Bill Kugelman - Kaufering camp survivor

In a TV documentary about World War II, produced by KUAT-TV in Tucson, Arizona and shown in September 2007, Bill Kugelman was one of the residents of Tucson, who shared his story about his survival in one of the Kaufering labor camps.

Kugelman and one of his two brothers were reunited after the war with their mother and sister in Sweden. The whole family had been sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1943.

According to Kugelman's story, his older brother, Moses, died of "typhoid fever" just 10 weeks before the end of the war. Kugelman probably meant Fleckfieber, the German word for "spotted fever" or typhus. In America, "spotted fever" means either typhoid or typhus. There was a typhus epidemic in Germany in the months just before the end of the war.

Bill Kugelman emigrated to the United States in 1952, and moved to Tucson in 1965 where he opened a local chain of shoe stores called Zev's Famous Brands Shoes.

The following quote is from an article written by Anne T. Denogean in the Tucson Citizen newspaper and published on September 7, 2007:

Kugelman was born in Sosnowiec, the son of a shoe manufacturer/retailer. The family was prosperous even after Kugelman's father died at only 42 years of age in 1935.

But when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, the Kugelman family was forced into a ghetto for Jews where they lived 14 to a room and worked as slave labor in factories making goods for Germans.

In 1943, his whole family was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau and encountered the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele, who decided with "a flip of the finger" who lived to go to the labor camps and who died in the gas chambers.

Kugelman and his two brothers managed to stay together, but they were separated from their mother and sister.

The brothers were sent to work camps and endured backbreaking tasks while being fed a daily ration of a slice of bread and bowl of watery soup. If anything solid was swimming in the soup, it was certain to be a bug, Kugelman said.

They slept in a dugout, a trench about 40 feet long where 50 to 60 men lined up "like sardines," he said.

Barracks at Kaufering were dugouts partially underground

They were given rags to wear, nothing that would protect them from the cold winters. "We used to rip up the cement bags . . . rip out the inside, which was the cleanest part of it, and cover our bodies with it under our clothes," Kugelman said.

In one camp, they helped construct an enormous underground bunker. Kugelman wondered after the war if it had been a facility for the development of an atomic bomb. But there was no energy for such speculation at the time.

"They were death camps, not labor camps, because they worked you to death," Kugelman said.

Kugelman was 15 years old when he was first sent to a ghetto in Poland in 1939. He said that what he remembered the most about his ordeal was his loss of a "sense of person" when he was assigned the number 10806 at Auschwitz before being sent to a labor camp.

In September 2007, Kugelman told Tucson Citizen reporter Anne T. Denogean "They took our names away. You were a number. You were not a human being anymore . . . You lived by your wits, just like an animal, just to survive another day."

Kugelman said that he was marched, along with 2,000 slave laborers, from Kaufering camp No. 11 to a new camp. The day after the prisoners arrived at the new camp, the SS guards fled and they were liberated on May 8, 1945, the day that World War II in Europe officially ended. "We kissed their boots," Kugelman said.


This page was created on September 18, 2007