Interview with survivor at Dachau Concentration Camp
(LIB 6556) Interview of Prisoner, Dachau, Germany, May 5, 1945. MS, off-screen interview of Jewish prisoner, Dr. Mieczyslaw (Mietek) Dortheimer. Dr. Dortheimer was a lawyer in Poland prior to his internment in the Nazi prison camp. He relates in English his experiences in the camp and describes the tortures suffered by all.
United States. Army. Signal Corps.
Subject: Mieczyslaw Dortheimer
Dr. Mieczyslaw (Mietek) Dortheimer, born in 1911 in Krakow, Poland, set out to be a lawyer after graduating from Krakow’s Jagiellonian University. When the Nazis marched into Krakow, he fled with his wife and father to Lwow. His father later moved to the Warsaw Ghetto and was subsequently gassed at Treblinka. Later, Dortheimer worked in Tarnow as a factory administrator, on false papers. After the Tarnow ghetto liquidation, with help from his brother-in-law who was in the resistance, Dortheimer managed a saw-mill in the small town of Suchedniow. In January 1944, Dortheimer, his brother-in-law and wife were arrested and interrogated for two months in Radom prison, where it was discovered they were Jewish. In June 1944 they were ‘death marched’ 100km to Tomaszow and crammed onto cattle-cars for Auschwitz. From Auschwitz, Dortheimer was sent to the Natzweiler sub-camp Vaihingen-Enz, and months later to Dachau, where he contracted Typhoid shortly before liberation. Fluent in five languages, Dr. Dortheimer became Chairman of the Jewish Information Office in Dachau and interviewed Nazi war criminals for the Dachau trials as Administrative Director of the War Crimes Branch, (employed by US Army). He emigrated to Australia with his wife and two children in September 1948. After starting out as a laborer on a chicken farm, he built a successful importing business in Melbourne, where he died in 1984.
- B&W / Color
- Black & White
- Image Quality
- Film Format
Master 2387 Video: Betacam SP - NTSC - small
Preservation 2387 Video: Betacam SP - NTSC - small
- Special Collection
Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive
- Legal Status
- Permanent Collection
- Film Provenance
- The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum purchased this from the National Archives and Records Administration in September 2001.
- This interview was included in "German Concentration Camps Factual Survey". The camera is underspeed for most of the reel. Black screen from 07:11:39-07:11:49.
A new digital version of 111 ADC 4615 was purchased in February 2019.
For more information about Dr. Dortheimer, refer to https://narratively.com/searching-for-the-nazi-who-saved-my-mothers-life/
Mr. Dortheimer. How long have you been held as a prisoner?
I have held here as a prisoner since three years.
Why are you here as prisoner?
Because I am a Jew. That was the nature that I was taken in prison. Before, I’ve been in Poland in Lemberg (Lwow). I am from Krakow but went to Lemberg. I escaped from the Germans in Krakow. Then I went from Lemberg–I lived in Lemberg–then I was taken prison to a concentration camp. That was a working camp, but it was the same thing as camps to kill all the people that were there.
Have you family?
I...my father. He was in Warsaw. He was killed by the Germans there. My sisters are overseas. They are safe.
That’s good, yes
What was your occupation in Krakow?
In Krakow I was a lawyer and… I was a consultant for some industrial firms.
Tell us about your treatment while you’ve been in the hands of the Nazis
Well the treatment in general was very bad. Besides the daily beating, that wasn’t for me the thing of greatest interest. The moral treatment was dreadful . One was beaten on every place.
You were beaten?
yes they have beaten us… [PLANES OVERHEAD]. We couldn’t speak one to the other without looking fifty times around us when no one hears. They treated us worse than the worst beasts. Every night, every day, we were afraid not to be taken to crematorium … not to be killed by guns, for everything you could be sent you to death, if the SS man drunk too much one day, he would come to you in the [prison] block, and the man, if he didn’t like one he opened the windows and pulled us out of the windows??, .. they hauled us out,..and we’ve been hanged or shot down as they like it …they had a special kind of treatment..
Have you had many friends go to the crematorium?
No one of my friends left. All of them are in the Crematorium…. That was the best way…
Many of your friends have gone to the crematorium?
Oh yes….all of them. Not only to the crematorium, I mean the crematorium that was the nice death which our friends and our families were killed. They tortured us in other ways much worse. You were hanged, you were beaten to death, 150-200 times with whips. That was dreadful. They had an Ersatz [punishment] for everything, for bread and for… They had an Ersatz for hanging in Auschwitz–– Oswiecim ––they had a special kind of treatment. Instead of hanging they had an Ersatz––they took a piece a piece of wood and put it on your neck here and with their foot, they break here, and so they were hanging you in another way––they break your neck here. They had a special way of killing you.
I noticed this morning when the American chaplain and the Rabbi held the service, you were introduced as the leader of the Jewish community here.
Is that so?
Our community is not long here…because we are of different nations.. and we were destroyed here... but now we come together and from today.., this chaplain has spoken to us ….and we will unite, and hope it will improve with us.
What did you have to hold on to as a hope during your confinement? If there was any hope. Could you look forward to any future such as being released?
That was the only hope . that we lived… If we hadn’t that hope… we would kill ourselves, because.. what is material we don’t have.. it wasn’t worth to live under these conditions...only the hope was that we will be free …and that the Allied armies would one day come and set us free..that was what kept us living.
How did you feel the Allied soldiers came to Dachau last week?
There is no words to describe [BREAK]
What were your feelings when you heard the artillery and rifle fire get closer last Sunday, when you knew the Allied soldiers were coming?
We were nervous. We didn’t know whether the Germans in the last minute would kill us here. … but then we see the flags of on the cars here, and we have seen the first American soldiers, and then we have seen that we are free. Then our joy and our happiness, it was immense. But our happiness, our happiness as Jews, freedom has a limit. Because the trouble about our families. We are free, but we don’t know what is… [BREAK]
Yes, You were telling me your feelings about the future.
Our future is a question what we have not in picture now..since in Europe has been killed about 7 to 8 million Jews …since in the concentration camps of Auschwitz…there have been oven stove gas chambers with a production of 30-45 thousand dead a day. In Treblinka in Belzec and other places installed gas chamberas (chambers) have been killed every day 10-15 thousand.
We are more than sure that nobody lives from our families, only these small, few men which are here…So we are now without homes, our homes have been..we have been put out from our homes in Poland.. as the ghettos have been made, and then we have been put out from the ghettos and taken to concentration camps Now the problem is that every other nations can go home… they know their addresses they know someone will be waiting for them, their families, their wives, their fathers their children. And we don’t know what will now be with us. We don’t know. We have no place to go back. We are as beggars without homes without anything. We hope that the Allied governments will do something to help us to find new homes for us, to find a way for us that we can come up once more, and try and be the arms, from the arms from the world.
- Copied From
- 35mm DNC b/w
- Film Source
- United States. National Archives and Records Administration. Motion Picture Reference
- File Number
- Legacy Database File: 60
Source Archive Number: 111 ADC 4615
- No restrictions on use. Public Domain
- Conditions on Use
- To the best of the Museum's knowledge, this material is in the public domain.
Record last modified: 2020-09-22 13:10:55
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