when i was outside. and in the evening, we had a chance to visit with our parents. my dad worked in a clinic. my mother worked in a huge kitchen. almost like a kitchen that cooked for 2,000 or 3,000 people at a time. food was very scarce. we had had mostly soup and maybe a piece of breed.
there was no such thing as dessert or fresh vegetables. it was very sparse and very simple. many people were hungry. it was not a good place to be. it was totally limited. we couldn't go out of the town. there were no stores or shop shoppings shoppingsshops. you couldn't get any fresh fruit or anything like that. it was very, very restrictive and very simple. very simple restrictive type of life. next slide. so something really interesting happened about eight or nine months after we arrived. one of the kids in the classroom came in one day and actually it was a twin. he was one of the twins in my classroom. and he came in very upset and said when i asked him what happened, he said well, my grandmother just took an overdose of sleeping pills and she's in a coma. and when i was probing him to
and when i was probing him to find out what happened, why do you think she did this, why did she take the overdose, he said, well, she apparently was told that she's going to be shipped east, and that she did not want to be shipped anywhere because she's quite old. she's in her 70's or early 80's, and knew she would not be able to survive another transport. so that's when she decided to commit suicide. and it was the first time that i realized that the ghetto was a temporary transition point. that people are being shipped east, and east typically would mean poland. so sure enough, about three or four months later in december of 1943, our family was asked to assemble at the railroad station
and we got on these trains that were designed to carry cattle. these were cattle cars. horses or cattle. they had no seats, they have no toilets, just a wooden floor, no windows to speak of. and we were loaded up on the cattle cars and there was about 2500 of us. and this is december, second week of december of 1943. and we were taken by train, by cattle car train for two days, 2.5 days, with nothing but a pail of water and another pail for human waste. so we had two big buckets in a car. one was for human waste and one was for water.
and we traveled -- no food -- we traveled for 2.5 days and we ended up on this platform that you see here. this platform we arrived in the middle of december, cold, very cold day. actually what you see here is kind of unthreatening, sort of unthreatening, but we arrived around 11:30 or 12:00 at night. so everything was dark. and there were very, very frightening crisp night full of shouting german in german. get out. get out. get out of the car. we had to leave our luggage on a big pile right on this platform. and we were transported by trucks into the main camp, which was obviously a huge prison camp. and again, i need to stop now and explain to you what was
happening here. so, this was a stroke of luck. absolute stroke of luck. we arrived just about at the time when just a few weeks before apparently, maybe a couple months before, two or three months before, the germans were told that there is a possibility that the international red cross is going to inspect some of these concentration camps. and they did inspect the ghetto where we came from. so in a state of panic, the nazi regime set up a new type of a camp. it was called the czech family camp, because most of us are from czechoslovakia, and historically, if this would have been eight months before, or a
year before, we, most of us, the children, the grandparents, and the elderly, would have gone from that platform, from this platform, directly into the gas chamber. so we would have been killed instantly upon arrival. but because the germans were concerned about the international red cross coming in -- and by the way, we found this out after the war. this is nothing, we didn't know this when this was happening. so because they set up this czech family camp to be able to show the international red cross that jus are being treated well, that they are alive, that there are whole families that are being kept together, they set this up. so this is why we did not go into the gas chamber from the platform, but we went directly into the czech family camp. now, in this czech family camp, there was already about 5000 people there that arrived in september, that previous september.
that's when the camp was set up. so, four months before we got there. and then there was another 5000, two transports of 2500, which was our transport, our december transport. so, now there is a group of roughly 10,000 people, 5000 and 5000, in the czech family camp. can we have the next slide? so, here is what we saw as we were approaching the actual camp. literally hundreds and hundreds of yards of barbed wire full of electricity. you couldn't even get close to this wire because it was heavily high voltage electrified barbed wire. so, with very strong high intensity flood lights,. and what this doesn't show, is that at each main corner, where this barbed wire makes a turn, there is a machine gun post.
so there is a tower, there is about a 15 or 20-foot tower on each corner, with a guard, with a machine gun. so this is a high security prison, and when we arrived, about a day or so after we arrived, we found out that we were in auschwitz. now auschwitz, these are numbers that i found out after the war, in auschwitz were several gas chambers, where the nazis were killing people by the thousands in the gas chambers. and there was a total number of people, the estimates are that there was a total number of people, roughly 1.2 million, million and 1.4 million people killed in the auschwitz berkanaw complex. next slide. you can see american air force photo, which shows just one part
of the auschwitz-birkenau complex, and every one of those little lines that you see, little black lines is a barack. this is where people lived. so you have literally hundreds of barracks. and this goes on and on this. doesn't show the whole camp. and what is interesting about this photo, it is kind of a good orientation for you, is that every two, every two lines of barracks, so every two rows of barracks, typically was one camp. so imagine that there is a barbed wire between every two of those lines of barracks, and that's what our camp looks like, looked like, that's what the family, czech family camp looked like. we had perhaps 24 or 26 barracks, and they were
separated, we were separated, female, male, so it was a female section, and a male section. and upon arrival, we were immediately separated from the women. so my brother, my father, and me, we were in one male barack, and then my mother ended up in a female section of of the barracks, of the camp. on the second day, we were taken into the showers, we were shaved, we were given very short haircuts, we were tattooed, everybody got a number on their left arm, my number was 169,057. so you can just tell by the number, basically, how many people were in that camp. i was number 169,000.
we were given some very simple cotton uniforms. and we went back into our barack, we were put on through a terrifically scarce food diet. we were hungry from the get-go. we were given typically two pieces of bread a day and maybe two bowls of soup. there was no meat. very few potatoes. no dessert. very little bread. and we were starving right from the first day on. it was a diet of maybe 800, 700, 800 calories a day, which was almost impossible to live on. so, everybody was pretty hungry. and i think the only thing that really saved us was the fact that my brother and i were still relatively young and we did not
require the amount of food that obviously a grownup would require, and the other thing that helped us was that we were not physically very active. we were pretty much hanging around the barack, and we did not have to go to work, so we were not physically strained in any way. something really interesting happened on about the second day. i decided that i was going to go and visit my mother. and i walked over into the female section of the camp, and found her, and spent maybe an hour, or an hour and a half talking to her, and after i -- as i was leaving her barack, i noticed that there were two little rooms at the end of the barack, and it was typical of every barack, there were two little rooms as you exit the
barack, and they were typically i think designed for note taking, having someone there that can take track, can track the number of prisoners that are there in the barack, can track how many people are sick or how many people have died, or how many people have gone to, for work duty and how many people returned and so forth. so record keeping was all the reasons. but as i looked into one of the rooms, as i was walking out, there was a glass window in the door, and as i looked through this glass window, i noticed a young woman, very attractive young woman, maybe 21, 22 years old, painting, it looked like she had an easel and she was painting a picture. and this really got my
attention, because of course i was interested in art and i was interested in sketching and drawing, and it really caught my eye, and i was looking at her to try to figure out what is this prisoner doing here, with an easel, and a bunch of water colors, painting a picture. and she saw me looking at her through the window, and she nudged me with her hands to come in. and i went in and introduced myself, and she told me that her name was dina, and that she was an artist, and that she came from, just like we did, but she came in the september transport, she came with a double transport, 2500 people in each transport, in september, so 5000 people. and i found out later on that she studied, she was an artist and she studied art in prague,
and i also found out that when the s.s. noticed that she was an artist, found out that she was an artist, they hired her, they assigned her to paint portraits of some of the gypsies that were in the next camp. if you, you may not be aware of this, but gypsies were kind of nomadic group of people that traveled around europe and they did not fit the nazi concept of who people should be, what they should look like, and basically, they didn't fit the nazi concept of what the right person should look like, and what the right person should be, and they basically wanted to eliminate or kill all the gypsies in europe.
and they did a pretty good job in accomplishing that. may we have the next slide? so, here is the inside of the barack. next slide. this is a picture taken by the russians, right towards the end of the war, when the russians walked into auschwitz. this is what typically what some of the kids looked like. next slide. so, here is one of the key doctors in auschwitz that found out -- someone told him, one of the s.s. officers told him, that he found an artist, and her name was dina, and as soon as dr. manageelin who you are looking at here, who is one of the key doctors in auschwitz, found out that dina could paint and paint
pretty realistically when she wanted to, he assigned her to paint portraits of some of these gypsy women and men that he was going to kill. and so dina, when i walked into her little room, that's what she was doing, she was painting the pictures, the portraits of the, of some of the gypsy women. next slide. so here is one of the portraits that she was painting when i met her. and she did a total of maybe 12 or 14 portraits. both men and women. and she -- you have to understand that this was before color photography and this is when mangelain wanted her to be very realistic, very true in terms of color and detail, because he didn't trust the technology, the color photography technology at that time.
so dina was very important to the s.s. at this point. and i visited dina almost every day. whenever i visited my mother, i would go and say hello to dina and she was always painting. and one day, dina, about fourth or fifth day, dina said to me, that she would like to introduce me to her boyfriend, whose name was willie, willie bruckman. willie bruckman was a german prisoner who befriended dina, she befriended him, they became good friends, and willie bruckman was very important in the czech family camp. willie bruckman was the head, was the overseer of the czech family camp. he was german, he was not jewish, and this way, the s.s. could deal directly with him, rather than deal with some of the jewish people in the camp. so he basically was the big kid on the block. he was the big guy on the block.
and he was in charge of all of the jewish prisoners in our camp. and when i met willie bruckman, he asked me, in german, if i was interested in being his messenger, being his sidekick, so to speak, and running messages to the s.s. and so forth, and taking care of his clothes, and cleaning his shoes and all this kind of stuff, and i said yes. of course, obviously, this put me into a very secure position in the camp, being under the umbrella of willie bruckman. so i worked for willie for several months. and i was able to get better food and better clothing, and i could share some of the food with my brother and my father and mother. so i was in a good, secure position because i was working for willie bruckman. well, shortly after we got
there, i must tell you, and i didn't mention this, to this point, at this point, but shortly after we got there, i would say within two weeks after we got there, i realized, me, as a child, 12 years old, i realized that this was an extermination camp. we had, there were four crematoriums with huge chimneys, puffing huge amount of smoke, heavy smoke every day, all day. 24 hours a day. and there were, i knew, i knew that there were people arriving at the platform every day, and disappearing, and i knew that this was an extermination camp. i could smell the burning of the human bodies. i could, there was, there was ash all around us. if the wind was blowing in the right direction, from the crematorium towards the czech
family camp, we were literally covered in ash. we were covered in human ash. so i knew, and this is a 12-year-old now, i knew that this was an extermination camp. i knew that people were being killed every day. and sure enough, i found out, the numbers were horrendous, that i found out after the war, of between 5000 and 6000 people killed every day, was just tremendous. just imagine killing 5000 people a day, 50,000 people in 10 days, 100,000 people in 20 days, just unbelievable automation of human murder. so, this went on and on and on, and the whole mood of this camp was very threatening, and very ugly, in every possible way. and what happened after about five or six months, after the
international red cross visited some of the camps, particularly ours, they apparently told the s.s., the germans, that they planned no further inspections of any of the camps. this is information that we got after the war. so what happened in april of 1944 is that the s.s. decided to terminate, evacuate or kill everybody in the czech family camp. so the first people that were killed were the people that came in september, the 5000 people that came in september, and they were killed in april of 1944. so suddenly, our camp was half
empty, because the s.s. killed almost -- almost, with the exception of dina and a few other people, they killed almost everybody that came with dina in september. in july of 1944, roughly four months later, the s.s. decided to evacuate, terminate the camp completely. and now, there's another 5000, almost 5000 people left. us, that came in december. and we went through a medical inspection in front of dr. mangelin and a couple of other s.s. people, and everybody had to go through this, what was called a selection. and selection basically meant that you either are going to live or you are going to die/ . you are either going to go be picked to be a laborer, and two to work, or you're going to go into the gas chamber. so we went through this selection, and i, again, as a 12-year-old, did not realize at that point that this was a death, life and death scenario. i thought that we were just going to go through a medical
inspection, and maybe the people that were healthy were going to go in one direction, and maybe the sick would end up, going to end up in a clinic or whatever, but i wasn't absolutely sure that this was a life and death scenario. so i, i was standing in line with maybe 150 or 200 children. my brother was right next to me. and my brother was limping. my brother had a problem with one of his legs, and he was limping. and as soon as mangelis saw that my brother had a limp, he directed them to the left, with a group of kids on the left side of the table. this was outside, this was july 6, 1944, we were outdoors. and as soon as he saw me, and i'm 12 years old at this point, he points me to the left as well. old, nine years old, five years
-- so now, i'm in a group of children that are eight years old, nine years old, five years old, 14 years old, whatever, sick, or little, small, and i'm standing there, and not quite still understanding the geometry of who is where and why. and suddenly, out of nowhere comes willie bruckman, the fellow that i worked for, as an assistant, or as a runner, as a gopher, as a messenger, and he comes from nowhere, and this is only maybe 30 feet, 40 feet from mangelin and a group of s.s. people, and willie comes to me very quickly, and he grabs me by my left shoulder and he shoves me into a group of older children that were on my right, they were about 20 feet to my right. about 80 boys, 14 and 15 years old. and willie shoves me into this group and disappears.
it was then that i first realized that willie bruckman just saved my life and that my brother is in real trouble. that everybody on the left will probably be killed, and everybody on the right is going to survive. so all of this was happening very fast and very, in a very confusing way, and i was able to say goodbye to my mother, who by the way decided to stay with my brother. she knew that he was doomed. and she did not want him to go into the gas chamber by himself. so she decided to go with him, to stay with him, which i didn't know, i had no idea. this is -- i found this out after the war, that she elected to stay with him, because she did not want to desert him. i said goodbye to my father, who i thought was also safe, because he was a physician, and i knew that the s.s. needed physicians to take care of some of the
prisoners. and we were now, we, meaning the, about 85 or 86 boys, and myself, we were taken to another camp, not too far from what used to be the czech family camp, we were taken into a men's camp, and my father was transferred into a medical camp, which was not too far away. can we have the next slide? here is a picture of some of the children, jewish children, that were experimented on. many of these are twins. and these were very ugly, very dangerous experiments that the s.s. was doing, on jewish children, medical experiments, and most of these were headed by dr. mangelin. next slide. when my mother realized that she and perhaps a couple of thousand other prisoners, including my
brother, her son, were going to be killed, she wrote a letter, a little note, to my father, who was already in the medical camp, and she wrote a very, very nice, very passionate note, that was without any anger, without any hatred. she basically said, my dearest, don't blame yourself for what happened, this was our destiny, have a good life, and she's giving him all kinds of advice about living well, and taking care of me really well, and the whole note is very positive, and very, very unthreatening, in any way. and she gave this note to one of the guards, and on the cover of the note, she wrote, dr.
grunwald, the medical camp, f lagger, and the guard took the note, and the next day, gave it to my dad. my dad had this note till his death in 1967. i basically got a hold of the note later and kept it in my house for years. and i finally, about three years ago, gave it to the national holocaust museum in washington, d.c. so if you ever go there, it is on exhibit. it's one of the few artifacts that represents the mental attitude of a prisoner just before they were killed. so my mother and my brother were killed the next day. either the same day ort next day after she wrote this note on july 11, 1944. to go on with the story, is that i stayed in auschwitz until january of 1945.
my father left auschwitz in october of 1944, and i saw him leave the camp, and i was trying to give him some, throw some clothing over the fence, as he was leaving, in a large group of prisoners. and i threw an overcoat over the fence, over the wired fence. i threw, i had a pair of boots that i wanted him to have, and i threw those boots over the electric wire. a lot of the boots got stuck on top of the wire. but any way, he got the overcoat, and he disappeared in the distance, in a group of maybe 2000 or 3000 prisoners. he was shipped to germany. he survived two or three other camps. and he was liberated by the american army in may of 1945. can we have the next slide? this is, this is a camp, one of the camp commanders of
auschwitz. his name is rudolph hess. he was caught after the war and put in a very good testimony about what happened in auschwitz. he was very, very truthful in what he confessed. and some of the numbers, some of the accurate numbers, gas chamber numbers, the record numbers that he quoted were 5000 people were killed every day in the gas chamber, and that was a record, but actually the number was higher, because they were burning people outside, so the people they couldn't burn in the crematorium they had to burn outside. can we have the next slide? so here you can see an s.s. photo where the prisoners had to dig these huge ditches outside, and they would put the corpses in the ditches and they would
pour gasoline, and they would burn the bodies in the ditches. so basically, what happened here was that if they were killing, say, seven or 8000 people a day in the gas chamber, they couldn't burn them in the crematory, because the crematory could only burn so many people, they would burn them outside. that's why the numbers are much higher, or can be much higher than just 5000 a day. can we have the next slide, please? so, we worked, when i was transported to the, or walked to the next camp, the men's camp, about 15 of the boys and myself had to work and push a cart. and these warehouses that were filled with clothing. this is all prisoner clothing, these people all came from some other parts of europe, they
had to undress, he had to go through the showers, go into the gas chamber, and then they left all of this clothing behind that had to be cleaned, they had to be transported, and most of this clothing ended up in germany and was given to the german population. so we had to transport this clothing from warehouse to warehouse and make all kinds of trips with this loaded cart, this wooden cart. next slide. in january of 1945, there was a great attempt by the s.s. to liquidate and evacuate auschwitz. because the russians were coming. the russian army was maybe only 100 miles, 150 miles away. and they were trying to get all of the prisoners, as many prisoners out of auschwitz as possible, before the russians came in. so we left auschwitz, i left auschwitz on a death march, in like the second week of 1945,
january of 1945. i almost died on the death march, because the death march was literally a killer march. we walked for 2.5 days without food and water to the nearest railroad station. and i, on the second day, i started hallucinating, i couldn't walk anymore, i was seeing things that were not real, and i was walking with two dentists, two polish dentists that sort of put me, took me under their wing, and i was walking in the snow and all i saw was a bunch of dead bodies in the ditch. so every time someone could not walk anymore, the germans would shoot him and throw him in the ditch. i told these two guy, i cannot walk anymore, i'm too tired, i'm too weak, and basically, what
they did, they forced me to walk, they said no, you got to walk, they grabbed me by my shoulders and by my arms and forced me to walk and i did make, make it through the death march. we did get on a train, we travelled for two days in an open train, these were open coal car trains, and we ended up at this concentration camp here in austria, after two days. and next slide. this was a large camp called matthousen. matthousen was a very serious, very huge, one of the first pick austrian camps in austria. and matthousen was not a jewish camp, it was an international camp. french prisoner, belgium prisoner, polish, russian, american prisoners, american army prisoners, it was a huge camp. very dangerous camp. tremendous amount of disease and hunger. next slide.
one of the famous quarries, stone quarries, was in matthousen, many of the prisoners had to work in the quarry and died while working in the quarry cutting stone and carrying the stone. next slide. here is a picture taken by the americans when they liberated matthousen, in may of 1945. you can see what everybody looked like in matthousen. it was just a bunch of skeletons walking around, sometimes not even walking. next slide. here is a 14-year-old boy, just liberated by the american army in matthousen. we were literally skin and bone because of hunger. we had, we had virtually no food at all. we had, we were living on 500 or 600 calories a day. next slide. so, matthousen did not have a large enough gas chamber or
large enough crematorium, so in matthousen they would throw the bodies into a big pit, and then burn them. next slide. here is the commandante of matthousen, he was caught after the war and executed by the americans. next slide. so from matthousen, we were moved to, after a week or two, we were moved to another camp, which was called melk, and i don't know, i don't know if melk is on this map, but from melk, after being in melk for about three months, we went back to matthousen, you can see matthousen on the upper right part of the map, and then around the first or second of may, of 1945, we did another death march
all the way from mauthausen down to the left here, where you see the name wells, right below wells is a little town called gunscherskin, to the left of wells, and we were basically, we walked for two days, again, another death march, a lot of people dying on the way. we ended up in gunscherskin, which i refer to as a human dump. literally, we were dumped into these woods, and the camp was nothing but a bunch of trees, surrounded by barbed wire. and there was no running water. there was no food. there was virtually no food. no running water. no toilets. and so we were in the woods. and we got, first day, we got a bowl of soup and a piece of bread. on the second day, we got a bowl of soup and a piece of bread. so now we are looking forward to at least another bowl of soup and a piece of bread. this is the third day.
and the third day, we get nothing. and the fourth day, we get nothing. this is now may 3, 1945. and we are sleeping out in the woods. and there is basically nothing but dead bodies all around us. and we are just trying to survive, and we have no food, no water, the third day, and the fourth day. the fifth day, i wake up outside to machine gun fire. i hear around 5:30, 6:00 in the morning, i hear this machine gun fire, and small arms fire. and i thought right away, they must be shooting the prisoners. this must be, this is what it is. of course, i had no idea where the american army was at this point. and so, i'm thinking they must be shooting the prisoners. and about half an hour later, i noticed that there are three or four guards, military guards,
these are not s.s. people, these are just military guards, standing in a huddle, and holding a white sheet. and i'm sort of half awake, half asleep, i'm terribly weak, not having any water or food for two or three days, and i'm looking at these guards, and they're holding this white sheet, and i'm realizing that these people are really in trouble. they are giving up. and within about two or three minutes after that, i saw the first american g.i. walk into the camp. so i realized then that, for me, at least, the war was over. we were taken to the nearest town, by truck. the americans took us through, to the town of hershing, which was a little town, outside the
town of wels, maybe about 10 miles from this camp. and we were put up in a school. so there was about 20 or 30 kids, young boys, that were put up in this school, and we had no way of getting home. we were given food. we were given clothing. we were able to take showers. and basically we are recovering in this little town of hershing. three of the boys decided that they will jump a train, and try to go to prague by train. we were not sure that they were going to make it. but they did. they made it to prague. and two of them ended up in a hospital in prague. when my father got to prague from germany, about two weeks earlier, he found out that there were two kids in the hospital that just came from austria, so he drove to the hospital, he interrogated those two boys, and they were the two boys that
jumped the train. they told him where i was, that i was in hershing, and this little public school near the hershing airport, and he drove to hershing and that's where we got, that's where i got reunited with my dad. we returned back to prague. we eventually got back to our apartment in prague, and my dad practiced medicine for three or four years. i went back to high school, to junior high. and basically, we tried to restart our lives. and then after the communists took over the country in 1948, my dad, who remarried by that time, decided to escape from the communist czechoslovakia and we escaped to austria, and then from austria, we got papers to immigrate to england, so we ended up in england in 1949, and from england, we eventually came
to this country in 1951. next slide. so, here is a picture of the small camp, the human dump that i referred to, which was the last camp that i was in. and this is what the american soldiers saw when they walked in. a bunch of bodies. you don't quite know who is alive and who is dead. most of these people are dead. next slide. this is, after the war, this is dina, the artist that introduced me to willie bruckman, who saved my life. dina, this was taken, this is dina and her mother after the war. this was taken in france, and she eventually immigrated to the united states and worked for disney, as an illustrator, and she passed away about 10 years ago, eight or nine years ago, in san francisco.
next slide. this is my brother and i. i'm about five years old in this picture. my brother is about nine. next slide. my mother and i, again, i'm about five in this picture. next slide. my father. the doctor. next slide. this is me after the war, about three months after the war. and basically, that completes my story. so, i don't know if you have any questions, but this is basically the end of my presentation. thank you. [applause] >> we have about 10 minutes, so i think we've got some questions. >> first of all, i would like to
take the time to thank you mr. grunwald for being with us here today. i'm bryce mccolla, a senior here at greensburg high school. not only did you lose your mom, but you also lost your brother. in the letter, it says time heals. i have heard this a lot. with your experience, do you feel that this is true? mr. gunwald: could you repeat that? >> not only did you lose your mom, but you also lost your brother. mr. gunwald: yes. >> in the letter, it says time heals. i have heard this a lot. with your experience, do you feel that this statement is true? that time heals? mr. gunwald: that it is true? >> yes, do you feel that that is true? >> that time heals all wounds. mr. gunwald: that time, ok, i'm sorry, i didn't hear, ok. no, it doesn't heal. well, it's true, it is partially true. it doesn't heal -- it's a
difficult question. it's partially true. it doesn't heal everything. there is an interesting mental scenario that i go through every day, almost every day, that is that the flashback, what i call the flashbacks, where i will see a mother with two children, and i immediately recognize the fact that gee, how lucky these kids are, these 15 or 16-year-old boys are, and girls, to have their mother, who i lost when i was 12. so there is, there are these flashbacks that, oh, i see somebody, at a soccer game, with a, covered by an army blanket because it is a cold day and they are watching a soccer
match, and i immediately flashback to the one army blanket that i had in auschwitz, that i was covering myself with, and the one army blanket that my father had, and i was tucking him in, because i wanted to make sure that there was no air coming through anywhere, because we were so cold in auschwitz. so or i may see somebody eating a black piece of pumpernickel bread, and that's the same kind of bread that we were given in in mauthausen, so it right away, it flashes back to mauthausen or to auschwitz, so these flashbacks are prevalent, and they come back almost every day. and sometimes, five times a day, sometimes 10 times a day, so it is very difficult to forget what we went through, or what other people went through it.
it's a great question, by the way. great question. >> is it working? >> i'm molly and i'm a senior here and my question is, how do you feel this letter impacts those who are learning about the holocaust today? mr. gunwald: >> the letter? >> yeah. mr. gunwald: it is relevant. it is relevant. but the letter, you know, the letter doesn't really, my mother's letter doesn't really directly attack or blame or is not a direct reference to the holocaust. it's more of a, i think it is more of a reference to the strength, the inner strength that the individuals need to have in order to overcome
punishment and abuse and unfairness. so it's, it really doesn't attack the holocaust, it really talks to human attitude, and strength, more than the holocaust itself. which i think is the good part of the letter, the great part of the letter. >> i agree. thank you. mr. gunwald: thanks. >> hi. my name is brady. my question to you is, what kind of inspiration did the letter give you? mr. gunwald: oh, well, you know, i almost feel, it's very intimidating almost, because i almost feel that i do not have the right to complain about anything. so, it's putting a very high
standard of behavior on me. so if i, if i feel, you know, if i feel pain, or if i feel physical pain, or if i am annoyed at something that i know is not right, i really don't have the right to complain about it, because people have gone through such horrendous suffering, including death, you know, at the age of 39, she was 39 years old when she went into the gas chamber. so that's putting a very high standard of behavior on me, which is, you know, which is challenging for me, very often, because, you know, sometimes complaining is, you know, sometimes you're blowing off steam by complaining about something, you know, because you're frustrated, so you are going to complain, it's the only thing you can do, really, very often.
so it is, it is very challenging, it is very challenging for me to abide by those standards that she had. it's tough. >> thank you. mr. gunwald: thanks. >> hi. my name is ian and my question for you is, was it more difficult to survive the holocaust with everything going on, or dealing with the loss of your mother and sibling? mr. gunwald: oh, i didn't get it, i'm sorry. >> i'm good. [laughter] >> was it more difficult to survive the holocaust, or the death of your family members? mr. gunwald: by far, the difficulty came from the deaths of my family members. by far. because, you know, in terms of the survival, i didn't have any choice. i had to go on. so i tried to go on.
and you know, i was lucky, because in a lot of instances, it was other people that helped me, like, you know, willie bruckman, who shoved me into the group of older kids, or like the two dentists that forced me to walk when i couldn't walk anymore. so in many cases, it was other people that were kind of supporting me and helping me, but the death of my brother and mother, i think, were the toughest. and to be a witness of the deaths of the other people, many of whom i knew. i knew several other people in mauthausen that died right in front of my eyes. and i knew some of the people that were lying in the ditch, when we walked from auschwitz to the railroad station, the polish railroad station, i recognized some of the polish people that i
knew that were shot, and that were in the snow in the ditch. so that was very painful to see the dead people, also. >> thank you. >> hi. my name is arlene. what is the most important thing that your mother taught you? mr. gunwald: respect for other people. no question about it. the immediate thing that comes to my mind is a total, total reverence and respect for other people, regardless of who they are. total respect. she never differentiated anyone on the basis of their income, or their profession, or their color, or their religion. there was no differentiation whatsoever. she judged them on who they were, how good they were, as people. so that stayed with me all these
years. >> thank you. mr. gunwald: it's a great question. thank you. >> hello. my name is kaitlyn walter and the question that i have for you is did you stay in touch with anybody after you left the camps? if so, then who are they? >> did you stay in touch with anyone who you were in the camps with? mr. gunwald: yes. you know those 86 or 88 boys, the older boys that i ended up with, i was one of the youngest, there was someone who took names and put the group together, and some of them ended up in south america, some of them ended up in canada, some of them stayed in czechoslovakia, and we had a list of almost everyone that we, that survived. and i would say maybe half of them survived. so we had a list of maybe 40, or 42, and some are still alive.
there are a couple that are, one were them is in canada, one is in boston, massachusetts, and i'm still in touch with them. >> thank you. >> hi there, mr. grunwald. my name is brian. i was wondering, what is the most vivid memory you have from the holocaust? >> the most vivid memory of the holocaust. mr. gunwald: vivid? it is multiple. it's multiple. it's the suffering of the people. it's people that were dying in front of my eyes. people that i knew. people that had typhus, which was a disease that was spread by lice. people that i was bringing water to, because they were getting dehydrated, and i would -- dr. coleman, who was a good friend
of mine, a police doctor in mauthausen, i was bringing him water because he was asking me for water and i would bring him a glass of water or a cup of water and then i would come back two hours later to check on him, and he was gone, he was dead. so, all these fragments of memories of people that either suffered or died, always come back to me, and whether it was on a death march, or whether it was in mauthausen, or whether it was in melk. i have some positive memories also. when we had a fighter plane in the melk concentration camp, we suddenly saw an american fighter plane coming down on one of those guard towers, and machine gunning the guard that was in the guard tower. and so, you know, there are different types of memories.
but most of them are from suffering, observing how people suffered. >> thank you. >> one more. >> hi. my name is keira, and my question is, what do you consider the biggest obstacle that you had to overcome? >> biggest obstacle you had to overcome. mr. gunwald: hmm. ok, so, obstacle. that's a tough one. ok, so, one of the big obstacles was going back to junior high. so after not having, not going through second grade, third grade, fourth grade, and fifth grade, so basically, going from first grade, and skipping all of that, and then going back to junior high, that was a tough one for me. it was not only tough from an intellectual scholastic
standpoint, it was tough because i had trouble concentrating on some of the work, because my mind was still back in the camps. so, it was a double whammy. it was difficult from both sides, both ends. it was a big, that was a big obstacle. and then, you know, getting back into my normal rhythm of life, after being away for four years, that was a tough one. >> thank you. mr. gunwald: thanks. >> ladies and gentlemen, how about a great big round of applause for frank grunwald? [applause] mr. gunwald: thank you. thank you very much. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] announcer: 1968.
america in turmoil. this weekend american history key they will re-air our nine week series looking back 50 years starting sunday at 9:00 p.m. eastern. revisiting the vietnam war, race relations, women's rights, and a fractious american election, only on american history tv. new jersey sends four new members to the house for the 116th congress, all of them seats previously held by republicans. mikey cheryl will represent new jersey's 11th district. she discussed her experience in the military and as a front row prosecutor during one of the debates. service to this country when i was 18 years old and joined the naval academy. i joined -- i spent 10 years as a helicopter pilot. i served again in new jersey at the u.s. attorney's office.
after a lifetime of service i decided the best way i can continue my service to my country and to new jersey was to run for congress. because i am not just concerned about what is happening now. i am concerned about the future of new jersey because i have four kids. i think we need to work in a bipartisan manner to get good legislation passed in congress. a tax plan that does not attack new jersey. quality affordable health care for everyone in the country. working hard to bring down costs of health care. so wetructure spending can grow our economy now and well into the future. i have always put this country first. i have worked with people from across the country and the world to get the mission accomplished. by theer: she is joined representative from new jersey's second district. after elected in 2007 previous terms in the general assembly on the county board, and as a mayor. he is a dentist by profession. andy kim will represent new
jersey's third district. he served on the national security council staff during the obama administration. he had previously been a civilian advisor to generals in afghanistan. m. was elected to the seventh district. he is also a veteran of the obama administration having served as assistant secretary of state for human rights and labor through most of his second term. new congress, in 1979, c-span was created telecomvice of the industry. publicinue to bring you policy events in washington dc and around the country.
c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. next, on the presidency, a discussion of eleanor roosevelt advice column written for more than 20 years for ladies' home journal and mccall's magazine. the franklin d roosevelt presidential library and museum posted this one hour event. paul: hello, good afternoon everyone. welcome to the wallace center. happy birthday, eleanor roosevelt. [applause] one of the things we are so lucky as to have eleanor's papers here along with franklin roosevelt and his administration.
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