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Oral history interview with Robert Mendler

Oral History | Accession Number: 1990.8.22 | RG Number: RG-50.063.0022

Robert Mendler, born on July 6, 1925 in Novitar, Poland (60 km from Kraków, Poland), describes his Orthodox Jewish family; finishing seventh grade before the war started; his many non-Jewish friends; the numerous Zionist organizations in his town; how his father did not believe Jewish emigration from Poland was necessary at the time; the pogrom in his village in 1936 organized by Polish farmers; being segregated in the classroom and having to sit in the back; living in fear; how his father went to the Russian side without telling the family; the creation of a ghetto in Novitar; being forced to wear white armbands with the Star of David; working on a super highway and a lumberyard; how they paid gentiles to bring them food covertly during the night; how the Nazis turned their synagogue into a warehouse and later into a movie theater; conditions in the ghetto; how the killing of Jews started in 1940 and the process of murdering Jews; the spread of information in the ghetto via word of mouth; the Jewish police force in the ghetto, which did not work with the Nazis; the deportation of Jews from the ghetto; the deportation of his mother and sister and the murder of his father; being sent to a concentration camp in Czarny Dunajec, Poland, where he stayed for nine months; how he is the only person in his family who survived the Holocaust; the Czarny Dunajec camp’s commander, Miller, and his aggressive dogs; killing one of the dogs, burying its body, and exhuming it periodically to eat the meat; being moved to a camp in Krakow (Płaszów); the commander of the camp, Geth, who rode on a white horse around the camp, randomly shooting Jews standing at attention; being in good health; digging up skulls while working and removing the gold teeth, with which he would trade to the Ukrainian guards for bread; still having violent memories of the Holocaust at night; being sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau; building roads and cleaning canals at Birkenau; wearing a red triangle with a yellow bar, indicating to everyone that he was a Polish Jew; staying at Auschwitz until January 18, 1945; being sent to Gleiwitz, then experiencing a 10 day journey to Berlin, Germany in an open boxcar; how Czechs threw them bread from bridges during the trip; reverting to cannibalism on the dead bodies with the other passengers because they lacked real food; being sent to a camp at Pocking (subcamp of Flossenbürg); being 75 pounds when he was liberated; immigrating to the United States; seeing a member of the Gestapo on the journey to the U.S. and the man’s arrest for pretending to be a displaced person; why he thinks he survived; not being a religious now; and his distrust of Germans.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Robert Mendler
interview:  1990 February 15
2 videocassettes (VHS) : sound, color ; 1/2 in..
Record last modified: 2020-03-26 09:32:30
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