The Last Witnesses

Our work of our association is not limited to Kahla, but, due to the many victims, we cooperate and correspond  with many institutions, historians, associations and many more throughout  Europe.

Anja, our association member in  Belgium,  continues the research regarding the forced labor in the  „REIMAHG“ with a lot of commitment, empathy  and intensity.   A constant  exchange of information, close cooperation and  support  resulted in many new  results of this work, which is so important  to us.   

Today, after 75 years, there are only a few survivors who came to Kahla as forced laborers.   They are important to tell us their story and thus contribute  another puzzle piece to the historical picture of the „REIMAHG“.  

On the basis of our nationwide appeal,  Anja met with Eduard Geysen, now 97 years old.  He survived the camps in Großpürschütz  and Lager E in Eichenberg.

His story began on 9 July 1944,  when he was arrested and deported via Herentals, Antwerp and  Etterbeek to a camp  in  Weimar, from where he was then transferred to Kahla a short time later, on 15 July.

He  arrived at the camp in Großpürschütz, where he and his comrades were housed until the end of December 1944.   He tells us that living conditions  in the camp  were very  primitive.  At first,  they slept only  on the  straw-lined floor. From the camp they walked every day,  as  an unguarded column to work on the Walpersberg.  Eduard worked alternately in the  tunnels  andat the  runway construction on the mountain, which were both heavy  work assignments, confirmed by many other eyewitnesses.

Food played a very important role in Eduard’s  memory.   Among other things,   he told us that in the morning they received a kind of coffee and a piece of bread,   sometimes with some sausage  and  butter. He  always divided this bread in half,  one part  he ate  immediately,  the other he kept.

At lunchtime they usually got a watery beetroot soup and  in the evening in the camp a white porridge that always tasted bad.  Later,  they received only bread in the morning and in the evening.  

A big problem for all camp inmates was the massive lice infestation. Despite all efforts to decimate them, they were everywhere and all countermeasures were hardly  crowned with success.  

Eduard smiled and emphasized that despite  all the adversity,  the camaraderie in the group  was very strong and helped them all over the difficult time.

In January 1945, he and his comrades were transferred to Lager E near Eichenberg due to an re-organization. Walking through heavy snow, they hoped that the conditions would be better in the new camp. However upon arriving at Lager E, the camp commander called them bandits and saboteurs and said that none of them would leave the camp. They quickly realized that there was hardly any way to organize extra food, as they didn’t have any more tobacco, which could be exchanged for food.

The SS guards in the camp were very active in guarding the Lager and would wake up the forced labouers in the middle of the night to count them. Eduard also received several blows from the guards.

The winter of 1944/45 was very cold. In order to protect himself against the blistering cold, he put on all his clothes, above them an empty cement bag and a work coat, which he had received from a German. That helped him against the cold and prevented him of becoming sick, something that wasn’t meant for everyone…

Upon the arrival of the American army, he was able to escape from the Lager E, together with three comrades and return to Belgium. Upon his arrival at home, he was warmly welcomed. He later visited the family of one of his friends, but didn’t know a the time that his friend hadn’t survived. It would take 74 years and due to our archives and research, Anja was able to inform him about the sad destiny of his friend.

We were very happy that Eduard took the time for this interview, in order to tell Anja his story. She was quite impressed and will surely not forget this moment!

A big thank you to Eduard, Conny (his daughter) and Anja!