Krakow (Poland), Plaszow, Gross-Rosen, Flossenburg, Regensburg, Podgorze, Gluszyca, death march
Nothman remembers close family relationships in his early life and states his parents were comfortable financially. His father was a master plumber and his mother operated a fruit and vegetable market until 1939. He recalls a good deal of anti-Semitism in Krakow, where he was born and where the family lived. There was frequent agitation by the Endeks and even charges of blood libel by the Christian community one Passover. The Nothman family lived in the Kazimerz, a largely Jewish section of Krakow, but Nothman did have some Christian friends. Out of an estimated total of thirty persons in his extended family, six survived the Holocaust: Nothman, his mother, brother, sister, and two cousins.
In the spring of 1940 all Jews in Krakow were sent to the Plaszow ghetto across the Vistula River. Food was severely rationed and people had to trade personal possessions for enough food to survive. In 1941 Nothman recalls two Polish officers coming to take his father away on orders from the SS. Later, they sent his mother a box of ashes, stating that these were the remains of her husband. Six months later, his older brother was taken and never seen again.
Brutality was routine in Plaszow and Nothman speaks at length about Hauptsturmführer Amon Goeth, who he describes as “the most vicious creature on earth.” The walkway to Goeth’s home was paved with Jewish cemetery monuments. He recalls seeing Amon Goeth at an appell on his white horse shoot between 100 and 200 people with a machine gun. Nothman also describes seeing Goeth kill several people trying to smuggle food into the ghetto.
Nothman was taken with others after an appell to help clean up the ghetto. He describes going into a school, being ordered to take out all the children and lay them on the ground with their head facing the school. An SS officer then shot each child in the head. Nothman was then told to put the bodies on a waiting wagon, not gently, but thrown on “like brick.” After this he was taken to a hospital where doctors and patients were being slaughtered by Ukrainian guards. Nothman had to throw the bodies down from the second floor to the ground and clean up the area.
In May 1944 Nothman was sent to Gross-Rosen on a train transport. Upon arrival the prisoners were stripped and their heads shaved. He was sent to work for the Organization Todt near the Czechoslovakian border. During this period, Nothman recalls many beatings. He particularly remembers seeing a father forced to assist in the hanging of his own son.
In January 1945 the area was evacuated, and Nothman was sent to Flossenburg and from there to Regensburg to work on a railroad. There were many political prisoners in Regensburg who were ruthless to the Jews. Nothman remained there until the spring of 1945. At that time the prisoners were taken on a death march, passing through Landshüt and Freilassing. Nothman states that the guards would frequently take the slowest, the last three or four lines of men, and shoot them. He decided to escape with some friends and one night they ran into the woods. They obtained food from peasants in the area and wound up at Camp Lebanau, where they were told that the United States army was in Laufen. Nothman went from the camp to Laufen and then to Ainring (between Berchtesgaden and Freilassing). He met his future wife there and the couple married in 1947. He found his mother and sister alive and states that they were saved by Count Folke Bernadotte of Sweden.
Nothman expresses a great deal of anger at a world that could allow the Holocaust to happen. He describes Poles who sold their Jewish neighbors to the Nazis for a kilo of sugar. He is haunted by an incident that occurred in Plaszow. He was setting dynamite charges in a closed area that was being mined. Suddenly the fence opened and a Mercedes came up the road. Nothman ran up and shouted at them to go back because the explosives were set. Himmler was in the car and Nothman has always wondered if he did the right thing by saving him.
Date: November 30, 1982
Interviewer: Donna Miller
Format: Audio recording
Date: June 9, 1984
Interviewer: Donna Miller
Format: Video recording