Joseph Stanley Wardzala
Born: 1923, Smigno, Poland
Describes forced labor in Hannover [Interview: 1990]
When we was working, there was so many, uh, people, were Poles and another nationality: Italian, French, and the...we don't talk much because, uh, German was like bosses and watchmen, was few watchmen with, uh, with, uh, weapon [so] that you, you don't escape, and, uh, we just have, we can't talk, uh, much. If you, if you talk right away they see you and, uh, you get, you get hit, so, uh, we, we just have to, uh, work. We just, we talk to each other very, uh, low. We, we talked to, we Polish, yeah, but not they hear, not the German hear. And they always, uh, they watch us what we do good job and if you do something wrong, then you get, uh, you get very bad beaten with the shovel or with the rifle. If, sometime, uh, one day I have to bring, uh, cement from, uh, a train, the, the two guy take it, a bag of cement and put on your shoulder and you go put it to the storage. You have to run. Uh, when there was rain, there was mess. Then if the bag of cement break, then you get beaten, so...it is not your fault but you have to be careful, so they was very strictly about, uh, sabotage. We couldn't do sabotage in, in Germany, because, uh, even if you try, it cost your life.
Joseph and his family were Roman Catholics. After Germany invaded Poland in 1939, roundups of Poles for forced labor in Germany began. Joseph escaped arrest twice but the third time, in 1941, he was deported to a forced-labor camp in Hannover, Germany. For over four years he was forced to work on the construction of concrete air raid shelters. Upon liberation by U.S. forces in 1945, the forced-labor camp was transformed into a displaced persons camp. Joseph stayed there until he got a visa to enter the United States in 1950.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum - Collections