“We have to wear, according to law, the Star of David…and underneath the star it says: Jude,” Max [Reinach] wrote in September 1941. The regulations required that it be sewn onto the clothing on the left side of the chest. Almost a million were produced on rolls of cloth, then clipped and sold to the Jews for ten pfennigs apiece. Wearing the star marked a Jew for questioning by the Gestapo. Not wearing it put a Jew at risk of arrest. Max was horrified: “I would never have thought something like this could happen.”

THE DEVIL’S DIARY
By Robert K. Wittman & David Kinney

 

“We walked through the main gate and saw a fire. I didn’t know what it was, so I said to my mother, ‘Look how beautiful that is.’ She said, ‘Quiet, child! They are burning people over there. First they shoot them, then they throw them in a ditch and then they burn them.’ We had to work in this camp. One day in May 1944, we were all called out to the parade ground. They started picking out people to be gassed in Auschwitz that day. They came and took my mother. I had been allowed to wash and delouse her the day before. She was 42 years old and looked like she was 80. She was a wonderful woman, just wonderful, an angel. And because the best people were taken from us is why I don’t believe there is a God. I volunteered to go along with my mother, but the SS told me, ‘Your turn will come soon! You are still young. You can work!’”

VOICES FROM THE THIRD REICH
Steinhoff, Pechel and Showalter

 

“[Ribe] was even more sadistic than his predecessors. Jews who had escaped from Slutsk and settled in the Minsk ghetto recognized him as the murderer who had been in charge of liquidating the Slutsk ghetto. People called him ‘the Devil with the White Eyes.’…Ribe never let any Jew he encountered go unscathed, regardless of age or sex. He would look at his victim with his big bulging eyes, his lips would form a smile, he would carefully aim his pistol – and never miss. It was Ribe who organized the ‘beauty contest’ of young Jewish women, selected twelve of the youngest and prettiest, and ordered them to parade through the ghetto until they reached the Jewish cemetery. Here he forced them to undress and then shot them one by one. The last woman to be killed was Lena Neu. He took her brassiere from her and said smugly, ‘This will be my souvenir of the pretty Jewess.’”

MASTERS OF DEATH
By Richard Rhodes

 

The mother camp [Mauthausen] utilized a full-scale torture and punishment program with a few variations. The SS developed, as their specialty, murder by drowning. It took several forms: forcing hoses in the prisoner’s mouth until the lungs burst from the water, immersing victims in barrels, and submerging them in ditches. In another torture variation the guards forced prisoners out of their blocks, naked, to stand and walk for hours in an area scattered with “fiercely jagged stones.” Cold weather aided the program. In 1945, 1,700 prisoners arrived from Sachsenhausen. The SS grouped together the sick prisoners and sent them outside – nude. That night the temperature dropped below freezing. The prisoners stood in the square for four hours as they were sprayed alternately with hot and cold water. The groans of the dying rang through the camp as icicles formed all over their bodies.

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

“There were these three men from Gestapo with us, and they went up to [the old man] and spoke to him. What was said, I don’t know. In any event, they spoke to him, and he shook his head, and then one turned his gun around and struck him dead with the butt.”

WHAT WE KNEW
By Eric A. Johnson and Karl-Heinz Reuband

 

There were some spouses who used the general climate of anti-Semitism to rid themselves of inconvenient Jewish partners. In March 1944, a sixty-three-year-old German ‘Aryan’ man and his sister denounced his estranged Jewish wife to the Gestapo on the grounds she had said Hitler had murdered children and the Jews would seek revenge. The couple had been married since 1908. The Gestapo fast-tracked the divorce of the couple. The woman was no longer in a privileged marriage. The Gestapo sent her by train to Auschwitz. She died there.

THE GESTAPO: THE MYTH AND REALITY OF HITLER’S SECRET POLICE
By Frank McDonough

 

“The Jews were squeezed into very small barracks; they had to sleep on icy floors. Everything was taken from them. They had to weather the winter months dressed only in shirts. We were situated near the barracks and could not sleep for all the wailing, howling, and moaning. It was a terrible torture. The food for the Jews was still worse; nothing but turnips once a day. If these poor women concealed but a small thing of their possessions, such as a beloved keepsake, photographs, etc., they were beaten bloody by the SS women with truncheons, undressed, and forced to stand long days barefoot on thick gravel in the bitter cold. Their legs were swollen like butter barrels; the ones in the poorest condition collapsed from pain.”

HITLER’S WILLING EXECUTIONERS
By Daniel Jonah Goldhagen

 

As the Allies advanced, the SS transferred the prisoners from other camps to Ebensee. The blocks became overcrowded and the dead bodies piled up. Three days before liberation the Germans hanged four starving inmates because they tried to buy bread.  The inmates had “torn the gold teeth from out of their own mouths to get some bread from the overseers for it. For this, they were hanged.”

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

“Many of the people they [the grave-diggers] dealt with had suffocated to death in the truck. But there were a few exceptions, including babies who were still alive; this was because mothers held the children in blankets and covered them with their hands so the gas would not get them. In these cases, the Germans would split the heads of the babies on trees, killing them on the spot.”

NAZI GERMANY AND THE JEWS 1933-1945
By Saul Friedlander

 

We continued going along the road [Lemberg, Ukraine]. There were hundreds of Jews walking along the street with blood pouring down their faces, holes in their heads, their hands broken and their eyes hanging out of their sockets. They were covered in blood. Some of them were carrying others who had collapsed. We went to the citadel; there we saw things that few people have ever seen. At the entrance of the citadel there were soldiers standing guard. They were holding clubs as thick as a man’s wrist and were lashing out and hitting anyone who crossed their path. The Jews were pouring out of the entrance. There were rows of Jews lying on top of the other like pigs whimpering horribly. The Jews kept streaming out of the citadel
completely covered in blood.

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

 

A child starving to death in the Warsaw ghetto.

During July and August of 1943, more and more prisoners were sporadically selected and transferred. Whether to the crematories or other concentration camps, no one knew. It is only natural for a prisoner to try to hide from his captors. But it was unimaginable that there could be a place in the world that was worse than Majdanek. With these thoughts I decided to neither appear for transport nor hide. It did not take long before I was selected…After the war I learned that four to six weeks later, on October 16, 1943, all 18,000 Jews in Majdanek
were shot in one day.

THE DEAD YEARS
By Joseph Schupack

 

From the day the camp [Auschwitz] opened a variety of techniques were used to torment the prisoners. Punishments were not just cruel – a common one was to tie a prisoner’s hands behind his back and then suspend him by his wrists from a pole – but often arbitrary. Every inmate knew that they were at permanent risk of a beating, or worse, and there was little they could do to prevent it.

THE HOLOCAUST
By Laurence Rees

 

I stopped with other soldiers and civilians in front of the gate and looked through the railings at the execution area, which was about eighty meters away [at Belaya Tserkov, Ukraine]. I saw nine girls or women kneeling in front of a deep ditch. They were kneeling with their faces towards the ditch. A further nine girls were waiting in front of the little house where the girl who had been guarded by the SS man had relieved herself. What struck me particularly was the calmness and discipline of these people. Behind the kneeling girls stood the marksmen: two for each person. The marksmen were members of the SS.

On the orders of a superior they fired shots at the heads of these people with their carbines. When hit, these people fell forwards into the ditch. Some of them went head over heels. Sometimes the tops of their skulls flew up into the air. Some of the marksmen were sprayed with blood. They were shooting from a distance of about five meters. It was a terrible scene. I remember an SS officer walking along the edge of the ditch firing shots into it with a sub-machine-gun as he went along.

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

 

Uckermark was an extermination center – but not in the usual sense. The guards transported prisoners by trucks to Uckermark, right down the road [from Ravensbrück]. They sent them there to die. They removed the ill and the sick to the primitive compound – to lie there until they died. They aided the process by long, cold roll calls, poison, beatings, the mixing of women with contagious diseases, absence of food, inadequate water facilities, shooting, suffocating, and allowing victims to freeze to death. Then they trucked the bodies the few blocks back to the camp crematorium, which blazed around the clock from December.

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

In the early days of the camp’s operation, when a train arrived at Sobibor station, the SS waited until the Jews who were capable of walking unaided had entered the camp and then gathered up those who were left – the old, the disabled and the injured – and put them on to a horse-drawn cart. The SS told these Jews who were unable to walk that they were to be taken to a hospital. This was said in attempt to calm them, but it was also a black joke. Because the “hospital,” 200 yards into the forest, consisted of a group of executioners standing by a pit. All of those who had been taken to the “hospital” on the horse and cart were murdered
in sight of each other.

THE HOLOCAUST
By Laurence Rees

 

In spring 1943 when a worker prisoner tried to take his own life and was found dying, Frenzel shouted that Jews had no right to kill themselves. Only Germans had the right to kill. Frenzel whipped the dying man and finished him off with a bullet.

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

 

“Anyone acquainted with hunger knows that it is not just a vegetative, animal sensation in the stomach, but a nerve-shattering agony, an attack on the entire personality. Hunger makes a person vicious and corrupts his character.”

PEOPLE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Hermann Langbein

 

Chief among these sadists was Otto Moll, the SS man who supervised the operation of the crematoria. Dario Gabbai remembers how he liked to kill naked girls by shooting them “on their breasts.” In 1944, when the arrival of enormous numbers of Hungarian Jews meant that bodies had to be burnt to open air in giant pits – since  the crematoria could not cope with the volume – Moll on occasion threw children directly into the flames so that they were burnt alive. Alter Feinsilber, one of the Sonderkommando, witnessed another of Moll’s sadistic acts. Moll ordered a naked woman to jump about and sing on a pile of corpses near the flaming pit while he shot prisoners and threw their bodies into the fire. When he had finished shooting them, he turned his gun on the woman and killed her.

THE HOLOCAUST
By Laurence Rees

 

At Auschwitz on the evening of 28 July 1941, around 500 sick prisoners boarded a train to take them to Dresden. The SS had told them that they were leaving camp so that they could regain their strength elsewhere. “They had some hope,” says Kazimierz Smolen, who watched them leave. “Hope is the last thing that dies.” The sick prisoners were taken to Sonnenstein euthanasia center and murdered by carbon monoxide poisoning. These were the first Auschwitz prisoners to die by gassing. They were chosen not because they were Jews, but because they were sick, and they died not at Auschwitz but in the heart of Germany.

THE HOLOCAUST
By Laurence Rees

 

Gloria Goldreich writes of an inmate who choked to death [at Auschwitz] on a piece of bread. Another inmate had rushed to the dead woman, reached her hand into her throat, “removed the masticated hunk of food, and eaten it hungrily.” In another incident, a dying woman vomited: “Someone picked clots of undigested puke that lay on the floor and swallowed them.”

Almost every woman had Durchfall – a deadly kind of dysentery, aided by the digestion of saltpeter, a product of the munitions factories. After two or three weeks in the camp “most prisoners had intestinal tracts so stripped of natural lining that terrible epidemics resulted,” called Durchfall or “fall-through.” What was eaten came out quickly in the original form, for the body could absorb nothing. The lack of washing water and the impossibility of changing clothes created a “monstrous trial for the sick woman.” The disease combined many symptoms of typhus and dysentery, and proved deadly in many instances.

Everyone suffered from a swelling in which the body periodically puffed up and the face became like a mask. The eyes could hardly be seen and the thick legs became “heavy loads to drag along.” Dr. Lingens-Reiner worked with cases in which the edema became so bad that the skin could not stand the tension and burst, leaving deep gashes from which liquid poured. Most women’s bodies were covered with sores and abscesses. All women had lice. And most were starving. Every sickness and contagious disease attained epidemic proportions once it occurred in the camp: tuberculosis, malaria, typhus, scarlet fever, measles, diphtheria. Surgical cases included scores of women mauled by dogs and smashed by rifle butts. “One might have thought oneself in a human slaughterhouse.”

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

A starving boy at the Warsaw Ghetto

There were always some ill and frail people on the transports. Sometimes there were also wounded people amongst the arrivals because the transport escorts, SS members, police, Latvians, sometimes shot people during the journey. These ill, frail and wounded people were brought to the hospital by a special Arbeitskommando. These people would be taken to the hospital area and stood or laid down at the edge of the grave. When no more ill or wounded were expected it was my job to shoot these people. I did this by shooting them in the neck with a 9-mm pistol. They then collapsed or fell to one side and were carried down into the grave by the two hospital work-Jews. The bodies were sprinkled with chlorinated lime. Later, on Worth’s instructions, they were burnt in the grave itself. The number of people I shot after the transport arrived varied. Sometimes it was two or three but sometimes it was as many as twenty or perhaps even more. There were men and women of all ages and there were also children.

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

 

“From Wielun the able bodied Jews were sent to Lodz, to labor in the ghetto. Leipush and Itzhak Moshe were among them. My sister Eudel could have gone with them, but again would not leave my parents. After the war I learned of their fate. My sister, my parents, all my uncles, aunts, their families, and the other Jews from our town were made part of a larger group of Jews from the surrounding towns. On August 22, 1942 that group, almost 10,000 people, were sent to their deaths at a camp called Chelmno. At Chelmno the killing was done by gas van. The people were loaded into the van and the back doors sealed. The engine exhaust was directed into the sealed van as it moved.”

THE BLEEDING SKY: MY MOTHER’S JOURNEY THROUGH THE FIRE
By Louis Brandsdorfer

 

“A number was written on each victim’s chest with indelible ink. Then I had to lead one after another through the dark curtain that hung in the corridor. Escorted by an inmate, the victim had to sit down, and Klehr, the SDG who did most of the killings, in his white coat injected the victim directly in his heart. The victims died immediately after emitting a soft sound, as though they were exhaling. Their bodies were dragged across the corridor and into the washroom. In the evening the van from the crematorium came, backed up in front of the gate, and the corpses were loaded on it.”

PEOPLE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Hermann Langbein

 

Being shoved or getting hit was common in Auschwitz, and I, too, had my share of beatings. Still, I managed to get through many months of their fiendish tortures without being seriously injured. I tried to be especially careful to avoid the ire of the guards or capos, and that became my most important task. Punishment often meant being whipped; five or ten lashes was the smallest amount I had seen, and twenty-five was not unusual. All too often we were made to witness the scene where a man was stretched across a table and pummeled into unconsciousness. It was a horrible experience to stand at attention and watch the agonizing procedure. Making it even worse, many times a friend was made to administer the punishment. If the blows were not forceful enough, the friend was tortured, too. As weak as our men were, I don’t believe any of them ever survived these painful beatings. Besides the extreme pain the men must have felt, their open skin quickly became infected and they had little chance of recovering. The unimaginable brutality was the norm in Auschwitz. I began to think that those sent to the gas chambers when they first arrived were actually better off than us because they were no longer suffering.

MY DARKEST YEARS
By James Bachner

 

“One day in 1937, a Nazi storm trooper knocked on my grandparents’ door. My grandmother answered and asked him what he wanted. ‘I’m here to take away all of your cultural objects,’ he said. ‘Is there anything that you would like to keep? Is there anything that you particularly love that you would like to save?’ ‘Yes,’ my grandmother said. ‘I want to save these antique pewter containers. I’m saving them for my son Rolf.’ The pewter containers were the first things that the Nazi took. He had just wanted to find out what my grandmother treasured most, so he could be sure and take them. He took a great many other things as well.”

CHRONICLES OF THE HOLOCAUST
By Roselle K. Chartock and Jack Spencer

 

Families were torn apart, literally. I shall never forget the anguished cries from the children: “Mama, Papa don’t leave us.” How could my heart keep breaking when I had nothing left to feel?

OUTCRY: HOLOCAUST MEMOIRS
By Manny Steinberg

 

It may be estimated that the second stage began when the starveling had lost one-third of his normal weight. In addition to further weight loss, his facial expression began to change. His gaze became clouded, and his face assumed an apathetic, absent, mournful expression. His eyes were veiled and his eyeballs hollow. His skin began to turn a pale gray, had a paper-thin, hard appearance, and started to peel. It was very susceptible to all kinds of infection, particularly scabies. The patient’s hair became shaggy, lusterless, and brittle. His head became elongated, and his cheekbones and eye sockets stood out. The patient breathed slowly and spoke softly with great effort.

PEOPLE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Hermann Langbein

 

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

 

After a while, some of the people in front got tired and simply sat or lay down on the side of the road. A soldier would come up to such a person, aim his rifle, and shoot him. If they were lucky, they died right away. Otherwise they were just left bleeding and moaning. In a few hours they would be dead anyway. The Germans never wasted more than one bullet per Jew.

I CARRIED THEM WITH ME
By Sara Lumer

 

Two days after Christmas, Judith Newman remembered her joy over a Jewish child born in her block. Three hours after the birth, she saw a small package lying on a bench. Suddenly it moved. It was the baby. A clerk took the infant and submerged its body in cold water. Newman wanted to shout “Murderess!”  The baby swallowed and gurgled, its little voice chittering like a small bird, until its breath became shorter and shorter. The woman held its head in the water. After about eight minutes the breathing stopped. The woman picked it up, wrapped it up again, and put it among the other corpses.

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

A group portrait of a class of girls at a school in Oradour. All of the children pictured were killed by the SS during the June 10, 1944 massacre. 

 

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