Oral History

Ernest Koenig describes forced labor in the Laurahuette subcamp of the Auschwitz camp

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 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.

Transcript

In Laurahuette--whatever the, the Polish name, I don't know--work was very, very, very difficult. I remember we were assigned together--I was assigned--to dis...we were dismantling one of the old blast furnaces, and we were carrying heavy pieces of wood which had been in this blast furnace, furnace, in this, in the instal...the installation of this blast furnace. And, you, know that was so heavy that, uh, perhaps eight men...we had iron, iron sticks or bars, and we had, we, eight men had to carry this. But some of them, were very, of us, were very weak from the beginning, and if one couple--there were perhaps four couples--if one couple releases, or didn't, didn't carry enough, the others couldn't, and the whole thing fell down, and injured people. It was h...and, and when we couldn't, when we couldn't lift it we were beaten. And one of the things from the concentration camps which I have never understood: sometimes people have been beaten with iron bars, and you would think they have been injured, sometimes they were injured, sometimes they were killed, but sometimes, I don't know, it fell in a way where nothing happened. So we were badly beaten, and we were beaten to lift this thing, and we couldn't lift it and people were laying on the floor, uh, and couldn't walk any more. Uh, that was the first month in Laurahuette.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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