“Utter chaos and scenes of horror greeted the British and Canadian soldiers who walked into the hell that was Bergen-Belsen. Soldiers were now face-to-face with 60,000 prisoners who were in various states of starvation and illness – many of whom, surrounded by thousands of corpses, were in the final throes of death themselves. Eight hundred died on the day of liberation, and 14,000 more would die in the weeks to follow.”

A TRAIN NEAR MAGDEBURG
By Matthew A. Rozell

 

The work in the fields was very exhausting [Auschwitz]. Our overseers kept close watch to see that none of us paused to catch our breaths. Stragglers were always beaten with whips and clubs. If, at the end of her strength, an internee fainted, she was hit with a bludgeon to revive her. If that would not do it her skull was literally crushed with a club or with boot kicks. Thereafter, she no longer had to appear at the roll call. Fainting was quite common because the commandos always included sick persons. I saw women who were stricken with pneumonia painfully walking the eight miles from the camp to the place of work and digging all day to avoid being sent to the hospital. They knew only too well that the hospital was only an antechamber for the crematory. Besides, even those who were willing to go to the hospital could not always do so. To be admitted, one had to have a very high fever. It is easy to understand why the internees died like flies during the wet and cold months.

FIVE CHIMNEYS
By Olga Lengyel

 

“The treatment [at Bergen-Belsen] was so that it is hard to describe, blows were raining down and then at roll call we had to stand about for hours and hours in snow, in rain, in heat, or in cold. On its own, the standing about exhausted us entirely. If anybody moved during roll call, then the whole block to which we belonged had to stand for hours and sometimes to kneel down, even with our arms raised high. If somebody came too late to roll call, the whole camp had to stand on parade for many hours and he, the culprit, was beaten so badly that he sometimes died from it. In the hospital I saw a number of people with wounds on their hands and legs, but particularly frequently on their heads, coming from blows.”

A TRAIN NEAR MAGDEBURG
By Matthew A. Rozell

 

To the many objects taken from the deportees’ baggage was added the hair of the victims, from the clippings and from the corpses. Among the items in “Canada” [where goods were sorted] that impressed me painfully was the row of baby carriages, which brought to mind all the unfortunate infants the Germans had murdered. The children’s shoes and toy section, always well stocked, was another heartrending place.

FIVE CHIMNEYS
By Olga Lengyel

 

American soldiers stand guard along the perimeter of an open mass grave at Mauthausen.

 

“When the mounds of dead bodies started to pile up nearby [at Bergen-Belsen] in a frightening manner, we, the children, made bets between us as to who would die tomorrow and who would die the day after. Every one of them had his signs. I had become an old woman already, eleven and half years old.”

A TRAIN NEAR MAGDEBURG
By Matthew A. Rozell

 

While the column wound on through the still, white landscape, two hundred of us were separated from the rest and marched off on a side road to Sosnowice, a tiny village at the edge of a deep forest. We arrived as the sun was setting, having walked, run, and stumbled about eighteen miles from Parczew in less than ten hours. It was six days since we were driven from our homes, six days of cold, hunger, and thirst, six days of terror and murder.

THE CHOICE
By Irene Eber

 

“Then came November 16th, 1943. The camp [Westerbork, Holland] was very crowded, with about 25,000 people. It was Monday evening and the train stood ready to go east the next morning. About 2,500 Jews were supposed to be deported that day… nearly all the children of the orphanage were put on the deportation lists… many of whom were very young, went on this train to Auschwitz and to the gas chambers… This was a terrible night for all of us. Many of the children were very young, and all of us were unhappy. We did not know what their fate would be. In the morning, the train left with most of the children packed into the cattle wagons. Those of us left behind felt very sad, as we had lost most of our friends. Despite the circumstances, we had been like one big family. Upon arrival in Auschwitz, all the children, with the people accompanying them, were sent to the gas chambers. There were no known survivors.”

A TRAIN NEAR MAGDEBURG
By Matthew A. Rozell

 

The “washroom” [at Auschwitz] was supposed to be the place where we cleaned ourselves. There we had to wash, rinse our mouths, and comb our hair. Yet it was practically impossible to do that, even when there was water. Every day a dense crowd swarmed outside the building. This herd of dirty, evil-smelling women inspired profound disgust in their companions and even in themselves. However, we did not congregate with any intention of washing but rather in the hope that we would be able to quench our thirst. What was the point of going there to clean up when we had no soap, no toothbrushes and no combs? Our water ration was absurdly minute. Tortured by thirst, we never missed a chance to exchange our meager pittances of bread or margarine for a half pint of water. Better to endure hunger than that hell-fire that was constantly gnawing at our gullets. The water that came through the rusted washroom pipes had an evil smell, a very suspicious color and was hardly fit to drink. But it was no less joy to swallow a few drops, even though we might pay for temporary relief with an attack of dysentery or some other disease. This water was better than the rain which stagnated in the puddles; some internees lapped this slop like does, and died.

FIVE CHIMNEYS
By Olga Lengyel

 

“Then in July, rumors started that we were going to evacuate people who did not have a job… Then the time came [Przemysl Ghetto, Poland], and we knew that we had to go. My mother [who did not have work in the ghetto] decided she couldn’t stay. She didn’t have permission. My uncle the doctor and his wife, they had permission to stay in the ghetto. My mother decided that she was going to leave me with them because she said, ‘I know they take the children right away and they kill the children.’ They knew that the children would not survive. Of course I didn’t want her to leave – who wants to let their mother go, while they stay? I was crying. When the time came, it was July 27th, 1942. They had to go to a [gathering] place. We lived in the center of the ghetto and there was a big place and all the Jews were supposed to go there. The transport was supposed to come there in the morning, so my grandparents and my mother went to this place. I said goodbye and I was crying. They took my grandparents and my mother.”

A TRAIN NEAR MAGDEBURG
By Matthew A. Rozell

 

From the eyewitness reports, one can gather what the spectacle in the gas chamber was after the doors were opened. In their hideous suffering, the condemned had tried to crawl on top of one another. During their agonies some had dug their fingernails into the flesh of their neighbors. As a rule the corpses were so compressed and entangled that it was impossible to separate them.  The German technicians invented special hook-tipped poles which were thrust deep into the flesh of the corpses to pull them out. Once extracted from the gas chamber, the cadavers were transported to the crematory. I have already mentioned that it was not unusual that a few victims should still be alive. But they were treated as dead and were burned with the dead. A hoist lifted the bodies into the ovens. The corpses were sorted methodically. The babies went in first, as kindling, then came the bodies of the emaciated, and finally the larger bodies.

FIVE CHIMNEYS
By Olga Lengyel

 

One of the accused you recognized this morning [Belsen trial] was the man at the far end of the front row of the dock [Karl Franzioh]. What can you tell us about this man? – He was in charge of the kitchen in the women’s camp. Near the kitchen there was a room where potatoes were peeled, and there a young woman internee was bending down to take a few peelings of these potatoes which were lying about when suddenly this man jumped out of the kitchen with his gun in his hand and shot her twice. I was only a few yards away from the spot, and approached the wounded woman, and very soon, I had to state that she was dead.”

A TRAIN NEAR MAGDEBURG
By Matthew A. Rozell

 

“Another anti-Jewish law shortly passed [Hungary, 1944], forcing us to leave our homes and be concentrated in a ghetto. On that very same day, my father left us forever. The army called him up, and he had to present himself at the army headquarters forced labor service. This was a very distressing period for us. Jewish men had been called for this purpose several years back; most had already died from hunger, been beaten, or froze to death. Unspeakable sorrow filled our deeply shocked hearts as we left our warm homes. With a gloomy face that reflected how we all felt, my father put on his backpack and said his last farewell to us. I silently escorted my father to the train station. We walked side-by-side for thirty short minutes before he arrived at the appointed place. I choked back the tears as I parted from my father. This was the last time I ever saw him. He was transferred to Debrecen, where he met his tragic death.”

A TRAIN NEAR MAGDEBURG
By Matthew A. Rozell

 

The Berlin-to-Auschwitz train schedule had hit its stride on January 12, 1943, when 1,210 Jews were “evacuated.” On January 29, another 1,000 deported; then another 952 on February 3; 1,000 on February 19; 1,100 on February 26; 1,736 on March 1; 17.58 on March 2; 1,732 on March 3; 1,143 on March 4; 662 on March 6; and so it went until fifty-seven trains had left for Auschwitz. Meanwhile, other trains fanned out to Litzmannstadt (Lodz), Riga, Theresienstadt, Bergen-Belsen, and additional death camps. Some fifty trains went to Riga alone. The trains – called “Jew transports” or PKRs in the jargon of the railroaders’’ memos – were the capillaries that pumped out the Final Solution.

STELLA
By Peter Wyden

 

“When the mounds of dead bodies started to pile up nearby [at Bergen-Belsen] in a frightening manner, we, the children, made bets between us as to who would die tomorrow and who would die the day after. Every one of them had his signs. I had become an old woman already, eleven and half years old.”

A TRAIN NEAR MAGDEBURG
By Matthew A. Rozell

 

German police round-up Jews and load them onto trucks in the Ciechanow ghetto.

 

A young Greek girl [at Auschwitz] was brought to us from a neighboring barrack. Though worn out by illness and as thin as a skeleton, she was still very beautiful. She would not answer any of our questions and behaved like a mute. We specialized mostly in surgery and could not understand why she had been sent to us. Her medical card indicated no need for surgery. We placed her under observation. Soon we discovered that an error had been made. The young Greek girl should have been sent to the section for the mentally ill. She sat nearly all the time, imitating the mechanical gestures of the spinning-mill worker. From time to time, as if worn out by her work, she lost consciousness. Nor could she be revived for an hour or two. Then she shook her head, opened her eyes, and threw her arms up, as though to shield her head from a beating. A day later we found her dead. During the night she had emptied her straw mattress to “spin” the straw. She had also torn her blouse into tiny shreds to make more raw material for her imaginary spindle. I have seen many dead, but few faces upset me as much as that of the young Greek girl. She had probably been employed somewhere as a forced laborer in a spinning mill. Her efforts had brought her nothing but beatings. She succumbed, and the desperate animal fear had finally destroyed the equilibrium of her mind.

FIVE CHIMNEYS
By Olga Lengyel

 

“I was crying, and in the morning my mother, my grandmother, one of my aunts, and another uncle came in the doorway while we were sitting downstairs. My mother came and said goodbye to me. I held onto her, and I was holding her, and she was pushing me away… [Cries] My aunt was pulling me to her side. They pulled me off her; of course, they didn’t let me go with her. That was the last time I was with my mother. They went to the gathering place before our house. It took half a day before they collected them and marched them to the train. We were living on the second floor, so my aunt picked me up; she said, ‘Look, this is the last time that you will see your mother.’”

A TRAIN NEAR MAGDEBURG
By Matthew A. Rozell

 

As soon as a baby was delivered at the infirmary [at Auschwitz], mother and child were both sent to the gas chamber… We must at least save the mothers. To carry out our plan, we would have to make the infants pass for stillborn… Unfortunately, the fate of the baby always had to be the same. After taking every precaution, we pinched and closed the little tike’s nostrils and when it opened its mouth to breathe, we gave it a dose of a lethal product. An injection might have been quicker, but that would have left a trace and we dared not let the Germans suspect the truth. We placed the dead infant in the same box which had brought it from the barrack, if the accouchement had taken place there. As far as the camp administration was concerned this was a stillbirth. And so, the Germans succeeded in making murderers of even us. To this day the picture of those murdered babies haunts me. Our own children had perished in the gas chambers and were cremated in the Birkenau ovens, and we dispatched the lives of others before their first voice had left their tiny lungs. Often I sit and think what kind of fate would these little creatures, snuffed out on the threshold of life, have had? Who knows? Perhaps we killed a Pasteur, a Mozart, an Einstein. Even if those infants had been destined to live uneventful lives, our crimes were no less terrible. The only meager consolation is that by these murders we saved the mothers. Without our intervention they would have endured worse sufferings, for they would have been thrown into the crematory ovens while still alive.

FIVE CHIMNEYS
By Olga Lengyel

 

In May 1942, during a day of mayhem, the Germans hung seven Jews of the community for trumped-up charges. Yisrael Gershtner and his two sons, Favyl Weissberger, Yehoshua Spangelet and one Jew whose name I do not recall. This was another gruesome scene I shall never forget. All Jewish residents were ordered to come to the “Hanging Place” on Krzyska Street to watch the execution of their fellow co-religionists. A German policeman drove a truck through our neighborhood announcing with a megaphone, the “happy” event. “Today, seven Jewish criminals will be hung; tomorrow one hundred, and after tomorrow, all the Jewish Criminals will be annihilated.”

FROM A NAME TO A NUMBER
By Alter Wiener

 

“Ilse Forster was in charge of Kitchen No.1. A girl took a potato and she saw it and took her into the kitchen. There she started beating her so severely that the poor girl could not help herself and defecated. I could not look longer and ran out of the kitchen. She dragged the girl out of the kitchen and continued to beat her until her very death. She beat her until she was dead, and when she died, she still kicked her with her feet. Then, she returned to the kitchen and laughed hysterically.”

A TRAIN NEAR MAGDEBURG
By Matthew A. Rozell

 

One hundred people and their bundles were crammed into each car [on the way to Auschwitz]. We were stuck together, standing room only, and could hardly breathe properly because the heat generated by our bodies made the air unbearable. The situation was dehumanizing, debilitating, and devastating, both psychologically and physically. There was only a small barred opening near the ceiling for ventilation. The water was gone almost immediately, and it was never replaced. The toilet pail was not emptied because the door was never opened, and the stench infused the entire car. I couldn’t get close to my parents and they couldn’t protect me. I felt alone, overwhelmed by the stench of urine and fecal matter. I couldn’t relieve myself because the car was so tightly packed and lacked privacy. The moans of people who were claustrophobic or in pain was very unsettling. When I relive these memories today, I have nightmarish thoughts about my mother, who was holding my still-breastfeeding nine-month-old sister. I can’t imagine how she managed without food or water. My two younger brothers, only eight and ten years old, must have found it terrifying to be squeezed and surrounded by taller people.

BY CHANCE ALONE
By Max Eisen

 

“We are approaching the line forming in front of the German manager [Warsaw Ghetto]… God! We mustn’t get lost among the thousands of people, sweating like us, totally exhausted by the tension, the heat and the thirst. The silent question is reflected in their eyes: What do they mean to do with us here, in this cage? In this human ‘cauldron?’ Why did they concentrate tens of thousands of people here? … And now we are at the large wooden gate, built across the street. I go with my father as though in a dream. He is holding the workers permit in front of him. Two rows of Germans stand in front of us. Suddenly I hear a voice, asking in German: ‘Deine Tochtre? Ist sie auch eine Arbeiterin?’ ‘Your daughter? Also a worker?’ Yes, Father answers. A hand motions us to turn back and the same hand takes the worker’s permit from my father. Mother feels instinctively that something is happening to us and drops out of the line. Meanwhile the crazy procession moves on. I step aside, right up to the fence, and peep in to see what is happening on the other side 0 two rows of Germans, motioning to the people to go right or left. I see a mother with a little girl. They separate the girl from the mother. The mother, to the right – the child, to the left. The girl holds her hands out to her mother, crying bitterly and calling her desperately. The mother stops, tries to free herself from the German policemen holding her, wants to run to the other side, to the weeping child. Blows rain on her from all sides and in the end they drag her to the right. Now there goes a father with a baby in his arms. The German grabs the child from the father’s arms and throws it with all his strength on the ground. They beat the father with a rubber truncheon, until he loses his balance. The corpse of the baby is disposed of quickly. Now I understand they were taking all the children to be killed.”

A TRAIN NEAR MAGDEBURG
By Matthew A. Rozell

 

Moll had a morbid partiality for obscene and salacious tortures. Thus it was his wont to turn up the crematorium when the victims were taking off their clothes. Like a meat inspector he would stride about the changing room, selecting a couple of naked women and hustling them to one of the pits where corpses were being burnt. Faced with the sight of this pit of hell the women were distracted. They stood at the edge of the pit, rooted to the spot, gazing fixedly at the gruesome scene at their feet. Moll who was watching them closely got a tremendous kick out of their terror. In the end he shot them from behind so that they fell forward into the burning pit.

EYEWITNESS AUSCHWITZ
By Filip Muller

 

We could not avoid the German soldiers in their gray uniforms who came and went and who were a constant reminder of what they were capable of doing. There was also the Gestapo headquarters on a busy thoroughfare not far from the Small Market, which we called “the Gestapo house.” I was convinced that it contained untold dangers, that it was the house where people were tortured for whatever crimes the Gestapo thought they had committed. Then some men began disappearing; sometimes whole families. Their houses stood empty, doors locked securely, and within them, deserted and abandoned, were the possessions accumulated over a lifetime. Where had the people gone? Would they return? One day the entire Friedman family, who lived across from Grandmother Mindel’s store, was gone – the old couple, their many sons and the sons’ wives, the little grandchildren.

THE CHOICE
By Irene Eber

 

Every nook and cranny in the cremation room was closely inspected. He [Mietck, a Kapo] particularly enjoyed running his fingertips over the cast-iron valves and fittings of the ovens. Any speck of dust would immediately throw him into a paroxysm of fury. After the string of obscene invective and anti-Sematic threats he would ask the ‘culprit’ to own up. When he had established who the ‘guilty’ person was he would command: ‘Maurice, bring the stool!’ The prisoner found guilty by Mietek was made to lie across the wooden stool which Maurice had fetched. And then he would receive a beating, usually twenty-five strokes on the bare behind. The first few strokes were always the worst and most of the ‘criminals’ soiled themselves. More experienced prisoners clenched their teeth in an effort to bear the first furious violent blows without visible emotion because, quite soon afterward, the Kapo’s rage would abate. If a man could stand the first few blows without making a sound, Mietek would say in Polish: ‘You son of a bitch, you’ll only get fifteen because you didn’t whine.’ New prisoners who screamed, writhed with pain and leapt off the stool at the first few blows, or who dropped to their knees and, with raised hands, implored Mietek for mercy, only succeeded in increasing his fury. He rained blows on them indiscriminately, beating them on their hands or about the head; the more a prisoner writhed with pain, the more brutal the Kapo’s thrashing, and not infrequently he beat them to death. Within a very few days he had in this way reduced the number of his first team of Jewish helpers from eight to six. The murdered men were replaced by two new prisoners from the next transport of Jews.

EYEWITNESS AUSCHWITZ
By Filip Muller

 

Jewish women and children who have been selected for death at Auschwitz-Birkenau, wait to be taken to the gas chambers. 

 

One day in June, 1944, 315 “selected” women were pushed together into a washroom. In the big hall the unfortunate ones had already been kicked and whipped. Then Irma Griese commanded the SS guards to nail the door shut. As simple as that. Before being sent to the gas chamber they would have to pass in review before Dr. Klein. But he made them wait three days. During this time the condemned women lay crushed together on the concrete floor without food or drink or the use of a latrine. They were human beings, but who cared about that?

FIVE CHIMNEYS
By Olga Lengyel

 

From time to time SS doctors visited the crematorium, above all Hauptsurmfuhrer Kitt and Obersturmfuhrer Weber. During their visits it was like working in a slaughterhouse. Like cattle dealers they felt the thighs and calves of men and women who were still alive and selected what they called the best pieces before the victims were executed. After their execution the chosen bodies were laid on a table. The doctors proceeded to cut pieces of still warm flesh from the thighs and claves and threw them into waiting receptacles. The muscles of those who had been shot were still working and contracting, making the bucket jump about. At first we thought the Nazis planned to use human flesh for plastic operations on wounded soldiers. Only later we learned that these buckets of living flesh were taken to the Institute of Hygiene at Rajsko where it was used in the laboratories of the growing of bacterial cultures. Once I heard Oberscharfuhrer Quackernack remark: “Horseflesh would do, but in war-time it is too valuable for that sort of thing.”

EYEWITNESS AUSCHWITZ
By Filip Muller

 

The very first week in Blechhammer, a Pole had noticed that I was wearing a wristwatch. At that point, I still had my clothes, family photos, and a few personal belongings that I had brought with me from home. The Pole said to me, “I see you have a watch. If you give me your watch, tomorrow I will bring you a loaf of bread.” I was naïve and desperately hungry, so I gave him my watch. I trusted that he would deliver the promised loaf of bread. Coming back from work that same day, all the inmates were called to assemble at the Appellplatz for announcements. The evil camp commandant, carrying a riding whip, said, “Today, one of you gave away his wristwatch to a Pole for a promised loaf of bread. As you know, this is an infraction of our rules. And if that haftling (detainee) does not step forward to admit his crime, all of you will be punished. You will not rest, but will stand here the entire night and march to work tomorrow morning, like any other day.” I stepped forward and with a trembling voice I said, “I am the one who gave my watch to a Pole who promised to give me a loaf of bread, because I am so hungry. I know that my brother is hungry, too!” The commandant dismissed all the other prisoners back to their barracks. My legs were trembling as he summoned me to his post. The commandant with a scowling expression whipped me in my face and ordered the Kapos to take me to the “punishment room” which was very notorious. Every molecule in my body was shaking. I was ordered to take off all my clothes. A Kapo, with a leather thong, flogged fifteen lashes on my bare back. Two German guards made sure that I received minimum compassion and maximum pain. Most prisoners who got dragged to that room did not come out alive. I was within an inch of my life, but somehow, perhaps miraculously, I did survive that ordeal.

FROM A NAME TO A NUMBER
By Alter Wiener

 

Day after day, new patients arrived at barrack 21 [Auschwitz hospital]. They were skeletal, weak, and sickly, and near the end of their struggles. They also knew that unless they could walk out of that ward on their own two feet, their next stop was the gas chamber. So every patient faced a bleak dilemma. Many had severe hernias, phlegmon (flesh-eating disease), broken limbs, burst appendices, or severe injuries from bullets that tore the flesh and destroyed bones. Watching them stoically accept their fate inside the twisted logic of the concentration camp made me realize how brave they were.

BY CHANCE ALONE
By Max Eisen

 

“The gendarmes ordered us to line up five to a row to be counted. Then we marched into a big building with no roof. A young girl from our town was being hanged from the building by her hands and legs. A couple of gendarmes beat her all over her body with their hands and guns. The girl screamed and cried bitterly. The gendarmes poured many liters of water over her so that she would wake up after fainting, and then keep beating her. Blood and tears streamed down her crucified body all the while.”

A TRAIN NEAR MAGDEBURG
By Matthew A. Rozell

 

Falk reports about a young Belgian nurse who was able to retain her sister, a convalescent, in the infirmary for a time. She wanted to keep her from resuming the hard labor in a weakened state. After a surprise selection the nurse had to help her eighteen-year-old sister board a truck bound for the gas chamber. The nurse became completely apathetic and died soon thereafter.

PEOPLE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Hermann Langbein

 

Almost every night a truck trailer was parked in the crematorium yard. It was piled high with the corpses of prisoners who had died or been killed in the concentration camp of Birkenau. In the morning we had to unload it. Some of the corpses were horrible to look at. Often they had been dismembered or dissected. Many were the bodies of young men and women who bore strange burns and festering wounds on their testicles or lower parts of their bodies, or abscesses on their bellies and thighs. Yet others had taken on a pinky-bluish hue. Or they had purple faces and clenched jaws. In addition there were all those who had been killed by shooting in the yard of Block 11; they too were taken to the crematorium.

EYEWITNESS AUSCHWITZ
By Filip Muller

 

“Hunger, lack of space, unhygienic conditions, and the wet weather caused tuberculosis to spread rapidly. The mortality rate was very high. Every day between four and ten corpses were moved from each tuberculosis block that housed 130 to 140 patients. This continued until the evacuation of the camp.”

PEOPLE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Hermann Langbein

 

“When we arrived at the rail yard and were ordered to climb up into the cattle wagon, I had seen an open railcar loaded with red beets a few train cars away. Even though we knew that the punishment would be terrible, some people went there and got a few pieces. A piece of red beet, even raw, was enough to sustain four people – me, my mother, and my two brothers – for a day. I asked my mother to empty the pillowcase, which was are main carrying case, and give it to me. I shuffled there, put in a half dozen or so beets and carried it back. When I arrived at the track next to our freight car, an SS guard with his back to me was aiming and shooting to death a 10 or 11-year old little boy who had two red beets, one in each hand. He committed such a horrible crime that immediate execution was the right punishment, according to this hatefully-minded SS guard. While he was shooting that little boy to death, I was able to hand my bundle to someone who gave it to my mother. When he turned around, he just barked at me to get up. Had he turned around 10-15 seconds earlier, I wouldn’t be here.”

A TRAIN NEAR MAGDEBURG
By Matthew A. Rozell

 

After the Germans had roared into town on their motorcycles they surrounded the bathhouse and the butcher shop. The men from the former were herded into the latter; Jews passing by, or heading toward the bathhouse, easily recognizable by their beards, earlocks, and clothing, were also caught and driven into the butcher shop. Except for women and children, who were sent home, no one was allowed to escape. The Germans then either shot the people dead, setting fire to the buildings afterward, or set fire to the buildings then and there and burned the people alive… Nearly fifty years after the event, one historian wrote: “At Mielec, on September 13, thirty-five Jews were arrested in the communal baths, taken to the slaughterhouse, and then burned alive. Another twenty were burned alive in the synagogue.”

THE CHOICE
By Irene Eber

 

Photographed are Frieda and Arthur Lewenstein with their daughters Libin (left) and Bella (right), and Frieda’s parents Bernard and Scheine (‘Jenny’) Brenner. The family did not survive the Holocaust. The German invaders immediately went to work eliminating the small population of Jews in Latvia. They soon claimed Latvia was Judenfrei – free of Jews. 

 

“Succumbing to pressure following the deportation of Danish Jews to Theresienstadt, the Germans permitted the International Red Cross to visit in June, 1944. It was all an elaborate hoax. The Germans intensified deportations from the ghetto shortly before the visit, and the ghetto itself was ‘beautified.’ Gardens were planted, houses were painted, and barracks renovated. The Nazis staged social and cultural events for the visiting dignitaries. A propaganda film was even made for show back home – ‘The Fuhrer Gives the Jews a City.’ And this is the real Holocaust hoax. Once the visit was over, the deportations resumed with a vengeance. Fifteen thousand children passed through Theresienstadt and ninety percent were murdered; many of the children were deported to Auschwitz soon after they smiled for Nazi cinematographers.”

A TRAIN NEAR MAGDEBURG
By Matthew A. Rozell

 

The killing of innocent victims in the gas chamber was not the only means of mass murder in the crematorium of Auschwitz. In the gas chamber of the crematorium – we used to call it the mortuary – they practiced another kind of execution, one that we often witnessed on the black wall of Block 11. If a transport of less than 200 people arrived for liquidation then, as a rule, they were killed not by gassing but by a bullet through the base of the skull. In that event Mietek and his two helpers led one doomed person after another to the paneled wall of the mortuary where they held them with a grip of steel. As one the production line of a slaughter-house, members of the SS, such as Palitzsch, Stark, Dylewski and Quackernack, put them to death with a shot through the base of the skull from their silenced small-bore rifles. If it was Jews who were done away with in this manner, Mietek did not care. Calm and composed he led them to their execution. But tears were in his eyes if it was a batch of ‘Aryan’ Poles he had to escort on their last journey. After such an execution he would behave like a madman. Trembling with rage and agitation he’d yell at us: ‘You fucking Yid bastards, it’s all your fault that my countrymen are being killed!’ and then he’d fling himself on the nearest Jewish prisoner and beat him to death.

EYEWITNESS AUSCHWITZ
By Filip Muller

 

On one occasion [at Auschwitz], we operated on a patient with a severe case that had spread above one knee, meaning the leg had to be amputated. I was instructed to hold the leg while the doctor sawed through the femur to sever it. After the amputation, I found myself holding the diseased leg and wondering what to do with it. Although I had seen countless operations by that point, I had never before been in this situation, and I was quite upset. I placed the leg on the floor of the operating room and watched as the doctors closed the wound on the patient’s thigh. A tube was inserted for drainage, and he was removed to the upstairs ward. I got busy cleaning up the room and the instruments, but I avoided attending to the leg on the floor. At last, Dr. Orzeszko told me to take it to the experimental barracks next to the surgery. I had never been to barrack 22 before, but I’d heard terrible experiments were performed there. I did not want to hear about these experiments and certainly did not want to see them. But I had a job to do. I wrapped the leg in a sheet, put it over my shoulder, and set off for barrack 22. The building emitted a strong smell of formaldehyde. I reported my presence to the SS officer in charge and asked him where to deposit the leg. He led me to a room that had formaldehyde-filled tubes crammed with human body parts of all kinds. When he told me to throw the leg in one, I gingerly lowered it in without the sheet. My whole body shivered from the sights and odors of this barracks, and I couldn’t wait to get away. On my way out, I saw a group of naked young boys huddled together in a room. These boys had been castrated, and I saw surgical thread hanging from their penises; they appeared to be in a state of shock and confusion. Couldn’t see in their eyes or demeanor even the tiniest spark of life. I returned hastily to the barracks and continued my work, thankful that I was still whole but unable to forget the look in those boys’ eyes.

BY CHANCE ALONE
By Max Eisen

 

Twice a week the sick women from the weaving mill [Auschwitz] were taken to Camp E. Those who could no longer walk were brought in trucks or wheelbarrows, the rest crawled and held one another up. I could not help but think of the lame leading the blind. Because of a stupid rule, the sick, no matter how seriously ill, had to go under the showers before being hospitalized. Often they fainted. Sometimes we dared to ignore the inhuman rule and took the suffering women directly to the hospital. Since it was always filled, conditions in the hospital were almost intolerable. Malnutrition and epidemics brought as much as 30 percent of the total number of internees to us. Two or three, frequently four, patients had to share one berth. Pressed against each other, they felt the sufferings of their neighbors as well as their own. Instead of being cured, a patient might contract a new disease in the hospital. Because of the close quarters it was impossible to fight contagion.

FIVE CHIMNEYS
By Olga Lengyel

 

The crematorium ovens [Auschwitz] were also used for the dead of other camp areas. Each evening the corpses of those who had died in the camp hospital arrived on a trolley. These were mainly Mussulmans. That was the name given to the prisoners who had spiritually and, above all, physically, completely deteriorated. They had become nothing but skin and bones. Often their bones had rubbed through their thin parchment-like skin, resulting in inflamed and festering wounds. They had either died of exhaustion or they had been killed by a phenol injection. Sometimes there were also victims of pseudo-medical experiments.

EYEWITNESS AUSCHWITZ
By Filip Muller

 

Father sat hunched over next to Mother. They did not speak. He shifted uncomfortably, his poster one of dejection and hopelessness. For the first time since the deportation from Mielec he seemed to have come to the end of his resources. I felt, without his saying so, that he no longer knew what to do, what plans to make, how to save his family from destruction. For nine months he had taught us how to survive and how to remain alive. He never once gave up, even if with each deportation, with each journey, our chances of survival decreased. He always supported, helped, tried to make us believe that somehow we would make it, defy death one more time. Now, seeing no way out, he had become hopeless and helpless. At last he had to confront the breakup of the family… I realized then that Father had to leave Mother if he was to save himself. Sister and I would have to leave as well. But Father was still not prepared to face the end of the family. Only many years later, when I had children of my own, would I try to understand Father’s terrible struggle between his love for us and his fear for our lives, his desire to protect us and his stubborn denial that he was unable to do so. He understood and yet did not that he no longer played a part in our ultimate fate. Father was losing the essence that gave meaning to his existence. He could not accept losing us.

THE CHOICE
By Irene Eber

 

In February, 1943, two or three trains arrived at Birkenau every day. Each was thirty to fifty cars long. These transports included a large portion of Jews, but also numbers of other enemies of the Nazi regime – political prisoners of all nationalities, ordinary criminals, and a considerable number of Russian prisoners of war. However, the supreme specialty of Auschwitz-Birkenau was the extermination of the Jews of Europe, the undesirable element par excellence, according to Nazi doctrine. Hundreds of thousands of them were burned in the crematory ovens. Sometimes the ovens were so overtaxed that they could not do all the work even on the twenty-four-hour-a-day shift. The Germans then had to burn the corpses in the “death pits.” These were trenches about six yards long and about four yards wide. They were provided with a cunning system of ditches to drain off the human fat.

FIVE CHIMNEYS
By Olga Lengyel

 

Toska Spyrina, her parents, and her elder sister were refugees from Krakow. Her father had been a journalist there. In Mielec he was seldom at home. Her mother was very beautiful. She had black, almond-shaped eyes, an olive complexion, and shiny black hair. Toska had her father’s blue eyes and brown curly hair. She and her family were killed in Belzec. I had a friend. Her name was Toska. She was killed in Belzec. Our friendship was brief, lasting barely two years, yet I have never ceased mourning for Toska. I last saw her perhaps a day or two before we were deported from Mielec, and then she and her family vanished, together with the many thousands.

THE CHOICE
By Irene Eber

 

“We were made to understand [Bergen-Belsen] that we had to drag these dead bodies a certain route to what we were to find to be large burial pits. The procedure was to take some strands of blanket from a heap where the effects and clothing of the dead had been put, tie these strips of blanket or clothing to the ankles and wrists of the corpses and then proceed to walk to the pits. We started work at sunrise and were up quite a long time before that. We got no food before we started and worked till about 8 o’clock in the evening. In those five days or so I spent on this burial work neither a spot of food nor a drop of water passed my lips… I cannot very well explain my feelings when I first saw one of those pits which already contained many dead and had to throw my particular corpse on top of those others already there.”

A TRAIN NEAR MAGDEBURG
By Matthew A. Rozell

 

I think it was November or December, 1941, I went with my mother to visit her family and when we came back in the evening, we were going up the stairs up to our apartment, when we saw two men in civilian clothes. We knew that they were Gestapo. They were dragging my father down the stairs, and my mother started to scream, ‘where are you taking him?’ they didn’t answer, they dragged him, and she ran after them. She held onto this Gestapo man and said ‘let him go, where are you taking him?’ I was on the stairs and I’ll never forget it. He kicked my mother and threw her into the other corner of the wall, and she fell down. They dragged my father away and we never saw him again. Our life wasn’t the same. We were crying; my mother [wanted] to do something; nothing could be done. Of course we were depressed… One day we got a telegram cable. It was from Auschwitz, to let her know that he died in Auschwitz.”

A TRAIN NEAR MAGDEBURG
By Matthew A. Rozell

 

A German official supervises a deportation action in the Krakow ghetto. Jews assembled in a courtyard with their bundles, await further instructions.

 

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