Life in a Siberian Labour Camp

In this video, David Shafran describes the unbearable conditions of working in a Siberian labour camp. Source: Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, 1987



Video begins with inter-title in white text on black screen while instrumental music plays and fades into the next frame: In 1940, David Shafran and his brothers were deported to a Soviet labour camp in Siberia.



Cut to Holocaust survivor David Shafran, sitting in front of a beige background, and looking to the right of the camera. The camera shows his face and shoulders as he speaks during an interview conducted in Vancouver in 1987.

>> David Shafran: Six o'clock in the morning, you had to get up. You know, the alarms start to ring.



The name “David Shafran” and the location of the filmed interview, “Vancouver”, appear in white text above David's right shoulder.

>> And then you had to go and get your soup. And then you had to go and get your instruments. Because every night, when you came in you had to turn in your saw and your axe. So you got everything ready, and by 7 o'clock, we had to start marching out to the forests to start cutting down trees. There were different brigades. Some of them were cutting down the trees. Some of them were cleaning off the branches. You know, big, big, huge trees. Four men couldn't wrap around them, that's how big they were. And it was all using handsaws.  It was mostly people – again, people who had never had an axe in their hand. And they never knew how to cut down a branch, nevermind a big tree! And it was about 6 feet of snow on average in Siberia. The life in the camp was unbearable. Because it was 60-70 below zero, and we didn't have the clothes. Nobody had the warm clothes. They brought in some clothes so they only gave them to people who could produce the norma. Norma was a certain quota. If you cut down 17-18 trees a day, you would get your 600 grams of bread. If you cut down only 15, they'd start deducting. Because they used to be the brigadiers and they used to write down everything that everybody was doing. And the next day they used to cut down the bread. Well you cut down the bread, you cut down the strength. And people died just like flies.



Music plays for the remainder of the video. Three credit pages appear in white text on black screen: Interview conducted by Robert Krell, Holocaust Documentation Project, Vancouver, 1987, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre

Directing: Helgi Piccinin; Editing and Colorization: Michaël Gravel, Helgi Piccinin; Audio Mix and Original Music: Pierre-Luc Lecours. [Logo for Chaire de recherche du Canada en patrimoine ethnologique]

Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre, copyright 2017.



End of transcript.

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