The train has been emptied. A thin, pock-marked SS man peers inside and shakes his head in disgust and motions to our group, pointing his finger at the door. “Rein. Clean it up!”  We climb inside. In the corners amid human excrement and abandoned wrist-watches lie squashed, trampled infants, naked little monsters with enormous heads and bloated bellies. We carry them out like chickens, holding several in each hand [these are children dead of starvation]. “Don’t take them to the trucks, pass them on to the women,” says the SS man, lighting a cigarette. His cigarette lighter is not working properly; he examines it carefully. “Take them, for God’s sake!” I explode as the women run from me in horror, covering their eyes. The name of God sounds strangely pointless, since the women and the infants will go on the trucks [to the gas chambers], every one of them without exception. We all know what this means, and we look at each other with hate and horror. “What, you don’t want to take them?” asks the pockmarked SS man with a note of surprise and reproach in his voice, and reaches for his revolver. “You mustn’t shoot, I’ll carry them.” A tall, gray-haired woman takes the little corpses out of my hands and for an instant gazes straight into my eyes. “My poor boy,” she whispers and smiles at me. Then she walks away, staggering along the path.

WE WERE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Siedlecki, Olszewski, Borowski

 

Stanislawa Leszczynska identifies dysentery as the illness that caused the greatest casualties in the women’s camp. Since the bunk beds were on top of one another, the liquid bowel movement ran down on those lying below the sick women.

PEOPLE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Hermann Langbein

 

Swaying with fatigue, Inge London stood in the barren garage at the Hermann Gorring Kaserne, an army barracks on the outskirts of Berlin. The unheated structure was painfully cold, and there was nowhere to sit down. Although the space was large, it was full to overflowing with panicked Jews. The fortunate ones had been able to grab their coats before the SS herded them onto the trucks. The others shivered. They had been there for hours without food or water. The garage reeked of urine and feces. Lacking bathroom facilities, even buckets, people had been forced to evacuate on the floor. Over the long hours of the afternoon and evening, the number of corpses had increased. Some people, already weakened by years of grueling forced labor and inadequate rations, now pushed over the edge by the shock and brutality of the arrests, had died of natural causes. Others had killed themselves by slitting their wrists or by ingesting the supply of poison that many Berlin Jews carried with them at all times against just this eventuality.

REFUGE IN HELL
By Daniel B. Silver

 

Our work [Vilna Lithuania] consisted of opening mass graves and carrying out the corpses, in order to burn them. I was employed digging out these corpses. We dug out 80,000 corpses in total. I know this because two Jews lived with us in the pit we were employed by the Germans in counting these corpses. That was the only task of these tow. The corpses consisted of a mixture of Jews, Polish Priests, and Russian prisoners-of-war. Among those whom I dug out was my own brother. I found his identity cards on him. He was dead for two years, when I dug him out; I know this because he belonged to a mass of Jews who came from the Vilna ghetto and were shot in September 1941.  The burning of the corpses proceeded absolutely methodically. Running parallel, 7 meter long pits were dug out. Boards were laid across them; a layer of corpses were laid on them, oil poured over the corpses, then branches spread over them and over the branches blocks of wood. Altogether 14 layers of corpses and fuel were erected on top of each other into a funeral pyre.

SOURCES OF THE HOLOCAUST
By Steve Hochstadt

 

When the gas chambers were full of adults, the children were not gassed. Instead the SS dug pits and threw many children into them alive. The guards grabbed a child’s arms and legs, and hurled the baby through the air “like a length of wood, to land in the blazing pit. While the murderers watched the results of their bravery with great pleasure.” They also laughed as they threw live children into the pond next to the crematorium. Witnesses testified at the Nuremberg trials that several thousand children were burned alive in Birkenau in 1944. When an SS man felt pity toward children, “He took the child and beat the head against a stone first before putting it on the pile of fire and wood, so that the child lost consciousness.” But most SS killed in the regular manner by simply throwing the children on top of the piles.

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

“On the ground behind and beside the school building (which housed the penal company), dozens of maimed and blood-encrusted female corpses are lying around helter-skelter, all of them wearing only shabby prisoners’ shirts. Among the dead some half-dead women are writhing. Their moans mingle with the buzzing of huge swarms of flies that circle over sticky pools of blood and smashed skulls.”

PEOPLE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Hermann Langbein

 

Late afternoon on the second day of our march, we crossed a bridge over the river Lowicz near the town of the same name. There was a meadow along the side of the river and we were finally given a period to rest. As some of us were close to the riverbank and desperate for water, a few of us dared to step into the river and fill our dishes with water and satisfy our thirst. The dirt and other things floating around were unimportant to me; quenching my thirst was the only thing that mattered. Others began entering the water, too but every step they took raised more silt and dirt from the bottom of the river. Soon the men had to go deeper into the river to get anything that was drinkable. Suddenly, machine-gun fire from the other side of the river and from the bridge we had crossed earlier filled the air, killing all the unfortunate men still in the water. The river turned red as the dead corpses floated downstream. To make sure that no one could possibly escape, they even shot at the dead bodies floating in the water.

MY DARKEST YEARS
By James Bachner

 

There wasn’t a day when we were not subjected to scenes of screaming and sobbing families being separated, and death was always there with us. There was no medicine for the sick, no doctors or milk for the young mothers and their babies. The mothers had so little nourishment that I remember Mama talking about their breasts drying up so that they could not feed their babies. I was almost afraid to think of these things, afraid I would lose my sanity.

OUTCRY: HOLOCAUST MEMOIRS
By Manny Steinberg

 

Occasionally some women would suddenly start screaming in a terrible way while undressing [before entering the gas chamber]. They pulled out their hair and acted as if they had gone crazy. Quickly they were led behind the farmhouse and killed by a bullet in the back of the neck from a small-caliber pistol.

DEATH DEALER
By Steven Paskuly

 

“Six babies were lying on a pallet of straw; they can’t be more than a few days old. What a sight! Scrawny limbs and bloated bellies. On the bunk beds next to them lie the mothers – emaciated and with burning eyes. One of them softly sings to herself. She is best off, she has lost her mind. They lie there wasted away, all skin and bones many of them naked. They were evidently no longer aware of their nudity. ‘Come along, you shall see everything.’ A Polish male nurse whom I know from main camp escorts me out of the barracks. A wooden shed has been built as an extension of the back wall: it is the morgue, which he opens for me. I have already seen many corpses in the KZ, but this makes me recoil. A mountain of dead bodies at least two meters nigh. Almost all of them children, babies, adolescents. Rats scurry back and forth.”

PEOPLE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Hermann Langbein

 

Jews rounded up for deportation to a shooting site or gas chamber.

Before noon, on 7 August 1942, German SS officers and Lithuanian soldiers gathered before the court-house. The Jews were ordered to muster in the courtyard. The Germans passed between the lines and took the children. Babies were torn from their mothers’ arms and thrown into a closed truck. The Latvian soldiers searched the rooms, cellars and attics, and found babies who had been hidden there. In front of our very eyes they tossed the infants from the top floors of the building to the pavement below. Some had their heads smashed against the stone wall. The babies were thrown into sacks and loaded onto the truck. We stood there and watched in silence. Every sound was forbidden. The children in the trucks did not cry. Only some faint whimpering could be heard.

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

 

Another whistle, another transport. Freight cars emerge out of the darkness, pass under the lamp-posts, and again vanish in the night. The ramp is small, but the circle of lights is smaller. The unloading will have to be done gradually. Somewhere the trucks are growling. They back up against the steps, black, ghostlike, their searchlights flash across the trees. Wasser! Luft! The same all over again, like a late night showing of the same film: a volley of shots, the train falls silent. Only this time a little girl pushes herself halfway through the small window and, losing her balance, falls out onto the gravel. Stunned, she lies still for a moment, then stands up and begins walking around in a circle, faster and faster, waving her rigid arms in the air, breathing loudly and spasmodically, whining in a faint voice. Her mind has given way in the inferno inside the train. The whining is hard on the nerves: an SS man approaches calmly, his heavy boot strikes her shoulders. She falls. Holding her down with his foot, he draws his revolver, fires once, then again. She remains face down, kicking the gravel with her feet, until she stiffens. They proceed to unseal the train.

WE WERE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Siedlecki, Olszewski, Borowski

 

“A little man who always was a nobody and suddenly had power. This went to Windeck’s head, and he did want to wield it. He was short and weak, and he wanted to compensate for this with brutality. He particularly like to beat up feeble, half-starved, and sick inmates so brutally that they perished. When these miserable fellows lay on the ground before him, he trampled on them, on their faces, their stomachs, all over, with the heel of his boots.”

PEOPLE IN AUSCHWITZ
By Hermann Langbein

 

Chelmno is the story of how the Nazis depopulated a corner of Poland of its Jews by the use of a secret but primitive facility for large-scale killing. Chelmno served as a prototype for the huge death factories that followed. The ancient Jewish communities reached back into the thousand-year history of Poland. Chelmno ended that history – permanently.

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

Sometimes, as the Sonderkommando were leaving the room, the women realized their fate and began hurling all kinds of curses at us. As the doors were being shut, I saw a woman trying to shove her children out of the chamber, crying out, “Why don’t you at least let my precious children live?”

DEATH DEALER
By Steven Paskuly

 

Since mid-June 1940 the Lublin Jewish council had only received terrible news, as from Tyszowce camp, where the men were notoriously undernourished, without clothing, often sick, louse-infested, and covered with sores. Sobianowice reported that “a Pole from Pomerania struck the workers without reason. Food is denied, and eating dirt is proposed.”

JEWISH FORCED LABOR UNDER THE NAZIS
Translated by Kathleen M. Dell’Orto

 

On August 31 the First and Third Companies of Police Battalion 322moved into the Minsk ghetto, where they seized some 700 Jews, including 74 women. The following day Riebel’s Ninth Company took part in the execution of more than 900 Jews, including all of those seized the day before. For the first shooting of large numbers of women, the author of the war diary felt the need to provide justification. They were shot, he explained, “because they had been encountered without the Jewish star during the roundup.”

ORDINARY MEN
By Christopher R. Browning

 

How does one respond to the truth that an ordinary man can bash a Jewish child’s head against a wall, pick up the child’s apple, eat it, and return home to fondle his own children?

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

It was December 1944, and Otto Abramovic had been in Auschwitz for four months, and reflected that it was a place without precedent in the human span of time on earth. He had seen things he would not have believed if someone else had told him… He had seen a woman spot her husband and go up to the fence charged with 60,000 volts that separated the men from the women. Two SS guards told the woman, “Go kiss your husband,” and as she advanced toward the fence, they shot her, and laughed as they did so.

AN UNCERTAIN HOUR
By Ted Morgan

 

Himmler visited the camp [Treblinka] in March 1943 and ordered the complete destruction and burning of the corpses. After his visit the SS planners and experts put their minds to the difficult but urgent project. Yankel Wiernik was one of the first picked to help with the task. He described it in his usual clear fashion: “Whenever a grave was opened, a terrible stench polluted the air, as the bodies were in an advanced stage of putrefaction.  It turned out that women burned easier than men. Accordingly, corpses of women were used for kindling fires. The sight was terrifying, the worst that human eyes have ever beheld. When corpses of pregnant women were cremated, the abdomen would burst open, and the burning of the fetus inside the mother’s body would become visible.”

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

Unloading a transport at Treblinka. These people have but hours to live.

The ever greater panic spreading among the Jews due to the great heat, overloading of the train cars, and stink of dead bodies – when unloading the train cars some 2,000 Jews were found dead in the train – made the transport almost unworkable.

ORDINARY MEN
By Christopher R. Browning

 

Jews suffered from especially harsh and murderous treatment in the Mauthausen quarry. Kapos assigned them the worst tasks and the least food. For example, it was a Jewish job to carry the full toilet buckets on poles and dump them away from the quarry. As the Jews stumbled up the slopes, the bucket contents slopped over and covered them with excrement. The SS pushed so many Jews over the quarry precipice to their deaths that it became known as the “Parachute Jump,” and the victims as “paratroopers.” In 1941 a large group of Dutch Jews arrived at the quarry for special treatment. The SS denied them the use of the 186 steps for their first flight to the bottom, forcing them instead to slide down the loose stones on the side – an action that killed many. Then the SS forced the remaining Jews to load rocks on their backs and run up the steps. Sometimes the rocks rolled down the hill, crushing the feet of those behind. Those who lost their rocks were brutally beaten. For two days the SS drove the Jews up and down the steps. On the third day, driven by despair, the remaining Jews joined hands and leaped over the precipice to their death in the quarry below.

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

The first murderous onslaught against Lublin Jewry began in mid-March 1942 and continued until mid-April. About 90 percent of the 40,000 inhabitants of the Lublin ghetto were killed either through deportation to the extermination camp at Belzec or execution on the spot, and 11,000 to 12,000 more Jews were sent to Belzec from the nearby towns Izbica, Piaski, Lubartow, Zamosc, and Krasnik during the same period some 36,000 Jews from the neighboring district of Galicia to the east of Lublin were also deported to Belzec.

ORDINARY MEN
By Christopher R. Browning

 

One Sunday [at Langinbilau] I witnessed a horrible scene. A soldier brought in a father and son. He asked the son to lay down on the floor and ordered the father to put his shovel over his son’s throat and step on it. The father refused to do this. He was then ordered to lay down on the floor instead and the solder forced the son to choke the father. When the son also refused to do this, they were shot to death.

MEMOIRS OF A HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR: ICEK KUPERBERG
By Icek Kuperberg

 

The midwife reports that until 1943, all newborn babies in Birkenau were drowned in a small barrel. Two midwives sent to the camp for the crime of child murder performed the task. After each delivery loud gurgles and the splashing of water would be heard in the next room. Later the new mother would see her baby’s body thrown outside and torn apart by rats.

The guards tracked down Jewish children with “ruthless severity.” Hiding a Jewish child was impossible, said the midwife. The two midwives under Nazi control watched Jewish mothers in childbirth, and once the child was born, they often drowned it in the barrel. The fate of the infants who survived was worse. “They died a slow hunger death.”

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

Some Jews had survived by hiding in town rather than in the woods, but they too were tracked down. The most memorable case was in Kock, where a cellar hiding place was reported by a Polish translator working for the Germans. Four Jews were captured. Under “interrogation,” they revealed another cellar hiding place in a large house on the edge of town. A single German policeman and the Polish translator went to the second hiding place, expecting no difficulties. But this was a rare instance in which the Jews had arms, and the approaching policeman was fired upon. Reinforcements were summoned, and a fire fight broke out. In the end four or five Jews were killed in a breakout attempt, and eight to ten others were found dead or badly wounded in the cellar. Only four or five were captured unwounded; they were likewise “interrogated” and shot that evening. The German police then went to search of the owner of the house, a Polish woman who managed to flee in time. She was tracked to her father’s house in a nearby village. Lieutenant Brand presented the father with a stark choice – his life or his daughters. The man surrendered his daughter, who was shot on the spot.

ORDINARY MEN
By Christopher R. Browning

 

My father…had been arrested along with other Jewish men in town. When I asked him what was going on, all he said was, “They set fire to the synagogue and wrecked our house.” Later we learned that the SA had smashed the window of Uncle Emil’s butcher shop with an ax, taken the meat that was on display and thrown it into the street. They had also plundered Uncle Sally’s home, beating and severely injuring him. And in Duisburg that night, storm troopers ransacked Uncle Ernst’s apartment, slitting open his down-filled bedcovers and tossing his piano out the window. The Nazis euphemistically referred to the pogrom as Kristallnacht.

THE UNWELCOME ONE
By Hans Frankenthal

 

And finally came Treblinka. Learning from the mistakes made at the other three, the Nazis were here able to construct an unusually efficient destruction instrument that managed to destroy the lives and bodies of 1,000,000 human beings in only twelve months – a truly monstrous carnage.

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

In our building, at 12 Lenin Street, they killed the old man Stolyarov, and when the residents threw him out into the courtyard, they, Hitler’s men, trampled on the face of the murdered Jew with their dirty, hobnailed boots, gloating and yelling: “Kaput Jude!” The face of the dead man became covered with small holes. They shot him twice more in the mouth and eyes.

THE UNKNOWN BLACK BOOK
By Joshua Rubenstein and Ilya Altman

 

Birkenau was a rat’s paradise. They were everywhere – in the barracks, in the hospitals, running through the camp. It seemed at times to Lewinska that only crows, rats, and mice remained her companions. The hordes of mice hid in her bunk, shared her bread, brushed past her face, waking her during the night. Rats chewed on human cadavers lying on the ground. When night fell, the huge rats scurried from their holes and attacked the women in the bottom bunks. In Block 25 the rats chewed the fingers off the corpses, gnawed at their faces, and even attacked dying bodies. They ran up to the patients in the hospital. Someone called out, “A rat, a rat,” and they raced away. There were so many of them that while hallucinating, some feverish patients saw them as a huge army of bacteria. All night long scurrying, leaping, and squeaking disturbed the women’s sleep. Dr. Lingens-Reiner saw women with toes gnawed by the rats while they were asleep and one whose nose had been bitten. In the hospital the rats crawled up to the third level of bunks where the weakest patients lay, bit into the buttocks, and chewed off pieces of their noses and limbs. The night nurses tried to drive the rats away from the sick women. They took turns sitting up. But the hospital rats had grown fat eating on the corpses until they reached the size of big cats. They were not afraid of people when driven away with sticks, they only hid their heads and drove their claws into the bunks, readying for the next attack.

HITLER’S DEATH CAMPS
By Konnilyn G. Feig

 

We pass the first four blocks [at Auschwitz] before turning into block five. We are so busy trying not to lose our clothing that we do not notice the room we are led into, until the door slams shut and a bolt falls on the other side. Trapped. We stand almost on top of one another in bloody straw. Bedbugs jump, making our bodies black. We hold our clothes up over our faces; they jump on our bare heads, our hands, all over any exposed patch of skin. In the straw, lice crawl hungrily between our toes.

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

 

Go to Page 9

[su_menu name=”Home Pages” class=”homemenu”]

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons