“How they look at me, these freezing skeletons, as if I could help them, as if I were to blame for what is to come. I quickly close the door again. How must such a human being feel, standing naked in a corridor and waiting to be loaded on a truck that will take him to a gas chamber…It was in the morning, after the early roll call, that I saw them being herded together in front of my window. Now it is evening, and they haven’t had anything to eat all day. And why should they still be fed? If they want to drink, their only resource is water from the toilets. Now many are lying down. They are too weak to fear the blows that are intended to shake them awake. Three of them are lying in front of my door, and I have to step over them if I want to leave the room. One is dead, but the two next to him are still alive. There is little difference among these three.”

PEOPLE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Hermann Langbein

 

Bodies of victims of Nazi brutality are piled in a shed at Ohrdruf prison camp. Too ill to be moved, they were murdered when the U.S. Third Army advance made German retreat necessary.

 

A great plague, as the survivors described it, spread over Dachau in the last months when frantic mass transports stream in from the Balkans and from evacuated concentration camps. It was those last months of overcrowding, of disease brought by prisoners from other camps, and of decreased availability of food that caused the horrifying conditions described by the liberation teams…Overnight, masses of starving men jammed into the barracks, bringing with them millions of lice and fleas. They threw up make-shift huts and tents in the pathways between the barracks. Bodies piled up on the ground as the small crematorium strained to keep up with the torrent of diseased corpses. All services broke down. Men lay in their bunks, relieving themselves on those below. One survivor recalls lying ill from typhus. Believing him dead, the SS threw him on a heap of corpses. Using all his willpower, he crawled out of the corpse heap and back to his bunk. A Jew on the Dachau burial squad spoke of the mounting piles of bodies in the last days when anyone exhausted or sick was thrown directly into the ovens: “This was the system at Dachau: bury the dead and burn the sick.”

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

“The beasts forcibly separated fathers and mothers from their children. They needed working people; as for the children, let them have a rest, they said. Mothers hid their children under their skirts, pleaded, and wept. But what could touch the heart of a fascist? The selected ones were taken to the village of Karlovka to do convict labor. The orphans left behind perished. People were dying like flies. Typhus, dysentery, scurvy, the bullets and whips of the Romanians, and death, death, death. People covered in boils, scabies, many frostbitten hands and feet. Thousands of people died from gangrene…Sometimes they gave out ‘rations’ – half a spoonful of gruel. Only forty people survived among all the martyrs of the death camp.”

THE UNKNOWN BLACK BOOK
By Joshua Rubenstein and Ilya Altman

 

“My brother had gone to the well for a bucket of water without permission. They had beaten him on the head for this so badly that he had suffered a brain hemorrhage…My brother soon died, and my father after him from hunger, cold, and the loss of hope and any interest in life.”

THE UNKNOWN BLACK BOOK
By Joshua Rubenstein and Ilya Altman

 

The whole area of the [Warsaw] ghetto was grim: there were hardly any trees, no parks, no open spaces – just grey and depressing buildings wherever you looked. Not surprisingly, given the density of population, some of the streets, such as Karmelicka and Smocza Street, looked like enormous anthills. On the pavements and in the middle of the road one had to elbow one’s way through crowds of people, many in rags, some wrapped for warmth in dirty blankets, hawking their belongings – used household objects, worn-out clothes, dog-eared books, broken furniture. Whatever the weather, the streets were lined with beggars, whole families with children and babies, leaning against the buildings or lying at the edge of the pavement, their hands feebly reaching out for alms. In the less crowded streets the most popular form of transport was rickshaws, their emaciated drivers pedaling as hard as they could to cope with their human cargoes. And then there were smells – a smell of decay and dust in the summer, of mud and slush in the winter; the stench of poverty, unwashed bodies of rags serving as clothing. Sometimes, early in the mornings there was also a sickly smell of corpses barely covered with newspapers, awaiting collection. But above all there was a smell of fear from which you were never free, a fear of ending up in a concentration camp.

SAVED BY MY FACE
By Jerzy Lando

 

After a while, I learned that if a person in the clinic [Langinbilau] were sick more than one week, he or she is injected with kerosene. Death came a few minutes later.

MEMOIRS OF A HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR
By Icek Kuperberg

 

“One day I walked through a barracks and saw naked corpses on the floor. Something was stirring among the dead; it was a young girl who was not naked. I pulled her out to the camp road and asked her, ‘Who are you?’ She answered that she was a Greek Jew from Saloniki. ‘How long have you been here?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Why are you here?’ ‘I can’t live with the living any more, and so I want to be with the dead.’ I gave her a piece of bread. In the evening she was dead.”

PEOPLE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Hermann Langbein

 

“The boycott of Jewish businesses in Gelnhausen/Kurhessen has taken on dimensions rarely seen in German towns. The majority of the indigenous Jewish businesses – many of which have operated for decades and to some extent even several generations – are poised to go under. Only thirty Jewish families remain in Gelnhausen out of the fifty that once lived here, and they are for the most part threatened with financial ruin…

“For quite some time windowpanes, including the shop windows of Jewish-owned houses, have been smashed, and the houses have also suffered damage: door locks have been tampered with, acid has been poured into door locks, foul-smelling liquids have been sprayed into houses through the door. And in recent days Jews have also suffered bodily harm. For instance, at the end of June the physician Dr. Schwarzschild was struck in the face by the leader of the Jungvolk [Hitler Youth], Schmidt, as he was on his way to deliver a child.

“On May 31, 1935, the 65-year-old Arthur Meyer was coming out of the [Berlin] synagogue and suffered an acid attack. Three young men, whom he and his two accompanying sons recognized, poured acid in his face, which resulted in burns on his skin and eye irritation. Charges have been filed with the prosecutor’s office in Hanau. In addition to this, a number of Jewish residents have been knocked down and ill-used.”

JEWISH RESPONSES TO PERSECUTION
By Jurgen Matthaus and Mark Roseman

 

“Sich Auskleiden! Alles Herunter!” Everyone undress! Everything off! “Los!” The room is swarming with SS men. Get undressed? Right here? In front of the men? No one moves. “Didn’t you hear? Take off your clothes. All your clothes!” I feel the slap of the whip on my shoulders and meet a young SS soldier’s glaring eyes. “Hurry! Strip fast. You’ll be shot. In five minutes anyone with clothes on will be shot!” I look at Mommy. She nods. “Let’s get undressed.” I stare directly ahead as I take my clothes off. I am afraid. By not looking at anyone I hope no one will see me. I have never seen my mother in the nude. How awful it must be for her. I hesitate before removing my bra. My breasts are two growing buds, taut and sensitive. I can’t have anyone see them. I decided to leave my bra on. Just then a shot rings out. The charge is ear shattering. Several women begin to scream. Others weep. I quickly take my bra off. It is chilly and frightening. Clothes lie in mounds on the cement floor. We are herded, over a thousand shivering, humiliated, nude bodies, into the next hall, even chillier, darker. Even barer and more foreboding. “Los! Schneller, blode Lumpen!” Move. Faster, idiotic whores. We were lined up, and several young women in gray dresses started shaving our hair – on our heads, under our arms, and in the pubic area.

I HAVE LIVED A THOUSAND YEARS
By Livia Bitton-Jackson

 

All women recalled scenes that were especially ugly to them. Reska Weiss, a survivor of eight camps, spent most of her time in the Neumark women’s labor camp. She never forgot the women called Stutthofers. The SS named them as a joke: the very sick, those about to be shot, were told that they would be “transported to Stutthof.” No one was allowed into the tents of the Stuffhofers. They were seldom given food. Stumbling accidentally into the Stutthofer tent one day, Weiss was overcome by what she saw. “I screamed in horror and shut my eyes to the sight. My knees trembled, my head began to swim, and I grasped the central tent prop for support. It was hard to believe the women on the ground were still human beings.” Their eyes blazed from their starved skeletons. For two months they had lain naked on the ground. Their own urine and excrement covered their straw mats. Wounds, bites, and blood covered their frozen limbs, and lice had found a home in the short hair on their head. No stretch of the imagination, no power of the written word, can convey the horror of that tent. And yet…they were alive…They were hungry and they tore at their skeletal bodies with their emaciated hands covered in pus and dirt. They were beyond help.

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

Many prisoners [at Majdanek] remember the largest camp execution, a mass slaughter of the Jews that occurred on November 3 1943. On that day, the SS shot 18,400 Jews in ditches near the crematorium. The massacre started early in the morning and went until evening. First, the guards herded the Jews into Field Five and ordered them to strip. Then they drove the naked Jews to the ditches and forced them to lie, face down. The SS machine-gunned them. The next group of victims had to place themselves atop the layers of corpses before they were shot. That process went on until the ditches filled.

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

A dead Jewish prisoner from Hungary, whose prisoner number and name were written on his chest in ink, lies on a stretcher.

 

“Around eight in the morning, the local police [Vinnitsa Region] and the Germans went on a rampage: they smashed windows, fired guns, and finally began driving people from their homes. They formed them into groups and drove them out into the pine forest. I did not know what to do or where to go with the children. I hid my older son, Misha. My three-year-old, Isaiah, and I were beaten and driven out on to the street, where I saw an awful sight. Corpses were strewn everywhere, the snow was red with blood, the barbarians were running around and shouting like wild animals: ‘Beat the Kikes! Jude Kaput!’ then they fired into the crowd. They only had to see a small child before throwing themselves upon it and cutting it to pieces with daggers. The cries of the children: ‘Mama, I’m afraid, Mama, hide me!’ ring in my ears to this day.

“When they had gathered two hundred people together, they drove us into the pine forest. The whole way they were beating and shooting anyone who even thought to step out of the crowd.  A large pit had been dug in the forest, and a mound of clothing was lying to one side. One by one, people were forced to undress, then take their places on the edge of the pit, where a burst of machine gun fire awaited them. It was a dreadful scene: the wild cries of the children and the moans from the pit of those who had been shot made me think about escaping. I grabbed my terrified son by the hand and broke into a run, thinking they would quickly kill me. But a heavy snowfall helped me. I ran, not knowing where, and felt as if my strength would leave me at any moment, and that I would fall with my child and freeze to death in an open field since there was a heavy frost. But just then, I spotted a broken down, empty barn. I made my way up to the loft, wrapped my headscarf around my child, and sat there like that until the evening of January 11.”

THE UNKNOWN BLACK BOOK
By Joshua Rubenstein and Ilya Altman

 

“They led Khanys, a beautiful nineteen-year-old teacher, the daughter of Itsik Bludy, up to the pit [at Chudnov]. The soldiers made her strip naked and let her long hair down. They themselves just could not get enough of such beauty. They took her out of the line and told her to get dressed and walk away, leaving her alive. ‘Zuruck!’ [Move back!]  The German beast shouted. She stubbornly refused, demanding immediate death, in order to take her place alongside her loved ones. So then an explosive bullet took away her upper part of her skull, which flew up in the air along with her long, luxuriant golden hair and landed in the branches of a pine tree.”

THE UNKNOWN BLACK BOOK
By Joshua Rubenstein and Ilya Altman

 

We stand evening Zahlappell together. But when the bowl of food is handed to me, I am unable to take a gulp. It is dark green, a thick mass in a battered washbowl crusted with dirt. No spoons. You tilt the bowl until the mass slides to the edge, then gulp. The dark mush smells and looks repulsive. The edge of the bowl is rusty and cracked and uneven with dried on smut. My nausea returns in a flash. I quickly hand the bowl to mommy. She takes a gulp and begins retching. I try again. This time I take a mouthful but cannot swallow it. It has grains of sand in it, just like the bread, and something else – pieces of class…and wood…and cloth. I spit it out and begin to vomit. My empty stomach feels as if it were rising through my gullet. “Never mind. We all threw up at first. But then we learned to swallow it. It’s food. You must eat to live. Close your eyes. Hold your nose. Now, gulp.” Suri’s gentle but firm admonition gives me impetus. I gulp. And again. Four times.

I HAVE LIVED A THOUSAND YEARS
By Livia Bitton-Jackson

 

We also had something else in our favor that helped us survive: We understood German, the language of the camp. When the SS men started bellowing, we knew immediately what they were talking about. But many other inmates were brutally beaten simply because they couldn’t understand a word of what was being said. Most of the dangerous confrontations with the SS took place in the morning and in the evening as we marched from the Buna works. As soon as we passed the chain of guard posts enclosing the camp, the SS would look for a recently arrived inmate to victimize. They could generally tell a newcomer because of his clean clothes and his shaved head. They would remove his cap, throw it over their shoulder, and issue an order: “Pick up your cap!” The loss of one’s cap could entail the severest punishment. While desperately trying to retrieve a discarded cap, a prisoner would often be shot dead “while attempting to escape.” Anyone who had been in the camp for a while knew that any SS man who shot a prisoner “while trying to escape” got three days’ leave, twenty cigarettes, and a quarter-liter of schnapps.

THE UNWELCOMED ONE
By Hans Frankenthal

 

“There were two half-fallen-down stables on the outskirts of Domanyovka. They began herding Jews into them in April 1942. They did not allow them out of the barracks, they were in filth up to their knees, people were executed on the spot. Corpses lie there as though at the morgue. Hungry children are crying, women were sobbing. The prolonged, dreadful moans of the dying. Typhus. Dysentery. Gangrene. Death… People were dying by the thousands, rotting alive in the barracks. The corpses were tossed into heaps. Half-mad people stripped them naked so they could exchange clothing for rusks later. And there gradually arose such mountains of bodies that it was horrible to look at them. I do not put the word – mountains – in quotation marks. I remember those bodies piled on top of one another as though they were before me now. Old people, men, women, children entirely naked and gone blue lay there in various poses. A dead mother held her dead children in an embrace. The wind ruffled the gray beards of old men. I wonder today: How is it that I did not lose my mind? It is not by chance that they say that nothing is stranger than a man! Day and night, dogs came here from every direction. The dogs of Domanyovka got as fat as rams! Day and night these dogs gnawed at human meat and human bones! The smell in the air was unbearable.”

THE UNKNOWN BLACK BOOK
By Joshua Rubenstein and Ilya Altman

 

Food was also a major problem [at Theresienstadt]. The prisoners’ diet consisted primarily of moldy bread and rotting potatoes…Starving elderly men and women begged for watery soup made of synthetic lentil or pea powder and dug for food in the garbage heaps rotting in the courtyards of the barracks. At a certain period the main characteristics of the Ghetto were combined stench of decay and chlorine from the latrines, and groups of aged people shuffling through the streets until they collapsed and died of starvation.

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

“Then they found our place – and that was basically it. We were trapped! People started filing out. There was a space boarded up where there had once been a window. As most of the people were going out, my mother suddenly ripped off one piece of board. She whispered for me to get in there and put the board back. When I got in, had to hold the nail in place with my hand. Then my mother hid under some bedding. By then it was dark, and the police were lighting matches. One had a rifle with a bayonet on it. He was right next to me. Suddenly he took that bayonet and stabbed my mother, who was still hiding under the bedding. She screamed. I don’t know how badly she was hurt, but they took her away. I sat there frozen! They were only inches away from me – so close I had to stop breathing.”

THE HIDDEN CHILDREN
By Jane Marks

 

“Vyest Moyshe-Meyer, left alone after the murder of his family, could not stand it and lost his mind. There he was, running through Chudnov, filthy, with an overgrown beard, like an animal, emaciated, looking for something. He was not the only one to go crazy: the wife of Libov followed his example. The daughter-in-law of Aron Kilup got dressed up and went to the scaffold singing and dancing.”

THE UNKNOWN BLACK BOOK
By Joshua Rubenstein and Ilya Altman

 

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