Interview Karl Hamedler

I am Mr. Karl Hamedler. I was born out of wedlock in Vienna on July 16, 1930, and right after my birth my father took care of me. My mother was a maidservant. But one thing is strange – each time when I would come to an administrative office and had to fill in a form, I had to write “Father unknown.” Well, that’s been a mystery to me to this day. Don’t know why. But there, at my father’s place, I was constantly mistreated. Probably because I was an unwanted child, to say it bluntly. And my mother, well, in 1937 she married a stoker from a tug-boat on the Danube and moved to Bratislava and stayed in Bratislava. From then on, she didn’t take care of me, I never heard anything from her, and that was it, then... I went to school in Floridsdorf, four years of elementary, and in 1941, yes, it was in 1941, I ran away from home because I was constantly mistreated. I was being beaten all the time, I couldn’t stand it anymore.

And then there was still the old Nordbahnhof [Northern railway station], on Nordbahnstraße, the military police caught me and handed me over to the Foster Care Service on Lustkandlgasse. From the Foster Care Service I came to Spiegelgrund. They said it was an educational facility. It was there that I met for the first time Professor Doctor Gross. There I constantly got shots, over and over again, so I was in a permanent state of delirium.

At the next opportunity, when we were allowed to make a stroll with a nurse, I took advantage of it. We were walking through Maroltingergasse down in the Ottakring district, at the final stop of tram number 46, and in those days the trams still had these open trailer cars. So, when we were passing this place, there was the 46 tram. I jumped right on, and gone was I. Well, then I automatically rode down to the Prater, to the 2nd district, which to me was like a magnet. There they caught me two days later and took me back to the Spiegelgrund facility, where they threw me into an ice-cold tub, just to make me sober. I don’t know, I wasn’t drunk, so what kind of sobering? After this, I came again to Professor Gross, and he went on, how did I imagine my life, and that I was incorrigible and else. Well, thereafter I escaped the second time from Steinhof. Through the back yard at the firefighters’, there was a large orchard in those days, I don’t know whether it still exists today. So I went out at the firefighters’, down to Ottakring, and gone was I again. Gone again for three days. So it went, and, of course, they caught me again, that’s logical. So I was back again.
“Municipal Educational Facility Vienna Spiegelgrund.” On June 5, 1942 the minor has been transferred for observation by the Children’s Home Kollburggasse to our facility. Reason: danger of mistreatment, caught by criminal police. Inquiries by our institution: Nothing negative has been found. Allegedly while drunk…, his grandfather allegedly hung himself while drunk. Nothing is known about the child’s 37-year-old mother because her place of residence is unknown, and she never took care of the child. She is said to be married. The child’s father is a 33-year-old chemist, he is married and lives in Gerasdorf. His wife, the minor’s stepmother, is said to be nice and caring for the child. The minor is a firstborn and has been known to the youth welfare office since his birth because the office had the guardianship. On August 30, 1941 the child’s father took on guardianship. The boy was at four different foster places until he was taken over by his father in 1933. He was always well-kept, and his parents had no complaints about him. Significant educational problems started only in 1943. The boy skipped school and started hanging out in the streets, where he was caught by the criminal police at the Northern railroad station. He showed again…” The original copy from the archive, it is unreadable.

Well, and then they sent me to Mödling. This was a National Socialist educational facility. I was in Mödling, at first in a group in what was called the Drasche fields [named after the Drasche family], which was in Inzersdorf, and we had to pluck peas in a Drasche field. And each had to pluck a 50-kilogram-bag full of peas. And if you did not pluck that much, you had to sit at the punishment table. And at the punishment table you didn’t get any food at all, and you had to be silent the whole day, incredible the whole thing.

And there I was in Mödling, there I went to school. And there was an air-raid protection service, for which we had to serve once a week. And the home was at the Hyrtl Orphanage in Mödling. There was a church nearby, and up there at the church I had to spend the whole night with a colleague, with a bucket of water and a wet cloth, and we had to wait until something started burning, which of course never happened, for the church is still standing today.

In Mödling I also escaped twice. Returned again. Had to undergo punitive drill. In the rear area there was a sports field, where I had to perform punitive drill. Then there was a dorm with 20 beds. At night they shouted: “All up!” These were educators, they called themselves educators, but they were SS members. And they poured one bucket of water after another into the dorm. Then we had to stretch out our arms, they put a carbine on them, and we had to jump like frogs in the puddles around the beds. This took about half an hour, or three quarters of an hour. After this you were totally done, you just broke down. But you shouldn’t think that you could lie down. You were forced to wipe the whole dorm, that is, to remove the whole water and to wipe up until everything was dry. And there they stood, the educators, the so-called, and woe to you if you somehow tried to avoid it, that was impossible.

And then I came from Mödling to Kollburggasse, that was in Ottakring, in Lichtental was it, I think it was named Lichtental, the quarter down there. This was also practically a Nazi home. Only singing the Horst-Wessel-Song and Deutschlandlied and so on. But there I wasn’t for long. For two months, I think, I was there. Then I was transferred to Josef-Hackl-Gasse, which was a monastery, in Währing, in the 18th district, on Antonigasse. When I arrived there, it was all nuns, they were even worse than the SS guys, unimaginable. There were only beatings there, and they were horrible. Smashing our heads together, hands above the heads, unbelievable that there are such things.

Well, I pulled through that too, I was dismissed and went to my father. And I was with my father. And I was called to join the Hitler Youth. And it was in Kagran, the district leadership was called “Bann [area] 509.” I remember it well because I had the number on my epaulets, “Bann 509.” And they lured us with a skiing course at the Planner Hut in Styria. Just that nothing came out of ski hut and skiing course. The first night we had to lay cables at the stud farm in Kagran, because they were putting anti-aircraft guns in place. And the next day, after we had laid the cables, we had to carry straw bags at midnight from the town hall on Am Spitz in Floridsdorf to the hospital on Franklinstrasse in Floridsdorf, because they were expecting a transport of soldiers with frozen limbs from Siberia. So we carried straw bags the whole night through. All right, then they assigned me…, there was at Mautner-Markhof on Prager Straße, where in earlier times there was the Gambrinus brewery... They assigned me, whenever there was an air raid, we used to ride in a car with a big shot to give food to those who had lost their homes. Well, we gave food to them, and we passed Am Spitz, where some Jews were cleaning the debris from the bomb raids. We had some butter and sausage left, and I threw butter and sausages down from the car to them. The next day the Bann leader comes to me and says: “I’d really like to shoot you.” Say I: “What for?” Says he: “You did give the Jews something to eat.” Say I: “So what?” – “Are you a Hitler boy?” Said he. And: “I do not think that you are a Hitler boy.” Say I: “Well. I didn’t claim to be one.” Well, I was lucky, I got away with a black eye. My penalty was to be transferred to Eichkogel housing estate, which is close to Mödling, at the Anninger [mountain] in the vicinity of Guntramsdorf. There was an anti-aircraft battery, and there I landed as an anti-aircraft aid. At that time, I was 14 years old, not even 14. We carried the ammunition, and we shot down an American, not me, but the chums that were there with me. And there was a radio operator, and he came to me, and there was Franz Ruziczka, who was a schoolmate of mine, he served in the same unit. The radio operator came to me and said: “Where exactly is Baden?” And I said: “That is maybe 20 kilometers [12 miles] from here.” And he said: “Then we certainly are in the soup.” And I: “What is there in Baden?” And he said: “The Russians are in Baden.” Said I: “Well, great.” Of course. I was in a hurry to tell Franz Ruziczka: “Franz, we are out of here! The Russians are in Baden.” So we escaped.

When I got home, the Russians had abducted my father. He had to dig at the aircraft hangar in Seyring. So he was out of commission, at the moment. And my stepmother, well, he had married her, and we didn’t get along too well. Then I went to my grandparents, and I stayed there for a while. But it was a sad life, on the whole.

At that age you just don’t know what do with yourself. There you are in the world, and nobody gives a shit about you, to put it bluntly. Thereafter, I was busy with the black market. In the meantime, my father came back, and he was a big Communist. He landed a job with the police. Before, he had been a salesman at a grocery store, and now he worked with the police, while his good son was a black marketer at Naschmarkt.

That’s the way it went on approximately up to 1947.

Then I finished my apprenticeship, which was in October 1950. It was during the Communist disturbances. They poured trucks and trucks of sand on the tram switches, and thus they tried to block everything. They tried to seize power, but there was Olah to put a stop to it. And I was just taking an exam at the chamber of commerce on Stubenring when the disturbances were going on.

Then I worked at Wanicek, and my main job was in reconstruction. Gänsehäufel, State Opera, the former War Ministry – nowadays the government building – then Burgtheater, Parliament; always reconstruction and repair work. And in the War Ministry on Stubenring an incident took place, for there were crooks already in those days, not only today. Trucks with copper cables entered at the front entrance, went to the Construction Office, asked for the delivery papers to be signed, and drove away through the rear exit. That’s how it went then. But today nobody cares anymore about such things.