After four years I’m finally coming back to this memoir. I’d like to finish it while memories are still floating in my mind. At times I’m overwhelmed by panic that there isn’t much time left. I’m 84.
I’m glad that Dad’s whole story in captivity is told in a short biography for Hadouch’s Lamsdorf-Lambinowice museum in Poland. In this new post I’ve added a few details
You can read Part 7 here.
Hammersdorf – Punishment
Dad continues his story:
‘The Russian camp at Hammersford, south of Sagan, was like a death camp… There were about one thousand Russians in the camp. Fifty were admitted to the hospital every day, and fifty died every day. The Germans knew about this. So every day they came with two big wagons, loaded them with the corpses, throwing them onto the wagon like logs of wood. Then they took the corpses to the cemetery of the camp to be buried. The Russians told me there were gallows at the cemetery, ready for quick executions. The Germans treated the Russians very badly. But a German doctor told me that they do look after them, that they give them vitamins. And I asked him: “What do you give them?” “Well, every day we give them 5 grams of cottage cheese,” he replied. He was quite serious… My food was better, so I shared it with the poor wretches.’
‘The Nazis were very anti-Slavic,’ I remarked. ‘The Slavic race was considered subhuman. And the Russians, particularly, were also hated for their Bolshevism.’
‘Yes. But these prisoners were not all Bolsheviks. They were called up like the rest of the men in this war. I’ll tell you something I found quite disturbing. Among the sick Russians, the most unfortunate ones were those in the diarrhea barracks. They were the first to die. Dysentery finished them off in two to three weeks. One of them, a former speaker on Radio Moscow, was aware of the terrible state he and his mates were in, yet he was more afraid of what would happen to him on his return to Russia. A lot of them feared the NKVD, the Soviet Secret Police.’
‘I read somewhere that Stalin did not respect soldiers who let themselves be captured. As if they had a choice,’ I added.
‘Yes, you’re right,’ Dad said.
‘Well, as soon as I arrived, the head cook, a sergeant, paid me a visit. He used to do business in Yugoslavia before the war. He was very kind to me. For lunch I would get a litre of soup with plenty of meat. I would invite a Russian engineer to lunch. For the six months of my stay at this hospital I shared my food with him and two other Russians.
Close to the camp was an abattoir and a bakery where the Russians worked. Every day they brought me fresh bread and meat. They would cut up the meat into thin strips and hid their gift under their shirts. I always gave the lot to the Russian cooks, asking them to give it to the prisoners who were the sickest.
The Gestapo probably hoped I would die here, catch dysentery and die. But I survived. After six months, thanks to my knowledge of foreign languages, I was transferred to Cosel at Lamsdorf and appointed chief surgeon. This hospital had just been established, built with a view to impress the Geneva International Red Cross, whose representative came to inspect it every three months.’
More about the Russian camp: https://military.wikia.org/wiki/Stalag_VIII-C
To be continued
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