Diogenes, Leib

Diogenes, Leib

Budzyn, Auschwitz, Radom

The youngest of seven children, Diogenes was born in 1914 in a small town in Poland near the German border. Seventy-five percent of the citizens in his community were Jewish. He had already had experiences with anti-Semitism before the war. Diogenes’s father, who was a Jewish religious scientist, wanted him to become a tailor, but he decided to work as a barber. When the Germans occupied Poland, Diogenes owned a barbershop and was married, with a little daughter. The government informed the inhabitants by radio that Germany had declared war, but they could already hear the bombs dropping. At this time, Diogenes’ wife and daughter were in Lipna. Since he was in the army reserve he went to the railway station to try to get to his unit. By the time he arrived there, the Germans had already captured it and he became a prisoner of war. He told the Germans that he came from the Russian part of Poland, so they put him into a labor camp instead of a ghetto. During the interview, he shows a letter his sister wrote in the ghetto, which describes the horrible living conditions there. Diogenes was part of a labor force that built barracks in Budzyn surrounded by a wire fence. When the camp they had built was ready, the laborers were arrested and became camp inmates.

Working as a barber helped Diogenes to survive. The Germans valued cleanliness and so, after working all day, he often spent three to four more hours as a barber and as a result got more food. One of the worst things he can remember is the following occurrence: One day some inmates were forced to dig a hole. They were told that it would be used to store potatoes, but the prisoners noticed that the hole was to deep for this purpose. Three of the prisoners who were digging the hole ran away and one of them was caught by the guards. They hung him up by his feet and the other prisoners were forced to beat him until he was dead. When the work was complete the SS guards divided the 3,000 concentration camp inmates into two groups – fit and unfit for work. The 1,000 people who were selected as unfit for work were shot in an hour and a half and kicked into the grave. Many of them were still alive.

When the camp was liquidated, the inmates were sent to Auschwitz, which Diogenes thought would be a better camp than Budzyn because the station was decorated with flowers and music was playing. Only after he was liberated, did he hear that Auschwitz was a death camp. On the ramp of the railway station the inmates were separated into groups; Diogenes was put back on the train, which continued on to the Radom concentration camp. When the Russian army moved closer to Radom, the concentration camp inmates were moved to Vaihingen in Germany, where they had to work in an underground factory for a few months. As the French army approached they were forced on a death march to Friedrichshafen, where they were liberated by the French army. After the war, Diogenes fell ill with typhus and entered a hospital in Stuttgart, where he became engaged to another survivor. At the end of the interview, Diogenes states that he thinks one can only have a future, if one remembers the past.

Interview Information:

Date: September 2, 1987
Length: 1 hour
Interviewer: Esther Weine
Format: Video recording