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Oral history interview with Leon Greenman

Oral History | Accession Number: 1995.A.1285.52 | RG Number: RG-50.149.0052

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.

Leon Greenman, born in 1910 in England, describes his grandfather, who grew up in Amsterdam, Netherlands and did trading in London, England; growing up in Rotterdam, Netherlands; his father’s work in trade; attending Hebrew school; hearing Oswald Mosley speak in London in the 1930s; the rise of Hitler; his marriage to Esther van Dam and their decision to settle in Rotterdam in 1935; anticipating the war; the German bombing of Rotterdam May 14, 1940 and the damage to his family home; the German occupation; anti-Jewish restrictions; registering with German authorities as Jewish; reasons for not being called up to British or Dutch armies; wearing the Star of David; his attempt to gain internment as a British citizen from 1941 to 1942; relations with Dutch neighbors; his employment selling door to door; the effects of food restrictions; continuing religious services in Jewish homes; his degree of knowledge of concentration camps; his lack of contact with resistance; listening to the BBC; the story of his postwar meeting with a Dutch policeman who did not help Greenman to escape deportation; witnessing the shooting down of a RAF reconnaissance aircraft in the summer of 1942; Allied bombings and the lack of air raid shelters; the deportation of Jews; being sent to Westerbork transit camp in October 1942; conditions in the camp; German Jewish refugees; work details in the camp; food rations; giving English lessons; his son's illness; the character of deportation administrator Kurt Schlesinger; his father’s arrival; being sent to Birkenau in January 1943; the fate of his wife and child; the selection of able bodied men; the treatment by Kapos; undressing, shaving, and receiving clothing; the shooting of an inmate; being tattooed with a camp number; the various colored triangles worn by inmates; Romani inmates; sexual relations in the camp; relations between inmates; rations; the lie infestation; his job shaving inmates; facilities in the camp; sharing soup with other inmates; the counting of dead bodies during Appells; finding money whilst tidying barracks; the importance of luck to survival; singing for Kapos; punishment of barracks for not saying good night loudly enough; attempt to treat his dysentery; problems with shoelaces; problems of night time ablutions; beating by SS man during selection; being marched to Auschwitz in March 1943; conditions in the hospital; stealing a potato from a fellow inmate; being subjected to medical experimentation; the issue of an olive ration; making knives; his work with a cable laying Kommando; his work unloading trains; working conditions in summer; sabotage attempts; his contact with British POWs; the problems of unloading coal; prostitution in the camp; seeing SS men with pet rabbits; strongman performances by a Kapo; being sent to Monowitz in September 1943; living conditions in barracks and life in the camp; having to unload railway wagon by himself as punishment; his contact with a Dutch friend, Jacques De Wolf; songs in the barracks; Christmas Eve 1943; the camp orchestra; being beaten; contracting pneumonia; the mortality rate amongst Dutch Jewish inmates; his memories of Jon Perez; birds in the camp; being sent to Buchenwald in January 1945 then being marched to Gleiwitz; the mental state of SS guards; receiving medical treatment for frostbitten feet; his memories of Albert Kongs and Oskar Rotschild; events in the camp leading up to liberation; being liberated by American troops in April 1945; receiving clothing and food; visiting Erfurt, Germany; meeting with journalist Anne Mattheson; going to Paris, France and being hospitalized; the amputation of his big toe; staying with a French family; going to the Netherlands; reuniting with his father; moving to Great Britain; his reflections on his Holocaust experiences; and his attitude towards Germans.

Interviewee
Leon Greenman
Date
1986 April 22  (interview)
Language
English
Extent
12 sound cassettes (90 min.).
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Record last modified: 2018-01-22 10:52:03
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn510857