Miss X, experiences in an Organisation Todt forced labour camp, including sexual coercion

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Testimony of “Miss X”, whose mother was “Aryan” and whose father was Jewish. Her parents divorced for personal reasons and her mother married an “Aryan”. She describes her school, not being allowed to go to university, having to absolve a “Pflichtjahr”, a year of compulsory work introduced by the Nazis, and the bureaucracy around being a “Mischling”. She was taken to a forced labor camp outside Breslau to dig defense ditches, where however nobody worked very hard.

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  1. English
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EW 3 3362-3367

MASTER - INDEX (P - SCHEME)

1. Index Number: P IIIe Nr. 23

2. Title of Document: - - -

3. Date:

4. Number of pages: 5

Language: English

5. Author or Source: Miss X.

6. Recorded by: L.J. Kahn

7. Received: April 1955

8. Form and Contents: Miss X. was living with her Aryan mother and Nazi stepfather in Breslau; had on the whole no unpleasant personal experience. School (1941 last year of Abiturium for Non-Aryans). Pflichtjahr (instead of six months’ Labour Service). Ration cards had to be fetched from special centre for every household with a Non-Aryan, food restriction which was compromising.

She had to leave a position as a shop assistant in a music shop, because it would bring her into contact with the general public.

In forced labour camp: Organisation Todt, Unternehmen Berthold; unpleasant circumstances; author states cynical outlook on sexual behaviour.

She had a chance of marrying an Aryan Czech, i.e. a man of inferior nationality, since her father had not received a University education; thus little risk of her transmitting Jewish intelligence to her children.

Miss X. is now living in London with her Jewish father.

9. References: Kirchenrätin Viebig. - Marriage laws.1Note 1: Non - Aryan (marriage restrictions)

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Report by L. J. Kahn.

Interview with Miss X. The interview took place on 3.11.1954, partly in English, partly in German.

Miss X was born at Breslau in June 1923. Her father is Jewish, her mother Aryan. Her parents separated, for purely private reasons, in 1930 and were divorced in 1934. Miss stayed with her mother who, shortly afterwards, married an Aryan. Mr. Krimke emigrated to England in 1938. Miss Krimke joined her father there after the war.

Miss X

First of all I should like to point out that in some respects my story is not a typical one. The fact that I was living in an entirely non-Jewish household, am of Nordic appearance, and was converted in June 1933 from my father’s Jewish to my mother’s Protestant faith probably saved me a great deal of unpleasantness. Neither my father nor my mother are strict in their respective religions, and my early religious upbringing had been correspondingly liberal; so that the conversion itself, as far as I can remember, made little impression on me. The practical significance, however, became soon apparent:

At that time I attended a private school with a large number of Jewish pupils. Towards the end of 1933 the classes were separated into a Christian and a Jewish section. This was done, I believe, not on official orders, but the initiative of the Headmaster. I was at first put into the Jewish section. It was the first time that I was made to realize the problem of my part-Jewish parentage, and I remember that I was very upset. My mother protested to the Headmaster, and I was transferred to the Christian section.

Apart from this incident, my school-life was quite happy when I was twelve I changed over to a Lyzeum. The school kept as far as possible to its liberal traditions. The teachers showed no discrimination against me, although they all learned sooner or later that I was half-Jewish. In fact, at a time when my work was seriously affected by worry about my father in London, my Latin mistress went out of her way to be sympathetic and helpful. There was only one master who evidenced animosity towards me, and I have no doubt this was from racial prejudice.

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In such lessons as German, history and geography we were taught an exaggerated patriotism rather than specifically National Socialist doctrines. I cannot recall any direct anti-Jewish observations Jewish achievements were simply not mentioned. The names of Spinoza, Ehrlich, Offenbach and Einstein - to gave but a few examples - were unknown to me until I came to England after the war.

I was the only non-Aryan in my class. There were some other half-Jewish girls in the school and I learnt from hearsay that their position was sometimes difficult. Personally, I can only say that I was always on excellent terms with my class-mates. My class may have been exceptional in that it contained not a single ardent Nazi. At first my fellow pupils did not know of being half-Jewish. When somebody told them they decided, as I learnt later, to hide their knowledge from me in order to spare me any embarrassment. We were altogether not greatly interested in politics.

I passed my Abitur in 1941, the last year when non-Aryans were allowed to do so. It was then that I was faced with my first real difficulties.

Politics had entered into my home life earlier and more forcefully. My mother was a violent anti-Nazi. She talked very freely, and I was in constant fear that she would be arrested. My step-father was a Nazi of the idealistic type, who expected wonderful things of the Third Reich. There were frequent and sometimes rather violent political arguments between him and my mother. About Jews he seemed to have no strong feelings either for and against, and he always treated me as if were his own daughter. He had been a Party member, but although he had been told that the Party would not object to his marrying the former wife of a Jew, and mother of a half-Jewish child, he was afterwards put under pressure to leave the Party. My presence caused a number of problems, especially after the outbreak of war. I particularly remember the problem of ration stamps:

As a rule, ration stamps were distributed into the households by the street warden; but Jews and non-Aryans had to collect them personally from a special Centre. This applied also to every member of a household which contained a non-Aryan. To be seen regularly at this Centre for Jews and non-Aryans would have gravely endangered my step-father’s position in the firm which employed him. He finally managed to obtain dispensation from the rule, but we were still obliged to collect our ration stamps

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from the Food Office direct, and were not granted occasional extra rations like the rest of the population. This and similar difficulties are trifling in retrospect, but seemed very important at the time and made me disturbingly aware of my inferior status in the Third Reich.

This feeling increased with the problems which arose on my leaving school. I had set my heart on a University education, but one could not be enrolled at a Univerity before having completed the six months’s Labour Service (Arbeitsdienst), from which non-Aryans were excluded. Instead, we had to complete a Year of Duty (Pflichtjahr at some place where there was urgent need for a servant, as in families with many children. In my first service of this kind I did not mention that I was half-Jewish; when my employer was informed of it, I was dismissed. I finished my Year of Duty in the service of the wife of a Protestant cleric, Kirchenrätin Viebig. She was markedly pro-Jewish, keeping up contact, at great risk to herself, with her Jewish friends until these were deported. I was treated more as a friend of the house than as a servant. During that time 9 made several further application for admittance into the Labour Service. I even went so far as to suggest that I was the illegitimate child of an Aryan father. I did not succeed.

I felt very bitter about the whole situation in a quite childishly self-centred way. I blamed my mother for having married a Jew, and several times even told her so to her face. It was not that I experienced any conflict of loyalties or felt tainted by my Jewish blood. I simply resented the fact that I was under a special handicap; most of all, that I could not start a career to which I felt my talents and education entitled me. Inconsistently, perhaps, this did not affect feelings towards my father. I had always been on most affectionate terms with him. From the time when my parents separated up to the time of his emigration I had visited him regularly. Shortly before the outbreak of war I spent a holidays with him in London, and even considered for a while joining him there permanently. All through the war I tried to obtain news from him though the Red Cross.

My social relations with other young people were less problematic than the official discrimination against non-Aryans would lead one to expect. None of my old friends changed her or his attitude. Whenever I met a young man who seemed to take an illegible interest in me I told him at once that I was half-Jewish. I rather enjoyed the special implications. I considered such firendships and flirtations as proof that my personal attractions were

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stronger than the influence of official disapproval. Generally speaking, I found that at least in the circles in which I moved the younger generation took Nazi doctrines far less seriously than their elders. The interest of my friends was mainly limited to their personal affairs; they were rather cynical in their attitude to politics and the war.

The one exception I remember was, curiously enough, a Czech with whom I formed a serious attachment. He had pronounced anti-Jewish feeling, and at first I could not find the moral courage to tell him that my father was Jewish. When I told him eventually, he got over the shock after having wrestled with the problem, as he told me, for a whole sleepless night. Our friendship continued, and at one stage we seriously considered marrying. This brought home to me the paradox of my position in regard to marriage: as a non-Aryan I could marry neither a Jew nor an Aryan without special permission; and as a German I was not allowed to marry, or have intimate relations with, a man of inferior foreign nationality. In fact, I was frequently warned that I had been seen in the company of this Czech, and that this might get me into trouble.

It did not come to a formal application for permission to marry, but once I made a general enquiry as to my chances of being allowed to marry an Aryan. The official in charge of non-Aryan affairs in Breslau told me that my chances were fairly good, since neither my father himself nor a member of his family had received a University education; thus there was little risk of my transmitting Jewish intelligence to my children. On that occasion I learnt that a strict watch was kept on all non-Aryans. The official knew practically everything about my family affairs, work, friendships etc.

After the completion of my Year of Duty I found it difficult, as a half-Jewess, to find suitable employment. I was not allowed to finish a course in shorthand-typing at the [Städtische Handelsschule]. I had to leave a congenial position as shop assistant in a music shop, because non-Aryans were forbidden employment which would bring them into contact with the general public. I applied for a job in a factory owned by an old friend of my father's. At first he did not dare take me on because, having a non-Aryan wife, he was himself in a delicate position. But when I was sent to him a little later through the official employment exchange, he engaged me as a typist. I had no difficulties with my fellow-workers in the office.

In August 1944 I was drafted into a labour camp of the

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Organisation Todt, Unternehmen Berthold, about 20 miles from Breslau. We numbered approximately 150 girls, for the greater part children of mixed marriages, like myself (though there were also some Aryan and a few Jewesses who somehow had escaped arrest and deportation before them). divided into 5 groups. Some Nordic-looking girls, including myself, were picked out to be group leaders.

We were made to dig fortifications, but supervision was rather lax and we did not overwork ourselves. Our accommodation, first in a barn, later on the dance floor of a country inn, was primitive, the food bad and insufficient, and the sanitary arrangements shocking. Our guards, uniformed members of the Organisation Todt were unpleasant, but there was no physical violence. Frequent beatings, however, occurred in the men’s camp near-by, as we learnt from the men when we met them at work. Our daily roll calls were perfunctory, and some of us went several times secretly to Breslau for a day. We did not try to escape altogether, as we feared that reprisals would be taken against those left behind.

Almost from the beginning we developed a strong spirit of solidarity. Personally, I acquired for the first time a positive attitude towards the Jewish part of my life. Previously I had felt the kind of Jewish antisemitism which, I believe, was often found in some sections of German Jewry. This feeling I lost completely through the intimate contact with the other camp inmates, some of whom had physically and mentally strong Jewish characteristics. Without that experience, I doubt that later on I would have made the decision to emigrate to England and live with my father.

Some girls - very few - tried to curry favour with the guards and slept with them. They were boycotted by the rest of us. Their behaviour was considered treacherous. There was no objection to sexual misbehaviour, as such including Lesbian practices, of which there was a great deal. Generally speaking, the outlook on sexual behaviour amongst my contemporaries had become completely cynical under the Nazi regime, especially during the war.

When towards the end of the war the Russian army had advanced to within hearing distance of our camp, I and a number of other girls made our escape. This was not difficult, as by that time the guards were already demoralised and hardly tried to maintain control.

References

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The United Kingdom declared war on Nazi Germany on 3 September 1939, after the German invasion of Poland. After the defeat of France in the spring of 1940, the British Expeditionary Force withdrew from the European Continent. Although the Channel Islands near the French coast did fall into German hands, from the summer of 1940 until 1945, mainland Britain resisted German invasion and became a refuge for many governments-in-exile and refugees of the occupied countries in Europe. At the outbrea...