On one of my wanderings through the fort I lost my way as I was not sure where the entrances were. On this occasion a Jewish woman of about thirty ran across my path. She had been shot through both cheeks and the wounds had swollen up considerably. Seeing the red cross on my armband she begged me for a bandage, which I wanted to give her. I was just busy getting the pack of dressings I’d brought with me out of my jacket when an SS or SD guard with a rifle came up to me and told me to make myself scarce, saying that the Jewess had no further need of a pack of dressings. The Jewish woman was then pushed back by the uniformed German.
“THE GOOD OLD DAYS”
By Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen, and Volker Riess
One day some Gestapo agents came to our neighbor, the hairdresser Mr. Neumann. They claimed that they had smelled burnt fur and therefor proceeded to shoot Mrs. Neumann and her daughter. [In the severe winter of 1941-42 the German requisitioned furs for their troops.]
THE DEAD YEARS
By Joseph Schupack
It was one thing to talk about extending the killing in the abstract, quite another for SS men to stand up close and pull the trigger, a few feet away from naked Jewish women and children. Nonetheless, in the summer and autumn of 1941 thousands of SS men became murderers for the first time as they killed in just such an intimate manner. The 1st SS Infantry Brigade, for example, murdered Jews in Ostrog in the west of Ukraine at the start of August 1941. Ostrog was a predominantly Jewish city, with a population of 10,000 Jews, now swelled by several thousand more who had sought refuge in the city from the surrounding area. On 4 August the SS forced Jews out of Ostrog into the countryside. “They treated us as cattle,” says Vasyl Valdeman, then a twelve-year-old Jewish boy. “They [the SS] were armed and had dogs with them. They made strong [Jews] carry the ill people, and those who had beards were beaten, because they thought they were rabbis, and we saw much blood on their faces. They [the Jews] were crying out, I remember their words, ‘They are beating us, beating us as dogs.’”
When the Jews reached a large sandy field the SS ordered them to sit down. The SS had told the Jews that they were needed to dig fortifications, but it soon became clear that they were to be murdered. “We were looking at our parents,” says Vasyl, “and when we saw our grandmother and mother crying we realized that this was something horrible.” The Jews waited hours in the scorching heat until, one group at a time, they were ordered to undress and all their valuables were stolen. Next they were marched forward to an open pit and shot. But the SS didn’t possess the manpower to kill all the Jews in one day, so in the evening the remaining Jews were marched back to Ostrog. The next day, the killing began again and continued until the military commander of Ostrog said he needed the remaining Jews to act as forced labor. Almost the whole of Vasyl’s family were murdered by the Nazis – including his father, two brothers, two uncles, his grandmother and grandfather. Vasyl and his mother were hidden by non-Jewish neighbors and survived the war. “They even ran risks so that we could survive,” he says. “Nobody told the Germans that we were hiding.”
By Laurence Rees
“It is horrible to see the women in Birkenau. How they have changed! They are completely bald and barefoot; on their bodies they have nothing but a piece of jute tied together with string. These are not women anymore; they are sexless creatures.”
PEOPLE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Hermann Langbein
One night, three young Jewish men were laying the water line to the villa. The ground was frozen so solid that digging was impossible. In order to warm it up, the workers lit a fire. Suddenly the governor, SS officer von Traub, and some of his mates came out of the villa and started shooting, using the Jews as live targets. The three laborers were hit, and the governor ordered the guards to put the bodies on the fire.
SURVIVING THE HOLOCAUST WITH THE RUSSIAN JEWISH PARTISANS
By Jack Kagan and Dov Cohen
Another painful incident which I will always remember occurred one afternoon when we were pushing a heavy load of lumber toward the kitchen. Crossing our path was a guard escorting a young girl in her teens, holding on to what could have been her little brother. Judging from their ragged appearance, they must have been hiding someplace inside the ghetto and were found by the Germans. It didn’t take long before I heard gunshots coming from the area to which the two children had been led.
MY DARKEST YEARS
By James Bachner
“A German officer, followed by his aides, was walking alongside the Jews and with a thumb pointing to the left or right. Soldiers immediately shoved the people to the side directed by their superior. All the old people, those who looked ill, and small children were being sent to the left. There were desperate cries as families were separated. I saw one woman, sent to the right, bolting out of her line and joining her little girl on the left. An SS guard tried to push her away. ‘I don’t want to live any longer!’ the woman shouted, clinging to the sobbing child, its little arms clutching her mother’s neck. Magnanimously the SS officer waved the guard off.
‘Lassen sie da! (Leave her there!)’”
CHRONICLES OF THE HOLOCAUST
By Roselle K. Chartock and Jack Spencer
When I reached home, there was no need to tell my parents what I had seen. They had watched the soldiers from our window and were grief-stricken. Both were pale and trembled with fear, not knowing what to expect. The Nazi beasts had not finished with our small town. There was much more horror to inflict… A chilling scream caused me to jump out of my seat. We ran to the window and witnessed the most savage and cruel act I thought could ever be seen. I was nauseous as I watched young Polish girls with their legs tied apart, their bodies exposed in the most humiliating and degrading way. The soldiers were raping, mutilating and subjecting these women to unbelievable acts of sadistic torture.
OUTCRY: HOLOCAUST MEMOIRS
By Manny Steinberg
Naked women at Auschwitz being marched to the gas chambers. The poor quality of this picture is probably from an unsteady hand, since anyone caught taking photographs at Auschwitz would be immediately shot or gassed.
Several men are carrying a small girl with only one leg. They hold her by the arms and the one leg. Tears are running down her face and she whispers faintly: “Sir, it hurts, it hurts.” They throw her on the truck on top of the corpses. She will burn alive along with them.
WE WERE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Siedlecki, Olszewski, Borowski
Within days of the first births at Ravensbrück, Treite received orders to stop the offerings of extra milk and porridge from the kitchen, so from then on the feeding mothers received only the usual diet of watery cabbage soup and a slice of bread. Very quickly none had any milk to speak of in their breasts and the babies began to starve. The deliberate starving of babies was a long-established Nazi technique of killing. Baby starvation was first carried out during the Euthanasia killings in 1939, when physically or mentally handicapped babies were deliberately left to die…
Mothers had almost no milk, but still they came each day and queued outside in the corridor, sobbing as they waited to see their babies and try to feed them. “The pretty little face the mother had known at first was soon transformed into the face of an old person, the body covered in ulcers and sores. The mother was powerless to do anything.”…
Hanna Wasilczenko broke in one night to see her baby boy. “It was a dreadful sight. At first it was quite dark but when I managed to turn on a light I saw vermin of all sorts jumping on the beds and inside the noses and ears of the babies. Most of the babies were naked because their blankets had come off. They were crying of hunger and cold, and covered in sores.” In these conditions the babies lived for a few days or perhaps a month. Vitold Georg lived for sixteen days before dying of pneumonia. After thirty days, the first 100 babies were all dead.
By Sarah Helm
Bruno Blau describes how the radiologist who successfully treated him for cancer disappeared one day along with his assistant. They made it all the way to the Swiss border, where they prepared to sneak across into Switzerland with a group of Jews who were escaping Germany. After successfully getting across the border, the radiologist turned back to help another member of the group who had lagged behind. The result of this act of kindness was that both the radiologist and his assistant were arrested by the border police and taken back to Berlin. At police headquarters in Berlin both swallowed poison. The doctor died immediately; his assistant lingered for a while at the hospital before she died.
REFUGE IN HELL
By Daniel B. Silver
“‘We have about four hundred and fifty reports of death today.’ Frinke shouted. ‘You must finish the records by five o’clock in the morning. Any of you who misspells a name or makes a mistake in the numbers may prepare for Block 25.’ Block 25 faced our office and it contained those destined for the gas chamber. The women in it lay in rags, mud and excrement. Some of them grasped the iron gates of the windows, moaning and yelling. They knew that soon SS men, together with SS Arbeitsfuhrerin Dreschler and three or four of her assistants, would throw them onto a truck headed for the gas chamber and then the crematorium. Every night I would look out of the office. Punctually at half-past eight, a truck would arrive with the SS guard. Shortly after I would hear the cries of the victims, who beaten with guns and truncheons, were pulled by their hair and limbs and flung onto the truck. I would also hear the callous laughter of the SS who were usually given a supplementary ration of two or three liters of brandy to carry out this job. Through the square window of the office, one could see the beams of huge searchlights illuminating the entire camp, the electrical wires with their white poles and the guardhouse with the SS-sentinels. Truck after truck would leave with its cargo, until Block 25 was empty. In the morning, immediately after roll call and before the prisoner details left for work, the block would again be crammed with fuel for the chimneys, which operated day and night. There were five such chimneys in Auschwitz. They consumed their innocent victims, transforming them to ashes, which, in conformity with practical Nazi economy, were utilized as fertilizer.”
SOURCES OF THE HOLOCAUST
By Steve Hochstadt
The little children cried mostly because of the unusual setting in which they were being undressed. But after their mothers or the Sondercommando encouraged them, they calmed down and continued playing, teasing each other, clutching a toy as they went into the gas chamber. Once a woman with her four children, all holding each other by the hand to help the smallest ones over the rough ground, passed by me very slowly. She stepped very close to me and whispered, pointing to her four children. “How can you murder these beautiful, darling children? Don’t you have any heart?”
DEATH DEALER: THE MEMOIRS OF THE SS KOMMANDANT AT AUSCHWITZ
By Rudolph Höss
Edited By Steven Paskuly
The living conditions deteriorated day by day not only in many labor camps, but also in the ghettos. The Warsaw ghetto was formed in October 1940 according to 1939 plans. In May 1941, 500,000 people had to live there. No food was delivered to the ghetto after January 1941…Food had to be obtained by the ghetto. Thus, only 336 calories per person could be distributed.
JEWISH FORCED LABOR UNDER THE NAZIS
By Wolf Gruner
Translated by Kathleen M. Dell’Orto
Even with the end so near, the Nazis and the Arrow Cross continued to commit unspeakable acts of horror on what Jews they could find. If anything, they now became even more frantic in their Final Solution. Many thousands of Jews were shot against the banks of the Danube by Hungarian fascists that were sometimes only fourteen years old. Their bodies were pushed into the gray waters – but not before they had their gold teeth removed. Those who still lived in the two Ghettos were skating on very thin ice. Daily, their tormentors would come for them, killing and torturing at their whim.
CHILDREN OF SEPARATION AND LOSS
By Gertrude Pollitt
“Komarowka Drucker’s Second Platoon of Second Company had two Jewish kitchen workers known as Jutta and Harry. One day Drucker said they could not stay any longer and there was nothing left to do but shoot them. Some of the policemen took Jutta to the woods and engaged her in conversation before she was shot from behind. Shortly thereafter, Harry was shot in the back of the head with a pistol while he was picking berries. The policemen had clearly taken extra pains to shoot unawares victims who had prepared their food for over the past months and whom they knew by name. By 1942 standards of German-Jewish relations, a quick death without the agony of anticipation was considered an example of human compassion!”
By Christopher R. Browning
Newspapers, if an internee could get a hold of them, served a new purpose in Dachau; tucked under one’s clothes as insulation, they could provide extra warmth. But there was nothing Pauson could do about the woefully inadequate diet. Like so many Jewish men imprisoned during Kristallnacht, he returned home emaciated, a piercing shock to the family member who opened the door. “My mother,” Eva remembers, “was desperately trying to feed him but he couldn’t eat the food. He had to eat a real [special] diet to get his stomach system working again.”
By Charlotte R Bonnelli
The November 11 train, the last of 1942, was short, with 745 passengers. To help fill it, the SS raided the Rothschild nursing home and removed thirty-five elderly patients, six of them were over eighty and twenty of them were over seventy, according to Jacques Levy, a survivor of the November 11 transport. There were about seventy to a car with two buckets of water per car to be used as toilets when the buckets were empty. On the second day a man in Levy’s car, went mad and had to be bound and gagged. Levy had never before seen a complete moral and psychological disintegration of a human being.
AN UNCERTAIN HOUR
By Ted Morgan
A German soldier with three victims.
On June 22, 1941, the Germans invaded the Soviet Union with its five million Jews. Four million were concentrated within a few hundred miles of the June 22 border and in the White Russian and the Ukrainian republics, areas that the Nazis overran. Einsatzgruppen followed the troops, seized and killed the Jews, and disposed of their bodies. No more than 3,000 men killed at least 1,000,000 human beings in approximately two years. Those figures mean statistically that four Einsatzgruppen averaged about 1,350 murders per day during the two-year period: 1,350 human beings were slaughtered on the average day, seven days a week, for
more than a hundred weeks.
HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig
“Well-informed circles are saying that the number of Jews who have been driven to suicide now exceeds 6,800 [in Austria]. A furniture dealer in the 2nd district [in Vienna] killed himself along with his spouse, son, daughter-in-law, and 5-year-old grandchild. The next day the SA affixed a poster to his shuttered business reading, ‘We strongly urge others to follow his example.’”
JEWISH RESPONSES TO PERSECUTION
By Jurgen Matthaus and Mark Roseman
In January 1945, after the SS again took an inventory of the aged and ill prisoners, they sent them to Uckermark and ordered them to undress. That day the women stood naked in the icy snow of a Prussian winter for a roll call that lasted until evening. About fifty died the first day and the process was repeated daily. From the end of January there was constant movement between Uckermark and Ravensbrück. The cold and starvation did not kill quickly enough, so the SS brought in a nine-man shooting team. By April thousands of women from the overcrowded main camp had been killed at Uckermark, at the “sanitarium.”…At one point during the winter [at Uckermark] the SS nailed shut the windows of a block’s washroom, crammed in as many women as possible, and locked the doors. After a few days the SS decided it was time to bring the experiment to a close. They set up a motion-picture camera to film the emerging survivors. “These prisoners had torn away the chimney bricks to try to get air and ripped off all their clothing; several had died or were unconscious, others had evidently gone mad.”
HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig
“I have to tell you something you probably won’t believe, but I must tell it anyway. We were deployed to Poland to dig trenches for a fallback position. One of the trenches constructed was near a train tunnel. One day a locomotive drove toward it pulling open freight cars. People were crammed into these cars. Apparently – we were not far away – they were all Jews. The locomotive pushed these cars into the tunnel, and then uncoupled. Next time heavy diesel trucks drove up with SS men in them. The trucks were positioned at both ends of the tunnel. They let their motors run, with the exhaust directed into the tunnel. Everything else was sealed off so the gas could take full effect. They let their engines run until everyone in the tunnel was dead. It took over 24 hours. And the people in there, the Jews, must have died a horribly agonizing death. I actually saw this happen, and so did my men.”
VOICES FROM THE THIRD REICH
Steinhoff, Pechel and Showalter
“A squad [at Jozefow, Poland] would approach the group of Jews who had just arrived, from which each member would choose his victim – a man, a woman, or a child. The Jews and Germans would then walk in parallel single file so that each killer moved in step with his victim, until they reached a clearing for the killing where they would position themselves and await the firing order from their squad leader. The walk into the woods afforded each perpetrator an opportunity for reflection. Walking side by side with his victim, he was able to imbue the human form beside him with the projections of his mind. Some of the Germans of course, had children walking beside them. It is highly likely that, back in Germany, these men had previously walked through woods with their own children by their sides, marching gaily and inquisitively along. With what thoughts and emotions did each of these men march, gazing sidelong at the form of, say, an eight- or twelve-year-old girl, who to the unideologized mind would have looked like any other girl? In these moments, each killer had a personalized, face-to-face relationship to his victim, to his little girl. Did he see a little girl, and ask himself why he was about to kill this little, delicate human being who, if seen as a little girl by him, would normally have received his compassion, protection and nurturance? Or did they see a Jew, a young one, but a Jew nonetheless? Did he wonder incredulously what could possibly justify his blowing a vulnerable little girl’s brains out? Or did he understand the reasonableness of the order, the necessity of nipping the believed-in Jewish blight in the bud? The ‘Jew-child,’ after all, was mother to the Jew. The killing itself was a gruesome affair. After the walk through the woods, each of the Germans had to raise his gun to the back of the head, face down on the ground, that had bobbed along beside him, pull the trigger and watch the person, sometimes a little girl, twitch and them move no more. The Germans had to remain hardened to the crying of the victims, to the crying of women, to the whimpering of children. At such close range, the Germans often became spattered with human gore. In the words of one man, ‘the supplementary shot struck the skull with such force that the entire back of the skull was torn off and blood, bone splinters, and brain matter soiled the marksmen.’ Sergeant Anton Bentheim indicates that this was not an isolated episode, but rather the general condition: ‘The executioners were gruesomely soiled with blood, brain matter, and bone splinters. It stuck to their clothes.’ Although this is obviously viscerally unsettling, capable of disturbing even the most hardened of executioners, these German initiates returned to fetch new victims, new little girls, and to begin the journey back into the woods. They sought unstained locations in the woods for each new batch of Jews.”
HITLER’S WILLING EXECUTIONERS
By Daniel Jonah Goldhagen
“Massacring Jews [at Dynow, Poland] may have been considered by the Wehrmacht as demanding disciplinary action, but torturing them was welcome enjoyment for both the soldiers and SS personnel. The choice victims were Orthodox Jews, given their distinctive looks and attire. They were shot at; they were compelled to smear feces on one another; they had to jump, crawl, sing, clean excrement with prayer shawls, and dance around bonfires of burning Torah scrolls. They were whipped, forced to eat pork, or had Jewish stars carved on their foreheads. The ‘beard game’ was the most popular entertainment of all: Beards and sidelocks were shorn, plucked, torn, set afire, hacked off with or without parts of skin, cheeks or jaws, to the amusement of a usually large audience of cheering soldiers.”
NAZI GERMANY AND THE JEWS 1933-1945
By Saul Friedlander
During the first year of Nazi rule, more than three hundred new laws and regulations were passed restricting Jewish life in Germany. Jews were fired from government posts. Jewish academics were ousted from their jobs. Jewish lawyers and judges were barred from the courts. Jewish physicians were excluded from the health care system. Businesses were ordered to fire any Jews on their boards. The Berlin Stock Exchange dismissed Jewish brokers; a number reacted by committing suicide.
THE DEVIL’S DIARY
By Robert K. Wittman & David Kinney
“They had dug it all out and there were all these corpses [at Pinsk, Belarus]. Then they [the Jews] had to undress. Mothers were still carrying their children, usually in one arm. And then they would have to go up there, and they shot them. I saw everything, everything. Afterward I went into the buildings [where the Jews had been kept], and it was horrifying. There were still people who were standing down there in the toilets, in sewer trenches where the feces were. They were hiding, and they had only stuck their heads and peered out and they thought they had gotten away. But then the Poles came along and stole everything they could. This was not like the Germans would do. And then they said, ‘There’s another one in there. There’s another one down there.’ And then they shot them all. It was horrifying. What an experience that was! I just thought to myself, ‘Something like this just can’t happen.’”
WHAT WE KNEW
By Eric A Johnson and Karl-Heinz Reuband
Samuel Rajzman, an inmate of the Warsaw ghetto sent to Treblinka, testified that the German guards called the death camp the “Road to Heaven.” He said that an average of three transports totaling 60 car-loads each day arrived at Treblinka. “Immediately after their arrival, the people had to leave the trains in five minutes and line up on the platform,” he said. “All those who were driven from the cars were divided into groups, men, children and women, all separate. They were all forced to strip immediately, and this procedure continued under the lashes of the German guards’ whips. Workers who were employed in this operation immediately picked up all the clothes and carried them away to barracks. Then the people were obliged to walk naked through the street to the gas chambers.” It was called Himmelfahrtstrasse – literally, the “street to heaven.” The whole process, for men, took eight to ten minutes. For women, it took 15 minutes, because their hair had to be cut off to stuff mattresses. Rajzman had been spared because of his language skills.
THE NUREMBERG TRIALS: THE NAZIS BROUGHT TO JUSTICE
By Alexander MacDonald
By going up very close to the pit [at Zhitomir, Ukraine] I saw something that to this day I can never forget. Among the bodies in the pit lay an old man with a white beard, who still had a small walking stick hanging over his left arm. It was clear that the old man was still alive as he was panting for breath and so I asked one of the policemen to kill him once and for all, to which he replied in a jocular fashion, “I’ve already shot him seven times in the belly, don’t worry, he’ll snuff it soon enough.”
“THE GOOD OLD DAYS”
By Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen, and Volker Riess