Survivor STORY

Walter Winters was born in Berlin, Germany. During the war he was a prisoner in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Gleiwitz, Flossenburg, Oranienburg, Muhldorf, Ganacker, and Landau concentration camps. At Flossenburg Walter was a slave laborer for Siemens.

After liberation, Walter got a job in the American officers' club helping in the kitchen, then was able to emigrate to the United States in 1946 aboard the Marine Flasher. Walter ended up in Chicago, worked for several years with a drug company and eventually owned several small businesses, including a shoe store. Walter and his wife moved to Atlanta to help take care of their grandchildren.

Life and Survival in Europe

They made parachutes, but you had to be careful. When these - very unhealthy work, you know; maybe that's part of it why I am suffering now too, you know. The chemicals, I worked with chemicals to make parachutes and when these strings broke I didn't repair them. So those, those Fallschirmjager they call them, those parachuters, mine that I made didn't open up. They went [laughs] to their death, you know. But I had to be careful they would have shot me right then. I had to work slave labor for that factory. And it still exists, can you imagine it? It still exists. When I went with my wife to Berlin I asked our friend, "I like to go there and ask for my wages." They didn't want to go. "I like to go here to Siemens." I worked at Flossenburg concentration camp for Siemens. They're right here. And I like to go there here and ask for my wages. I didn't get paid and I didn't get to eat and drink. I weighed 70 pounds. And they are all in business again. And you know those that made the ovens in Auschwitz, the ovens, Topf and Sohne, that's the name, you know about it? They still exist. Can you imagine that? They are still in business. You see, it might sound unpleasant and many of my Jewish friends don't like to hear, but they have made peace with the devil. For instance, in the big cities in Israel like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Mercedes Benz gave them cars they use as taxis. You know, I think it's terrible. They are doing business with the devil.

I remember the one American GI, he jumped off the tank and he shook my hand and he was born in Hamburg, Germany, that what I remember and he gave me all his rations or whatever he had I should eat because I weighed…. I was so weak. But not as bad, others were... There were mountains of dead, mountains of corpses all over.

Coming to America

And they asked us where we want to go and I figure I like ... we wanted to go to San Francisco. We figured that San Francisco is like the Paris of the United States. "No, you can't go there, there is no work. You've got to go to Pittsburgh." So my friend, he figured steel mills and coal mines, you know ... then we choose Chicago. And we came to Chicago. And the first thing I remember we took a cab to the hotel. The Alamic Hotel on Jackson Boulevard, Jackson and Talbot, and oh, these greenhorns [new immigrants]... the cabdriver screwed us: in 1946, he charged us $20 for the trip! We got screwed right away!

Life Lessons and Perspectives

I said I will never go to bed hungry again in my life. Hunger hurts. It’s the worst thing there is going hungry for so many years. Your mind doesn't work any more when you go hungry for so many years. You become - you don't care any more about anything, you know what I mean? You don't care any more, having nothing to eat for so many years, only because you were Jewish, of your religion. It's terrible. They cannot be forgiven for that.

Walter Winters