Oral History

Siegfried Halbreich describes treatment of prisoners in the Sachsenhausen camp

After Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, Siegfried fled with a friend. They attempted to get papers allowing them to go to France, but were turned over to the Germans. Siegfried was jailed, taken to Berlin, and then transported to the Sachsenhausen camp near Berlin in October 1939. He was among the first Polish Jews imprisoned in Sachsenhausen. Inmates were mistreated and made to carry out forced labor. After two years, Siegfried was deported to the Gross-Rosen concentration camp, where he was forced to work in the stone quarry. In October 1942, Siegfried was deported from Gross-Rosen to the Auschwitz camp in occupied Poland. While there, Siegfried tried to use his experience as a pharmacist to save ill prisoners. As Soviet forces approached the Auschwitz camp in January 1945, Siegfried was forced on a death march from the camp. Those prisoners who could not continue or keep up were killed. Siegfried survived.


In the beginning, they didn't treat us special hard, but since there was no work, they had to do something with us, so right in the morning after we got the coffee--they called it coffee, it was a black hot water--we were taken in front of the barracks, and we had to sit down in a crouching position, and you have to remember it was already winter, November, it was very cold, and we couldn't move. When they noticed that somebody wanted to change the position, from one leg to another one or something, they went in and beat him up, and they were sometimes killing, too. Uh, we were sitting, some people for instance got a hold of a empty cement bag, and they put it under their shirt in, in the back in order to get a little warmer, to protect, be protected by the, uh, from the cold. But when they noticed that, they just killed this person. And naturally by this condi...in this condition, lay...standing there or sitting there in this position from the morning till about noon, our hands, fingers were frozen, the toes, and people died, even froze to death. And the next morning when the SS man came to take the report, he never ask "How many people?" He ask first, "How many death?"


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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