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Birkenau-Auschwitz and Dachau Holocaust Survivor

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Belohnung (Bonus)

Beruf (Profession)

Bestialität (Beastliness)

Birkenau-Auschwitz (1)

Birkenau-Auschwitz (2)

Blockälteste (Barrack Chief)

Blocksperre (Close Barracks)


Brot (Bread)

Bunker (Bunker)


No Entry, as of now, posted here.









The SS-men in the Totenkopfeinheiten, the death's head units, were, without exception, professional killers, who took pride in their personal style of torturing and killing the detainees.

I saw SS-men suddenly drawing out their pistols and instantly pulling the trigger and then go on as if nothing had happened, without even casting a glance at the fallen Häftling to see whether he died or was still struggling in the dust.

Others, on the contrary, enjoyed playing with their victims, deluding them, making them believe that their fortune had smiled upon them and they would be assigned to a place where work was not so hard; they pulled the trigger only when their victims began to express their gratitude, Some proffered instant assassination: a bullet in the nape of the neck, a phenol injection in the heart, or machine gun fire if he wanted to kill several at a time. Others on the countrary, rejoiced in prolonging to the utmost the agony of death. They ordered a group of Kapo's to kill Häftlings hitting them with the cudgels, or pushing their victimd out the barracks, throw, at the height of winter, buckets full of water over their naked bodies and let them freeze to death in the snow or set dogs on them to tear them up piece by piece.

Indeed, the SS-men Totenkopfeinheiten, the death's head units were, without exception, professional murderers. When taking action individually, they had their own way of humiliating, torturing and killing the detainees. Some were sadistically and savage, others were ruthless and ferocious or disdainful and villainous. But when they assembled together to kill, the differences between them were blurred. To be more precise features blended and the general characteristics of the SS-men in Totenkopfeinheiten, in the death's head units stood out at frightful dimensions: die Barbarei, barbarity.

The whole life in the concentration camps, every episode taken separately, every action of the SS taken separately or in their entirety was full of most appalling instances of barbarity. But, according to the survivor's testimonies, the barbarity of the SS was mostly evident when the Häftlings doomed to he gassed were selected and transported. Here is a such-like scene described in a document of the Nürenberg Tribunal: "The seriously ill from the surgery, their wounds dressed, and long rows of worn-out and broken down sick people and a few about to recover were loaded into lorries. They were all stark naked, and the sight of them was hard to bear. The lorries stopped at the block entrance and the miserable sick were simply thrown into lorries or loaded by the medical attendants (I saw such tragically transports quite often). Usually some 100 men were crowded into a small lorry. They all knew what was in store for them. Most of them were utterly listless, while others, particularly the patients from the surgery who had open bleeding wounds or terrifying scars were striking at random like mad. Around the lorries, the SS-men ran like wild pushing back the screaming crowd who tried to jump off".

Nyiszli Miklos, a Häftling from Oradea and Mengele's forensic doctor, who had seen with his own eyes countless of such transports to the crematory makes a shocking description: "Those selected could no longer scream, they no longer had the strength to get off the high platform of the lorry. The SS-guardians were shouting at them, calling them, but no one was moving. The drive lost his temper, got back to the wheel end started the engine. The front side of the platform was rising little by little and then suddenly emptied its content. The wretched dying, sick people fell on their heads, faces, and knees or tumbled down from the platform one over the other. Struggling on the ground, tortured by smarts of pain, they uttered inarticulate cries. The scene was terrible!

The Sonderkommando members stripped the victims of their rag witch they pilled up in the yard, and led the unfortunate to the cremation room. Were they lined them in front of Oberscharführer Mussfeld who turned his back to the ovens. He was on duty so he would shoot them in the nape of the neck. A rubber glove protected the hand holding the pistol. The people fell down, one after the other, making room for the following series. In a few minutes Mussfeld had 'put them to bed', umgelegt as he said in his jargon. In half an hour all that was left of them were their ashes."

How irrelevant, how vague the word Barbarei, barbarity when referring to such crimes!





All punishments inflicted in concentration camps were aimed at hastening the Häftlings death. Life and labor conditions were so hard to bear that from the moment you stepped into a K.Z. your days were numbered. And yet, many SS-men thought that in their camp inmates don't "die fast enough", so much that if one managed to go unpunished during the day, he would certainly dream of some punishment at night.

The greatest terror was spelled by the three "Bs": Bock, Baum and Bunker. The hardest to bear was the Bunker, of course. But Baum took you closest to death. Hanging from Baum, a tree, you actually felt the grip of death. The punishment was called simply: Baum and it meant that the punished hung from a tree, his her hands tied up fast with a rope, the rope tied to a branch or nail in the tree two meters above the ground. The whole mass of the body hanging into the air weight ad upon the shoulders. The rope tightened around his hands and cut into the flesh. In the-fifteen minutes the shoulders were out of joint. In another several minutes the arms were swollen and paralyzed. The pains were unbearable. The moans, screams, shrieks of the victims who cried with pain touched no one. Quite the contrary, they rather set the sadism and bestiality of the SS-men, who taking a long draw at their cigarettes hit the hanging bodies of victims with their machine gun rifles until they began to swing increasing their pains. Then slinging their weapons, the SS-men seized the riding whips and stared to his the miserable people hanging from the Baum, the tree, over the cheeks, the trunk, and the genitals. The tortured bodies were streaming perspiration and blood. The torture lasted between half an hour and two hours, sometimes even more.

In case someone managed to come through, it took him weeks on end to recover and be able to move his arms again Many were injured for life. 






The SS considered death a profession like any other one, se in order to practice it one to love it and be trained in it. The first condition raised no difficulties with the SS who had a propensity for killing. Their love of murder had been nurtured since early childhood, in Hitlerjugend1 and then in the SS by voluntarily joined those who loved and wanted to kill.

 How to do it they learnt on the run. The concentration camps were high schools where Allgemeine-SS2 and Waffen-SS3-men were invited to learn the trade from their comrades in the Totenkopfeinheiten, the expert killers.

But when the mass exterminations were started it was obvious that something went wrong: the SS-men had to get used to death in mass proportion. It was one thing to shoot or hang one, five or ten men and another to empty whole trains of corpses, to cover ditches in which among the thousands corpses that had been buried there were some people alive, struggling to get out.

According to General SS von dem Bach-Zelewski's narrative, when mass exterminations were started, even the reputed Himmler, the chief and got of all SS, attending in Minsk a model-execution of 100 prisoners that he himself had ordered "was about to faint at the first discharge and began to shout because the firing squad had failed to kill two women at the first firing."

In a report sent to Berlin, SS-Untersturmführer4 Dr. Becker, the chief of the gas vans, informed that "various Kommandos have their own members unload the vans after gassing" emphasizing "the huge moral and physical effects this work has on those people, who complained of headaches after each unloading." However, tough the SS-men, it gave them headaches to see so much death, their hand began to tremble when pulling the trigger so many times. Therefore in order to keep up the executioner's spirits in all concentration camps there was the custom of giving eine Belohnung, a bonus, to all those who did the killing perfectly with out batting an eyelid, setting, thereby, a "good example."

In the museum of the former concentration camp of Buchenwald one can see a pierced human heart kept in a hermetically closed glass vessel. It is the heart of an inmate that had been shot. The legend lets you know the name of the SS-man who pulled the trigger and who received as Belohnung, bonus, a three days' leave absence for his "sharp-shooting."

The doctor of the SS troops in the Weimar-Buchenwald garrison appealed in written to the commander of the camp to grant einer Belohnung, a bonus to SS-Hauptscharführer5 Wilhelm, SS-Obsersharführer6 Warmstädt and SS-Untersharführer7 Stope who on January 26, 1945 led the removing of corpses from the transport from Auschwitz, in his opinion they deserved a special ration in liquors, which was also medically advisable.

In Dachau there was a written order saying that for each hanged detainee, the respective executioner should he three cigarettes. In Buchenwald there was a Kommando-99 exclusively made up of the SS. charged with executions outside the barbed wire fenced perimeter. The detainees were order to get undressed and led six at a time into a room equipped with eight shower outfits. But the showers were started only to wash away the blood after the victims had been shot. When the number of detainees to be executed was greater, they were led to the room in larger groups and raked with machine gunfire. The blood spots on the floor were covered with clean sawdust and then a new group was immediately brought in.

Not only that killers were rewarded with alcoholic drinks in abundance, but also all members of the Kommando-99 were awarded the "Military Cross for Merit."

The Hitler Youth Organization
2 The General SS.
Fighting SS troops.
Second-Lieutenant SS.
5 Major Lieutenant SS officer.
Lieutenant SS officer
Sub-Lieutenant SS officer







The SS tortured, killed, not out of revenge, not in hot blood, not carried away by the frenzy of fighting the enemy, but calmly, systematically, carefully. They practiced killing as if it were eine Beruf, a profession.

When entering camp E to select the Häftlings for crematoria SS-Hauptsturmführer doctor Mengele was always looking very smart, dressed up as if for ceremony: freshly ironed uniform, impeccably polished boots, mew riding whip. When performing the selections he was always in high spirits, his face beaming with pleasure. Only once was he seen frowning. He had given the order that 50 woman detainees be selected for working in Germany. When reviewing the detachment he stopped and looked annoyed at the third row.

"Who made the selections?" he furiously asked his attendants.

Indeed -- the second detainee in the third row a mere skeleton, a gust of wind would have knocked her down. She was staring pointblank with big sensitive eyes. It was probably her beautiful eyes that had melted, for a second, the old Obsersharführer's heart, reminding him the eyes of his wife, or daughter, or sister.

"Obersharführer Scmidt, Herr Huptsturmführer", came the scared answer.

"For how long has he been in Birkenau-Auschwitz?"

"For three months, Captain."

"You brought him here in vain. Send him back tomorrow to the front. He doesn't know seinen Beruf, his job."







The piano player, that's how the other detainees called her. She had come to camp on a ringing frost, in winter '44. She was twenty and had won five awards at international contests. Her mother used to tear stripes of the ragged clothes to wrap up and keep her fingers warm. One evening toward spring, during the Appell, when the SS-man passed by her, she gave a start. The SS-man noticed it. He stopped walking and dropped his cigarette. "Pick it up!" he ordered.

When the girl kneeled down, and reached the cigarette the SS-man stepped on her hand. The girl started to scream and her desperate mother dashed to the SS-man, who knocked her down with one blow. The woman kneeled down and seizing the executioner's boot tried to save her daughter's hand. The SS-man pulled out the pistol, put it tot he mother's nape of the neck and pulled the trigger slowly, without any haste, while he crushed under his heel the girl's fingers...

One day in Birkenau, a Häftling in the camp E has seen, through the barbed wire fence his only brother who was still alive. (The rest of the family had perished long before. In the ghetto, during deportation or in other concentration camps).

He rushed to the fence, calling his brother by name. On hearing him brother did the same and they simultaneously arrived et the barbed wire fence, unable to utter a word, unable even to breath with excitement. And the next moment it would have been too late to say something. The SS sentinels in the watchtowers at each extremity of the fence pilled the trigger of their machine-rifles. The bodies of the tow brothers fell over the barbed wires conducting high-tension current. When their fingers touched they no longer could feel any warmth. Their bodies had already been carbonized...

At Mauthausen, in winter 1944 / 1945 a young Häftling sick with dysentery was minutes late to Appell. Such violation of discipline was enough to trigger of die Bestialität, the beastliness of any SS-man. So, when the Häftling got back to the quarry where his detachment was working, the Kommandoführer ordered him to follow him to the rivulet near by that had been bridged over by a thick layer of ice for more than a month.

 "Schnell, go to the middle of the river and break the ice!" the SS-mean ordered.

The young Häftling worked to break the ice and make a hole half a meter in diameter.

"Into the water!" the Kommandoführer yelled and hit the Häftling with a cudgel he always carried along, in orders to reinforce his order.

The young man obeyed but as the water was nit very deep, the upper part of his body remained out. This enraged the Kommandoführer who started hitting him over the head to make him squat and disappear under the ice. From time to time the unfortunate young man bobbed up again to breath and the SS-man let him pant for breath for a few seconds, then with a snow of blows he again made him immerse under the water. The scene was repeated several times and then the SS-man ordered him to get out from water and stand at attention.

Because of the biting frost detainee's clothes soon turned into a cover of ice. Even the water dripping on his face turned into icicles.

A quarter of an hour later, the Kommandoführer, anxious to reach a warm place confronted the detainee with the choice: either to work till evening in his clothes of ice, or to make for the watchtower to be shot. After a brief moment of hesitation, which lasted no more than a start, the Häftling headed for the watchtower.

After the liberation, on of the tens of thousands of SS executioners, Gustav Sorge, nicknamed Iron Gustav, who for eight years had served in various concentration camps gradually climbed the hierarchic ladder (from block chief he became a camp chief) was told during trial by the prosecutor:

"During the preliminary inquiry you declared that all SS-men in the camp were, to a smaller or greater extent Bestien, beasts.

 Sorge: "Yes, it is true, das waren alle Bestien, they were all beasts."

 Prosecutor: "What did ihre Bestialität, their beastliness show in?

 Sorge: " It showed in the torturing of the detainees, in hitting them with sharp objects, in the punishments they applied to them such as hurrying the detainees alive or hounding dogs at them, etc.

Sorge stopped short his listing. He could have gone on for hours and days on end not finish, to mention all aspects of the beastliness of the SS-men; everything they thought, they said or did was beastly.





Birkenau-Auschwitz (1)


The blood-curdling fame of the Konzentrationslager Auschwitz has spread the world throughout. Actually it was not a single camp, but a whole complex including 39 camps in the vicinity of Auschwitz, but the extermination complex lay some 2-3 km away, at Auschwitz II or Birkenau, as it was officially called. The camp of Birkenau proper stretched over less than 2-sq. km., but it included four crematoria with light gas chambers and 46 ovens.

Spoon after the settling up of the first Nazi concentration camps, Hitler issued an ordinance warning against the turning of the concentration camps into "boarding houses" or "sanatoria".

Faithful to their Führer, Himmler and the whole gang of SS-men in Totenkopfeinheiten, the death's head units, saw to the setting up of the camps as true factories of death, as they had actually been conceived, and not boarding houses or sanatoria. Führer's plan was most perfectly put into practice at Birkenau, where death was inflicted at conveyor belt rate.

And in order to settle any doubts as the high level of the "death technology" at Birkenau-Auschwitz, one of the chiefs of the camp, Karl Fritsch welcomed the newcomers with the following words: "You are not in a sanatorium, but in a German concentration camp where from there is only one way out: trough the chimney. If this doesn't suit you, you can immediately throw yourselves over the barbed wire fences where through high tension current is running; if in this transport there are Jews, they don't have the right to live more than two weeks, the priests a month while the others -- three months."

The detainees in the other concentration camps throughout the Reich were struck with terror when hearing of what happened at Auschwitz.

Germaine Tillon, who was deported to Ravensbrüch in 1943 writes in her book: "the Czech detainees who had just returned from Auschwitz lived in the same block with us and they told us in a low voice the terrible thing they had seen there, the systematic destruction of Jews by gassing, the burnt corpses, the hillocks of human a shies; with them there also were some Jewish women who were waiting to leave for Auschwitz and who knew by now what fate they had in store."

"According to Hitler's wish -- Höss confessed -- Auschwitz became the greatest extermination complex of all times."

During the fascist night, hundreds of thousands of deportees arrived at the platform of Birkenau-Auschwtz from all Europe. On January 27, 1945, when the Soviet liberating troops entered the camp they found only 2.819 Häftlings alive.

But one does not know and never will the ashes of how many human beings were scattered the world throughout by the winds that swept over the crematoria of Birkenau-Auschwitz.

Could there possibly be a more terrible indictment bill of Nazism than the fact that to establish the precise number of the victims in the K.Z.'s which had spread all over Hitler's Germany and a whole area under his, influence, has never been or will be possible.





Birkenau-Auschvitz (2)


Some of the survivors of the concentration camps, haunted by nightmares will not talk and will not hear what had happened there, then. They give a start, become anxious and panic whenever they the words Mauthausen, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen or Kaufering or particularly when hear the words Birkenau-Auschwitz.

As far as I am concerned, since the very first day of liberation which caught me at Landsberg in Bavaria, I felt the urge, the wish to return to Birkenau-Auschwitz and to sees as a free man the place were my youth was humiliated and trampled underfoot, were my parents, two brothers and a sister were killed, where my friends since childhood were exterminated, where hundreds of thousands of innocent people were killed.

I wanted to see with my own eyes that the gas chambers were demolished, and the ovens of crematoria had been turned into museum, that the watchtowers in the corners of each camp were deserted, that the platforms which witnessed the selections for gas chambers were covered with gases, that the barbed wire which once conducted high tension current is rusted and hangs uselessly off the concrete pillars.

I felt the urge and the need to stay a few moments on the "death platform" where I had parted for good with my mother and my brothers and sister and then walk slowly by myself towards camp E. To strop in front of the "Disinfection Post" where they took away everything that reminded us our homes and we received the streaked Häftling's clothes and then stay a while on the threshold of camp E, where Then, on June 9, 1945, even our names were annulled and replaced by mere figures: "1.465". Then go and stretch out on the Appellplatz in front of barrack No. 21 look up in the sky and make sure there are no more black-bluish wreaths of smoke rising from the crematoria, make sure that everything is silent, nobody shouts and swears any more, nobody cries or whines or curses any more...

Thirteen years after my liberation, in summer 1957, that strange wish came true.

The whole camp had been turned into a huge museum. The barber-wire fence supported by high concrete pillars was still there, but in no longer conducted high-tension current. Even the plates figuring a death's head any two crossed bone reading: "Achtung! Lebensgefahr!" Attention! Danger of death! Were left untouched. The blocks were also intact only that in them there were no more Häftlings, but museum exhibits. And crematorium No. 1 which the SS-men no longer had time to demolish was all there.

Theses began to grow on the Appellplatzs, on the alleys which saw numbers of people -- parents and children, brothers and sisters, fiancées and holding their hands filled with foreboding of death and still desperately fighting them, heading for the gas chambers. Walking the camp I was seized with a feeling of anxiety that I could not explain. I calmed down only when reaching the place where once there was the political section of the SS. The only building that no longer existed, as in the stead a gallows was built to carry out the sentence of death passed at the trial of the former commander of the Birkenau-Auschwitz camp: Standartenführer-SS Rudolf Höss. The sight of the gallows and the notification near by informing of the carrying out of the death sentence reassured me.

I went then to the ruins of crematoria No 2 and 3 and I lingered there for a while, telling myself that I would never know in witch of the crematoria was killed my mother, in which of them two of my brothers and a sister had been burnt to ashes.

Walking with heavy steps and downcast eyes around the ruins, in the unusually high grass I saw several patches of barren earth, a striking contrast to the huge carpet of grass. I kneeled down and when I felt the earth a shudder crept over me, but I did not draw back my hand. My fingers kept stroking the dust: some ashes and thin splinters of human bones.

Ever since I keep asking myself and I ask you, too, my reader: If the earth, this huge globe, with its unfathomable depths, did not find, has not find sufficient powers and resources to heal its wounds, to cover with life-giving grass the Place where fascism had committed its crimes, how could my wounds heal never to bleed again?






At Birkenau-Auschwitz, the Blockältestes, the barrack chiefs, had power of life and death over us. As in camp E of Birkenau nobody worked but waited for days, weeks and months on end to be selected either for the crematorium or some labor camp in Germany, twenty-four out of twenty-four hours we were at the beck and call of the barrack chief.

There were about one thousand Häftlings in a barrack. The chief of the barrack, the Blockältestes, was helped by tow Vertreters, the deputy barrack chiefs.

In summer 1944 the Blockältestes, of the thirty barracks in camp E were replaced four times. In the beginning they were all gypsies. Then they were replaced with deportees from Hungary and then the latter with Polish Häftlings. The last ones were recruited from among the German common law breakers.

They were sadistically with no exception. One of them, however, distinguished himself through unequalled beastliness: the chief of barracks No 21, whom the over one thousand teen-agers who were detained in that block nicknamed "the Lamp Post". He was almost two meters high, had brushy eyebrows and wrinkled cheeks, high cheek bones and long and heavy hands. He had his own method. When he slapped someone's face he somehow put his hand under his jaw and lifted a little the poor miserable throwing him out of balance and knocking him to the ground. Hardly there was a Häftling whom he did not knock to the ground at first blow.

I always saw him carrying a long curbed cudgel he used to hit the detainees with, breaking their bones or their heads or even causing their death. The two Vertreters had equally long and heavy cudgels, which were also curbed. Only the SS-men had the right to carry riding whips. The Blockältestes used to strike with cudgels.

At Landsberg, the barracks were dug into the earth, just like some graves. Fifty Häftlings lived in one barrack. The barrack chiefs there had no right to thrash us, as our labor force was needed. But they hastened our death by constantly stealing from miserably small food rations.

My barrack chief was a doctor called Winkler. In spring 1945 bread that had been allotted to 3 men in autumn was the daily ration of food for 16. Wintkeler used to cut a big slice for himself from the middle of each loaf and gave the two halves to be shared among sixteen people. He also stole from what little margarine we were given.

At night, back from out work of slaves utterly exhausted, we received our food at the barrack entrance. Most of us usually finished to eat their ration by the time they got to their "dibs", where they fell like logs on the rags covering the straws and instantly fell a sleep. When silence fell over the barrack Blockältestes Winkler, a doctor, began to swallow down. He had an enormous, disproportionate head and large jaws and he champed so loud by that I had the impression that a whole heard of cattle was ruminating. Those who could not sleep were tossing indignantly about not so much because he stole our food, he robbed us of our life but because the SS-men managed to attain little by little their purpose: to degrade us and hasten our decay from the condition of human beings.

Winkler and almost all Blockältestes and Kapos and Lagerältestes were people who had sunk to the lowest level of human degradation and we feared we dreaded we were following in their footsteps.






In camp E of Birkenau-Auschwitz we faced death every day. Death was lurking everywhere and assailed us under most various guises: diseases or touring, hunger or thirst, exhaustion or despair.

But quite soon we got used to diseases and beatings, to starvation and lack of water and to despair. It rested with us not to give in and the wish to survive was stronger that all this, at least that's how we felt in the beginning.

Fear of death seized us only when the Blockälteste shouted: "From column for selection!" Starting that moment our life no longer belonged to us no longer depended on our will to survive, but on chance, or Mengele's whims. We even felt the cold grip of death but we managed to bear it only because that dreadful state lasted very little. Hauptsturmführer-SS needs less than five minutes tore view the 150-200 rows of fives that made up the front of our barrack and to point to those who had to be taken to crematoria. Even when we passed naked one by one in front of him, the selection lasted no more than 15-20 minutes. When Mengele left the platform, we, those who escaped the crematoria, fell to the ground to draw life from the earth into our bodies that had been dragged of the last drop of power.

Fear of death overpowered us completely when we heard the shout: "Blocksperre!" "Close barracks!"

This usually happened at dusk when two Läufers darted from the sentinel post at the camp entrance to the other end of the camp running, along the central alley and shouting at the top of their voices:

"Blocksperre!" "Blocksperreee!" Close barracks!

Panic-stricken inmates from all platforms rushed to the barracks jostling and trampling on one another and the doors closed.

In mid August 1944 Blocksperre! Was ordered in camp E for the first time after my arrival there and during that night all gypsies in the camp were taken to the crematoria and burnt to ashes.

The next morning the even barracks on the right side of the alley, which had been occupied by gypsies until then, with their big doors wide open looked like some empty, violated graves.

Even since, I had heard the two Läufers shouting: Blocksperre! Close barracks! Ever more often and after each night when Blocksperre! Close barracks! Was shouted daybreak always found one two barracks deserted and empties. Nobody from the barracks singled out for extermination ever stayed alive. During the following days the barracks were packed with the last survivors of the ghettoes in Poland...

Once in the barrack with the barracks doors closed the panic-stricken Häftlings lost all control and burst out crying, screaming, and yelling hysterically. The whole camp was clamoring. And then suddenly -- silence. The inmates of almost thirty barracks stood stone still. They didn't move, didn't blink, didn't even breathe, they would have even silenced their heartbeats if they could. Only our ears were strained to the utmost.

The vans advent ad noisily but slowly, stringing our nerves. Were would they stop this time? In front of which barrack?

They passed past barracks 6... 8... 10... Blood rose to our faces. Another two barracks and then our barrack, barrack No. 16.

They stopped. They must have stopped in front of barrack No. 12 or 14. We can no longer hear it. Another moment and...

"Mother!... Mother where are you? Help!... No... I don't want to die!..."

It is barrack No. 15. This means they are liquidating the odd barracks on the other side of the alley.

An hour long as an endless night follows. An hour during which the Häftlings of barrack No. 15 are packed in vans and taken to crematoria.

There is silence again. The last van went away, yet we do not dare to move. Fear of death does not leave us. What if the liquidation went an? Which barrack would follow?

Toward daybreak we realize that this time we escaped. We have a sigh of relief and resume our daily routine till that evening when Läufers would again run along the alley, shouting on the top their voices: Bloksperre! Close barracks!







The first and most frequent Strafen, punishment, in all concentration camps was thrashing 25, 50, 75 or even one hundred whip, riding whip or cudgel strokes over the seat of the detainee. The detainee was ordered to lie flat on the Bock, trestle. The punishment was administered by various Kapos, Lagerältestes or SS-men.

In each camp the punishment was inflicted according to various ordinances, issued by the Central Economic-Administrative Office of the SS. It was carried out on the Bock, the trestle, a wooden support made for the purpose, resembling a table to which the detainee was fastened whit some tie-bands, his head hanging down, the leg bent and upwards. Der Bock, the trestle was known in all concentration camps as the most ordinary instrument of punishment, just the cudgel and the riding whip.

In Ravensbrück, the largest camp for women, the customary punishment was "25 cudgel strokes". Sometimes 50 or 75 strokes were ordered, but they were usually given in two or three rounds. But not as a general rule. Few people could endure fifty cudgel strokes at a time, without break. Most of the punished died. And when 75 strokes were ordered death was always the final result.

For inflicting the punishment on Bock, trestle, a whole ritual was staged. As Eugen Kogan also showed in his book, in most instances the whole effective of the camp were summoned to assemble on the gathering place to attend the punishment. Der Bock, the trestle was brought in carried by four men as if it were a throne, then placed on a large pile of stones which the punished detainee or detainees had to climb. They bawled out through the loud speaker the name of the punished Häftling, his offence and "extent" of the punishment. There were many hundreds of Häftlings, who did not utter even a moan while struck with the cudgel on the trestle, but there were also inmates whose cries and screams resounded for beyond the gathering place. When their shrieks disturbed the camp leaders, the latter had a brass band play marches to drown their cries. In Buchenwald the Sturmführer Rödl went so far as to have an opera singer sing operatic arias near the Bock, trestle, during punishments?

The ritual of this punishment considered the easiest to bear was observed in Birkenau as well. According to O. Kraus and E. Kulka's narrative there the punishment was inflicted during roll call in front of all detainees. The inmates who were to be punished stood in a line in front of the trestle, waiting for their turn to come. Some detainees were left the last to increase their punishment. The whiz of the bull's puzzle or of the leather-coated steel wire broke the dead silence that had fallen over the thousand of shaved-headed, hollow-checked detainees. The hard strokes fell with relentless regularity over the helplessly tied detainee and cut deep into his flesh. Soon bloodstained bits of his ragged clothes began to fly into the air... The detainee had to count each stroke aloud. Those who were no longer able brink of madness received one or two extra strokes. After the punishment was carried out the detainee was released and had to report to the camp commander: "Herr Lagerführer, Häftling 73.043 fünfundzwanzig Schlagiebe danken erhalten."

Wieslav Kielar also recalls the carrying out of such a punishment: "I measly lay on the Bock, the trestle. I strained my button while Bruno held my head between his knees and pulled down my trousers. Palitzsch was getting ready to strike.

--- "Count", Bruno growled.

--- "Eins" a short and hard stroke. Smarting pain along the stripe left by the brute's cudgel.

--- "Zweeei". An excruciating pain. I tried to break lose but Bruno, an old expert, held me tight.

--- "Dreeei"! Oh, God. I can't stand it any more. It's breaking, burning. I can feel it swelling. And once again: "Viiier" and again "Fünf". And again... And again... up to ten, up to twenty-five, till fainting... and then on up to fifty, and sometimes, till death.







Everything had lost its value in the concentration camps.

Nothing was respected any longer. With one single exception: "das Brot", bread.

 "Das Brot", bread was till a holy, sacred thing.

The first weeks and months at Birkenau-Auschwitz we stood petrified with terror every time we were ordered: "antreten zum Appell" -- from column for roll call -- A 4-5 hours' ordeal started then and daily claimed its victims. Later we got used to the curses and beating and the daily victims.

At first, the command "undressed for selection" paralyzed us. After selection, one third of us did not return to the barracks. They went to the crematorium. By the end of 1944, selections were so frequent that we no longer trembled when confronted to death.

Yet, the heathen, wicked fever and the wild impatience that overwhelmed us every evening, after the roll call, when we received the command to from column for the distribution of bread, had preserved the same intensity till the end. Our lips would tremble first, and then a nervous fever would gradually seize our bodies.

 "Ein Brot", a loaf of bread, was first distributed among 4, then 5, and 6 and, in the spring of 1945, among 16 Häftlings.

No pocket knife with anyone. The 4, 5 or 15 Häftlings that had received one loaf formed a group. The most balanced member of the group was designated to divide the loaf into 4, 5, 6 or 15 portions, closely watched by the voracious, inquisitive and suspicious eyes the others. Not a single word was spoken. No one was allowed to hurry him up. No mistaken was accepted, not a single crumb. When the portions were ready, one blindfold member of the group designated, one by one, those who were to receive each portion: Andrei... Walter... Jean...

Some used to stuff their mount with their portion and finish it in a few mouthfuls. Some others turned their portion into small pieces took them one to their mouth, with utmost care, not to waste one single crumb. The swallowing of the portion was thus prolonged to its maximum and hunger, somehow, appeased. Most of the prisoners started their bargains. Half of a bread portion was offered for a whole portion of Dörrgemüse1 the next day; a quarter of a bread portion -- for half a portion of Dörrgemüse or for a rag from a shirt required for dressing a bleeding wound...

 Das Brot, bread, was the only true value in the camp. Everything could be obtained for bread.

My brother Emilian and myself never used to eat up our both portions at once. Every night we preserved one portion for the next morning. At night, we used to keep it close to our breast, so that no one could steal it from us.

... One night, one hour after bread had been distributed, of the platform we ran into our cousin, Edmund Biener. He had been assigned to barrack No. 20. As he was the shortest one in the barrack, he had no other choice but to be selected for the gas chambers. And there was no possibility to escape from Birkenau. Yet, that high, he had the chance of his life. In the barrack next door, 300 Häftlings, wearing new striped clothes, were excepting their departure for Germany. A young man, not very tall, but strongly built and robust came to Edmund Biener. He told him: "If I can a portion of bread from you, I agree to change clothes with you. You may thus go to Germany instead of my self. I am strong and can be selected again another time for Germany."

Mad with excitement, Edmund Biener asked to wait for 10 minutes. He told us in one breath about the offer he had been made and then burst out into sobbing. He had no courage to ask us for the portion that of bread he knew we were always saving over night. Emilian took it out from under his shirt and we all ran to barrack No. 20. That night, our cousin left the crematoria of Birkenau.

Not long after that night, Mengele decided to bring some variation to the monotony of selections. Instead of asking the Häftlings to march naked past him, as he had used to before, he ordered that two poles should be erected at a few meter's distance from each other, on the platform behind the camp. A board connecting the two poles was fixed in nails, at a mans height from the ground.

In his very presence -- SS Captain Dr. Mengele and of his train, all the Häftlings in the camp had to step naked beneath the board. Those who did not touch it with their heads were taken directly to the gas chambers.

That particular young Häftling was strongly built and robust, yet not very tall, and, however, hard he tried, walking on tiptoes he could not touch the board... he paid the portion of Brot, bread, at the cost of his life. At the cost of a portion of Brot, bread, my cousin Edmund Biener saved his own life. And is still alive. Today he lives in Israel in the city of Betah Tikva.

Some sort of "vegetable" stew made of some dry plants that was the only food that was being served at Birkenau --day in, day out.







The most dreaded building of each concentration camp was the Bunker. Of courses, it could not compare with the gas cambers, the crematoria. But gas chambers and crematoria were only in central camps, which had each tens and hundreds of adjoining camps. There was no camp without a Bunker, though.

The Bunker appeared long before the concentration camps during the shameless rule of Röhm's "assault battalions". There was no S. Sturmabteilung1 detachment not have its own Bunker, its unofficial prison where to maltreat freely, unseen by others, its enemies.

In his deposition made in front of the Nürnberg Tribunal Rudolf Diels, the former chief of the Gestapo stated that "Everywhere the S. A groups had built on their on secret places for beating, the so-called Bunkers, were the brown revolutionaries gave vent to rage towards their defenseless adversaries." And then he described a such-like Bunker: "the victims I found there were almost starved to death. In order to extort a confession from them, they were looked into tight wardrobes. Cross-examination began and ended with beating; moreover, at several hour's intervals about ten tough men rushed on the victims with rods, rubber cudgels and whips. Broken teeth and bones stood proof to torturing. When I got in, the living skeletons with suppurating wounds lay on a heap or rotten straw. There was not anyone not to bear from top toe the blue-black, Yellowish or green signs of inhumane beatings. Many had swollen eyes and clogged blood under their nostrils.

All this happened as early as 1933.

In concentration camp The Bunkers were improved and their functions multiplied. They served for cross-examinations, torturing and executions by shooting in the nape of the neck or hanging.

When summoned for cross-examination the detainees entered the Bunker stark naked. It is impossible to list all crimes committed in the Bunker. Most of those confined there did not come back.

Back in the barrack an occasional survivor, left to live for another short while, was so terrified that he couldn't utter a single word.

 Scharführen SS Joseph Niedermayer, former chief of the Bunker of Mauthausen declared at his trial: "In the cells of the Bunker I beaded the detainees with the cudgel, with my hands and my first."

Arrest in the Bunker was dreadful. The cells were dark and humid and the food almost inexistent. One would not sleep because there was no room to lay even on the bare cement; quite often the corridors resounded with shooting, as executions took place one after the other; the wolf-dogs were barking all the time. As shown in Eugen Kogan's book "Network of Death", Bunkers ranged from the "dog's kennel" in Dacau in which the detainee could stay only crouched on one side and where he had to bark for the food which was thrown to him as if he were dog, to the completely dark cells in which the German intellectuals were imprisoned as a result of the scientific contradictions between their own views and those of the "heroes of the National Socialist spirit" and where they became almost blind, from the cells of Sachsenhausen which were so small that the detainee could only stand erect being spat through a latticed window cut at face level, unable to wipe off his face because he could not raise his hands and to many other such monstrous places.

The Bunker in Dachau had 60 cells without windows.

The Auschwitz museum exhibits some cells that had been meant for arrest. They are one sq. m. Large and of a man's height, having a lateral opening to allow for ventilation but built in away as not let the light in. There is also a door, some half a meter high, the detainees entered through crawling on all fours. Four people were supposed to be confined in such a cell. They were standing erect, had no room to move. If one of them fainted there was no place for him to fall down.

In the evening detainee's accused of "insufficient diligence" were confined into such-like cells. In the morning they were set free and sent to work. Krankenmann, chief of block XI, the punishment block, the "death block" ordered the Häftlings to line along a stone wall and slapped them over their faces so hard that their heads or jaws broke to the walls.

At Ravensbrück, some 60-70 women detainees were crowded into a punishment room, under the pretext that they were mentally alienated. They were dressed only in their chemises. There was not even room to sit down. In the middle of the room there was a bucket for relieving nature. The one and only window had no windowpanes but grates. The women detainees left the room only when they died.

This is how Dutch survivor Non Verstegen describes the Bunker of the concentration camp Vught: "After the first group of 49 women were confined into a small individual cell (2,37 x 4,02 x 2,35m) I was taken there too. Then, when the second group of women arrived many of were crowded into out room... We were 74... the room was so packed that we could not move. Ventilation was very bad. It was only after several hours that we managed to open the window, which had got stuck. By then several women had already fainted and their number increased during the night. Things got worse because the room was completely during the night. Things got worse because the room was completely dark, and we were tortured by parking thirst so that in a moment of madness one of the detainees bit some of us. We took of our dresses and licked the water that had condensed and was trickling down from the ceiling. Later on we realized that lamming on the walls and drinking condensed water burnt our ha cks and lips. The new brickwork emanated nitric acid. At half past seven when the door was finally opened, 34 bodies were thronged in the middle of the room, while the other 40 were learning on the walls ort against each other. Later they found out that ten woman had died."

At Buchenwald, Lagarälteste Richter had devices the so-called black Bunker. A wing of block No.3, neighboring the assembly place had been completely blacked out and closed; it was never heated... There the frequent trashing were always administered to everybody at a time. The food rations were reduced to almost nothing. The survivors came of the black Bunker looking like cadaverous skeletons. One of them, researcher in Bible Otto Leichnigg wrote down his recollections of the Bunker: "In the evening of 23rd February, the whole assembly of detainees -- 34 men in all -- was laid on the Blok, trestle, and each was administered between ten and 25 cudgel strokes. In the evening of February 24, Blokälteste handed me a note reading: "Report in front of panel No. 2". The trestle had been prepared again. We were administered another 25 strokes. Then we were taken to the block Bunker. Each slit had been covered with paper. As the Bunker was never heated, the walls were humid and floor was covered with puddles. I crawled to those places groping in the dark to sit into one of those puddles and relieved the burning pain in my seat. One night three of us sneaked out to look for some food, because we were hungry all the time. They were caught and brought back and then all of us were again put to the trestle. We could wash ourselves only once every two or three day, we shaved once within a fortnight and we did it in a great haste. The room was utterly empty; there were only two buckets for relieving nature in one of the corners. In order to get to them we had to feel our way in the dark? The excrements made the air unbreathable. We slept directly on hard floor squeezed into one another. Out boots, covered with the detainee's cap severed as pillow, the coat substituted the blanket. We were tightly squeezed into one another, forming long lines, lest we should freeze. Nobody could change its position. After two or three hours we were frozen. Then we marched in circle trying to warm up a little. If one of us fainted, he was laid in a corner. If he had lain there for two days he was taken out; most of them perished. Days and whole weeks passed in that way. The dead and dying were thrown out. The duration of the punishment was not established. I lived 50 days and nights in the black bunker..."

Torturing methods varied from camp, according to the beastliness and fancy of the Bunkerführer2, but the Bunker existed in each and every Nazi camp. 

Assault battalion.
2 Bunker chief.

To Oliver Lustig's Biographical Sketch

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