Prisoners’ experience

,,The work was organized in two shifts: twelve hours for the day shift with a lunch break for the soup, and twelve hours for the night shift with a fifteen-minute break at midnight. The slave labourers were working full time, day and night with no breaks, not even for a trip to the latrine.”

Workers who could not work due to illness were replaced immediately, unproductive ones were dismissed and replaced by others in better physical condition: Only good workers who were productive and returned to work quickly after being ill a short time were used again after recuperating, but as soon as anybody slowed down the work rhythm in the slightest, they would be gotten rid of immediately.”

„[…] The night shift was from 6pm to 6am with an allotted break of 15 minutes at midnight and many other breaks as soon as air raid alarms sounded and the light in the work halls was extinguished. […].“

– Lidia Beccia Rolfi, * 1925, Italian; Siemens: October 1944 – April 1945, Hall 8

„[…] The night work was very exhausting, the artificial light strained the eyes badly. The work itself was not so difficult but demanded concentration as it was precision work. […]“

– Barbara Zajączkowska-Rubinstein, * 1926, Polish; Start of work at Siemens unknown, hall unknown

„[…] During the one-hour lunch break we would be marched back to the old camp at high speed, we dashed into the blocks and used, as Siemens workers, the advantage of having our tin bowls filled before the others. We had twenty minutes to eat, go to the toilet and wash our hands.[…]“

„[…] The night shift had been introduced for us in summer already, […] ,where we had to work for eleven hours and only had a half-hour break at midnight. […]“

– Astrid Blumensaadt (nee Pedersen), * unknown, Danish; at Siemens from 19.12.1943 – 08.04.1945, hall unknown

„[…] Well and then I got sent up there, to Siemens. And there, well because of having small hands, there were aircraft parts made there. And I, exactly because of my small hands for small things, I was sent to the spraying, and let’s say twelve-thirty, one in the morning, I would always collapse on them, I was all alone in this huge room. There was this wash basin there, a huge wash basin was there, with acetone to clean everything, and now your stomach is empty and windows – don’t even know if there were any windows. If so, you wouldn’t have been allowed to open them because of the blackout. I collapsed on them every night. The door had this glass window and when the SS passed through on controls and didn’t see me, then they knew I must have collapsed again. Everybody who was on duty there poured water over me from a bucket and then I was up and spraying again. Until six in the morning was my shift and I, soaking wet, had to go straight to roll call in front of the factory at 6.„

– Regina Chum (nee Waringer), * 1923, Austrian; Siemens: from mid-1944 to end of March 1945, hall unknown

„1500 prisoners were marched to the work barracks of Siemens every day, making aircraft and ship instruments under the protection of the camp. Now the living barracks for the Siemens prisoners were to be completed. This meant getting separated from my dear Czech friend. After lengthy negotiations with my superior, arguing with my state of health, I managed to get a directive relieving me from my old post and allowing me to apply to work at Siemens in the factory office. Shortly before Christmas Eve 1944 I was allowed to change and was able to make life somewhat easier, again at the side of my dear camp comrade. It necessitated getting used to a whole new field of work, and as I am not technically inclined by nature, I had a hard time of things to start with, the technical calculations especially gave me a headache.”

– Gertrud Popp, * unknown, German; Siemens: from December 1944 – release on21. April 1945, Hall unknown

Irma Trksak worked in hall 3 – relay construction – in her time in the Siemens camp. Her task was to draw diagrams portraying the productivity of the prisoners, how much was produced in a day and if the productivity of the prisoners had changed. In order to protect other inmates, Trksak falsified these statistics and lied in her translations.

„[…] And this I had to enter and draw curves. Whether their productivity increased or if they were becoming weaker and so on. Of course we tried to fib about it. We took from those who produced a lot, so the sums would be right, and those who produced less we gave a little extra to protect the women.[…] Or I was interpreting between Russian and German, when the Meister said something that was not good for the prisoner, I would weaken that and the other way round. So, it always evened out and the prisoner was not hit by anything bad, was not punished with deduction of costs or somehow being dismissed from the company.“

– Irma Trksak, * 1917, Austrian; Siemens: End of October 1942 – January 1945, Hall 3, then most senior at the Siemens facility

„Work times were from 6.30am to 7.30pm with a one-hour lunch break. But it happened that we had to work until 10pm, including on Sundays. Other female prisoners had to weld, there was no protective clothing. The women neither had protective goggles, nor gloves or aprons. Other women worked on the galvanizing, also without protection, metals were checked with acids there. The women got burns, their eyesight worsened, with red and swollen eyes. If a woman wanted to go to sick bay, she would be driven out again with a kick. At the beginning there were 500 in this factory, after a year that number had grown to 8000. […]“

– Janina Pawlak, * 1914, Poland; Siemens: April 1942 – November 1944, Hall unknown