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Birkenau-Auschwitz and Dachau Holocaust Survivor

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Fehlt einer (One is Missing)

Feierabend (Evening Rest)





Giftgas (Poison Gas)

Gründe (Ground)

Gusen II







Fehlt einer


 At Birkenau-Auschwitz the end of each Appell was waited for as if were a miracle. It was only after Appell that you could say you had survived one more day.

Getting ready for the Appell lasted several hours. For hours on end we were stroke with the cudgel or bull's puzzles by the barrack chief and his assistants till a mass of one thousand exhausted people who could hardly stand on their feet who had no names, not even a number instead of the name managed to make up a column with perfectly aligned rows of fives.

When the SS-man passed by, giving a start was enough to send you among the dead. Everything inside you was petrified and dead. Fear took even your breath away. Only hearing was alert. In order that your body and brains and heater should come back to life you needed a word, the word stimmt, uttered by the SS-man, meaning that the number of those standing in the line and the number of the dead on the left flank corresponded with the total number recorded in his note-book an evening before.

Having uttered the word stimmt loudly, the SS-man left the platform. His equal, rhythmical steps meant that within a few minutes, after the word stimmt would be called out on all the platforms of Birkenau, we could say that we have survived for another day..

But if in one single camp, in camp A, or B, or C..., on one single platform the SS-man shouted fehlt eine! one is missing! then the 100.000 Häftlings of Birkenau had to further stand at attention for one or two or three hours, the whole night even, no matter if was raining or snowing. The exhausted passed out, collapsed, but nobody left the platform till the word stimmt resounded from camp to camp, from barrack to barrack.

And yet, when we heard the SS-man fearfully yelling fehlt einer, one is missing, we did neither panic, nor despair but quite the contrary, some inner emotion came up and showed on our cadavers faces. We looked at one another in dead silence. Hope brightened our eyes: maybe one of us has escaped.

One out of 100.000 would have meant, naturally, very little, but enough to prove that there existed another way beside durch den Kamin, through the chimney to escape from the camp.

Hope vanished soon as the Lagerälteste and several Kapos followed by an SS-man came dragging the body of a Häftling who had been found dead or had fainted in some obscure corner of the camp. The Häftling was thrown over the heap of corpses on the left flank of the platform and the word stimmt announcing our temporary salvation resounded from barrack to barrack, from camp to camp.

And yet, day by day enduring the cudgel or bull's puzzle strokes of the barrack chief and his assistants, standing at attention when the SS-man passed by our rows and breathlessly waiting for the word stimmt, to be uttered somewhere, deep in our hearts, we nurtured the feeble hope that maybe today the one who would make the SS-man yell fehlt einer! One is missing will be luckier. 






All words and all phrases that I had heard and learnt in the Nazi concentration camps I was taken to were related to death and made up a terrifying language of death.

Most of them meant death at the apocaliptical dimensions it had at Birkenau-Auschwitz: Krematorium, crematorium, Vergasung, gassing; Konzentrationslager, concentration camp; Selektion, selection; Experimente an lebendige Menschen, experiments on living people; Genickschuss, shooting in the nape of the neck; Erhängung, hanging; Unerwünschte Wiederkehr, undesirable return.

Many referred to speeding death: Hunger, hunger; Durst, thirst; Strafen, punishment; Nachtshicht, night shift; Unsicherheit, uncertainty; Angst, fear.

Others denoted instruments of death: Peitsche, riding whip Giftgas, poison gas; Bunker, Injection.

There was only one exception, only one word, which meant that death, was delayed for another day: Feierabend! Evening rest!

When after ten, 12... or 14... hours of hard work the word Feierabend was passing from one man to another we were sure that we have survived for one more day.

When the Kapo shouted the long-awaited command Feierabend! The axe which had been hitting the stone-hard earth was dropped uselessly. And even if the shovels with coal or sand were raised to the van, they were no longer turned into the van but the detainees let the contents fall back over the pile waiting to be loaded. The tree trunk carried by some thirty-forty Häftlings was let to roll down from their shoulders. The rail track was let drop to the ground. When the command Feierabend was heard none of those wholes carried all sorts of loads on their back, be it stones, cement bags, iron bars or barbed-wire coils made any step further.

And those who one minutes before had been ready to throw themselves off the scaffolding, hearing in the last moment the command Feierabend which meant that their ordeal was over for that day they picked up all their strength and they began their struggle for survival. In winter, when the cold chilled us to the bone and even our soul was frozen, if those pushed to the ultimate limit of human endurance, ready to fall into the white snow as into the arms of death heard the command that meant their temporary salvation they plucked up their last powers and delayed their death for another day.

All words that I heard and learnt in the Nazi concentration camps were directly related to death... denoted death it self or... its instruments or... its speeding up. There was one single exception, one word that meant postponement of death: Feierabend! Meaning it shouted in the marshes of Poland or in the forest of Bavaria, in the quarries of Austria or the camps of Saxony, at Auschwitz, Dachau, Mauthausen or Sachsenhausen, at Stuthof or Bergen-Belsen, we were certain that we survived one more day.







The Nazi had trumpeted their intention to exterminate all Jews in Europe and most of the Slav peoples. However, when everything started, they thought it was not advisable that they showed themselves to the world as professional killers. Consequently, the officials in Berlin decided that the murders -- particularly the mass ones -- should be geheim, that is secret.

 Standartenführer SS Rudolf Höss, commander of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, confessed during the trial that, in 1941, when Himmler called him to Berlin and entrusted him with the organization of Auschwitz for the final settlement of the Jewish question, he told him: "This order requires top secrecy even as far as your superiors are concerned."

After the famous Einsatzgruppe, operational teams, actually "death teams", had been thoroughly trained for their "extermination mission" in the East, Order No. 8 of the chief of the secret Police and SD, issued on June 17, 1941, that is a few days before their entering into action, stipulated: "The executions should not be carried on inside the camp or in its close neighborhood. If the camps of the General Governing are located in the close vicinity of the frontier, then for the special processing (read: extermination -- O.L.) the prisoners should be taken, if possible, to the former Soviet regions /.../".

"The activity of the Sonderkommando (special units -- O.L.) should be carried on, with the permission of the commanders in the rear /.../, in such a way that the filtration be done as discretely as possible, while the liquidation take place without delay and at such a distance from the detention camps and the populated areas that such things remain Geheim, unknown, to the other POW and the population."

As the murders grew in scope, the officials in Berlin were ever more concerned with keeping them secret. A few months later Appendix No. 1 to Order No. 14 of October 29, 1941 brought further specifications: "The executions should be carried on the a geheim way, in suitable places, anyway not in the camp or in its close vicinity. One should see that all bodies be buried immediately and in accordance with the dispositions in force."

With this order they considered the matter of the executions and their secrecy solved. Yet not that of the corpses. In the beginning it had been thought that with the immediate burying of the corpses they also buried any palpable proof of the crimes. The burying of the corpses cause great trouble to the SS because it slowed down the murder rate since it was a few bodies that had to be buried, but thousands, tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands corpses. The SS, however, did not get discouraged and developed instead a true technique for shortening the time needed to bury the corpses. The victims were taken to the place of the execution in batches of hundreds and asked to dig themselves the ditch in which they were to be buried.

When the SS thought the ditch deep and wide enough, the victims, stripped naked, were forced to stand on the edge then machine-gunned. Those few corpses that would not fall into the ditch were rolled on into it by boot kicks. When the ditch was half fill, a new batch of naked victims were pushed straight into the ditch, on the still jerking bodies, and then shot dead. The ditch was then filled with a superficial layer of quick lime and earth and they would have another ditch dug. After four or five such ditches, the Einsatzgruppe would move the place of the execution to another forest.

No sooner had the rapid burying of the corpses in long ditcher across forests been perpetrated that some people began to doubt that they would remain geheim, secret, and forever.

During a meeting summoned at the SS headquarters in Lublin, and attended by Hitler himself, Gruppenführer Globcnik Otilo, chief of the local police and SS, raised the matter openly. Ministerial adviser Dr. Herbert Linden from the Ministry of the Interior, who accompanied the Führer, asked Globocnik: "Do you think it is wise to bury all corpses? The generation coming after us may not understand such things."

Globocnik answered:

"Gentlemen, if after us there comes a generation so devoid of stamina and of firm principals as not understand our mission then our whole national-socialism will prove ineffectual. On the contrary, I think we should exhibit bronze plates telling that we have had the courage to accomplish this grand necessary work."

The Führer then concluded:

"All right, Globocnik! Actually it's my option, too."

This notwithstanding, as the Blitzkrieg began to slacken the pace, the idea arose that all traces of the murders, the corpses included, had to be whipped off.

Rudolf Höss received, through the agency of Standartenführer SS Paul Blombel, an order from Himmler requiring that "all pits should be cleaned, and in the future the corpses should be incinerated. The ashes should be removed in such a way that nobody should ever be able to infer how big the number of those incinerated had been."

"In accordance with Himmler's order", Höss later confessed, "after each big operation performed at Auschwitz we were supposed to burn all documents that might have disclosed the number of those exterminated."

Therefore, the burying of the corpses was forbidden; instead, they were to be burned along with the document. The method was promising as far as a more geheim, more secret character of the murders was concerned, though still far from meeting the wishes, Rudolf Höss confessed in this respect: "Actually, the executions had to be top-secret; however. The hard, pestilential, sickening smell of the continual burning of corpses, all over the area, was betraying us."

Then the conclusion was reached that not only the "fresh", so top say, corpses had to be burnt, but also the older ones. As a result, a wide-scope campaign for the removal of earlier traces was ordered. Consequently, the Polish forests were again crossed to identify the ditches, the corpses were dug out, sprinkled with petrol and Diesel oils and burnt on huge pyres improvised out of rails. A special detachment conspirator called Kommando 1005 was set up to this effect. Standartenführer SS Blombel was appointed chief of the whole operation. The work proper was done by teams made up of Jews, who were shot dead after the work had been over in a particular place.

A special order, IVAI No. 35/43 C, dated "Revno, August 3, 1943", and issued for the chief of the Kamen-Kashirski gendarmerie required that the place and number of the (common) pits where the persons executed in that region were buried should be communicated without delay.

Among the documents discovered in the Gestapo building in Ravno there was a report listing some 200 places where there were such common pits. "This is a list all pits. Those of the teams working on their included."

With the downfall drawing nearer, the officials in Berlin were increasingly concerned with hiding their crimes. At some time toward the end of the war Himmler issued a written order requiring that no Häftling should be found alive by the Allies. Before the evacuation of all Häftlings to the West, all four crematoria at Birkenau along with their gas chambers were blown up.

The crimes, however, were so numerous that the Nazis' endeavors to wipe off traces everywhere failed. They did not even manage to destroy all crematoria. At Maidanek, for instance, the SS had to leave the camp in such a hurry that they forgot to stop the crematoria. When the Soviet soldiers entered the camp, the fire was burning under all ovens, therefore the first step taken by the liberators was to turn the fire of the crematoria off. Bones of the corpses that had not been turned into ashes yet are resting in an impressive window-case in the precincts of the crematorium, now a museum.

Yes, the SS killed millions of people and then buried their corpses, but, not withstanding their endeavors, they did not mange to ensure their murders a geheim, secret character.







The methods of extermination were worked out and put into practice in concentration camps after thorough analyses made in cold blood with Nazi meticulousness. They attained their climax at Birkenau. There, the gas chambers, when working at maximum capacity, could serve for asphyxiating 9.300 men in twenty-four hours. That procedure, validated and commended by Himmler himself, could not be put in practice in all of the thousand of camps scattered throughout the Reich. Consequently, a wide range of other methods were devised to exterminate the detainees. The most widespread, among them, used in all smaller or larger camps was shooting in the nape of the neck, Genickschuss.

The method was described by its most reputed expert, Standartenführer, Anton Kaidl, the former commander of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp: "The mass shooting of war prisoners was done in a special room concealed as a consulting room, with a height measuring device and a sight-investigation board. The SS-men were dressed as physicians, wearing doctor's smocks. While, they feigned measuring the detainee'' height, the detainee was shot in the nape of the neck through an orifice in the measuring plank.


Since Genickschuss, shooting in the nape of the neck as performed at Sahsenhausen was considered adequate, the "experience" won there was to be turned into account in the other concentration camps as well.

 Standartenführer Ziereis, the formed commander of Mauthausen stared in his testimony at his trial: "In 1941. All camp commanders were summoned to Sachsenhausen to see how the Russian political workers and commissars could be liquidated as quickly as possible. The political workers and commissars were brought to an isolated barrack where from through a dark corridor they were taken into the execution room, while a radio was bawling out its program at the loudest. In the wall of that room there was a board with a vertical slit, behind which there was a mobile aiming mechanism. The execution was carried out by a pistol whose barrel was introduced into the mechanism."

The visitors of the Birkenawald museum, set up in the precincts of the former camp, could enter a room with whitewashed walls, the former "consulting room. "The height measuring device is still there, fixed on one of the walls. The naked detainee had to stand there, his back against the mechanism. The SS-physicians, dressed in the doctor's smock, with an amiable smile on his lips raised to the detainee's height the device sliding along a groove in the wall. When the doctor stopped its movement the victim was shot from the adjoining room trough the slit in the wall.

Therefore, at Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen Genickschuss, shooting in the nape of the neck was done almost similarly. The exchange of experience had proved profitable At Dachau the procedure was carried out differently, as can be inferred from the recollections of Dr. Karl Kürich, a former state prisoner. "In the middle of a room there was a hollow covered with a grate. The victim had to undress, get into the hollow, bend and then he was shot in the nape of the neck. When mass executions were made twelve people had to enter that room, kneel, certainly, after they had undressed... and then they received a bullet in their heads."

 Genisckschuss, shooting in the nape of the neck was customary at Auschwitz, too. The minutes of the proceedings of the International Military Tribunal of Nürnberg recorded that those who carried out the execution..." shot their victims in the nape of the neck with a shot-barreled rifle that made a muffled sound. After execution the "corpse carriers came to take the corpses to a stable near by, where they threw them over the straws. The place of the execution was cleaned of blood puddles and then prepared for new victims."

Dr. Mengele's forensic doctor, Nyszli Miklos described such an execution in detail: "A heart-rending cry makes me shudder. I almost instantly hear a dull thud and then the sound of a heavy body collapsing to the floor. I strain my ears and wait, my whole body tense with expectation. Hardly a minute passed and I hear again a blood-curdling scream, followed by a thud and the sound of another body falling to the floor. I count seventy deadly cries, seventy thuds and as many fall-downs. I hear heavy steps moving away and silence falls.

The scene of the dreadful tragedy is the room with separate entrance near the autopsy room. An empty, almost dark room with a concrete floor. Its only iron-latticed window looks out on the yard behind the crematorium. I usually used that room for depositing corpses before and after autopsy till they were fakers to be burnt.

He bought him a pistol and invited the eighteen years old youth to the camp whose chief and masters he was to present it to him during an adequate, symbolic ceremony. But in the last moment he turned melancholy: a simple and ordinary pistol to celebrate the anniversary of his son who must climb the social ladder higher than his father? An idea crossed his mind, an idea worthy of an SS-Colonel and the commander of a large concentration camp. An idea meant to imprint the anniversary of his eighteenth birthday on the mind of his son. Forty detainees were ordered to get out from barracks and arrange in a line on the platform. Accompanied by his well-beloved son he stopped some tens of meters in front of the Häftilings. He offered his son the pistol and told him: hoot them! It's high time you should learn to shoot at living targets!"

 Ein Geschenk. A present.








In a Europe wrapped in Nacht and Nebel, in night and darkness, people shivered when hearing the sinister word of Gestapo. There were millions of common people in the Netherlands and Belgium, France and Poland, or Norway and Greece who did not know the connotation of the word. They did not know that GESTAPO was just the acronym of Geheime-Staats-Polizei, the State Secret Police. They could not learn the meaning of the word from dictionaries, but heard about the crimes perpetrated by Gestapo that were being whispered over throughout Europe. Them, who did not know German and never cared about the State bodies of the Third Reich, Gestapo were tantamount to torture, deportation, death.

Tens of volumes have been written about the sinister history of the Gestapo. The crimes perpetrated by the Gestapo were gathered in the pages of thousands of volumes. But however much one might read about this macabre institution, one could hardly believe the words, phrases or testimonies if one did not witnessed; if they hadn't heard the Gestapo yelling and trading around with their heavy boots, breaking down a door with their automatic pistols, bursting into an apartment and whipping everything around; if one had not seen them taking scantly dressed, barefoot people out of their homes, from their beds, trampling them underfoot at the slightest resistance, dragging them down on the stairs and then packing them into black vans vanishing in the pitch-black night; if he or she has not been awaken by the desperate shouts of arrested neighbors, or watched from behind curtains how people suspected of being Jews were being hunted in broad daylight, or how friends, relatives or acquaintances, some fifty or a hundred of them, were being killed in a square of the town, in retaliation; if he or she has never had the Gestapo knock at his or her door, if she or he has never been rounded up, arrested, cross-examined or deported by the Gestapo.

Getapo's major task was to spread fear and terror through harassing and spying, torture and murder. During the trial in Nürnberg someone said: "No secret was possible in any Nazi cell or block. The fact that someone had turned on the radio, the shade of disapproval on someone's face, the absolute secrets of the confessional, the old-standing confidence among father and son, and even the sacred secrets of marriage, everything was part of Gestapo's preoccupations."

However, Gestapo has earned a sinister repute particularly due to the torture methods used during cross-examinations. Devised and improved in the basement of the building at 8 Printz-Alberstrasse in Berlin, they were subsequently applied, with typically Nazi meticulously, throughout Europe, in all places where the Gestapo showed up.

The Gestapo used the same arsenal during cross-examinations everywhere.

The victims were beaten with the fists, kicked with the boots, hit with riding whips or rifle butts; they were stripped naked and let to hang, their arms twisted behind, until they fainted; the Gestapo used to press cigarette-butts against the victims' naked bodies, burn them with welding flames, file their teeth, thrust needles beneath their nails, notch the sole of their feet and then salt the wounds; the victims were blinded with powerful lights, put to electric shocks, they had their hair pulled out, their bones and lives broken.

 Gestapo have never been, and as a matter of fact could not have been, surpassed as far as the bestiality of the torture resorted to was concerned… Indeed, if someone surpassed them then it was the Gestapo himself or herself who did it. All commands of the concentration camps had a so-called political section, which was nothing else but Gestapo, present everywhere crimes were being planned or perpetrated.

The place where the Gestapo could surpass themselves were the Bunkers of the extermination camps; there they would cut off the penis of a cross-examined detainee or introduce ret-hot rods into the vagina of a woman-prisoner, hang or shot to death only to "keep fit" so to say.

In 1943, Standartenführer SS Rudolf Höss was promoted chief of the Political Section of the Concentration Camp Inspectorate due to his merits in organizing the gas chambers and crematoria at Birkenau-Auschwitz.

... Today the Birkenau-Auschwitz camp, changed into a museum is almost intact. Only the building of the political section standing for the Gestapo -- is not there any longer. It was pulled down. On its place gallows were built on April 17, 1947 for Standartenführer SS Rudolf Höss, former commander of the death factory at Birkenau-Auschwitz until 1943, and former chief of the Political Section of the Concentration Camps Inspectorate until the fall of the Gestapo and the SS along with the whole Third Reich.







The deportees arriving on the death platform at Birkenau-Auschwitz were almost always met by the famous Mengele himself. Captain SS doctor Josef Mengele, surrounded by a group of SS-men, calmly and politely explained that there were four kilometers to the camp. He kept repeating that he knew how difficult, uncomfortable and tiresome travelling had been, but, much to his regret, he did not have sufficient transportation means. The available lorries and buses, he said, could hardly carry the sick, the aged people and the children. Therefore, he kindly asked-not ordered -- the newcomers to fall into two columns: on the left, mothers and children, the sick and the aged people; on the right I the able-bodied, who could walk all the way to the camp.

"The column on the left may move on towards the buses", Mengele would approve as soon as the columns had been formed, showing the direction to be followed. Some hundreds of meters away there was a van, indeed, but just one; as it bore the sign of the Red Cross, even the most suspicious of the deportees felt reassured.

When the column on the left started to move, a true uproar burst out on the platform. Shouts and lamentations, entreaties and imprecations. Those on the left tired to take farewell from those in the right column who, for the time being, were staying.

The SS-men were doing their utmost to prevent panic. They kept repeating, in a calm, polite tone:

"Kept calm! Don't panic! You'll be together again within a few hours!"

Captain SS doctor Josef Mengele, a ghost of smile on his lips, watched the passing-by column to see if his orders had been executed.

When somewhere in the column the SS-men suddenly got glimpse of a younger mother, good for work, who was carrying a child in her arms, they would immediately approach her:

"Madam, you look healthy. Please, leave your child under his grandmother or grandfather's care and pass in the right column."

"I won't leave him alone. I'd rather die than separate myself from my baby," the young mother desperately burst out.

"Don't panic, madam. We do not insist, it's been just a suggestion," Mengele would calm the situation, and the column went on. They advanced slowly, one would say they were dragging along. Paralyzed old people, who could hardly be calling by others. Mothers carrying two children in their arms and calling a third one lost in the mob. Or drawn back by a child crying because he had forgotten his ball in the wagon and he would not have anything to play with. Elder people were arguing over some medicines, or identity cards left behind, bag and all, when they had had to leave the wagon in a hurry.

And so, the left column (in one such column there had been my mother along with my twin brother and sister, who had not turned fourteen, and my youngest brother Valentin, aged eight), all left columns, formed out of the transports arrived at Birkenau-Auschwitz from all corners of Europe, slowly rolled on straightly into the gas chambers of one the four crematoria that were working day and night.

On the road to the gas chambers, waiting for them with their doors open, old and sick, mothers and children would not come across any lorry or bus whatever. Only the van with the Red Cross sign on it, the one Captain SS doctor Mengele had pointed at was really there. They met it on the way, but nobody ever got on it, as actually there was no place. The van with the Red Cross sign was full of tins. Cylindrical tins bearing the inscription Gifgas, poison gas. The exact quantity needed to asphyxiate those in the column.







In the concentration camps beating was an everyday, ever-present thing. It was matched only by hunger. In a camp the number of those who could be killed was unlimited, and even less so that of those who could be beaten.

All Kapos, Blockältestes, Vertreters, all Lagerältestes used to beat the detainees with or without reasons, they beat them savagely and without respite. The SS however liked to pass for correct people, who observed the rules of the camp they themselves had instituted. They, too, used to beat the detainees savagely and without respite, but always aus guten Gründe, "on justified grounds." Lucky them, suchlike grounds could be easily found everyday, most of them pertaining to our Häftling garment.

Having dirty clothes and passing by an SS man meant an insult to him, therefore ein Gründ, a reason to be beaten. In the camp, however, there was not water to wash your clothes; you put them on upon entering the camp and took them off during the selection for the gas chamber or before being taken to the crematorium.

A missing button was sign negligence, ein enderer Gründ, another reason for being beaten. Yet, during my detention, I saw neither a needle nor thread in the whole camp. I had even forgotten how thy looked like. Had die Mütze, the bonnet, been too leftwards, or too rightwards, those were as many Gründe, grounds to be beaten.

Even more numerous were the grounds connected to the salute due to the SS, an inexhaustible source of Gründe, grounds, for being beaten. You stood at attention too far or too close; you took off your bonnet too quickly or too slowly; you frowned at him or smiled ironically, moved your hand, head or just blinked too much.

 Standartenführer SS Ziereis, a camp commander, admitted in a written confession: "Though all punishments by beating had to be approved of (/.../) I often beat the detainees on the buttock out of pleasure." Yes, the pleasure of an SS-man was ein guter Gründ, a justified reason, to torture the Häftlings.

 Scharführer SS Josef Niedermeyer admitted during the trial that he had beaten the detainees because "Mauthausen was a place where as many as possible detainees had to die." And even the last SS-man knew that without beating, without torture, the death rate could not be speeded up. There could not be ein anderer Gründ, another more justified reason for that.

The easiness with which the SS found Gründe, grounds for beating the detainees was best revealed by SS Gustav Sorge, who had been promoted camp commander out of a simple barrack chief precisely due to his zeal and inventiveness in torturing the Häftlings.

Prosecutor: "Are your depositions according to which you used to beat the detainees daily true?"

 Sorge: "Yes, they are."

 Prosecutor: "If a detainee coughed, did you beat him?"

 Sorge: "If he coughed or looked unfriendly, I beat him."

 Prosecutor: "And what if he was in good humor and looked friendly? Did you beat him?"

 Sorge: "Then, too, I would find grounds to beat him."

 Prosecutor: "Therefore, you used to beat people when they looked discontent or in bad humor, but also when they were in good humor."

 Sorge: "Yes. Finding Gründe, grounds, for beating was always an easy matter to me."

If finding Gründe, grounds, for beating was an easy matter, so was it for killing, too. In the Bunker of Buchenwald Hauptsharführer Sommer, chief of the Bunker, would rather kill as a punishment, no matter the reason. Even when other steps were taken, their ultimate aim was always death.

"Looking out of the cell's window", Kagon remembers in his book, "definitely entailed the death of the detainee. If Sommer caught someone peeping he would either beat him to death, or would terminate him with an injection. The same punishment awaited the detainee caught reading a piece of newspaper that had been distributed as toilet paper. I remember, for instance, the case of a detainee called Fischer, who was caught reading from an old copybook he had found in the toilet. Likewise, it was forbidden to walk to an for in cell one had to stand at attention and look straight to the door from 5.00 in the morning until 10.00 at night. The peephole had a magnifying lens through which one could notice any movement inside. The offender would incur 25 whack with a cudgel. In winter they used to pour cold water over the detainees who was supposed to keep the clothes on until <dried> and sleep on bare cement floor."

Equally arbitrary and cynical was the way grounds were found for sending the detainees to the Bunker, where the chance of survival was almost not existent. There would be sent the Jews caught smoking during the working hours, those considered too lazy, or those suspected of having committed an imaginary crime. "One cold winter day, three detainees were carrying coke into the basement for the heating installation. They stopped there for a few minutes to become warm and caught by Sommer, who took them to the Bunker and killed them. If a detainee raised his eyes from whatever he was working to look at the commander's wife, Ills Koch, when she passed by on horseback, she noted down his number and the miserable one would be taken to the Bunker because he had imprudently dared to look at her. He was lucky if he escape with <just> a lethal injection."

Indeed, to the SS it was an extremely easy matter to find Gründe, reasons, to beat, torture and Kill us, while to us, the Häftlings, it was extremely hard, almost unbelievably hard to find Gründe, reasons for endurance and survival.






Gusen II


The miserable barracks called Gusen II, build in a marshy area near a huge quarry, within one hour's distance from Mauthausen, surrounded with barbed-wire and provided with SS guardians and wolf-dogs were doomed to pass unnoticed among those thousands of annex-camps that had appeared around all central extermination camps in the early forties.

However, the SS from Gusen II had the ambition that their camp acquired a well-determined place in the history of the K.Zs. And they succeeded. The performance that made them and their camp famous was the fact that, although lacking gas chambers or any other special facilities for mass extermination, the death rate recorded there surpassed the one registered at Mauthausen, the "mother-camp" to which it belonged and which had acquired the repute of a "mill for grinding lives".

In addition to the assassination methods known and implemented in all concentration camps, there, due to Unterscharführer SS, Heintz Jentsch's "inventiveness", they employed a further method, the "lethal bathe" that was not known or implemented in any other camp.

Years on end after my liberation I tried to find out by what methods had such a record rate of assassination been possible. My "curiosity" was not gratuitous, as my father had been killed there. The research I made lead to no results because the survivors of the "little inferno" of Gusen II had been extremely few; I only succeeded in meeting one of them, while the former butchers wold not talk.

Before being hanged, Rudolf Höss, former commander of the Birkenau-Auschwitz, gave a detailed description of the way the "death factory", to which his name was linked, worked. Before dying, Franz Ziereis, former commander of the Mauthausen camp, confessed the crimes perpetrated there. Hauptsturmführer SS Fritz Seidler, the last commander of Gusen, preferred to commit suicide. Out of the 2.000 SS who had butchered the detainees of Gusen, only a few &emdash; one can count them on the fingers of both hands &emdash; were caught and put to trial. They either kept silent or denied everything. Vetter, the Lagerarzt, the camp doctor, would not admit anything. The Häftlings he had used as "guinea pigs" and who had their lungs injected with phlegm pus cold not bear testimony as Vetter used to liquidate all "guinea pigs" without exception once the experiment was over. Neither would those killed by poisoning injection incriminate him, while the echo of imprecations uttered by the dying forced by Vetter to run through snow until they collapsed had since long faded away.

Father needed Vetter's assistance just once. Instead of being sent to the Revier, he was moved to another camp provided with gas chambers.

That is about all I have been able to find out about father1. Instead, while making research on the history of Gusen II, I learned that, after the liberation, one of its former commanders, Max Pausch, was hanged at Landsberg, not far from the camp where I had survived to see the barbed-wire fences pulled down, stepping over them from death into life again on April 27, 1945.

Long time after the first edition of this book I found my father's name in the Deceased register in Mauthausen, the main camp of which Gusen II was a branch.


To Oliver Lustig's Biographical Sketch

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