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Oral history interview with Fred Knoller

Oral History | Accession Number: 1995.A.1285.42 | RG Number: RG-50.149.0042

Freddie Knoller, born in April 17, 1921, describes his early life in Vienna, Austria; his family; education; experiencing antisemitism; the rise of right wing political parties in Austria; being in the Socialist Highschool Boys' movement; the German take over and the treatment of Jews; being forced to clean streets; Kristallnacht; growing restrictions of Jewish civilians; deciding to leave Austria; attending a tailoring college in 1938; entering Belgium illegally in December 1938; living in a hostel in Antwerp, Belgium; moving to a children’s camp in Brussels, Belgium; playing cello in adult camp orchestra; leaving the camp in May 1940 in anticipation of the German invasion of Belgium; going to France; being arrested by French police and imprisoned in an Orleans jail; his internment as an enemy alien in camp near Spanish border; the cholera outbreak and escaping; living with relatives in Limoges, France; moving to Paris, France in late 1940; acting as a guide to German soldiers in Paris; his accommodations in a hotel frequented by prostitutes; acquiring false papers; his arrest, interrogation, and release by Gestapo in late 1941; German round ups of Jewish civilians; joining the resistance; interviewing with resistance leaders; his liaison role between different resistance groups; the plans to attack SS barracks; the level of support from civilians for the resistance; the German treatment of captured resistance members; courier work; air drops; his arrest and interrogation by Gestapo in October 1942; being sent to a jail in Paris and confessing his Jewish identity; being sent to Drancy; conditions in the camp; the lack of a work regime; attempts to construct an escape tunnel; rations; the attitude towards the Jewish administration; being transported to Auschwitz in November 1943; the conditions during the transport in wagons and being with Dr. Weiss; arriving in the camp; undressing, experiencing selections, shaving, receiving clothing, and tattooing; inmates’ triangles; being sent to Buna Monowitz; a speech by an SS officer regarding inmates' status; Dr. Weiss being sent to the hospital and the rations he gave Knoller; the importance of maintaining personal morale; the organization of the barracks; monthly selection procedures; the daily routine; working with the cement Kommando; attempting to get into the camp orchestra; the relationship between the SS and German civilian workers; inmate boxing matches and other entertainments; witnessing execution of escapees; inmate suicides on electrified fence; the effects of the Allied bombing on the factory; being marched to Dora in November 1944; the change in Kapos’ attitudes during the march; arriving at Katowice railhead; traveling by train the disposal of dead bodies; doing construction work in Dora; hearing of sabotage activities; witnessing execution of saboteurs; being sent to Bergen-Belsen in January 1945; their accommodations in SS barracks; the treatment by Hungarian guards; the lack of food and searching for food; seeing the starving inmates; the disappearance of SS guards and attitude of Hungarian guards; breakdown of discipline in camp; being liberated by British troops; the reaction of British troops to the sight of inmates; advice from Red Cross not to overeat; acquiring food from German farmhouses; the attitude of British troops to German civilians; revenge taken by inmates on Kapos; a talk given by a British Army Rabbi; the medical aid given by the Red Cross; his desire to return to France; recuperating in France; going to Belgium and being interrogated by the French Resistance and the police; VE Day celebrations; meeting with his brother who was serving with the US Army; and the effects of his experience.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Knoller, Freddie
interview:  1985 December
7 sound cassettes (90 min.).
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 20:09:49
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