While living at home, Dave was drafted into a Labor Service battalion. Once a week he and his battalion did what he called "city work," such as repairing roads and cleaning parks. In the photo, he is second from left in the first row. Yellow armbands are visible on those to his left, signifying they are Jewish. Dave was wearing one, as well.
On June 6, 1944, Dave and most of his family were loaded into box cars and shipped overnight to KZ Birkenau, a subcamp of Auschwitz. A few days later, after being assigned number U-71890, he was packed into another box car and sent to KZ Mauthausen. The photo above was taken after the war. The concentration camp uniform is genuine, but borrowed.
After arriving at Mauthausen, Dave was sent first to KZ Gusen II, then later to Gusen I, both nearby sub-camps whose prisoners worked in the Kastenhof granite mine. Dave was assigned to the Stone Crusher, where he spent his days loading mine carts with raw granite, pushing them to the Stone Crusher complex of buidlings, unloading them, and then doing it again. In the photo, the Kastenhof quarry is the cliff to the right. The stone crusher complex is in the far left background.
In late 1944 Dave was sent back to KZ Mauthausen, to its infirmary, its Revier, as Dave called it. It was situated adjacent to the south wall of the main camp, on the field shown in the picture, above. During the war, this field was filled with barracks, and was known as the Sanitary Camp. Dave remained there until sent to barracks in KZ Mauthausen's main camp in late winter, 1945.
In early April 1945, the Nazis began a series of death marches to move Mauthausen's Jews, 500 to 1,000 at a time, to KZ Gunskirchen, a concentration camp 34 miles away. Dave was assigned to one of the first marches. At the outskirts of the town of Enns, six miles from the start, he escaped. Recaptured a short while later, he was returned to Mauthausen. Inexplicably, he wasn't punished. One week later, Dave was put on another death march (the photo shows the death march route by Enns). A German-language website covering the death march route, containing detail about Dave Hersch and others, can be reached by clicking here.
Dave was assigned to another death march on April 16, 1945. Incredibly, again he escaped. The next day he was found by Barbara and Ignaz Friedmann, who hid him first in their house on the outskirts of Enns (pictured above), then in their barn, until American troopers from Patton's Third Army (261st Regiment of the 65th Infantry Division) captured Enns, liberating him.
Copyright © 2018 by Jack J. Hersch - All Rights Reserved.