I’ll start my life story from the end. Basically, I was saved by a nurse who told my mother that I will disappear some day if she does not visit me every Sunday, even if she is not allowed to see me. And that the children who are not visited will disappear and perish somewhere. And really, she visited me every Sunday, and I was not always allowed to see her. Whenever I lost weight, I was not allowed to see her, whenever I didn’t eat everything, I was not allowed to see her, whenever I had vomited, I was not allowed to see her. Thereafter, she used to return home to Mödling and the whole trip was for nothing. And this was the end. After huge efforts she managed to get me out in 44, that is, at the end of 44, and took me home - basically against the will of the people there. I remember a huge dormitory with iron beds and mattresses without linen sheets, and a refectory with a wooden table, with the vomit that had to be eaten until it was gone. And the weighing days, which were always on a Saturday, and the weight loss, and whether I got visitors or I didn’t. This was always decided there, I was always sweating, was vomiting with frustration, and any weight increase was simply impossible in my case. I am sure I hadn’t survived if she hadn’t got me out of there on time.
And that went on for a while, then they discontinued the stuff, then they did a “wrapping treatment,” that was also cruel. Ambulance bed, two days, dry sheets, wet sheets, stark naked, and then the sheets were wrapped around like a mummy, all over you were…, only the head was left out, and you were tied down with belts all over, and then you were lying in the cell, they put me on the floor, and I only looked up to the sky, that is, to the ceiling. I was unable to turn left, I was unable to turn right, unable to stretch my legs, to draw in my legs. And one should try this once, how long you can endure in a bed without turning, right. And I said already often, I again…, for a time I had stopped praying because I thought nobody helps me anyway, but then I again started, and I even asked for forgiveness for not having done it for so long because I thought I will be helped, but I wasn’t helped. And when they let you out, the sheets were never dry because you were lying in your own urine. And especially atrocious it was when because of that it started itching, and you couldn’t scratch, and you had to endure until it faded by itself, this was brutish what they did. “Immersion cure,” the same, iron tub, ice cold water, down, up, down, up, down, up that you think you suffocate now. Why they did it, I don’t know, but they have fulfilled their duty. The Führer must have been happy.
It was horrible. We beat each other, the stronger ones beat the weaker ones, the supervisors wanted it, yes, and they liked that. We took the beds apart so the other guy would fall through, we beat each other, we [plunged] them in the water. Yes, we did all the things to each other that the Nazis liked us to do. There was no solidarity. Doctor, if someone has told you something like that, he was telling the fairytales of aunty Jole, but among the kids, the weaker one was the weakest and the stronger [the strongest]. This was in principle accepted by the kids among themselves, also during meals. Fights were fought for two tenths of a ladle of soup, for the smallest leftovers.
When I arrived at Spiegelgrund, I was taken to either [Pavilion] 13 or 15. There I had to go to a bathroom, you can call it bathroom, there was a bathtub, I remember it well, and a stool inside, and of course the big iron door. There I had to undress, and my clothes were taken away, and I had to go into the bathtub totally naked. They let the water in, and it was ice cold, and I had to creep into it. That was very hard, but I did not show it, because I thought that I must not do that. Otherwise they would have said: “You are a coward!” With such things they maltreated us permanently.
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?
There wasn’t much. It wasn’t “You are Mr. Pauer, and you are this,” that was irrelevant, you were a number, finished. If you didn’t obey, you’d get a punishment. There wasn’t much, not much of a choice. You can’t say: “I want this bed, or I want this or that,” there was no such thing. This is yours, and that’s it. We had to make our bed, straight as a ruler, that precise, otherwise it was torn apart, and you had to do it again. That was the education at the time.
I always believed it’s going to get better, always thought to myself, it will be freer. I was OK with everything, and a trip by train, etc. was pleasant, nice. Who knows how we will fare now, etc. Well, I got there to the concentration camp, and then the drill already started, with the measuring and the screaming: “Sir, stand straight!” – Actually they didn’t say “Sir”, just “Stand straight!” – And then there were no more names, just numbers. My number, by chance I remember it, because I remember numbers, was seven-sixty-eight. Approximately 1000 young people were in this concentration camp. [...] And I was assigned to sorting potatoes. As newcomer. And we had to sort potatoes down there in the basement: small, medium, and large. I think the purpose was only that all would get the same size. Nothing else, not that one [would get] more or less. And I stole a few potatoes and took them with me. And we had such a small oven in the barracks, and we baked them. Of course, the SS smelled it. “What’s that?” There was no choice, I came forward. For that there were 15 blows on the naked butt. One had to undress, kneel over a stool, and count: “one, two,…” And in the end: “Inmate seven-sixty-eight has gratefully received 15 blows.” That was the requirement: “Gratefully!” Sadistic to the core.
So, time and again, time and again I’m saying this: They destroyed our dignity. One couldn’t achieve any dignity. So the moment they noticed that you tried to be something, that you’d say, there is something about me, I have something to show, I can do things, that was suppressed immediately. This happened on Spiegelgrund, that happened in all homes, doesn’t matter whether Catholic – Well, about the Catholic ones, I don’t want to say a lot because here… – Whether these were the Catholic homes or those for difficult children, whatever they were called, as soon as they noticed that you are blossoming a bit, with dignity or something, right away they would break your neck and would push you to the ground. You belong down there on the ground, and you have lost nothing up here. They let you sense this, no way around it. So when you thought you can do a bit, right away they’d push you back down, unbelievable. And that’s how it was everywhere.
Yes, I can remember these things, the terrible things that were there, the harsh order and discipline. I also remember the so-called “vomiters,” the vomiting pills, I remember these quite well, but only after I had heard of them later again. I felt I had to vomit with an empty stomach, and had low back pain, too, this was a real punishment.
Well, I can tell you, when all of this was found, that is, my things, and I read it through, and it was a disaster for me. For one year, I was unable to say anything. I completely retreated from everything, I was weeping like a child because I couldn’t understand that people could be so mean and send us there, and they knew what was going on there, at Spiegelgrund, the guardians. And all the lies they wrote about me and my family, all this [hurt] me terribly, and I was knocked out. For a year, I was knocked out. It is impossible to talk about Spiegelgrund because it was… I was brought there at the age of eleven, yes, I was eleven years old then. So first I was at Lustkandlgasse, two, three weeks for observation, and then they sent me to Spiegelgrund, well it was… I cannot remember a single day without punishment, there was not a single day without punishment. And bestial punishments they were, sadistic punishments. They made us stand for hours, and what was also terrible, we knew precisely that, when a specific nurse was on, we had to stand the whole night from evening to morning in front of our beds, with nothing on but our nightgown. In the summer, the windows were closed and in the winter they were open, can you imagine? That was totally normal.
But I suffered not only damage from those..., and I emphasize, not only at Spiegelgrund, even though this is the only institution they recognize. But the facilities where I was, like Moedling, which are believed to be mere orphanages, weren’t different, due to the SS people. There were two SS members, a woman called Mrs. Weiss, and it was no different. My punishments were harsher than in a prison. [In prison] they don’t say you are not allowed to talk to anyone, or correction and nothing to eat. You see that I didn’t go on a hunger strike for nothing.
So I received a medal from the mayor, as contemporary witness, the Golden Merit Cross. I see this rather as a kind of war medal, for having endured these times, and not for Spiegelgrund, right? Or else, more or less, they mollified us, now we want quiet already, let’s put a medal around them, and we’ll have peace and quiet. [...] But I find the compensation, well, just that it came too late, much too late! Hundred thousand schillings, had I gotten that as a twenty-year-old, that would have been something! Then we needed an apartment, etc., that would have been it! Afterward, if I wouldn’t have had it, the other things I would have bought also without it. But that’s how it was, it wasn’t, let’s say in the sense that I’d say, yes…, it was a compensation and that’s it. I often used to say, I should get a compensation from Wimmersdorf as well, there I was beaten for seven years, I should actually receive more from there than from Spiegelgrund.