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Chapter Seventeen

Golleschau Tradgedy

 

“The box weighs 35 kg, and I only weigh 32 kg.
How can I carry the box?”

The Golleschau Transport List, 19 January 1945

Golleschau Transport List

Throughout January 1945, many of the sub-camps of Auschwitz were being disbanded. The Golleschau (January 29, 1945) and Landskrom (February 2, 1945) transports were no exception. In the middle of the month, 120 quarry workers from Golleschau were put into two cattle cars. They traveled for more that 10 days without food or drink. The doors were not only locked but frozen shut for it was bitterly cold. Eventually, the cars were uncoupled and abandoned in the railyards of Svitavy. Schindler reported (in a letter preserved in the archives at Yad Vashem) that a friend of his called him from the depot and reported hearing moans from inside the cars.

Schindler told him to shunt the cars up the siding to Brunnlitz. It is almost impossible to describe what the Brunnlitz prisoners saw when they finally succeeded in opening the doors of the two cars. The Jewish engineer from the camp who burnt off the locks of the cars was Adolf Granhaut (69167), now Dan Granot from Haifa.[1] “In each car, a pyramid of frozen copses, their limbs madly contorted occupied the center. The 50 or more still living were seared black by the cold and skeletal.”[2] The fight to save the lives of the survivors of this transport was supervised personally by Mrs. Schindler. Moshe Bejski speaks of Mrs Schindler's “special porridge” that was considered by many to have been the major factor in saving the lives of the survivors from Golleschau.[3] Dr. Alexander Biberstein attended the scene:

“I assisted in the opening of this wagon. The sight was appalling. Dozens of shadows covered with filthy rags, half-frozen bodies were laying in frozen urine and excrement. The stench was unbelievable. We found about 12 dead and 74 just about alive. All of them were French, Dutch, Hungarian, Czech, and Polish Jews.”[4]

Another witness was Moshe Puntirer (69040), who assisted in removing the part live and dead Jews from the wagon, “I tried to move one man but the skins of their behinds were frozen, and ripped. We worked slowly and made sure the water was not too hot or we would burn them, too little and it did not help.”[5]

A further nine Jewish prisoners who were very close to death but survived, and only, according to Moshe Bejski, with the nutrition of Mrs Schindler's famous “porridge”:

Ladislaus Adrian, b. August 26, 1923
Jeno Friedmann, b. December 2, 1899
Arthur Golner, b. May 1, 1895
Joseph Hasa, b. July 9, 1904
Moses Howes, b. April 23, 1922
Istvan Kosatsch, b. May 19, 1890
Rudolf Lowry, b. December 13, 1921
Alexander Schartz, b. December 19, 1919
Joseph Torok, b. April 6, 1893

Among other survivors of this transport were six Polish Jews:

Salomon Piotrkowski (77160)
Max Piskosz (77161)
Moritz Reichgott (77164)
Zelman Szydlo (77177)
Joseph Hitel
Joseph Blackermann.

One survivor[6] of the transport was Michael Klein, now living in Boston, MA, who was 15 years old at the time, said, “The Schindlers saved my life, my children's, and future generations”

When the critics and doubters of Schindler's motives articulate their views, I would refer tthem to his actions when dealing with the deaths that occurred in the camp (by natural causes) and in particular from the Golleschau transport. It is of some interest to explore the exact movements of the Golleschau transport and examine the documents that traveled with it: the “Bill of Lading.” This document came to notice only well after the war. Moshe Bejski had escorted Schindler to Yad Vashem. While checking the many files they found the original Bill of Lading of the Golleschau transport,[7] which carries all the names of and dates when they passed the railway stations. There is an erasure on the document of the station Svitavy, and in Schindler's handwriting is substituted Brunnlitz. I take this as vital corroboration of Schindler's recollections.

From the original of this document[8] the following details are shown. The contents are described as Merchandise: Jews. (In the Wundheiler documentation, she makes the following comment, “Despite all my frighteningly detailed knowledge of the Holocaust, the dehumanization expressed in those words appalled me more than anything else had terrified me.”) “Prisoners with guards,” the document was stamped and sealed with Goods of Waffen-SS. The weighbill was dated Golleschau, 22 January, 1945, but the first transport stamp was from Teschen, dated January 21, 1945 and the last stamp read Svitavy (crossed out by Schindler with Brunnlitz) January 29, 1945”.

 

Bill of Lading
Bill of Lading

The sender's address was Golleschau Portland Cement Works; the receiver was given as Bartels & Co., Svitavy. The document also showed that the journey had taken 10 days. The Weighbill was post-dated January 22. The transport had already reached Teschen on the 21st, as seen from the stamp on the back of the document. Also, the document had two stamps from Svitavy, both on the 29th, when Bartels refused to take the load. The wagons were being shunted to and fro until Schindler decided to take it and unload the contents of dead and suffering Jews in the early morning of January 30, 1945. Further examination of the document shows that the transport, after leaving Golleschau, headed west, away from the Russian advance. The first calling point was at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where there was panic by the fleeing SS who were supervising the last forced marches of the prisoners. Refused refuge at Auschwitz, the transport continued on, calling at Cieszyn, Oderberg, Schonbrunn, Freudenthal, Svitavy, and finally Brunnlitz.

Only a few weeks after the Golleschau incident, one of the survivors, Edek Elsner (69283), was ordered by an SS guard to move a box. Elsner replied, “The box weighs 35 kilograms, and I weigh only 32 kilograms. How can I carry the box?”[9] Schindler put an immediate stop to this by banning all SS from his factory workshops, an order which was never challenged by Leipold.[10]

The most distinguishing characteristic of this period was that Schindler always engaged in rescue actions which were not suggested by some other individual or organization, but conceived and initiated by himself. To mention just a few more: he made a deal with the police in the Brunnlitz area to the effect that they would send Jewish escapees to him rather than return them to the SS. Schindler also made it well known in SS and police circles that he required carpenters and tool makers.

One of the forced marches from Auschwitz contained 10,000 people, who were taken in the direction of Gross-Rosen. Out of the 10,000, only 1,200 were left. Then there was a request for carpenters and 30 men stepped forward, Moshe Hinigmann (77009) being one of them. They were all taken to Schindler's camp. After the war, Hinigmann related his story to a packed audience in Israel: “I was welcomed by a person with a friendly face. He asked me how I was doing and told me not to do any work until I had recovered. Afterwards I knew it was Schindler.” Moshe Hinigmann was on the last transport to arrive at Brunnlitz, on April 11, 1945. Following are the other 29 who owe their lives to Schindler's rescue plan:

Hermann Blechmann (77001),
Moritz Ettinger (77002),
Jacob Ewensohn (77003),
Benjamin Feingersch (77004),
Leo Finkelstein (77005),
Selig Felsenstein (77006),
Meier Gartner (77007),
Idel Goldstein (77008),
Arthur Juttla (77010),
Leo Knobloch (77011),
Naten Kruger (77012),
Joseph Kuchler (77013),
Berthold Hornitzer (77014),
Max Korzec (77015),
Abraham Matuschak (77016),
Roger Michaud (77017),
Joseph Mozek (77018),
Hans Nebel (77019),
Ignaz Nussbaum (77020),
Julek Ordylans (77021),
Abraham Drzeboznik (77022),
Szaja Rosenblum (77023),
Chaim Salem (77024),
Willy Schlicting (77026),
Isak Silber (77027),
Albert Stillmann (77028),
Aron Szezapa (77029),
Horst Wonglemut (77030)

The consecutive numbering indicates that the prisoners arrived in Brunnlitz together and were registered as a batch.

Another escaped Jewish prisoner, Alfred Schoenfeld (77185) had been arrested by the Gestapo in the Brunnlitz district. After interrogation he was taken by the Gestapo to Schindler's factory.[11] On another occasion, two Jewish prisoners escaped from a transport which had just left from the Gliewitz camp: Benjamin Breslauer (77182) and Roman Wilner were detained by the Gestapo in Troppau. After two weeks they were taken to Schindler's factory and safety.[12] All these were actions that required initiative and careful planning, as Dr. Wundheiler remarks:

“Careful planning is not the mark of a person who acts from emotion and impulse alone, however compassionate that impulse might be. Rather, it is the mark of a person who has learned to rein his impulses amid emotions so that they can serve a purpose.”

Wundheiler continues:

“To find ways to persuade one's opponents - the police, Gestapo and SS - to cooperate with a factory owner rather than foil his plans and denounce him, takes the special kind of intelligence and without which Schindler would have been just as impotent as many others.”

One interesting document that came to my notice during my research in Svitavy[13] was a legal contract between Schindler and the family Butchovsky to rent a piece of land for use as an allotment to produce food for his workers. The document refers to the rent of 3,000 square meters, to be surrounded by fencing. Rent would be 47 Reichmarks per year commencing on November 1, 1944, and continuing as long as the war lasted. The rent would be paid in advance or on signing. Both sides of the contract will confirm that they are Aryan.[14]

A local doctor, Joseph Lopour, who comes from the village of Vitejevse, a few miles from Brunnlitz, kept a diary throughout the war period of the daily events in the area. From this diary, which is headed Concentration Camp Brunnlitz, he makes the following observations:

“This is a sad chapter. I am one of the few citizens who saw the camp before and after capitulation, and who spoke to the survivors. On May 15, 1945, as the doctor of those villages, I had the duty to transport all ill persons from the camp. Most of the prisoners were Jews from Poland. There were about a thousand men, women and children. They had arrived at the camp in November 1944, in a freezing winter, only dressed in trousers and shirts.

At night they slept crammed together sitting with their heads stooped over. For months they slept on straw on a concrete floor. They were covered with lice. Later on they got three tier bunks. With the sick, we tried to do our best using the chemist shop as a surgery.

 

Hospital
 
Barracks
Hospital   Barracks
(Drawings by Joseph Bau)

 

Other prisoners slept on dirty sacks beside the beds. In a room measuring 8mx5mx4m with no windows and bad air there were some 170 people. When you were passing around the beds, you had the impression that you were in a warehouse of living dried flesh.

On the ground floor was a hall with howling lathes. These machines used all the power. The prisoners worked 11 hours a daily without interval. Breakfast was 15 gr of bread, a spoon of jam and a liquid which was called coffee. Dinner consisted of warm watery soup and pieces of dumplings.

These poor wretches were pleased to work outside the camp where they could pick herbs and grasses to eat. The Czech people gave them bread. In the main part of the factory was a corridor which was used as the first aid room. There on wooden tables the Jewish prison doctors carried out operations. Two doctors from Krakow told me that they had made many operations. Women were not allowed to become pregnant. Pregnant women were shot. The doctors admitted having carried out a number of abortions in the camp.”

In a statement after the war, Schindler confided to Moshe Bejski that the Gollaschau incident was the worst he had experienced.

 

Footnotes
  1. Interviewed in London by the author, 1995.
  2. Return
  3. Keneally, 355, cited in the Wundheiler documentation. Mrs Schindler gives a full graphic account of the Golleschau tragedy in her film interview with Jon Blair, 1982.
  4. Return
  5. Moshe Bejski interviewed by the author.
  6. Return
  7. Alexander Biberstein recollections in archive at Yad Vashem
  8. Return
  9. Moshe Puntirer interview with the author.
  10. Return
  11. Information source - Ball-Kaduri documentation.
  12. Return
  13. Recollections of Moshe Bejski - interview with the author.
  14. Return
  15. I have handled the original Bill of Lading document and it gives an enormous sense of history.
  16. Return
  17. Recollection by Moshe Bejski in interview with the author.
  18. Return
  19. Ibid
  20. Return
  21. I am in correspondence with Schoenfeld, who now lives in Paris. He gives a graphic and interesting account of his rescue by Schindler.
  22. Return
  23. Statements by Breslauer and Wilner can be seen in the archives of Yad Vashem.
  24. Return
  25. UCL Seminar trip to Eastern Europe. I left the group in Prague and went to Svitavy. My contact there (Radoslav Fikejz, assistant curator) had found an interesting legal document referring to a contract between Schindler and a local resident, dated 1.11.1944.
  26. Return
  27. Ibid
  28. Return

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