HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS FOR THE FIRST TIME INSPECT THEIR OWN RECORDS FROM THE VAST NAZI ARCHIVE THAT WAS OFF-LIMITS FOR DECADES -- "60 MINUTES"
Nazi Archive to Open After Convention of Holocaust Deniers is Held
One man holds his fate in his hands: a list of inmates -- his name among them, but crossed off -- who were sent to a notorious slave labor camp few ever emerged from. Another holds the very card he signed as a teenager upon his entry to a concentration camp. A third sees a form the Nazis created to track the mail he never received in Buchenwald because the rest of his family had already been murdered at Auschwitz. All three Holocaust survivors are viewing for the first time the records the Nazis meticulously kept for them and 17 million other victims of Hitler's Reich. Their stories and other revelations from the secret archives previously closed for 60 years are part of a Scott Pelley report to be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, Dec. 17 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS television Network.
Seized when Germany fell to the Allies in 1945, the documents were deposited in an archive in the German city of Bad Arolsen and were tightly controlled for privacy reasons ever since. Sitting on 16 miles of shelving, they number 50 million pages covering 17.5 million victims, not only Jews but also millions of slave laborers, political prisoners, homosexuals and Roma. They reveal the horrible: for 90 minutes on Hitler's birthday a prisoner was shot every two minutes as a gift to the Fuhrer. They tell the mundane: lice on prisoners were counted and classified, small, medium and large.
They contain a few familiar names, Anne Frank, for one, and a famous list, the one belonging to factory owner Oskar Schindler, who put prisoners' names on his list to save them from death. Both stories were immortalized in literature and film. But the records mainly hold the names of millions of unknown victims, some of whom survived to tell their stories, like Miki Schwartz, Walter Feiden and Jack Rosenthal. 60 MINUTES was able to secure a private viewing of the records for these three men before they are made more accessible within a year.
The documents were quite a revelation and Schwartz says he was glad he saw them. He also has a message for people who doubt the horrors he went through, especially the Holocaust deniers whose convention just ended in Iran. "Those people who said the Holocaust didn't happen, like the president of Iran, if they have any questions about it, please come to Bad Arolsen and check it out for themselves," says Schwartz.
Checking out the archives for Schwartz was difficult; he never knew he was supposed to go to the deadly slave labor camp, never mind who crossed his name off its list. "I'm scared right now," says Schwartz, who lives in San Diego. "Right now it makes me think back and I am living like there is this 14-year-old youngster and they wanted to kill him," he tells Pelley. "I don't know why. I did not ever do...harm to anybody. I think I should have a middle name...Mr. Lucky."
Rosenthal, from New York City, looks at the card created to keep track of his mail in Buchenwald. "Who was going to send me mail?" he asks. "I got news for you: if I would have died in Buchenwald, nobody would ever shed a tear for me because my whole family was wiped out before then," he says. "We were a family of eight and I'm the sole survivor."
Feiden, also from New York, became emotional when he saw the card he signed in Buchenwald, but stopped himself. "Just a sec," he tells Pelley, composing himself after recalling his ordeal 60-plus years ago. "You've got to overcome it -- the breaking down. Because that's one thing we never did in camp. We never wanted to break down in front of some SS men and give them the pleasure of seeing us break down," remembers Feiden.