Oral History Interview with Fred Bachner

Fred Bachner, born September 28, 1925 in Berlin, was one of two sons of an orthodox family of Polish nationality. He attended Jewish public school. His father was a men’s clothing manufacturer and his mother worked in the shop. Fred describes his pre-war life, belonging to several Zionist organizations (Maccabi, Hashomer Hatzair, and Bar Kochba). He describes his father’s business decline and his loss of gentile playmates after 1933. An attempt to flee Germany to the United States failed because they could not get their visas before the war started.

In 1939 Polish Jews were deported to Poland. Fred’s family was separated for a time because they only deported his father and brother. In June 1939, Fred and his mother left Berlin for their native town, Chrzanow (near Krakow), and rejoined the family. After the German invasion, they fled on foot but eventually had to return. Fred’s father was sent to work in a factory manufacturing German army coats. Fred worked for a German soda and beer distributor, which saved his life when he was able to evade an action by running off to the woods before the German army sealed off the town. His father was sent to a work camp, his mother to Auschwitz where she perished.
Fred describes some kindnesses by certain German guards. While delivering beer to Germans in a labor camp, he saw his brother. The labor camp commandant allowed Fred to help his brother and others and allowed him to bring medicine into the camp. Fred established a burial detail from the camp and helped organize the remaining Jews in town who were able to feed and help the inmates when they came for burial detail. Fred later escaped the camp liquidation, ran into woods and joined the partisans but was caught and sent to Faulbrück labor camp (a subcamp of Gross-Rosen). Fred describes terrible conditions. He contracted typhoid. From 1940 until 1943 he worked for Krupp in forced labor.
Fred was deported to Auschwitz in 1943. He describes knowing where they were headed, being processed for work, receiving a tattoo. He describes the scarcity of food and the forced labor building a railroad, rooting out woods to build a highway, and carrying cement bags. He describes many brushes with death. Fred briefly describes a death march in January 1945, through deep snow to Gross-Rosen. After two days they were loaded into open cattle cars and for 10 days were without food or water, until they arrived at Dachau. Most prisoners died en route. In Dachau, Fred found his brother (already established at Dachau) and describes how his brother was able to help him gain his strength back through acquiring extra pieces of bread. In April, the prisoners were loaded into railroad cars. When attacked by Allied planes, Fred and his brother jumped off and ran into the woods. They met French prisoners of war who helped them and, avoiding the retreating German army, they finally were liberated by the American Army. Fred attributes his survival to his endurance and faith in God and faith that they would eventually be freed.

Date: 04/22/1985
Interviewer: Maxine Weiner
Interviewee: Fred Bachner
Language: English
Subject: Life in Berlin before 1933
German invasion of Poland, 1939
Labor camp. Kindness of German commandant
Death marches
Extermination train
Aid by non-Jews
German retreat and liberation, April 1945
Location: Berlin, Germany
Chrzanów, Poland
Moscisko, Poland
Auschwitz concentration camp
Dachau concentration camp
Permalink: https://hoha.digitalcollections.gratzcollege.edu/item/oral-history-interview-with-fred-bachner/
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