A contribution from Henri Weller
« In stalag XVIII A »
A few memories from the Resistance.
Soldier in the 22nd R.M.V.E. I was taken prisoner with my regiment on June 6th 1940. With another group of combatants , I was directed toward the camp XVII A, not far from Vienna (Austria). Once there the Jews were asked to step out from the ranks. I did with many others. After being insulted, we were threatened to be shot soon, we were pushed into the barrack n°26, named “international barrack”, because were confined there Chinese, Senegalese, Belgian Jews and we… Around the month of September, arrived a commission of Austrian “erudites” with the mission to study the races, and we, the Jews, were at the first rank. The “Professor” followed by his clique, passed before each of us explaining the distinctive Jewish features; arrived by the Rozenker brothers, he stopped a few longer trying to define their Jewish specificity, but the race, on these faces, were difficult to find, for they were blond, blue eyed, short nosed, small mouthed with small ears, and did not fit at all the “erudite’s” theory. The non-sense explanations that he gave to his audience provoked the laughter of our comrade Laufer who could not contain himself , and in a perfect German language he dared to retort to the eminent “Herr Professor”: “Look at your aids and at yourself in a mirror and you will find all the signs that you just enumerated”. The professor, disconcerted, started with Laufer a discussion on the site and, probably interested by our comrade’s knowledge, invited him to his office to continue the discussion.
By November 1940, they separated our group in several small commandos and sent us to the mountains near Volsberg, in the stalag XVIII A. We arrived near midnight in a small village at an altitude of 1800 meters and we slept in a barn that eventually became our home for several month… Our first meal was composed only with rotten potatoes and the peasant who hosted us added that he wouldn’t give that to pigs but that it was yet too good for Jews… The foreman who managed us recommended to avoid to move frozen soil on the foot-paths and explained us that the road that we were fixing, would be carried away by the snow melting. What do you think we did? Our own resistance, with our little means, each time the foreman lifted his watch, we filled the barrow with a mix of snow and frozen soil, and we covered the good soil with it and the game was played… And, in May, with the sun heating warmer in altitude, everything defrosted and by places, the road was carried away. All the work was to be redone…
In march 1945, we were assigned to the electric generating station in Ternitz in order to clean the river who fed the station. There was a little bridge across the river; it was at the time when the German troops retreated from the front. A part of the troops was to move in our region, the old bridge was to be replaced and we were assigned for that task. Our leader René Israël suggested to dismantle the old bridge very quickly and to find all possible pretexts to rebuild the new one as slowly as possible. So was decided and done. We worked so hardly to demount the bridge that the German authorities killed a horse and gave us the meat for food to prove their satisfaction. Once the old bridge demolished? Our resistance plan was activated… Every means were good to lose time, every trick was used to show unreal illnesses… This lasted till the end of April. When the German troops retreated through our region they couldn’t use the unfinished bridge and on May 7th when the British took over, the German became the prisoners who had to finish the building of the new bridge.