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Birkenau-Auschwitz and Dachau Holocaust Survivor

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Ab (Move)

Alle heraus! (Everybody Out!)

Alles dort lassen! (Everything Stays!)

Am Waldsee

Angst (Fear)


Arbeit macht frei! (Work Makes one Free!)

Asche (Ash)

Aufseherin (Women Gguardians)

Aufstand (The Mutiny)

Aufstehen (Wake up)

Austrottung aller Juden [The Exterminations of All Jews (1)]







I heard it uttered for the first time on the very first day of our arrival at the camp. We were formed in columns of fives facing six barrels of nondescript food. We hadn't eaten anything for two days and were faint with hunger. When our turn came, Isaac, the first in the row, picked up a pan, as he had seen the others do. The Blockälteste1 dipped the skimmer into the barrel, once, twice and then, although the pan was far from being full, he shouted: sechs2. Isaac stood stock, still, unable to believe that mash in the half empty pan was supposed to be the meal of six persons.

--- Ab, the Blokälteste shouted and instantly raised the crutch he always carried along.

Isaac was gassing at Blokälteste in utter confusion. A blow over his ribs made him collapse and overturn the pan. We quickly pulled him away, to prevent a second blow. Gathered in a corner of the platform, licking by turns what was left in the pan, we decided that ab means "beat it" or "move"!

Several days later nobody noticed a distracted Häftling3 leaving the platform and heading for the alley between the two rows of barracks. A Kapo4 who was drawing up to him from behind called out: Ab and the Häftling, tottering like a sleepwalker, instinctively stepped aside. But he moved to little to satisfy the Kapo who picked up a brick and threw it at him. The Häftling, his skull broken, left the alley, getting lost in the throng on the platform.

My friend Isaac, who kept telling us that in order to survive we must learn the language of the camp, concluded:

"Remember, pals, ab - means "vanish" or "get out of my way!"

The next morning, Isaac was sitting in front of our barrack, barrack no. 21. Looking fascinated at the wreaths of smoke coming from the crematoria, the existence of which he still doubled, he did not notice the SS-man riding a bike that was drawing near. The SS-man passing by shouted ab and instantly hit him on the head with the machine-guns.

Isaac died in a puddle of blood, his eyes open and his body contorted like a huge question mark. He made us understand that at Birkenau-Auschwitz ab! Really meant, "beat it!", "get lost!" but not only "from one's way", but also "from this world", that ab was not a preposition followed by a noun in the Dative as German grammar books explain, but a word which at Birkenau meant death.

1 Barrack chief.
2 Six
3 Detainee in a Nazi concentration camp, having no right and being not protected by any law or international convention.
4 Detachment commander.


Alle heraus!


It was the first order that the deportees of Europe heard when reaching the death platform of Birkenau, as soon as the unlocked doors of the overcrowded vans were slang open:

"Alle heraus! Everybody out!"

Few were those who understood the exact meaning of the words, yet everybody inferred what they meant. After so many days and nights of being tortured by hunger and thirst, by ringing frost or sultry heat, after revolving to obsession the question "what would become of us?", no wonder that to the detainees the order sounded as if it were the signal of their salvation, so they rushed to the large openings made by the doors drawn open.

For three, four or perhaps five days on end the people in the vans had seen neither the plains, nor the forests they had been passing through, they saw no people, no birds, not even a patch of sky. The walls of the van had no slit to look out.

The people rushed to get off the vans as if they had been freed. They were at the end of their tether. Trying to delude themselves, they hoped that finally their ordeal had come to an end. The order "Alle heraus!", "Everybody out!" strenghened that feeling.

But before jumping down, those on the edge of the van were seized with horror when seeing the strange sight in front of them: endless rows of barbed-wire fences, hundreds of sentry boxes with SS-men keeping watch and ward, one hand pulling the trigger, barracks, long, perfect lines of barracks as far as eye could see, thousands, hundreds of thousands of people in streaked clothes in front of them, and a heavy, black choking smoke above, covering the whole sky, leaving out not even a patch of blue.

But pushed from behind, weary of moans of the ill and of the dying, sick with the stink of putrefying corpses and of excrements (from the buckets they had relieved themselves into for several days), they jumped off the vans believing that "it had to be better here".

Nowhere and never have people stepped towards death more trustful than the deportees at Birkenau, jumping from vans urged by an order repeated over and over again:

"Alle heraus!" -- "Everybody out!"



Alles dort lassen!


When the Horthyst gendarmes arrested and took us away from the house and village we had been born in, out of everything our parents inherited from their parents, out of everything they had earned during their lives, all they were allowed to take along could be loaded in a cart pulled by two buffalo cows. When we arrived the ghetto and got off the cart -- first the parents and then we, six of their children, -- the seventh being in a forced labor detachment -- we were a stanched at how little we had taken along.

When we left the ghetto and ordeal of deportation began, we were allowed to take as much as we ourselves could carry in backpacks and bales to the railway station.

After a three days and three high's journey the train finally stopped -- we had arrived at Birkenau-Auschwitz, and as we had eaten all the food, our backpacks were almost empty. Still, when they ordered "Alle heraus!", "Everybody out!" we anxiously held them to our chests. In there was everything that bound us to our past, to our homes. The second order was cried out almost instantly:

"Alles dort lassen!" -- "Leave everything there! Everything remains in the vans!"

Everything! Warm clothes for the winter and bedlinen, swaddling clothes and medical kits, family photos and books, bottles with water and identity cards, and love letters and dolls and toys. Everything. And memories, and thoughts and dreams. Everything. All hope.

And millions of deportees, terrified and exhausted, blindly obeyed, leaving everything behind. They stepped into death bereft of anything that might have helped them to fight and survive. They were exterminated to a man.

Only a few, painfully few people had the courage of not blindly complying to the order: Alles dort lassen!" -- Leave everything there! Everything remains in the vans! -- And they took hope along.

Those few, painfully few of them, managed to survive…



Am Waldsee


Several weeks after the last train transporting deported Jews from northern Transylvania had stopped by the death platform at Birkenau, the Lagershreiber1 suddenly showed up in the Appellplatz2. It was for the first time we were not required to form into a column of fives when somebody talked to us:

"The camp command" the Lagerschreiber began in a placid tone "has approved of your corresponding with people in your countries. Write to your friends, to your acquaintances, to officials in your native towns and villages, to anybody you like. Actually, the text has already been printed. You'll only have to sign your name and fill in the address."

Then he emptied his bag of postcards on an makeshift table, took out one of them and read: "Ich bin gesund und es geht mir gut". -- I'm in good health and fine.

"That's all. Next time you'll be allowed to write more".

"Come on, get it started", the Blockälteste broke in, this time without accompanying his urge by blows with his cudgel, as he used to.

I could not make up my mind. It was a blatant lie. The people in northern Transylvania were asking about the fate of the deportees, and the Horthyst authorities had appealed to the Gestapo. Withdrawn in a corner of the Appelplatz¸ I watched such-like scenes over and over again...

In one of the fifty locked wagons of the train that, on June 6, 1944, had set out from Cluj bound to the unknown, my family, my parents and six brothers, were stuffed, too. The seventh, Tiberiu, was not among us; he was taken into a forced labor detachment. As we approach Oradea, the train slows down, because the railway track was not been completely repaired after the bombardment of June 2. Someone looks out of the only latticed window of the cattle van: young men wearing yellow armbands on the left arm and belonging to a forced labor detachment are removing the debris.

"Perhaps Tiberiu is among them" father bursts out and rushes to the window. We are all crowding round him, my younger brothers on top of the suitcases. Father keeps shouting:

"Is Lustig Tiberiu of Cluj among you? Does anyone know Lustig Tiberiu?"

"He's in our detachment," someone answers.

The train rolls for several tens of meters and then comes to a halt. There is a goods train on a parallel track and after it there is a ditch where young men wearing yellow armbands are working.

"Tell Lustig Tiberiu that his family is on the train, tell him to come here" father shouts again.

"He's coming right away, he's at the other end of the ditch".

Overwhelmed with excitement we try to arrange ourselves so that all of us could look out of the bared window, but that is impossible as the window is too small to allow eight people to look out of it. Only five of us can look out at a time and we promise our younger brothers who are crying to let them look out when Tiberiu comes.

Those in the detachment are exceeded too. The new that Tiberiu Lustig's family is on the train of deportees has spread instantly and no one is working anymore. Even the old Horthyst warrant officer lets himself caught in the general excitement and pretends not to see what is going on.

Tiberiu is running desperately along the ditch. His mates are guiding him: "Forward... there more vans... here it is, stop!" He jumps over the ditch and stops between two wagons wherefrom he can see us.

"Tiberiu, we are here!" we all burst out and tears are gleaming in our eyes.

He looks up but he cannot litter a word. He collapses over the buffers between the two vans and cries his heart out. We cannot hear him but we can see his body shaking. Then he pulls himself together:

"Are you all there? Where're the twins? Where's Valentin?"

"We are all here" father shouts back and lifts the younger ones, one at a time, to the window.

Mother cannot talk. She is crying and all mothers in the van are crying too. The train sets out and everybody in the van starts crying. The young man with yellow armbands in the labor detachment, spread out along the railway track is crying too. The trains speed up. Tiberiu keeps running and shouting:

"Write me, by all means! Don't forget my address: Detachment 110/66 Oradea! 110/66 Oradea... Oradea..."

The Lagerschreiber was about to leave when I made up my mind. I went straight to him and I asked for a blank postcard, as I wanted the text written in my own hand. He agreed, handed me a pencil and told me to write down my name, birth date and the name of a locality: Am Waldsee.

The evening they announced Tiberiu Lustig that he had received a postcard from his brother, the whole detachment dashed into the barrack: "Where is he writing from? What's his address?" The postcard passed from hand to hand but nobody read the text on its back. It was only the sender's address they were interested in so they kept murmuring on: Am Waldsee... Am Waldsee... But nobody had ever heard about that locality, nobody knew were it could be.

The next evening they got an atlas, they tore off its pages and started to look, by groups, for the Waldsee on the map. At long last, somebody exclaimed:

"Bingo!" And he solemnly read. "Waldsee".

"Great! Where's it? What's the sanitary?

"Switzerland" his answer came and a dead silence fell over the barrack.

The camp military clerk.
2 Platform for roll-call.






No other "invention" of the Nazi regime was so dear to Hitler as extermination camps. His devilish plans of a state of masters and slaves were most clearly carried into effect in the K.Z.-s1

The basic principle of the great Hitlerism empire, made up of Ubermanschen2 and Untermenschen3 had to be die Angst, -- the fear, the terror, the fright. The people in the empire -- masters and slaves -- all alike had to tremble with fear, had to be fright need to death. Death even, the Nazis' main profession was considered nothing more than an efficient way to scare people out of their wits. The goal to be pursued -- fear, anxiety, dread.

In an order issued on December 12, 1941 Keitel expressly pointed out: "The Führer believes that penal servitude for life would be considered a sing of weakness. It is only death penalty that can strike true terror".

But to have set up the reign of die Angst did not gratify Hitler: he even attempted to work out a theory on the necessity of fear. "Cruelty commands -- he yelled -- people need to feel salutary fear. They want to have something to be afraid of. They want to be frightened, to obey someone out of fright. Watt's all this rubbish about cruelty, these complaints of tortures? The mob wants it. They need to tremble".

Hitler was very fond of the concentration camps because their die Angst ruled all-powerful. It penetrated the detainee's flesh and blood together with the air they breathed.

The Häftlings were afraid of the Blockälteste, of the Lagerälteste4, of the Kapo, of the wolf dogs and of the SS. They were afraid of the riding whip, of the cudgel, of Bock5, of Baum6 and of Bunker7.

The Häftlings were afraid of the electric current conducting barbed wire, of the gas chambers and crematoria. They were afraid of beatings, tortures, of begin shot into the nape of the neck, of being hanged.

The Häftlings were afraid of Appell8, of Blocksperre9, of selections, of diseases and of Experiments and lebendingen Menschen10. They were afraid of the light of day and of the dark-ness of the night, of what they knew or did not know it would happen.

The Häftlings were particularly afraid of death. They wanted to live, but the extermination camps belonged to the empire of death.

And yet, despite the anticipations of Hitler and Himmler and of the whole gang of SS-men, as time went by die Angst fear -- began to subside. The Häftlings got used to everything, even to death.

They were no longer trembling with fear when summoned to the Bunker for cross-examination, nor when selections were ordered, nor when seeing the cart in which the corpses from the platform between the barracks were loaded. One thing alone they continued to fear till the moment they were set free. Something that Hitler and Himmler the whole pack of SS-men had never thought has, nor could understand.

Till the moment they were set free, the Häftlings were terribly afraid not to forget in that hellhole of all possible and impossible atrocities called concentration camp -- that they were human. They were afraid not to degenerate, not to degrade as human beings.

Konzentrations lagers, concentration camp.
Camp chief.
The trestle the detainees lay on when whipped.
The pillar the detainees where hanged of by their hands twisted behind.
Torture block.
Closing of the barracks.
Experiments on living people.






"Antreten zum Appell! Form into columns for the roll-call!" The command made even the dying men shudder. The Häftlings in camp E of Birkenau did not work; they waited to be selected either for the gas chambers or for being sent to another concentration camp in Germany. They did nothing but gaze at the writhes of smoke rising from the crematoria, at the bar bed-wire fences and wait.

The roll call was the one and only event of each day, its major event, and its essence. There were days when nothing of consequence, beside the roll call, happened.

Food was daily distributed although sometimes that was omitted. Nor were selections made on a daily basis. But the roll call could never be left out. From the setting up of the camp and till it was abolished, it was only after roll call that a Häftling could say that he had survived for another day.

The Blockälteste, followed by two Vertreterys1 walked out of his room, stopped at the edge of the platform and bawled out:

"Antreten zum Appell! &emdash;Form in columns for the roll-call!"

Suddenly awaken from their sluggish waiting the Häftlings also started calling out the dreaded word:

"Appell! Appell! Appell!"

They forgot who they were and were they were, what they had been thinking of and what they saw with their mind's eyes, they were overruled by one single desire, to see themselves making up a row of fives, to from those bloody columns. But that was to be done only in four-five hours, and until then the Blockältestes, and Vertreters would strike at random with their curbed cudgels because the Häftlings were not grouped in subunity and could not make up the columns in an organized manner. In order to escape the brutes' cudgels everybody ran towards the already formed lines and wrecked them. The bustle drove mad the Blockälteste and the Vertreters who rushed on the detainees with mounting rage.

After four-five hours of yelling and screaming, while the curbed cudgels kept busy at work, the over one thousand Häftlings were finally formed into rows.

They were exhausted, hungry, their sty, their wounds were bleeding, but they stood at attention waiting for the Appell. Their legs began to sink under them, they grew dizzy but there was no escape. To collapse now, when the lines were made up meant to send the three brutes into a fit of anger...

Over one those and Häftlings were lined in rows of fives on the platform between the two barracks. They were all dressed in streaked, convict's clothes, wearing clogs on their feet and black caps on their heads. Mere skeletons. Walking shadows with hollow eyes and sunken cheeks on which sweat mixed with dirt and mud tickled down in black streaks. Some of them had already began to stagger to their feet. They wouldn't be able to hold out for long. Moans and stifled curses were heard...

There were fifteen such platforms, stretching on either side of a seven-meter's wide alley. There were 800 -1100 Häftlings on each platform.

Camp E was waiting for the Appell. And so were the other camps: A, B, C, D, F, bordering one another, separated by a mere barbed-wire fence. And in each camp there were 30 barracks, each with its own platform on which tens of thousand Häftlings were standing in the same position.

This is what Birkenau was looking like each evening before the Appell.

Actually, the Appell proper began when the SS-man entered the gate of camp. He made for the first platform: Blockälteste howled:

"Stillstand! Mützen ab! Attention! Caps off!"

The Häftlings stood stock still at attention. The report was made in a dead silence:

"Barrack No. 21, with an effective force of one thousand fifty-tow Häftlings, one thousand thirty-five alive, seventeen dead.

The SS-men's footsteps sounded heavy. The Blockälteste followed a few meters behind.

At that moment, the most difficult thing forma Häftling was not to budge, to go on standing at attention without even batting an eyelid.

The fear of the Appell, a beastly fears that the SS-men meticulously, systematically developed. In the first years of the camp's history each Appell meant tens of victims.

A Häftling once looked sideways when the Unterscharführer2 passed by. He was shot on the spot. A row of fives was not arranged in a perfect line. All of them were executed.

Somebody cried for pain or fear. The whole row and the other five on its either side were sent to the crematory.

So, after a short while nobody dared to budge an inch anymore, nobody dared to turn a hair. On the thirty platforms of the neighboring camps -- A, B, C, D, F, tens of thousand Häftlings on the brink of starvation, parched with thirst, their wounds bleeding, stood stone still at attention.

Nobody stirred a peg nobody batted an eye. When the SS-man passed by nobody dared even to breathe.

All were tortured by the one and only thought: not to give way, not to lose control and collapse.

Only the corpses on the right flank of each row were at peace. They no longer struggled; they had collapsed several hours before. Forever.

They were no longer afraid of the Appell.

Block's deputy chief.
2 An SS Lieutenant.



Arbeit macht frei!


Cynicism, bordering on perversity assumed so many forms in extermination camps that no hierarchy could ever be attempted. Who could tell what is more cynical, more depraved: to call the assassination of a whole people Endlösung, "Final Solution" or to write "bathroom" on the door of the gas chamber, and provide the waiting room with clothes-pegs? To hang a plate to the neck of an escaped prisoner who has been caught and is being taken back to the camp to be hanged, reading "all birds come back to their nests", or to congratulate a detainee for his resistance to a medical experiment you have performed on him and then after a few minutes kill him?

One may say however, that the SS-men reached the acme of their cynicism when above the gate of the largest extermination camp &emdash; Birkenau &emdash; they put the inscription written in huge, wrought iron letters: "Arbeit macht frei!", "Work makes one free".

How much wickedness and perversity, how much sadism and cruelty were necessary to conceive the satanically idea of writing "Arbeit macht frei!" &emdash; "Work makes one free" above the gate of the extermination camp which produced nothing but corpses, where eighty per cent of those who entered were directly led to crematoria, where the only activity consisted in ensuring the clock-work operation of gas-chambers and crematoria?

Now when the camp has become a museum the inscription is still there, above the gate, and some hundred meters farther in one of the rooms on a black marble pedestal there is a glass globe holding ached and remnants of bones. That is everything that has been left of over one million people who entered the Birkenau camp, repeating to themselves the slogan written in wrought iron letters above the gate: "Arbeit macht frei!" "Work makes one free".





Trains arriving by day and by night brought millions of deported people from all over Europe to the platform of the Birkenau-Auschwitz camp. Handsome, healthy people got down from the vans. They wanted to live their life. They could build, write poems, caress, and laugh, make love.

The moment they entered the camp they all became "Todeskandidaten", "candidates to death", as they were officially designated. They were taken to the gas chambers immediately, or within several weeks or within several months. They became corpses. And then, pushed by trolleys to the crematory ovens, they turned to "Asche" -- ashes.

"Die Asche", the ashes were used as a fertilizer, but most of them were thrown away into the nearest river. They were taken thereto in wagons pulled by people, by living corpses, whose turn had not yet come to become dead corpses and then turn to "Asche", ashes, theism lives.

Although the transportation of ashes had been thoroughly organized by the SS-man, similarly to gasification or incineration, delays were constantly happening, as the heaps of ashes round the crematory quite often exceeded the provided level.

When the camp was living its last days, the SS-men had time to blow up all the gas-chambers, the four crematoria... But they did not manage to carry away all heaps of ashes to the river. The wind did it. It scattered the ashes, as it kept on blowing into the empty barracks, crematoria ruins, and barbed-wire fences. Even today, wen walking, through what many years ago was the Birkenau camp, one finds stains and remnants of the ashes that came from the burnt bodies of millions of people who had entered the camp, then became living corpses, then dead corpses and finally "Asche" -- ashes.





The Aufseherin, the woman-guardian in the concentration camps was indisputably the typical representative of the female Nazi criminals.

When former prostitutes, tramps, dismissed maids because of stealing, women who had abandoned their own children in parks, or former cooks who were professional thieves found themselves --all of a sudden-- dressed in the perfectly ironed gray-greenish uniforms, they instantly felt the pure Arian blood Ubermensch running through their veins, just like each and every SS-men in Totenkopf -- einheiten, the SS death's head units.

Hysterical and sadistical, insolent and ruthless, the Aufseherin, the female guardians in the concentration camps humiliated, tortured and battered the female detainees. They stalked to and for, regularly lashing the top of their leather boots with the riding whip, with a hateful, cynical and disdainful look in their eyes. They sought revenge for their vile past, for their failures, for the humiliations they had endured and for all this it was the woman detainees in the camps that had to pay. With wicked eyes they looked for weakened and fearful women and rushed on them. Others, on the contrary, actuated by savage envy, chose to crush those still strong and beautiful, whom life in the camp had not managed to ruin entirely. Fact is that no matter what their reasons, no SS-man could match an Aufseherin, a woman guardian, in bloodthirsty cruelty, savageness, springing downright from Schadenfreude, the evil rejoicing in the sufferings of another human being.

The SS-man who beat a Häftling to give vent to his fury got tired after twenty or forty minutes and calmed down. The one, who hit in order to punish, got satisfied when seeing blood gushing forth. But die Aufseherin, the woman guardian when beaded a detainee out of Schadenfreude, the wicked joy taken in the other's suffering, knew no measure. She could not pass by a detainee without swearing at her or striking her, humiliating her, or causing her some sort of pain that would keep alive her Schadenfreude, the zest of her life.

Women detainees of Ravensbrück were panic-stricken when seeing die Aufseherin, guardian Dorothea Binz. She walked throughout the camp, hitting anyone she came across with the cudgel, the riding whip or belt. At every blow, her otherwise dim eyes lit up and sparkled with villainous joy. And there was another occasion when they glittered ravenously: when she hounded the wolf dogs at a woman detainee and saw them tearing her up.

A survivor, Olga Golovina, who had been interned in Ravensbrück at 21 years of age, recalled after 39 years: "I remember guardian Dorothea Binz walking through the camp. I can still see her before my eyes. A woman detainee passes by and, exhausted stumbles and falls down. With painstaking efforts she struggles to her feet and staggers along.

Such a scene was enough for Dorothea. She pushed the pedals, speeded up and knocked down the miserable detainee. Then she called the dogs and hounded them at her. The dogs were savage, ferocious, specially trained for tearing up the victim until it ceased to breathe!"

In her book called Ravensbrück, Germaine Tillon recalls Dorothea Binz during one of her usual activities, after striking the ill-famed "25", "50" or "75" cudgel blows: "The victim was lying half naked, apparently in a dead faint, full of blood from ankles till waist. Bind gazed at her and then without uttering a word trampled on her bleeding legs and started rocking herself, balancing her weight from toes to heels. Perhaps the woman was dead; anyhow she was unconscious because she did not stir a bit. After a while when Binz left, her boots were smeared with blood".

She amused herself by having the woman detainees stand at attention for hours on end, slapping them over the face. But her favorite past time was to enter riding on a bike into a group of woman internees. She burst out laughing when going over the bodies of those who had collapsed.

That devilish laughter springing from her Schadenfreude, malicious pleasure taken in somebody else's suffering was put an end to in 1947 when she was hanged.

The terror camp in Birkenau who lashed the women detainees with her riding whip, kicked them with her impeccably polished leather boots or tortured them savagely was Marie Mandel, the chief of the Aufseherinen in all concentration camps for women in Birkenau-Auschwitz.

When my mother and my brothers were selected for the gas chambers, she was standing near Mengeles. She attended all selections of deportees coming from northern Transylvania that had been occupied by the Horthysts.

She was sentenced to death in December 1947 by the Supreme People's Court in Cracow. Here are a few excerpts from her conviction: "She personally chose for medical experiments 80 woman detainees. The prisoner in the dock, alongside physicians and officers picked out the victims to be gassed during the mass extermination of Jews from Hungary... When a transport of Russian women of Vitebsk arrived, she snatched the children from their mother's arms and threw them into lorries as if they were some stones. On her own initiative the accused sent pregnant women to death in the gas chamber or through injections with phenol... In December 1942, on a biting frost, she ordered the disinfestation of detainees in the women's camp of Birkenau. The bath lasted from morning till 4,00 o'clock in the afternoon.

Holding a riding whip in her hand, the prisoner in the dock walked through the naked and famished women internees who had been compelled to stand in the bitter cold for hours on end. At least a quarter of those women, frozen and starving, were taken away by lorries. Most of them died... The accused ordered the newborns to be burnt in ovens and the suckling be taken from their "mothers and killed..."

Even the most thorough death sentence, all death sentences taken together cannot list the endless series of crimes perpetrated by the typical representatives of female Nazi criminals: die Aufseherinen, the women guardians in the concentration camps.





At Birkenau-Auschwitz the mass extermination of Häftlings operated like clockwork and any perturbation seemed out of the question. In autumn 1944, the number of victims had abounds exceeded one million and the conveyor belt of the death mechanism did not know the slightest disturbance.

The SS-men delighted in superintending its operation. The sight of thousands upon thousands of people crowded in the gas chambers, of the flames in the crematoria throwing light on the mountains of ashes elevated their feelings of Übermenschen, supermen. The life of Übermenschen, of supermen, suited them to perfection: it ran smoothly in the tirade so dear to every SS-man: assassination -- canteen -- brothel.

Still, there was but one source of anxiety. The possibility of seines Aufstand, of a revolt. Never throughout history, nowhere upon earth could dictators, tyrants completely shun off in the depth of their hearts the fear of rebellion. The SS-men in Birkenau-Auschwitz made no exception. Therefore, they took into account all possible means, conditions, prerequisites that might have favored the mere idea of a rising and they eliminated them brutally and in cold blood.

They knew that in order to fight one needed a weapon, as you cannot rebel with bare hands. So that in the camps of Birkenau, those who survived the first great selections on the death platform were directly led to the "desinfestion post" wherefrom they came out stark naked to receive their Häftling clothes. Nobody managed to take along into the camp a knife, a penknife or at least a blade. In camp E we did not work, so we used no tool, we laid our hands on no other object except the few tens of pans and dishes we ate from. On the platforms between the barracks there were not even stones.

And then the SS-men were well aware that in order to fight one needed to be physically strong. Due to the regime that had been imposed on us we were so worn out -- by hunger, by thirst, by diseases, by beatings, by tortures -- that we could hardly stand upon our feet.

And besides, an uprising needs organization, and for that people should know and trust one another. The SS-men severed the families, divided them so that no brother be together with his brother, no father be side by side his son; moreover, they divided even the compact groups of Häftlings belonging to one and the same country. Transports of Häftlings frequently left Birkenau bound to the hundreds of camps in Germany while other deportees from all corners of Nazi occupied Europe kept pouring in.

And yet, there was one exception, one detachment that could get hold of weapons, which was not physically fagged out, witch had plenty of food and water at its disposal and which, moreover, benefited by the advantage of stability, as they worked together all the time. It was the Sonderkommando, the special detachment servicing the gas chambers and the crematoria. The members of the detachment who also selected the deportee's goods and clothes, could lie their hands on knifes and penknife's, on scissors, tongs and hammers. Moving from one camp to another, getting into contact with the Häftlings who worked in the Auschwitz factories or in the surrounding on they even had the possibility to get hold of explosive.

The SS-men knew it and with the regular and strict meticulousness proper to professional assassins, the Sonderkommando, the special detachment, was liquidated every four months. The new special detachment commenced its activity with assisting the burning of the former. To organize a rebellion in four months was difficult, in the conditions Birkenau downright impossible. The gloomy prospects, the implacable end paralyzed the members of the detachment and drained there pawed of action. So that for years on end, they resigned themselves to their fate when their hour come, just like the endless rows of deportees submissively entering the gas chambers at their urge. Eleven special detachments of some 900-1.200 Häftlings shared the same fate one after the other. The members of the twelfth Sonderkommando decided not to let themselves killed and to avenge the countless children, old and diseased ad people, and mothers who'd had preceded them, to avenge the millions of people who entered the gas chambers fully convinced that they would merely have a shower.

In early October 1944, four months after the twelfth special detachment was set up, the 860 Häftlings who were its members decided not to let themselves exterminated. They were ready to fight, to revolt. The signal was to be given by the group servicing crematory No.1 and the assault was to start concomitantly at all the four crematoria. Fighting the SS, the members of the special detachment would dare the devil: to break through the baded-wire fences, to repulse the SS-men and packs of wolf dogs and an escape to Vistula.

The rebellion was planned to break out on the night of 6 to 7 October. But either the SS-men got wind of something, or they sensed a certain strain in the air, because on the 6th of October at noon they started liquidating the Sonderkommando, not the whole of it, but by groups. They began with those servicing crematory No. 3.

Seventy SS-men suddenly jumped off lorries in the precincts of the crematory and ordered the members of the special detachment to take up their dressing for the Appell. But they all kept still, not moving from their places. It was for the first time in the history of the Birkenau camp that an order of an SS-man was broken. But the chief of the SS detachment, a killer with a long personal record and well up in the psychology of Häftlings did not lose his self-possession. He instantly decided to call them individually, after the numbers tattooed on their arms. And he began with the Hungarian deportees who had come into the camp barely a few months before and were less hardened, still fearing everything that happened around them. One by one the whole hundred of them took up their dressing and formed into lines. Surrounded by SS-men they were immediately taken and confined in a barrack in camp D. Then the Greek detainees were called out and they complied, more reluctantly, it is true, and in a bad order, but in the end they formed into columns.

Thereafter, the first Polish detainee was called. Not a stir, only murmurs and clamor. The chief of the brutes had no time to give voice to his indignation as he was knocked down at once, together with other six SS-men by an incendiary bottle, which blew up at his feet. The SS-men opened fire. The Häftlings withdrew to the crematory and the fight began. The SS-men killed by storms of machine-gun fire the aligned Greek detainees and attempted to penetrate the crematory. The Häftlings were fighting back vigorously when all of a sudden the building blew up.

The sound of machine-gun rattle and of the explosion took those at crematory No.1 by surprise. They stopped working. The SS-men supervising the work at the ovens hit a Häftling with his riding whip and shouted at them to keep up the pace. He was instantly stabbed and thrown into one of the ovens. The SS-man at the other end of the hall who came running to aid his comrade shared the same fate. The next moment the SS battalions entered all crematoria. Three thousand SS-men armed with hand grenades, pistols, heavy machine-guns and accompanied by the never-failing wolf dogs surrounded the crematoria.

And thus, failing to effect surprise, the main shock element -- the members of the Sonderkommando had nothing to hope for. And yet, they fought heroically and stubbornly, with an outstanding courage, which did not spring from the chance of victory but from the moving resolve of being the first to die in those crematoria defending their dignity.

Only twelve of the rebels succeeded in escaping Birkenau, but they were soon caught and executed. Those who did not fall during combat were taken out of the camp and killed with flamethrowers. Out of the 860 Häftlings only seven escaped extermination, as they were indispensable to the activity carried out by Captain-SS Mengele. Among them, his forensic expert at the Birkenau crematoria, Dr. Nyiszli Miklos of Oradea whose memories we relied on the great extent in narrating the development of there revolts. Seventy SS-men were killed.

Some maintain that a limited number of rebels (twenty-seven) would have managed to escape and survive. One thing is certain: the thirteenth and last Sonderkommando began its activity by burning the corpses of those who, at the light of the crematory flames, wrote down one of the most dramatic and heroic pages in the fight for defending human dignity.





In the morning, when tens of Kapos began to shout aufstehen, wake up...! uuuup...! and to blow their short whistles, we jumped as if lashed from our bunk or the heap of straw we slept on right to the cold bare cement.

I don't know at what time reveille was sounded, but I remember that in all concentration camps I was detained that horrid yell -- aufstehen! -- wake up! -- accompanied by sinister whistles which penetrated the barracks long before daybreak, when outside it was still dark.

In the dreadful winter of 1944 in Kaufering and Landsberg in particular that command created general stampede. If you did not jump to your feet at the first yell, and did not manage to button up the streaked greatcoat and tie all rags and tatters with ropes around you lest the wind should tear them off and if you did not have the time to bind your clogs with wire lest you should lose them in the snow, once you came out from the barrack to the Appellplatz you had to give up hope as you couldn't do any of these operations with your hands wrapped up urn ranges, and if you unwrapped them, they froze.

We usuallyleft the camp at an early hour as the way to the place where we worked took a couple of hours. There we toiled for 10-12-14, who could exactly tell how many hours on end. There, then... I never knew what was the time. When we returned to the camp, it was already dark. Back in the barrack I fell like a log. My only concern was not to be too fast asleep and be able to hear the first shout: aufstehen! Wake up!

One evening, when we arrived in front of the camp gate after a hell of a trusty day in which twice as much of our comrades as usual died so that we could hardly drag their corpses through the one meter high snow, in which we sank and rolled with corpses and all, instead of finally being dismissed to go to the barracks, we were order:

"Kehrt euch! Vorwärts marsch! Left about face! Forward march!"

The order confounded us. Nothing of the sort had ever happened before. Most sinister thoughts assailed us. We turned right and after 5-600 meters we came to a halt behind an endless column of Häftlings, the detachments that had arrived before.

In a few minutes we found out what was all about. The lice had multiplied to such an extent that typhus was threatening. The SS-men got frightened and set up a shower bath and some steamers for delousing.

Each time there entered one-hounded detainees. The wind blew in strong gusts. We thronged round one another and supported one another; because, otherwise, dead tired and spent with hunger, half frozen as we were we could have collapsed to the ground. Our turn came very late, after midnight.

We entered the first room; we took off our clothes, tied them up in bales and handed them in for delousing. The next room was the shower bath. Warm water! We couldn't believe our senses. We had not washed ourselves since we came to Landsberg. After a couple of minutes the warm water stopped running. "Fertig!", "Heraus!", "Schnelles heraus!", "That's all!", "Get out!", "Get out quickly!"

Shouted at, sworn at and lashed we were pushed into a third room that had no door, no windows. One hundred stark naked Häftlings chilled to bone kept jumping and clapping our bodies. Water was late in evaporating. From time to time a gust of wind swept across the room making us groan. An hour later when we got back our clothes we were almost catching our death with cold.

We entered the camp, passed by the kitchen and got our food: boiled potatoes. At other times, we would have jumped with joy. But we were fagged out now. We entered the barrack and tumbled into our beds. Some put their potatoes under their heads, they were too spent with fatigue to eat. Nobody got undressed.

An hour, or perhaps only half an hout later, we all jumped to out feet. The barrack was invaded by that terrible aufstehen! wake up! accompanied by the maddening sound of short whistles.

I was standing unsteady on my legs, unable to move. For the first time I had the feeling that it was all over, that I am finished...

The second yelling aufstehen! heraus, schneller heraus! wake up! Get out, get out quickly! blending with the long whistles filled the barrack and pierced my ears, my whole body, cell by cell like a cold rain and terrified by the fate I was going for a brief moment torsion to I dashed out, in the cold of the Appelplatz.

The order aufstehen! wake up!... had become so habitual to us, had so much got into our brains and our blood, that many months after liberation, back home, in Cluj in the home for former deportees the first to wake up in the morning shouted merrily and triumphantly: aufsteheeeen! wake uuuup! and we picked up and repeated the word and then turned on the other side and smiling contentedly we lazed in the soft and clean beds for minutes on end.

Sometimes, towards daybreak I happen even now to hear the echo of dreadful aufstehen!... coming from as far as the forest of Bavaria, the hoarse scream that had been screamed by all Kapo's of Landsberg and Kaufering many, many years.



Ausrottung aller Juden


A complete inventory of all criminal plans worked out and carried into effect by Hitler and his acolytes would be difficult to make. However, none of them was so dear, so widely supported and so ruthlessly put into practice as Ausrottung aller Juden, the extermination of all Jews. The idea of extermination prevailed in the Nazi thought and action. They contemplated, planned to exterminate even whole social categories, peoples, and races. But as their plans were extremely through and ambitious, the Nazis did not live to accomplish all of them to the last detail with their well -- known Prussian punctiliousness. The extermination of inferior peoples was much talked about but no reference was made as to which ones were to be exterminated or whether they should be destroyed entirely or partially only, part of them being turned in huge masses of slaves to serve the future masters of Europe -- the Nazi Übermenschen. The extermination of Slavs was talked about a great deal, but the figures were indefinite -- 20-30 million, and no location whatsoever.

In one case the plans were accurate and the details were specified with typically SS precision, in the case of the Ausrottung aller Juden. Indeed, matters were perfectly clear. The question was beyond all doubt the extermination of all Jews, to the last man.

With their spirit of Ordhung, order, the Nazis divided those who had to be murdered into clearly cut categories. In order to avoid any confusion or omission distinct orders were issued for each separate category: global orders, referring to a whole category and partial orders regarding smaller or larger groups belonging to various categories.

Therefore, at the International Military Tribunal there could be produced the originals or copies of the orders to assassinate the true of alleged enemies of the Nazis, the prisoners of war, pilots jumping from damaged planes, Catholic priests, the "surplus mouths", the Slav "subhuman", the Jews "of inferior race".

From all these categories, the Jews, die Juden alone were to be exterminated in their entirety. And not only the Jews of Germany, but of all Europe. Therefore, the programmed was directed against tens of thousands Jews, aiming to liquidate not only several hundred of thousands in one country or another but Ausrottung, to exterminate over eleven million Jews, all Jews in Europe, to the last man.

Throughout its entire development, from its birth to its agony, the Nazi movement was obsessed with the idea of Ausrottung aller Juden, exterminating all Jews. As early as February 1920, the programmed of the Nazi Party staled: "It cannot be a citizen but he who is a co-national, and a co-national cannot be but the one who is of German blood, irrespective of religion. No Jew can therefore be a co-national".

In 1923 in his book Mein Kampf, Hitler wondered: "Why hadn't been gassed some twelve-fifteen thousand of these Hebrews preventing the kin ever since the beginning of the war (1914)?", to unequivocally declare in the Reichstang on January 30, 1939, that a new world war "well result by no means in the bolshevization of the earth and a victory of the Jewry, but in the destruction of the Jewish race throughout Europe."

Before the outbreak of that "new" world war, an issue of May 1939 of the German weekly "Der Stürmer" advised: "A punishment expedition should be conducted against the Jews of Russia; they should be ordained the fate awaiting all criminals and evil-doers: the death sentence, the execution. The Jews of Russia must be killed. They must be destroyed to the last Jew!"

All Nazi chiefs, all Gauleiters, all SS-men and Ghestapo-numbers understood that Ausrottug aller Juden, the extermination of all Jews does not imply only the Jews of Germany, but the Jews of the whole Europe.

Arthur Seyss-Inquart, former commissar of the Reich for Holland declared in his work "Four Years in Holland": "For us the Jews are not Dutch. For us they are the enemies that we could never conclude an armistice or peace with... We shall strike at the Jews whenever we meet them, and those who take their side will suffer the consequences. The Führer declared that the Jews role in Europe has come to an end, so it's all over with them.

On September 1942 Baldur von Schirach stated: "If I were ever reproached with having expelled from this town / Vienna -- a.n.), formerly the metropole of European Jewry, tens and hundreds of thousand Jews, by deporting them to the ghettoes in the East, I shall proudly reply: <I consider my deed as an active contribution to European culture>."

Hans Frank, the general governor, declared in 1941: "What shall we do with the Jews? Do you think we shall settle them in Ostland? Why then all this empty talk? In brief, we must liquidate them by our own means. We have to take steps to exterminate them. There should be as few Jews in the General Government as in the Reich proper". He also noted in his famous diary: "Do you happen to think that in the East they (the Jews -- O.L.) Would be settled in villages? In Berlin we were plainly told: <Why should be take the trouble? We need them neither in the east, nor in the Commissariats of the Reich. For all we care you could kill them yourselves!>."

Frank's opinions, voiced on December 15, 1941 in front of his subordinates at the gouvernmental seat in Cracow were to become fatal: "The Jews are for us some extremely dangerous consumers. At present, in the General Government, there are about 2,5 million Jews and taking into account all those related to them and everything implied, it means that their total number counts up 3,5 million. These 3,5 millions Jews we can neither shoot, not poison, nevertheless we are decided to resort to certain procedures that in a way would make their destruction successful." (The procedures they found have appalled the whole mankind. They were called: Belzec, Sobilbor, Treblinka, Maidanek, Birkenau-Auschwitz.

To Oliver Lustig's Biographical Sketch
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