Oral History

Steven Springfield describes 1945 death march from Burggraben in the Stutthof camp system

The Germans occupied Riga in 1941, and confined the Jews to a ghetto. In late 1941, at least 25,000 Jews from the ghetto were massacred at the Rumbula forest. Steven and his brother were sent to a small ghetto for able-bodied men. In 1943 Steven was deported to the Kaiserwald camp and sent to a nearby work camp. In 1944 he was transferred to Stutthof and forced to work in a shipbuilding firm. In 1945, Steven and his brother survived a death march and were liberated by Soviet forces.


The order came, we are moving out because the, uh, Russians were obviously coming closer. That was the winter of 1944-45. It was a very very...the climate was very cold. We were driven on foot, through the German countryside. It was cold. It was snow. My brother could hardly walk. I supported him as much as I could. It got so bad that he pleaded with me to let him go. "Don't," he says. "Let me die. I...I cannot, I...I really cannot handle it anymore. I...I want to die. Leave me here." But it was...it was clear that the minute I let him go, he would be shot on the spot, because anybody who couldn't keep up with the march was shot on the spot. You would walk on the road, you could see corpses all over because it was an actual death march. I just couldn't give in. I just couldn't drop my brother. I carried him. I schlepped him. I kept talking to him. I'd say, "We are not too far away from salvation. You can't give up now. You can't give up now!" Anyway, somehow I was able to schlep him to the next camp, which was a place called Gottendorf in eastern Pomerania.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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