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Ernst Mitchell

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
3 May 1948
Interview number:


Dr Bea Lewkowicz

Date of Interview:

Interview Summary:

Ernst Mitchell, born Ernst Schampanier in Breslau 1908 was deported in 1942 from Berlin. He worked for ‘Organisation Todt’ in Nittau (until December 1942).  Then he was sent to the Ghetto hospital in Riga.  From there he was sent to the Kaiserwald concentration camp and worked in a dental laboratory outside the camp.  When the Russian Army came nearer prisoners were moved to Stutthof.  He worked in a Stuttfof side camp, in a shipbuilding yard. He was liberated by the Russian Army and came to the UK in 1948 to join his sister. His father was a Cantor in a synagogue but all his life he was very active in the Anthroposophical Community and not at all involved with the refugee community in the UK. He was very critical of the ‘German-Jewish bourgeoisie’ and was very involved in the ‘International Friendship League’ (who sent parcels to Germany after the war) and the Red Cross.  


Key Words: Breslau. Kaiserwald. Stutthof. Anthroposophy.


Full Interview


And then I was designated a dental mechanic by the German authorities. …although I wasn’t one. But that saved my life. First, that was a special privileged occupation, like watch makers. So, I was lucky, I was indoors, ‘til the deportation came.

Well, the thing was, I will never forget, I was in the customs hall, for the first time changed a border, and I was left alone with a customs officer, who wanted to know what happened now in Berlin with the air lift starting. And we talked and talked and were quite happily talking. Presently, a porter came up to me: “Sir, the train is waiting for you”. And then I knew I had come home. I didn’t have a halfpenny; literally I didn’t have a halfpenny. I had all old underclothes, but I know I had come home, I never forget that. Not just the way he had addressed me, the whole atmosphere. Not only that he addressed a beggar as ‘Sir’, but also the fact that he told me, ‘The train is waiting for you’. Imagine another country, ‘The train is waiting for you’!

Just to try to work on one’s own black spots, to get one’s own black spots less black. That’s all I can say. As human beings we all have in us the angel and the devil, so we all have enough to do with ourselves, beyond any theory, religion, or whatever. And that is a battlefield in each of us, of our own angel and our own devil.

Well, we had a great surprise when we arrived. The tone was much harsher, the SS and staff, it was always ‘Quicker! Quicker!’, ‘Schneller! Schneller!’, everything at the double. And you got your number, you got your-. First, you were adorned with red oil-paint, marked across the jacket, to mark you as a prisoner, and across your back, and generous stripes along the trousers, and later you got your uniform, the usual uniform, but then that saved them the paint. Instead of that, you got your number... to sew on

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