Oral History

William (Bill) Lowenberg describes forced labor in the Kaufering subcamp of the Dachau concentration camp

As a boy, Bill attended school in Burgsteinfurt, a German town near the Dutch border. After the Nazis came to power in Germany in January 1933, Bill experienced increasing antisemitism and was once attacked on his way to Hebrew school by a boy who threw a knife at him. In 1936, he and his family left Germany for the Netherlands, where they had relatives and thought they would be safe. However, after Germany invaded the Netherlands in May 1940, antisemitic legislation--including the order to wear the Jewish badge--was instituted. Bill, his sister, and his parents were deported to the Westerbork transit camp in the Netherlands. In August 1943, Bill was deported from Westerbork to the Auschwitz camp in German-occupied Poland. He was transported from Auschwitz to Warsaw in late 1943, following the German suppression of the Warsaw ghetto uprising. Bill and other prisoners were forced to demolish the remnants of the ghetto. As Soviet forces advanced, Bill was placed on a death march and then transported by train to the Dachau camp in Germany. He was liberated by US forces at the end of April 1945.


At the end of '44, beginning of '45, I know it was in the winter, it was very cold, I remember. And I remember it was, uh, they didn't burn the bodies, we had to bury those bodies in, uh, in mass graves. And we had those carts--you've seen them in so many pictures--those carts and were stacked with bodies. And I remember we had to go, about over a mile, a mile, maybe a little longer, and it was mountainous terrain rather than flat. And the prisoners, I mean our people, they were so, uh, in such terrible shape, very thin, and, uh, could hardly walk. And they were, we had to do this work, and I was one of them. And, uh, they started beating because we didn't go fast enough. This was not unusual, it was a daily event. And, uh, I said something to the guy when he was beating up some of the boys who were just too weak, and then he hit on me. You know, we were at that, at that point very desperate. We knew it, it was only a matter of...that we would never get out alive, they told us that even. They said, "We leave you alive you're gonna kill us, so we may as well kill you all." They used to say things like that, which was obvious. And, uh, we were very desperate in the early part of '45, very little food. The Germans, uh, were gonna kill as many as they could. And, uh, they were also anxious because their war machine was running out, so they made us work harder to do those, uh, those factories, they still wanted to complete it. And I'm sure they were under, in retrospect, I can think they were under enormous pressure from the contractors whom they, whom we worked for, that they wanted to get as much labor out of us as possible. And, uh, it was tough; a lot of people got killed.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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