Oral History

Leo Kutner describes forced labor in Stutthof

Leo was arrested on the first day of the war, and assigned to forced labor in a shipyard, then on a farm. In 1940, like other Jews, he was deported to Stutthof. There, he upholstered furniture for the SS. The following year, he was sent to Auschwitz, where he cleaned the streets and dug ditches. As the Allies neared, Leo was evacuated to a series of camps. On a death march from Flossenbürg, the Nazis dispersed, allowing Leo and other prisoners to get away. He was liberated by US forces in April 1945.


Picture a oblong box. On each side of this box there's a board nailed on, so that you have a grip. And one person grips it in the front, the other one grips it in the back. It's called a Trage [handbarrow]. And we filled it up with snow and carried it to the other side of the camp and dumped the snow. When we're there, on the other side of the camp, we would fill up the snow again and carry it to this side and dump it. Just to keep us busy. And there were very, very harsh conditions. SS was standing all around the camp. And they would, uh, not only beat you and abuse you, but if they felt like it, you--they would grab--you had some kind of a...of a head covering, because you could not go in the winter there without a hat or a cap or some kind of a...even a piece of rag to cover--they would grab your head covering and throw it and say, "Mach schnell [Fast!]--hurry up, take, get...get your cap." And as you went to get your cap they would shoot you. And then they would write down on the report, "Shot while trying to escape."


  • Jewish Community Federation of Richmond
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