With The U. S. 4th Armored Division in Germany (Apr. 18)
Eight hundred Jewish slave laborers from a munitions factory in Altenberg, Saxony, were liberated today by units of this division after a thirty-mile forced evacuation march on feet.
The American troops caught up with the procession in a woods near Waldenburg, and they are now housed in what was formerly a Hitler Jugend headquarters. Six hundred of the slave workers are girls and women from Hungary, while the other 200 are men from all sections of Europe.
A spokesman for the group, Ludwig Parke, a former Berlin economist, told a Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent that they had been at the Altenberg factory for many months, working twelve hours daily. Originally, the women had been sent to the Oswiecim death camp, where most of their relatives were gassed and cremated. Some of them had their children snatched from them and saw them crushed against a wall.
The men, most of whom are in their thirties, were sent to Altenberg from the Buchenwald concentration camp. Panke said that he had been sent to Oswiecim in a transport of 74 Jews from Berlin. Of seventy who survived the journey, 54 were gassed at the camp and 15 died in various ways. Panke is the only survivor. At the munitions factory, he said, he had become a supervisor of 70 machines. He added, “I am an old concentration camp fox. Of the 70 machines, only 30 worked daily.”
Elizabeth Kovach, a pretty young girl from Czechoslovakia, who has an uncle in the town of Canadian, Oklahoma, said that one of her three sisters have survived. Two are missing. “I confess I did the best to work well for twelve hours, standing at a heavy non-automatic push machine,” she said, “I worked hard for fear of being sent back to Oswiecim.”
The women described how their heads were shaved at Oswiecim and other hornors to which they were subjected at the camp, where they lived in constant proximity to mounds of gassed bodies. They said that they were fed bromides in their food to induce a general forgetfullness, and that they were in a half-Zombie state from which they are only now emerging.
The liberated slaves revealed that they had been forced to remain at their machines until just before they began their forced evacuation. The only food they received on the thirty-mile trek were 200 grams of bread.