“They [the Jews] were led up to this mound of dirt [Pinsk, Belarus], and there were those guys standing there with the sub-machine guns at the top. And then they were shot down and they simply fell right in. One row of them were crying, especially the children being held in their arms. The little children being held in their arm, they were crying. And then something happened. One of those guys went over to them and snatched a child from [its mother’s] arms and threw it against a wall. Such [awful] things were happening there that one should simply not be allowed to think about them anymore. There were some who were crying, perhaps a hundred, but not very loudly. They were simply resigned to their fate, especially since they had been forced to go up there stark naked and they knew that now it was the end.”
WHAT WE KNEW
By Eric A Johnson and Karl-Heinz Reuband
Marie-Claud Vaillant-Couturier had been sent to Auschwitz in 1942. She described a roll call on 5 February 1943:
“In the morning at 3.30 the whole camp was awakened and sent out on the plain, whereas normally the roll call was at 3.30 but inside the camp. We remained out in front of the camp until five in the afternoon, in the snow, without any food. Then when the signal was given we had to go through the door one by one, and we were struck in the back with a cudgel, each one of us, in order to make us run. Those who could not run, either because they were too old or too ill, were caught by a hook and taken to Block 25, ‘waiting block’ for the gas chamber. On that day, ten of the French women of our convoy were thus caught and taken to Block 25.
“When all the internees were back in the camp, a party to which I belonged was organized to go and pick up the bodies of the dead which were scattered over the plain as on a battlefield. We carried to the yard of Block 25 the dead and the dying without distinction, and they remained there stacked up in a pile…from time to time a hand or a head would stir among the bodies, trying to free itself… It was a dying woman attempting to get free and live. The rate of mortality in that block was even more terrible than elsewhere because, having been condemned to death, they received food or drink only if there was something left in the cans in the kitchen; which means that very often they went for several days without a drop of water.”
THE NUREMBERG TRIALS: THE NAZIS BROUGHT TO JUSTICE
By Alexander MacDonald
Einsatzgruppe members execute Jews in Lithuania, 1942.
“You have to remember I would be passing shops that said ‘Jews, Don’t buy here.’ It was all around. I think I was frightened with all these endless brown shirts and black shirts everywhere. All around the town were these little advertising towers on the streets on which they would show terrible pictures of Jews. I thought what a disgusting, horrible time, but we’ll get through this and in a year or two these horrible people will be gone. It then began to be one’s main consciousness that one was Jewish and the sense of danger gradually increased.”
THE GESTAPO: THE MYTH AND REALITY OF HITLER’S SECRET POLICE
By Frank McDonough
“At further gassings of the Jewish people in May 1942, Stark often took some Jewish women to one side before the gassing. When the other Jewish people were in the gas-chambers he lined the women against the wall of the yard of the small crematorium. Then he would shoot one or two women in the chest and feet. When the other women were trembling, falling on their knees and begging the accused Stark to let them live, he would shout at them, ‘Sarah, Sarah, come on, stand still!’ Then he would shoot them all, one after the other.”
“THE GOOD OLD DAYS”
By Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen, and Volker Riess
Vera Alexander, a Kapo who looked after twins selected by Mengele, recalls how they often returned to the block screaming with pain after his attentions.
THE HOLOCAUST: A NEW HISTORY
By Laurence Rees
“Once I was standing outside of our barracks with a woman named Frana. She lived in the same section of the barracks as I did. I never did know her last name. Most of us did not know each other’s last names. I do remember that she was from Lodz. We knew that she had not passed the last selection. She knew that in the morning they would come for her. I asked her if there was anything she wanted. She said, ‘Mala, if you have some extra food I would like to have it. I would like to not feel hungry when they come for me in the morning.’ I had some bread and some margarine. I gave it to her, and she ate it. Eating calmed her down, and in the morning she went without a fuss.”
THE BLEEDING SKY: MY MOTHER’S JOURNEY THROUGH THE FIRE
By Louis Brandsdorfer
In the lingo of the camp this procedure was called Spritzen (injecting). A letter smuggled out to Cracow in November 1942 by the Polish resistance organization in the HKB states that “thirty to forty people, among them four to six Poles, are killed every day by means of injections in to the heart with a ten-cubic-centimeter syringe containing 30 percent phenol.” Most of the victims were Jewish, and according to the letter they were already earmarked for such a death when they were just slightly ill.
PEOPLE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Hermann Langbein
During one roundup in the Kaunas ghetto, an officer named Wilhelm Goecke ordered the Jews to relinquish all children, announcing that severe punishment awaited those who evaded the order. A couple named Zeller was publicly executed for failing to hand over their child to the butchers. The unfortunate parents were beaten, forced to sit on a red hot stove, and had needles shoved under their fingernails. When they lost consciousness, they were carried to the gallows. Holding their victims in the nooses in a way that was calculated not to kill them, the Germans took them down and put off completing the execution until the next day. Then they lashed the father to a stake and lit a fire beneath his feet. They stripped the mother naked and continued to torture her.
THE UNKNOWN BLACK BOOK
By Joshua Rubenstein and Ilya Altman
For us women, our fate was much worse than one could imagine. There was a rule that had been laid out by the Nazis, especially when it came to Jewish women. No one was supposed to marry us or have any children with us. There was no room for any babies that carried mixed blood in what was to become the new Germany. This however, did not stop us from being ‘broken in’ by the soldiers that were in in the camp. The very first day, even before we were taken to the quarters that we were to stay in, Elka and I and most of the other young girls in my group were separated from the rest of the women. We were led into a room, and suddenly, the room filled with soldiers. We were terrified and tried to huddle together, knowing that letting out a scream would result in our death. The men grabbed one of the girls that was next to us. She struggled which we found out to be her biggest mistake. They took off her striped clothes so that she was in front of us all, completely naked. Then I watched slowly as they took off their own trousers, four of them in total, and proceeded to rape her. Her screams rang out and then the next four soldiers came when the others were spent. They did the same thing, took off their trousers but this time, they sodomized her. She screamed until all that was coming out of her mouth was a rasping and gasping sound. When they were done, they let in what appeared to be a mad dog which mauled her until there was no sound coming from her. After this, they urinated on her and kicked her to the side. We were all completely dumbfounded and stood and watched.
The soldiers said that if we looked away [from a rape], we would be punished. When they were done with her, they told us that this was a warning. Unless we agreed to intercourse, we would suffer the same fate. Resistance was not permitted, and screaming meant death. We all had to take off our clothes and lie down, as the soldiers used our bodies as objects for their own satisfaction. By the time I had left the room, I had been used by three soldiers, all with different levels of brutality. As a virgin, I had never experienced anything like this before and words could not describe the pain that I was in.
HOLOCAUST: A JEWISH SURVIVOR TESTIMONY
As Told by Regina Weinkrantz
Edited by Dan Myers
Captain Hera and his men burst in to look over our things…Hera commented to one of the soldiers, “Clean, very clean.” The men carted boxes of my father’s books down from the attic and spilled them over the kitchen floor. Hera’s anger at seeing volumes of German poets and a set of Nietzsche in a Jew’s library drove him to a fit of frenzy. He trampled the pages underfoot, ripped covers apart and ordered the books destroyed. My mother faded backwards toward the wall but my father, tears running down his face, stepped toward to retrieve a book. Hera battered him repeatedly with one heavy, torn volume, the jagged edge cutting into my father’s cheeks and forehead. “Jew-pig,” he said, “now it’s losing your books that makes you cry, soon it will be your children.”
LOVE IN A WORLD OF SORROW
By Fanya Gottesfeld Heller
By the summer of 1941 the conditions in the [Warsaw] ghetto – the overcrowding, the general privation and poor sanitary standards – led to a serious outbreak of typhus that went on unabated until the spring of 1942. According to official statistics, in the winter of 1941-2 200 people died daily. Typhus is spread by lice and the incubation period is 9 to 14 days. The onset of the disease is marked by a high temperature, accompanied by severe headaches and prostration, a feeling of utter physical exhaustion. After three days a rash appears, the patient descends into a stupor and keeps slipping into a coma. Most patients die. Like the lice which carry it, typhus respects no social barriers. We all dreaded the disease.
SAVED BY MY FACE
By Jerzy Lando
Blood reportedly oozed from the soil of mass graves of Jews all over Ukraine.
Every September, at the beginning of the school year, the brass band of the renowned Jewish High School of Bedzin, the Furstenberg Grammar School, would march at the head of a procession of the students and teachers to the Great Synagogue, situated on the hillside below the ancient and dominating castle of Bedzin. There, in a ceremony directed by the Rabbi, the school would receive its blessing for the coming year. But not so in September 1939. Following the German invasion of Poland and the rapid conquest of this border region, the school was closed down. Within days, the Great Synagogue was set on fire, and, locked inside it and the surrounding houses, several hundred Jews were burnt alive, or shot dead as they jumped out of windows and sought to flee their burning homes. Local Polish people could hear the screams as Jews plunged into the water of the nearby river, in a vain effort to put out the flames, but were shot at if their heads popped up to get some air. Others were luckier, and found sanctuary in the nearby Catholic church. For days, the river ran red with blood; and people had to step over dead bodies in the streets between the ruins of the burnt-out houses.
A SMALL TOWN NEAR AUSCHWITZ
By Mary Fulbrook
The marching column comes to a sudden halt. An officer in a gray SS uniform [Mengele] stands facing the lines. Dogs strain on leashes held by SS men flanking him on both sides. He stops each line and regroups them, sending some to his right and some to his left. Then he orders each group to march on. Fast. I tremble as I stand before him. He looks at me with friendly eyes. “Goldene Haar!” he exclaims and takes one of my long braids into his hand. I am not certain I heard right. Did he say “golden hair” about my braids? “Bist du Judin?” Are you Jewish? The question startles me. “Yes, I am Jewish.” “Wie alt bist du?” How old are you? “I am thirteen.” “You’re tall for your age. Is this your mother?” He touches Mommy lightly on the shoulder. “You should go with your mother.” With his riding stick he parts Aunt Serena from Mommy’s embrace and gently shoves Mommy and me to the group moving to the right. “Go. And remember, from now on you’re sixteen.” Aunt Serena’s eyes fill with terror. She runs to Mommy and grabs her arm. “Don’t leave me, Laura. Don’t leave me!” Mother hugs her fragile older sister and turns to the SS officer, her voice in a shrieking plea, “This is my sister, Herr Offiizier, let me go with her! She is not feeling well. She needs me.” “You go with your daughter. She needs you more. March on! Los!” With an impatient move of his right hand he shoves Mother toward me. Then he glares angrily at Aunt Serena. “Move on! Los! You go that way!” His stick points menacingly to the left. Aunt Serena, a forlorn, slight figure against the marching multitude, the huge German shepherd dogs, the husky SS men. A savage certainty slashes my bruised insides. I give an insane shriek, “Aunt Serena! Aunt Serena! I will never see you again!” Wild fear floods her hazel eyes. She stretch out her arms to reach me. An SS soldier gives her a brutal thrust, hurling her into the line marching to the left. She turns again, mute dread lending her added fragility. She moves on. I never saw Aunt Serena again.
I HAVE LIVED A THOUSAND YEARS
By Livia Bitton-Jackson
One night, around midnight [Langenbilau Camp], we heard screaming. “Everybody out!” we were instructed. We were lined up. They brought us to a place between the fence and the guards’ barracks where a dog had just defecated. We were sadistically ordered to lick the dog’s feces with our tongues until it was all cleaned up. This kind of mockery went on very often. It was done simply to humiliate us.
MEMOIRS OF A HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR: ICEK KUPERBERG
By Icek Kuperberg
I got into line [at Auschwitz] next to Ernst, Max, and Emil Stern – my father’s cousins – and Max Rosenstein from Warburg. Rosenstein was holding a one-year-old child in his arms. We saw nothing unusual about this – until all of a sudden the SS men discovered the child and one of them rushed in our direction yelling at Rosenstein – hadn’t he heard that children were to stay with their mothers? Rosenstein started to excuse himself. “My wife already has to take care of four little children and I just wanted to give her some relief. I…” The SS man didn’t listen to what Rosenstein had to say. He simply went up to him, snatched the child out of his arms, and walked off. Petrified, we saw him smash the child’s head against the nearest pole. Rosenstein let out a scream and was about to rush over to his dead child, but we restrained him – the child was now beyond help…
THE UNWELCOME ONE
By Hans Frankenthal
One night in September 1943, I overheard a story about another Jewish family. A couple with a child were caught hiding in an underground grotto in a forest. A Ukrainian family who had previously hidden them reported them to the Ukrainian police in Suchowola. The Jews had run out of ransom money and fled to a hiding place in the woods. Their “friends” promised to supply them with food, but instead betrayed them, never letting on that they had once hidden them. The villagers of Suchowola were called out to witness the Jews’ execution. “Now watch this,” one of the Ukrainian policemen said. “Any Jews, or anyone hiding a Jew, will meet with similar fate.” First they undressed the woman and asked if anyone wanted her. Mrs. Symchuck said she was very pretty. Since no one would lower himself to have sex in public with a Jew, not one person stepped forward. Her eight-year-old daughter stood by her mother’s side. “The child screamed hysterically,” Mrs. Symchuck said. “Most of the people laughed. The police shot the husband first, then the wife, and in the end, the poor child.”
I’M NO HERO
By Henry Friedman
“Fifty!” the voice says, much louder and much clearer this time. “Fifty more!” [for the train from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz]. Mother’s hand goes up to her mouth. Suddenly all kinds of horrible noises from down the hall begin pouring into our room. Voices, screaming, and dogs barking viciously. I hurry back to Mother and grab her arm, waiting for the dogs to stop. The boy starts in with his crying again. Mother puts her arm around me and grabs Marietta’s hand with her other hand. She squeezes me much too tightly.
“All of you!” the voice screams, with the dogs barking a split second after he finishes screaming. “No!” a woman shouts, completely terrified. “No, no, no! Please!” Again and again she shouts this, though after a while it’s more a cry than a bunch of words. I break free of Mother’s grip and run back to the door. “Misha!” she shouts at me in a kind of whisper. But I can’t help it. I grab hold of the doorknob and press my ear against the door. “You!” the same voice orders. “Now!” Then more vicious barking and crying and begging. And walking. People from that first room must be walking down the stairs. Someone keeps screaming and begging. “No, no, no,” over and over and over, the dogs answer with their terrifying barks…
Then another door opens. “Twenty-one! Get up! Move!” And now I want to get away from the door, but something won’t let me, even though I can feel my body shaking. “Not him, not him!” a woman shouts begging. A dog’s bark explodes and someone shrieks, bitten probably. The hall fills with children crying and a woman screaming. Their voices are so powerful and so terrified, I feel like I’m hearing them through my skin, like they’re cutting straight through me. A man yells, “Let go of him now!” and then loud footsteps and a deep, hard thud, like a body hitting the wall between our rooms. For a second the screaming stops, only to start up again even louder. Layers and layers of screaming, all of it making my entire body tremble. “Over there, all of you!” a man shouts above the screaming and the barks of the dogs
cutting through the air.
All of you. Does that mean he’s taking everyone from that room? And if it does, then our room is next, because he’s definitely just down the hall. He’s definitely in the room right by ours. And so if he needs any more, our room is next! He’ll click down the hall and swing our door open, the dogs growling and snapping at us. He’ll say “thirteen” and that will mean all of us. And we’ll beg like those other people begged, but it won’t matter, because they don’t care about begging, they don’t care about anything, because if they’re fine stuffing one hundred people into a boxcar with no seats and no windows, why would they care at all about people begging?
SOMEWHERE THERE IS STILL A SUN
By Michael Gruenbaum
I am tired of being vigilant. I am tired of watching the sun rise on despair [at Auschwitz]. The girl-women around me mirror my thoughts; my face must looked as doomed as theirs. The filth, the smell, the sounds of guard dogs barking in the distance – it is too much. The whole night I crouch on the floor, exhausted yet alert. There has been no water for days, no food, not a drop of anything. I don’t fall asleep, but quite a few do. Dropping off into unconsciousness, they collapse on the floor, no longer able to feel the gnawing bites of these terrible bugs.
By Rena Korneich Gelissen with Heather Dune Macadam
Over the course of time, stories about German atrocities in the East filtered back from German troops. Knowledge about the terrible fate that awaited Jewish deportees became increasingly diffused among both Jews and non-Jews. So too, with the passage of time, did the Nazis’ approach to the deportation of Berlin Jews become more and more openly brutal.
REFUGE IN HELL
By Daniel B. Silver
Sometimes, after a transport had already been gassed, some late-arriving cars drove around filled with the sick. It was wasteful to gas them. They were undressed and Oberscharführer Moll either shot them with his rifle or pushed them live into a flaming trench. Once, a car brought a young woman who had refused to part from her mother. Both were forced to undress, the mother led the way. The man who was to guide the daughter stopped, struck by the perfect beauty of her body, and in his awe and admiration he scratched his head. The woman, noticing this coarse, human gesture, relaxed. Blushing, she clutched the man’s arm. “Tell me, what will they do to me?” “Be brave,” said the man not withdrawing his arm. “I am brave! Can’t you see, I’m not even ashamed of you! Tell me!” “Remember, be brave, come. I shall lead you just don’t look.” He took her by the hand and led her on, his other hand covering her eyes. The sizzling and the stench of the burning fat and the heat gushing out of the pit terrified her. She jerked back. But he gently bent her head forward, uncovering her back. At that moment the Oberscharführer fired, almost without aiming. The man pushed the woman into the flaming pit, and as she fell he heard her terrible, broken scream.
WE WERE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Siedlecki, Olszewski, Borowski
“On one of the barges, the SS guards called for volunteers to shove people into the sea. According to one eyewitness, a few Ukrainians stepped forward. ‘They picked out some people from among us,’ she recalled, ‘whom they threw overboard. Those selected were undressed, dragged up a steep iron ladder, and thrown through the hatch into the sea. This was their method of relieving congestion.’…The prisoners on the other barge were simply dumped ashore. Most were shot. According to some sources, the killing was carried out by marines from the Neustadt U-boat school. ‘The beaches for a good few hundred yards were covered with bodies.’… ‘The children had been clubbed to death and judging by the shape of their wounds, rifle butts had been used.’”
By David Stafford
“Dietrich did not confine himself to old-fashioned cudgeling, however brutal and fatal they might have been. Fischer, with another German, one day followed the trail of ghastly screams, to discover Dietrich ‘once again in one of his tantrums,’ and to witness a scene of this ‘work’ leader’s making that is hard to fathom could occur in an institution devoted to economic productivity: ‘There I saw that Dietrich beat the Jew so long until he lay unconscious on the ground. Then Dietrich ordered other Jews fully to undress the unconscious Jew and to pour water on him. When the Jew regained consciousness, Dietrich grabbed the hands of the Jew, who had defecated all over himself, dunked them in the excrement and forced him the eat the excrement. I walked away, as the spectacle sickened me.’ Fischer found out that evening that this Jewish worker, nourished on his own excrement, was dead.”
HITLER’S WILLING EXECUTIONERS
By Daniel Jonah Goldhagen
Preperation for mass murder in Sdolbunov G. (Ukraine). All were shot on
14 October 1942.
“Many Jews, terrified by the open attack and acutely aware of their vulnerability, became desperate to leave Germany. So-called Aryans benefited from that desperation as they scooped up Jewish property at bargain-basement prices.”
THE HOLOCAUST: A CONCISE HISTORY
By Doris L. Bergen
“The number of deaths from starvation and disease between the closing of the [Warsaw] ghetto in November 1940 and the beginning of the deportations in July 1942 may have been as high as one hundred thousand.”
NAZI GERMANY AND THE JEWS 1933-1945
By Saul Friedlander
“The men had packed newborn Jewish babies into gunnysacks, like unwanted kittens, and threw the sacks out the second-floor window.”
MASTERS OF DEATH
By Richard Rhodes