Ber in Braunschweig & Wöbbelin

Ber in Braunschweig and Wöbbelin

"We thought the transport to and stay in Auschwitz was the worst. It got worse!"

Ber was sent by train only 4-5 days after arriving at Auschwitz in mid-August 1944 onwards to a camp, Braunschweig (located in Germany 56 km/35 miles east Hannover) until March 1945. There were two camps at Braunschweig where one was in the factory premises while the other was located about 1.3 km from the factory. These camps existed only for a short period, from August 17, 1944 until March 26, 1945. The prisoners were the majority of recently closed Lodz ghetto but also prisoners from Hungary, Russian prisoners of war and other European countries. There was forced labour during this time as a factory worker at Büssing Kraftwagenfabrik. The slave workers kept their striped clothes from Auschwitz until they were liberated later in May 1945. Without hygiene or other clothes, there were widespread lice and diseases. They lived close together and it was inevitable that in principle all prisoners were affected.

We have no information in which camp Ber was located of the two, but those living in the camp 1.3 km from the factory had to go this distance every day back and forth. They worked in two shifts in 12 hours together and alongside German workers in the factory. Many died of diseases such as TBC, fatigue or abuse. At least two occasions, the factory was bombed by the Allied forces. At the first time in February 1945 a lot of slave workers were killed. The German soldiers placed the slave workers to act as human shields. Ber told his son Leon that he was close to several bombs and he was very lucky not getting killed like those around him. The next allied bombing was in March 1945 when he, like the previous occasion, managed to fool death. However, many around him did not have the same luck. They were about 1000-1200 slave workers from the beginning and after both bombings only about half were left alive. When the factory after the second bombing it was no longer operational, they were first moved to Ravensbruck but later to the Wöbbelin concentration camp by train. Those who were not ill from Braunschweig camp managed to get all the way to Wöbbelin. In each wagon there were about 100 people and the slave workers who were weak and sick before this trip awaited death for sure during this horrific journey. Ber has said that he had to stand once more among the dead and excrement’s all the way. Because they did not get any food or water, there was even occasional cannibalism among Russian prisoners during this journey.

At Wöbbelin (located in Germany about 10 km/6,5 miles north of Ludwigslust or 100 km/63 miles east of Hamburg, Wöbbelin set up 12 february 1945 and was a sub-camp to the Neuengamme concentration camp, Hamburg), Ber got there late March 1945 until the beginning of May 1945. In mid-April 1945 Ber was contacted by the Swedish Red Cross when they visited the camp. He got two boxes with canned food and dry fodder that caused some of the inmates who ate the Red Cross food seriously ill. They have lived on only a small piece of spoiled bread and water a day for several years and nothing at all towards the end. Some tragically died due to acute diarrhoea from the Red Cross food. This was observed by Ber and he wanted to exchange his canned food for some hot water from the Russian prisoners. Instead of the exchange he got beaten and robbed by the Russian prisoners. Towards the end of the camps existence, the German soldiers stopped giving them food resulting in the fact that many died of starvation. Some cannibalism was discovered at liberation and what do you do to survive without food or water? Instead of allowing these Jewish slave workers to be freed, the German commanders made sure that as many as possible died, even though they knew that the allied forces were close.

The day before they were liberated on May 1, 1945, they German soldiers escaped. The camp was found by the US Troops on May 2, 1945. Ber has told that the US Troops brought German locals to help bury the dead and help the survivors. A few days after they were liberated, Ber and some other camp inmates with their striped clothes were allowed to accompany the Americans to get other clothes, somewhere to sleep and eat in a nearby house. The Germans were not willing to leave their house, which caused the Americans to force them to leave. To the Swedish authorities, he reported a few years after his arrival to Sweden that he worked for the Americans with cooking for their military for about 3 weeks. Something that strikes us is that Ber didn’t seem to have been particularly ill because Americans let him work for them in their kitchen. We can confirm this information on arrival in Sweden he did not show signs of any disease and was also declared healthy after just 4 weeks in the country. He was when working for the Americans, chosen by the Swedish Red Cross to be transported to Sweden as refugee in July 1945.

For Esther's part, there was no more information than that she married a man with the surname Apelewitch and they moved to Israel. There they had two children together, Cipora and Aviktor. After a time of illness, Esther Malka Apelewitch died January 13, 2008, 90 years old in Israel.

De enda som överlevde ur familjen Fuks, Ester Malka och Ber, några år efter kriget

Ester and Ber was The only ones who survived from the Fuks famiy. The pictures are from a few years after the war.