Account by Hans Levy, of his Father’s Experiences in Buchenwald Concentration Camp

The number of Jews murdered during the Holocaust is estimated at six million. I have often argued that this number is higher. I have no data to back this up, but if you read the testimony of Hans Levy, you can’t help but wonder. Did they include the number of suicides in that number of 6 million, and did they include the number of those who died somewhere else, as a result of the lingering effects of the maltreatment they got?

Below is the testimony of Hans Levy.

“In 1933, at the start of the Nazi régime, my father lost his job working for the Berlin city council. He was a qualified banker and was employed by the council in this capacity.

Apart from the loss of his post, my father encountered relatively few problems right up until 1938. This was mainly because he was married to an Aryan, and the children from this marriage had been baptised and brought up in the Christian faith.

But in 1938 he was suddenly arrested, despite not having committed any criminal offence. Ten days later, we learned that he had been imprisoned in Buchenwald.

I have no cause to doubt my father’s testimony, which he revealed to us under a pledge of secrecy. In Buchenwald, he had to sign a declaration stating that he would tell nobody of his experiences, not even his closest family members.

On arrival, his head was shaved. Then he was made to hand over his personal effects. These were stuffed into a sack and drenched in a chemical fluid which meant the resulting creases could never be removed.

  • 2 –

My father was given the hardest labour in the camp. He was assigned to work in the quarry. Shifts of 10-12 hours were not uncommon. The vast rocks had to be moved at a running pace. Any prisoner caught slacking, because he was simply too exhausted, was reported. This almost certainly led to him being put “over the block”. These punishments were inflicted by a young SS man known as Jonny. His brutality was feared throughout the camp.

The punishments were inflicted as follows: when the prisoners returned to the block after work, tired and near to collapse, a roll call would suddenly be announced. What scant food the men were given had to be left behind as they scrambled to get to the parade ground as quickly as they could. Once there, they were made to stand to attention for up to 18 hours until the camp leader Jonny appeared. The prisoner who was to be punished had to step forward as his name was called, and go and fetch the whipping block on which he was about to be beaten. Three burly SS men would then strap the victim to the block. Jonny never let anyone get away with fewer than 25 lashes.

While two of the SS men beat the victim on the bare backside with sticks, a third would keep count. It often happened that after 20 lashes, this guy would suddenly announce: “I’ve lost count!” and the whole procedure would have to be started again. By the time the prisoner was unstrapped from the block, he was completely broken, even unconscious. Very often the man’s kidneys had been struck so hard that the victim never ever recovered from the damage. This appalling roll call happened three times every week. The food, in short supply and of very poor quality, was dished out in the same bowls the prisoners washed in. Even those inmates with open tuberculosis were using the same bowls for eating and washing.

  • 3 –

Inside Buchenwald camp was an area known as the death zone, a strip of land about 20 metres wide that ran all the way around the electrified perimeter fence. Any prisoner entering the death zone was shot dead either by one of the watch tower guards or an SS man who happened to be nearby—there was no warning. Stepping onto this strip of land was treated as an escape attempt.

One of the guards on duty grabbed my father’s hat and tossed it into the death zone. If my father had gone after it, he would have been immediately shot while trying to escape.

Many desperate prisoners chose to commit suicide by running onto the high-voltage fence. In the morning you could see their charred corpses hanging from the wire.

One of the most repulsive and degrading jobs was that undertaken by the “4711” column. The people chosen for this work were mainly those who had held high office or been important figures in the political and cultural life of the Weimar Republic. It was the job of this column to clean the latrines. Without any equipment. Anyone caught being physically sick would be thrown into the latrine by the SS guard on duty. Many drowned in the excrement.

One of the blocks housed Jehovah’s Witnesses and prominent Communists and Social Democrats. Unfortunately, my father did not know any of their names. For a joke, the SS used to put these people on a chain and make them bark like dogs.

One of the cruellest punishments was what was known as the iron maiden, a torture implement modelled on that used in the Middle Ages. It consisted of an iron cage lined with long sharp nails. Prisoners subjected to this punishment rarely survived the ordeal.

We were only able to secure my father’s release because we (his family) managed to obtain a passage for him to Shanghai.

He was therefore freed earlier than others, but on the condition that he reported every day to his local police station.

My father left Germany on 20 February 1939. He died in Shanghai as a result of the ill-treatment suffered while in prison.”

Hans doesn’t mention this in his testimony but it is clear to me that the reference to 4711 is an additional cruel joke by the Nazis. 4711 is the original Eau de Cologne.




  1. historiebuff says:

    Exceptionally Disturbing.


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