Oral History Interview with Michael Finkelstein

Michael Finkelstein, born in Radom, Poland in 1928, was educated in both cheder and public schools. He describes anti-Jewish measures and restrictions after the German invasion of Poland in 1939. He cites several instances of German-Polish cooperation in persecuting Jews. He and his family moved into the ghetto in 1940. They supported themselves by smuggling. He witnessed selections and mass deportations while in the ghetto and worked as a slave laborer in various factories. He worked as a slave laborer in Pionki in 1942-43.

He and his family were deported to Auschwitz in 1943. He describes the struggle to survive, how he managed to obtain food by working as a cook, and how people could become block foremen. He saw Dr. Mengele making selections. He saw the flames from the ovens and smelled the burning flesh of victims. In 1943 Michael and his father managed to get on a transport to work in a coal mine in Upper Silesia (Oberschlesien), Poland. He explains what gave him the strength to survive. He describes being forced on a death march from the coal mine to Mauthausen in the winter of 1944. He explains why he thinks the treatment of prisoners during the death march and at Mauthausen was designed to have as many as possible perish before liberation.
Michael and his father were transported to Ebensee, a death camp in Austria. He mentions several attempts at resistance and why resistance was difficult. He and his father got sick. His father did not survive. He briefly describes the “hospital”.
He relates events before, during and after the liberation by American tank units in May 1945: German desertions, revenge by some of the non-Jewish prisoners; the condition of the survivors that the Americans were not prepared to deal with. After treatment in an American Field hospital, Michael joined a group of child survivors that the Jewish Brigade of the British Army was smuggling to Palestine via Italy. Michael got to Italy but no further. After four years in a Displaced Persons camp in Italy, supported by UNRRA he came to the United States in 1949. He talks about life in America and his reunion with his sister who also survived.

Date: 04/21/1985
Interviewer: Maxine Weiner
Interviewee: Michael Finkelstein
Language: English
Permalink: https://hoha.digitalcollections.gratzcollege.edu/item/oral-history-interview-with-michael-finkelstein/
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