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Herman Shine (Mendel Scheingesicht)

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00:00:00 Background

00:05:09 Deportation as an alien

00:12:07 Sachsenhausen concentration camp

00:17:38 Daily life and survival in the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp

00:24:26 Escape and liberation

00:43:00 Postwar period

00:45:44 Compensation

Mendel Scheingesicht, the son of Gerson and Therese Scheingesicht, was born in Berlin on October 4, 1922. His father had come from Poland before World War I, and after the war he developed a work program for blind war veterans at the Garbatty Cigarette Factory. In recognition of this, he was awarded a medal by Emperor Wilhelm II. The family included six children; Mendel had three sisters, Rosa, Erna, and Hanni, and two brothers, Bernhard and Willi. Their lifestyle was extremely modest. In 1932, when Mendel’s beautiful singing voice earned him an opportunity to participate with Hans Albers in a production of Peer Gynt for the Volksbühne, his pay made him the family wage-earner for a short time. As a Polish citizen and thus an alien, Mendel Scheingesicht was scheduled to be deported to Poland in 1939. He succeeded in returning to Berlin, where the Gestapo first imposed a condition: he was to leave the country within one month. After the deadline expired, he was taken to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp on September 13, 1939, along with 1,700 other Polish Jews.


There Mendel Scheingesicht announced that he was a roofer. His boss put him up to stealing from the camp kitchen, and Mendel was caught and transferred to a penal company. It was the help of friends that allowed him to survive. In October 1942, he was deported to Auschwitz and earmarked for forced labor in the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp. Here too, he quickly  managed to get assigned to the roofers’ detachment. While working in the Gleiwitz subcamp, he became acquainted with Marianne Schlesinger, a Jewish girl who had to perform forced labor there. Some time later, he was transferred back to the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp and learned from his friend Max Drimmer that there was an opportunity to escape: at the construction site, Max had gotten to know a Polish civilian worker, Józef Wróna, who offered to help him make a getaway. Together the two prisoners made their escape from the construction site on the night of September 20, 1944, and hid in the Wrónas’ barn for four months. When the SS was hot on their trail, they fled to Gleiwitz, where the Schlesinger family gave them a place to stay during the final days of the war.


After liberation by the Red Army, Mendel Scheingesicht returned with the Schlesingers and Max Drimmer to Berlin, where he and Marianne married on February 17, 1946, celebrating a double wedding with Max Drimmer and Herta Zowe. Both couples wanted to emigrate to the United States, but Max Drimmer’s tuberculosis delayed their departure until March 1947. In the United States, Mendel Scheingesicht changed his name to Herman Shine and spent the first few years working in railroad construction in San Francisco. On a visit to Israel in 1961, plans were made for him to testify at the Eichmann trial, but too many witnesses had been called, and he never got a turn to give evidence. Today Marianne and Herman Shine live in California. The members of his large family were scattered to the four winds or, in some cases, murdered. His oldest sister, Rosa, emigrated to Shanghai; the middle sister, Erna, went to England; and Hanni, the youngest, was killed by the Nazis. His brothers, Bernhard and Willi, also emigrated, the former to Israel, the latter to Poland. Herman Shine has no information about his parents’ fate.

(SP; transl. KL)


Herman Shine, oral history interview [Eng.], September 22,1997. USC Shoah Foundation Institute, Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Archive, Code 33485.

Herman Shine, oral history interview [Eng.], July 3, 2007. Archive of the Fritz Bauer Institute, Norbert Wollheim Memorial.



Helas, Horst: Juden in Berlin-Mitte: Biographien – Orte – Begegnungen. Berlin: Trafo, 2001.


Television Film

Escape from Auschwitz. A portrait of a friendship (USA, 2001, directed by Josh Springer)