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Birkenau-Auschwitz and Dachau Holocaust Survivor

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Ilse Koch










The impressive castle of Hartheim, in the Oberdonau province had been chosen the execution of Hitler's most brutish order: extermination of mentally alienated people and of those suffering from incurable diseases. With the perspective mapped out for the Führer -- the extermination of whole peoples and races -- at Hartheim the SS killed tens of thousands of helpless sick in order to test, on "scientific bases", mass asphyxiation by the use of toxic gases. Another assignment of the impressive castle was to "give a helping hand" to the camp at Mauthausen, which did not have enough facilities to exterminate the Häftllings at the desired rate. Standartenführer SS Franz Ziereis, the last commander of the concentration camp at Mauthausen, confessed in his deposition: "Gruppenführer Glucks ordered that all detainees who had grown weak be declared mentally alienated and then exterminated in a big gassing facility. The place is called Hartheim and is ten Kilometers away from Linz, in the Passau direction. In the camp the detainees were reported to have died of natural death. The death certificates of the detainees included on the transport were filled in advance, when they were still alive, by the political section of the concentration camp of Gusen."

No sick man brought to Hartheim or Häftling sent over from Mauthausen ever went out alive through the gates of the castle. Berlin was convinced that the "treatments" applied in the basement of that impressive romantic castle would never be discovered.

When the downfall had become imminent, the center ordered those at Hartheim to remove all compromising traces. Beginning December 13, 1944 -- as follows from the deposition made during the trial by Hans Marsalek, one of the accused -- twenty masons and carpenters worked day and night "to demolish the crematorium and its chimney along with the other technical facilities, to make new doors and window-panes for the gas chamber and other places, and to do all sorts of gardening working."

By the time the American troops arrived at the castle the latter had become a decent asylum with 35 children and six teachers.

Rudolf Lohnamer, the commander of the castle, who had reserved to himself the privilege of turning on the gas with his own hand whenever a lot of sick people or of Häftlings was being asphyxiated, committed suicide. Most of the butchers disappeared but their crimes were disclosed by one of the petty brutes at the castle, Vinzenz Mobel, the stoker of the crematorium. Death as a profession seemed so natural to that brute, sent to Hartheim following the intercession of his brother, Major-General SS Gustav Mobel, that before being hanged he declared with utter serenity: "As soon as a group of detainees meant for gassing arrived we would have them unloaded from the lorries and ask them to take off their clothes. I had orders to see that no one ran away. (/.../) I would take them to the gas chamber and lock them inside. Then doctor Lohnauer would turn on the gas. Afterwards I would take the corpses out of the gas chamber and burn them in the crematorium."

Over 1940-1944, the impressive romantic castle of Hartheim, not far from Linz -- changed into a laboratory for "scientific research" in rapid extermination -- produced some 30.000 corpses, people who had been dead, gassed or killed during the experiments.






A man taken from among the people and interned in a Nazi concentration camp. A man that was no longer considered as such.

A man who was annulled all rights. The right to love, to have a family, to walk, to have memories. The right to think, to protest, to act. The right to have a name.

A man who was denied the right to be a man. The right to hope. The right to live.

A man no longer recognized or protected by anyone. Neither by the state where he had been deported from, nor by the fascist Reich that had deported him. By no forum on earth. By no international law.

A man hunted, arrested and tortured by the Gestapo. Shot dead by the SS. Asphyxiated in gas chambers. Burnt in crematoria.

A man who had his parent, brothers, all relatives, friends and acquaintances exterminated.

A man who had been killed everything human in live, yet survived as a MAN.







A butcher by vocation, Heinrich Himmler organized murders out of passion and calculations. Unlike Göring, he did not like to make himself talked about, to make a show of ranks, titles, decorations or robbed riches. Quartered in room 318, 4th floor, in the famous building at 8 Prinz Albertstrasse in Berlin, he directed assassinations -- from individual murders to mass exterminations -- throughout Europe and even on the other continents.

He would look at his inferiors with piercing eyes from behind his pince-nez and then order them, while gently caressing his little moustache, the place, scope and rate of the exterminations.

Sometimes, he felt stained with the victims' blood. "He had a butcher's heart", Georg Strasser, one of the founders of the Nazi Party said, "so he did not care at all, though, punctilious as he was, he feared someone night have noticed the blood stains on his body. That is why his favorite place for studying files and deciding the executions was not room 318 at the 4th floor, but the building. He had found out that the bigger the crimes, the greater the secrecy in which they had to be initiated, planned and directed.

In 1929, when Himmler took over the SS, he had not turned 30 yet. Upon its foundation in 1927, the Schutz Staffel1, SS, had 280 members. Two years later their number had increased to 52.000. Heinrich Himmler then turned the SS into the most horrible terror institution, boasting a killing apparatus with tens and tens of branches and an army of killers that had grown to some hundreds of thousand. The SS had engulfed the Gestapo and the SD2, all bodies, and they were not few, dealing with the surveillance and liquidation of all those who harbored or were suspected to harbor other ideas or thoughts than the ones preached by the Führer. Two were the principles underlying the SS: racial selection and blind submission.

The one who turned out disloyal, be it only in thought, would be banished from the SS, nay, Himmler lugubriously threatened, from among the quick, too.

An Ober-butcher over an army of butchers, Himmler had acquired a lot of offices: Reichführer SS, chief of the Gestapo, minister of the interior, Riechsleiter of the Nazi Party, commander-in-chief of the "Vistula" Army Group... but the office for which he was most feared, even by the potentates, was that of Hitler's "eyes, ears and scourge."

A participator in and initiator of the "Bierputsch" of November 9, 1923, Himmler set to work and drew up lists and files with Hitler's enemies. Starting 1929, when he was appointed Reichführer SS, he personally directed all assassinations and settling of accounts with those opposing Nazism. After Hitler's ascent to power, Himmler continued the job with increased zeal.

A partisan of a wide-scope radical setting of accounts with all the Führer's and his potential enemies, Himmler counted among the initiators of the famous "night of long knives" (June 30, 1934). SS and Gestapo men, in teams of two, rang at the door of the offices or plats of some generals or former ministers, directors and lawyers, politicians of Nazis who knew to much about the past of the movement and would not hold their mouth shut. The SS-Gestapo teams waited until the door was opened and pulled the trigger in greeting. They left the victims tossing in a puddle of blood on the floor and went in a hurry. Not because of fear, no, but because there were still many "visits" to make. The lists with the addresses had been carefully drawn up in advance.

 Himmler improved his job as long as he lived. He would draw up files on everybody and everything and everything. On people at the top of the Nazi hierarchy, on bigger or petty chiefs, on common people. Thew files recorded everything. Who meet whom, where and when; what one talked about. One's "sore" points, such as money, card playing or women, and extramarital affairs. Who had the vaguest blood impurity, even if that had occurred three or four generations before. With the help of those files, Himmler would weave intrigues, blackmail, terrorize, and rile. After Hitler he was the most feared person in the Reich.

Himmler's greatest passion, besides police matters, had always been the defense of the Übermenschen's pure blood. He made of the SS a "center of irradiation of the pure race." To be allowed to marry a simple SS man or MCO a young girl had to prove her Arian ascending line as far back as 1.800, or even 1.750 if she wanted to marry an SS officer. To have the race proliferation speeded up, he did not hesitate to introduce polygamy and ordered that degrading, painful experiments were made upon the Häflings at Birkenau, ultimately meant to lead to an increase in fertility with the German women. Also under the pretext of defending pure blood and race, he personally directed the organization of the concentration camps, the good working of all death factories.

He initiated and sponsored all experoiments made on living people. Moreover, he even liked to be considered the author of some novel ideas in the field. For instance, following the experiments made by Rascher at Dachau, who freezed men to death, Himmler suggested that one should try to bruing them to life by forcing two naked women to clung close to the freezed body of a victim. He ordered that women from the Ravensbrück camp should be moved to Dachau to this effect.

He inspected the Birkenau camp in person and watched through the peeping hole the deportees choking in the gas chambers; at Mauthausen he attended a mass execution by shooting; after he had visited Ravensbürck, women, too, were shot in the neck; at least 50 female detainees had to be exterminated in this way daily. Himmler had direct permanent contacts with the commanders of the major concentration camps.

Years passed by, the number of the camps grew and so did that of the exterminations. He attended them in person, watching the scene with his insensitive "butcher's heart", and staring eyes from behind the lenses of the pince-nez. He felt steeled and used to tell the SS emphatically: "Most of you know what 100, 500 or 1.000 corpses lying one next to the other mean. We have withstood it to the end... This has steeled us."

Actually, when he reached the end, when the Reich collapsed, the steeled Ober-butcher turned his back and tried to hide like a coward. He shaved his little moustache, the one he used to caress gently when attending executions, and threw away the pince-nez through the lenses of witch he had watched the choking Häftlings fighting with death, replacing it by and eye-patch. And as he feared that the blood stains he now felt all over his body might show up through his black uniform of Reichführer, be desperately threw it away, and put on a pair of civilian trousers and a Wehrmacht private's tunic, and left for the West among a torrent of refugees.

He lied and fooled people all his life. He was convinced he would mange to fool them this time, too. When he arrived in front of a British checkpoint, he hurried to hand them his pass on the name of Heinrich Hitzinger. He felt reassured, as his pass was brand new. But it was precisely this that aroused suspicion, because most of the people in that motley crowd had no identity papers. Until the matter was clarified, Himmler was taken to the nearest camp and locked in a cell. He let himself searched, but when they asked him to open his mouth he quickly crushed a cyanide ampoule between his teeth. Within a few seconds the Ober-butcher in front of whom a whole country, actually the whole Europe, had trembled was lying on the cement floor of the cell, his legs contorted, like a poisoned dog.


1 Protection troops.
2 Sicherheits Dienst, the Security Service.






On entering a concentration camp one actually entered the Death Empire. Hoping to stay alive was an illusion. And if one wore the Judenstern, the yellow star, on his chest the hope of survival was sheer madness.

However, die Hoffnung, the hope, could not be killed. As is known, the SS had become aces in point of killing. They could kill anybody, anywhere, at any time. Yet not the hope. They believed, actually were sure that by burning millions of people in front of some other tens thousands they would also burn the latter's hope to survive.

In summer 1944, on entering Birkenau, the Häftlings coming from the Hortyst ghettoes were stripped to the skin. We were not allowed to keep anything: neither photos, nor clothes. Anything. One thing they could not take from us: the hope. Consequently, the working system of the camps at Birkenau-Auschwitz was conceived in such a way that the Hoffnung, the hope, be systematically destroyed crushed. That it should be allowed not even to glimmer.

Höss, who admitted the extermination of 2,5 million Jews at Birkenau-Auschwitz while he had been in charge of that camp, declared during the trial: "/…/ for the Jews at Auschwitz there was no Hoffnung, no hope. They all knew that they had been condemned to death /…/ Most of them did not hope for a change of their sad fate. They had turned fatalistic… The lack of any prospects of eluding the otherwise foreseeable end made them completely apathetic to what was going on around them. Psychic collapse hastened physical collapse /…/ Death waited for them implacably, sooner or later."

Rudolf Höss was wrong and so were the other camp commanders, for hope could not be killed either by the SS-men's cynicism and sadism, or by the death pains in the gas chambers, by hunger, thirst or could, torture, experiments on living people or mass executions.

True, at Birkenau, the Hoffnung, hope was not able to fly high into the sky. The stifling smoke floating over the camp day and night made it choke.

True, at times, during the cold winter days, the hope was frozen or crushed by some Kapo who trampled underfoot an emaciated body, or just torn out along with the nails of a detainee by some SS-man in the torture chambers… And yet, during the last moment, when there was just one step move to killing barbed-wire, the Hofftung, hope, began to glimmer again and the Häftlings kept on fighting, hoping, therefore surviving.






The SS in Totenkopfeinheiten were all killers. They killed passionately or just carelessly. They killed out of the sadistic pleasure of seeing blood gushing from wounds; out of helpless envy, of revenge or in compensation for earlier failures; they killed out of habit or to promote in the hierarchy. Most of them however practiced assassination as a profession: with inventiveness, collected and meticulosity. Their archetype was Standartführer SS Rudolf Höss, commander of the Birkenau-Auschwitz camp.

Each day he would attend executions, watch the columns of detainees dragging along from the platform to the gas chambers or inspect the crematoria at work. Then he would go and see his wife and children, at their residence inside the camp. He would only stay a few minutes, for he was a "hard-working" man. It was only late in the evening, after he had convinced himself that all transports of detainees had been selected in accordance with his instructions, that all those unfit for work and all children under 14 has been liquidated, that he would return home and play at ease with his five little children.

Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höss was born in Baden-Baden in 1900. At the age of 15 he volunteered for the front. At 17 he was the younger MCO in the Kaiser's army. 1923 had already imprisoned him: one night, after carousal, he and some comrades killed a youngster in a forest. He was sentenced to ten years of prison, but would be released after six years of imprisonment.

Notwithstanding his record, he entered the SS in 1934 upon the insistence of Himmler. He started from the bottom: Blockführer at Dacau. As in the case of all SS fill of criminal zeal, his ascent was very fast. After four years he was appointed deputy commander of Sachsenhausen, and after another two years, on May 1, 1940, he was appointed commander of the largest concentration camp: Birkenau-Auschwitz. After another three years he was promoted to the management board of the concentration camps.

"I have personally conducted the execution at Auschwitz until December 1, 1943", Rudolf Höss, now an SS colonel, overtly declared in his deposition before being hanged. He did not hesitate to admit the number of his victims: "I thing that at least 2.500.000 people have been gassed and incinerated their (au Birkenau-Auschwitz -- O.L.); at least another 500.000 people have died of hunger and illness."

Choosing murder as a profession, Rudolf Höss, while in prison, confessed collectedly and in cold blood, shamelessly and without remorse, but instead with the satisfaction of well accomplished fact, how he had organized extermination on a conveyor belt, what substantial improvements he had brought in the field when compared to the primitive, insufficiently effective practices he had studied at Treblinka. He had replaced the monoxide gas with Zyklon B, crystallized hydrocyanic acid, that was stronger and more efficient; he had had gas chambers built that were ten times larger (at Tremblinka there were ten gas chambers that could not "accommodate" more e than 200 people as compared to 2.000 people who cloud be crammed into just one chamber of the kind ha had had built); he had crematoria built abreast with the top technology at the time.

That murder was a profession like any other profession to Höss results from the following notes he wrote down upon returning from the court into his cell: "For all I care the public option may go on considering me a blood-thirsty monster, a sadist, a murderer of millions of human beings, because the mob can in no way have a different image about the commander of Auschwitz. They would be never able to understand that he, too, had a heart and that he was not a bad guy."

With the day of the execution drawing nearer -- the sentence had been given on April 2, 1947 -- Standartenführer SS Rudolf Höss began to feel pity for himself, when at the end of his memoirs he revealed that the profession of a murderer was not an easy one: "Believe me, seeing mountains of corpses and the permanent stench of burning bodies were not always a pleasure."







The SS gathered all sufferings man had had to experience throughout the centuries and overthrew them upon the detainees of the concentration camps, crushing their bodies and breaking their souls. Amplified to a maximum, they could not be arranged into a hierarchy, as they were all unbearable. However, there was one that stood out. Its name: Hunger. Hunger.

At Birkenau-Auschwitz, in the shade of the crematoria, each suffering was pushed to the extreme: thirst, beating, torture, and humiliation.

Yet, no matter how tormenting, thirst was not permanent, as you could quench it went it rained. A thing you could never do with hunger, which kept torturing you, once in the camp, for days, weeks, months or years. Actually for as long as you stayed alive.

Beating was terrible in all concentration camps. Yet, there was a limit beyond which the detainee lost consciousness and would no longer feel either the burn of the riding whip, or the boot kicks. Der Hunger, hunger, however, was permanent. Nothing could appease it even for a second.

Humiliation -- pushed by the SS beyond anything imaginable -- was almost impossible to endure. Most of those who killed themselves by clinging to the high voltage current barbed wire had been pushed to do it by an endless string of humiliation they could not bear any more.

At night, however, while sleeping we forgot about humiliation. But not about hunger. Exhausted, devoid of any stamina, we would collapse on the bare cement and fall a sleep instantly. In the sleep there were no crematoria, no SS men, no hurting wounds. There was hunger instead, which hurt so badly that we would wake up crying.

We were a pray to an ever-present, total, terrible, pitiless hunger. A hunger that would annihilate reason, making one leaves the human race and turning him into a beast. At Birkenau-Auschwitz, in the other concentration camps, there were hundreds of thousands of Häftlings who had not eaten their fill for one, two, three and even for four or five years.

When a column of Häftlings passed by a building accommodating SS man and saw potato peelings in the garbage, they would rush upon the place bidding defiance to any danger. No matter how savagely a Kapo hit the Häftlings jumped together; order would only be restored after the whole heap of garbage had been rummaged in.

I saw quite a lot detainees who had not let themselves trampled underfoot, who had withstand all blows only to be finally defeated by the SS through Hunger, hunger. Yes, there were Häftlings who had survived the extermination of their whole family and yet continued to defy fascism; who had survived most excruciating pains without yielding, only to become dehumanized after years of beastly, torturing hunger, to such an extent that they would steal food from the hands of the sick and the dying.

After Zyclon B, used in the gas chambers at Birkenau-Auschwitz, der Hunger, hunger, has been credited with the greatest number of victims. Thousands of people died of hunger in all concentration camps since their setting up hunger their down fall. And one more day and night thereafter...

On the morning of April 27, when the detainees at Landsberg realized that the watchtowers had been deserted, they rushed upon the storehouses of the SS and began to eat. They ate gluttonously and did not care about chewing the food. They would swallow huge gulps of bread, margarine. Prague sausages, marmalade. Then they found the tinned food, broke them with an ax swallowed down their contents. Finally, there was the meat, which they roasted at the fire of the burning barracks (the last SS who left the camp had blown them up). The feast lasted until it darkened. During the night the former detainees went off in unbearable convulsions. Crouched with pain, they moaned helplessly. Some of them did not survive too see the Red Cross teams arriving in the morning...

 Der Hunger, hunger, the terrible hunger of the concentration camps would make victims one more day and night after the liberation.





Ilse Koch



Ilse Koch was the name in her Identity card.

Her husband, Karl Otto Koch, commander of the concentration camp of Buchenwald, called her Ilse.

Her lovers -- SS senior and junior officers in the camp command -- called her Ilse, too.

The Häftlings called her bitch.

 She would be known in all concentration camp and later in Europe and throughout the wold as the bitch of Buchenwald.

Ilse was a woman of many whims, which were as extravagant as they were criminal, but witch would be all satisfied.

She liked riding. A group of lovers had offered her a filly as a collective gift, so she wished to have a riding hall built in no time. The Häftlings worked day and night, permanently hit with the cudgels and the riding whips by the Kapo and the SS men in order not tom slacken the pace. Thirty Häftlings died, but the riding house, its inside walls wainscoted and covered with mirrors, was ready on schedule. Ilse was able to begin her evolutions under the admiring eyes of her lovers and accompanied by a choir of Häftlings shoved from behind with the rifle butts to sing with more vigor.

 Ilse was mad about gold, jewels, hard currency. To please her, Karl Otto Koch, her husband and commander of the camp, had stolen so much gold from the corpses' teeth, so many rings torn out from the victims' fingers and so many ear-rings torn off the ears of the female prisoners that even the SS -- corrupt as they were from the lowest Scharführer to top people such as a Brigadenführer1 -- were forced to have him arrested, tried and executed.

The commander's wife would frequently come and see the detainees. The sufferings they had to endure, the terror in their eyes, their shrieks of pain stirred her up, gave her vitality, made her feel like a master. Only she did not like the smell of the camp. A smell of blood mixed with the stink of corpses that accompanied her into her home. Then she would try to get rid of it by bathing in Madera wine or in milk. She liked the Madera wine bath more as it stirred her up.

What pleased the bitch of Buchenwald mast, from the outset were trinkets made of tattooed human skin.

The SS in the camp command, from lovers to her own husband, developed a true manufacture of such objects, wanting to get into her good graces or pay for her charms. And so they would make covers for powder cases, lamp shades, book covers and change purses, knife holders and women's gloves, and all kinds of souvenirs out of human skin.

The skin taken off corpses was dressed in barrack No. 2, and the trinkets made out of them were then offered to top visitors from the SS. They were the specialty of the camp. The whimsical invention of Ilse Koch.

She ordered that a unique shade be made for the lamp on her husband's writing desk out of a big piece of human skin, and suggested a thighbone for a stand. In her opinion the tattoo made on a dressed skin could not compare with the natural one, that is made on "living skin". For that reason, in her collection the bitch of Buchenwald would accept only objects made of already tattooed human skin. Knowing this, the SS man, but particularly doctor Hoven Wlademar, Ilse's No.1 lover, carefully examined the naked skin of the newcomers at Buchenwald. When they discovered "artistic scenes" or mere inscriptions tattooed on various parts of the body, the respective cases were presented to Ilse. The former typist at a cigarette factory, now the commander's wife, decided whether she liked the tattoo or not. If she did, the decision was a fatal one. The respective Häftling was ordered to report to the sick room. There, Karl Beigs, the favorite Kapo of the bitch of Buchenwald, would inject his heart with phenol. Then the corpse would be moved to the dissection room, were SS men specialized in pathological medicine tore off the tattooed skinned, then had it dressed and offered to Ilse.

With riding boots, holding a pair of gloves made of human skin (she had three pairs and all three pairs and all three had been made of already tattooed human skin) in her left hand and a riding whip made of bull's puzzle in her right hand, the bitch of Buchenwald felt self-assured; she was arrogant and defiant.

In 1947, in front of the court -- she was tried in the American zone, -- she lost courage and attempted to escape punishment by cheating like any cocotte. Although her husband had been shot a long time ago and she herself had been isolated in a cell for more than a year she became pregnant and, therefore, by virtue of the American laws, could not be sentenced to death.

She was released after two years' imprisonment.

Later, when the Federal Republic of Germany was founded, she was again arrested and tried. Sentenced to life imprisonment, she committed suicide in 1967.

The cause of her suicide has remained unknown, but the author of the present lines thinks he knows it. At night, as soon as she fell a sleep, the darkness would change into a without fog like the milk she used to bathe in at Buchenwald, and Häftlings with torn off skin all over their bodies would come in through the walls, their flesh still oozing with blood. And there were many of them, tens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of Häftlings who would implacably advance towards her from everywhere. Living corpses she could not fool. As she could not escape them, death appeared to her as the only rescue.

Brigadenführer, a major-general in the SS.







In the Reviers of the concentration camps, the worst moments were not the crisis, abscesses, cramps or suffocation's, but the arrival of the man with a syringe to give you eine injektion, an injection.

The killing durch Injektion, by injection, or "scientific assassination", as it was called at the Nürnberg trial, was "discovered" and launched at Birkenau-Auschwitz. The author: Obersturmführer-SS Dr. Entress. He killed up to 300 detainees a day. Doctor Jung assisted him. An SS man, too. The "attendants" of diverse professions also killed by injections. B. Klehr, for instance, was a shoemaker. A certain Stessel boasted that he had on his record 10.000 Häftlings killed by injections "made by himself". He was second only to one Panseczyk, who claimed that he had killed, by the same method, 12.000 detainees.

The method was in vogue at Birkenau during its first years of existence. When its modern crematoria and gas chambers had not been built yet. Thus, in 1942, when the transports of deported people arrived from Lublin, 15.000-20.000 people were killed by death-causing injektions in a single action.

At Buchenwald, Hauptsturmführer-SS Dr. Wlademar Hoven, who had become a doctor after succeeding, on the basis of the his merits in the SS, to pass the school-leaving examination at the age of 32, was injecting poison in the veins of 12 detainees, then used to go out to refresh himself by smoking a cigarette. When he was very busy he took a break only after liquidating two dozens of Häftlings.

At Bergen-Bergen the grand master of assassination durch Injektion, by injection, was Karl, the chief male nurse, who had been sent to the camp for raping and killing a child. Here is an account of this activity given by one of the surviving doctors: "Karl used to arrive with a list in his hand, accompanied by two of his accomplices, and even the bravest felt feint. Aware of the effect, he did not hurry, he was joking with the block chiefs, who were afraid of him and cordially hated him. Before him, the detainees were shaking, and their eyes, wide open with fear, were glued on the fetal list. At last, he would call the numbers. Almost always young people, sometimes 16 years old children. Pale, as if they were already dead, they would stagger out of the ranks, forming a line behind the killer's assistants, and they were taken to a small ward of the Revier. There they found a number of patients struggling with death, selected earlier by Karl to complete the batch. They were made to undress, allotted a bunk and offered sweetened diet soup: their desire to live was so strong that although put on guard by the daily disappearance of their camp mates, they still nourished hopes. The hours passed slowly, and they experienced turn by turn fear and confidence. Karl used to come and visit them, patting them lightly on their cheeks, sprinkling them jokingly with the very syringe with which soon...

Evening would come. Silently, people entered the room. As soon as the doors of the blocks were locked and the last noises died away, Karl would come again in a white smoke. Then, his attendants would rush upon the condemned and tie them to the bunks; the cries, the implorations of the poor children, who were desperately struggling, mingled with the intensified rhythm of the music, Karl would take a long... sterilized needle &emdash; oh, what a mockery! &emdash; and plunge it in the chest of the hapless victim; an attendant would pass him the syringe, and he would push in the liquid... An inhuman howling, sometimes followed by a death rattle... and passed to the next one."

At Mauthausen this system was introduced by doctor Krebsbach, nicknamed Bachspritz, Bach-syringe. Shortly, it spread to all camps. The procedure was the same everywhere. The pulse was taken to calm the detainee, the arm was cleaned with a swell of cotton soaked with spirits, then, with the greatest care and with an encouraging smile he was given eine Injektion, an intravenous injections. The composition differed from camp to camp: petrol, air, a hydrogen peroxide solution, Evipan, prussic acid or phenol. Especially phenol.

The SS-men of Birkenau, who always were a step ahead of their comrades in the other camps in improving the assassination methods, broke the pattern. Experimenting, they established that death was more certain and quicker if the phenol injections were made in the region of the heart or directly into the heart.

Although improved, the system of killing through injections took second palce to gassing. Phenol injections continued to be used to liquidate the sick and the detainees selected by the Gestapo. When a detainee, having been called to the political section of the SS (the extended hand of the Gestapo in the K.Z.s), was advised to visit the Revier, it meant that his fate was sealed, that "he was sent for eine Injektion" , for an injection.

Killing durch Injecktion, by injection, regained the first place only once more and for the last time. That happened on the eve of the day or of the night the concentration camps collapses.

Himmler's order was clear. No Häftling should fall alive in the hands of the liberators. However, the liberating armies advanced so rapidly towards some of the camps that evacuation by train was no longer possible. Neither the alternative of mass liquidation could be put into practice. There was not sufficient time to bury the corpses, and the SS-men did not want to leave any compromising traces.

The decision: in all camps threatened by such a situation, the detainees put in were in marching order and, surrounded by SS-men, they were taken towards the central K.Z.s that had gas chambers. The sick and the week were given phenol injections.

In some camps, the liberating troops arrived a few hours, and even a few minutes after the SS-men, sub-machine gun, horsewhip and syringe in hand, ran away. There, some of the Häftlings could be saved. Among them, I. I., a deportee from Cluj. She wears even now, on one arm, under the tattooed Häfling number, the burn of that Injektions, of that phenol injection.


To Oliver Lustig's Biographical Sketch

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