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Oral history interview with Rudolf Bunzel and Eva Reich Bunzel

Oral History | Digitized | Accession Number: 2014.537.3 | RG Number: RG-50.862.0002

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    Oral history interview with Rudolf Bunzel and Eva Reich Bunzel


    Interview Summary
    In part one of the interview Rudolf Bunzel and Eva Bunzel (née Reich) discuss Theresienstadt; the evacuation transports which arrived in April 1945; the typhus epidemic; the incarceration and investigation of Benjamin Murmelstein after liberation; the separation of the sexes in Theresienstadt; the Council of Elders; rumors about gassings; and Mr. and Mrs. Bunzel's emigration from Communist Prague to Vienna after the war.
    In part two of the interview Rudolf Bunzel and Eva Reich Bunzel discuss arriving in the United States in 1954 after living in Vienna, Austria from 1949 to 1954; being deported and incarcerated in Theresienstadt; the "Aufbaukommando;" prominent prisoners; members of the Council of Elders; the black market; the local Czech population; Czech gendarmes; differences between the religious and non-religious among the population in Theresienstadt; Murmelstein's incarceration and investigation after liberation.
    In part three of the interview Rudolf Bunzel and Eva Reich Bunzel discuss Mr. Bunzel's associations with the literary circle of Kafka; his friendships with Max Brod and Franz Kafka, whom he met during the period of World War I; his life during the Holocaust and his relationship to the Jewish community in Prague; how he agreed to be transported to Theresienstadt as the designated head of the economic department ("Wirtschaftsabteilung") but how he was appointed instead as the head of the finance department ("Finanzabteilung") in Theresienstadt; how all the departments, with exception of the technical department, were a "bluff”; life during the post-war period in Vienna; the many former Nazis in post-war Vienna; anti-Nazi jokes told by Fritz Gruenbaum and Karl Farkas; his internment and the administrative organization of Theresienstadt; the names of department leaders; the inventing of work in order to protect inmates from deportation; various types of "Schutzlisten" (protective lists); being appointed head of the transport department and resigning as soon as the deportations started; daily work of the financial department; creating ghetto currency; the model ghetto charade for the Red Cross visit; discouraging Desider Friedmann from applying to head the bank; former banking officials at Theresienstadt whom he tried to protect; financial matters at Theresienstadt and his interactions with Murmelstein; discrepancies in the finances; visiting the Nazi commandant Karl Rahm along with Murmelstein; becoming a close confidant of Murmelstein; the two visits to Theresienstadt by the Red Cross and the translator during both visits, a Mr. Guralek [?], who survived and ended up marrying Murmelstein's secretary; how positions in the Jewish administration were filled; the "Schutzlisten" (protective lists); the Nazi commission which decided who would be deported; 200 Theresienstadt male ghetto inmates being commanded to remove the rubble from Lidice and who were deported afterwards; the three commandants; his thoughts on Sudeten Germans; and puppeteer Franka Feigel.
    In part four of the interview Rudolf Bunzel and his wife discuss the Sudetenland, ethnic Germans, Austrians, and Germanized Czechs; Julius Boschan; members of the Council of Elders; Murmelstein's relationship with Nazi commandant Rahm; Mr. Bunzel's incarceration; Desider Friedmann; the cultural events in Theresienstadt; the agricultural department; Mr. Bunzel's young son in Theresienstadt; the importance of humor among the inmates; Leo Baeck; the deportations from Theresienstadt and Mr. Bunzel's ability to have individuals taken out of transports; the bribing of officials in Theresienstadt and the smuggling in of money and goods; the rumors about gassings; the gathering of news from the Czech gendarmes.
    In part five of the interview Rudolf Bunzel and Eva Reich Bunzel discuss the importance of humor in Theresienstadt; Mr. Bunzel's deportation from Prague to Theresienstadt; the evacuation transports from Auschwitz to Theresienstadt towards the end of the war; a pregnant woman and Mrs. Bunzel's sister who were among the evacuees from Auschwitz; rumors about gassings; Murmelstein's assistant Robert Prochnik; Murmelstein's relationship with the various members of the Council of Elders; the differences in character between Murmelstein and Edelstein as perceived by Mr. Bunzel; two anecdotes involving music in Theresienstadt as recounted by Mrs. Bunzel; her friendship with Anka Bergmann; Anka Bergmann and her daughter Eva Clarke who was born in the Mauthausen concentration camp; the assignment of work in Theresienstadt; the different types of jobs and different departments; Leo Baeck’s role and position in Theresienstadt; the tense relationship and mistrust between Czech and German Jews in Theresienstadt; pregnancies and abortions in Theresienstadt; Albert H. Friedlander’s book “Leo Baeck: Teacher in Theresienstadt;” Mrs. Bunzel's liberation and her return to Prague; Greta Polatschek.
    In part six of the interview Rudolf Bunzel and his wife discuss Greta Polatschek; Karl Schliesser; Mr. Bunzel's defense of Murmelstein after the war; the Council of Elders; the deportation of the members of the Council of Elders; Benjamin Murmelstein's administrative role in Theresienstadt; Zionists and Czech nationalists among the Council of Elders; Leo Baeck; Mr. Bunzel's incarceration in Theresienstadt; and Mr. Bunzel's father who perished in Theresienstadt.
    Rudolf Bunzel
    Mrs. Eva Reich Bunzel
    Dr. Edith Ehrlich
    Dr. Leonard H. Ehrlich
    interview:  1978 October
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Carl S. Ehrlich

    Physical Details

    Oral histories.
    7 sound cassettes : analog..

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    Administrative Notes

    Dr. Carl S. Ehrlich donated his parents Leonard and Edith Ehrlich's collection of oral history interviews and research files compiled for their book "Choices Under Duress of the Holocaust" to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in December 2012.
    Record last modified:
    2023-11-16 09:34:23
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