Under Two Dictators: Prisoner of Stalin and Hitler: With an introduction by Nikolaus Wachsmann
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This book is a unique account by a survivor of both the Soviet and Nazi concentration camps: its author, Margarete Buber-Neumann, was a loyal member of the German Communist party. From 1935 she and her second husband, Heinz Neumann, were political refugees in Moscow. In April 1937 Neumann was arrested by the secret police, and executed by the end of the year. She herself was arrested in 1938.
In Under Two Dictators Buber-Neumann describes the two years of suffering she endured in the Soviet prisons and in the huge Central-Asian concentration and slave labour camp of Karaganda; her extradition to the Gestapo in 1940 at the time of the Stalin-Hitler Friendship Pact; and her five years of suffering in the Nazi concentration and death camp for women, Ravensbrück. Her story displays extraordinary powers of observation and of memory as she describes her own fate, as well as those of hundreds of fellow prisoners. She explores the behaviour of the guards, supervisors, police and secret police and compares and contrasts Stalin and Hitler's methods of dictatorship and terror.
First published in Swedish, German and English and subsequently translated and published in a further nine languages, Under Two Dictators is harrowing in its depiction of life under the rule of two of the most brutal regimes the western world has ever seen but also an inspiring story of survival, of ideology and of strength and a clarion call for the protection of democracy.
over ledges and locker tops and even climbing on to the tables to find out whether the beams were dustless. The table tops seemed to be polished, and I discovered that this effect was obtained by pressing down the wood inch for inch with the back of a shoe-brush. The windows shone and you could quite literally have eaten off the floor, which was thoroughly scrubbed daily. The office of the SS Block Leader was a picture of cleanliness, and the locker where the cleaning materials and utensils were
the horses started to pull and to drag us over the bumpy field. The small cart wobbled as if it were going to fall over any minute and we frantically clutched the narrow board – our coachman’s seat. Not we, but the horses chose the direction and at the end of the field they turned, as if this were a matter of course, on to a narrow path that led westwards. When our cart came to the soft wagon tracks, I jokingly said ‘brr!’ Immediately the horses stood still. I breathed easy and my cramped hands
down on our bundles to wait. Three old men were already there. They were to be transferred to an invalid sector. We were kept waiting for hours and at about ten o’clock the door opened and Stefanie Brun came into the corridor. ‘Grete,’ she whispered anxiously, ‘I had to come and say goodbye to you.’ ‘Steffie!’ I exclaimed in horror. ‘You don’t mean that you’ve gone out of the hut after dark!’ The tears came to my eyes as we embraced. ‘Go back quickly now or you’ll be caught.’ ‘Goodbye,’ she
patriotic song: ‘Motherland, great Motherland; land of the free and the brave’. A discussion was going on between the GPU girl and the two soldiers; then they went off and she came over to us. ‘I’ve never been in Moscow before,’ she said naïvely. ‘Isn’t it wonderful. So many people and such a great place! Look, there’s ice-cream over there. Would you like some?’ There’s always a morozhnie seller in Moscow, no matter what time of the year it is. We readily agreed and she went over and bought
here. ‘Just as I was,’ she insisted, as though that made the enormity greater. ‘Without anything except what I stand up in.’ In our situation, her misfortune seemed funny, but we consoled her as best we could. It cost her fourteen days with us, but as she had influential friends and relations the Gestapo let her go in the end. She counted amongst the Politicals, and there were quite a lot like her. More serious was the case of those who had listened to foreign broadcasts and been unable to