Joseph Stanley Wardzala
Born: 1923, Smigno, Poland
Describes conditions at the forced-labor camp in Hannover [Interview: 1990]
There was a barrack, wood barrack, and each, uh, room was about 20, uh, bed, bunk bed, like a wood box and, uh, very small, and a, and a locker room, so each one have a locker and we have some item. What do you have items? You have a bowl, a round, have round, uh, bowl, metal, for eat, and a spoon and, and a card, uh, where, uh, they give, they give you a ration card stamped so you have to take it and when they bring you to camp, you go wash. You go to a room, wash yourself, and go in the mess room and then wait for, uh, for the, the big kitchen and they open up the window. You give them the stamp and you get warm...then you go to another window and you get a little bread. And you eat this and after one hour you're hungry and you have nothing in the morning. In the morning you get coffee, uh, but the coffee was made of chicory, sour like, uh, something hot. And lunch time, uh, nothing, only the evening. That's what, uh, that's what it was, uh, day after day and, uh, uh, the food was from the beginning it was a little bit more and, but, uh, 1943, '44, '45 was, they cut the bread ration so was very, very hungry, very, uh, all the time, but--hunger is the worst thing for, um, a human being.
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