Stepan Baz
Labor re-education prisoner in Buchenwald

Stepan Grigorjevitsch Baz was born in Nikolajewka (Ukraine) on 5 May 1927. In 1942, he was deported to Germany as a forced laborer, and from July 1942 onwards the 15-year-old had to work near Halle. In the middle of the month, his workplace reported him missing. A short time later, the Halle state police delivered him to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp via the Watenstedt camp. He was registered as a labor re-education prisoner.

He was assigned to forced labor at the Gustloff-Werk II armaments factory. When he was accused of sabotage in the fall of 1942, the SS placed him in a holding cell and later amputated his right hand. Fritz Unger and other communist prisoners found the injured boy in the infirmary and took care of him. Their help made it possible for Stepan Baz to survive Buchenwald.

Two weeks after liberation, Baz returned to his family in Ukraine. There, he married and has two children. Stepan Baz died on 7 December 2016.

Buchenwald Concentration Camp prisoner registration file for Stepan Baz, 24 July 1942.

According to his own statements, Stepan Baz was born on 5 May 1927; on his prisoner’s personal card and other documents from Buchenwald, he was listed as one year younger. At Buchenwald Concentration Camp, he was registered as an AEH Jugendliche (labor re-education youth) Baz was one of the first juvenile labor re-education prisoners in Block 8, which housed mainly adolescents and children from 1942 onwards.

(Arolsen Archives)

"But I didn't want to work for the fascists, and then I was sent to the concentration camp. [...] In the concentration camp I had to work again, you know: all the procedures that were supposed to happen before, and then to work again, in the Gustloff factory. I worked like this, there were two German comrades there - prisoners, maybe - and I was supposed to help them, but I helped 'the other way around'. I don't know what to call it properly, there were mechanisms that had to cut out various details, and I broke those little by little. Then the SS supervisor saw it and took me upstairs, to the gate. And then the interrogations started [...]. They asked me several times, beat me very badly, locked me in the cell."

"...and I broke them little by little". Interview with Stepan Baz about his sabotage at the Gustloff factory, 2009.

(Buchenwald Memorial)

"Condition after amputation." Buchenwald Concentration Camp infirmary file for Stepan Baz, 1942-45 (front and back).

After his detention, an SS doctor amputated Stepan Baz’s right hand. The consequences are noted in the infirmary: his wounds did not heal, and as late as May 1943, the scar was festering. During transport examinations, which were supposed to release him for forced labor assignments, he was deferred several times and was thus able to remain in Buchenwald.

(Arolsen Archives)

Visiting the GDR. Stepan Baz (l.) with Fritz Unger, 1960s.

Thanks to the help of Fritz Unger and other communist prisoner functionaries, Stepan Baz survived after his hand was amputated. In 1962, Stepan Baz began corresponding with Fritz Unger. They visited each other in the GDR and the Soviet Union. The GDR press reported in great detail about the rescue of the young Ukrainian by German communists.

(private property)

Stepan Baz tells his sons Vitya and Tolya about the Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1962.

Baz joined the Communist Party after his return to Ukraine and later became the chairman of a collective farm. He and his wife had two sons. The story of the teenager’s rescue in the Buchenwald Concentration Camp by Communist prisoners was reported several times in the GDR press. Until shortly before his death in 2016, he spoke often as a contemporary witness.

(Und weil der mensch ein Mensch ist…, published by the Society for German-Soviet Friendship, Karl-Marx-Stadt District Board, 1962).