Oral History Interview with Ernst Presseisen

Ernst Presseisen was born July 13, 1928 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. His father was a businessman. He describes the German invasion of Holland and the bombing of Rotterdam in May 1940. He details the gradually tightening restrictions imposed by the Germans to isolate the Dutch-Jewish citizens. After roundups of Jewish men started in July 1942, his father - helped by Christian friends who had contact with the underground - planned the family’s escape. His mother’s arrest by Dutch police aborted this plan. The entire family, including his mother, was deported to Westerbork in August 1942 and stayed there until February 1944. He describes life in Westerbork in detail, including his own development of survival skills and how his family managed to remain there instead of being deported to Poland. He briefly mentions Geneker, the commander of Westerbork.

In February 1944 he was deported to Bergen-Belsen with his family. He describes his experiences there in detail, including slave labor assignments and general deterioration of the inmates’ health. Jewish prisoners organized a theatre group “Cabaret Westerbork” in that camp. In the fall of 1944 Ernst got typhus and his oldest brother died of it. He mentions Greek Kapos. At the approach of the British Army, the Germans decided to evacuate the camp in April, 1945. Prisoners who survived the evacuation were liberated by the Russians and ordered to requisition housing in Trebitsch, Germany. Ernst briefly describes survival in Trebitsch. After his parents died of typhus, he was repatriated to the Netherlands by the Red Cross in June 1945. He talks about life in post-war Holland. He emigrated to the United States in October 1946. He settled in California with relatives and taught German history at the university level after getting his degree.

Date: 04/22/1983
Interviewer: Elizabeth Geggel
Interviewee: Ernst Presseisen
Language: English
Subject: Concentration camp inmates--Intellectual life.
Forced labor.
Holocaust survivors.
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Netherlands--Personal narratives.
Jews--Legal status, laws, etc.--Netherlands.
Typhus fever.
World War, 1939-1945--Concentration camps--Liberation.
World War, 1939-1945--Conscript labor.
World War, 1939-1945--Deportations from Netherlands.
World War, 1939-1945--Underground movements--Netherlands.
Men--Personal narratives.
Location: Rotterdam, Netherlands
Westerbork concentration camp
Bergen-Belsen concentration camp
Trzebcz, Poland
Permalink: https://hoha.digitalcollections.gratzcollege.edu/item/oral-history-interview-with-ernst-presseisen/