Burton (Burstin), Edward J

Burton (Burstin), Edward J.

Lvov (Poland), Brigitki, Janowska

Burton was born in 1920 and lived with his parents and two brothers in Lvov, Poland, where his father was a businessman. In 1939 the Russian army occupied his hometown. During two years of Russian occupation they lived under relatively good conditions, even though his father was forced to close his business and had to work in a factory. Although his family had the opportunity to move deeper into Russian territory, his father refused to do so.

In the fall of 1941, the German army marched in and two days later the Jewish intelligentsia (as well as Burton) were arrested and sent to a prison called Brigitki. Countless numbers of Jews were executed by the Gestapo. Those who stayed alive were forced to carry the dead bodies of the so called “Ukrainian Patriots” through Lvov. According to the Nazis the “patriots” had been killed by the Russians and the Jews. Burton was sent home from Brigitki, only to be captured three dayslater along with his younger brother. They were set to work constructing a prison. After the last link of the prison’s fence had been installed the Jewish workers were forced to stay there as inmates. Called Janowska, this prison served the Nazis as a concentration camp, which was headed by Obersturmfuehrer Gebauer. Inmates were killed and beaten for no reason including Burton’s brother, who was executed by hanging him from his feet until he died.

In the spring of 1942, Burton came down with typhoid fever. The Red Cross visited the camp and took all typhoid patients to a hospital, when Burton’s parents visited him one day before they were deported. Both parents later died in concentration camps. A few weeks later the hospital was liquidated. While the Nazis forced every patient outside and executed them, Burton and another young man hid under a bed. They were able to escape but were soon captured by a firebrigade and arrested by the Ukrainian police. Burton’s elder brother, who was a privileged Jew and worked for the Germans, was able to arrange his release.

With the help of a Polish passport he was able to leave Lvov and moved to his uncle who lived in a small city. A few days later, the Nazis arrested and killed his uncle’s entire family although Burton managed to escape. Pretending to be Polish, he found a job on a Ukrainian farm as a bricklayer and decided to join the partisans. After the partisans killed several farmers who sympathized with the Germans, he left the group and moved again to Lvov. In 1943 he was sent, among other forced laborers, to Germany in order to work in a coalmine. Since he spoke German and Polish, he was used as a translator. Due to his position in the company and the fact that he had a Polish passport, he lived under tolerable conditions. Later on he was sent to a mine, which had mostly French workers, where he worked in the hospital. All the time he lived in fear of being recognized. In April 1944, he was liberated and immigrated to the United States.

He mentions in his interview that he is convinced that most of the German population knew about what was happening in the concentration camps. The most important thought he wants to pass on to other generations is: “Never ignore a maniac, because a maniac can be dangerous!”

Interview Information:
Date: Sept 29, 1988
Interviewer: Rabbi C. Rosenzveig
Length: 60 minutes
Format: Video recording