of the Gulag
Klara Hartmann describes her interrogations
“I was in prison, locked up with Russians. So I couldn’t really talk either. Basically, I didn’t realise what was happening to me, where I was, what I was doing there, what they were going to do with me. After two or three months, they transferred me to a single cell. And then the interrogations started, to get me to admit that I was a spy and who I was working for. There was an interpreter, a soldier from Transcarpathia who spoke Hungarian fluently. He said I should confess, because if I stretched it out I would die in prison. But I told him, “I haven’t been a spy. I don’t know what it means.” He insisted I should say I had and this nagging and pressure went on a long time. Because the interrogations were at night, in the daytime, they wouldn’t let me sleep. I had to stay upright in the cell all day. And a soldier would look through the spyhole to see I didn’t lie down but kept walking. Altogether, they were torturing me that way to get me to quickly say what they wanted to hear. In the end I couldn’t do anything. I was completely exhausted: they wouldn’t let me sleep or eat. So I said that indeed I was a spy, but I also had to sign a paper saying so. I also had to say where I’d been trained, in which school, who my teachers were, etc. And I couldn’t give any answers to that because I wasn’t a spy and I had no idea. And with the advice of the interpreter they wrote down what they could. Then some months passed. And just before Christmas I was called into the office and I had to sign that I had got ten years. The interpreter told me that I was being sent for ten years’ forced labour, but I shouldn’t be afraid because it would be all right and I could even survive perhaps, and after ten years I would be released and would live in Russia with a job and a flat and things would pass. I was almost glad.
I can’t tell you or, what shall I say, I can’t describe the things that happened to me in that prison because there were all sorts: sometimes I was put under a tap with drops of water falling on my head all the time. They would torture me that way with cold water. They called in the “box”. I nearly froze to death. Then they would take me out to go for interrogation.”