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Oral history interview with Walter Lachman

Oral History | Digitized | Accession Number: 1992.A.0125.64 | RG Number: RG-50.233.0064

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    Oral history interview with Walter Lachman


    Interview Summary
    Walter Lachman (b. Wolfgang Louis Lachman), born May 26, 1928, discusses his family background and comfortable childhood in Berlin, Germany; his grandfather’s service in WWI as a master sergeant; his father’s service in the German army and participation in the Spartacus movement; his early school days during which he would sing the German anthem and National Socialist anthem; changes in Germany in 1935 and 1936; the banning of Jewish children from public schools; attending Jewish school in the backyard of an old synagogue; Jewish doctors and attorneys who were no longer allowed to practice their professions; broader restrictions placed on Jews in Germany; his father’s gentile customers who stopped shopping at the family’s business; his experiences with antisemitism and daily harassment from non-Jewish children; his memory of Kristallnacht, during which his father’s business was vandalized; his small Bar Mitzvah in an orthodox synagogue in 1941; his mother’s death from Leukemia; his father’s death from tuberculosis; his last memories of Berlin; being taken by open truck to a railroad yard; his journey east by freight car which took seven to eight days; the conditions in the freight car; his arrival in Riga, Latvia in several feet of snow; his relocation to the Riga ghetto with his grandmother; daily conditions in the ghetto; the murder of his grandmother who was gassed along with other older people inside a truck; the formation of the Council of Elders; the ghetto’s hospital where abortions were performed; the ghetto’s small synagogue; becoming a messenger for the Council of Elders; being sent to Pleskau (Pskov), Russia to cut down trees; the liquidation of the ghetto and his relocation to Kaiserwald concentration camp; working in a factory in Riga where he repaired uniforms for the German Army; harassment from the factory’s guards; conditions in the factory from which there were several failed escape attempts and subsequent hangings; being punished after he was caught attempting to steal shoes; pro-German and anti-Russian sentiment among Latvians; being forced to work 12 hour shifts while unloading ammunition at Riga harbor without protection from the elements or Russian air raids; being taken to Libau (now called Liepaja), a port on the Baltic Sea, to load and unload ships and dismantle tin roofs to send back to Germany; bombings from the Russians; evacuating Liepaja and being taken back to Germany in a freight boat; his confinement in a crowded jail in Hamburg, Germany for three to four weeks with little food; being forced to collect shell fragments from A.A. guns; his relocation to Bergen-Belsen; contracting typhus; the abandonment of Bergen-Belsen by German guards as British forces approached; his liberation by the British on April 15, 1945; how the British used German guards to bury the dead and then burned down the camp; medical care from the British Red Cross; working for the British Red Cross as an interpreter until late 1945; working for the United Nations in Munich, Germany; sailing to the United States on the S.S. Marlin; living in New York and Massachusetts; working as a stock boy; advancing in sales and becoming the president of several successful department stores before his retirement; and returning to Bergen-Belsen in the 1990s and seeing young German citizens who were interested in what happened there.
    Walter Lachman
    Kevin Wayne
    interview:  1992 July 31

    Physical Details

    1 sound cassette (90 min.).

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Personal Name
    Lachman, Walter.

    Administrative Notes

    Kevin Wayne, of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum ID Card Project, conducted the interview with Walter Lachman on July 31, 1992.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this oral history interview has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2023-11-16 08:23:49
    This page:

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