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Gerhard Maschkowski

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00:00:00 Background

00:04:43 Anti-Jewish policies under National Socialism

00:07:13 Forced labor as an adolescent

00:10:53 Deportation/selection

00:14:27 Daily life and survival in the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp

00:28:48 Death marches/liberation

00:36:27 Postwar period

00:42:55 Wollheim lawsuit

“The death march was the worst. If you’ve already made it so far, and managed to stay alive until January 1945. And then march, march, march, march. And so cold. And of course, I mean, we didn’t have any umbrellas. It didn’t matter, rain or snow or whatever, we were wet. There was nowhere else for it to go but onto our skin. And then the next day, whether the sun was shining or not, anyhow—well, there wasn’t much sunshine anyway—then it dried or froze.”[1]


Gerhard Maschkowski, the son of Arthur and Hertha Maschkowski, was born in Elbing, in West Prussia, on May 19, 1925. His father, who owned a copying service, had been injured and blinded in World War I. Gerhard had an older brother, Sigfried, who managed to emigrate to Palestine in 1939. After November 9, 1938, Gerhard Maschkowski was no longer allowed to attend public school, so his parents sent him to a horticultural school in Ahlem, near Hanover.


Three or four months later, he was put in the Jessenmühle camp, where 45 Jewish youths had to do forced labor for farmers and the city administration. In 1941 he was sent to Neuendorf near Fürstenwalde for forced labor. From there, on April 8, 1943, the Gestapo took him to the Grosse Hamburgerstrasse transit camp in Berlin, for deportation to Auschwitz. Gerhard Maschkowski reached Auschwitz on April 20, 1943, and was sent to the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp as a forced laborer for I.G. Farben. In the camp, Zionist prisoners helped the new arrivals from Neuendorf, as they too were Zionists. Gerhard Maschkowski worked first in the cement detachment and then in an electricians’ detachment; the somewhat improved conditions in the latter detachment enabled him to survive as an “electrician.” On January 18, 1945, the SS forced him and the other inmates of the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp to go on the death march to Gleiwitz and then on through Germany and Czechoslovakia. In late April, still on the death march, he collapsed, and he has no memory of the final days. He woke up in a hospital in Breslau, free and safe, thanks to the Red Army.


After his release from the hospital, Gerhard Maschkowski started searching for his parents. They had survived the Theresienstadt concentration camp, and he found them in the Deggendorf DP camp in Bavaria. There he met Ursula Nauman, also a survivor of the concentration camps. Together they emigrated to the United States in 1947 and married in New York. Gerhard Maschkowski opened an auto repair shop in Florida. The couple had a daughter and two sons. He sold the repair shop in 1979, and they moved to Los Angeles, CA. Ursula Maschkowski died in 2005. Today Gerhard Maschkowski lives in San Diego, CA.

(MN; transl. KL)


Gerhard Maschkowski, oral history interview [Ger.], June 29, 2007. Archive of the Fritz Bauer Institute, Norbert Wollheim Memorial.

[1] Gerhard Maschkowski, oral history interview [Ger.], June 29, 2007. Archive of the Fritz Bauer Institute, Norbert Wollheim Memorial. (Translated by KL)