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The Holocaust

A Readers’ Theatre

Directions: Each Character will be played by a student wearing that person’s name. Be sure to use

feeling when you read. Read it as if you wrote these words yourself.

Narrator: Juergen Bassfreund, a young man of Juergen: Also in Bernjastel. And my father had

twenty-two. died a year before Hitler came to power, that is in

Boder: Now, Juergen, will you please tell me where the year of 1932.

were you born? Boder: 1932. How old were you then?

Juergen: I was born on the thirtieth, ninth, twenty- Juergen: I was eight years old when my father died.

three in Bernjastel on the Mosel. Boder: And what was your mother doing? What

Boder: What does that mean on the thirtieth, ninth? was your mother’s occupation?

The thirtieth of September? …………….

Juergen: The thirtieth of September. (Next Reader)

Boder: And what year? Juergen: My mother had no profession. We lived

Juergen: Nineteen twenty-three. from the money that my father has earned – our

Boder: Yes, and where? inheritance, and in the year 1933 we moved to

Juergen:In Bernjastel on the Mosel; that is near Trier.

Trier. Boder: Trier?

Boder: Then you are a German subject? Juergen: Yes. That is about 40 kilometers from

Juergen: Oh yes, yes. I am a German citizen. Bernjastel.

Boder: Will you then tell me what happened to you Boder: Near what big city is Bernjastel?

from the time Hitler came to power? Who were Juergen: Bernjastel is near Trier.

your parents? Boder: Trier is near what?

Juergen: My father was a doctor of medicine… Juergen: Trier belongs to the Rhine province of

Boder: Where? Koblenz.

Boder: Is that now in the American zone? the meetings to take place. In those times it was still

Juergen: No, that is in the French zone. It was very possible, but after 1933 that would have been an

near to France. Very near to Luxemburg. I visited impossibility.

there twice. _________________________________________

Boder: Now tell me, Juergen, how were things with _

you in the time of Hitler, before the war started? Narrator: POLIA BISENHAUS Note: This

Juergen: I was then admitted as the only Jewish interview occurred at the training school of the

child to the Gymnasium in Trier. And already then a ORT. The interviewee is apparently still perplexed

certain military routine was adopted by the teachers from her war experiences. Her mentality appears

in dealing with the children. When the teacher stunted. Her speech is phlegmatic and she seems to

would enter in the morning he would greet the grasp very poorly the situation of the interview

children at the door with ‘Heil Hitler,’ and the which proceeds in Germa-Yiddish.)

children had to respond with ‘Heil Hitler.’ Of Boder: Now tell me for example, what were people

course, I as a Jew did not do it. doing all day in Belsen. Say you got up in the

Boder: You did not do it, or you were not permitted morning - at what time?

to do it? Polia: In the morning there was an appell to get up

Juergen: I was not permitted to do it. And, of say at four o’clock, three o’clock, five o’clock.

course, I wouldn’t have done it. Boder: Nu.

Boder: What do you mean of course? How old Polia: So we went to wash. For washing there was a

were you then? room a very small one; cold water very cold, and

Juergen: I knew already from my father that Hitler we would go in there completely naked, and many

was coming to power. He himself broke up quite a of us caught cold.

few meetings. He threatened people with boycott, Boder: Yes.

that the Jews will not trade with them, and since Polia: And the organism is weak, one did not eat;

that region lives mainly from the sale of wine, many one washes himself with cold water.

were impressed by his threats and would not permit Boder: Were there men or women who.....
Polia: Women, these were. Bramson: During this period in the quarantine

Boder: I mean the Nazis. lager, I shall never forget the scene when we were

Polia: The Nazis? There were women and men. But sent to be photographed. I have described already

the women were much worse to us. They were how we were dressed. During a bad snow storm we

much worse to us than the men. were left in this clothing for a whole day on a

Boder: How come? completely open square.

……………………………… Boder: Why?

(Next Reader) Bramson: To lead us one after the other to be

Polia: Well, the women were beating us terribly, photographed.

they were beating us. There were many Jews Boder: What for were you photographed?

/women/ Turkish and Romanian /Jews/ who were Bramson: To complete our dossier.

the lager leaders, lager trusties and they were much Boder: Oh.

worse than the Nazis. Bramson: ...for the lager.

Boder: You mean to say there were Jewish lager Boder: So.

leaders? Bramson: And the result of it was that

Polia: Yes. approximately half of the new arrivals caught

Boder: And.... pneumonia. Our block of eight hundred people was

Polia: And they were very mean to us, very mean. transformed into a block of two hundred fifty, three

Boder: There were Jewish lager leaders and they hundred people, while all the others without

have..... exception “went through the chimney”.

Polia: Yes, yes, they behaved very mean. Boder: What do you mean by “went through the

Boder: Towards the other Jews? chimney”?

Polia: Yes, yes. Very mean. Bramson: ....”through the chimney”, in other words

_________________________________________ they died from pneumonia and similar causes, and

_ they had to be sent to the crematories.

Narrator: JACQUES BRAMSON, Age 35 Boder: And were there crematories in Buchenwald?
Bramson: Yes. There were crematories in all the Boder: What kind of a group of three hundred

lager. In all the lagers where there were more than people was that?

six thousand prisoners, there were crematories. Bramson: For instance, they brought over a group

Boder: And did they have in Buchenwald also of Russian officers. And the next day it was ordered

installations for the extermination of people? to annihilate all of them. They were led to the little

Bramson: Installations of the kind that existed in house which we called the “little house of

Auschwitz were not available in Buchenwald. miracles”, where the gas chamber was located, and

Because Buchenwald was not an extermination there they were asphyxiated. We learned about it

camp. In Buchenwald there was a gas chanber, but --exterminations took place daily,--but I only know

it was not located in the lager, it was located behind --I may speak only about cases at which I was

the lager. present myself.

Boder: So. Boder: Which..

Bramson: It was used only when they wanted to Bramson: Which I know. For instance I was

annihilate ,somebody inconspicuously. But official present at the shooting of eighty parachutists,

mass exterminations such as in Awuschwitz did not mostly Canadians and Frenchmen.

exist in Buchenwald. Boder: So.

Boder: So. Bramson: It was already after the Anglo-American

……………………………………. invasion of Europe.

(Next Reader) Boder: So.

Bramson: I myself know of a case when an entire Bramson: And they were young men who formed

group of three --four hundred people were the small squads of reconnaissance who

annihilated there on the spur of the moment. parachuted/behind/enemy lines.

Boder: In Buchenwald? Boder: So.

Bramson: Yes. Buchenwald. But this did not have a Bramson: They, eighty men....they were brought to

systematic character as in the Eastern lagers. us, and after two weeks a search started for them all

over the lager. We endeavored as far as possible to

hide them in the lager, but we succeeded to save ……………………………..

only two. (Next Reader)

_________________________________________ Kaldore: We were there 150 of the labor service.

_ We only noticed that in another place there were

Narrator: The interviewee is George Kaldore, 23 bundles, which we recognized as the baggage of

years old, born in Hungary. Interview took place on, people from other labor services. We were sitting

August 31, 1946. there for half an hour and the trumpeted the end of

Kaldore: That was in the year ‘44, in June. The the air raid. There came a German officer with

Hungarian gendarmerie were lined up at the railroad Hungarian officers and policemen, and then came a

station and told us--with rifles and sticks--told us, Jewish policeman and told us that all valuables and

‘All Jews disembark.' We thought that maybe they all documents we had on us should be put down on

would take us into the bunker because it was an air the floor. We did so. We didn't know yet what

raid alarm, the English air force had come. They would happen to us afterwards. The guards came

would take us into a bunker or maybe into an open and searched our pockets for things we still might

field, so that we should not be standing at the have had in them. We had nothing. We were afraid.

railroad station. But they did not take us to an open We knew that if we did not give them up we would

field. Within two minutes from there, in a sugar get a bad beating. We surrendered everything, and

factory, there was the ghetto, a small ghetto, a small they took it for themselves. We saw ourselves that

ghetto where the Jews of the city lives. It was--the they put it in their own pockets. After we had

Jews already lived there together in the factory. We surrendered our things, the Hungarian officer told

arrived there. It was pitch dark. We were ordered to us in Hungarian, and then came a German officer

put down our baggage on the floor and sit down. who really wasn't a "German" officer but a

Nobody should say a word; nobody should tear Hungarian officer /in German uniform/, the famous

anything up--money or documents; and one should captain Sodi. Captain Sodi, who ordered the

be very quiet. pogroms in Novitz of which the whole world has

Boder: How many people were there of you? been talking. He was a "German" SS man, and he
told us, ‘Jews, you are here in the ghetto. We shall away our documents.' So he said, ‘I haven't taken

transfer you to a work lager. You will work there, away any documents; you gave them to me. Step

and you should behave well. Now go into these forward, I shall examine you whether you are

barracks. You will remain there until morning, and Christians or not.' And so in the presence of

in the morning you will know what will happen to everybody he started to examine "their race." He

you next.' At six in the morning the Jews in the examined their eyes, their hair, their face. So he

lager--not in the lager, that is, in the ghetto--got up, said, ‘My friend, it may be that you are a Christian,

and we were given a warm vegetable soup, and we a convert to Christianity, but your father was a Jew,

saw that the Jews were crowding together. A and you are also a Jew.' And he beat them with a

policeman came and asked what was going on here stick that he had in his hand.

in the ghetto, and they said that today the whole Boder: He examined just his face and his eyes,

ghetto would be shipped away. Yesterday a nothing else?

transport had gone, and today we, the rest, were Kaldore: He did not examine anything else. Only

going. Again the SS officer appeared, ‘Those who the face. He said, ‘You are not of the Mongolian

are not Jews and those who are citizens of other race; you are of the Jewish race.' We did not stay

countries, who are not Hungarian citizens, should for a long time in the ghetto.

step forward.' Boder: Why Monogolian?

Boder: Jews or non-Jews? Kaldore: The Hungarian race belongs to the

……………………………….. Mongolian race.

(Next Reader) _________________________________________

Kaldore: Also Jews, if they were not Hungarian _

citizens. There stepped forward three people. One

had a Swedish passport; he took him and led him Narrator: Geneva, August 27th, 1946. The

away. Two Jews stepped forward and said that they interviewee is Abraham Heisler, eighteen years old,

were Christians. So he said, ‘Do you have from the Czech territory which presumably has

documents?' So they said, ‘But yesterday you took

become Russian now. He carries a tattoo number A Heisler: Everything together. The families still

(A is possibly just a triangle) 4470. were...the families were still together.

Boder: Yes. and so, good. Now tell me. The Boder: Yes. Nu, and you were the olde-...yes, you

Germans arrived. How did they enter /the city/? have a brother and a …

Heisler: Right away the army entered. We saw the Heisler: Yes, the two brothers.

German occupation with the army, and all of a Boder: You had two brothers.

sudden it became black before the Jews’ eyes. And Heisler: Yes.

two weeks later one morning they came, and we did Boder: Were they older or younger?

not know why the houses were occupied, and they Heisler: Younger brothers.

said in two hours everybody has to be packed up to Boder: Younger brothers. Now, and how long were

be taken away. We did not know where to. The men you there, in that brick factory?

/people/ were led into a building. They were driven Heisler: In the brick factory we were four...four

together into a large building, and they were taken weeks.

in trucks to the ghetto. Boder: Yes? Who gave you to eat? What were you

Boder: Yes. Where...where was the ghetto? Where given to eat?

did they make the ghetto? ……………………………………..

Heisler: The Mukachevo Ghetto. There were large (Next Reader)

barracks of a brick factory. There were large Heisler: Yes, the Kehille (community) still

wooden barracks where the bricks were stored, and supported itself. All the food supplies which we still

there we were quartered. It was very crowded there. had, had to be moved /taken along?/. We did not

We could not stand it, because there were terribly have much any more, because everything had been

many people. In one barrack lived three thousand taken away.

persons, because there was no room. And they Boder: Hm. Yes?

crowded the people terribly, and... Heisler: And what was short /insufficient/ was

Boder: Men, women, and children together? brought from the town.

Boder: Yes. And who was the Kehille?

Heisler: That was the Jewish Community which Second Part:

took care that there should be sufficient. Everything (Next Reader)

was still not taken away due to money protection Heisler: After the eighty kilometers we arrived

(bribery) and so forth. They were in __________, so there. We were chased into a field...

they permitted to bring in some food supplies. Boder:

Boder: Food supplies. Nu, and after...that lasted, Yes?

you say, four weeks. Heisler: ...of snow, and there they began to shoot,

Heisler: Four weeks, yes. and then they said for everybody to lie down,

Boder: What happened then? Tell me all the details. because they did not want us to stand.

How was it? Boder: Yes.

Heisler: And so one morning comes, and it was said Heisler: And there was no room to stand on that

that whoever has citizen’s rights of that and that field. And they said to lie down. And they began to

city, the citizenship, then it is possible for him to yell. One simply fell on top of another, because they

remain there...for him to be released home. And so were shooting over our heads. Many also fell there.

everybody brought his papers. We, too, showed Boder: Why did they want you to lie down?

/ours/, all good /valid/ papers. They were taken Heisler: They had such a fantasy in their heads.

away. And suddenly we see he makes a big fire Boder: Nu?

with those papers. They were just making fun of us. Heisler: And everything /everybody/ lay down.

And the next day... And there was snow and a severe frost. The night

Boder: And so you say that the papers were was terribly cold. I myself was surprised how I

collected, and then what did they do? lived through it a whole night. I had fallen into the

Heisler: And they were burned. They only said snow, and I slept there. In the morning I arose

so /about citizenship/, because they did not want us completely wet, because the snow had melted. I am

to have anything to show /identification/ for the surprised today how I pulled through that night.

right to travel. And in the morning we got up, and fifty per cent

__________________________________ remained lying there in the snow. And the rest that
had remained, we had to bury them there, dig Boder: Did he at least see if the man was dead

ditches and bury them. And we went on. when he shot him?

Boder: With what did you dig the ditches? Heisler: If he was not dead he remained that way.

Heisler: They had brought tools. He waited until he died /?/

Boder: They had brought tools.

…………………………… _________________________________________

(Next Reader) _

Heisler: Yes. Narrator: Interview with MISS EDITH ZIERER,

Boder: And what was done to those who were not age fifteen, at Bellevue, near Paris, a home for

yet dead? displaced children, who are here with a group of

Heisler: We had to bury them. teachers which /who have/ removed them from

Boder: The living? Poland.

Heisler: No. The living had to bury the dead. Boder: Oh. You went with the parents on foot to

Boder: Yes, but the ones who were sick? Cracow.

Heisler: They were also while still ali-...alive Zierer: To Cracow.

thrown into the grave. Who...whoever was not able Boder: You did not want...

to walk was shot and thrown into the grave. Zierer: To the Aryan side. Because there was

Boder: Shot and thrown into the grave. already a Ghetto.

Heisler: Yes. But there were also many people on Boder: In Cracow /there/ was a Ghetto. Did you...

the road who were not able to walk any more, so Zierer: In Cracow /there/ was a Ghetto.

they would take a blanket over the head, put the Boder: Yes.

head in it... Zierer: But we went to the Aryan side.

Boder: Yes. Boder: How were you admitted to the Aryan side?

Heisler: ...and sit down. The SS man would pass by Zierer: We had not (words not clear). We came in

and finish him off with a shot. on Aryan papers.

Boder: Did you have Aryan papers?

Zierer: The mother had Aryan papers. reported on the mama, no? A German, he did...he

Boder: Oh. And you /?/? did...about her. He knew her.

Zierer: We were still very small. We did not need Boder: He denounced her...

any /?/. Zierer: Yes. He knew her, and he reported on her,

Boder: And the father? and she was /taken/ to the police, to the Gestapo.

Zierer: The father was hiding. He had a very Boder: And where did you remain?

Semitic appearance, so he had to hide. ………………………….

Boder: What kind of an appearance? (Next Reader)

…………………………….. Zierer: We...we remained in the city, with my

(Next Reader) sister, all alone.

Zierer: Very, very Semitic... Boder: That means the two children?

Boder: Semitic. He was...he looked Jewish. Zierer: Yes.

Zierer: Yes. Boder: were nine years old, and...

Boder: So he hid himself. Zierer: I was then already ten.

Zierer: Yes. Boder: Ten years old. And the sister, how old was

Boder: And the mother with the children took the she?

risk... Zierer: Eight.

Zierer: Yes. Boder: And they took...they took away the mother

Boder: pass over... without you?

Zierer: Yes. Zierer: Yes.

Boder: the Aryan side. Boder: How did did that come about?

Zierer: Yes. Zierer: Because we remained home, and the mama

Boder: And what happened then? went out on the street /?/ and...

Zierer: And then we were...we were in Cracow a Boder: She was taken on the street?

few days, on the Aryan side. And then somebody Zierer: Yes. And she did not return.

Boder: And your mama did not return any more?

Zierer: No. without the parents, without the father and the

Boder: Did you know what happened to her? sister, for Skarzysko.

……………………………. _________________________________________

(Next Reader) _

Zierer: No. We knew nothing. Narrator: Glenn Edward Belcher: Dachau

Boder: Did you find out later? Liberator

Zierer: Yes. After four weeks we learned that she Mr. Belcher: Our division (the 42nd Infantry -

was held in the /name not clear/. That was a prison, about 15,000 men) was heading for the city of

a German prison. Munich, and as I recall we were going across a wide

Boder: Yes. And then? expanse of level land and over to the left I saw what

Zierer: Well, then we went to the Ghetto by appeared to be a large factory which was enclosed

ourselves, because we had no other way out. by a wall -- to the best of my recollection this was

Boder: What does that mean? The two children? my first view of Dachau although I didn't know it at

Zierer: Yes. And in the Ghetto we found the father, the time…

and together with him we went to Bierzanow, Immediately in front of me after entering the gate -

because in Cracow there began a resettlement and about 20 yards away was a moat with water in

/expulsion of the Jews/. And we left. it about 4 or 5 feet wide - a dead soldier was laying

…………….. face down in it. Just beyond the moat was a high …

Boder: Well. Could you tell me, if I ask you about On the other side of the fence was a valley which

all this time, which was the hardest moment in your was about 20 feet wide and 8 or 10 feet deep - on

life? the other side of the valley were barracks and those

Zierer: The hardest moment was when they took locked up.

away the mama. I remained all alone with the sister. …………………………

Without a penny, we had no money, no? And we (Next Reader)

did not know where the father was. We remained all We did not talk to the prisoners and they did not

alone on the Aryan side. And then when I left, talk to us… We stared at them and they stared at us.
It was as if they didn't know what to do and neither Quickly, my mother tried to gather up some

did we. valuables--some gold things--but one of the men hit

On our side of the fence and to the right of where her on the arm with his gun, making her drop them.

the dogs were - were the gas chambers and ovens They made us leave everything behind when they

where people were killed and then burned. There took us away--to a Christian school. We were

were stacks of bodies (all looked like skeletons) standing there, outside in the cold, still in our night

apparently prepared for burning. clothes, with only a coat thrown over. They kept

In retrospect I suppose we should have done bringing more and more Jewish people from all

something immediately to ease the prisoner’s pain over the neighborhood. Babies were crying.

or to free them from their confinement - but on the The horse butcher and his family were there. He

other hand perhaps we were all too shocked by the was Jewish, but his wife was not, and they had not

gruesome discovery to be anything other than raised their children as Jews. I can still hear the

immobilized… daughter crying, "But Mommy, we are not Jewish!"

_____________________________________ ……………………………..

Narrator: Sophie Yaari was born Sophie (Next Reader)

Nussbaum in 1925, in Emden, Germany. Her father "You are not here because of your religion, but

owned a small grocery shop. because of your blood!" said the S.S.

Sophie: Then Hitler ordered the pogrom on the 9th Then they made everyone lie face down on the

of November, 1938-- Kristallnacht. I was thirteen ground. It was quite cold.

years old. We were all in bed sound asleep when we "Now, they will shoot us," we thought. We were

were suddenly woken by a loud knocking on the very afraid.

door--it was one or two o'clock in the morning. Then abruptly, "Get up!"

"Open up! We're taking all of you to Palestine," They kept us there until the sky was light, and then

they shouted. they took us into the gymnasium, and called out

We never believed that, of course. They broke our everyone's name. They had lists--wonderfully

windowpanes, and the house became very cold. organized. After that, we were allowed to go home.
But they kept the men … My mother was afraid After Kristallnacht, the Dutch government began

they might come back to our house that night, so giving visas to German and Austrian children who

she sent my younger sister Ruth and me to sleep at had relatives in Holland. Ruth and I had an aunt

our Aunt Lena's house… My mother was afraid to there who applied for us. When our visas arrived a

go down, but my grandmother said, "I'll go." She few months later, we immediately packed up, and

found my father sitting there, making himself a cup went with our mother by train to the border. My

of coffee. father stayed at home because only one parent was

The S.S. had sent Father home because he had allowed to accompany the children.

influential Christian friends who had interceded on I'll never forget how she said goodbye, crying.

his behalf. The other men were not so lucky. Everything was terrible. My mother told me I was

Then on a certain date we had to close the shop. My responsible for my sister, who was ten years old.

parents had to leave our house and move all six of She walked with us to the border; we said goodbye

us--grandmother too--into one room in the house of and walked across--it was only a few meters. It was

three Jewish old maids who lived on another street. January 25, 1939. I never saw my parents again.

………………………….. _________________________________________

(Next Reader) _