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Willy Hilse (audio only)

Film | Accession Number: 1996.166 | RG Number: RG-60.5075 | Film ID: 3634, 3635, 3636

Willy Hilse, a railroad worker at the Auschwitz train station, describes his work and transport arrivals at Auschwitz, shipments of Jewish property, his postwar difficulties, and his reluctance to speak about his experiences again in the future. This interview was recorded in Germany without image or picture.

FILM ID 3634 -- Hilse 1
Hilse describes transport arrivals at Auschwitz, including technical details such as the location of the ramp, train platforms, and the separation of men and women and witnessing the arrival of Hungarian Jews in 1944. He goes on to list the nationalities of Jews from other transports and to recall such details as the rail station sign that said "Auschwitz Train Station" and how the trains ran on a schedule. Hilse describes seeing the reactions of people as they exited the trains, his own arrival at Auschwitz in September 1941, a huge fire that burned day and night, and his work in Auschwitz. Lanzmann asks if Hilse recognizes the name "Kanada". Hilse does not, and explains the group's function. Hilse and his wife share their thoughts on how much railway workers and other people knew about Auschwitz.

FILM ID 3635 -- Hilse 2 -- sound quality is poor
Hilse expresses worry about the film being shown in Germany. Lanzmann says that the film is only for France and that Hilse is not at fault for wartime events at Auschwitz. Hilse says that he was questioned about his experiences before a Frankfurt judge and he and his wife explain the fallout, such as German newspapers holding him responsible for the transports and portraying him as the biggest murderer of the twentieth century. Lanzmann asks Hilse if he knew about the mass murders and, while Hilse says that he knew that trains came in every day, he says that he did not know what happened in the camp. He adds that he was glad when he was moved to the city of Oppeln because life in Auschwitz was hard for Germans and Poles as well as for Jews. Lanzmann asks if he saw shipments of Jewish property brought in and Hilse answers that he does not know of any money or jewelry, but that he once saw shipments of prisoners' shaven hair being prepared for processing. Hilse recalls that it was terribly hot when the Hungarian transports arrived and that 60-70 people were in each car (elderly people, women who had given birth, and people who had died en route). Hilse describes the conditions and cleaning of the wagons after the people were brought to camp.

FILM ID 3636 -- Hilse 3
Hilse explains how trains pulled in to the Auschwitz train station, his busy work schedule keeping track of any irregularities with the trains and the station, and walking past the station twice a day. Lanzmann asks Hilse about where the trains came from, who and what kinds of items were transported, and the "special trains" [Sonderzüge] for Jews. Hilse describes the return of empty trains before Lanzmann asks if he knew the meanings of various abbreviations such as PO [Polen/ Poles] and PJ [polnische Juden/ Polish Jews]. Hilse recalls a time that a woman on a train begged him for water to give to her small child. Despite Lanzmann's further questions and his telling Hilse that he is one of the few eyewitnesses, Hilse says that he does not want to discuss his experiences any longer. Lanzmann insists that he should consider additional interview time as Hilse will earn money, but Hilse says he does not want it- instead, he wants quiet and to not be bothered about his Auschwitz experiences anymore. Lanzmann asks about Hilse's schedule the next day before telling him that he will call after Hilse and his wife attend church. Hilse asserts that he has no more to say and then begins to describe his current medical issues.

Event:  1978-1981
Production:  1985
Created by Claude Lanzmann during the filming of "Shoah," used by permission of USHMM and Yad Vashem
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 22:02:47
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