Translation of a
letter by Mr. Fritz Pagel.
London W 9
after the notorious 9th of November
my efforts to emigrate increased however the prospects decreased more and
The business in which
I worked already for years with great pleasure was dissolved and Mr.
Schloss with whom I became friends after a very short time went to
America via England. Mr Cahn in Berlin organised a larger emigration plan
to Brazil, which I joined in the hope soon to be able to leave German
were available and confirmed because Mr. Cahn, who had organised this
with a certain Mr. Briefer, pave me the best impression. To confirm that
the business was O.K. these gentlemen obtained a visa and travelled
together with their .families to Brazil as so called initiators and
I, together with
a few other very serious gentlemen, took over the project, sacrificed
time and money until the beginning of 1941, alas without the hoped for
When I look back
today and think of the joined efforts of the participating friends I
cannot hold anything against any of them who are alas no longer alive
these days. Because if those of our Jews had not been sitting so tightly
on their money bags they would not have died on them.
became increasingly worse for the Jews who had remained in Germany and
the time came that the circle of friends became smaller even as a result
On top of all the
misery (forgive me for putting it like this) our daughter was born who
was called Judith.
Guenter, who in the meantime had become a grown up, had learned alas too
early about the harshness of life. One day the two of us landed up at the
lathe at Siemens & Halske where we with many others in the
"Jewish department" had to earn our daily bread. We worked
there during the years 1941 and 1942 managed within a short time to
become fitters of lathes which gave us much relief.
situation became increasingly more intolerable and I began looking; for a
suitable opportunity to go "underground". This possibility was
given to us by a genuine Christian who proved himself to be a real friend
to us. A previous neighbour named
Gustke from the Trier street made his piece of land near Straussberg
available to us without wanting a penny for it.
On the 2nd of
January 1943 we disappeared from our house and travelled to Herrensee
near Straussberg where we lived a hard but often also a lovely life as we
were as yet all together and did not have any idea that within a few
months fate would involve us in a horrible way. We thought ourselves to
be safe until one Sunday, the last in the month of June it became obvious
to us that we had been betrayed. We still had a little time which I used
to look for accommodation further a field in which I partly succeeded .
We cleared off in
the early morning hours; again kindly received by good people with whom
we could alas not stay very long because they lived in the middle of the
town and there were four of us. Again we had to search further and this
time we decided to split up and live separately.
I found something
for Guenter who had anyhow several addresses where he could have stayed
and I also found somewhere for myself, however nothing permanent for
Henny and the child.
When again we
were searching for a "shelter" we were arrested, in the street
and handed over in the Grosse Hamburger street, the .former old peoples
home. Guenter knew about it and we were glad that the boy was not with
us. He was our great pride and we knew he was well looked after because
he had several locations where he could stay.
It was on the
third day of our stay in the reception camp when around '10 'clock in the
evening the door of our room opened and to our greatest shock and
surprise our boy stood in the doorway: he had volunteered to come. Do not
let me describe the scene which took place, we were too upset.
had only one answer : "I will not let you go alone into the
unknown", your path is also mine". These were words I will
never in my life forget and which at that time completely disarmed us.
The duration of our stay lasted for four weeks and we all believed we
would end up in a labour camp. This belief was also reinforced by the
Jewish management of the camp.
"house of cards" soon collapsed because when we arrived in
Auschwitz, the name of which did not mean anything to us, we were
immediately met by the SS and all our hopes were destroyed.
We had the great
fortune of being able to stay a few hours together until shortly after
midnight. Then we were separated from women and children and this
separation was to be for ever. As Guenter and I learned later Henny and
the child were moved that same night while the two of us were taken to the
labour camp. There we were inseparable until January 1944. We supported
each other and were a great help for each other and while I am writing
this at this moment I can only say that my son has endured everything
like a man in spite of his young age
I had always
believed I would witness the end of this gruesome time together with him,
however fate would decide otherwise.
In January 1944
Guenter became ill, a double pneumonia made an untimely end to his far
too young life. I was destined to live on in spite of the fact that
between January and May 1944 I contracted three times pneumonia. I
vegetated on and had only one wish that soon everything would end.
The worst however
had still to come and when nowadays I think back I do not know which is a
dream, the experience I went through or life as it is now.
On 18th January
1945 our camp with 12,000 men was ordered to march to Gleiwitz, where on
21st January we were loaded like cattle in open coal wagons. These wagons
were partly to be our shelter for the next 10 days and 9 nights at a
temperature of 25 degrees frost.
Forgive me for
not depicting the horrible scenes that took place in the wagon which was
overloaded with 'H+0 men, but perhaps the reader can understand a little
when I tell him that of the 6000 men transported only 2500 reached their
destination. It was in one of the infamous KZ's "Dora" in
Nordhausen/Harz where I was to have further experiences "learning to
suffer without complaining" .
I arrived there
with partly frozen fingers and after the little finger of the right hand
had been removed I got a phlegmon (tumour or inflammation of the cellular
vein) in the right arm, which made it necessary to amputate the right
arm. Believe me after the arm had been amputated I felt more than pleased
which says indeed more than describing the suffering in detail.
precisely 5 weeks before the liberation by the Americans which took place
on the 11th of April 1945-
Nobody in the
camp who witnessed this hour will ever forget it. I stayed there until
mid June and then went to Belgium with an American hospital train. From
there I got in contact with my mother and brothers and sister who I knew
to be in London. Thank God
all were well and after I underwent another amputation to improve my
condition I arrived here on the 12th October 1945.
The joy of our
reunion was great but was alas overshadowed by the great loss which I and
all of us bad suffered. Everyone who knew Henny and the boy could
understand what I had lost.
During that first
year I lived with my brother's family and my mother and there I had the
emotional and physical care which I needed so much. It was my youngest
brother Kurt who got our mother and his fiancé over here in March 1959
and he married in 19^0 arid now has a delightful son of 5 years old.
Slowly on I
regained my spirits, met old acquaintances and friends from the erstwhile
so beautiful Berlin amongst whom George Gross who had treated me very
well and who even took me in for a while.
it was around
this time that through my sister I came in. contact with a lady whose
husband I had known in Berlin for several years and. whose brother and
family had lived with mine in the same house for ten years..
The husband died
in Auschwitz, and so our fates brought us soon together. Since two ,years
we are married and I may well say that I could not have been given a
better person, a wife who does everything to make me forget the suffering
and the past. We have a very comfortable home in the West end of London,
a home which I never believed I could have. From this home my wife runs
her dress salon and this business has provided her with a good living.
I am working in
the business of M&S Haar, previously Brothers Haar, Berlin and so we
both try to rebuild our life and to make the most of it.
And now in order
to complete the picture I should not forget my sister who since two years
is happily married and had just had her first son.
With this I shall
close my news letter hoping that I will not have bored the reader too
I have had so many
requests for detailed news That I could not have fulfilled my obligation
in any other way than in this. I gratefully thank all of you who are so
dear to me for your affectionate thoughts and I send my best wishes for