- Mannit W. Groag
- Dr. Edith Ehrlich
Dr. Leonard H. Ehrlich
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Carl S. Ehrlich
1 sound cassette : analog..
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- Permanent Collection
- 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.
- Special Collection
The Jeff and Toby Herr Oral History Archive
- Record last modified:
- 2023-11-16 09:34:30
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Also in Oral history interviews of the Leonard and Edith Ehrlich collection
Oral history interviews of the Leonard and Edith Ehrlich collection, created in the late 1970s during the Ehrlichs' research for the book "Choices Under Duress of the Holocaust," about the fate of the Jewish Community of Vienna during the Holocaust era. Contents include interviews related to key figures in the Jewish Community of Vienna during the Nazi era, including Benjamin Murmelstein, rabbi and member of the Jewish Council of Theresienstadt and Josef Löwenherz, leader of the Jewish Community of Vienna under Nazi rule and subsequently the Jewish Council of Theresienstadt. Other interviews include Sofie Löwenherz and Siegmund Levarie, the wife and son of Josef Löwenherz; Willy Stern who worked for Benjamin Murmelstein in Vienna; H.G. Adler, Holocaust survivor and author of "Theresienstadt 1941-1945. Das Antlitz einer Zwangsgemeinschaft;" Rudolf Bunzl, who headed the economic department in Theresienstadt and who was friends with Franz Kafka and his sister; and some still unidentified interviewees. In addition to interviews, the collection includes the lectures given by the Ehrlichs, among them a conference at Yad Vashem in the 1970s on the role of the Council of Elders at which Isaiah Trunk and Raul Hilberg also spoke.
Recordings include a portion of Professor Leonard H. Ehrlich and Dr. Edith Ehrlich's interview with Benjamin Murmelstein as well as interviews with unidentified interviewees.
Part 1: In the office of Dr. Margaret Feiler (a Holocaust survivor and former Jewish community staffer from Vienna, Austria) at the Joint Distribution Center in New York, Leonard and Edith Ehrlich read English translations of historical documents which they have obtained from the Joint Distribution Committee that relate to Austrian Jews, including telegrams, newspaper articles, letters, and reports. Part 2: The interview begins with discussion of the respective relationships and contacts between Kultusgemeinde and Zentralstelle and Gestapo Leitstelle. Dr. Feiler describes her work in the community's translation department and the functions Benjamin Murmelstein had within the community. Part 2 ends with Leonard Ehrlich continuing to read aloud English translations of historical documents. Part 3: The interview continues with Margaret Feiler describing the relationship between Murmelstein and Rabbi Jung (most likely Rabbi Leo Jung of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee); her correspondence with Murmelstein in the 1970s, which she reads from (in German); how she went to the Joint in Lisbon, Portugal with "the children"; arriving in New York, NY; Murmelstein's son; Dr. Josef Schwarz, who was the Director-General for Overseas Operations; her last visit to Vienna in 1973 when she met Jonny Moser (a Holocaust survivor and well-known Austrian historian of the Holocaust); her speculation that Murmelstein to some extent has a "persecution complex" and she is someone Murmelstein trusts; how Murmelstein got into the organization; who did what in the community's office and/or Murmelstein's office, including Mrs. Margarete Mezei. Part 3 ends with Leonard Ehrlich continuing to read aloud English translations of historical documents. Part 4: Tape begins with Leonard and Edith Ehrlich reading aloud English translations of historical documents. The interview continues with Margaret Feiler describing her work on emigration issues while in Vienna and continuing this work in New York after she arrived there in December 1940; the emigration department and how the emigration process worked; communication with HICEM, JDC in New York, the Committee in Australia; payments of monies by the Joint's Transmigration Bureau; her work for Irwin Rosen; details on how she escaped Vienna on November 30, 1940 and the reluctance of her parents to leave; the interviewing of volunteers for the transports and how Dr. Fenzberg was chosen because Murmelstein was too disliked within the community; being hired in 1939 exclusively for the Australian correspondence then taking over all of the emigration correspondence; how the Gestapo asked Murmelstein to write a history of the Jews and she helped him with the manuscript along with other projects he did for the Gestapo; their interactions with the Gestapo; an "American Committee for Children" that arranged for 30 children whose fathers had died in the concentration or labor camps and whose mothers were Hungarian, Romanian, or Polish to be taken in by foster parents in the United States; escorting 10 of the children to the US via Lisbon; writing an article in the Gemeindeblatt about the rescue of the children; Murmelstein's anxiety about his own emigration; and her interactions with Rabbi Jung. Interview concludes.
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.
Benjamin Murmelstein (Mrs. Murmelstein and their son Wolf Murmelstein also contribute to the conversation) discusses Robert Prochnik, who worked for him; the decision Murmelstein had to make in 1938 whether to do good or bad and he believes he chose to do the former; the postwar period and how authorities did not know what to do with him; being formally placed under arrest in the Dresdner barracks (Dresdner Kaserne in Theresienstadt) but was allowed to go in and out as he pleased; the other people detained along with him; his interactions with Prochnik after the war; Rudolf Slansky (originally Salzmann) and how he was helpful to Murmelstein by preventing organized protests by the Communist party against Murmelstein; the orchestrated protest against him by survivors; his views on Prochnik’s witness statement about him at his trial; the Czech nationalists in Theresienstad and the difficult choices he had to make during the war; "Postvollmacht" which were mail certificates by which someone gave someone else the right to receive their mail after they died or were no longer able to receive it; the bartering of stolen food with local peasants in exchange for cigarettes which, in turn, would be sold to Theresienstadt inmates in exchange for food; his interactions with the Nazi commandant Karl Rahm and the Red Cross visit to the camp, which he states was his idea; Eichmann’s visits to Theresienstadt; how the inmates at Theresienstadt learned about the realities in Auschwitz; his thoughts on Nazi commandant Anton Burger and Council of Elders member Paul Eppstein; the murder of children by gas; his thoughts on Otto Zucker (a Jewish leader of Czechoslovakia during the Nazi occupation who was interned at Theresienstadt and deported at the end of 1944); Heinrich Himmler and the destruction of the gas chambers in Auschwitz; Robert Stricker, who was a member of the Council of Elders in Theresienstadt; being able to take Stricker and Desider Friedmann out of multiple deportation transports; the conflicts he felt about who to deport; his relations with Friedmann; how Frantisek Weidmann was appointed head of the Jewish Community Prague; using orphaned children as placeholders on deportation transports; his thoughts on and interactions with Dr. Leo Janowitz; his thoughts on Dr. Emil Tuchmann and his position as the 'Vertrauensarzt der Geheimen Staatspolizei'; Josef Löwenherz's relationship to Alois Brunner and Eichmann; Tuchmann’s regime of terror in the hospital in Vienna; his thoughts on Mrs. Feldsberg (possibly Zerline Feldsberg, the wife of Ernst Feldsberg), who was poisoned due to work she had to do for a Mr. Süss; Wolf Murmelstein’s thoughts on the psychological pressure they experienced in Theresienstadt; the power of the Council of Elders; Mrs. Murmelstein’s thoughts about Löwenherz and that there were expectations that he write an authentic history; H. G. Adler's book about Theresienstadt; his thoughts on Karl Löwenstein; getting back some of his documents after his trial; meeting with Eichmann and discussing the Heydrich assassination and the bombing attack; his view of the German non-Jewish population and their views on the plight of the Jews; his interactions with Eichmann in Theresienstadt; and the class system in Theresienstadt.
Dr. Wilhelm "Willy" Stern (1920-1999) discusses his work for the Jewish administration in Vienna, including his work for Benjamin Murmelstein in "room 8" of the Jewish community headquarters in the Seitenstettengasse, and his almost daily interactions with the Central Office for Jewish Emigration and the Gestapo; the activities of Jewish community officials who worked for Murmelstein as well as of those who worked for the Central Office for Jewish Emigration; the compilation of name card files and statistical reports; the Nisko transports; and his friendship with Kurt Mezei, who was murdered by retreating SS during the Förstergasse massacre in the last hours of the war.
Dr. Charles (Karl) I. Kapralik discusses the work of the Foreign Exchange Office, his relationship with Josef Löwenherz, Benjamin Murmelstein, and Emil Engel, his interactions with Adolf Eichmann, the events of Kristallnacht in Vienna, his immigration to London, and his work for the Jewish Trust Corporation.
Mrs. Gertrude Jonas (b. November 10, 1913 - d. October 1999; maiden name Gertrude Löwinger) was born in Vienna and previously married to Dr. Hermann Gleiss (b. December 5, 1906 - d. Auschwitz). Mrs. Jonas discusses her life in Nazi-annexed Austria, her deportation to Theresienstadt with her first husband on transport IV-14i which departed Vienna on June 24, 1943 and arrived in Theresienstadt on June 26, 1943; daily life in Theresienstad;, her husband's deportation from Theresienstadt on September 28, 1944; the Red Cross visit; the Swedish White Buses; Jewish functionaries in Vienna and Theresienstadt; the liberation of Theresienstadt and her return to Vienna; and her immediate post-war life in Vienna. At one point during the interview with Mrs. Jonas, her husband speaks about his war-time experiences, his flight from Nazi-annexed Austria to France, his service in the French army, his successful illegal immigration to Switzerland, and his return to Vienna in 1946.
Hans Günther Adler, author of "Theresienstadt 1941-1945. Das Antlitz einer Zwangsgemeinschaft", discusses his experiences in Theresienstadt; the Council of Elders in Theresienstadt; his experiences with Dr. Karl Löwenstein; his interactions with Adolf Eichmann in the Theresienstadt book depository; the ways in which Theresienstadt was different from other camps; his philosophical thoughts on truth, and how it relates to the disbelief individuals experienced during the Holocaust; his thoughts on Hannah Arendt’s assertions about the Holocaust; and his reflections on how Löwenstein was perceived by others during the war and his interactions with him after the war.