The Jews had to climb into the van fully clothed [at Stalino and Rostov, Russia]. There was no sorting out. Men, women and children all had to get in together. I estimate that about sixty people had to get in each time. They had to climb up some steps to get into the van. It did not seem as if the Jews knew that they were about to be gassed. After the doors had been closed we then drove to a disused coal shaft. I do not remember whether the shaft was in front of the van or whether we had to turn around. The gas-van could not be driven right up to the shaft and we had to pull the bodies out of the vans and drag them to the shaft, which was about eight meters away, and then throw them in…When the doors were opened a cloud of smoke wafted out. After the smoke had cleared we could start our foul work. It was frightful. You could see that they had fought terribly for their lives. Some of them were holding their noses. The dead had to be dragged apart. It was while doing this that I first found out how heavy a human being can be.

“THE GOOD OLD DAYS”
By Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen, and Volker Riess

 

She turned to the birth book [at Ravensbrück] and traced her finger across a page, showing the names of babies born. There were 600 names in total born between the months of September 1945 and April 1945. Of these, she explained, forty survived, “but most of those were taken to Belsen in February 1945, where they also died.”

RAVENSBRÜCK
By Sarah Helm

 

The increasingly threatening daily existence confronted by German Jews, prompted the Weisz family to begin discussing the possibility of fleeing the country. They remained convinced, however, that they would be better off remaining in Germany until sometime in 1937 when Eddie was arrested by the German police for “illegally attempting to view a hockey game,” and he was incarcerated for four days without his family knowing where he was. While in prison, Eddie’s boxing skills were of no use to him. He was beaten repeatedly by police officers and had a number of his teeth knocked out. When he returned home, Heinrich and Johanna Weisz concluded that their family’s safety was in jeopardy, and they decided to leave Germany. [Only their son Eddie made it to America. The rest of the family was murdered].

OUR ONLY HOPE
By Keith H. Pickus

 

“We were captured by two Ukrainian soldiers. They took us to a German officer wearing incredibly tall, shiny boots. My parents told them we were Christians. Skeptical, the officer commanded my father and me to drop our trousers. At that time, in that part of the world, only Jews were circumcised. As soon as we took our pants down, the truth was out. My parents and I were immediately taken away to the Lublin ghetto. There things really changed for the worse. Food was very, very scarce, and children, who were not even classified as people, got nothing to eat. My parents had to share their meager rations with me. My most vivid recollection of that ghetto was the regular sight of dead people being taken away in the morning.”

THE HIDDEN CHILDREN
By Jane Marks

 

American soldiers walk among rows of corpses at the Nordhausen concentration camp.

 

He [Rudolf Werner] was most remembered for his ferocious German shepherd, named Donner (Thunder), which he trained to attack when he said the words “seize, Donner, Jew/” Werner would roar with laughter as the dog tore at a Jew’s clothing or bit into his buttocks. At least once, Werner killed a man who dared to defend themselves against an attack. Another time, a laborer who had trouble lifting a barrel of turpentine was so badly mauled that he died from his injuries.

THE BIELSKI BROTHERS
By Peter Duffy

 

The SS singled out for particular torment those who had participated in the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto. The women and children were taken not to the gas chambers but to where the corpses were being burned. Mothers crazed with horror were forced to lead their children onto the red-hot grid where thousands of dead bodies were writhing in the flames and smoke, where corpses tossed and turned as if they had come back to life again, where the bellies of women who had been pregnant burst from the heat and babies killed before birth were burning in open wombs. Such a spectacle was enough to rob the most hardened man of his reason, but its effect – as the Germans well knew – was a hundred times greater on a mother struggling to keep her children from seeing it. The children clung to their mothers and shrieked, “Mama, what are they going to do to us? Are they going to burn us?” Not even Dante, in his Hell, saw scenes like this. After amusing themselves for a while with this spectacle, the Germans burned the children.

THE HELL OF TREBLINKA
By Vasily Grossman

 

“There was a narrow board over each ditch [at Zhitomir] and moving toward this board was a long line of no fewer than five hundred petrified people who were barely able to stay on their feet. Standing alongside each other in one of those lines that day were my beloved mother, Auntie Sura, her daughter, and, pressing himself up to them, the brother of Yankel’s wife with a hunk of bread in his hand since he had been preparing to go to work. By the butchers’ orders, people were stepping one by one onto the board. An exploding round was immediately shot into the back of the head of each one of them. Skulls flew off along with their hair and lodged on the branches of pine trees, while brains sprayed around and bodies quickly fell into the pit.”

THE UNKNOWN BLACK BOOK
By Joshua Rubenstein and Ilya Altman

 

Death was always a looming shadow in our lives. At the end of 1940, I saw something which changed me forever. One night I was part of a work crew which was straightening boards to be used for building firing ranges for the Germans. For some reason, or perhaps for no reason, guards started beating one of my crew. He screamed and screamed, but that was normal for such things. We were always afraid to see what was going on, and we would move as far away from the person being beaten as we could. After finishing one beating, they might gang up on somebody else. This time was different. I could hear the crunch and crack of bones, the slap of wood on skin. Despite my best instincts, I looked over. I could see blood gushing from his head, streams of blood raining down from his nose. “They’re killing me. They’re killing me,” he screamed.

DEFY THE DARKNESS
By Joe Rosenblum with David Kohn

 

Kurt Franz, who served in Belzec, testified: “I heard with my own ears how [Christian] Wirth, a quite convincing voice, explained to the Jews that they would be deported further and before that, for hygienic reasons, they must bathe themselves and their clothes would have to be disinfected. Inside the undressing barrack was a counter for the deposit of valuables. It was made clear to the Jews that after the bath their valuables would be returned to them. I can still hear, until today, how the Jews applauded Wirth after his speech. This behavior of the Jews convinces me that the Jews believed Wirth.”

BELZEC, SOBIBOR, TREBLINKA
By Yitzhak Arad

 

“I remember the date because January 6 was a Polish Catholic holiday, and that’s when they annihilated the rest of the Jews from the Copernicus school. I personally witnessed it…The remnants of Minsk’s Jewish population was housed in the Copernicus school, now on fire, with smoke belching out. The roof was on the verge of collapse. Uniformed Germans, Latvians, security, and Polish police were shooting at the windows, aiming to kill anyone trying to escape. I saw partially burned bodies on the ledges of windows. Next to the school were piles of bodies, six or seven feet high. A mother tried to throw her child out the window when someone shot her dead.  A few steps from me a German, six feet  plus, weighing about 250 pounds, took a little Jewish girl by the hand, led her to a wall, sat her down, even corrected her posture, and then moved back a few steps and shot her in the head.

OUR CRIME WAS BEING JEWISH
By Anthony S. Pitch

 

A female prisoner’s refusal to yield to a guard could have deadly consequences and at times unleashed the most brutal propensities of a guard. Friedrich Heinen had volunteered for the Waffen-SS and in early 1943 became a guard in a forced labor camp in Lemberg. It appears that one day he made advances to two good-looking young Jewish girls but was rebuffed. The German court, which sentenced him to life imprisonment for murder, described what followed: Heinen ordered the two girls to undress, lie on the floor, and spread their legs. He then shot into the genitalia of the first girl and killed her with a shot into the mouth. The second girl was likewise shot.

PERPETRATORS
By Guenter Lewy

 

Sometimes prisoners would notice a friend going “mad,” and then she would suddenly disappear. Micheline Maaurel remembered how this happened to the twins Marie and Henriette Leger… “They were a little odd, and neither could do anything without the other, but they were the most dependable of friends. One of them became mad and was sent back to Ravensbrück. Then the other lost her mind, and she too was sent away.”

RAVENSBRÜCK
By Sarah Helm

 

On September 29 and 30, more than thirty-three thousand Jews were shot to death by a commando unit of Einsatzgruppe C at Babi Yar outside of Kiev, Ukraine, in one of the largest massacres in the history of World War II. On October 23, more than nineteen thousand Jews were shot near Odessa, Ukraine; and on November 20, upward of thirty thousand were massacred in a forest outside Riga, Latvia.

THE BIELSKI BROTHERS
By Peter Duffy

 

The number of gas chambers in operation during the first months of the extermination activity in Belzec is hard to establish. As a result of technical problems or breakdowns, probably only one or two out of the three gas chambers were in operation at any given time. There were also some difficulties concerning the burial of the victims. After a pit was full of corpses, it was covered with a thin layer of earth. From the heat, putrefaction, and in some cases water that penetrated into the pits, the corpses swelled, and the thin layer of earth split. What happened then was described by Franz Stangl, who visited Belzec in April 1942: “Wirth was not in his office, they said he was up at the camp…I asked what was the matter. The man I was talking to said that one of the pits had overflowed. They had put too many corpses in it and putrefaction had progressed too fast so that the liquid underneath had pushed the bodies on top up and over, and the corpses had rolled down the hill. I saw some of them – oh God it was awful.”

BELZEC, SOBIBOR, TREBLINKA
By Yitzhak Arad

 

Jews captured during the suppression of the Warsaw ghetto uprising are marching to the Umschlagplatz for deportation. These survivors were supposedly treated with extreme cruelty when they reached Auschwitz.

 

“At the end of 1942, I was in Birkenau when they brought us to a clinic, told us to climb on chairs, and place our sexual organs on a machine. Then they ordered us down again. My penis had black patches on both sides. Four months later, in Auschwitz, they brutally removed sperm from all of us. A day later, they injected us in our spines, which completely numbed the lower parts of our bodies. Then they tied our hands and took us to the place where they would operate. They removed testicles on one side. I had a terrible pain for four or five days in the infirmary. Later I was in the coal mining camp of Janina, near Auschwitz. I had worked my full shift from 6:00 a.m. when they woke me at 2:00 a.m., put me in a car, and drove [me] to an infirmary, like the other young men. There they removed the other testicle from me and about one hundred men. Only a few survived. I was seventeen.”

OUR CRIME WAS BEING JEWISH
By Anthony S. Pitch

 

Reliable estimates put the total number of Jews killed by the Einsatzgruppen in the Soviet Union at 1.5 million. The mass killing began with some trial and error. The use of machine guns to mow down large numbers of Jews proved unsatisfactory because too many victims did not die immediately. Large numbers of badly wounded had to be given the coup de grâce one by one, which proved a traumatic experience for the killers. Hence in some instances, officers, whose job it was to finish off the merely wounded, would instead use grenades. Eventually the practice evolved of lining the Jews up standing or kneeling next to a ditch with their backs to their executioners, and using individual shooters. Soon this routine was further “improved” by making the victims enter the pit and lie down before being shot. This way of killing became known as “sardine packing,” because by having the Jews lie next to and on top of each other, the pit became neatly packed like a can of sardines. “Sardinenpackung” apparently was invented by Friedrich Jeckeln, one of four higher SS and police leaders in Russia, who coordinated the activities of the Einsatzgruppen in their area of responsibility. They have been called “pace-setters of the annihilation process.”

PERPETRATORS
By Guenter Lewy

 

Every day for thirteen months the trains brought people to Treblinka. In each train there were sixty wagons, and a number chalked on the side of each wagon – 150, 180, 200 – indicated the number of people inside. Railway workers and peasants secretly kept count of these trains. Kazimierz Skarzunski, a sixty-two-year-old peasant from the village of Wolka (the nearest inhabited point to the camp), told me that there were days when as many as six trains went by from Siedlce alone, and that there was barely a day during these thirteen months without at least one train. And the line from Siedlce was only one of the four lines that supplied the camp.

THE HELL OF TREBLINKA
By Vasily Grossman

 

Working at night made our situation [at Miedzyrzec, Poland] even worse. It was pitch dark out, and the Germans felt they could get away with whatever they wanted without anybody’s seeing them. One particular night, one of the Germans who was walking around with a long stick suddenly attacked me. “Yehuda, you Jew, you pig Jew,” he was screaming. All the time he was hitting me. “You have to work, you pig. Work harder, work harder, you scum.” I felt my body parts swell. Two are three times a night, every night, they’d start beating one of us, then they’d move on to someone else…After the shift finished, we were all herded into the green military trucks and taken back to the collection point. One night, my mother and father both had awakened, and they saw my bleeding face with clotted blood. They said nothing, but they saw my arms and legs swollen and purple from the beating. My mother cried. After that, she cried almost every time she saw me because I was black and blue almost every night when I came home.

DEFY THE DARKNESS
By Joe Rosenblum with David Kohn

 

“One night we stopped near the town of Gardelegen. We lay down in a field and several Germans went to consult about what they should do. They returned with a lot of young people from the Hitler Youth and with members of the police force from the town. They chased us all into a large barn. Since we were 5,000-6,000 people, the wall of the barn collapsed from the pressure of the mass of people, and many of us fled. The Germans poured out petrol and set fire to the barn. Several thousand people were burned alive. Those of us who managed to escape, lay down in the nearby wood and heard the heart-rending screams of the victims. This was on April 13. One day later the place was conquered by Eisenhower’s army. When the Americans got there, the bodies were still burning.”

HITLER’S WILLING EXECUTIONERS
By Daniel Jonah Goldhagen

 

A larger Aktion in mid-November 1941 was described in detail by a Polish veterinarian, Mieczyslaw Sekiewicz, in a deposition he gave the Local Court of Konin in 1945. What is unusual is the killing method:

“They ordered the assembled Jews to strip – first those who were standing near the large pit. They ordered the naked people to jump into the larger pit. I could not describe the wailing and the crying. Some Jews were jumping without an order – even most of them – some were resisting and they were being beaten about and pushed down. Some mothers jumped in holding their children, some were throwing their children in, others were flinging their children aside. Still others threw the children in first and then jumped in. Some were crawling at the feet of the Gestapo men kissing their boots, their rifle butts and the like…

“Suddenly the Gestapo men ordered the Jews not to undress anymore as the pit was full. Only closely packed heads were to be seen when one looked into the pit. The Jews already stripped naked were thrown by the Gestapo men onto the heads of those already crammed into the pit. And all the while we had to collect and sort out clothing, footwear, bundles, food, eiderdowns and the like. This lasted until noon and then a truck came from the road and stopped on the path by the clearing. I noticed four vat-like containers. Then the Germans set up a small motor – it was probably a pump – connected it with hoses to one of the vats and two of them brought the hoses from the motor up to the pit. They started the motor and the two gestapo men began to pour some liquid on the Jews.  I think it was water, at any rate it looked like water. The hose was connected in turn to the other containers. Apparently, because of the slaking of the lime, people in the pit were boiling alive. The cries were so terrible that we who were sitting by the piles of clothing began to tear pieces off to stop our ears. The crying of those boiling in the pit was joined by the wailing and lamentation of the Jews waiting for their perdition.”

MASTERS OF DEATH
By Richard Rhodes

 

There was an affidavit from a young woman taken from Kursk with her sister. They were pushed into a cattle truck with 50 or 60 others. “In Lgov we had to get out and be examined,” she said. “In the presence of soldiers we were now compelled to undress quite naked and have our bodies examined. The nearer we got to Germany the fewer were the people left in the train…at nearly every station the sick and those dying from hunger were thrown out.”

THE NUREMBERG TRIALS: THE NAZIS BROUGHT TO JUSTICE
By Alexander MacDonald

 

In Ukraine, Dina Pronicheva, a Jew who escaped from a killing site, witnessed the German killers… “At the opposite side of the ravine, seven or so Germans brought two young Jewish women. They went down lower into the ravine, chose an even place and began to rape these women by turns. When they became satisfied, they stabbed the women with daggers…And they left the bodies like this, naked, with their legs open.”

THE HOLOCAUST
By Laurence Rees

 

It was decided to liquidate the Jews of Zhitomir completely and radically. The liquidation began as the Berdichev liquidation had begun: sixty Ukrainian militiamen surrounded and closed the Jewish district of Zhitomir during the night and at four in the morning broke down doors and drove families out of the houses and buildings where they had been crowded earlier in the month. Twelve trucks lent by the city and military administrations transported the victims to the massacre site, where a detachment of POWs had dug killing pits. The victims – a total of 5,145 men, women and children – were registered, robbed, disrobed and shot. “Fifty thousand to sixty thousand pounds of underwear, clothing, shoes, dishes, etc., had been confiscated in the course of the action.”

MASTERS OF DEATH
By Richard Rhodes

 

Amid the vast numbers arriving at Birkenau, individual members of the SS felt free to indulge their sadistic imagination. Morris Venezia, one of the Jewish Sonderkommandos working in the crematoria, remembers that two young Jewish sisters and their friend asked one of the SS men if they could be killed together. He was “very happy” to do as they asked, and in the process thought that he would try and see if he could kill all three of them with one bullet. He placed them all in a line and pulled the trigger. All three girls collapsed and appeared to be dead. “Right away,” says Morris, “we took them and threw them in the flames [of the open pit]. And then we heard some kind of screaming [from the pit]. It transpired that one of the girls had only fallen down and had not been killed, so now she was burnt alive. And the German officer was so happy because he killed two of them at least with one shot.”

THE HOLOCAUST
By Laurence Rees

 

Go to Page 11

[su_menu name=”Home Pages” class=”homemenu”]

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons