Oral History

Ernest Koenig describes conditions in the Drancy camp in France

Ernest was studying in Paris, France, until February 1939, when he returned to Brno, Czechoslovakia. The Germans occupied the latter region soon thereafter, but Ernest managed to return to France. He joined a Czech unit in the French army from October 1939 until the fall of France in May 1940. He made his way to unoccupied France, where he taught for a while. He then went to Grenoble, and again taught, but was arrested because he did not have the appropriate papers. Ernest was interned in Le Vernet camp for two years. He was deported to the Drancy camp, to Upper Silesia in September 1942, and then to Laurahuette (a subcamp of Auschwitz where forced laborers worked in mines and furnaces). He was in Laurahuette until August 1943, when he was sent to the Blechhammer subcamp of Auschwitz. After liberation, Ernest eventually made his way to the United States.


We were put into rooms which were full of rotten straw. It was rotting. It was wet and rotting, and there we were waiting, and, of course, uh, being very much concerned and preoccupied what's going to happen. It was a morbid situation already, you know, under the rotten straw and with children and, uh, old people and the complete, uh, the complete helplessness and the complete lack of, uh, of...we didn't know what's going to happen, to happen to us, but we knew, of course, we are now in the clutches of the German, and at night we heard sometimes shooting from other parts of the camp. We didn't know what it means. I remember I, I went to one of the barbed wires and saw, and tried to see whether I can get...can get out but it was out of question, and then after three or four days there, uh, we were ordered to go down...down...we, we, we were, we were upstairs, I remember. We had to go downstairs, you know, to the, to the platform and on the platform there was already the SS and with, with their customary politeness, shouting and beating and, and, uh, sending us into the...into the railroad cars.




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