An emaciated female survivor who has just been disinfected lies on a stretcher in Bergen-Belsen. 

 

“Their next ‘military objective’ was the Jewish Children’s Home. They forced the frightened youngsters to line up and march. At the head of the line was the director of the home, a devoted mother to the orphans. Her name was Fleisher. In one arm she carried a sick child. Her other hand clutched the hand of her own young son, walking beside her. Last in line was another self-sacrificing woman, Dr. Tshermin…The march of the children was halted at a freshly dug ditch at the lower end of Tatomski Street, not far from the Judenrat building. The air was suspiciously still, but the executioners had already taken up their ‘positions’ around the ditch. In command was the Nazi governor of Byelorussia, Gauleiter Wilhelm Kube. At his side stood a tall SS officer in a long leather coat. From the German Jews we later learned that this was Himmler’s right-hand man – Adolf Eichmann. At his signal the murderers began throwing the children into the ditch and covering them with sand. The screams and cries could be heard far into the ghetto. Children stretched out their hands, pleading for their lives. Kommissar Kube walked alongside the ditch, tossing pieces of candy into it…From the Jewish police we learned that Eichmann swore angrily when blood splattered his coat. Upon the mound of dying Jewish children the Nazis threw the dead bodies of their guardians – Director Fleisher and Doctor Tshermin.”

MASTERS OF DEATH
By Richard Rhodes

 

Suddenly she realized that her mother must have been taken away, and Majdanek, like Treblinka, was a place of murder: “I have no words at all. I didn’t cry. It was beyond tears. It’s all over. There is nothing any more. There is no sky. No more earth. As if they took and broke my legs and hands. So I started to go round the shower. ‘Mother is gone. Mother is gone. Mother is gone.’” Halina was admitted to Majdanek, and after a short time, she consoled herself with the knowledge that at least her mother had been spared the experience of life in the camp. When she saw how the prisoners were beaten, she couldn’t bear the thought that her “distinguished, modest, clean” mother would have been hurt in such a way. “What could be worse than Majdanek?” she says.

THE HOLOCAUST
By Laurence Rees

 

“There were people whose participation awakened in them the most evil sadistic impulses. For example, the head of one firing-squad made several hundred Jews of all ages, male and female, strip naked and run through a field into a wood. He then had them mown down with machine-gun fire.”

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

 

“Today I still remember exactly that we were already right before the bunker when a five-year-old boy came out crawling. He was immediately grabbed by a policeman and led aside. The policeman then set the pistol to his neck and shot him.”

HITLER’S WILLING EXECUTIONERS
By Daniel Jonah Goldhagen

 

Particularly unpleasant was the gassing of the emaciated women from the women’s camp [at Auschwitz]… I remember I once took part in the gassing of one of these groups of women. I cannot say how big the group was. When I got close to the bunker [I saw] them sitting on the ground. They were still clothed. As they were wearing worn-out camp clothing they were not left in the undressing hut but were made to undress in the open air. I concluded from the behavior of these women that they had no doubt what fate awaited them, as they begged and sobbed to the SS men to spare them their lives. However, they were herded into gas chambers and gassed.

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

 

During the night one could hear the last cries of martyred prisoners and the shouting of the perpetrators. Even before sundown, wild screaming and scornful laughter were audible; these sounds came from the drinking parties of the eminent camp members. Suicides occurred again and again in the night. I will never forget Dr. Nick, a Jewish doctor from Warsaw, who was well-known and respected for his helpfulness. One morning we found him hanging by his belt. On that day he had learned that his wife, with whom he had arrived at Majdanek, had been gassed.

THE DEAD YEARS
By Joseph Schupack

 

There were only two marksmen carrying out the executions [Babi Yar, Kiev]. One of them was working at one end of the ravine, the other at the other end. I saw these marksmen stand on the layers of corpses and shoot one after the other. The moment one Jew had been killed, the marksman would walk across the bodies of the executed Jews to the next Jew, who had meanwhile lain down, and shoot him. It went on this way uninterruptedly, with no distinction being made between men, women and children. The children were kept with their mothers and shot with them. I only saw this scene briefly. When I got to the bottom of the ravine I was so shocked by the terrible sight that I could not bear to look for long. In the hollow I saw that there were already three rows of bodies lined up over a distance of about sixty meters. How many layers of bodies there were on top of each other I could not see. I was so astonished and dazed by the sight of the twitching blood-smeared bodies that I could not properly register the details.

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

 

“It was common practice to remove the skin from dead prisoners,” said Dr. Blaha.  “Human

skin from human backs and chests…was chemically treated and placed in the sun to dry. After that it was cut into various sizes for use as saddles, riding breeches, gloves, house slippers, and ladies’ handbags. Tattooed skin was especially valued by SS men. Russians, Poles, and other inmates were used in this way, but it was forbidden to cut out the skin of a German. This skin had to be from healthy prisoners and free from defects. Sometimes we did not have enough bodies with good skin and Raschner would say, ‘All right, you will get the bodies.’ The next day we would receive 20 or 30 bodies of young people. They would have been shot in the neck or struck on the head so that the skin would be uninjured.”

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

 

“There were so many lice that many people’s hair was so full of lice that it started to move. Not only were people’s hair, clothes and bodies covered with lice, but if you leant over and picked up a handful of sand, the sand moved because of all the lice in it.”

THE HOLOCAUST
By Laurence Rees

 

“Once during the search of an apartment one of the groups uncovered a hiding place of a woman and two children. They were the ones we called Wild Ones because they had no papers that allowed them to stay in the ghetto. As soon as they were found the woman grabbed the children and started running. From the window of the room I was working in, I saw them run out into the street. As soon as they left the building they attracted the attention of two SS soldiers standing nearby. The soldiers shouted for them to stop, but the woman and the children kept running. The soldiers chased after them. The woman and children turned a corner, and I could not see them anymore. But when the soldiers got to the corner I saw one of them raise his machine gun and fire. I trembled at the sound of the gun, and heard the woman and children cry out.

THE BLEEDING SKY: MY MOTHER’S JOURNEY THROUGH THE FIRE
By Louis Brandsdorfer

 

Destitute children sit barefoot on the pavement in the Warsaw ghetto. 

Since there was no water, feverish inmates often drank urine.

PEOPLE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Hermann Langbein

 

On Saturday, 26 July 1941, I was working, clearing the ruins of a stone building in the market square [at Nowogrodek, Bellorussia]… we heard gunshots: the Germans shot 52 Jews in the market square. The teacher, Solomon, tried to escape. He managed to run about 100 meters, before he too was shot and killed. The remaining Jews were ordered to load the bodies and cart them away to the Jewish cemetery. One ‘body,’ who had only been wounded, whispered to the man who was loading him into the cart, asking him to try and lay him on top of the others. A Belorussian policeman overheard the whisper and told a German soldier. The German pulled out his pistol and killed the man.

SURVIVING THE HOLOCAUST WITH THE RUSSIAN JEWISH PARTISANS
By Jack Kagan and Dov Cohen

 

Hunger pains were bad, but only someone who has suffered from both hunger and thirst knows that thirst is far more painful and debilitating. Days of walking, followed by this torturous train ride, made our men behave more like animals than human beings. We were suffocating, dehydrating, starving, and dying of exhaustion. As our friends expired, we piled one body one top the other against the wall to provide space for those still living.

MY DARKEST YEARS
By James Bachner

 

“On several occasions I saw in the morning the corpses of inmates who had been shot during the night by guards in the watchtowers when they were leaving the block to visit the toilets. This is why we stayed in the block and relieved ourselves into the mess tin.”

PEOPLE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Hermann Langbein

 

“The following morning, a little before seven there was an announcement: ‘The first train will arrive in 10 minutes!’ A few minutes later a train arrived from Lemberg: 45 cars with more than six thousand people. Two hundred Ukrainians assigned to this work flung open the doors and drove the Jews out of the cars with leather whips. A loudspeaker gave instructions: ‘Strip, even artificial limbs and glasses. Hand all money and valuables in at the ‘valuables window.’ Then the march began. Barbed wire on both sides, in the rear two dozen Ukrainians with rifles. They drew near. Wirth and I found ourselves in front of the death chambers. Stark naked men, women, children, and cripples passed by. A tall SS man in the corner called to the unfortunates in a loud minister’s voice: ‘Nothing is going to hurt you! Just breathe deep and it will strengthen your lungs. It’s a way to prevent contagious diseases. It’s a good disinfectant.’ They ask him what is going to happen and he answered: ‘The men will have to work, build houses and streets. The women won’t have to do that, they will be busy with the housework and the kitchen.’

“This was the last hope for some of these poor people, enough to make them march toward the death chambers without resistance. The majority knew everything; the smell betrayed it! They climbed a little wooden stairs and entered the death chambers, most of them silently, pushed by those behind them…SS men pushed the men into the chambers. ‘Fill it up,’ Wirth ordered; 700-800 people in 93 square meters. The doors closed… The men were waiting in the gas chambers. You could hear them weeping ‘as though in a synagogue.’ You could see through the window that many were already dead, for an electric light illuminated the interior of the room. All were dead after 32 minutes! Jewish workers on the other side opened the wooden doors. They had been promised their lives in return for doing this horrible work, plus a small percentage of the money and valuables collected. The men were still standing, like columns of stone, with no room to fall or lean. Even in death you could tell the families, all holding hands. It was difficult to separate them while emptying the rooms for the next batch. The bodies were tossed out… Two dozen workers were busy checking mouths which they opened with iron hooks. ‘Gold to the left, no gold to the right.’ …Dentists knocked out gold teeth, bridges, and crowns, with hammers. Captain [Christian] Wirth in the middle of them. He was in his element…”

CHRONICLES OF THE HOLOCAUST
By Roselle K. Chartock and Jack Spencer

 

The SS troops arrived in their black uniforms with the skull insignia on their caps. How appropriate as their prime interest was the death of the Jews. In their first hour in town [Radom, Poland], under orders from the madman, they began taking our people and killing them. First went the leading citizens, the Rabbis, teachers, intellectuals and any strong young men. Without leadership they knew it would be difficult for us to organize and that the likelihood of resistance would be low. For no reason, our leaders were sentenced to death and shot in front of their families…Many people who were sick, ailing, or elderly were also exterminated at this time.

OUTCRY: HOLOCAUST MEMOIRS
By Manny Steinberg

 

Chronic hunger and thirst; the separation from relatives that, as soon became apparent, was permanent; the utter hopelessness of ever getting out of the Auschwitz mill – all this turned human beings into Muselmanner. Here is how Jean Amery describes this type: “The so-called Muselmann, as an inmate who was giving up on himself and had been given up by his comrades was called in the camp lingo, no longer had a space of consciousness in which good and evil, nobility and meanness, intelligence and stupidity could confront one another. He was a walking corpse, a bundle of physical functions in its death throes.”

Vilo Jurkovic has also provided a portrait: “That was a bag of skin and bones, an emaciated human being barely able to drag himself along and devoid of will and strength, a person with a nasal discharge that ran down his mouth and chin, a dirty person clad in rags and often completely lice-ridden, suffering from severe diarrhea, with a resultant soiling underwear, a person with sunken or bulging eyeballs – a true picture of misery, weakness, hopelessness, and horror!”

PEOPLE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Hermann Langbein

 

For me, night is a sleepless agony, a feverish delirium on a hard, disgusting bunk on which after a minute every position becomes unbearable, and my aching flesh, and the narrowness of the straw mattress, allow no movement. But the worst are the fleas. I can feel thousands of them crawling over me. The stinging bites are like the pricks of red-hot needles. They demand tremendous effort, a constant flexing of every muscle. I try to bend my legs; to pull them out from under the heap of legs belonging to my companions; to protect them with my arms. I scratch them with my rough palms, I feel relief, an easing tension, but now they are stinging me on the face, the neck, the chest. I direct my hands quite automatically to where the itching is most annoying. The insane battle with the fleas goes on endlessly.

WE WERE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Siedlecki, Olszewski, Borowski

 

7,000 young Slovak Jewish women were sent to the Auschwitz main camp or Stammlager in the spring of 1942, for labor. In mid-August, the 6,000 who were still alive were moved to Birkenau. At the end of December, just over four months later, only 650 had not yet died.

ORDINARY MEN
By Christopher R. Browning

 

Inge was already well into her workday at 9:00 a.m. when the SS stormed into the factory. Shouting and swearing at the Jewish workers, they quickly and brutally herded the workers out into the cold and onto trucks that were waiting in the yard. “You are being taken to the Lustgarten,” the SS commander announced. (The Lustgarten was a public park, a place in which Hitler was fond of giving speeches.)  “When you get there you all will be shot.” As the truck rumbled through the Berlin streets, riding in fear, pressed tightly in among the shivering bodies of her fellow Jewish workers, all Inge could think of was the tragedy of her life. She was only seventeen years old and was on her way to be killed, without even having a chance to see her parents or brother again.

REFUGE IN HELL
By Daniel B. Silver

 

Twenty concentration camp prisoners, most of them Jewish, hang on gallows in a forest near Buchenwald.

 

Erich Altmann has recorded the end of Meilech Herschkowitz, a former theater director. When that man was selected, he spoke to an SS man who knew him from occasional Sunday performances: “I have been selected and am to be burned. Can’t you help me?” The SS man replied, “There’s nothing I can do.” “Don’t you think, Herr Unterscharfuhrer,” continued Herschkowitz, “that if I have to die, I deserve a bullet?” “You’re right,” replied the SS officer, pulled out his revolver, and shot the inmate. This happened in Birkenau in January 1944.

PEOPLE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Hermann Langbein

 

Another arrest that members of the hospital staff found unforgettable was that of Kurt Bukofzer, who had died for a well-meaning slip of the tongue. On an October day in 1943 the young Mischling [half Jew] was temporarily manning the doorman’s booth. As Wohrn strode through the main entrance, the SS man called out imperiously, “Is Lustig on the premises?” “Herr Obermedizinalrat Dr. Dr. Lustig is in his room,” the frightened young man replied. Bukofzer’s reply sent Wohrn into a paroxysm of rage. He berated the temporary doorman for having had the temerity to apply an honorific to [Doctor] Lustig. “Jews no longer have titles,” he shouted. Later that day he was arrested and taken away to a labor camp near Berlin. The mistreatment he suffered there caused him to collapse, and he was brought back to the hospital, this time as a patient in the police ward. He died there on September 22, 1944.

REFUGE IN HELL
By Daniel B. Silver

 

This document [report from Police Batalion 133] demonstrates many things, the desperate attempts of the deported Jews to escape the death run; the scanty manpower employed by the Germans (a mere 10 men to guard over 8,000 Jews)’ the unimaginably terrible conditions – forced marches over many miles, terrible heat, days without food and water, the packing of 200 Jews into each train car, etc. – that led to fully 25 percent of the deported Jews dying on the train from suffocation, heat prostration, and exhaustion (to say nothing of those killed in the shooting, which was so constant that the guards expended their entire ammunition supply as well as replenishment); the casual mention that even before the deportations hundreds of Jews judged too old, frail, or sick to get to the trains were routinely shot in each action. Moreover, the document makes clear that this action was only one among many in which members of the Reserve Police Battalion 133 participated alongside the Security Police in Galicia during the late summer of 1942.

ORDINARY MEN
By Christopher R. Browning

 

On one occasion two little children were involved in a game they were playing and their mother just couldn’t tear them away from it. Even the Jews of Sonderkommando didn’t want to pick up the children. I will never forget the pleading look on the face of the mother, who certainly knew what was happening. The people in the gas chamber were becoming restless. Everyone was looking at me. I had to act. I gave the sergeant in charge a wave, and he picked up the screaming, kicking children in his arms and brought them into the gas chamber along with the mother, who was weeping in the most heart-breaking fashion.

DEATH DEALER: THE MEMOIRS OF THE SS KOMMANDANT AT AUSCHWITZ
By Steven Paskuly

 

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