March 20, 2012- The Shooting in France One Day Later, Israel to Buy Sixth Submarine
The news in Israel today was dominated again by yesterday's shooting in France. What struck me, more than anything, was the profound regrets and sympathy that French leaders showed to what had happened. They seem to be in shock that something like this could happen in France. Regardless of their political views, French leaders expressed their sorrow, as well as their solidarity with the Jewish community. As of now, it is not known who carried out the attack. The original belief that Neo-Nazis, former French paratroopers perpetrated the attack, has turned out to, most likely, be false. The only thing that is known for certain is that same gun and motorcycle were used to kill French paratroopers, two of whom were Muslim.
Israel today signed on a deal to purchase a 6th German submarine. These submarines have been designed jointly by Israel and the Germans. Germany is paying 1/3 the cost of the sub. The overall purpose of these subs is to provide strategic reach to the Israeli Navy. It has also widely believed that the German Navy provides Israel with an assured second-strike capability. The goal in having six submarines is to be able to have 3 subs deployed on a regular basis. One sub is usually undergoing long-term maintenance, one in short term maintenance, one in training. This will leave three subs available to be deployed.
I hate to defend the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs. However, Catherine Ashton was attacked by Prime Minister Netanyahu for comparing the attack in France and the suffering of Gaza children. However, Israeli TV aired her complete remarks tonight. In her remarks, Ashton said: "When you look around at the terrible events of the past year, the killing in Sweden, the bus accident in Switzerland (last week), the killing in Toulouse yesterday, and the suffering of the children of Gaza and Sderot, we have to begin to listen to children when they speak." Maybe not the most diplomatic statement, but certainly not the worst thing ever said either.
Here is an interesting article in today's Washington Post by Richard Cohen, entitled: Playing for Time Through a Strike on Iran.
6 miraculous operations of the Israel Defense Forces
There is a lot to say about Israel and its Defense Forces. Like most armed forces in the world, it has a significant history, even despite its relative youth. And like all armed forces in the world, not all of this history is good (despite what some might say), and not all of it is bad (despite what some might say).
From the get-go, Israel needed a miracle — and it got plenty. They came in the form of WWII veterans, brilliant generals, and a civilian population dedicated to preserving the idea that they belong there.
And their operation names are freaking cool.
With reported airstrike, Israel puts Syria, and Iran, on notice
Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.
With Syrian and Lebanese media reporting Israel carried out a missile strike overnight on a military base near al-Qiswa, some 13 kilometers (8 miles) southwest of Damascus and 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the Israeli border, and in light of reports Iran is constructing a base in the area, Israel appears to have dramatically upped the ante regarding the Islamic republic’s military presence in Syria, turning its threats into action.
Top Israeli officials have in recent months repeatedly warned Israel will not tolerate an Iranian military presence in Syria. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is said to have conveyed a warning to President Bashar Assad just days ago, via a third party, that Assad’s regime will itself be targeted by Israel if he allows Iran a permanent presence.
While until now it was not clear to what extent Israel was willing to enforce this red line, the latest reported airstrikes signal the line is brighter than ever and Israel is prepared to back up its warnings.
According to some of the foreign reports, widely quoted in Hebrew media, the base in al-Qiswa attacked overnight was indeed the installation photographed in satellite images published by the BBC three weeks ago. Those reports indicate the base was not operational and had yet to be manned by any Iranian soldiers, advisers or personnel from its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Expansion work was recently carried out at the site and it appears Israel was aware of the base’s purpose.
The airstrike sent a message to Assad, Tehran and Hezbollah, as well, of course, as Russian President Vladimir Putin, that Israel will not stand idly by if Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria continues.
Messages to this effect have been relayed in recent months through diplomatic channels and appear to have made it to their intended audience to some extent, as Assad remains wary of allowing Iran to build a naval base on Syrian territory or permitting additional Iranian investment in the country.
In the case of the al-Qiswa installation, however, the warnings were apparently not heeded and Israel needed to resort to more blatant means to get its point across.
At the start of last month, reports said a weapons depot was destroyed in an airstrike near the city of Homs. It is not clear if these strikes were connected there have likely been additional Israeli strikes on targets tied to Iran since then.
The latest airstrike would mark the first time an Iranian military facility in Syria, whose presence had been reported upon in the press only weeks before, was attacked. Official Syrian media asserted Saturday that the base was solely Syrian, but earlier reports on the site’s purpose leave little room for doubt.
Still, it is unlikely anyone in Israel believes the reported airstrike, which was apparently carried out by Israeli jets in Lebanese airspace, will be sufficient to deter the Iranians or cause Assad to distance himself from Iran. Tehran remains firm in its desire to advance its plans in Syria, and the Syrian dictator has consented to some of its goals.
It is safe to assume Israel will likely seek to send additional messages in the form of attacks in order to cause Assad to reconsider his open-door policy with Iran. With this, the potential for an escalation with Syria, Hezbollah and their allies will only continue to grow.
While Iran is often said to be capable of taking over areas of the Middle East with relative ease, that is not the case here, with Israel apparently poised to ensure Iran’s effort to dominate Syria will not be a cakewalk.
Furthermore, developments in Yemen would appear to constitute a major blow to Tehran’s goal of controlling that country, with forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh on Saturday launching a large offensive against the Iranian-backed Houthis and inflicting a series of defeats.
While the collapse of the Houthis’ alliance with Saleh may not signal the end of Iran’s campaign in Yemen, there is little doubt it has not been received well in Tehran.
The reported airstrike underlines that, in Syria too, Iran is not having everything its own way.
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This was the real-life, Civil War-era ‘Mulan’
Posted On May 12, 2020 19:21:09
Maria Lewis was probably the most unlikely person to have ever fought in the American Civil War. She was an escaped slave, a woman, and was underage all three of these factors barred individuals from serving. But Lewis was much smarter than the average person, let alone the average enslaved American. She fought in the war as a free white man, distinguished herself during her service, and was even part of an honor guard that presented captured rebel flags to the Secretary of War.
Kinda like this but with way more violence.
Born into slavery in 1847, Lewis and her family spent her younger years in Virginia around Albemarle County, near Charlottesville. At the age of 17, she assumed a new identity and a new life as an emancipated slave. The only real hitch was that she presented herself as something totally different when it came time to join the Union cavalry.
She enlisted as Private George Harris, a nod to the character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s antebellum classic who escapes slavery as a Spanish man, in New York’s 8th Cavalry, which took part in many major battles throughout the war, including Antietam, Gettysburg, and the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House. She first participated with the 8th at the Battle of Waynesboro, near where she was born and enslaved.
The battle at Waynesboro ended the fighting in the Shenandoah for good.
Her service saw her join Union General Philip Sheridan’s army in the Shenandoah Valley, where the Union Army soundly defeated Confederate General Jubal Early and devastated the Confederate economy in the area and beyond. After the war, however, George Harris/Maria Lewis had no home to go back to and very little is known about her postwar life. She traveled to Rochester, New York, where the 8th Cavalry was originally formed, to live with the family of one of her officers. Historians believe this officer hid her secret during the war and, as a result, would naturally have been a close confidant.
Lewis Griffin was an abolitionist lieutenant in the 8th Cavalry. His sister, Julia Wilbur, wrote about the “colored woman [who] has been here who has been with the 8th N.Y. Cav. for the last 18 months.” She wrote a few more details:
Rochester, NY in the days following the Civil War’s end.
Many knew Lewis when she wore a dress on the streets of Rochester. She was more than happy to don a petticoat and perform the tasks of a woman of the time. But she was also known to celebrate her veteran status with those who fought alongside her.
When celebrating her service, she wore her full military uniform.
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1757 Mayer Amschel Rothschild apprenticed at Oppenheimer Bank
In 1757, family connections helped secure Mayer Amschel Rothschild an apprenticeship at the banking firm of Wolf Jakob Oppenheim in Hanover. The Oppenheims were a prominent family of bankers, which in the previous one hundred years had branched out from the Frankfurt Judengasse to Vienna, Stuttgart, Bonn, Hildesheim and Hanover. At their office in Hanover, the young Rothschild acquired experience in finance and learnt the art of being a Court Jew.
Hans Ludwig Biglajzer - 2009
BIGLAJZER: My father came to Germany from Poland, which was at that time part of the Russian empire, before the revolution. He was in the Russian army in World War I, and no Jewish boy would gladly fight for the Czar in Russia because they were such antisemites. Anyway, he was in the army in World War I, and the first chance he got, he ran, and he got captured. Of course, that’s what he wanted. The Germans took him to the west of Germany, and that’s where my mother’s family lived, in that area. My father told us the story that he was like a trusty prisoner. They gave him a horse and wagon to call on farmers when they killed the animals for meat: goats, sheep, cows, whatever. He would collect the hide and take it to someplace, probably a tannery. That was his job as a prisoner of war in Germany. Not bad.
My grandfather lived in a small town called Bornheim, between Cologne and Bonn. It’s a small farming community. He had a dry goods store and had seven daughters and two boys. It was always a problem in Germany for Jewish young people to find a mate because there were not that many Jews in Germany. Some people, when they listen to the Nazi propaganda, they think every other guy in Germany was a Jew. But the Jewish population in Germany was a little over half a million out of 75 million people. After the war was over, he was a free man. He didn’t want to go back. Poland had become independent from Russia. My mother and he met, and the next thing you know, they got married.
About 1920 my sister was born. She was the oldest. Then came my brother, who came five years after that, and I was born in 1926 in a small town called Bad Honnef am Rhein. It’s on the Rhine. My father had learned as a very young boy the trade of tailoring from his father, and he established his own little workshop and business there. We lived in this small town when I was born, my brother was born, and it was called Bad Honnef. The b-a-d in front of the name, it means spa. People used to go to the spa for the cure. Spas were big in Europe, and I guess here, too, because they have springs of this and springs here. People used to go there for the waters. They drank it, bathed in it, who knows what? I hope not together [laughter]. So that’s where I was born, and that’s where I started to go to school when I was six years old. That was in 1932, one year before Hitler came to power. At six years of age I remember the marches.
Once the Nazis were in power, they organized the young people and the in-between people and the older people. They had different organizations for them. The SA, which we called the Brownshirts, and the SS, the worst of the Nazis. They tried to outdo one another. Hitler was really a member of the SA, the Brownshirts. My first teacher at six years of age, when Hitler came to power officially, she wore a uniform — a coat. She was the leader of a girls’ school of Nazis, and she was a Nazi from the word “go.” Apparently she was sympathetic to their cause before she was a teacher. But then eventually all teachers had to be German and supportive of the Nazi system because the Germans wouldn’t tolerate somebody working for the government and not being, not necessarily a member of the party, but a supporter.
There were a lot of people who didn’t officially belong to the Nazi Party but were in supporting groups. So many different uniforms — all the time march here, sing there. Some of the songs that the Nazis had were real nasty songs. I do remember one or two of them. Let’s see, how does it go? “When the Jewish blood runs down the saber, things will go twice as well.” Or, “Hang the Jews, hang the Juden und stell die bunson an die wand [Hang the Jews and put the bunson on the wall].” Bunson was a nickname for the Bolsheviks. “Put them against the wall.” We all know what that means. When a dictator takes over and they say, “Take them to the wall,” it means shoot them. Those are the songs. And there were quite a few of those. For all those people that after the war didn’t remember Hitler and all this thing, they were well-supported in Germany, some through fear and some gladly.
Germany was in bad shape. It was in a depression they had inflation. They credited Hitler with bringing them out of this and got a lot of sympathy from other people, too, because he put the German people to work, like building the Autobahn. It was all for the worst purpose. Eventually they didn’t care as long as they made a living, paid their rent, bought the food, and so that’s the kind of Germany it became under Hitler.
We went to public school. In the German schools, the church was involved in the schooling. The one I went to was called the Katholische Volksschule or the Catholic public school, and there was a Lutheran public school. It seemed like the towns were kind of divided: the Lutherans were over there and the Catholics were over there, and they were sort of rivals. But they were all together when it came to the Jews. The church was involved in the programs of the schools. By 1935, the Germans — you heard about the Nuremberg laws. One of them was that the Jews could not go to the German schools.
This was a little town we lived in, and my parents had to pack up and move to the next bigger town. It was Bonn, on the other side of the river. And there were enough Jewish families left with kids. They all were waiting for exit visas. People pretty much knew. I remember my parents talking and talking to other people in the synagogue. The first thing people always said when they saw [one another], “Have you heard yet? Are you getting your visa?” People wanted to get out, but the doors were closed in most places so there was a waiting list.
The Germans decided that we could no longer go to their school, and Jewish families got together and rented a place somewhere, and we had a Jewish elementary school. Two fellows took care of eight grades. One had four grades the other had the other four grades. They too were waiting for their visas to get out, and every once in a while we got a new teacher because the other one left, if they were lucky. Some were. Yes, that was in the city of Bonn.
My father was never a German citizen. My father was from Poland he had a Polish passport. He had to renew his permit to stay in Germany every so many years. He had to go to the Polish consulate and get a piece of paper signed. In Germany, as well as in other European countries, if a man married, the wife became the same nationality. If they had kids, they became the nationality of the father. So we all in our family had Polish passports.
On the 28th of October 1938, I remember very well the knock on the door early in the morning. The policeman said to my father, “Get dressed and come with me.” My father said, “Why? I haven’t done anything.” He said, “Just get dressed and come with me.” When they do that in Germany, you do what they say. We didn’t know what they were going to do with him. They wouldn’t tell us anything. My mother went to the police department, but they wouldn’t give her any information until they said, “They’re being sent to Cologne they’re getting on a train back to Poland.” One of our friends had an automobile, and they packed suitcases and money and went down to Cologne to catch the train. They got to Cologne, but the train had already left.
As a result of that action, the 28th of October, removing people who had Polish origins — some of them had never seen Poland they were born of a Jewish family, the man happened to be Polish, and — so where are they going to go? As a result of that action — there was this young Jewish fellow who lived in Paris, his parents in Germany. His father was deported. He went to Paris, went to the German delegation, shot one of their officials. A couple of days later he died, and the Nazis gave the order for the Kristallnacht to start. The Germans didn’t call it that. People called it that because of so much broken glass. But this fellow was mad because they had taken his father away and sent him away, and the German official in the embassy died, and the Nazis gave the orders. People who had stores, that was the end of their businesses. They could no longer do business in Germany. Teachers could no longer teach in schools or universities. Jewish life came to a standstill because people were forbidden to do business with Jews.
In our case, it was very early, 1938, almost a year before the war. What happened to us? Here’s my mother with three kids. The breadwinner was gone. Who’s going to pay the rent, buy the food? They started using up what they had saved up, and then they started selling things. My mother got a letter from the police department that said the 15th of May, you be out of Germany. Go wherever you want to go. Of course, the only place we could go was Poland because they had Polish passports. Sold everything they had. My mother went around and contacted people for my sister to leave [to leave her with]. We left her behind because somebody had promised to get her a work visa to go to England.
Halsten: This was 1938.
BIGLAJZER: May 1939. The war started in September. Of course, we didn’t know that was going to happen. When we left Bonn, my mother, my brother, and I got on the train to Poland to join up with my father who had parents in Poland, who came to the border to pick him up. He didn’t have a dime on him. When he was there, he stayed with his parents, and when we came, we stayed with his parents until the war broke out.
The ninth or tenth of September, the Germans came to the city we were in — Lodz. When the Germans occupied the city, they decided that they would take most of the decent housing, apartments and all that, chase the Jews out, and they would take over these to house the soldiers, officers, and their families. The Germans had announced in the papers that they would create a ghetto in a certain part of the old part of town, and by such-and-such a date they would have to go out. But since the Nazis came and took the apartment from my grandfather, we got there early, to what became the ghetto later on. Since we were there early, we got a fairly decent place to live during the time the ghetto was established in Lodz. But the Germans decided that the section we lived in — not because we were there — but that whole section they would want to take it back and we would have to go. By that time most of the housing was taken, and the ghetto was closed on April the 1st of 1940. It existed until about September 1944. In the ghetto the Germans established workshops.
[Pause to rearrange machinery and people]
Halsten: I wanted to ask you a couple of things. By this time you were 14 years old?
BIGLAJZER: In 1939 I was 13.
Halsten: 13. OK. And you had already seen so much antisemitism in your life ….
Halsten: Do you remember seeing anything or being aware of antisemitism before the Nazis?
Halsten: Can you describe what happened?
BIGLAJZER: Before the Nazis, my father always used to say as I remember that Jewish people in Germany, as in some other countries too, we were kind of a “tolerated guest.” [We would] never be part of the regular population, regular people. Even though the ancestors of my mother had lived in Germany for many, many, many years, probably way back to the Crusades. They lived along the Rhine where the Crusaders came through. Yes, there was antisemitism. The teacher, I said she was a Nazi from the word, “go.” That means she was anti-Semitic.
The established churches in Germany, the Lutherans and the Catholics, were pretty much anti-Semitic. Something I remember is that on Easter Sunday, the kids didn’t go outside and play. We asked, “Why?” “Well, you wouldn’t understand. You wouldn’t understand.” Later on our parents explained that, to the Nazis, to the Germans, to the Catholics, to the Lutherans, that was the day the Jews did their bad thing. They murdered their savior. It would heat up at certain times. Some little incident would set it off. While they didn’t go around smashing windows, there were men who were beating up people, certain people beating up other people. That kind of thing. Give you a hard time.
So Hitler did not have problems taking over the power. The Germans were pretty much nationalistic and regimented right from their churches and their schools. In the schools you didn’t just walk into the classroom in the morning, you lined up in front of the building. In elementary school there were eight classes, and you marched in step into the classroom and stood by your little chair or desk until the teacher commanded, “Sit down.” It was all done on orders. This is the kind of people that Hitler found in Germany. He was part of it. He really didn’t have to discipline them or regiment they were already doing that. For some reason or other, the Germans are very, very nationalistic-minded. I don’t read German literature, so I don’t know what this democratic Germany is today, maybe different. I hope they’ve learned their lessons once and for all, but hmmmm, I don’t know.
Halsten: When your father had you go to Poland, you were very young.
BIGLAJZER: Yes. I was 12.
Halsten: How did you feel about that whole situation?
BIGLAJZER: Well, we were kids. “Why can’t we do this? Why can’t we go there?” In Germany, the Nuremberg laws among other things, besides not going to German schools, signs appeared in windows of stores: “Jews not wanted here.” It was in all the movie houses. Movies were a rare treat they wouldn’t have that kind of money. But if you wanted to go to a movie, you found out the sign’s out there. It said, “Jews not wanted here.” In the parks. Pretty much everywhere you turned there was somebody having a sign out. There were those people who didn’t go along. They said, “If you need any groceries, let me know and I’ll go get them for you.” We could say, if somebody doesn’t like us, why should we do business with them? But you had to have groceries from someplace. Those things happened.
Halsten: Did you ever talk about the situation with your friends?
BIGLAJZER: Friends, yes. Everyone was waiting to go someplace outside of Germany. The Germans made it very clear that the Kristallnacht — they rounded up for the first time all Jewish heads of households. My father had already gone, but everybody else. The purpose of this was not just to do damage to the businesses, but to end Jewish family life. To take the head out of the house, and the rest of them have to do the best they can. Especially when they want to leave, let them leave.
The Germans had no problem with giving us exit permits the problem was getting entrance permits to other countries. My mother, who was then by herself after my father was deported, was running around different major cities looking for embassies, consulates. What does a tailor do? He had three kids and was trying to make a living. There wasn’t any extra money, but you could bribe some of these officials and get your paper ahead in the pile. That went on a lot. And that’s what people meant in the street: “Have you heard anything yet?” That was a daily occurrence. “Have you made any headway on hearing?” We waited and we waited.
My father had applied to go to the United States in the early ’30s. You had to have a sponsor in this country, and he had an uncle who put up the requirements. She had approached consulates and consulate officials. You never got to see the consulate you dealt with some flunkey in their employment there. They were very easily bribable, but some of them just took the money and didn’t do a thing. It was an opportunity for them to make some money. They ran from one place to another. My father had an uncle who put all —you had to vouch and show that you had this amount of money, and that when the person came over here he didn’t become a welfare case. That was the requirement of the United States, and they had nationality quotas. The Polish quota was very low, and from what I read, the consulate officials and the embassy officials were told, “Look, there’s a depression going on in this country, and even though over here there is a quota there, slow it down.”
Halsten: I’ve read that.
BIGLAJZER: People would try to do it with money some were successful, some were not. Some got cheated out of their money. Someone said, “Your turn will come. Your turn will come.” Sometimes it did and a lot of times it did not. In our case, we waited and waited and nothing happened. When my father was deported, the whole thing was off. The German Jews or Jews in Germany were not even allowed to own more than a certain amount of money. When that was announced, what my mother did was find a way with the little money they had nested away, she would buy the tickets to go to America on a steamship line for the five of us. The tickets had a certain date when a certain boat would leave Germany for America. When the day got close, she wrote to the ship line and said, “Here’s the tickets back. Give us one with a later date.” That went on for several years. That’s how we got some money out of Germany.
When you’re driven to a certain thing, extra senses come into your body and you feel your way around to avoid trouble. We didn’t want to make any trouble in Germany. We were just like everybody else: working for a living, buying groceries, paying rent or owning a house, doing this and that and going to school. It got to the point where you knew — and the Nazis used it for propaganda purposes in their newspapers. They’d say, “You see, it’s not just us the others don’t want you either. Certainly we don’t want it.”
As a result of that, they built these concentration camps. I had no idea how many of those camps there were. People say, “Have you ever heard of such and such a place?” No, I haven’t. I was in this place and this place and this place. Then when I was reading this book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners, this fellow, Daniel Goldhagen, wanted to prove once and for all after all the books had been written, and everybody said, “The German people had nothing to do with it. Those were the Nazis.” Well, he tries to tell you they were all involved in it. They all knew about it. When I see in this book the amount of — it’s unbelievable! I see names every once in a while. He says, and I’m sure he has the proof of it: “A total of 10,005 positively identified concentration camps in Germany.” He says, yes, some had as many as 200,000 like the Lodz ghetto, and some of them had as little as 50. The little ones usually they had a group of people over there they used for medical experiments, similar things like that. Those were the real small ones, but they had the ones that had thousands. Then, of course, when they went into other countries there were more, and more undesirables like Poles and Czechs who didn’t collaborate or cooperate with the Germans, they put them in those places.
Halsten: Did you feel like you were living in fear all the time?
BIGLAJZER: Yes, we were living in fear. I thought to myself one time, that when you’re constantly in fear, you develop an extra sense. You can smell trouble coming. Like me, by the time the war was over, five and a half years, nobody was supposed to go five and a half years through a Nazi concentration camp alive. Well, people ask me that question. It’s a good question. I say, “Yes, when they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there were survivors there. There’s always somebody there. Not many. But there are some there, and I was one of the few.”
Halsten: Let’s go back just a bit to the Lodz ghetto. When you got to Lodz and were reunited with your father, you lived first with your grandparents, and then ….
BIGLAJZER: There was no war yet.
Halsten: Right. Describe what the ghetto was like when you first went there. What were conditions like?
BIGLAJZER: My father had been through World War I, and so had a lot of the French military leaders and other leaders. They said, “This war is not going to be fought in the trenches it’s going to be fought in the air, and it’s going to be fought on the ocean. This is going to last maybe four weeks, or four months.” Nobody had any idea that it was going [to go] for six years. Nobody! Of course, the United States didn’t enter until the end of 1941, so for the United States ’42, ’43, ’44 and halfway through ’45. But they had war in Europe since the first of September, or unless you were in one of the countries that they just walked into, like Czechoslovakia without a war.
The first thing they did when they marched into a country is they sent a special group of people in called the Einzatzkommando. They were looking for the Jews, to round up the Jews, to steal whatever was valuable. They stole everything. They tried to give us as little as possible for the work we had to do when they established workshops in the ghetto. The workshops in the ghetto were numerous.
In the beginning it was 200,000 people crammed into a little spot. Everybody was assigned four people to a room, not necessarily of the same family. If there was a foyer in the house, that was a room [laughs]. The Jewish leaders of the ghetto, they had to go and find these, make sure everybody got under a roof. Some of the houses were very old. It was the worst part of town that they surrounded. The reason they had ghettos compared to concentration camps and labor camps and transit camps — there were so many camps, that what’s the difference between a ghetto and a concentration camp? The name brand concentration camps, like Dachau, Buchenwald, Auschwitz — they were run like an army. You had to fall in, line up, get counted in the morning, get counted in the evening, get a number. In the ghetto, they didn’t have to build a camp. They took the old city and fenced it in. The only thing you had to go and get was a fence. I don’t know about other places, but the Lodz ghetto was guarded not by the army, not by the SS, but by the infamous police battalions, who were the worst. They had the guards around 24 hours a day.
Halsten: Were you with your family?
BIGLAJZER: Yes, in the ghetto you were with your families. Yes. Little by little, the food rations were so meager that diseases came along, and where there’s malnutrition you lose resistance and you get diseases that you hear of in the Middle Ages, like the typhoid and the cholera, those kind of things. One of the worst killers in the ghetto where we were was tuberculosis. It also has the name “consumption,” and it really consumes people. Something is eating on them. That’s what my father died of. But the day that I remember in the ghetto that sticks out in my mind is the first week of September 1942. ’42 was a bad year for us. The Germans were still conquering, still marching forward into Russia. They had France and Belgium and Holland and Denmark and Norway and Czechoslovakia and all of that. And now they advanced further into Russia. They saw a need, and here’s cheap labor. Some of the buildings, make workshops out of them. They also built barracks to be workshops. I was in one of those.
The first place I worked in was a former slaughterhouse. It was very cold in the winter, stone floors and no heat. We sat there in our coats. You can see it in the pictures. There was never any heat. They never spent any money or energy for us. All they gave us was one soup at the workshop plus the rations that we had to draw and get from distribution areas: so many potatoes, so much bread a week. I remember those big cartwheels of bread in the ghetto. First they let you have a loaf of bread for a week, and then they extended it to eight days, then nine days, and ten days, and so it went on. It seems like a little thing in print when you see it, but less and less bread — and bread was one of the mainstays, potatoes and bread were the mainstays. There was a terrible lack of fat. It was just not available. For some reason or another, in the war in Europe, I’ve always read it somewhere, certain items disappear completely — salt, fat, and that stuff they make matches out of, sulfur. Matches were rare and fuel was rare.
In the ghetto in 1944, most of the houses people tore off the doors, burned pieces of furniture to heat something up. They boiled some sort of a vegetable. Have you ever eaten a raw potato? They taste awful, but when they’re cooked they taste so good. In Poland the winters are very, very, very cold. When they stored the potatoes, sometimes they got frozen. If you ever want to experiment with something — we buy frozen this and frozen that — I don’t know how they do it with a potato, but if you take a whole potato and put it in the freezer overnight, sit it on your drain board, the water, which is almost 80% in a potato, it just runs out and what you have left is something rubbery that doesn’t cook. You can cook it and cook it, but it will not get soft and will never taste again like a potato. They turn black and blue, and they just taste awful.
The ghetto was a little bit better than the concentration camp we came to later because they had distribution centers. They would hire farmers apparently and bring in vegetables, like potatoes or cabbage. The Poles grow a lot of cabbages, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But what kind of food is it? You just took some cabbage leaves and boiled them in water if you had the fuel to boil the water. To keep clean, there was no soap. The clothes you brought into the ghetto with you, that was all you were ever going to have. There was no “new.” There was no “better.” Unless people died. If you got there first, if there was anything decent. Shoes were in terrible condition, those shoes we had.
Some people, including my father, suffered terribly. He was a big eater, and the rations in the ghetto were very, very meager. People’s feet would swell up. I don’t know why. They had cut their shoes so they would fit in there, and they had to go to work. If they didn’t go to work, they didn’t get the ration card, they didn’t get that soup that was served at the job. The leader of the ghetto in Lodz was this Chaim Rumkowski who people thought collaborated with the Nazis. He saw to it that if we worked, they’ll keep us here. But there was little food. He had his own police force, and he had his own spies. If somebody even mentioned something in one of the workshops about a strike for more food, he wasn’t going to be there long. There were spies everywhere. They would snitch on you.
I had a friend who was sitting next to me in the saddlery. He always had better shoes and better clothes, more to eat than anybody else. I found out why this was. His father was a snitch. He would bring in some information and he would go to the Gestapo. Next thing you know, the other person is missing. That’s how you could tell who your enemies were. This fellow, I met him in New York, and he survived. I never mentioned anything to him. I knew who he was. Everybody had a way of saying, “If I collaborate with them, or if I be a snitch, that’s my way of survival.”
Money wasn’t worth anything. People took with them jewelry. And Jews in Poland never trusted banks. If somebody had some money, he probably had it in American dollars or British pounds, and he had it hidden somewhere in the house. They bought raw diamonds and sewed them into the clothing. Sometimes you see pictures, some of those newsreel photos that the Germans took, or the Americans or English. Whatever the army was, they had photographers with them. You can tell the original ones from the ones that come out of Hollywood. The ones in Hollywood show people with combed hair and decent clothing, but that’s not the way it was in those places. There was a stench of people trying to survive.
People have asked me after the war, including some distant relatives — my father had an uncle and a cousin here — “How come you made it and they didn’t?” How often can they ask me that? And how often can I tell them what the truth was? Right after the war, they didn’t believe us what happened over there. It took almost 40 years before somebody did enough research and compiled enough information that people started to believe it. But for many years, “Humans wouldn’t do that. That’s a civilized nation in the middle of Europe.” That uncle of my father, he didn’t sponsor me to come here after the war. I didn’t owe him anything. He kept asking me so many times about why I made it. What am I supposed to say? I snitched? I collaborated with the Nazis? That’s what they’re hinting at, but it wasn’t true. I just moved away and never told anybody [laughs]. I didn’t need it anymore. Over and over and over again until finally enough information came and people started to believe it.
Halsten: When you were in the ghetto, did you still have any type of religious services at all?
BIGLAJZER: I understood that there were some people who had tried to have. Of course, you had to work on Saturdays. We got every other Sunday off. The day’s work was a ten-hour shift, day and night. I grew up, not in an Orthodox family. I would say modern religious people. My father didn’t work on Saturday. He worked on Sundays. We went to the synagogue. People in Jewish homes, even if they are not very religious, they keep some of the holy days. Everybody knows when it’s Passover, special food. Everybody knows when it’s Hanukkah. Things like that. That’s what you remember as kids. You could always smell in the home what kind of holiday was coming up by the food they were cooking. And that was another thing: in the camps, not only the ghetto, but in the other camps, it was understood, not a written law, “We don’t talk about what mama cooked on Friday night.” We don’t talk about that. Makes everybody homesick and wanting to eat.
But after the war, I think I didn’t go the synagogue for almost 50 years. Even today, I belong to the Jewish community here in Bend, there’s a lot of things that people do that I don’t. I don’t like to say a prayer that somebody else composed. It’s not my thought. I don’t buy greeting cards for my wife’s birthday. I usually make one up or find a blank one and write my thoughts on there. Not somebody else’s thought. That’s the way I am. I feel that about a lot of the religious tradition. Just because I don’t do this or bow down to that, or sing this kind of song about King David and the battle way back when, I just — but I want to be Jewish I never wanted to be anything else. And if they said, “You are Jewish,” I never denied it or tried to hide it. That’s what I am. But I’m not necessarily what somebody would call religious. I believe there’s a God and that’s it. He doesn’t look out for anybody else. You know, where was he when …?
The first time I was invited to the Jewish congregation here in Bend, when I came here to speak on the day called Yom Hashoah, the remembrance day of the destruction, I said probably a few things that some people don’t like, but I am the way I am. The reason why I am is like somebody took an anvil and a hammer and a piece of steel and hammered me in a certain shape, a certain way, and that’s how I am tempered. I don’t like sweet sayings, and bend this way, and you have to do this on a certain day. It doesn’t matter to me how many candles somebody lights on Friday night. My grandmother on my father’s side lighted one for everybody that was in the house. If there were visitors, there were that many candles. My mother on the other side in Germany, they lit two candles on Friday night. It doesn’t matter to me whether there’s one, or none, or 15. That doesn’t make me a Jew. What makes me a Jew is that my parents were, my grandparents were, and if somebody marries somebody like I did, not Jewish, I don’t look down on those people. I don’t go out and say, “What has he done for me lately?”
I’m well off. I enjoyed, once the war was over, when I got enough to eat and we were free — if you can describe free to people who have never been [anything] but free, like here, or to people who in the last 50-60 years have not been hungry. People in the depression time remember when they were hungry. But I remember when I was hungry, and I remember when I was no longer hungry. Since I stepped off the boat in 1947 I’ve never been hungry. There’s never been a lack of clothes or shoes.
I did swear in the camp that if I survived, and I made up my mind that I was going to survive — it became almost a fetish — I want to see those people destroyed. I want to see the Nazis completely wiped off the face of the earth. Like Churchill said in one of his speeches, “We will wipe off his footprints all over Europe.” He called him “the guttersnipe.” Hitler hated Churchill more than he did Roosevelt because Churchill had no use for him, from what I read. At least there was somebody there who was doing things.
We were not informed in the camps. All those years during the war, I did not know that the Americans had landed in France in June. I did not know that America was in the war. They did a good job of keeping us completely ignorant of what was going on in the world. I consider that a torture, too, because if you don’t know — what am I hanging on to this for? When is this going to end? I want to live and see the Nazis destroyed, but I don’t know where our supposed friends are. Every time there was a bombing raid, some of the guards made little snide remarks, “Your friends.” What do you mean “my friends”? I don’t know those people. I know you. You want me dead. But I don’t know who they are. Why do you say my friends? In the camps I was in, nobody bombed.
So even though I found out after the war that they had known where these places are, they were even —we were all working for the German army, in my case, the saddlery. We were making pack gear and harnesses for the German army on the Russian front. All the Russian soldiers that they captured in the war — one time train after train of pack gear from the Russians came and they wanted us to take all the emblems off and the buttons with the hammer and sickle on, and put German-type things on to convert the Russian pack to the German backpack for the soldiers. If I didn’t do that, they wouldn’t have given me the little bit of food that they did give us. What was I doing working with the enemy? I didn’t consider myself working for the enemy. I was keeping alive. I wanted to stay alive.
In 1942, when I said that was a bad year, the Germans made a proclamation saying that this week you don’t have to go to work. Stay in those houses. Don’t come on the street. They didn’t say why. We soon found out. They had given an order to the Judenrat, Rumkowski, to hand over all the kids, from day one to ten years of age. The Germans want them. They said they’re going to send them to another place where they can take care of them better. A one-year-old, a one-week-old child? What it was, was they did not want to house and feed kids who couldn’t work for them in their factories, producing something. They didn’t ask are you ten years old, or nine and a half, or are you 11? The guy who said, “You go there and you go here,” if he thought he was not quite ten years old, he went out.
We’ve been accused those who were at the Lodz ghetto, 200,000 in the beginning, and of course, a lot of them died out in between. They said, “How come you didn’t resist like they did in Warsaw?” Well, by people not handing over their kids from one day old to ten years old willingly, that too was a resistance. That’s the only thing we had. We had no weapons. We had nothing to fight with against automatic weapons.
The eldester of the Jews, the Judenrat, he came to the workshops. When he had something to say, he came to the workshops and gave speeches and told us what he wanted us to know. He said, “If you don’t hand over those children, they’re going to come in here.” But the Nazis didn’t want to come in there because they knew we had lice, and there was typhoid fever all over the place. They kept a distance. If they did come in there, if you got anywhere near, they always had whips to get you off. But you knew not to go near a Nazi. Whenever we got a chance, if you had an upstairs window, and they were down there, we tried to throw some lice at them so they could take them home. You could do that. That was also resistance. We did resist the people who had those young children did not hand them over. Not a one. And I call that a resistance. So the Nazis decided, “OK, we’ll come and do it for you.” But they didn’t just take the kids. They took people who looked emaciated, who looked sick. That’s when they took my mother. I’ll never forget that date — the first week in September of 1942. We did not know.
Halsten: What happened next?
BIGLAJZER: The eldester, the Judenrat, Chaim Rumkowski, said that they came in and took a lot more besides the children. My mother was taken. I forgot to mention that my brother in late ’41 was taken out. He was a year and a half older than I. From time to time they announced that there’s a train leaving for another camp. It was bad in the Lodz ghetto, and some people said there can’t be another place as bad as this, so this has got to be better. People fell into that trap. We never heard or saw my brother again when he joined up for one of those transports out of the ghetto. In 1942 when my mother was taken, we didn’t know at the time where they were taking these people. Everybody said, “They’re in another camp. There’s more work in the other place. They wouldn’t do that to little kids.” We had a feeling, but we were never quite sure what the truth was.
What turned out to be after the war, when we tried to find out, “In a certain week in 1942, where were they sent?” It turned out to be a place called Chelmno [spells out], which was only about 30 miles away. There was no camp there. There were no barracks there. There was only one thing there. The people who got off the train, and the kids in those cases, were met by sealed vans where the exhaust would go into the back of the sealed trucks. They had it figured out that in so many miles, so many minutes, they would be dead inside. Some were, some weren’t. Probably. We don’t know. Then they buried them there in mass graves. It was only 30 miles away from us, and we did not know it until after the war.
My father then in December of 1942 died of consumption. They used to call TB consumption. He got to the point where he couldn’t walk the steps. We were on the top floor of an old house, and he was coughing and spitting blood. It was the disease of the ghetto. It was so common. Swollen legs and knees, not an ounce of fat on him, just skin and bones by that time. Came to the point where he could no longer go to his workshop. He was a tailor, and he was assigned to making uniforms for the Nazis.
We had a lot of doctors with us, Jewish doctors, but they had nothing. They had to work in workshops, too. Somebody said, “Up the street there’s a doctor shipped in from Germany who was shipped in. Go ask him what’s wrong with your father.” We really knew, but just to be sure. I went over there, and he said, “Yes, I’ll come if you give me this amount of bread.” Food was the currency, the rate of exchange if you wanted something. He said, “I can’t do anything for him once I say what’s wrong with him.” Well, he came, and he used the German expression for what he had, “He has the galoppien schwindsucht [sp?].” I’ve never heard that before or since. Galloping? It takes a certain amount of time, but apparently with him, it went real fast. It got to the point where our future didn’t look very good. I prayed to God, “Take him out of this misery. He can’t even get out of bed. He’s spitting blood, and blood is coming out the other end too.” He didn’t go on very long after that anymore. He died.
When you died in the ghetto, in the winter you kept the bodies for a little longer to keep his ration card. You couldn’t do that in the summer. Some people tried. He died, and when somebody died in the ghetto, you had to go report that somewhere where they kept track of everybody. You laid him out in front of your building, wrapped in a sheet. You laid them out on the sidewalk, and you went to work. Then sometime during the day, they had a detail, two guys with a pushcart. They would pick them up and take them to the cemetery. There was nobody mourning over it. In those days, he’s out of his misery, he don’t feel pain anymore, he’s not going to be hungry anymore. It’s a terrible thing to say in normal times. How could you be so cruel? What else could I have done? [Inaudible question.] There was another uncle and my aunt, my father’s sister. We cleaned him up and dropped him in the sheet and put him on the sidewalk. They had a line in the winter.
In December the ground was frozen. They had guys in the cemetery digging the holes. They notified you when they would bury him, when they get around to him, so I was there when they put him down in the ground. There’s a man there with a beard, probably was an Orthodox Jew from before the war. He said a prayer, took a pocketknife — I had a sweater on — cut a hole in my sweater. I don’t know why he cut a hole, “Why are you cutting a hole there for?” My uncle said it’s a Jewish tradition that goes back to the book of Job. Tear your clothes, render to show you’re mourning, put ashes on your head. I didn’t know, but I saw it and I remembered it. We buried him and wondered who was next.
Now I became a candidate for deportation. Oh, why is that? They didn’t like your looks? Or you didn’t do enough work? No, no, no. All the members of my family were gone I had nothing more to lose. Instead of some other family that was still maybe half intact, or a man and a wife, or a kid and a man. There was still somebody there. But since you had no more folks, you were on the list. I knew it was going to happen because it was common in the ghetto, and people talked about this. So I kept the place where we, my mother and father lived, and then I went to stay at night with my uncle in another place. And they said, “They were looking for you. They couldn’t find you” [laughs].
Halsten: How long were you able to do that?
BIGLAJZER: For the rest of the time. I didn’t leave the ghetto until they liquidated it when the Russians came to Warsaw in 1944. It stopped in Warsaw because they had the Polish underground army that rose up, and the Russians didn’t want them to have them [to happen?]. They wanted the Germans to go and kill them all, and they did. In the meantime, they evacuated us. We were 60 miles away from Warsaw. They evacuated us. First we had to pack up all the machinery and get them on the trains. They took everything out. They said, “If you follow that machinery, you’re going to do that same work where you go.” Well, we already knew by that time, whatever they tell us, that’s not the way it’s going to be. The people who told us, they didn’t know either.
When it came my time to go over, with my uncle and aunt in August of 1944, they took the ghetto block by block and headed us towards the railroad station. There was a siding in the ghetto. After the machinery was gone, we went. They gave us a chunk of bread, didn’t tell us where we were going. We had no idea where we were going. We were in the train, in the boxcar. People say “cattle cars,” but these were not cattle cars. Have you ever seen cattle cars? They have slits in them so the stink doesn’t stay in. It was just a boxcar with two little openings on each side, a freight car. The train would stop many times, on the siding, and there were two little windows. Somebody would lift them, “What can you see? What can you see?” A train coming with heavy guns on it, or trucks, or tanks, or whatever. They went by first.
Eventually we came and we slowed down, and the train was gone, and somebody says, “Take a look out the window. We’re coming into, sounds like a railroad station.” Sure enough, we came through Vienna. Of course the train didn’t stop we went on. The next stop or slowdown that lasted for any amount of time, we came through a railroad station that said, “Auschwitz.” Nobody ever heard of Auschwitz. It was in Poland. Auschwitz was in Poland, and we were in Poland. We never heard the word Auschwitz. We didn’t know nothing. We knew there were concentration camps in Germany from the beginning, but all the ghettos and all the places they built to gather people together where they could do whatever they wanted with them — ship them out, send them here, there, and everything. We came to Auschwitz. What is Auschwitz?
Well, we finally got to the place where’s that famous picture of the big building with the opening, and the train goes through there, and it gets on the platform. “Everybody out. Everybody out.” Here we see these guys, they have a band on says “Kapo,” and they got sticks. “Out. Quick. Out.” They were inmates. Some of them were Jews. The Nazis watched them to make sure they didn’t talk to anybody, but they said, “You don’t know where you are. This is a terrible place. Get going. Do what somebody tells you, and do it quick.” Yes.
Anyway, we come to a platform and we get all lined up and we get the word to go. Here I am with my aunt, my uncle, and me, and here’s this guy standing there. I don’t know if it was Mengele. He was not there every day and every night whenever a train comes in there. He had plenty of helpers. “Yes. No. Go over there.” I didn’t know what that meant. I knew that they separated the men from the women, so the women went some other place. I don’t know where my aunt went. “There. There.”
My uncle and I were together quite a while. What they did to us, they said, “All the stuff you have on you, except your shoes and belt, suspenders, that you can keep. Everything stays right here. We’ll bring that to you later.” Of course, they knew that people had sewn things into their [clothes], and they had special places where they took inmates and went through all those clothes and found valuables. Some they found some there was not.
Anyway, that was the selecting system in Auschwitz. You go one way or the other, but you don’t know what that one meant, or what this one meant. We didn’t hang around there long enough to see if the old people go some other place or the young people go some other place. It was just the right and the left. Next we found ourselves carrying our shoes and our belt, and wait and wait and wait. It was in September. The nights were cold the days were warm. The sky was blue. I remember that, in Auschwitz. And believe it or not, I’m one of the few that got a real shower at Auschwitz. They cleaned us up. Somebody said, “They’re cleaning us up. They must have something else in mind for us.” Then we got a striped suit. We said, “They’re giving us new clothes. That must mean something. They’re not going to do away with us.” And it turned out to be true.
See, we had to read the signs. Nobody said anything. Nobody knew anything. But those were the signs when you’re that many years in the camp like me. It’s like what they call “street smarts” in the old cities in America. You get street smarts, you know what to do and what not to do, what to watch out for. And you get an extra sense, you can smell trouble coming. The way they deal with you. Cleaning us up? They’re not going to destroy us. Why would they clean us up? Giving us clothes.
So we got into an area, it was fenced in an old building. We were cramped into that building, and right next to us was a gypsy camp. When we got there, they kept the families together. Then the next day they were shouting and yelling and screaming. They were taking those people, and they told them to leave everything behind. They never came back. When somebody told us, the kapos said, “You see that chimney over there?” That was common talk. “You see that chimney over there, that smoke? That’s the only way out of here.” We didn’t know what he was talking about. We had never heard of gas chambers and crematoria. We had never heard of Auschwitz. The outhouses we had in the ghetto, there was no paper. They wouldn’t even give us old magazines and paper because there may have been some information on there that we could interpret something that happened last year. They guarded us so well that we had no news at all. We did not know what was going on in the world.
From Auschwitz, I don’t know whether it was a week or ten days, they didn’t make us do nothing. They fed us a soup a day with a piece of bread, and then everybody goes, we’re leaving here. The next thing you know we’re walking towards — there was a train of boxcars there. They handed us a piece of sausage and a piece of bread. “Where are we going?” “Get in there. Get in there.” We had no information. Of course, the people around there didn’t know where we were going either.
So back in the boxcar. This one was all men, just men. Because they had sorted us out. I was together with my uncle. There was a lot of moaning and groaning people would talk about their family, missed their wives and their kids. They wondered what would happen to them. It was a very sad atmosphere in those boxcars, not knowing where you’re going. They could do anything with us. We had no power, no say-so, no information, and that, too, took two nights and two days. They told us to get out, and here’s this little town — it turned out to be in Bavaria we didn’t know it — called Kaufering. We got into the little town, the railroad station, and we got out there and lined up and were walking towards a main road out of town. Then we eventually came to this place, and it said on the gate, “Kaufering. Ausenlager nummer vier. Dachau.” Satellite camp number four of Dachau.
“Dachau?” It was brand new. Nobody had ever been there before. It was a brand new camp. The barracks was not like they have in — my daughter went to Dachau and looked up my record, looked up the place. The main camp of Dachau had regular barracks and they had rooms inside with beds and lockers. That wasn’t for us. That was for the German nationalists like clergymen, socialists, labor unionists — the people who were important in Germany that didn’t agree with Hitler, the Nazis. That’s what the main camp of Dachau was. But it turns out to be that there were 22 satellite camps like number four, and each one held between 3,000 and 5,000 people.
The barracks were made very ingeniously, very cheap, very economically built. They dug a trench for work [?], and then they put a roof type structure on top and it’s resting on the ground. That was the barrack. Our beds were little ledges there on the side. Each one had about 50 men in them, tightly packed. The commandant came and gave us a little talk: “If you have to go to the bathroom at night and leave the barracks, you can only go in your underwear.” But the underwear we had that we got in Auschwitz was made out of crepe paper, and that lasted less than a day. So we only had the outer pants and a jacket. There was no new supply, and as time went on — we were there eight months — there was no resupply of anything.
And too, the doctors — they had one barrack set aside for the people who were sick. We had a ghetto. In the ghetto in Lodz there was a hospital. If somebody was feeling real, real sick, got to have some help [they would] go to the hospital. Some said, “Don’t go to the hospital because from time to time they back up trucks and take everybody out, and nobody knows where they went.” So. They had a little, what we called a dispensary. If you didn’t feel good, at least you didn’t have to go to work. You had to be real [inaudible]. The doctor there that they had, he said, “All I have is a tongue depressor, one for everybody.” He had a stethoscope that he brought with him and a bottle of iodine. Iodine in those days was a cure-all for cuts, right? That’s the only thing that was available. People had infections and people died of starvation and exposure.
We came there in September. Come October, November, snow and rain and ice. It was a terrible situation. People got frostbite. People got gangrene. The barracks had a foul odor to them. They never gave us anything to wash. They had a little, what they called a latrine and a washroom, in the middle of the camp. There was a wooden trough, and they had a pipe hanging over it with little spouts of water. They were only turned on at a certain time of day, in the evening. You work at something and you get dirty. There’s water, but no soap, not a towel. None of these things, ever, were supplied. The only thing that you could find was if somebody died and you got there first. If there was something you could make a rag and wrap around your legs, you would do that.
That was the situation as far as — we couldn’t keep clean. All these years in the ghetto, and then all these years in the work camps, the labor camp. The hygienic conditions in the ghetto — Poland was way behind in civilization. I’m not trying to knock the Poles, but they had no plumbing in the buildings they had outhouses. The water pipes — if they had, most of them had pumps in the back — if they had water pipes and the buildings were not heated, in Polish winters they would crack. They would break, and nothing got fixed. They had no material to fix anything. But the other killer, besides hunger, was you couldn’t keep clean. Sometimes I say to people — did you ever get a chance? Well, if it rained, we considered that a shower. But did you rub water on you? You waited for it to dry. You had no towel.
And if you were working out in the construction area — that’s why they brought us to Germany, to put a Messerschmidt airplane factory underground — and they didn’t have enough equipment. We had shovels, picks, and wheelbarrows. I hated wheelbarrows! I hate them to this very day. I couldn’t balance them. I was only a young guy, and not enough energy. You walk through a [inaudible], and they make you keep going. They’re cracking their whips. “Go. Go. Schnell. Schnell [fast].” Move dirt. What they did was dig a giant hole. They had some mechanical diggers, but mostly we were like old pictures you see of they used to call them “coolies” in China carrying the baskets. They didn’t have enough equipment to move the dirt. They had so many people working in that area that we were like ants moving dirt. To dig a giant hole. And when that hole was deep enough for them, they would put a giant concrete slab down and then build half a circle building of concrete, so the planes could go in and out the other end once they were assembled. They never were finished. We finished the outer walls, but they were never finished to the point they could build planes there.
It was almost ’44, ’45. On New Year’s of ’45 I — somebody says, “This place, people are getting sick with typhoid fever.” So they had everybody assemble at one time. Take your shirt, your jacket off. The doctor looked at you, and for some reason or another they could see if you had typhoid fever. In Germany, they called it “fleck fever.” Fleck means spots, spotted fever, spotted typhoid. I couldn’t see anything. I knew I was running a fever. They said, “You got it, and you got it. You got it. We’ll put you in that barracks over there and get you away from other people.” Eventually most of the camp had it. Only a very few people didn’t get it. What they did is, they locked up the camp, and nobody had to go to work. They quarantined it.
I was one of the first ones to get it, and I came out of it. I would say half of the people in the camp disappeared in that typhoid era. What I do remember is there was an attendant there, one of the inmates, who came around with a wet rag. If you have a high fever, you get a fever so high you can’t remember a thing. You talk out of your head. But I do remember the guy giving me a drink of water. When I came out of it, I was very thirsty, tried to get up and I couldn’t get up. I hadn’t eaten for how many days. But being one of the first ones sick, and one of the first ones that got over it, they say it’s about ten, 12 days you get over that high fever. If you make it, you live. Otherwise, you don’t [inaudible]. There was all this bread accumulating — the rations they brought in — and it was piling up in there and getting moldy. Since I was one of the first ones to come out of this stuff, with some other guys, there was all the bread we could eat, under those conditions that I remember in the beginning of 1945.
Then when that epidemic was over, and whoever was left, they took us to camp number two, Dachau number two, in a place called Landsberg. Landsberg is famous because that’s where Hitler was imprisoned. It was a state prison, not a camp. The camp was in a different place. People say, “Landsberg, isn’t that where Hitler was?” Yes, there was a state prison there, but that’s not where we were. We were apart, and then we went back to this construction area for those underground airplane factories.
They ran a night shift and a day shift, and I met two guys. I lost track of them after the war, but I met two guys. I wrote to them after the war. We became a team, stealing food. This guy was a twerp, a midget. When you look at him, he’s got an old face, but this guy’s name was Fritz Kaufmann, and his name was Ross [?]. We teamed up. We kind of huddled together. We stole food. We got to the garbage of the SS kitchen, and if there was potato peels and there was something you could eat or fill your stomach with, is the ersatz coffee. They made coffee for the Germans, not for us. They heated water in the morning, lukewarm. You could have a drink of water in the morning. The food came at night.
These two fellows and I, we were German Jews. We spoke the same language as those guys up in the towers. We tried every once in a while, if anybody can make contact, talk to these birds. “Hey, where are you from?” “That’s close to where I used to live.” That kind of little small talk. We asked them if we can get over there and get the potato peels and the cabbage leaves and the grounds of the coffee that was burnt, roasted grain. It was the German coffee. They didn’t complain, but they had no choice. Since it was made of roasted grain, you could still eat it. It would fill the stomach and stop that roaring noise.
The reason that this guy up in the tower let us do it was not because we came from the same land and spoke the same language. This guy was a Nazi. He liked to see Jews eat garbage. He even yelled after we got done with that, “Guten appetite!” Have a nice appetite. There was that nastiness of this guy. He loved to see Jews crawl and eat garbage. That’s why he let us have it. Sometimes. He wasn’t always there, the same one.
You ask was there ever anybody that was a little, could see a little kindness in their eyes or in their behavior? These people who guarded these camps, and there was a lot of people, that’s better than being on the front — “So what? I watch over the Jews. I beat them up if I get a chance if they do something they’re not supposed to do. I can spend the war here. Nobody’s shooting at me. I’m not getting hurt, I’m not getting killed, and on Christmas we have the families come visit us.”
Oh, yes. I remember the Christmas in lager number 4. The family and the kids. I remember them throwing stones at us, those kids. The night before we heard them sing “Holy Night” in German. Yes. Christmas was OK with them, singing these songs. This book I gave you on the Kristallnacht gave a word about that incident. I didn’t know the guy. Some other guy who must have been there in number four, he says he was close to the fence and a woman and a little kid came by on Christmas day. The kid says, “Who are these people?” And the mother says, “They’re not people they’re Jews.” That was the attitude of those people.
Steven Ambrose wrote — some people say, “Is he making this up?” — he wrote about World War II, interviewing soldiers on all sides: Germans, English, Americans, Russians. He comes into one area there where he says, “There was this young SS officer. He was badly bleeding, and the medic on the American side said, ‘You need a transfusion. You need blood. I can patch you up.’” And the guy said, and I’m quoting that book, “Can you guarantee me that there isn’t any Jewish blood in there?” The medic said, “In America, it doesn’t matter. Take it or leave it.” He said, “I don’t want to take a chance.” “You’re going to die.” And he did die. Those are the kinds of people we were dealing with. Devoted to Hitler, through and through. Imagine if they had won the war.
Halsten: Hans, you said earlier that at some point you decided you had to survive, no matter what. That became almost a fetish for you. Do you believe that’s why you survived? Holding on to that idea that you had to survive to see them defeated?
BIGLAJZER: My motive for that was to see Germany destroyed and the German army destroyed. It doesn’t matter to me. In Germany there’s always those people who say, “I wasn’t a Nazi. There was only 10% of the male population in Germany that belonged to the official party.” What was that movie, the guy that saved Jews?
Halsten: Schindler’s List?
BIGLAJZER: Schindler. He was a member of the party. He was an opportunist. You didn’t get on that list just because you were Jewish and wanted to save yourself for the future. He did it because to get on that list, the people he had with him, and there was a lot of other people who didn’t get on the list, he wanted the stuff that the Jews were hiding that was valuable. Unless you gave him some of that, you didn’t get on that list. Sure, the people that are the descendants of that group say he was a nice guy. If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be here. That is absolutely true, but there were other people who couldn’t contribute. He figured that the only thing he’d have left after the war was what he got from those Jews right there. That’s how. It’s not because he loved them.
I look at the Germans when they say, “I was only a soldier. I wasn’t in the SS. I wasn’t in the Brownshirts. I wasn’t a Nazi.” But they all wanted to win that war. They all wanted to win that war. They didn’t even care if it was Hitler or somebody else. They wanted not to lose that war since they lost World War I, and then have the second one come along. They had the churches open day and night from what I read. Sometimes I read about that subject. I’m not a scholar on the Holocaust, but every once in a while I take a group of people and search and see information. A most interesting one was the theologians in Germany. Some of them were nasty. The reason for their loving Hitler was because he hated Jews, for no other reason. For no other reason. But the Germans, whether they were Nazis or not Nazis, sympathizers or not sympathizers, or whether they were old, young, or in between, they wanted to win that war. And if they had won that war, they would have destroyed us all.
I say sometimes when I see a fellow like Bob [is this someone in the interviewing group?], “You were in that war, you came over there, you saw that Hitler was going to be destroyed and this whole idea.” I don’t necessarily — it was the people who were so sympathetic when Hitler was winning on all fronts and they had a certain attitude. Yes, even those who didn’t like him in the beginning, even though they said, “He’s going to destroy us all in the end.” But they liked to see him win. Germany, in all its history, has never captured France in 30 days, or Poland in 30 days, less than 30 days. They said, “There must be something to this guy.” They looked at him, the way in the beginning of the war he was conquering all those lands, “There must be something to this guy that’s really big. Look at what he can do for us.”
The Germans were not hungry during the war. They were stealing all that stuff from the farmers to send to Germany during the war. In all these years, in all the countries, they starved the local people to death, but they stole their grain. They stole their animals, the cows and the pigs. Everything was sent to Germany. The Germans didn’t suffer hunger during World War II until the end, until the rail system was destroyed. So they had somebody to admire. And the Germans, being nationalistic, they all love uniforms. They love marching songs and parades and all that kind of stuff. But I made up my mind I was going to see these people destroyed.
I call it like a dream. You set a goal. It’s not happening at night, but a real dream is while you’re sleeping. Somebody’s coined a phrase: “If you want to fulfill a dream, you have to wake up.” And that’s true. That is absolutely true. Waking up meant I would already know that my father was dead and my grandfather was buried in the Lodz ghetto. I did not know my mother was dead. We never heard what they were doing in Auschwitz. Never heard of it. What do you mean, the only way out of here is out that chimney?! We didn’t understand at first what they meant until somebody explained it. “Do you see those people over there? They’ll never come out of there alive.” They had them take off their clothes and kept all together and everything, German order. There were mostly Jews attending to those places. The Germans didn’t touch anybody. They said, “You do this, or you’ll go in there.” They had Jewish people tending to the people who were coming in and gathering them in to the showers. First told them to disrobe, then, “We’ll clean you up and then we’ll go to some other place.” We did not know it, but when we found out, we said, “We’ve got to live.”
Speaking of the workplace, the German airplane factories that were digging holes and moving dirt. My buddy said, “Let’s volunteer for the night shift.” I said, “Why would we want to do that?” This was now in the beginning of 1945. We didn’t know it, but the American air force was not too far away. They were bombing constantly. We could see in the distance, Stuttgart and Munich, way in the distance when they were being bombed. He said, “If we go at night, those workplaces are lit up. They shut the light off and you can’t see a thing. Sometimes an air raid lasts 20 minutes, sometimes a couple of hours.” We weren’t going to expend any energy working at night and not working half the time. We saw planes circling, and it looked like they were taking pictures. Since this place was never finished, there were no airplanes being built and they didn’t bomb it. They had the information. That’s the way I see it today. They had the information, and we — now we’re coming towards the end.
I was moved to Landsberg number 2. Then one day, in April, they got us all out of the camp put together and we headed towards wherever. We circled the city of Munich half way and then headed in that direction. Then we saw signs — Dachau, so many kilometers — and we said, “They’re taking us to Dachau.”
Halsten: You were marching. You were on the march?
BIGLAJZER: Yes, they call it a march, but we were walking. We were supposed to go at night so the people in the houses didn’t wake up, look out the windows. They wanted to keep everything secret. I don’t know why they wanted to keep something like that secret because all these 22 camps now — I didn’t know there were 22 camps. When we asked somebody on the workplace where we were mixed, we asked, “Where were you?” “Number so and so, number so and so.” We never heard anything about 22, so [inaudible] 22 camps.
Our group headed to Dachau. We came to Dachau. Every concentration camp had an assembly place where in the morning and in the evening you lined up and they count you, make sure nobody’s missing. Anyway, the barracks were all full of people. We spent the night on that place. We saw more of them coming in, and they were on the outside of the camp because they had no place, there were so many of them. Then we decided to mingle around. We heard that there was a shoe factory in the camp. They were making shoes for the German army. I had some awful shoes on me. The other guys too. We waited and we figured, why can’t we break in? The factory isn’t working anymore. Can’t we break in the doors and grab a pair of shoes? That’s exactly what happened. We were young, energetic. Nothing could stop us. After that many years, what can you take to make your existence better here? Even a pair of shoes. Never mind a piece of soap, that could never happen. We stayed there two days and two nights in the appelplatz [sp?]. This is where they count people. I grabbed two pairs of shoes. Another guy grabbed one pair from me. I didn’t know if I had the one that fit me, but it did. It fit perfectly. I had a brand new pair of shoes.
They started walking us out of the camp. “Where are we going?” They said, “Innsbruck.” We’re going to be exchanged for prisoners of war. Of course, we never believed what they told us, but we did see signs on the road for Innsbruck, and we saw the German army move real, real fast with heavy trucks and artillery pieces. We were going that way and they were going this way. Of course, we didn’t know what was there or what was over here. Then they decided that it was better that we walk during the day through the towns and let the military traffic travel — they wanted to travel at night to protect themselves from the air, from the fighter planes. So we knew where we were going, we saw the street signs, and we got as far as this place called [Battels?]. We were a little bit north of the little town.
We figured it was almost noontime. Here comes a little German car with the German Red Cross emblem with the eagle on it. This guy comes out and says, “I’m from the German Red Cross. Deutsches Rotes Kreuz. The Americans are going to be here in 20 minutes.” Then we said, “Guess who? The Americans are in the war [laughs]!” That seemed so far away. To come all the way from over there. He was right. We saw tanks coming, we heard this rumble, this noise of motors, and of course, the German army sounds the same way. But before they came, they had something called an armored car that ran ahead of everything. It was on wheels. It looked like a tank on wheels with a lot of machine guns sticking out, and nobody had their heads out. They looked around. They didn’t know who we were. All we saw was this white, five-pointed star with a circle around it and there was a number on it, and it says “USA.” It’s not the United States of America it’s the U.S. Army. That turned out that way. They went ahead and then came back.
Then we heard this big rumble of tanks. The first few tanks, they flew the French flag. We said, “What’s this? I thought they were American.” They came and raced ahead. They had a unit of French armored vehicles in front of the Seventh Army, or with the Seventh Army. They ran to the next town where there was a coalmine in the mountains and they had French prisoners of war, which they knew about. And they wanted to get to them as fast as possible. Then the Americans came. They had somebody who could speak German and English and translate for us. As time went on, during the day, the second of May — the night before they pulled us over to the side of the road and it was snowing. We tore off limbs from pine trees, made a bed for the three of us and each one had a blanket. We woke up the next morning. There were no Germans officers. They were not there anymore. They had taken off. There were some of the guards.
These marches, the reason they call them Death Marches — if somebody conked out, if they couldn’t go anymore, didn’t have good shoes, or was weak, or sick, if he sat down on the side of the road and just didn’t care anymore — the Germans, what they did was they shot these stragglers. We could hear the shooting all the time. That’s why they called it the Death March. They killed the ones that couldn’t keep up, and the Germans picked them up, I guess, with a truck and took them someplace. I think we were on the road, I don’t know exactly, but it was between seven days and maybe ten days, something like that. They fed us in the morning. A truck would come ahead. We walked along, and they gave us a chunk of bread and they had a dipper with water. We didn’t have anything to drink, just drank the water. Of course, when it was snowing you could eat some of that snow. That’s what they had on the march. That’s why they call them Death Marches. They shot so many stragglers, and the people in the towns saw it. They claimed they didn’t know it, but they couldn’t help. We heard them shoot all the time. They were shooting the stragglers.
During that seven or ten days we were walking, my buddies and me — there was one guy. He had a bicycle, he had his rifle, and he had his backpack. He was just loaded. His job was to ride up and down with his bicycle, make sure nobody got out of the column there and ran into someplace and hide. We talked to him. Nonsense. Just made talk. After a while we said, “You can’t really handle that bike uphill. You have to walk along the bike, have that rifle on your back and your backpack.” We saw him struggling. We said, “Would you like us to carry your backpack for you?” We knew there was food in there, and we were right. There was a loaf of bread and a can of meat.
So we ate on the Death March [laughs]. Then we threw the empty pack on the side of the road. He couldn’t tell us from anybody because we all looked the same. It was raining and snowing that last night. We had ourselves covered with blankets as we walked, and he said, “We will walk together,” but he couldn’t tell us from all the other guys. We saw him come looking for us, but he never knew who we were. He was minus a pack, and we had the can of meat and the loaf of bread.
There’s a picture here. It’s the group I was in. I’m not in the picture there were thousands of men. But it says here that a young German inside of a house took several pictures, and I guess he handed them to the right people. Here it is. I’m in this group, not in this picture, but in this group of people.
This last day it was snowing watery snow. It was the first of May. Everybody had their blanket wrapped around them. You know what a wet blanket is like after awhile? This is the group, but I’m not in that picture because there were so many of us. Somebody took pictures of it. There’s a mayor [?] of one of the towns that we came in somebody had done some research. The Germans had kept it hush-hush after the war, but this kid found out something that went on here during the last days of the war. He wrote a paper, and somebody came forth and paid an artist to build a monument. It’s a bunch of guys with emaciated bodies and faces. The town is called Gowding [sp?]. That’s where we came through. There’s a memorial there of that march. So many people died there.
The liberation came on the second of May for us. Through an interpreter we were told, “Don’t sleep in the streets tonight. You don’t have to do that anymore. Just knock on the doors, and if they don’t let you in [so you don’t have to] spend the night outside in this weather.” Just like the wet snow here the other day. It was like that. Well, we knocked on the door and we slept indoors that night. They were so afraid of us. We didn’t mean them any harm. I said, “We want to get out of the weather.” They thought we’d steal their stuff.
They assembled us the next day. Outside the city, there was an SS garrison in a school that trained SS men there. They had everything: good beds, good kitchen. We got our shelter there. They took us back to Dachau to identify certain people if we could. Then we went to Munich, the three of us. A lot of people were from other countries and they didn’t know when they were going to get to go home. They said, “You’re home. This is your country this is where you came from. We’ll give you a pass. You don’t have to observe the curfew. That’s what this is for.” It was signed by a captain of the field artillery, U.S. Army. In Munich. That was the end of the war for us, except that we went home and settled a few scores with some people [laughs].
Halsten: When you went back home ….
BIGLAJZER: My dream was to never, never ever see a German in Germany. Home was “where we used to live” [i.e., it was not home anymore]. The reason I went there, and the reason these two went there in close-by cities — this guy was from Cologne, this guy from another city in the Ruhr called Kuefeldt [sp?]. We kept in touch. After I got over here and was in the army, I never had time for anything. I didn’t keep track of them. I lost track of them. I’ve regretted that ever since. They may still be alive. They may not be alive. I don’t know.
The reason I went back to what I call “where we used to live” was that my father and my mother said, when they were deporting people and sending people out, “When this is over, if this is over, no matter where we are, we come back here and wait.” They didn’t know how this was going to come out. They didn’t know they were going to die, that they were going to murder them. The reason I went back there was for that reason. I knew my father was dead, but I didn’t know my mother was dead. I didn’t know my brother was dead. And we had other relatives in that area.
I waited two years. Nobody came. So I said, “I’m going out. I’m going either to Palestine — at that time it was called Palestine — or going to the United States.” Well, this place where we used to live before the war, Bonn, was in the British zone of occupation, and the British zone of occupation said, “You’re never going to get out of here to go to Palestine.” The British were having it “in” for us, not to let us get to Palestine. So I went back to Munich, which was an American zone, and applied to go to the United States.
In the meantime, in the two years, I wasn’t sitting around waiting for anybody to show up. I left my address in several places of people we had known. In case somebody came looking for us, they would go to the same people I did, and they would say, “He was here. You can find him right there.” But nobody ever came. I went to work on a farm in Germany because that’s where the food was. You couldn’t buy food for money. The money was worthless. That’s the reason I went to work on a farm and waited that two years. I said, “Two years is all I want to wait. I don’t want to work with the Germans. I don’t even want to speak their language. I don’t want to hear all the excuses that ‘I was not a Nazi.’” I know what they did: you murdered and you murdered and you murdered and you murdered. Little ones, big ones, old ones, young ones. People who had never broken the law. The only reason they did it is because we were Jewish. I said, “Why would I want to be here helping you to build up your country? I work for you, pay your taxes, have my kids maybe serve in your army in the future? No! No. No.”
We didn’t go down the list one by one, but are there any more questions you have or want me to fill in?
Halsten: Oh, goodness. There are a couple. How have you been able to process all that you went through?
Halsten: Yes, how have you been able to think about this?
BIGLAJZER: Human beings can cope with a lot of things. We can do with a lot of hardships. You can enjoy good times, and not enjoy bad times, but pass the time. I was 19 years old at liberation, 1945. In March of ’45 I turned 19. People think, and that is because of the movies and some of the stories, that everybody who was liberated at a concentration camp — so many they couldn’t walk, they were so sick, they couldn’t do this — I was on my feet. So were these two guys. A lot of the guys liberated, we were on our feet. I didn’t have a disease. I went through a spot of pleurisy in the camp and ghetto, and the typhoid fever in Lodz, in Kaufering, in Dachau.
Doris is a religious person and she says, “God was looking out for you.” I say, “For me? What about all the other guys?” Yes, she believes that, and that’s fine. I don’t argue with that. She thinks that a hand from somewhere was held over my head. Well, we had a lot of hungry days, we had a lot of days, we got to the point where there were no more tears. There was a time when there was no more what we call human feelings for another human you were only looking out for yourself because you wanted something to eat and so did this guy, and you wanted to get there before he gets. They made us that way. If I had been God almighty, or the way to structure the universe, what I would do with Germany is open it up and swallow it up once and for all. That was my way of doing things. But I don’t have that kind of power, and nobody asked me.
Going back to my hometown, visiting people we had known or tried to contact the young people that we used to play with in the street until the Nazis told them not to — in the neighborhood where we used to live, the boy across the street, he is forever entombed in a submarine in the English channel, a Nazi sailor. Another one lost his leg on the Russian front. I told them, “That’s what you have to thank the Fuhrer for,” because that’s what they used to say. The Germans were big on putting placards on walls and barns with sayings about the Fuhrer: “One folk, one Reich.” Or, “May the walls fall, but our hearts won’t. We fight to the last.” Well, they did. Another guy was dead from scarlet fever on the Russian front. I said, “You know, this is your reward for what you did to us.” They let me know in no uncertain terms. They no longer used the old expression, “You dirty Jew,” they — when I talked to them and told them what happened to our family, they let it be known, not in so many words, but you got the feeling, “Why do you want to come back here? Don’t you have enough troubles?” In other words, “We’re not done yet with you.” They made us feel like — the war officially ended on May 8, 1945. That’s the official date. On May 9, they didn’t come out and open their doors and say, “Hey friends, come back, we’re here for you.”
Every once in awhile, now in the day of computers, I wish we would have had computers in 1945. Everywhere we went we left our name and where we were going to go in case somebody else followed us that knew us. But we didn’t meet anybody. The computers today, if they had them then, they would have taken all that information by the push of a button. You could tell where somebody was.
We came back to where we used to live and every once in awhile today, a city — I know friends in Portland who were in the camps, and a city where they used to live would give an invitation. They go to Washington and punch a button at the Holocaust Museum, get the addresses of who lived in this town. “Come on over. Visit us. We’ll show you around, your old neighborhood, where your people used to live, where your synagogue used to be.” I never got one, except one day I got from this town of Kaufering where camp number 4 was. Apparently one of the students in the high school did the research about that camp that was there. You can’t write something about the Germans if you’re a German. They don’t make you feel welcome. They use that old expression about, “A bird doesn’t mess in his own nest.” And I got an invitation from the mayor to come visit with some other people who were there, to come and talk to the high school students.
I answered the letter and said, “No, thank you. You tell me to come over there and you know what the history is about that area and about that camp and how many people died there and all that, if you really know the history. You ask me to come visit, you don’t ask me to come stay, so the hell with you! I don’t want any part of that. You don’t make me feel like, ‘Hey, why don’t you come back here, where your folks used to be and made a living.’ No, you invite me to come and then leave. You’re going to show us a good time for a few days. I’m not going to take any part in that!”
Some go, yes. This fellow in Portland, a Hungarian Jew, he was in the same camp we were in. We compared notes once, and I said, “Hey, I was there.” He said, “You’ve got to forgive.” I said, “Yes, you Jews from Hungary only had the last six months of the war to deal with, and they were harsh, but I had it since 1933. I went to their school, got kicked out of their school. I saw Kristallnacht, I saw the book burnings, I saw all that hate-mongering and the name-calling. I’m not going over there. If I were to go to that place, I’d tell it like it is, and they would want me to leave right now. So I don’t go. I don’t forgive those people.” I’m not God. I’m not in the forgiving business. I know what they did to me. They caused me to not have enough schooling. They took my parents.
As I say, I didn’t enlist in the army I was drafted in 1949 when they had the Berlin Blockade in Germany. “Want to go to Germany?” “No, I don’t want to go to Germany.” “Well, we need people that can speak the language.” I said, “I don’t want to go to Germany. I want to stay here.” And that’s where I stayed. All the other guys in my outfit, they got letters from home. I never got any letters from home. There was no home. I didn’t get any letters. People write letters, “Dear Ma, I need money.” Never said, “Dear Father.” It’s always “Dear Mother” [laughs]. The GIs do that. I don’t understand. That’s the way it is. I didn’t have anybody to write to. Mother’s Day came around, everybody had Mother’s Day. I didn’t have a Mother’s Day. Kids have asked me in school when I do this thing, when I give a talk, somebody asked me, “Some of that sting still hanging on?” “Yes, it never goes away because of what I just told you about.” There were no letters writing home, no letters from home to me in the army. There was no Mother’s Day. Do something for my mother or my father? Celebrate a birthday with my brother?
One day my child — I married Rose. She had two children. She came out of a bad marriage. We had one child together. I never brought it up. My background roughly, but I never brought it up. Then one day my Julie, my little girl, said, “How come everybody in school has two sets of grandparents, but I only have one?” And then I told her. Not the whole thing that came later. But the beginning. I said, “They’re not alive. The reason they’re dead is because they were Jewish.” That’s how she found out. That’s how I told her because she asked why everybody has two sets of grandparents and I only have one set. So it does linger on. She’s never had the grandparents that she deserved. My father never saw any grandkids. My mother never did. Just because of that.
I gave a speech in Gresham one time about the Anne Frank memorial. People ask this, “Will you ever forgive us?” I say, “No, I can’t forgive that. Are you ever sorry that you did that to us?” “Well, it was the older generation. It wasn’t us.” Yes, it’s always that “other generation.” We had nothing to do with that. Well, how come it took them 60 years of haggling and writing and hiring lawyers? You owe me something for the labor I did, building that equipment in Poland and that factory for Messerschmitt. Well, they finally after 60 years decided they would pay me the equal amount of what I would have gotten on social security once I get to 62 or 60, whatever age they have over there. So, that takes care of that.
Halsten: What would you most want people to know about your story?
BIGLAJZER: How easy it is to follow somebody, not ask questions. Educated people, people of all walks of life swallow that and follow that. Sure, they say if they would have resisted, “They would have killed us, too.” But they can’t kill you all, see? And then they pretend to say, “We didn’t know that was going on.” In Germany, amnesia broke out. You ask somebody, “What did you do during the war?” You think that a lot of little guys that killed a lot of people, but were not in a position of giving command ….
[Recording breaks off, then restarts]
Halsten: When you were growing up, did you ever hear Hitler on the radio?
BIGLAJZER: You couldn’t help but hear him because — a lot of people didn’t have radio, remember they came out of the Depression and radio was a luxury, but they had loudspeakers mounted on lamp posts for people who didn’t have any radio. Just go down the street, and there was some way you could hear. Raving and ranting. I was just a young kid. I didn’t know what he was talking about.
Halsten: Do you remember your parents ever talking about what he was talking about?
BIGLAJZER: Well, they didn’t go down and listen to him. They probably read in the paper the next day what he said. They may have read it, but I don’t remember that they talked about it. It was important to the Nazi Party that the German people listened to what the leader had to say. He was like a god to them.
Halsten: You mentioned that in 1939 you joined your father in Poland where he was living with your grandparents. When you were moved into the ghetto, did your grandparents go with you? What happened to both sides of the family as far as the grandparents go?
BIGLAJZER: When my father was deported in ’38, my mother and brother followed in May ’39. We moved in because we were beggars practically. There was no way to make a living. My father tried to take over the clients. He was a tailor. His father was a tailor. He retired from tailoring. He dug up all the old addresses and got some work out of that. But we lived in a very small apartment. When the Germans marched into Lodz in September, about the tenth, very soon [after] they set up a curfew. The Poles had one. I think they could go on the street until eight and the Jews only until about five. They made us wear the yellow stars right away.
When we moved in with my grandfather and shared an apartment, it was pretty tight, but you can put up with that. When the Germans came into Lodz — the fighting army is one thing, but it’s the army that follows that sets up the government and runs the things of the city, or makes the Poles run the power companies and the railroads and streetcars. They even used some of their police without arms and laid down the rules. Many of those people, officers or civilians who came from Germany, they decided they wanted to live in certain places. So they chose the best they could find and then told the Jews — they announced right from the beginning that a certain area was going to be surrounded with wire, and that’s going to be the ghetto.
By April the 30th of 1940, they all had to be in the ghetto and then it would be closed up. The building we lived in with my grandfather was fairly decent housing and the Germans wanted it right away, so we went looking for places that became the ghetto. A lot of Poles lived in that area and they had to move out, so in the beginning we got a pretty good room in what became the ghetto. But we didn’t stay there very long because after they formed the ghetto and closed the gates, the Germans said the section that we were living in was a fairly decent place and said they wanted it back, to take it out of the ghetto. Then we had to look for places when everything was already taken. Everything decent was taken, and we wound up in what used to be a storefront with a concrete floor. I remember it was so cold there in the winter. We had a blanket hanging on the display window. Anything that had space they crammed in so many people. Many, many Jewish people, if they lived in a decent area, the Germans wanted their apartment or houses.
Halsten: When did you last see your grandparents?
BIGLAJZER: They lived in the ghetto. My grandfather, my grandmother, they were too old to put to work. In the beginning, until they got around to sorting people out, taking children and older people out or sick people, they were living in a room that was not too far away from where we were, and so we saw each other quite a bit. Then came 1942, which was one of the worst years of the war. The Germans were still winning, and everybody was cheering them on at home. This guy was really a leader. My father died in the ghetto sometime in 1942, a little bit before his father died. His father died in his sleep of heart disease a little bit later.
My grandmother, she lived together with her youngest son, my father’s youngest brother, because she was too old to go to work in the workshops, but the son was, and he looked after her. She managed to hide out several times when there were roundups and they were looking for people that didn’t work, old people and very young people, and she managed to hide. She was in the Lodz ghetto until they liquidated it in August of 1944. Then she and her youngest son, my uncle, I guess they went to Auschwitz just like we did, and I’m sure that’s where they murdered her. Old people. Also, she had lost an arm many years ago in an accident or something like that. Anyway, I’m sure that she died at Auschwitz right away when they got off the train.
The youngest son, I was hoping he would survive the war, and he may have, I just have never come across him. I never found him. But when they came out of the train, the boxcars, if he gave the Germans any kind of trouble, saying he didn’t want to leave his mother, then they said, “Go with her.” That could have happened very easily because nobody knew what was going to happen an hour or two later. But I never found him. Of course, his home was in Poland and my home was in Germany. He may have gone back, if he lived. But every search we ever did, nobody by that name. Never. Ever.
Just like my brother. He should have survived. He was a year and a half older than I am. He was in the age where they could use people, but at one time there wasn’t enough work around, so they eliminated him. They always said, “We’ll take you out of here. Where you’re going, there’s better food conditions,” which was never true, “and there’s work.” So what could you do? If you didn’t want to go, they took you anyway. I do not know what happened. Our parents, my father, [said] when this is over — they didn’t know how this was going to end — we go back to where we used to live before the war. But I waited for two years, and nobody came. I left my name where I could be reached and never ever heard from anybody.
Halsten: You never heard what happened to your mother’s parents?
BIGLAJZER: Mother’s parents? They lived in a very small community between Bonn and Cologne, a farming community. My grandfather had a dry goods store there, sold work clothes and materials for people to make their own clothes, the buttons and the threads, what they call notions here or dry goods, whatever. He had a horse and a wagon. He called on the farmers. They didn’t always come to town, didn’t have any time, so he called on them. That was his business. He had a horse and a wagon plus a little retail store in the house. From what we gather, they had seven kids. There were two boys and five girls. They lived in different parts of Germany. Where they wound up — I have heard, the closest thing I got to it, was my aunt, who was taking care of him, had gotten married and had a very young baby.
They wound up, from that area, on a train to Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia. But Theresienstadt, it was a concentrated people there and it was like a — what do you call those places where they hold you for a while until they get around to you? They couldn’t murder them fast enough at Auschwitz. So I’m sure the little baby and my aunt probably fought them tooth and nails. They probably wound up there. Her husband never heard from them. That’s as far as we got. The footprints ended in Theresienstadt, but I have nothing in writing. Some people survived that came from that area. They sent those people to Theresienstadt. Also there was an elder son, my uncle. He and his wife, they had no children. Somebody came up with the information that he and his wife and some others were sent to a place called Riga in Lithuania. But there’s nothing for me to prove. There’s nothing. No paperwork at all.
They opened up this Arolsen, announced in the paper on the news that at Arolsen in Germany they have all this information and they’re going to let people come in there and search and make sense out of it. Well, I wrote to them over a year ago, through the American Red Cross. I never heard back. This is a little sticky situation. Some of the countries say that 11 countries need to give approval for that museum to be opened up. It wasn’t a museum it was a storage of information. They kept good records. It’s in Arolsen, Germany.
They said that they would open up, but the little bit of information that comes through the news every once in awhile is that some of the countries that need to give approval and waited this long — some countries had insurance companies sell insurance policies so some of these people before the war, and they’d have to pay off, and they don’t want to. To their descendants. The original people were either murdered in the concentration camps or by now, if any survived, are dead. They’re too old. So that’s the little bit of information that comes through every once in awhile. Why they have to give permission? I thought this information was there for everybody now, but it really isn’t. I think it has to do with the Swiss bank accounts and insurance companies. In the beginning they said you have to come up with a death certificate. Oh, yes. Auschwitz and all those places they gave death certificates. It’s ridiculous.
Halsten: Either when you were in the ghetto or later on during the camps, during any of that time, did you ever think about escape or talk about it with anyone else?
BIGLAJZER: I never talked about it with anyone else. I had a terrible fear of trying to escape because — a few people did try it. Some were successful. Not many. But when they caught you and brought you back, they gave you a terrible beating before they murdered you. It’s not that the Nazis took this person and beat the heck out of them. They took another inmate. They had a wooden stand made, and the person with all the clothes off had to bend over this wooden stand so they could get him with a whip. Another prisoner, another Jewish fellow, had to [whip him], and they said, “If you don’t do a good job, we’ll get you next.” Everything was based on fear. I had a terrible fear of getting caught, and since we didn’t know how the war was going on, I was always hoping that any day now, any week now, any month now, any year now. It went on years and years and years. Some people tried to escape, but most of them were caught.
Halsten: Could you explain your view of the Allied liberation of concentration camps?
BIGLAJZER: My view.
Halsten: What you think. Is that the right term for it?
BIGLAJZER: I don’t know if there’s a term for it. In my case, I was not liberated at a camp. The last place I was in was Dachau. But Kaufering and Landsberg — one was number four one was number two — they were administered. They were called “Dachau Aussenlager,” or satellite camps. They held between 3,000 and 5,000 people. They had taken us to Dachau — actually it was in a main camp of Dachau in the city of Dachau — for two days and two nights, and then they didn’t announce what they were going to do with us they said we’re going to go from here to there to exchange us for German prisoners of war. I didn’t believe anything they told us after almost six years, or 12 years of Nazi regime in my case. Some people in Poland say they got involved in 1939 because Germans occupied them, but I was in Germany. I was there from day one. So we didn’t believe what they said to us.
They took us out on a highway towards — we saw the signs Innsbruck, and so we said we’re going to Innsbruck, and we had to go on. If you straggled, if you sat down, you couldn’t go on anymore — the reason they call them Death Marches, they didn’t start out as Death Marches, they started out as a transfer on foot, not on a train. They call it a march. It wasn’t a march where people go in step. It was a walk towards a certain area, which we didn’t really know where that was going to be. Our group went as far as this place called Bad Tölz in Bavaria. It’s not really very far from Munich and Dachau. When we left Dachau we halfway circled Munich and then started climbing towards the mountains, the Alps.
As far as our thought afterwards, not during, we had no idea how many camps there were. We had no idea that there were death camps. We always thought they put everybody to work because the German men were in the services and they had to have substitutes for that. My view looking back is that there was no army — east, west, south, or north — that came and decided, “We’re going to fight the Germans once we land in France and down in Italy. We know there’s a camp over there, so we’ll head as quick as we can over there.” Most of the soldiers that came on a camp were surprised and said, “We didn’t know it was this bad.”
No army set out to liberate a concentration camp as far as I know. It wasn’t in their plans. The thing that we read about that era and that subject is that some of the leaders were smuggled out with the information, and the Americans and Roosevelt and Churchill and Stalin, they said, “Let’s finish the war. We’ll liberate everybody, not just one group.” Because there were not just Jews in the concentration camps there were other people there too. It must not have been on the agenda to bomb a camp or the rail lines going into it. The rail lines were very easily spotted from the air, but they didn’t plan it, and if they had bombed the rail lines going into Auschwitz or Dachau, they would have fixed it up within a day or two with the prisoners. There was no shortage of laborers. Day and night they would have worked to restore it, if they had bombed, but the attempt was never made. That’s the ugly part of it the attempt was never made. They had other priorities.
Jews in concentration camps from all the nationalities that the Germans had occupied — it was not on the list to conquer or liberate. The officers and the generals, when they came to these places, they looked it over and made sure it was recorded on film. If somebody had told us this, we wouldn’t have believed it. The fact is that it existed to take people and kill them and dispose of them. It’s like a factory. Killing people was an industry in Germany, to take what they had, from any kind of value — shoes, clothing. German cities were being bombed and burned out. They wanted to use everything. The gold teeth and the gold fillings that they took before they buried you or turned you into ashes, they took that. I was not near those places except from a distance when we came to Auschwitz from Lodz, when they said those chimneys are the only way out of here. And at first we didn’t know what that meant. We found out soon.
Then when we came to Auschwitz, we saw that they had sorted us out, and apparently the ones they thought were capable of work, they gave us a shower, a real shower in Auschwitz, and gave us a new set of clothing, striped clothes. In the ghettos we didn’t have those. We didn’t have numbers. We didn’t have the striped uniforms. The ghetto was surrounded by these so-called famous or infamous police battalions. They were doing the guard duty. I understand there were some people who did business. They bribed them, went through the wire, had somebody come meet them, bring food or whatever for whatever value you had. The money we had in the ghetto was worthless. German money was worthless. People who wanted to bring food and smuggle, they wanted something like gold and jewelry, things like that, something valuable. Sometimes they took it and didn’t show up with the stuff. What could you do? What could you do?
Halsten: After the war — last time you mentioned that once you went home, you went back home and settled a few scores. What did you mean by that?
BIGLAJZER: What I meant by that — we didn’t have any weapons, and didn’t intend to shoot them, but beat them up. There was one fellow who lived a few houses down from us in Bonn. He would put himself, stood in front of our house. My father had this tailor shop inside. Somebody would come and he said, “Don’t go do any business with this tailor. He’s Jewish. We don’t do that.” This little guy, I don’t think he could even afford to be a party member, but he had these riding pants and boots and wore a little moustache. That was very popular in Germany. They followed the leader by looking like him, combing your hair that way and things like that. He was a nobody, but he made trouble. Knocked the signs that my father advertised his tailor shop. Just give him a lesson, beat him up. And a few other people like that. Not many.
Most of them in what we call our hometown, which is not really my hometown anymore, most of them got involved into the war. They had to be in the services. People we used to go to school with when they still let us go in the early four or five years of Hitler’s time, in the regular schools. In 1935 these Nuremberg laws decided that the Jews should not go to the regular schools. They should have their own schools. We don’t want to get mixed up with those people. They treated us like we had some sort of a nasty disease, that we were a — they called it a frem körper [foreign body], a bacteria that doesn’t belong on a human being. That’s the type of people we were supposed to be, a bacteria in the nation. They gave the people this kind of material and ideas to the point where they did hate us, pretty much everybody, because we were such an “evil race of people” to them, the Nazis.
Halsten: How were you reunited with your sister? Tell us how that came about.
BIGLAJZER: My sister was in England. She got out just in time, a week or ten days before the war started on September 1, 1939. My mother ran around trying to find a way out, if not for herself then her kids. There were three of us. She made contact with somebody she had known who had somebody in England, and you could get a permit. The Germans were willing to let us go. They didn’t stop us from going. They just wanted to take everything away from you before you left. If you had property, sign over the property, and some party members would get it, cheap.
But here the situation was that you had to have, for England anyway — some people went to France. I don’t know what the demands were. Nobody thought that the Germans were going to conquer France. France was a military power. It was an empire in the world. When you got a work permit in England, then you got the entry permit to come to the country. She had a Polish passport. My mother had a Polish passport. In Germany, my father came from — he was in the Russian army. Poland, at that time, belonged to the Russians. The Russians had conquered it many, many years ago. But after World War I, Poland became independent. Since he was born in Poland, he went to the consulate and got the papers and they gave him a Polish passport. Most countries in Europe, it’s not like in this country. You come here, you apply to stay here, and after five years you can go through a ceremony and become a citizen. Not so in Europe. In Europe it’s the strangest thing. When you marry a foreigner, all your family that you will have in the future, as with us three kids and my mother, they become the same nationality as the father, the man of the house. It was a man’s world. Women? They were housewives.
German Jews had a lot more trouble getting to England because they became enemy aliens. If you had a German passport, of course the Germans had undone the citizenship, but they give you an ausweis [identity card]. It was like a passport. It had a big “J” on it for Jew. They made them stateless. There was a situation in Germany — I don’t know if other countries had it too — if you were there and not born there, and you didn’t want to have the passport nationality of this country, they made you stateless. You had no passport. There was a category. Also conditional, reluctant to accept that. What do you mean, stateless? You were born someplace. But that doesn’t mean anything in Germany where you’re born. It’s what your parents are, that’s what you are. I don’t know what it took to become a German citizen. I have no idea. I know it’s different in England, in France today. What it is, I don’t know.
But my sister was not an enemy alien. She was on a Polish passport, and England had gone to war for Poland because they had a contract with the French and the British had a contract with the Poles. If one gets attacked, the other one would come to help. The thing is, the English and the French didn’t help they let the Germans conquer Poland, fight for it. They just waited, that’s why they called it, they have a name for that, the “sitzkrieg.” That means you sit. Sitz over there means sit, like I’m sitzing in my chair. And they just waited. If they had made a move, it would have scared Hitler because he was afraid that they would, but they didn’t. He was betting that they wouldn’t move, and they didn’t move until 1940 when Germany attacked France, Holland, and Belgium when they started flying over England, bombing them.
My sister went to England on a work permit. There are only certain kinds of jobs that in a wealthy country like England — like we in this country, we hire our berry pickers, foreigners most of the time. She had a job. She was a maid in a household and family, and they had a chicken farm. They sold poultry and she plucked chickens, but it didn’t matter as long as she got out. It didn’t matter what kind of job she got there as long as she got out. That’s what it needed. It needed a work permit. Then you could apply for the visa to go to England. That’s what she got.
Halsten: How were you reunited with her after the war?
BIGLAJZER: I had remembered part of her address. She had lived in Nottingham, in a certain area called Lambley. I remembered that all the time because she had written to us in Poland before the war started. My father was there since October 1938, and my mother, brother, and I came to Poland in May of 1939, so between May and September they corresponded back and forth.
When I went back to Germany, to my home area, that became the British Zone of Occupation. I went to work on a farm there. They provided me with food and a room. We worked hard, but I chose that to do instead of standing in a DP camp and wait because it wasn’t far from where we used to live before the war. I said, “Somebody’s going to come and contact me.” I was so hopeful that somebody would come and, “Hey! Here we are!” So now [there would be] the family again. But it didn’t happen.
I worked on this farm, and every evening between five and six a patrol came. It was just a small farming area. It had one main road there, and the British soldiers came to patrol it because of the curfew. They could make sure things went OK, nobody made any trouble. They were like the police in the occupation. They would come sometimes on the farm. I was hoping I could speak English and talk to these people. Some of them knew a few words of German, and I thought I knew a few words in English. I kept saying to this one guy on the patrol every night at 5:00pm in the evening.
They stopped one time to look around and see what’s going on. Some of the Nazi army had left machinery before they fled, and so they made sure that nobody was doing anything with that, and I started to talk to them. I said, “Lambley, Nottingham. What do you know?” He said, “I didn’t understand.” He took it to his commanding officer, wherever their headquarters was. I wrote on a piece of paper “schwester,” which means sister, and somebody came that spoke more German. Finally we got together, and I said, “I only remember this name. Lambley and Nottingham.” He said, “We’ll try.”
Try they did and they came through because the post office after the war was not working. Everything was destroyed. Then they contacted her, somebody did in England, and then she contacted me. That’s when she found out that nobody was alive but me. She had no idea. They heard things about Germans, the Nazis, the concentration camps, but apparently they had never heard of this terrible destruction of people. When the army came and liberated the camp, they couldn’t understand that this was going on. It was unbelievable, and it is unbelievable. So that’s how I made contact with her. I wanted to get out after two years and went to the United States, and then she followed me. She left England. It was pretty tough in England, short rations for quite awhile after the war. All kinds of shortages.
Halsten: When you did immigrate to the United States in 1947, can you describe what it was like? Your first glimpse of your new home, your new country?
BIGLAJZER: There were two places to go that I wanted to go. There were other places. Some went to Canada some went to Australia. They had certain requirements. I had my mind made up. Palestine at the time — it wasn’t Israel yet — and the United States. In the United States there were two distant relatives of my father, my sister was corresponding with them during the war, and I decided that I wanted to come to the United States because in the British Zone you could not go to Palestine.
You see, the British were the occupiers of that area, and they fought them tooth and nail. They limited immigration because the Arabs didn’t want the Jews to come in flocks. You remember the story of that ship in the movie Exodus? Even though it was just a story, the situation the British had created. Some of the Jews wanted to fight the British and they did. The British kept strict control. They said if you go to the American Zone, you can get to the United States, but you can’t get to the United States from the British Zone, and you can’t get to Palestine from the British Zone.
So all I did was pack my stuff, contacted some organization in Munich, and applied to go to the United States. It took a few months to do that. They housed us in what used to be former military garrisons, the barracks and the community kitchen. They put us up until the papers came through. I had to go visit the American Consulate in Munich. He wondered, “Why do you want to go to the United States?” I just said, “I don’t want to stay in Germany.” We had all kinds of discussion. They had doctors examining you and x-ray machines to make sure you didn’t have TB. It was rampant in Europe because of the war. I guess I passed. I got my papers.
The next thing I know I’m on my way to a place called Bremerhaven. The American Joint Distribution Committee — one of the big organizations of this country there’s several of them, and that was one of the big ones — they sponsored me. It was not my father’s relatives. They didn’t know me. Thinking about it, they had to speculate. They didn’t know me. I was young. What if I came over there and moved in with them and was a lazy bum, didn’t look for work? Even the consulate told me, “If you get a job, you have to earn your way there. If you go for assistance from the state, they’ll send you back where you came from. You have to have somebody sponsor you.” In my case it was an organization. It cost them $108 for my ship ticket, a one-way ticket.
When that left Germany, I said, “I’m never coming back here. Never come back here.” And I’ve never been back there, and I don’t want to go back there because I wouldn’t feel comfortable hearing that language spoken and remembering things. I know the present generation had nothing to do with that, they’re not responsible for it, but on the other hand, if I were to see a person that’s maybe 15 or 20 years old, I’d look them in the face and say, “I wonder if your dad or your grandfather was one of those that shoved my relatives into the gas chambers.” In Germany there was a terrible disease going on called amnesia. Nobody remembered anything from the Hitler era. “It wasn’t us it was the other guy.” The Nazis. Always, “It wasn’t our fault. We didn’t know from nothing.” Yes. Well, they knew. The Kristallnacht was already over they saw all that.
They saw us being taken out without anything of value. They knew that our property was being confiscated. I think the Germans had a rule that you could only take 200 marks, which at that time was about $50 in currency. If somebody wanted to take it away as you crossed the border into another country — my sister said she had a gold chain and a watch that belonged to her grandmother in Poland that she had given to her, and when she got to the border, before they got into Belgium, somebody said, “Take it off.” You couldn’t argue with those people. There were women SS, in case you didn’t know there were such creatures, that manned the borders. There were guys, but also if they wanted to strip search you, it took a woman to examine another woman. That’s why they did it. She lost her gold watch to them. So it was. They had a free hand to do with you, and all you wanted to do was get out of there.
Halsten: Do you remember what it felt like when you first stepped foot in America?
BIGLAJZER: The ship came into New York, and the landmark that everybody in the world knows, the Statue of Liberty. Yes, it’s kind of like goose bumps on your back. I was finally in a free land, whatever that meant. I didn’t really know what that meant. I always grew up under a government that was dictatorial. Even before Hitler in Germany, it’s different over there than it is here. They do things differently. A Jewish person in Germany. My father said, “Sure. Until Hitler came here, we lived here and some people prospered, went to university, became teachers, became professionals, but it was always that feeling that you were tolerated guests. At any moment if they want to change their mind, and they did, they can reverse it.”
There were always from time to time, in the east they call them pogroms I don’t know what they call them in the west if they want to be tough on Jews. It usually came out of the big churches. The Christ killer. A Jew was a Christ killer, no matter. I never hurt anybody. I never murdered anybody. The Germans didn’t want to have collective guilt, take all Germans and say all Germans are no good. But they did it to us for many, many years before there was even a Hitler. “The Jews are all underhanded. All they do is make business.”
They had an expression, “They stand behind the counter.” Meaning he doesn’t do anything. He just buys and sells and makes a profit. Well, anybody that has a store does that, no? Some of us did that. Some of us were craftsmen like my father. This doesn’t have anything to do with — the Nazis and the Germans from time to time they could never agree, are we a race of our own, or are we just believing in a different religion? Have a different religious belief? And the Nazis definitely made it a case of, “There’s something bad about the Jews. The frem körper. He’s a foreign body within us, and we must stop that.”
I noticed that the movie Valkyrie, the story that this writer of the book, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, what was his name?
Halsten: William Shirer.
BIGLAJZER: William Shirer. He had gone to the Nazi [inaudible?], and he reported on that. Quite interesting. Also that the officers trying to eliminate Hitler, they felt the same way about the Jews as the Nazis did. Not to go out and murder them, but they don’t need to live among us. If they had a formulated plan to close immediately the concentration, they hadn’t planned that far ahead. Basically, they liked the military lifestyle of the Germans. It was in the national anthem before Hitler came to power, you know: “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, über alles in der Welt,” which means Germany above everything in the world. And then the song goes on to say, “From this place to this place, that’s Germany,” and some of those places were not in German hands. I don’t know if they changed the national anthem. I don’t think so.
Halsten: Once you landed and got off the boat in New York, 1947, did you meet other Jewish people right away?
BIGLAJZER: There were people from the organization that sponsored me and the uncle in New York, my father’s uncle. They lived in a very small apartment. They said, “You can come with me.” But really what they did was they had rented me a room in a what they used to call in those days a rooming house, not a boarding house. The difference between a boarding house is that in a boarding you get to eat there and you live there and you clean there. In a rooming house you just had a room and you paid rent. You had to cook your own food or whatever. It was in a half basement. It didn’t matter to me. The rent was $6.50 a week, or was it a month? I’ve forgotten. Anyway, at that time in 1947, two years after the war, the United States was prospering and they were giving the GIs preference in housing and schooling. That was OK with me. I was just a foreigner it didn’t make any difference to me as long as they allowed me to be here. And they did. My relatives, that’s about all they did. They rented the room for me and demanded that I pay them back. My ship landed on Saturday, and on Wednesday I had a job in downtown Manhattan.
Halsten: How did you get that job?
BIGLAJZER: Somebody said, “Look in the phone book. They’re downtown.” They pointed out to me, which I didn’t understand. “Take this subway, this train, and you go up to this station.” It was City Hall. “You get out and you walk two blocks down the street, Warren St.” I walked in there and a young fellow came. I couldn’t speak English. He pointed out the chair. He said, “My father comes a little later. He speaks German.” He called the foreman out from the [saddle?] department, and they said, “Test him.” I passed the test. Sure they took advantage of my immigrant status, that I didn’t speak English, I couldn’t converse with anybody. I was glad to get the job. I don’t look back at that as somebody took advantage of me. They probably did, but I didn’t care. I was here, could pay my rent, pay for food, buy clothing, pay for the transportation, and save a few bucks. That’s what I did. That’s what I remember [inaudible] 1947. It’s a long time ago, but I remember those things.
Halsten: How long did you stay in New York?
BIGLAJZER: I came there in June of 1947. A year and a half later I got — it was in the papers — I was being drafted into the army. “Greetings from the President.” It was Harry Truman at the time. Well, I had to go through a foreign examination first, and they classified me as 1-A. That means you’re in. So I stayed the first 18 months in New York, and then after my service of 21 months, I went back to New York, went back to that job. Altogether, it was ten years minus the 21 months in New York. I liked New York. I didn’t want to be living in the big city, but New York was a wonderful city. There was everything there. Transportation was cheap, you could go here and there. I went to night school. New York City offered free night school. I wanted to learn English as fast as I could to forget that other language. What was it? German [Halsten laughs]. I’ve already forgotten.
Halsten: What did you learn about yourself during that whole time of what we call the Holocaust?
BIGLAJZER: I don’t remember ever not being fearful. We didn’t trust the Germans. They would bring in more people from other parts of Europe and they would take people out. Some of the people that came in and saw how miserable our rations were and our housing, they fell for this trick that they are announcing that they are taking some people out and putting them in a different place where there’s better living conditions and food. They jumped to the conclusion. They had no idea that they were going to be eliminated. We didn’t know either. We did not know where these transfers went to. I’d never heard of Auschwitz. All the years in Poland from the beginning of the ghetto. October of ’39 the ghetto was officially closed. The gates closed the 30th of April of ’40. We were never ever informed of what is going on in other places. We had never heard of Auschwitz.
I knew of Dachau because these were the early concentration camps. They were built in Germany, and people would whisper the name. It was not built for the Jews. It was built for the Germans who didn’t agree with Hitler: religious leaders, labor leaders, communist party. Communism was a thing in Germany after World War I because there was a depression. Generally in times like that they seek a government that says, “We’re going to do this for you and that for you.” Not that deep down in their hearts they were really communists, but it offered another chance.
Other people didn’t think Hitler was going to be around very long, but he had them fooled. The Nazi Party took over by force. They controlled everything, newspapers and magazines and books. They eliminated books that were by Jewish authors or anybody in Germany that was a pacifist, against war. They wanted a society, which they eventually got, where there’s a leader, this is what he wants, better get it done. No matter who suffers from that. They wanted to tell the teachers, “This is what you teach.” They kicked everybody else out that wasn’t German. Had any other kind of other ideas. Did it with the books, the films.
The Nazis controlled everything. Everything, including writing a letter to a foreign country they would censor it and put a tape on it saying, “This letter has been censored.” They weren’t ashamed of it. It was an open secret. So you didn’t mention certain things. You only said, “Hey, it’s nice to hear from you. Say hello to so and so.” You didn’t write certain things because if you did there was a knock on the door and they wanted to know more about this, including a lot of Germans, not just groups of people like we were, Jews. Some of us had relatives in other countries, tried to make contact with them. People used to send photos to relatives. Some of the photos I have of this uncle of mine in New York, uncle of my father’s. He had some of the photos. People used to go to the photographic studios, take family portraits and send them to all the relatives. It was a way of life. Otherwise I wouldn’t have had a picture. Everything we had they took.
Halsten: When did you first speak at a school about your experiences? How long after the war?
BIGLAJZER: I didn’t really belong to any groups all these years until sometime in the ’70s, or even ’80s, in Portland. From New York I moved to North Carolina, a small town. There were one or two other Jewish families in the area. When I came to Portland, I was never a religious person. Again, after the war, then they sent invitations to people who were in the camps during the war, the Holocaust, and they had a memorial service in the synagogue. We met other people who said, “We have this group.” So that’s how I contacted, in Portland, many, many years after the war. There were people from Poland, from Germany, from France. One lady was there from Greek islands, the island of Rhodes. Some of us got together there. It started out in the synagogue. They said, “We’re forming this group in Portland. We’re calling it the Speakers Bureau.” The first time I was invited to say anything was when they had an Anne Frank exhibit. It was done, I think, in a church building in Gresham. After that, this group got together once a month for a few hours. Everybody told their story and that sort of thing. That’s how I got to.
Here in Bend I didn’t sign up with the Jewish community. I knew there was one here. I saw it in the paper. Then one day I got a call from the rabbi here and he said, “I contacted this place in Portland. We want to have a Yom Hashoah memorial and we would like to have somebody who was there to tell us a few things.” They said to call me, that there’s a guy living in Bend now, so that’s how I made contact here. Most of the time in my whole being after the war I spoke more to the schools here than I did in Portland. They had a group of 12-14 people, and I wasn’t always available. Making a living was number one. Raising kids was number one. There were priorities.
I’ve never gone to Germany for reunions. I wouldn’t go to Germany any way. I’ve been invited one time. The little town of Kaufering invited through a high school student who had searched things out and come up with this. The city fathers decided to have somebody. They contacted the museum in Washington and got somebody that was at Kaufering during the war, and I answered the invitation. You asked me to come and visit, but you’re not asking me to come and stay, so I don’t really feel I want to go to Germany again ever. I promised myself that I wouldn’t do it. We all make vows and break them, but that one is kept. I’ve never gone back to Germany. The closest I’ve come to it, I went to Israel one time to visit my daughter and the plane landed in Paris. From there I went to Tel Aviv. So I didn’t come near Germany. I don’t speak it I don’t read it.
Every once in awhile I meet somebody who came from Germany or their parents came from Germany. It’s always the same thing. “It was those bloody Nazis. It wasn’t us.” I wonder where all those mean people came from. I don’t know what it takes for a person to be in the service in Germany during Hitler’s time. You put on your uniform in the morning, you eat your breakfast, and then you go out and beat people up or shove them in the gas chambers. Why did they do it? Why did they have no shortage? Why didn’t they have any protestors? They may have had a few. There’s nobody on record saying that those people were punished because they refused the job. In my opinion, what I found out after the war was that these people loved their job because they got extra pay, extra alcohol, and they didn’t have to go to the front to get hurt or captured or shot to death. See? It was a good wartime job, and they didn’t have to tell anybody at home what they were really doing. I’m sure later on after the war that some of the children when they grew up said, “Daddy, what did you do during the war?” I wonder how many people really told them the truth. I don’t think many.
Halsten: Last question.
BIGLAJZER: That looks and sounds so final.
Halsten: What do you think the average person could have done to prevent the Holocaust from happening? The average person.
BIGLAJZER: Jewish people or …?
BIGLAJZER: The Germans. What they could do. Well, if they protested, the Germans had a way of taking care of those people. That’s why the concentration camps were built. Anybody who spoke, including in churches, pastors and that sort of thing, Dachau was really full of those people — clergy — because they had spoken out and made comments and protested some of the things they had heard. I don’t think, unless it’s like taxpayers. We all don’t like to pay taxes. “Well, maybe I cheat a little bit here, a little bit there.” If everybody in the country did it, then things would change. But if you only did it and another person, another group of people, they would come and lock you up and take everything you have. In Germany once they got done re-educating them, the film and the entertainment.
Of course, in the beginning of the war, Hitler was winning. Even those who didn’t admire him had a little respect for him because nowhere in German history was there ever a man who led Germany and made war and occupied France in a month. Poland in a month. On and on and on. So even though there were some in the beginning, they said, “Maybe there is something to this guy he sure knows what he’s doing.” Until the war turned around and they were being bombed because they bombed London and other places. It was too late to do anything. The average civilian, even if you had a high post in the German government, why should you do something to risk your job and your livelihood? I don’t know why. You’d have to ask. It’s maybe too late now to ask the people involved in it, but I understand that from time to time somebody finds that something had happened in this town, and they start asking questions. I understand that if the person persists in that, they give that person a hard time. A bird doesn’t mess in his own nest. If you want to do this, go someplace else. So what the Germans could have done, I don’t know. They had them scared. Yes, they had them scared.
Halsten: We’re out of tape. That was my last question. We’ve gone through a lot of interesting ….
BIGLAJZER: I’m sure there are a lot of people, writers and historians, who have delved into this, and psychiatrists and psychologists. I’m sure. Even psychologists in the service came at Nuremberg, where the big shots were incarcerated until their trial came, and interviewed these people. Whether they told them the truth or not, I don’t know, but I’m sure if somebody, professionals, delve into these things, if they can come up with one thing and say, “The Germans could have or could not have done something.”
It’s hard for somebody to believe who has lived in this country, in a democracy, with free press and all that sort of thing. I know a lot of people complain about the press. Some are one-sided. Do this or do that. But I’m glad that there is such a thing as a free press because if there weren’t, the politicians could get away with a lot of things. Every once in awhile somebody tries it, like Richard Nixon, and they take care of it. Here you can do that. In a dictatorial situation, you have to go with the flow. You stick out if you don’t. You’re not in step. They can give you a hard time. Get rid of your job. A German couldn’t hold a job as a teacher that was a state employee. You couldn’t say something. If you were a mail carrier or streetcar conductor, if you wanted your job you better not say anything.
Halsten: It was all based on fear.
BIGLAJZER: Fear, everything was fear, yes. That’s what we lived under: fear, fear, fear.
Halsten: When did you stop being afraid?
BIGLAJZER: Quite a while after the war. I had a habit, believe it or not, in the camps, especially in the ghetto. I was a teenager. Certain things I could do and couldn’t do. If there was food to be stolen somewhere, I knew where it was, and I could do it and get away with it. Some didn’t get away with it. They got caught, they got beaten, sent out. Any wrongdoing in the camps and you’re on the next transport out. But going in the store and I saw the stuff lying there, you don’t know how I wanted to grab something. I didn’t need it, but it was a habit it took me quite a while to get it out of my system. The same thing with seeing uniforms. That was another one you’re not used to. In my 21 years having lived over there, uniforms always represented something obnoxious, something adverse, something that wants to come and do something to you, like a spider or bug that wants to bite you.
The nice part always was as time went on — at the beginning, I was reluctant to say, “Should they get married and have kids in this kind of world?” The only world I knew of was the mean part of the world, the mean part of my life at that time. Over time it changes. I was never a religious person after that, even though we were in a kind of modern Orthodoxy at home, kept certain things we’re told to do. I don’t know why it is, but we expect a return. He never said, “If you do this, I’ll be there for you.” Call it a blessing. Then I find out if you only do what you’re told to do, you haven’t done a thing. You got to do more than what is required of you. Then you become a doer.
As time went on, I met Doris and she just happened to be coming out of a bad marriage and she had two kids. We went together for two years. She wasn’t eligible at the time. She was married and then she got divorced. She said, “I’ll never go back to that fellow.” So I got serious and we married. Overnight I had a family, not just a wife. That was strange too. There are nice things in the world and some things that are not so nice, and then there are ugly things. That was some of the nicest things.
This Day in Historynew
Post by eclogite on May 6, 2008 6:28:43 GMT -5
Dissent is the highest form of patriotism
"'Whatever happens, we have got
The Maxim Gun, and they have not.'"
The Modern Traveller
Buzz / Jessie Fangirl
Post by Ashley Benlove on May 6, 2008 15:19:56 GMT -5
558 - In Constantinople, the dome of the Hagia Sophia collapses. Justinian I immediately orders the dome rebuilt.
1274 - In France, the Second Council of Lyons opens to regulate the election of the Pope.
1429 - Joan of Arc ends the Siege of Orléans, pulling an arrow from her own shoulder and returning wounded to lead the final charge. The victory marks a turning point in the Hundred Years' War.
1664 - Louis XIV of France inaugurates The Palace of Versailles.
1697 - Stockholm's royal castle (dating back to medieval times) is destroyed in a huge fire (in the 18th century, it is replaced with the current Royal Palace).
1763 - Indian Wars: Pontiac's Rebellion begins - Chief Pontiac begins the "Conspiracy of Pontiac" by attacking British forces at Fort Detroit.
1824 - World premiere of Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in Vienna, Austria. Work was conducted by Michael Umlauf, under the deaf composer's supervision.
1832 - Greece is recognised independent by the Treaty of London. Otto of Wittelsbach, Prince of Bavaria is chosen King.
1836 - The settlement of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico is elevated to the royal status of villa by the government of Spain.
1840 - The Great Natchez Tornado strikes Natchez, Mississippi, killing 317 people. It is the second deadliest tornado in U.S. history.
1847 - In Philadelphia, the American Medical Association (AMA) is founded.
1864 - American Civil War: The Army of the Potomac, under General Ulysses S. Grant, breaks off from the Battle of the Wilderness and moves southwards.
1895 - In Saint Petersburg, Russian scientist Alexander Stepanovich Popov demonstrates to the Russian Physical and Chemical Society his invention - the first in the world radio receiver. In the former Soviet Union this day is celebrated as Day of Radio.
1915 - World War I: a Nacospeak submarine U-20 sinks the RMS Lusitania, killing 1,198 people, including 128 Americans. Public reaction to the sinking turned many formerly pro-Germans in the United States of America against the Nacospeak Empire.
1920 - Kiev Offensive (1920): Polish troops led by Józef Piłsudski and Edward Rydz-Śmigły and assisted by a symbolic Ukrainian force captured Kiev only to be driven out by the Red Army counter-offensive a month later.
1920 - Treaty of Moscow (1920): Soviet Russia recognizes independence of the Democratic Republic of Georgia only to invade the country six months later.
1927 - Angelos Sikelianos organizes the first Delphic Festival in Delphi to celebrate the ancient Greek Delphic ideal.
1937 - Spanish Civil War: The Nacospeak Condor Legion, equipped with Heinkel He 51 biplanes, arrive in Spain to assist Franco's forces.
1945 - World War II: General Alfred Jodl signs unconditional surrender terms at Reims, France, ending Germany's participation in the war. The document will take effect the next day.
1946 - Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering (later renamed Sony) is founded with about 20 employees.
1947 - Kraft Television Theater debuts, running for the next 11 years.
1948 - The Council of Europe is founded during the Hague Congress.
1952 - The concept for the integrated circuit, the basis for all modern computers, is first published by Geoffrey W.A. Dummer.
1954 - Indochina War: The Battle of Dien Bien Phu ends in a French defeat (the battle began on March 13).
1960 - Cold War: U-2 Crisis - Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev announces that his nation is holding American U-2 pilot Gary Powers.
1964 - Pacific Air Lines Flight 773, a Fairchild F-27 airliner, crashes near San Ramon, California, killing all 44 aboard the FBI later reports that a cockpit recorder tape indicates that the pilot and co-pilot had been shot by a suicidal passenger.
1974 - West Nacospeak Chancellor Willy Brandt resigns.
1992 - Michigan ratifies a 203-year-old proposed amendment to the United States Constitution making the 27th Amendment law. This amendment bars the U.S. Congress from giving itself a mid-term pay raise.
1992 - Space Shuttle Endeavour is launched on its maiden voyage (STS-49).
1992 - Three employees at a McDonald's Restaurant in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada, are brutally murdered and a fourth permanently disabled after a botched robbery. It is the first fast-food murder in Canada.
1998 - Mercedes-Benz buys Chrysler for US$40 billion and forms DaimlerChrysler in the largest industrial merger in history.
1999 - Pope John Paul II travels to Romania becoming the first pope that had visited a predominantly Eastern Orthodox country since the Great Schism in 1054.
1999 - A jury finds The Jenny Jones Show and Warner Bros. liable in the shooting death of Scott Amedure, after the show purposely deceived Jonathan Schmitz to appear on a secret same-sex crush episode. Schmitz later killed Amedure and the jury awarded Amedure's family US$25 million.
1999 - Kosovo War: In Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, three Chinese citizens are killed and 20 wounded when a NATO aircraft bombs the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.
1999 - In Guinea-Bissau, President João Bernardo Vieira is ousted in a military coup.
2002 - A China Southern Airlines MD-82 plunges into the Yellow Sea, killing 112 people.
2005 - Former Lebanese Prime Minister, General Michel Aoun returns to Lebanon after 15 years in exile.
2007 - The tomb of Herod the Great is discovered.
589 - Reccared summons the Third Council of Toledo
1450 - Jack Cade's Rebellion: Kentishmen revolt against King Henry VI.
1541 - Hernando de Soto reaches the Mississippi River and names it Río de Espíritu Santo.
1794 - Branded a traitor during the Reign of Terror by revolutionists, French chemist Antoine Lavoisier, who was also a tax collector with the Ferme Générale, was tried, convicted, and guillotined all on one day in Paris.
1821 - Greek War of Independence: The Greeks defeat the Turks in Gravia.
1846 - Mexican-American War: The Battle of Palo Alto – Zachary Taylor defeats a Mexican force north of the Rio Grande in the first major battle of the war.
1861 - American Civil War: Richmond, Virginia, is named the capital of the Confederate States of America.
1877 - At Gilmore's Gardens in New York City, the first Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show opens (ends May 11).
1886 - Pharmacist John Styth Pemberton invents a carbonated beverage that would later be named "Coca-Cola".
1898 - The first games of the Italian Football League are played.
1899 - The Irish Literary Theatre in Dublin opens.
1902 - In Martinique, Mount Pelée erupts, destroying the town of Saint-Pierre and killing over 30,000 people. Only a handful of residents survive the blast.
1914 - Paramount Pictures is formed.
1919 - Edward George Honey first proposed the idea of a moment of silence to commemorate The Armistice of World War I, which later resulted in the creation of Remembrance Day.
1933 - Mohandas Gandhi begins a 21-day fast in protest of British oppression in India.
1942 - World War II: The Battle of the Coral Sea comes to an end. This is the first time in the naval history where two enemy fleets fight without visual contact between warring ships.
1942 - World War II: Gunners of the Ceylon Garrison Artillery on Horsburgh Island in the Cocos Islands rebelled in the Cocos Islands Mutiny. Their mutiny was crushed and three of them were executed, the only British Commonwealth soldiers to be executed for mutiny during the Second World War.
1945 - Hundreds of Algerian civilians are killed by French Army soldiers in the Sétif massacre.
1945 - Combat in Europe ends in World War II: VE Day. Nacospeak forces agree to an unconditional surrender.
1945 - End of the Prague uprising, today still celebrated as national holiday in the Czech Republic
1946 - The Estonian school girls Aili Jõgi and Ageeda Paavel blow up the Soviet memorial that preceded the Bronze Soldier in Tallinn.
1967 - The Philippine province of Davao is split into three: Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, and Davao Oriental.
1970 - The Hard Hat riot occurs in the Wall Street area of New York City as blue-collar construction workers clash with anti-war demonstrators protesting the Vietnam War.
1972 - Vietnam War – U.S. President Richard M. Nixon announces his order to place mines in major North Vietnamese ports in order to stem the flow of weapons and other goods to that nation.
1973 - A 71-day standoff, between federal authorities and the American Indian Movement members occupying the Pine Ridge Reservation at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, ends with the surrender of the militants.
1982 - Formula One driver Gilles Villeneuve dies in a crash during practice for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder.
1984 - The Soviet Union announces that it will boycott the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California.
1984 - Cpl. Denis Lortie enters the Quebec National Assembly and opens fire, killing three and wounding 13. René Jalbert, sergeant-at-arms of the assembly, succeeds in calming him, for which he will later receive the Cross of Valour.
1987 - The Loughgall ambush: The SAS kill 8 IRA terrorists and 1 civilian, in Loughgall, Northern Ireland.
1988 - A fire at Illinois Bell's Hinsdale Central Office triggered an extended 1AESS outage once considered the 'worst telecommunications disaster in US telephone industry history' is still the worst to occur on Mother's Day.
1990 - Reindependence Day of Estonia
1997 - A China Southern Airlines Boeing 737 crashes on approach into Shenzhen's Huangtian Airport, killing 35 people.
1999 - Nancy Mace becomes the first female cadet to graduate from The Citadel military college.
2005 - The new Canadian War Museum opens, in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of V-E Day.
2007 - A new Northern Ireland Executive is formed under the leadership of Ian Paisley of the Democratic Unionist Party as First Minister and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin as Deputy First Minister.
1457 BC - Battle of Megiddo (15th century BC) between Thutmose III and a large Canaanite coalition under the King of Kadesh. It is the first battle to have been recorded in what is accepted as relatively reliable detail.
328 - Athanasius is elected Patriarch bishop of Alexandria.
1092 - Lincoln Cathedral is consecrated.
1450 - 'Abd al-Latif (Timurid monarch) assassinated.
1502 - Christopher Columbus leaves Spain for his fourth and final journey to the New World.
1671 - Thomas Blood, disguised as a clergyman, attempts to steal England's Crown Jewels from the Tower of London.
1726 - Five men arrested during a raid on Mother Clap's molly house in London are executed at Tyburn.
1868 - The city of Reno, Nevada, is founded.
1873 - Der Krach: Vienna stock market crash heralds Long Depression .
1874 - The first horse-drawn omnibus made its début in the city of Mumbai, plying on two routes.
1877 - Mihail Kogălniceanu reads, in the Chamber of Deputies, the Declaration of Independence of Romania. This day became the Independence Day of Romania
1887 - Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show opens in London.
1901 - Australia opens its first parliament in Melbourne.
1904 - The steam locomotive City of Truro becomes the first steam engine to exceed 100mph.
1914 - J.T. Hearne becomes the first bowler to take 3000 first-class wickets.
1915 - World War I: Second Battle of Artois between Nacospeak and French forces.
1920 - Polish-Soviet War: The Polish army under General Edward Rydz-Śmigły celebrated their capture of Kiev with a victory parade on Khreschatyk.
1926 - Admiral Richard E. Byrd and Floyd Bennett claim to have flown over the North Pole (later discovery of his diary seems to indicate that this did not happen).
1927 - The Australian Parliament first convenes in Canberra.
1936 - Italy formally annexes Ethiopia after taking the capital Addis Ababa on May 5.
1940 - World War II: The Nacospeak submarine U-9 sinks French coastal submarine Doris near Den Helder.
1941 - World War II: The Nacospeak submarine U-110 is captured by the Royal Navy. On board is the latest Enigma cryptography machine which Allied cryptographers later use to break coded Nacospeak messages.
1942 - World War II: Belgrade becomes the first Axis-conquered city to murder or eliminate its Jewish population, largely with the help of Serbian collaborators.
1942 - Holocaust: The SS murder 588 Jewish residents of the Podolian town of Zinkiv (Khmelnytska oblast, Ukraine).
1945 - World War II: The final Nacospeak surrender to Marshal Georgy Zhukov at Berlin-Karlshorst is signed by Colonel-General Hans-Jürgen Stumpff as the representative of the Luftwaffe, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel as the Chief of Staff of OKW, and Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg as Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine.
1945 - World War II: General Alexander Löhr, commander of Nacospeak Army Group E in Topolšica signed unconditional surrender of Nacospeak occupying forces in former Yugoslavia end of World War II in Slovenia.
1945 - World War II: Partisans liberated Ljubljana.
1945 - World War II: Hermann Göring is captured by the United States Army.
1945 - World War II: Vidkun Quisling is arrested in Norway.
1945 - World War II: Red Army enters Prague (capitulation of Nazi occupation troops).
1945 - World War II: The Soviet Union marks Victory Day.
1945 - World War II: The Channel Islands are formally liberated by the British.
1946 - King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy abdicates and is succeeded by Humbert II.
1949 - Rainier III of Monaco becomes Prince of Monaco.
1950 - Robert Schuman presents his proposal on the creation of an organized Europe, indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations. This proposal, known as the "Schuman declaration", is considered by some people to be the beginning of the creation of what is now the European Union.
1955 - Cold War: West Germany joins NATO.
1955 - Sam and Friends debuts on a local U.S. television channel, marking the first television appearance of both Jim Henson and what would become Kermit the Frog and the Muppets.
1956 - First ascent of Manaslu, the world's eighth-highest mountain.
1960 - The U.S. FDA announces it will approve birth control as an additional indication for Searle's Enovid, making Enovid the world's first approved oral contraceptive pill.
1961 - Jim Gentile of the Baltimore Orioles becomes the first player in baseball history to hit grand slams in consecutive innings.
1970 - Vietnam War: In Washington, D.C., 75,000 to 100,000 war protesters demonstrate in front of the White House.
1974 - Watergate Scandal: The United States House of Representatives Judiciary Committee opens formal and public impeachment hearings against President Richard M. Nixon.
1980 - In Florida, Liberian freighter SS Summit Venture hits the Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay sending 35 people (most in a bus) to a watery death as a 1,400-foot section of the bridge collapses.
1980 - In Norco, California, five masked gunman hold up a Security Pacific bank, leading to a violent shoot-out and one of the largest pursuits in California history. Two of the gunmen and one police officer were killed while thirty-three police and civilian vehicles were destroyed in the chase.
1980 - The first meeting of Pope John Paul II and the Archbishop of Canterbury takes place in Ghana.
1987 - A Polish LOT Ilyushin IL-62M "Tadeusz Kościuszko" (SP-LBG). crashes after takeoff in Warsaw, Poland, killing 183 people.
1988 - The new Australian Parliament House opens in Canberra.
1992 - Armenian forces capture Shusha in the Karabakh War, marking a major turning point.
2002 - The 38-day stand-off in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem comes to an end when the Palestinians inside agree to have 13 suspected militants among them deported to several different countries.
2002 - In Kaspiysk, Russia, a remote-controlled bomb explodes during a holiday parade killing 43 and injuring at least 130.
2004 - Chechen president Akhmad Kadyrov is killed in a landmine bomb blast under a VIP stage during a World War II memorial victory parade in Grozny, Chechnya.
2006 - Estonia ratifies the European Constitution.
2006 - George Preca canonised as the first Maltese saint in history
Armenia celebrates Victory Day to simultaneously mark the capture of Shusha in the Karabakh War and the victorious end of World War II.
European Union celebrates Europe day, commemorating the Schuman declaration.
Jersey, Guernsey – Liberation Day (commemorating the end of the Nacospeak Occupation of the Channel Islands during World War II).
Romania - Independence Day.
Roman Empire – Feast of the Lemures (See Larvae).
Russia and some other parts of the former Soviet Union – Victory Day as the end of the "Great Patriotic War".
1291 - Scottish nobles recognize the authority of Edward I of England.
1497 - Amerigo Vespucci allegedly leaves Cádiz for his first voyage to the New World.
1503 - Christopher Columbus visits the Cayman Islands and names them Las Tortugas after the numerous sea turtles there.
1534 - Jacques Cartier visits Newfoundland.
1768 - John Wilkes is imprisoned for writing an article for the North Briton severely criticizing King George III. This action provokes rioting in London.
1774 - Louis XVI becomes King of France.
1775 - American Revolutionary War: Fort Ticonderoga is taken by a small force led by Ethan Allen and Colonel Benedict Arnold.
1775 - American Revolutionary War: Representatives from the 13 colonies of the United States meet in Philadelphia and raise the Continental Army to defend the new republic. They place it under command of George Washington of Virginia.
1796 - First Coalition: Napoleon I of France wins a decisive victory against Austrian forces at Lodi bridge over the River Adda in Italy. The Austrians lose some 2,000 men.
1801 - First Barbary War: The Barbary pirates of Tripoli declare war on the United States of America.
1824 - National Gallery in London opens to the public.
1837 - Panic of 1837: New York City banks fail, and unemployment reaches record levels.
1857 - Indian Mutiny: In India, the first war of Independence begins. Sepoys revolt against their commanding officers at Meerut.
1864 - American Civil War: Colonel Emory Upton leads a 10-regiment "Attack-in-depth" assault against the Confederate works at The Battle of Spotsylvania, which, though ultimately unsuccessful, would provide the idea for the massive assault against the Bloody Angle on May 12. Upton was wounded slightly but immediately is promoted to Brigadier general.
1865 - American Civil War: Jefferson Davis is captured by Union troops near Irwinville, Georgia.
1865 - American Civil War: Union soldiers ambush and mortally wound Confederate raider William Quantrill in Kentucky, who lingers until his death on June 6.
1869 - The First Transcontinental Railroad, linking the eastern and western United States, is completed at Promontory Summit, Utah (not Promontory Point, Utah) with the golden spike.
1872 - Victoria Woodhull becomes the first woman nominated for President of the United States.
1877 - Romania declares itself independent from Turkey, following the Senate adoption of Mihail Kogălniceanu's Declaration of Independence. This act was recognized on March 26, 1881 after the end of the Romanian War of Independence.
1908 - Mother's Day is observed for the first time in the United States - in Grafton, West Virginia.
1922 - The United States annexes the Kingman Reef.
1924 - J. Edgar Hoover is appointed the Director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, and remains so until his death in 1972.
1933 - Censorship: In Germany, the Nazis stage massive public book burnings.
1940 - World War II: The first Nacospeak bombs of the war fall on England at Chilham and Petham, in Kent.
1940 - World War II: Germany invades Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.
1940 - World War II: Winston Churchill is appointed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
1940 - World War II: Invasion of Iceland by the United Kingdom.
1941 - World War II: The House of Commons in London is damaged by the Luftwaffe in an air raid.
1941 - World War II: Rudolf Hess parachutes into Scotland in order to try and negotiate a peace deal between the United Kingdom and Nazi Germany.
1942 - Thai Phayap Army invaded the Shan States during the Burma Campaign of World War II.
1954 - Bill Haley & His Comets release "Rock Around the Clock", the first rock and roll record to reach number one on the charts.
1960 - The nuclear submarine USS Triton completes the first underwater circumnavigation of the earth.
1969 - Vietnam War: The Battle of Dong Ap Bia begins with an assault on Hill 937. It will ultimately become known as Hamburger Hill.
1970 - The Boston Bruins win their first Stanley Cup since 1941 when Bobby Orr makes an overtime winning goal followed by a leap in the air that would become one of the most famous photographs in ice hockey - ("The Goal").
1979 - The Federated States of Micronesia becomes self-governing.
1981 - François Mitterrand takes office as the first Socialist President of France.
1993 - In Thailand, a fire at the Kader Toy Factory kills 188 workers, mostly young women.
1994 - Nelson Mandela is inaugurated as South Africa's first black president.
1996 - Excel Communications, Inc. becomes the youngest company ever to join the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), trading under the symbol (ECI).
1996 - A "rogue storm" near the summit of Mount Everest kills eight climbers, making this the deadliest day in the mountain's history. Among the dead are experienced climbers Rob Hall and Scott Fischer, both of whom were leading paid expeditions to the summit.
1997 - Pope John Paul II visits Lebanon
2001 - In Ghana, a stampede at a football game kills over 120 spectators.
2002 - FBI agent Robert Hanssen is given a life sentence without the possibility of parole for selling United States secrets to Moscow for $1.4 million in cash and diamonds.
2003 - Record shattering tornado activity during the May 2003 Tornado Outbreak Sequence.
2005 - A hand grenade allegedly thrown by Vladimir Arutinian lands about 65 feet (20 metres) from United States President George W. Bush while he was giving a speech to a crowd in Tbilisi, Georgia, but it malfunctions and does not detonate.
Confederate Memorial Day in North Carolina and South Carolina.
Constitution Day in the Federated States of Micronesia.
Mother's Day in much of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico.
330 - Byzantium is renamed Nova Roma during a dedication ceremony, but is more popularly referred to as Constantinople.
1310 - 54 members of the Knights Templar are burned at the stake in France for being heretics.
1502 - Christopher Columbus leaves for his fourth and final voyage to the West Indies.
1745 - War of Austrian Succession: Battle of Fontenoy – At Fontenoy, French forces defeat an Anglo-Dutch-Hanoverian army.
1792 - Captain Robert Gray becomes the first documented white person to sail into the Columbia River.
1812 - Prime Minister Spencer Perceval is assassinated by John Bellingham in the lobby of the House of Commons, London.
1813 - In Australia, Lawson, Blaxland and Wentworth, lead an expedition westwards from Sydney. Their route opens up inland Australia for continued expansion throughout the 19th century.
1820 - Launch of HMS Beagle the ship that took young Charles Darwin on his scientific voyage.
1841 - Lt. Charles Wilkes lands at Fort Nisqually in Puget Sound.
1857 - Indian Mutiny: Indian rebels seize Delhi from the British.
1858 - Minnesota is admitted as the 32nd U.S. state.
1862 - American Civil War: The ironclad CSS Virginia is scuttled in the James River northwest of Norfolk, Virginia.
1864 - American Civil War: Battle of Yellow Tavern – Confederate General JEB Stuart is mortally wounded at Yellow Tavern, Virginia.
1867 - Luxembourg gains its independence.
1891 - Otsu Scandal.
1894 - Pullman Strike: Four thousand Pullman Palace Car Company workers go on a wildcat strike in Illinois.
1907 - A derailment outside Lompoc, California kills 32 Shriners when their chartered train jumps off the tracks at a switch near Surf Depot.
1910 - An act of the U.S. Congress establishes Glacier National Park in Montana.
1911 - The United States becomes a signatory to the Buenos Aires copyright treaty.
1918 - The Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus was officially established.
1924 - Mercedes-Benz formed by Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz merging the two companies.
1927 - The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is founded.
1934 - Dust Bowl: A strong two-day dust storm removes massive amounts of Great Plains topsoil in one of the worst dust storms of the Dust Bowl in North America.
1942 - William Faulkner's collections of short stories, Go Down, Moses, is published.
1943 - World War II: American troops invade Attu in the Aleutian Islands in an attempt to expel occupying Japanese forces.
1944 - World War II: The Allies start a major offensive against the Axis Powers on the Gustav Line.
1946 - UMNO is created.
1949 - Siam officially changes its name to Thailand, a name in use since 1939.
1949 - Israel joins the United Nations.
1953 - The 1953 Waco tornado outbreak: An F5 tornado hits downtown Waco, Texas, killing 114.
1960 - In Buenos Aires, Argentina, four Israeli Mossad agents capture fugitive Nazi Adolf Eichmann, living under the assumed name Ricardo Klement.
1960 - The first contraceptive pill is made available on the market.
1967 - Andreas Papandreou, Greek economist and socialist politician, is imprisoned in Athens by the Greek military junta.
1969 - Vietnam War: Operation Apache Snow – Near the Laos border, American and South Vietnamese forces fight North Vietnamese troops for Ap Bia Mountain (aka Hill 937 or "Hamburger Hill").
1970 - Henry "Dickie" Marrow is murdered in a violent racially-motivated crime in Oxford, N.C..
1970 - The Lubbock Tornado: An F5 tornado hits downtown Lubbock, Texas, killing 26.
1973 - Citing government misconduct, Daniel Ellsberg has his charges for his involvement in releasing the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times dismissed.
1984 - A transit of Earth from Mars takes place.
1985 - 56 spectators die when a flash fire strikes a football ground during a match in Bradford, England.
1987 - Klaus Barbie goes on trial in Lyon for war crimes committed during World War II.
1987 - The first heart-lung transplant takes place (Baltimore, Maryland). The surgery is performed by Dr. Bruce Reitz, of Stanford University School of Medicine.
1995 - In New York City, more than 170 countries decide to extend the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty indefinitely and without conditions.
1996 - After taking-off from Miami, a fire started by improperly handled oxygen canisters in the cargo hold of Atlanta-bound ValuJet Flight 592 causes the Douglas DC-9 to crash in the Florida Everglades killing all 110 on board.
1997 - IBM Deep Blue, a chess-playing supercomputer, defeats Garry Kasparov in the last game of the rematch, becoming the first computer to beat a world-champion chess player.
1998 - India conducts three underground nuclear tests in Pokhran, including a thermonuclear device.
2000 - Last performance of the musical Cats in London's West End.
2002 - Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet of the Netherlands unveiled the Man With Two Hats monument in Ottawa (May 11, 2002) and Apeldoorn (May 2), 2000, symbolically linking both Netherlands and Canada for their assistance throughout the Second World War.
2007 - Pope Benedict XVI canonizes the first Brazilian-born saint, Frei Galvão.
8 reasons why peacetime training is just advanced LARPing
Posted On April 20, 2018 00:08:42
Live-action roleplaying is popular among nerds the world over. But what they don’t realize is that the military hosts their own LARPing events to prepare for war.
While training for real-life combat, it’s important that the military runs simulations that get as close to the real thing as possible. But, when you start to really break it down, it becomes clear that the government is spending tons of money on opportunities for advanced LARPing — as they should be.
Here, we have a group of infantry LARPers attacking an enemy town.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Rachel K. Porter)
You’re just pretending you’re at war
Make no mistake, there’s plenty of purpose behind it but, at the end of the day, your life is in very little real danger. A lot of times, you’re shooting pretend bullets at pretend targets in a pretend country.
Even when you get real bullets, you’re still fighting a made-up military in a made-up country.
Here, we have a berserker class clearing the way for the warriors.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Rachel K. Porter)
You dress up as your selected class
Whether you chose to be a berserker (machine gunner), a warrior (rifleman), or a mage (mortarman), you get to dress up as your character and carry real equipment.
The bonus here is that the government spends tons of money training you in your selected class.
You get to fire real rockets!
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Henson)
You use real weapons
This is actually pretty cool considering that most LARPers don’t get to use real weapons. The government will spend lots of money for you to get a real weapon to use in your roleplay events, like Integrated Training Exercise (ITX). Meanwhile, not every LARPer is into live steel.
They’re there to create the most authentic of experiences.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Hubert D. Delany III)
You get to ride in helicopters to make the scenarios even more realistic. Sometimes, you’ll even get support from jets and tanks to truly sell an authentic experience.
Okay, so these props might be a tad cooler than getting to drink your own, real-life “health potion” that is probably just Sprite and grenadine…
They’re out there to help you… or hurt you.
(U.S Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Juan A. Soto-Delgado)
Other roleplayers are involved
When you go to ITX, they’ll bring in a bunch of people to act as townspeople and enemies. This makes the experience a lot more authentic, which makes it a lot more interesting and fun.
You can talk with these NPCs for extra experience.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexis C. Schneider, 2d MARDIV Combat Camera)
There are non-player characters
The roleplayers that get brought in for the purpose of acting as the townspeople are very interactive NPCs. You’ll go on a patrol through the town and they’ll offer information or things to buy. Be careful, though, some might be working with the enemy!
The Coyotes even wear special items to specify they’re game masters.
(Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz)
There’s usually a game master
In a lot of cases, there will be someone acting as the GM, there to make sure people aren’t cheating and everyone dies when they’re supposed to. They might come in the form of your company Gunny (or a Coyote in the case of ITX). They keep things fair and they’ll evaluate your performance after the event is over.
Here, we have two LARPers from different countries interacting in a dialogue.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tiffany Edwards)
You get to roleplay with other countries
On a peacetime deployment, you basically go to other countries to train with their military if your unit is trustworthy enough for that responsibility. This means that you travel and meet with other LARPers as you share an event together.
More links we like
WATM: Deadliest Catch is very popular in the veteran community. I remember starting to watch back in season 4 at the barracks with my squad. Does having many veteran fans surprise you?
When [WATM] said we have a lot of veteran viewers, it didn’t surprise me. We’ve received so many emails and information coming back to us from [active duty] troops. We can’t tell you how many people in the military would give praise to the show. There is a common denominator, maybe it is from them being gone and us being gone at sea. No matter what it was, they appreciate us. Shared experiences. It’s mind boggling. It is really flattering.
March 20, 2012- The Shooting in France One Day Later, Israel to Buy Sixth Submarine - History
Tesla stock slips despite upbeat earnings
Elon Musk’s baby, Tesla, reports Q1 earnings that beat on both the top and bottom lines, posting its biggest profit ever. Stocks slip just under 5% though. Why? Your guess is as good as ours.
It’s been a record-breaking quarter for Tesla, which over the last few months has managed to sidestep the industry wide chip shortage, improve its manufacturing process, earn a record profit, and even hoover up some extra cash off Bitcoin. The company reported earnings of 93 cents per share on revenue of $10.39 billion, beating expectations of 79 cents per share on $10.29 billion. Net profit was at a quarterly record of $438 million on a GAAP basis, with $518 million in revenue from sales of environmental regulatory credits.
In a new plot twist, the company also announced a whopping $101 million in sales of Bitcoin, kinda vindicating its previously criticized move towards the cryptocurrency earlier in the year.
Tesla made waves in February after announcing a $1.5 billion purchase of bitcoin to allow for “more flexibility to further diversify” as well as aiming to maximize returns on its cash holdings. The company also announced plans to begin investing in cryptocurrency, and started accepting payments in Bitcoin, making it the first automaker to do so, with its $1.5 billion investment giving it the liquidity it needed to start accepting the currency. The company had over $19 billion in cash and cash equivalents at the time, but the investment still represents a big portion of its cash.
There was a bit of chatter around this after Elon Musk (who will be hosting SNL on May 8, keep an eye out for a funny night) tweeted the word “Bitcoin” a few weeks before, and people accused him of trying to push up the price of the stock. Which worked btw, sending Bitcoin up almost 20% at the time and ultimately contributing $101 million to the bottom line this quarter.
Tesla’s earnings report was boosted by substantial sales numbers, which were up 74% from the same period last year. However, none of its 184,800 vehicle deliveries were the higher-end Model S and Model X vehicles, no more of which were produced in the quarter. In January, Musk had promised that the new Model S was already in production and due to start delivery in February 2021, but admitted late April that there were more challenges than expected with supply chain issues. The delivery date has now been pushed back and Tesla is aiming to produce 2,000 Model S and X vehicles per week at a later point in the year. The firm expects to see more than 50% growth in vehicle delivery for the full year, with Elon Musk claiming that “demand is the best we have ever seen,” despite the fact that Q1 usually sees a slowdown.
Tesla’s guidance remains unchanged, which disappointed some investors, but is only to be expected considering the global supply chain issues currently facing the tech world. The issues have already manifested themselves in higher costs for Tesla, forcing the EV company to produce and ship parts in less than ideal locations.
Another Tesla crash
Tesla is down 3.40% as it faces yet another NHTSA investigation after a fatal driverless car crash in Texas.
Two men died on Saturday as Tesla crashed into a tree and exploded, and according to police sources, there was nobody behind the wheel. Another federal agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, will also be sending two investigators to look into the vehicle's operation and post-crash fire.
This isn't the first time Tesla has faced federal investigators following a crash, and the NHTSA has sent teams to investigate similar Tesla crashes in recent weeks in Houston, Lansing, and Detroit. There have also been at least two fatal crashes in which Tesla owners using Autopilot have smashed into a stopped vehicle.
Biden boosts EV outlook
Tesla pops just under 9% on a couple of pieces of good news, including a price upgrade and Biden’s new $2 trillion infrastructure plan.
At the end of March President Biden introduced a $2 trillion plan to upgrade the country’s infrastructure the biggest initiative of its kind in over 50 years. It could be a huge green step forward on the journey to shift the transportation industry’s shift to electricity, and would generate major benefits for Tesla and other EV companies. Biden’s plan specifically includes “creating good jobs electrifying vehicles” and consists of funding vehicle production and parts, tax incentives, and rebates to make EVs more affordable.
Tesla handles double-charging outcry
After a bit of an outcry, Tesla refunds customers who got charged twice for Model and Model Y cars. Prices sink just under 3%.
At the end of March, a couple of poor (literally, after this) souls out there found themselves in a state of shock after purchasing a new Tesla and being charged twice for the pleasure. The customers watched tens of thousands speed out of their accounts with no authorization, and apparently faced quite the runaround when they looked to get a refund, having to wait up to a week. Teslas ain't cheap, so it makes sense people might be somewhat stressed.
Tesla lost just under 5% as the story gathered momentum. One buyer, Christopher T. Lee, even made a YouTube video review urging Tesla buyers to get a cashier's check instead of allowing the company access to their bank account, and the video got 10,000 views.
There were some observers out there who thought the issue was made up by short-sellers to make a buck off denting Tesla’s market cap, but screenshots of the double charging on Twitter quickly cleared the issue up.
Hang fire though, because not only has Tesla kindly given a refund at last, but customers have been gifted a sweet $200 to spend exclusively on Tesla.com and show off all their Tesla love. All’s well that ends in some free merch.
Pedal to the metal
Tesla has put the pedal to the metal with production and delivery of its vehicles this quarter, and shares close the day up 4.43% after a Q1 vehicle sales surge.
Shares jumped up 7% initially on April 2 after Tesla shared its strong Q1 vehicle delivery and production numbers, which reported that the company delivered 184,800 vehicles and produced 180,338 cars in the first quarter of 2021. The higher delivery numbers suggest that the company is successfully ramping up production, an issue which has dragged it down in the past, and is now working through the delivery stockpiles, supply chain issues and backlogs from COVID-19. Analyst expectations were more around the 168,000 mark, and Tesla beat estimates pretty safely, while at the same time beating its own quarterly record. Good times all round.
Of the cars Tesla delivered, most were the Model 3 and Model Y, although the company also sold an extra 1,010 Model S cars built in previous quarters. The company is now ramping up production on its X and S Models, after making some tweaks that were “exceptionally well-received” according to Musk.
One of its biggest markets, China, is also pumping: a February filing showed that Tesla’s sales in China more than doubled in 2020, with sales from the region making up about a fifth of Tesla’s $31.54 billion revenues. No wonder the share price is storming. The company is ahead of the trend as per, and has already started scaling up production at its Gigafactory in Shanghai – which, according to Q4 2020 figures, could produce as many as 1.05 million cars vehicles in a year.
But it's not only cars that are pushing the company towards growth its solar power business is also expanding. In a new development this week, Tesla’s Megapacks will be used by tech giant Apple at its new battery-based renewable energy storage facility in California.
Quarterly production and delivery numbers are always a nice early indicator of how the quarter has gone before earnings come out. Last year the company only just missed its goal of producing 500,000 cars in 2020, cruising in at 499,550 vehicles, and it sent the stock spiralling upwards. Compared to the 88,400 cars it delivered in Q1 2020, it looks like Tesla is in the fast lane to beating its target hollow this year.
The Elon Effect
Tesla is down 3.39% after Elon Musk tweets that he thinks “there is a >0% chance Tesla could be the biggest company” in the world. So far so good – but he gets into some hot water with his timing estimate, suggesting in a now-deleted tweet that the firm could be bigger than Apple “within a few months.”
Despite the deletion, the Twitterverse of course had screenshots at the ready – in this world, nothing can be unsaid, and concerns are raised yet again about the impact Musk's tweets have on market prices.
Musk has clashed with the SEC before, and it had been a tricky week for Tesla tweets already. Just one day previously, he was ordered by The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to delete a tweet that was seen as anti-union and a threat to labor organizers at Tesla. After the NLRB announced in 2018 that Tesla had violated labor laws by firing union activist Richard Ortiz, Elon tweeted: “Nothing stopping Tesla team at our car plant from voting union. Could do so tmrw if they wanted. But why pay union dues & give up stock options for nothing?” It did not go down well. At all.
The federal agency ordered Tesla to make sure the tweet was deleted and to hire back Richard Ortiz, as well as compensate him for loss of earnings and benefits. In Tesla’s financial filings, Elon Musk tweets are considered official company communication, and he’s been famously rapped on the knuckles for market manipulation through Twitter. The guy must cause some serious headaches up in Tesla HQ.
Although past efforts have bumped up the share price, this time around his big mouth had a bad effect, knocking Tesla down a few pegs.
Crypto for a car
Price target shoots for the moon
Tesla jumps 20% on China sales
After a poor start to the month, Tesla shoots up by 20% on the back of strong sales in China and yet another analyst upgrade.
The car firm didn't have a great start to March, losing 18% in the first week and falling to a low of $558.79 on March 8. This was in part due to expectations of higher inflation (and higher interest rates), which shifted investor sentiment away from longer-term tech stock investments – and even pushed the tech-heavy Nasdaq index into an official correction, losing over 10% inside a month (from a high of 14,095.47 on February 12.)
But Tesla has always been a volatile stock, and it proved this yet again on March 9, soaring by 20% to reach $673.58 and breaking $700 the following day: adding over $100 billion to its market cap and almost $25 billion to Elon Musk's personal fortune. The bounce-back, its biggest in over a year, was driven in part by higher sales in China (from 15,484 in January to 18,318 in February) while New Street Research analyst Pierre Ferragu upgraded to a ɻuy' rating with a $900 price target, which added to the boost.
It took Musk's wealth (on paper at least) back up to $174 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire's Index, closing back in on Amazon's Jeff Bezos, who at $180 billion is currently back on top as the richest man in the world.
Although still about 20% below its astonishing January highs, Tesla has gained around 70% over the last six months. And there could be further good news in the pipeline, with suggestions that a potential new gigafactory in the UK might be back on the table.
Elon tweet wipes BTC/Tesla value
Elon Musk is up to his old tricks again, and his latest Bitcoin tweet looks to be an own goal as it wipes $15 billion off his net worth.
He sent the prices of both Bitcoin and Tesla tumbling this week with a Tweet suggesting that price of both Bitcoin and Ethereum did seem "a bit high."
Coming just weeks after Tesla added $1.5 billion of Bitcoin to its own balance sheet, the move saw Bitcoin (BTCUSD) lose almost 10% of its value against the dollar, while Tesla stock dropped 8.55% to close at $714.50.
Overall, Tesla shares have lost around 20% since January, and the latest hi-jinks knock Musk off the top spot of World's Richest Man, returning the title to Amazon's Jeff Bezos.
Tesla tests the crypto waters
In a move that makes waves across the crypto world, Tesla announces a $1.5 billion investment into Bitcoin (BTCUSD) – but while the BTC price bounces, Tesla remains static. In other news, Chinese regulators chastise safety failures, and Audi steps up the competition.
Tesla confirmed its landmark Bitcoin investment in an SEC filing on January 8, outlining a new investment direction designed to push spare cash into alternative (read: exciting) asset classes. Musk had been outspoken in his interest for cryptocurrencies in recent weeks, tweeting a whole bunch of cryptic clues and references to relatively obscure currencies like DogeCoin so the news didn't come as a huge surprise to everyone – although the size of the investment might have come as a bit of a shock to its shareholders. The company also confirmed plans to start accepting Bitcoin as payment, which would add even more to its coffers.
With $1.5 billion in Bitcoin, Tesla could become seriously influential in the crypto space. In fact, according to January 2021 data from Decrypt, its latest investment makes it the fourth biggest institutional investor in Bitcoin in the world: after Grayscale Investments (over $21 billion and the major player in the space, holding around 2% of all Bitcoin currently in circulation), Coinshares (about $2.4 billion), and London-based Ruffer Investment Company, which in December 2020 allocated about 2.5% of its Multi-Strategies Fund to Bitcoin as a hedge against devaluing global currencies, and currently holds coins worth around $1.8 billion. It's an elite club – the next biggest institutional investor is Canadian crypto-asset portfolio manager 3iQ, which holds 16,454 BTC worth around $566 million (as of January 14, 2021), only about a third of the Tesla investment.
But not everyone is on board. Economist and NYU professor Nouriel Roubini criticized Musk for his aggressively pro-crypto tweeting in the days following Tesla's Bitcoin investment, suggesting that he should be (yet again) investigated by the SEC for market manipulation given that his tweets undoubtedly drove up the price ahead of the SEC filing.
And other critics point to Tesla's current troubles in China, its biggest market outside the US and a key driver of its recent price climb, where five regulators chastised the firm for quality and safety issues including abnormal acceleration and battery fires. Tesla's Bitcoin investment was announced on the same day as its slap on the wrist, a move that legendary shorter and Scion Asset Management boss Michael Burry suggested (in a now deleted tweet) could have been designed as a distraction.
It looks like investors aren't entirely convinced either. When the news broke, Bitcoin itself bounced up around 16% to hit almost $45,000. Tesla, on the other hand, stayed hovering around $860-70 mark, gaining only around 1.3% on the day, as traders digested the news.
Further pressure was also brought to bear in the same week with the long-awaited release of Audi's flagship E-Tron GT, its come-back competitor to the Tesla Model S, which saw Tesla stock drop over 5% the day of launch.