Born: 1923, Riga, Latvia
Describes conditions in the Stutthof concentration camp [Interview: 1990]
After we arrived in Danzig, when we heard that we were going to Stutthof, we were devastated because Stutthof was a camp which was very well known as one of the worst. There was no food. Was a lot of brutality, a lot of killings and hardly anybody esc...got out... got out of Stutthof, so the three of us, my brother, my father and I, went to Stutthof and spent several weeks there. The conditions in Stutthof were beyond any description. People were dying left and right from hunger. People woke up in the morning, next to you people were dead, emaciated. And the condition was deteriorating by the day because the tide of the war had turned and as bad as it was before, now the Germans were letting their anger out on the few remaining Jews because they were...they were...it was clear to them by this time they were losing the war. A few weeks after we arrived in Stutthof, we were all lined up one day and a German officer said they are looking for volunteers to work in a German shipbuilding firm in Danzig called Schichau-Werft. My brother and I and my father volunteered, but as my father was going across to join us, the German officer noticed that he was invalid--he was dragging a leg as a result of scarlet fever which he had in his youth. The minute he noticed that he says, "You cannot go. Back." My brother and I started pleading, "It's our father. We have to go together." Just to spite, he says, "You're going and he's staying here." And no matter how much we begged and no matter how much we pleaded and cried, it did not help. We were kicked and beaten and forced to leave my father. It was clear to my brother and myself that the minute my...my father would be left in Stutthof he would be doomed. And we were...we were absolutely heart-broken to leave him there, because we knew it was going to be the end. But we were forced to do it and that's how we left Stutthof.
The Germans occupied Riga in 1941, and confined the Jews to a ghetto. In late 1941, about 28,000 Jews from the ghetto were massacred at the Rumbula forest, near Riga. Steven and his brother were sent to a small ghetto for able-bodied men. In 1943 Steven was deported to the Kaiserwald camp and sent to a nearby work camp. In 1944 he was transferred to Stutthof and forced to work in a shipbuilding firm. in 1945, Steven and his brother survived a death march and were liberated by Soviet forces.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum - Collections