Theodor Haas was among the Jews taken into “protective custody” on November 9, 1938. He was sent to Dachau, where he remained as a prisoner for 3 years.
Quoted below is an excerpt from an interview with Theodore Haas, conducted by Aaron Zelman, the founder of the organization called “Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership.” At the time of this interview, Haas was living in America and was a member of this organization.
Haas still had nightmares about the persecution that he had endured as a Jew in Nazi Germany. He survived the Holocaust only because he was released from Dachau in 1941, before plans for the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” were made on January 20, 1942 at the Wannsee Conference.
In February 1942, deportation of all the Jews to the death camps in Poland began.
The interview of Theodore Haas is quoted below.
The interviewer, Aaron Zelman, asks the questions and Theodore Haas answers:
Q.) How did you end up at Dachau? How old were you?
A.) November 9th, 1938 was Kristallnacht — The Night of Broken Glass — The night Synagogues were ransacked and burned, Jewish owned shops destroyed; I guess you could call it the night the fires of hell engulfed the soul of humanity. I was arrested November 10th, “for my own personal security.” I was 21 years old. My parents were arrested and ultimately died in a concentration camp in France. I was released from Dachau in 1941, under the condition that I leave Germany immediately. This was common procedure before the “Final Solution.”
Q.) What did you think when you were sent to Dachau? What did you know about Dachau beforehand?
A.) My first thoughts were those of many others: “The world has gone mad.” I knew that the life expectancy at Dachau was relatively short. I knew beforehand that inmates were abused. The horror of Dachau was known throughout Germany.
People [Germans] used to frighten their children, “If you do not behave, you will surely end up at Dachau.” A famous German comedian, Weiss Ferdl, said “Regardless how many machine gun towers they have around K.Z. Dachau, if I want to get in, I shall get in.” The Nazis obliged him; he died at Dachau.
Q.) How did you accept the fears of Dachau?
A.) Due to the constant hunger and extreme cold weather, one becomes too numb to even think of fear. A prisoner under these conditions becomes obsessed with survival; nothing else matters.
Q.) What were the living conditions like in Dachau?
A.) We were issued one quarter of a loaf of bread. That was to last three days. In the morning, we picked up, at the kitchen, a cup of roasted barley drink. There was no lunch.
At dinnertime, sometimes we got a watery soup with bits of tripe or some salt herring and a boiled potato. Our prison clothes were a heavy, coarse denim. They would freeze when they got wet. We were not issued hats, gloves or underwear.
The first night, about 500 prisoners were stuffed into a room designed to hold 50 Believe me, it is possible. Later on, we were forced to sleep on straw. As time went on, the straw disintegrated and we became louse infested. The guards delighted in making weak and ill clothed prisoners march or stand at attention in rain, snow, and ice for hours. As you can imagine, death came often due to the conditions.
Q.) Do you have residual fears? How do you feel about German re-unification?
A.) I have nightmares constantly. I recently dreamed that a guard grabbed me. My wife’s arm touched my face, and I unfortunately bit her severely. German re-unification, in my opinion, will be the basis for another war. The Germans, regardless of what their present leadership says, will want their lost territories back, East Prussia, Silesia, and Danzig (Gdansk). My family history goes back over 700 years in Germany. I understand all too well what the politicians do not want the people to be thinking about.
Q.) You mentioned you were shot and stabbed several times. Were these experiments, punishment or torture?
A.) They were punishment. I very often, in a fit of temper, acted while the brain was not in gear. The sorry results were two 9 mm bullets in my knees. Fortunately, one of the prisoners had a fingernail file and was able to dig the slugs out. In another situation, I was stabbed in the washroom of room #1, Block 16. Twice in a struggle where I nearly lost my right thumb. A German prisoner Hans Wissing, who after the war became mayor of his home town, Leinsweiler, witnessed the whole situation. We stayed in touch until a few months ago, when he died.
Q.) Do you remember some of the steps taken by the Nazis to de-humanize people and to make them feel hopeless? How were people robbed of their dignity?
A.) If you had treated an animal in Germany the way we were treated, you would have been jailed. For example, a guard or a group of them would single out a prisoner and beat him with canes or a club. Sometimes to further terrorize a prisoner, the guards would form a circle around a prisoner and beat him unconscious. There were cases of a prisoner being told to report to the Revier (“Hospital”) and being forced to drink a quart of castor oil. Believe me, this is a lousy, painful, wretched way to die. You develop extreme diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and severe dehydration. If the Nazis wanted you to live and suffer more, they would take measures to rehydrate the victim.
Q.) What was the routine like at Dachau?
A.) Three times a day, we were counted. We had to carry the dead to the square. Each time, we had to stand at attention in all kinds of weather. We stood wearing next to nothing, had weak bladders, while our tormentors had sheepskin coats and felt boots. The bastards really enjoyed watching us suffer. I remember how the guards had a good laugh when one of them “accidentally” let loose with a machine gun, killing about 30 prisoners.
Q.) What did people do to try to adjust to Dachau? Keep their spirits up?
A.) There were some actors, comedians, and musicians among us. Sometimes they would clandestinely perform. One of the musicians got hold of a violin and played for us. To this day, it remains a mystery how he got his hands on a violin. I still keep in touch with other prisoners. I am a member of the Dachau Prisoners Association. Each year I go back to Germany to visit.
Q.) Did people ever successfully escape? Do you remember acts of bravery?
A.) Nobody escaped, only in the movies does the “hero” escape. Guards received extra leave time for killing prisoners that got too close to the fence. I do, however, think all prisoners were heroes in their own way. Especially the German prisoners, for they would not acquiesce to the Nazis. They suffered greatly too.
Q.) Did the camp inmates ever bring up the topic, “If only we were armed before, we would not be here now”?
A.) Many, many times. Before Adolph Hitler came to power, there was a black market in firearms, but the German people had been so conditioned to be law abiding, that they would never consider buying an unregistered gun. The German people really believed that only hoodlums own such guns. What fools we were. It truly frightens me to see how the government, media, and some police groups in America are pushing for the same mindset. In my opinion, the people of America had better start asking and demanding answers to some hard questions about firearms ownership, especially if the government does not trust me to own firearms, why or how can the people be expected to trust the government? There is no doubt in my mind that millions of lives could have been saved if the people were not “brainwashed” about gun ownership and had been well armed. Hitler’s thugs and goons were not very brave when confronted by a gun. Gun haters always want to forget the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, which is a perfect example of how a ragtag, half starved group of Jews took up 10 handguns and made asses out of the Nazis.
End of interview