by Tanushree Soni
Entering the War
Mr. Jackson grew up in a town called Torun, Poland. One night at 1:30 am, Mr. Jackson and his brother were pulled out of their home to be transferred to labor camps. His family, excluding him and his brother, were not forced to go because of connections they had with the local officials. He was forced to work on the railroad lines in Germany until 1943. Being Jewish was unfortunate at this time because out of the many different ethnic groups at the camp, Jews were treated the worst. 10,000 Jews were brought into the camp on the “Night of the broken glass” in November of 1938. The prisoners needed to work for Germans by building roads, working in factories, and working for German industry . This was done in many other labor camps that started to form.
Conditions at Dachau Concentration Camp
In 1941, Dachau became a training location and a place of slaughter for Soviet prisoners of war and for the prisoners who were used for medical testing for tuberculosis, high altitude, freezing, malaria, and drinkable seawater experiments. Others died of disease, starvation, torture, or murder. There were many that committed suicide in the barbed wire surrounding the entire camp because they could not handle the pressure and conditions that the camp had placed upon them. They thought that if they kept working here, they could see no future for themselves. However the men that committed suicide did not see that many would live and have good futures such as Mr. Jackson.
The gate to the opening of Dachau says "Arbeit macht frei" meaning "work makes one free"
|These camps were then seen as concentrations camps instead of labor camps
because it was not a place where prisoners needed to work, it was just a place
to store them. When asked about the experiences that took place at Dachau,
Jack Jackson, Mr. Jackson’s son, replied: “Concentrations camps, such as
Dachau, were places to just store people, and eventually they would be killed.
Many of the prisoners just withered away which is considered as the term
‘human skeleton’”. So while being starved and treated badly the prisoners
were just staying at their camp waiting for their death sentence to come.
One of the diseases that Mr. Jackson caught while at the camp was tuberculosis.
Other diseases were spread because of the rationed food given. As mentioned
before, Mr. Jackson weighed 77 pounds when he was six feet, three inches
tall. “Several times it might have been possible that he attempted to escape,”
said Jack, “But as conditions worsened many were not capable of getting away.”
It was common in the camps to see people being hanged and shot right in front
of you, so most of the people that were alive made the decision to stay and
carry on their lives rather than to try and flee.
Map of Europe in 1940's. Torun, the town Mr. Jackson grew up in is near the border of Poland.
On April 27, 1945 about 7,000 prisoners were sent on a trip to the Alps. The SS guards, knowing that the American troops were about to come, left the camp a day later. They had a plan to kill all the prisoners by poison gas or bombs to rid the idea that this camp had ever existed. Thankfully, this plan never took place because on April 29, 1945 the remaining 67,000 prisoners were liberated from the camp and the additional camps around it.
Mr. Jackson (holding the flag) marching in a zionist rally in 1947.
Mike Jackson with son, Jack Jackson, and grandson.
After being liberated from Dachau and many other camps, including one refugee camp in which he met his future wife Nina, Mr. Jackson was able to take a ship to Allentown, Pennsylvania. He noticed that this country was very rich judging by the newspapers flying about the streets. As the days went by, he made friends and found one: Mike Steimetz who encouraged him and his wife, Nina, to change their last names from Jakubowics to Jackson. Today, Mike Jackson lives with his wife, Nina, and has seen his children: Jack and Renata and their children grow.
Jackson, Jack. Phone Interview. 16 Dec. 2003.
Jackson, Mike. Phone Interview. 13 Dec. 2003.
"Dachau Camp." About and About.com 3 Dec. 2003 http://history1900s.about.com/library/holocaust/bldachau.htm
Distel, Barbara. "Dachau Museum Guidebook." Comite International de Dachau 18 Dec. 2003 http://history1900s.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http% A%2F%2Fwww.scrapbookpages.com%2FDachauMemorial%2Fdachau.html
"Quick Overview of Dachau." 3 Dec. 2003 http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/overview.html
"The History of the Concentration Camp." KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau 1 Dec. 2003 http://www.kz-gedenkstaette dachau.de/english/frame/idx_gese.htm