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Tschechowitz-Vacuum

Testimony of Erwin Habal, prisoner number B-12457

The testimony was given on 2 November 1960. The number of the testimony is 1424. Erwin Habal arrived to Auschwitz in October 1943.

From Birkenau I was taken to the sub-camp in Czechowice (Tschechowitz then). In that sub-camp there were around 600 priosners in the end of 1944. Our job was to clean up the rubble from the bombing of the Czechowice oil refinery. When the Red Army was approaching Silesia, the SS evacuated 470 prisoners. 150 prisoners remained in the camp, as they were not able to walk. I remained there too. 

Sometime before the January 20th, 1945, a group of the members of the Todt Organization entered the camp. They were fully armed. They stood in the door of our barrack and told us to take our straw mattresses outside. We had to bring them in front of the building. When I jumped off my bunk bed, the Germans were really surprised, as they expected all remaining prisoners to be weak and sick. They moved back outside and stood by the door. They acted in a very suspicious way. I had no idea what to do about it. I wanted to take my mattress and leave the building as the first person, but prisoner named Reiter jumped in front of me – he was the owner of one of the factories in the town of Kutna Hora. I saw him being taken outside by the armed soldiers. It wasn’t a good sign. 

As soon as I went outside, I dropped my mattress right by the door, and told to soldiers that I was going to bring another one. It happened so fast the soldiers didn’t even react. I got back to the barrack. And that’s when I heard the shot. It made me think and act fast. I run further down the building and I slipped under the bed. I had to make sure nobody could see me, so I took one of the board from the bed and I covered myself with it. When I was hiding, I could hear the other prisoners speaking about me to the Germans; they said I hid. However, in all that chaos, the Germans didn’t pay attention to a word they were saying. When the shots faded, I wanted to get outside. When I was in front of the building I saw the Germans coming back. I hid in between the bodies of the dead prisoners lying in the hay. I got a chance to run away from that yard and I took it.

I found an old barn or a building that was half demolished, it was standing very close to the camp. I hid there. I hid in the henhouse and I stayed there for three days and nights. 8-year-old-child found me there by accident and informed its parents about me. It brought me food soon. There were two families that knew about me: one was a Russian family living nearby, and the second family was a Polish family (the Ogiegło Family). The Ogiegłos allowed me to come to their house in the evenings, and I slept there. In the daytime I had to hide. One night when we were having dinner or when I was washing myself, somebody started banging at the door really loud. We had to open. A couple of Wehrmacht soldiers walked in, they were retreating from the front. They were staying with us for a couple of days and I had to pretend I couldn’t speak or hear. Every word that I said could put us all in danger. I couldn’t speak Polish well, and I was staying with a Polish family. This is how I managed to survive until Czechowice was liberated. I got some documents and in March 1945 I started my journey back to Czechoslovakia.

My nephew Jarka Lampl was with me in the sub-camp. I know for a fact that another prisoner who was killed during the evacuation of the camp was Zdenek Bondi (he came from the town of Mlada Boleslav). There was a doctor in the sub-camp and his name was doctor Wachsberg (after the war he lived in Krouna u Skutci). I also remember doctor Edeli and Józef Duchneses. I know some prisoners also survived the shootings connected with the evacuation, but I don’t have any details on that.

 

Sources

Testimonies courtesy of the Auschwitz Museum archives.