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David Nathan

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00:00:00 Background

00:03:44 German occupation period

00:11:18 Deportation/selection

00:13:44 Daily life and survival in the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp

00:30:35 Alliied bombing of camp and plant

00:37:37 Buchenwald concentration camp/liberation

00:44:00 Postwar period

“They didn’t succeed in making us into subhumans, Untermenschen.”[1]


David Nathan, the youngest of four children, was born in Paris in 1927. His siblings were born in Marseille: Sarah Nathan in 1915, Raymonde Nathan in 1917, and his brother, Joseph, in 1918. David Nathan’s parents were Sephardic Jews who had emigrated from Turkey to France during World War I. The family ran a shop that sold lamps. David Nathan made frequent trips to the public library to check out books until Jews were denied library privileges in 1942. His mother was very observant, but to David, attending synagogue services seemed tedious.


David Nathan’s only brother, Joseph, was arrested in 1942 and never returned; he died of exhaustion after liberation. The rest of the family managed to avoid the mass arrests that began in Paris in 1942, but one day the Nathans were betrayed. David Nathan was arrested by the Gestapo, and his mother and sisters avoided arrest by happenstance. In June 1944, David Nathan was taken to Drancy and deported from there to Auschwitz on one of the last two transports.


He was taken by the SS to the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp as a forced laborer for I.G. Farben and deployed in the road-building detachment. His symptoms of debilitation led him repeatedly to the infirmary for treatment, and he narrowly escaped the selections there. Later he worked in the toolmakers’ detachment; a friend suggested that he claim to be a mechanic, so that he could get an assignment to that detachment. Physically, the work was less tiring, and this contributed to his survival. When the SS called for the “evacuation” of the camp, David Nathan was one of the 10,000 prisoners forced to take part in the death march, which in his case ended in the Buchenwald concentration camp. The solidarity he experienced there among the Communist inmates had a deep and lasting influence on him. He remained in Buchenwald until his liberation in April 1945; he weighed 32 kg (70 pounds). David Nathan went back to liberated Paris, to his mother and sister Raymonde.


After he had recovered some of his strength, David Nathan did an apprenticeship and trained as a watchmaker; he continued in this profession until retirement. He married, and the couple had a daughter. Today David Nathan and his wife live near Cannes. A great film enthusiast, he attends the film festival there every year. As a contemporary witness, he frequently visits schools to talk about his experiences in the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp.

(SD; transl. KL)


David Nathan, oral history interview [Fr.], May 29, 2007. Archive of the Fritz Bauer Institute, Norbert Wollheim Memorial.

[1] David Nathan, oral history interview [Fr.], May 29, 2007. Archive of the Fritz Bauer Institute, Norbert Wollheim Memorial.