May 10, 2008


The story of Robert Mendler’s experience as a holocaust victim and survivor is being told in the Beanery Online Literary Magazine. To read previous installments, click on THE HOLOCAUST STORY OF A TEENAGE VICTIM (Part 1) and THE HOLOCAUST STORY OF A TEENAGE VICTIM (Part 2) and THE HOLOCAUST STORY OF A TEENAGE VICTIM (Part 3)
This segment tells about Mendler’s first experiences as a Jewish prisoner of the Nazi Regime.

Mendler’s first experience as a holocaust survivor was in 1939 when his hometown of Nowy-Targ, Poland, became a Jewish ghetto under Gestapo rule. The minimal education permitted for Jewish children was gone. Food was rationed.

“We were branded and made to wear white armbands with blue stars,” he said. “There was a $5.00 reward for Christians who reported the Jews not wearing the armbands.”
The Gestapo also grabbed and trimmed Jewish men’s beards, removed their caps (Kipa, yamulka) and shaved their heads and side curls, all while the Jews were attired in their prayer shawls (talit). During the procedures the Nazi took pictures and the Christians laughed and enjoyed the fun.

“For us, it was a torture,” Mendler said, who was too young to be a direct victim. “I watched beautiful Jewish girls with beautiful hair have their head shaved too. I picture how the girls used to scream and cry ‘Don’t shave my head.’ It was the loss of their crown of glory.”

The hair-cutting “made a nothing of us,” Mendler noted.

Jews caught not wearing this identification were beaten or shot, depending on the mood of the Gestapo.

His first job assignment under Nazi rule was working for Gestapo leader Roman Wolny. (click on THE HOLOCAUST STORY OF A TEENAGE VICTIM (Part 2) for a description of his experience working for Wolny.).

Three months later, in November, 1940, he was assigned to forced labor at the Stuag Company in Zakopane, Poland, 1940 (?). It was his first time away from home, and he felt isolated. He had no family, no one to cry to, to complain to.

“The company running the stone quarry was from Vienna, Austria,” Mendler said. “They are still in business today. They never paid us a dime or a nickel. They were building autobahns (roads).”

Mendler’s job was breaking up stone for building the roads.

“We had to produce enough to meet the quota for every day or they killed you. Workers were plentiful.”

Every three weeks a truck drove returned the Jewish workers to us to their ghetto, Nowy-Targ, where they saw their family. While home his family cleaned his dirty laundry. He arrived home between nine and ten in the morning, and at six o’clock in the evening he had to join the other workers on truck.

The work camp in the Village of Zakopane, fourteen miles away from Nowy-Targ, had barracks for the workers. The facility there was considered a pre-camp, a first labor camp (Zwangs Arbeit Lager) (arbeit means work) (they used the term concentration camp, Koncetration Lager when the facility became large).

“I spent five months in this camp,” Mendler said. “It was terrible in winter.  It was cold. (Zakopane) has year round snow, beautiful mountains.”

When he returned to Nowy-Targ to work on building railroad tracks he was able to live at home. He walked two miles to and from where he worked.

“We built railroad tracks and unloaded coal from the cars. It was heavy work. Everything was manual work. We were worse than slaves,” Mendler said. “Still, I had a chance to take coal home.”

The Gestapo he worked for during this time “wasn’t so bad,” Mendler said. At least, for him. “Others he used to beat up terribly. He was a chief, but he didn’t work with the other Gestapo.

Mendler’s other assignment was working with a Ceschelovakian-German Gestapo named Szeda.

“He was a SOB, but he used to treat me well,” Mendler said. “He used to drink a lot. He was cross eyed. He was a murderer. He had such power in our town that the chief of  the Gestapo even was afraid of him.”

Mendler woke Szeda early in the morning.

“He got up, ate breakfast. I ate too with him. I used to clean up his bath. I got up early in the morning to put a fire under his truck because in winter the diesel (fuel) froze. It had to be a small fire.”

Mendler’s job was putting up signs identifying towns.

“It was a terrible lousy job in winter. I was terribly unhappy. There were six of us. He rode by himself in the truck. All us others sat in back (of the truck) with the signs.”  We sat in back with the signs.

Click on THE HOLOCAUST STORY OF A TEENAGE VICTIM (Part 5)  to contiue reading Robert Mendler’s story. 




BRAMBLES (Brief Rambles) 2:2008 May 5—Temporary Art, Bull-Headedness?-Arachnophobia

1 Comment »

  1. Kids are America’s most precious and most at-risk citizens. With drugs and peer pressure facing them on a daily basis, it’s no wonder that mental illness and drug abuse is at an all time high. Problems facing American children.

    Comment by Robert L. Rice — May 30, 2008 @ 6:07 am | Reply

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