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Tibor Wohl (*1923)

"We no longer could think in an unimpaired way and feel things keenly, of course, but a spark continued to smoulder inside us: the ‘self.’ ”[1]

 

Tibor Wohl was born in Rarbok (now Roho┼żník), in the Czechoslovak Republic, on June 28, 1923, and spent his childhood there. He grew up in a middle-class family; his father dealt in real estate, and his mother was a homemaker. In 1931, his brother Paul was born, and in 1936 the family moved to Prague because of the steadily growing anti-Semitism in the Slovak portion of the Czechoslovak Republic.

 

Tibor Wohl’s father paid money in 1939 to have his family smuggled out to Ecuador, but he was cheated, and they had to remain in Prague. After the German Wehrmacht occupied Czechoslovakia on March 15, 1939, the Wohl family had to move to a smaller apartment, Tibor was forced to leave school, and his father had to work in a sawmill. On December 10, 1941, the family was arrested by the Gestapo. Their possessions were confiscated, and they were deported to Theresienstadt. There they were subjected to forced labor until their deportation to the Auschwitz concentration camp on October 26, 1942. In the chaos upon arrival, Tibor lost his family; he could not say goodbye to them and never saw them again.

 

After six days in the main camp, Auschwitz I, Tibor Wohl was sent to the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp and assigned to a work detachment: Kommando 21, which had to do heavy carrying and excavation. When he tried to get into an easier work squad, he was assigned to the cable-laying detachment and suffered a serious foot injury while at work. He had to go to the infirmary, and he was one of the prisoners on whom SS-Arzt Dr. Horst Fischer and others conducted experiments with electric shocks. In the spring of 1944, when he was transferred to the Schonungsblock, the convalescence barracks, after a short stay in the infirmary, he became acquainted with Arnost Tauber, a Czech. Tauber told him about the resistance movement in the camp, and Tibor Wohl soon became involved. Through his work in the resistance movement, he obtained a transfer to the disinfection facility, where he worked until the camp was vacated.

 

On January 18, 1945, Tibor Wohl was forced to take part in the death march to Gleiwitz. During an attack by partisans, he and two comrades managed to escape and take refuge in a farmhouse with a German deserter until the area was liberated by the Red Army on January 27.

 

After his liberation, Tibor Wohl returned to Prague, where he realized that his entire family had been murdered. In 1947, he married Libuse, and the couple had two children. In the 1960s, Tibor Wohl testified in the FRG in the second Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial, involving Gerhard Neubert, and in the GDR in 1966, in the Fischer trial. In 1969, he fled with his family from Prague to Austria and worked as head of a fitting shop. In 1990, he published an account of his time in the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp, Arbeit macht tot. Eine Jugend in Auschwitz (Work Brings Death. A Youth Spent in Auschwitz). Over the last years Tibor Wohl lived in Frankfurt am Main, where in January 2014 he has died January.

(LG; transl. KL)



Source

Tibor Wohl, oral history interview [Ger.], March 17, 1998. USC Shoah Foundation Institute, Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Archive, Code 42198.

 

Literature

Wohl, Tibor: Arbeit macht tot. Eine Jugend in Auschwitz. Preface by Hermann Langbein. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1990.

[1] Tibor Wohl: Arbeit macht tot. Eine Jugend in Auschwitz. Preface by Hermann Langbein (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1990), p. 121. (Translated by KL)