I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo

I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis

JOSEF Lewcowicz was just 14 when he was given his first job of shovelling human bones into a wheelbarrow at Płaszów concentration camp.

It marked the start of three years of misery as the Polish-born teen was shipped through five brutal concentration camps, where he saw starving prisoners butchering and eating a little boy and watched sick guards make prisoners jump off cliffs.

I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo

I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo
Josef Lewkowicz, 93, standing at the entrance of what was once Ebensee concentration camp – 74 years ago, he was liberated from Ebensee after already surviving four other concentration camps, where the rest of his family were murdered
I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo
This picture of prisoners in Ebensee, believed to have been taken by an SS officer, shows Josef circled

Today Josef is haunted by his nightmarish experiences throughout the Holocaust, which saw Nazis kill all 150 members of his family.

“I had seen so much cruelty that nothing surprised me anymore — shooting, hanging, beating…” he tells Sun Online.

All these years later, Josef is dismayed by the rise of antisemitism around the world once again.

Just last month, a man was arrested after he was filmed openly making antisemitic remarks to a Jewish man and his son on the London Underground.

And the Equality and Human Rights Commission is currently investigating allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party.

But the problem is growing all over the world from both the extreme political left and right, with offences against Jews having risen by 74 per cent in France last year and violent attacks surging by 60 per cent in Germany in 2018.

As the Holocaust recedes from living memory, 93-year-old Josef is telling his astonishing story now so that the appalling truth will be preserved for generations to come.

And his message is, incredibly, one of hope.

“There is a lot for us to hope for,” Josef says. “And there’s a lot for us to hope for and there is a lot that we could enjoy.”

‘I saw them set fire to an old man’s beard’

I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo
Amon Göth, the camp commandant of Płaszów, personally murdered dozens of people – he would shoot at prisoners from his office if he thought they weren’t working hard enough
I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo
Göth was played by Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List, which was partially set in Płaszów
Handout

Born in 1926, Josef was just a child when Hitler’s forces came crashing through the cities of Poland in 1939.

“The Nazis began marching in the streets and singing songs against the Jews,” Josef says.

In one incident, he saw a group of Nazis set fire to the beard of an elderly Jewish man for their amusement.

By 1942, Nazi troops had segregated people across Poland and moved Jewish people into controlled ghettos or concentration camps.

In some camps, they were stripped of their clothes and possessions before being forced into slave labour.

While in others, they were murdered immediately on arrival — gassed to death as part of the Nazis’ sickening ‘Final Solution’ genocide of the Jews.

At one point, Josef found himself in a group of 17,000 Jews when they were rounded up and ordered to form a line.

“At the head of the line, there was one SS man with a whip playing the role of God,” Josef tells us.

This man split Josef’s group into three: 14,200 were sent to an extermination camp to be gassed to death, 2,000 elderly were shot dead there and 800, including Josef, were sent to Płaszów camp for slave work.

It was here, at the age of 14, he was given the job of digging up an old graveyard to make way for the prisoners’ barracks.

The Butcher of Płaszów

I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo
Göth became known as the Butcher of Płaszów for his casual killings and sadistic punishments
LMK Media
I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo
Płaszów concentration camp in 1942 – where Josef was nearly ripped apart by dogs
Wikipedia

Once the camp was built, Amon Göth, Płaszów’s notorious camp commandant, was employed to rule the site with an iron fist.

He was known for personally murdering inmates for fun — and his brutality earned him the nickname The Butcher of Płaszów.

“He shot people for nothing,” Josef says.

On one occasion, Josef saw Göth pull a good-looking friend of Josef’s, Shlomo Spielman, away from his work.

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“I cannot take it that a Jew should look so handsome,” Göth said, before shooting Spielman dead with his revolver.

On another occasion, Göth assembled the whole camp to watch the hanging of a prisoner who’d been caught smuggling a lump of chicken into the camp, where starvation was rife.

Göth hanged the condemned man but the rope snapped and he fell to the ground — where Göth shot him dead.

And the psychopathic killer also loved setting his two dogs — a Great Dane and an Alsatian — on to defenceless prisoners, including Josef.

He still has a scar from the mauling on his left hand 80 years on from the attack.

Death train to Auschwitz

I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo
Josef with one of the cattle cars that ferried so many millions to their deaths
I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo
Josef at Auschwitz – the sign over the gate behind him reads ‘arbeit macht frei’ or ‘work sets you free’

It wasn’t long after surviving the attack that Josef was packed into a cattle car destined for Auschwitz-Birkenau — the Nazi’s deadliest extermination camp where 1.1million people were gassed, starved, shot, and subjected to fatal medical experiments.

“We couldn’t breathe,” Josef said. “One hundred and sixty people in a cattle car in the scorching heat of the summer.”

When they arrived at Auschwitz two days later, Josef was standing on top of layers of dead bodies piled so high he could touch the roof of the car. Only 20 survived — 140 had died.

To this day, Josef cannot stand the smell of barbecues because it reminds him of the first thing he smelled when he arrived in Auschwitz: human flesh burning.

He was assigned a number and was ordered to place the rotting bodies of dead arrivals on a little wagon and take them to the ovens.

“That was a job that kept me alive,” Josef says. “They didn’t send me to the gas chambers in Birkenau because I was working.”

The Stairs of Death

I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo
Starving prisoners at Mauthausen ascending the 184 steps of the ‘stairs of death’ carrying stones – the labour was designed to exhaust people to death

Despite Auschwitz being the most notorious extermination camp, it was where he was sent next that Josef suffered the most.

Mauthausen was a complex of over 100 concentration camps in Austria where slave labour was used as a means of extermination.

Inmates were made to break granite stones in a quarry before being forced to carry the rubble in 50kg loads up the “Stairs of Death”.

Starving and exhausted inmates were ordered to heave the stones up all 184 steps in back-breaking 12-hour shifts.

How did Josef have the strength to survive the stairs? “We just had it,” he says.

“And who didn’t have it, didn’t have it. Many, many people I saw rolling down the stairs with the rocks.

“They were finished.”

‘The limbs were coming off their bodies’

I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo
The stairs next to the quarry where so many died are still visible today
JRoots/Rabbi Naftali Schiff

In Mauthausen, Josef saw a group of Dutch Jews arrive who were told they were going to a decent place — they came to the camp with suits on hangers and shoes in boxes under their arms.

They soon realised they’d been horrifically duped.

Sadistic SS officers asked them if, instead of being sent into the camp, they’d like to join the “parachutists”.

It was a sick joke.

Those who volunteered were taken to the edge of high cliffs around the opening of the quarry and forced to jump off the cliff — without parachutes — by laughing guards.

“Some of the limbs were coming off their bodies because it was from very high,” Josef says.

“And sometimes they fell on the rocks and the rocks crushed them.”

Smuggling food to the starving

I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo
Tanks of the U.S. 11th Armoured Division rolling into Mauthausen on May 6, 1945 – by this point, Josef had been moved to another camp
Alamy
I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo
Roll call at Melk concentration camp – where Josef personally served camp commander Julius Ludolf
collections.ushmm.org

Josef’s stay in Mauthausen was mercifully brief — but his time in the Holocaust’s camps wasn’t over.

He was taken to Melk, a subcamp of Mauthausen, where he was charged with feeding carrots to the pet rabbits kept at the villa of the camp commandant, Julius Ludolf.

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Josef would smuggle bits out at the end of his shift to feed his campmates — despite knowing that doing so could cost him is life.

But Josef would see first-hand what horrors people can be pushed to when they’re starving.

The camp he was taken to after Melk was Ebensee in Austria, where pisoners were forced to dig vast tunnels in mountainsides to protect Nazi munitions from Allied bombing raids.

Towards the end of the war, inmates were brought from other camps in the thousands, and the dire conditions at Ebensee became unbearable.

There wasn’t enough food, and people were starving to death.

“A young Russian boy died and there was a few of the Russian people went and cut off his whole behind, and made a fire with branches and dry wood, and roasted that human flesh, and ate it,” Josef said.

At this point, in 1945, Josef had become numb to the horror.

“I had seen so much cruelty that nothing surprised me anymore,” he says.

No one ever came home

I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo
Emaciated prisoners inside Mauthausen – starvation was even worse in Ebensee
Associated Press
I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo
Prisoners being liberated from Ebensee

As the Allies closed in on May 5, 1945, the prisoners broke through the fence.

“We said: ‘Can it be? Are we liberated? Are we free?” Josef remembers. “Are we breathing free air?”

But when he returned home to Kraków, he couldn’t find any of his family.

He waited patiently for his other loved ones to come back from the concentration camps they’d been sent to — but no one ever came home.

“I was always hoping,” Josef said.

But the horrific reality of his entire family’s decimation became clear in time — 150 members had been murdered, with only Josef left alive.

“I had to do something,” Josef says.

“Number one — I have to get after those Nazis who tortured us, that made our days miserable, killing is, beating us, hanging us.”

Survivor’s revenge

I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo
Ebensee survivors after the camp was liberated in May 6, 1945

He made it his mission to hunt down some of the most evil Nazis in history who went into hiding after the war.

His method involved going to large prisoner of war camps and interrogating captured German soldiers for tips about where the most sadistic SS officers had gone.

One day, he got a lucky break.

He found the brutal Amon Göth hiding in a vast crowd of POWs being kept in Dachau concentration camp under a false name.

“As I approached him, my blood started boiling in me. And I ran fast,” he says.

“When I saw his murderous face, he didn’t look the same. He looked like a beggar.”

Josef flew into a rage, spitting at Göth and punching and kicking him — Göth didn’t say a word.

Saving Oskar Schindler

I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo
After the war, Josef trained as a policeman and set about hunting senior Nazis who’d gone into hiding
Josef Lewkowicz
I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo
Josef found Amon Göth pretending to be a normal German soldier and brought him to justice
I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo
Julius Ludolf was also tracked down and brought to justice

Göth was put on trial and was found guilty of his horrific crimes and sentenced to death.

Shortly before Göth was executed, Josef went to see him in his cell.

“You are the worst – there is nothing like you,” Josef told him. “You did all those things and you’ll have to pay for it. You’ll be brought to justice.”

Again, he remained silent.

The Butcher of Płaszów was ultimately hanged near to the camp where he killed so many.

His last words were “Heil Hitler”.

Around that time, Josef met another figure from Płaszów who ended up being as notorious as Göth but for completely different reasons.

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Oskar Schindler heard about Josef’s Nazi hunting and came to visit him in Bad Ischl, where Josef was living in a displaced persons camp.

I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo
Liam Neeson played Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s List (1993)
I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo
Oskar Schindler gave Josef this photo when Josef assured him he wouldn’t be tried as a war criminal
Josef Lewkowicz

There, Schindler told Josef he was afraid he too would be subjected to the war crime trials.

“You know I was a good guy — I’m afraid that they’ll take me to court and they will try to hurt me as a Nazi,” Schindler said.

Schindler is remembered today as a businessman who saved the lives of 1,200 Jews by spending his fortune on bribes to the SS to keep his factory workers alive and on black market goods so they had much-needed supplies.

But Josef reassured Schindler that he was not a war criminal, even though his factories had been staffed by forced labourers.

“You took away their money and their belongings when they came, so you’re not a nice guy,” Josef told Schindler.

“But still, you’re not a war criminal. I said don’t worry about it. You saved people.”

Schindler was relieved and deeply thankful to Josef, giving him a photograph of himself as a memento of their friendship.

On the back of the picture, Schindler wrote: “To my very dear friend, forever a remembrance from your dear friend Oskar Schindler”.

‘Everything smells with antisemitism’

I watched desperate starving prisoners eat a child in the Holocaust – then got my revenge on sadistic Nazis, Wustoo
Despite everything Josef lived through, his message to the world is one of joy

Now with the Second World War a distant memory, Josef has been devastated that antisemitism is on the rise around the world once again.

“I hoped after what happened that something like it would never happen again,” Josef says.

“I hear here in England since I came, people are afraid, and there’s antisemitism growing in this country,” Josef says.

“And people are afraid of the election. People are afraid of everything because everything smells with antisemitism.”

Tory chairman James Cleverly last month claimed that many British Jews would leave the UK if Labour won the election.

But despite all the horrors Josef has been subjected to and the worrying spread of antisemitism again, his fundamental philosophy remains hopeful.

“The world is so beautiful – God created a beautiful world for us. We should only enjoy it.”

Josef sums up his guiding principle with the traditional Hebrew toast, l’chaim — “to life”.

In association with JRoots and Rabbi Naftali Schiff.

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