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Albert Kimmelstiel

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00:00:00 Background

00:02:26 Anti-Jewish policies under National Socialism

00:07:13 Deportation/selection

00:20:47 Daily life and survival in the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp

00:37:10 Death marches/liberation

00:48:20 Postwar period

“Hunger does terrible things to human beings.”[1]


Albert Kimmelstiel was born in 1923. His parents, Karoline (née Reinhold) and Fritz Kimmelstiel, and his two older brothers, Justin and Max, who was deaf, lived in Forth in the Franconia region, as generations of the family had done before them. His mother ran a household goods store, and his father was a cattle dealer. With Hitler’s seizure of power, the financial situation became more difficult, and after Julius Streicher delivered an anti-Semitic diatribe in the town in 1935, they were ostracized by the other residents of Forth. Only the Kimmelstiels’ domestic helper offered the family food and all the money she had. The brothers began attending the Jewish grade school in Nuremberg in 1936. Justin, the oldest, was able to emigrate to Argentina that same year. Albert also played in the Jewish soccer club. The team had qualified for a tournament in Augsburg in November 1938, but it was canceled because of the “Night of Broken Glass” (Reichskristallnacht). By 1938, the Kimmelstiels had been forced to sell their house in Forth and had moved to Nuremberg.


On November 29, 1941, the family was deported. Passing through the Langwasser transit camp, they entered the Jungfernhof concentration camp near Riga in December 1941. The parents were taken away on March 26, 1942, and the mother’s last words were “Take care of Max!” Albert Kimmelstiel learned later that his parents had been shot in a nearby forest. In November 1943, the SS loaded the brothers Albert und Max into cattle cars and gave them each a loaf of bread and a little water. After three days en route, the train arrived at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp. Folllowing a four-week quarantine period, the two boys were put in the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp. Albert worked in the fitters’ and locksmiths’ detachment and met Norbert Wollheim. Wollheim helped him get his brother out of the external work detachment: Max, unable to hear the march tunes, was constantly beaten for being out of step. From then on, he worked in the camp kitchen until March 21, 1944, when he vanished: that day the SS sent all the deaf prisoners to the gas chamber. Albert was now alone.


On January 18, 1945, the SS forced the prisoners of the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp to go on the death march, and Albert Kimmelstiel spent the ice-cold winter trudging through the countryside. In early May, after passing through Gleiwitz, Mauthausen, Prague, and Sachsenhausen, he reached the vicinity of Schwerin, where the SS guards donned civilian clothing and fled. Albert Kimmelstiel, now free, knew one thing for certain: “I wanted to get out of Germany as fast as I can. I didn’t want to stay there.” By November 1945, he was already writing an account of his time in the camps, and these memoirs now are in the collection of the Wiener Library in London. In 1947 he emigrated to the United States and settled in New York. In evening school, he met Jacqueline Hirsch, who had survived the war in hiding in France and also emigrated to the United States. They married and had two sons. Albert Kimmelstiel worked as a paperhanger. In the 1950s, he assisted Compensation Treuhand in distributing to former prisoners of the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp the compensation secured by Norbert Wollheim. He and Norbert Wollheim maintained a lifelong friendship.

(SP; transl. KL)


Albert Kimmelstiel, oral history interview [Eng.], June 25, 2007. Archive of the Fritz Bauer Institute, Norbert Wollheim Memorial.

[1] Albert Kimmelstiel, oral history interview [Eng.], June 25, 2007. Archive of the Fritz Bauer Institute, Norbert Wollheim Memorial.