Nagyberezna (Hungary), Hungarian labor battalion, Windischminihof
Spiegel was born in 1912 in Nagyberezna, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Following World War I, it became Velky Berezny, a part of Czechoslovakia. Spiegel was one of five children of an Orthodox Jewish family engaged in the beer and liquor business. After attending technical schools, he opened a radio and electrical supply shop in 1936. Following the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Germany in 1939, his hometown of about 2,400 Jews, among a population of 10,000, was ceded to Hungary, which imposed restrictive laws on the Jews. He and his father lost their licenses to operate a business and were required to live on savings and from support of relatives.
In 1940 Spiegel was taken into the Hungarian labor service and served on various assignments until he was assigned to the Hungarian army in 1942. There the labor battalion supported the army on the battle front against the Russian army. During the retreat of the Hungarian army he was placed in various labor camps, ending up in Windischminihof in the Austrian province of Styria, where he worked on tank fortifications. Unlike other camps this one was operated by the SA (Sturm Abteilung), and the inmates lived in the houses of an abandoned village. The camp was liberated by two Russian army scouts, who preceded the army, in April 1945.
Spiegel describes details of camp conditions, relations with local citizens, and the liberation. His experiences differ from those of others under similar circumstances in that they were less severe.
Spiegel’s parents and older sister were taken to Auschwitz in 1944 and perished there. His oldest brother managed to leave for the United States shortly after the German occupation, and his younger brother, a medical student, became a member of the Czech army in exile fighting with the Russian army, following his service and escape from the French Foreign Legion. From his family of about sixty people, i. e. grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc., he believes only five or six survived the Holocaust.
Spiegel says he is still suffering from the effects of his experiences during the Holocaust, the after effects of tuberculosis, physical weakness, and nightmares. As it pertains to the history of the Holocaust, he believes insufficient emphasis is placed on those who participated in volunteer armies fighting the Germans. Furthermore, he believes more needs to be done in exposing the non-German labor camps, i.e., Hungarian, etc.
Date: October 3, 1994
Interviewer: Hans R. Weinmann
Length: 1 hour 38 minutes
Format: Video recording