Snatched up by a kapo eager to fill her numbers, we line up behind this stranger and set off to work. Her eyes are bright and cruel. Her face is grim. She is all we have been trying to avoid. Her triangle is green. This kapo is a murderess. The tension in our ranks is palpable. We march in perfect unison. “We have to be careful,” I warn Danka, daring only the briefest of whispers. “Very careful.” It is a day without end. This kapo delights in finding fault and brutalizing us for it. She has a nose for the weak, and these she tortures unmercifully until they collapse and she can finish them off with one quick kick. By lunch she has killed three prisoners. She is as deft at killing…

Won’t she tire of her abuses? No, she continues throughout the afternoon, beating, destroying, demolishing us like little dolls. One girl is crippled beyond belief, and then, as an added measure of spite, the kapo leaves her broken and suffering on the ground next to the dead, knowing her turn will not come until she is dragged to the gas.

RENA’S PROMISE
By Rena Kornreich Gelissen with Heather Dune Macadam

 

Those marked for death [at Lida] were lined up and marched to the edge of the city. One man fled the procession as it neared the execution ditches. “A member of the guard ran after me and kicked me to the ground,” he later said at a war crimes trial. “He then shot at me a number of times with a machine pistol…Two shots hit the back of my head. I lay, covered in blood, and pretended to be dead. In reality, I was so shocked and weak I couldn’t have stood up. I lay in this site, about a hundred meters from the execution place. In the course of the day. I briefly looked up and toward the executions now and then. I saw that the Jews were forced to disrobe a short distance from the execution site and then walk over boards that had been laid over the graves. Then they were shot with fixed machine guns…I saw Windisch and Hanweg at the execution site. I do not know if [Rudolf] Werner was there or if he shot at fleeing Jews. I did see how Windisch shot a child that had been thrown in the air by a Lituanian or Latvian.” … Of a total of three trenches, one was reserved for children, many of whom had been torn from the hands of their parents just before they were killed… By five P.M. that evening some fifty-five hundred Jews had been killed, more than half of the approximately eight thousand Jews who were living in the city.

THE BIELSKI BROTHERS
By Peter Duffy

 

One of thousands of deportations to the death camps.

 

One day, when I returned to my family’s house [Międzyrzec, Poland], I walked the streets. They were all paved with cobblestones, but now the cobblestones were littered with corpses and blood. I couldn’t tell which people had been shot and which ones had starved to death. I didn’t want to know. After a while, all corpses looked the same. They seemed as though the last ounce of life had been wrung out of them until their heart gave out.  Their cheeks were sunken, their teeth bared into a hideous grin underneath shriveled lips. Their contorted features displayed the pain they’d been in. their skin tone was the color of ashes, and they were always, always skinny to the point of resembling shadows.

DEFY THE DARKNESS
By Joe Rosenblum with David Kohn

 

An SS man arrived [at Treblinka] and selected ten young men out of our group; he didn’t want older men. A while later another SS man demanded sixty men; I was among that group. They marched us two by two through the square we traversed when we left the freight cars, then to the right, to a larger square, where we were confronted by a staggering sight: a huge number corpses, lying one next to the other. I estimate there were 20,000 corpses there… most of whom had suffocated in the freight cars. Their mouths remained open, as if they were gasping for another breath of air…Hundreds of meters away, a scoop-shovel dug large quantities of earth from the ditches. We saw a lot of Jews busy carrying the dead bodies to these huge ditches. Some of them transported bodies in handcarts to the ditches at the edge of the square. These Jews did everything at a run…The bodies were laid in the ditches, row upon row. A group of laborers were pouring chlorine on the corpses… I should mention that those buried at this square were not gas-chamber victims, but rather the bodies removed from the transports and those who had been shot at Treblinka…Often we heard pistols shooting and bullets whistling. We didn’t hear the screams of those shot; the Germans fired at the nape of the neck, and the victim never even moaned.”

BELZEC, SOBIBOR, TREBLINKA
By Yitzhak Arad

 

The atmosphere for those remaining in the Bedzin ghetto is captured in the notebook of Rutka Laskier. Her diary consists of notes written between 19 January 1943 and 24 April 1943…”The little faith I used to have has been completely shattered. If God existed, he would have certainly not permitted that human beings be thrown alive into furnaces, and the heads of little toddlers be smashed with the butt of guns or be shoved into sacks and gassed to death…Big flakes of snow…Nevertheless, the usual children’s cries of joy announcing the arrival of winter were not heard on the streets. For most of the ghetto’s inhabitants, the winter was a nightmare of terrible poverty and hunger. Everywhere people are standing in line, lines for potatoes, coal, bread. Children dressed in worn-out clothes stretch out their hands to those passing by. These children are the most predominant symbol of the grey ghetto. The parents have been deported, and the children were left abandoned to their destiny, to go astray in the streets. The people’s faces express sadness and worry.”

A SMALL TOWN NEAR AUSCHWITZ
By Mary Fulbrook

 

I could see the women, the children, and the old and sick were being sent to the left. They were headed toward the crematoriums. Sara’s and Rachel’s children were crying. As young as they were, they could see what was coming. They could see the ashen looks on their mothers’ faces, and they were afraid…The gas chamber and the crematorium were in the middle of the camp. There were two lines. One led straight to the gas chamber. I saw my uncle and his family start to shuffle into it. “Uncle, I don’t know what to say and what will be for all of us. This is the end of the road,” I yelled. Yudel was speechless, the women were speechless, the cousins knew this was it. Yudel, Rachel, Sara, all were walking with their heads down. They knew. Then they entered the building.

DEFY THE DARKNESS
By Joe Rosenblum with David Kohn

 

The German occupants began their bandits’ work in Slavuta with the persecution and destruction of the Jews. All the Jews were made to wear special armbands. They were driven out to do the heaviest physical labor and were often shot there on the spot. Shootings were carried out both in an organized manner, by the orders of the German commandant of the town of Slabuta, and in a disorganized manner – at the whim of any soldier or officer. In this way, by the close of September 1941, the Germans had killed around five thousand Jews in Slabuta. Among them were women, old people, children. Those that survived – around seven thousand people – were wiped out by the Germans through mass shootings near the water tower of a military base.

THE UNKNOWN BLACK BOOK
By Joshua Rubenstein and Ilya Altman

 

Girls, young women who had arrived [at a German work camp] from Auschwitz in good condition – since only the strong and healthy had been selected from there – were lying on lice-infested, rotting straw, starved to skeletons, helpless. They had stopped fighting the cold, hunger, lice and sickness. And what for? None of them suffered from a severe disease, let alone a fatal disease, yet they were perishing by the day, succumbing to diarrhea, abscesses, general weakness. The death toll kept increasing. As they complained about their ailments to me, I would console them, without much conviction, knowing there was no help for them.

AS THE LILACS BLOOMED
By Anna Molnar Hegedus

 

Sometimes prisoners would notice a friend going “mad,” and then she would suddenly disappear. Micheline Maurel 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

 

The guards, male and female, virtually without exception, all beat the wretched Jews. One survivor remembers: “All of the women guards had rods and clubs, which they, at their pleasure, would put to use at the drop of a hat.”  This was substantiated by Hegel shortly after her capture by the Americans: “All the ‘SS’ women guards carried rods and all of them beat the girls.” Another woman guard confesses: “I beat the women often and hard. I used for that purpose my hands and sometimes also an implement of one sort or another. I beat a girl quite brutally, in consequence of which she died the next day.”

HITLER’S WILLING EXECUTIONERS
By Daniel Jonah Goldhagen

 

“The procession, numbering some 10,000 people, and proceeding from the Little Ghetto to the Ninth Fort, lasted from dawn until noon… In the fort, the wretched people were immediately set upon by the Lithuanian killers, who stripped them of every valuable article – gold rings, earrings, bracelets. They forced them to strip naked, pushed them into pits which had been prepared in advance, and fired into each pit with machine guns which had been positioned there in advance. The murderers did not have time to shoot everybody in one batch before the next batch of Jews arrived. They were accorded the same treatment as those who had preceded them. They were pushed into the pit on top of the dead, the dying and those still alive from the previous group. So it continued, batch after batch until the 10,000 men, women and children had been butchered.”

MASTERS OF DEATH
By Richard Rhodes

 

One day they were beating us, but not severely. Then three SS and some murderers decided to try a different game. A group of twenty of us were called to a part of the camp where barracks were to be built. One of the murderers had a steel plumbing pipe, about four inches in diameter and fourteen feet long. They told everybody to straighten some lumber piles, and I could tell something was going to happen. We were spread out among fifty piles, one prisoner to a pile. A few SS were there, too. Suddenly, one of the murderers leaped for a prisoner and threw him to the ground. Then he and another murderer took the piece of pipe and forced it under the screaming prisoner’s chin and into his throat. Then the murderers stood on each side of the pip, rocking it back and forth while pressing down harder and harder. The boy screamed and yelled, but that sound turned into gurgling as the pipe slowly crushed his windpipe. The screaming deafened me. Then they grabbed the prisoner in front of the next pile and did the same thing. The SS sometimes would take a turn at standing on the pipe. If they weren’t participating, they were applauding, laughing, and having a good time. They acted as though this was a carnival game. When I saw what was happening, I kept moving farther and farther away. I had been standing in front of the fourth pile, but when they started murdering people, I was always one or two piles away. Every time they grabbed one prisoner I would duck around the back of the piles and move three or four piles away from them…I and the other prisoners who survived all found each other in a matter of minutes. We didn’t say anything. We just looked at each other and knew this was not the end of our misery. We surveyed the field in front of us, the broken bodies, black faces, tongues sticking out, bulging eyes, bruised and broken arms and legs.

DEFY THE DARKNESS
By Joe Rosenblum with David Kohn

 

A Jewish mother just before being shot.

 

“During my time at Dachau I was familiar with many kinds of medical experiments carried on there on human victims. These persons were never volunteers but were forced to submit to such acts. Malaria experiments on about 1,200 people were conducted by Dr. Klaus Schilling between 1941 and 1945. Schilling was personally ordered by Himmler to conduct these experiments. The victims were either bitten by mosquitoes or given injections of malaria sporozoites taken from mosquitoes…Thirty to forty died from the malaria itself. Three hundred to four hundred died later from diseases which were fatal because of the physical condition resulting from the malaria attacks.”

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

 

Men were separated from women. The men were told to undress before they were forced straight through the ‘tube’ to the gas chambers. The women were taken to a barracks where their hair was cut. The Germans used the women’s hair after their deaths in a variety of industrial processes – for example, in the making of felt. It was as their heads were shaved, says Reder, that the women realized that they were to die, and “there were laments and shrieks.” Once their hair had been cut, the women followed the men into the gas chambers. Just like death in the back of a gas van, death in the gas chambers of Belzec was not quick. Reder remembers hearing the “moans” and “screams” of those trapped inside the gas chambers for up to fifteen minutes.

THE HOLOCAUST
By Laurence Rees

 

I now saw that slightly to one side there was a coach with two horses, a landau [Paneriai, Lithuania]. On the box of the coach stood a second SD man whom I did not look at more closely. In the coach sat two very well-dressed elderly Jews. I had the impression that these were high-class or important people. I inferred this because they looked very well groomed and intelligent and ‘ordinary Jews’ would certainly not have been transported by a coach. The two Jews had to climb out and I saw that both were shaking dreadfully. They apparently knew what was in store for them. The SS man who had initially gestured to us to keep away was carrying a sub-machine-gun. He made the two Jews go and stand at the edge of the pit and shot both of them in the back of the head so that they fell in.

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

 

“The Jews were given spades and told to dig a trench. It began to rain. After a while I could only see the tops of their heads. An SS man was hitting them to make them dig faster. When the trench was deep enough, he picked up a Russian machine gun and fired, shooting several salvos into the trench. We could hear them moaning. Then some more SS men turned up and finished them off. They were killed only because they were Jews.”

THE HOLOCAUST
By Laurence Rees

 

The inmates destined to be killed with phenol injections in the infirmary behaved much like those selected to die in the gas chambers. Klehr, a medic who killed more people by means of such shots than any other SS man, later gave his expert explanation in the courtroom: “They knew what was in store for them, but they did not offer any resistance. They were completely worn out, all skin and bones.”

PEOPLE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Hermann Langbein

 

Despite the desire of the Nazis to keep their activities a secret, there were rumors about “what was going on in Belzec.” On board the train en route to the camp, “No one said a word. We were aware that we were headed for death, that nothing could save us; apathetic, not a single moan.” Once they arrived at Belzec they were ordered to jump down from the trucks – more than 3 feet off the ground – in one huge mass. Some, particularly the elderly and young children, “broke arms and legs.”

THE HOLOCAUST
By Laurence Rees

 

“New columns keep streaming out of the camp, and they are easily counted. The first thousand have marched past, two thousand, ten thousand. They march and march. If your father, your brother, or your son were among them, you would not recognize him, for these emaciated figures are all alike. A young lad has the same furrowed face as an old man.”

PEOPLE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Hermann Langbein

 

On that day [7 August 1942] 5,500 men, women and children were killed in Litovka. My cousin Srolik Sucharski tried to escape and was shot at the gates of the barracks. The 500 that remained were kept for three days and nights without food or water and given no toilet facilities. That same evening, everybody in the workshops had to line up and be inspected. I stood next to my father, dressed in my father’s jacket and long trousers to look older. The Nazi chief passed and did not say anything but all the children hidden in the loft, and some in the basement, were found and thrown out of the windows and then taken by lorry to Litovka where they were killed.

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

 

“One day a women’s transport arrived from Zamosc, and it included five or six pregnant women. They gave birth in the infirmary. At first the mothers and the children received milk and white bread as additional rations. The children were added to the inmate population, and as a block elder I had to give a daily accounting of the numbers. One evening, when the children were about two weeks old, the SS medic Klehr remained in the block when we marched off (the male nurses slept in the men’s camp). When I came to the block the next morning, those five or six children were no longer there. I found their corpses in the morgue and was able to determine they had been given injections in the cardiac area.”

PEOPLE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Hermann Langbein

 

Stark naked, we were tied with rope and ordered to lean against the table. Then the prisoners were told to start counting, one, two, three, and so on to one hundred. With each count, we were whipped with a heavy leather strap. During this beating, I’m sure I heard Papa calling: “My sons, my sons!” I felt Mama’s hand on my cheek asking me to wake up for school and I heard Jacob crying. After the final count the ropes holding us were removed and we fell to the ground, a mass of wounded and bleeding flesh.

OUTCRY: HOLOCAUST MEMOIRS
By Manny Steinberg

 

Libau (Liepaja), 15 December 1941: Jewish women are made to undress in the cold before the very eyes of their murderers.

 

Eight hundred sixty-three children were born in Ravensbrück between 1943 and 1945. Without nourishment, diapers, or water, most babies died within a few days of birth by “natural” means. In addition, the midwives drowned or smothered them. One day Mrs. Gluck saw a Nazi guard carrying a bag over his arm. She asked him what it contained and he told her: “Dead babies.”

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

In some cases the proximate cause of suicide is known. Aron Bejlin, a physician interned in Birkenau, was asked by a Dutch physician who had just arrived in the camp where he could meet his wife and children, from whom he’d been separated. Bejlin told his colleague the truth, which the Dutchman at first did not believe; but when he was able to confirm it, he touched the electric fence. Vera Alexander remembers a Hungarian Jew who was able to smuggle her small child into the camp. When the SS took it away from her, she went into the wire at night.

PEOPLE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Hermann Langbein

 

It seems that Stutthof manufactured soap. Some historians claim that the Nazi manufacture of soap from human fat is just a grim rumor. However, cakes are on display. And witnesses have testified that soap was made at Stutthof from the fat of dead Jews. At the War Crime Trials Sigmund Mazur, laboratory assistant at the Danzig Anatomic Institute, testified that the institute conducted experiments. “In producing soap from human bodies…I boiled the soap out of the bodies of women and men. The process of boiling alone took several days – from 3 to 7. During two manufacturing processes, in which I directly participated, more than 25 kilograms of soap were produced. The amount of human fat necessary for these two processes was about 70 to 80 kilograms collected from some 40 bodies…I used this human soap for my personal needs, for toilet and for laundering. For myself I took 4 kilograms of this soap.”

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

In the morning trucks transported 150 people in each load to Chelmno, about a kilometer away. By keeping the process going, 1,000 victims could be disposed of by early afternoon… An officer told the visitors that they were going to work in the east. He promised them fair treatment and good food. He explained that first they must take a bath and give up their clothes to be disinfected. From the courtyard the Jews moved inside the house to a heated room where they undressed. Then they walked down the corridor with signs directing them “to the bath.” At the end, through the front door, a large van awaited them. Guards explained that they were taking them in the van to the bathhouse. They climbed into the van, the door clanged shut, and the van drove away. Theoretically the victims died in fifteen minutes. The van would then drive to Rzuchow woods, 3 kilometers away, where the corpses were unloaded and buried, while those trucks were bringing in the next batch from Powiercie.

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

“Thousands of peaceful citizens, women, the elderly, and children were herded into prison. Here we saw no small number of horrors. At night there was the constant sound of shots and soul-rending, inhuman cries. They would gather people every day and take them off somewhere unknown. The Romanians taunted the women. The beasts tossed one girl into a latrine, cursing her all the while. They told the Bessarabian Jews that they were sending them home. Four thousand Bessarabians were taken out and shot.”

THE UNKNOWN BLACK BOOK
By Joshua Rubenstein and Ilya Altman

 

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