Oral History

Edward Adler recalls forced labor and conditions in the Sachsenhausen camp

Several of the IMT defendants were charged with exploiting concentration camp inmates for forced labor under harsh conditions, like those described here by Holocaust survivor Edward Adler.

Edward was born to a Jewish family in Hamburg. In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws prohibited marriage or sexual relations between German non-Jews and Jews. Edward was then in his mid-twenties. Edward was arrested for dating a non-Jewish woman. Classified as a habitual offender, he was later deported to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, near Berlin. He was forced to perform hard labor in construction projects. Edward had married shortly before his imprisonment, and his wife made arrangements for their emigration from Germany. Edward was released from custody in September 1938 and left Germany. He stayed with relatives in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and later immigrated to the United States.


We worked ten hours a day, if I remember correctly. We slept on straw, on straw bags. It was a, uh, jute sack filled with straw. I guess that's common, uh, you know, under certain circumstances, many people sleep that way, and we worked ten hours a day, on a field that was approximately, I would say, a square kilometer, somewhere around that area. One area of this field was quite high, the other area was quite low. The area had to be leveled, and what was done was they had tracks running from one end to the other. On those tracks were mining cars. Now in this country, a mining car is square. Over there a mining car is a triangular shape. Steel mining cars, and each train had about ten of these mining cars on it. On each one of those mining cars a Storm Trooper was standing with a whip, and we had to run from one end of this field to the other, shovel the mining car full of dirt, and returned it to empty it out on the lower end. If anyone would have told me at that time that I can run 40 kilometers a day, I'd say you're crazy. But I did. Day after day after day.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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