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Birkenau-Auschwitz and Dachau Holocaust Survivor

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Last (Burden)

Lebensgefahr! (Danger of Death)

L (leiche) [L (Corpse)]

Leichenfledderei (The Robbing of Corpses)



Lüge (Lie)









No matter how paradoxical it may seem, the Nazi extermination camps, had, in addition to the Bunkers' chiefs, chiefs for gas chambers, chiefs for the crematoria and Lagerarzt, the chief medical officer of the KZ. In the big camps, the Lagerarzt, the chief medical officer, had a number of medical officers under him. Almost all were SS officers. Their main occupation, like of any other SS-man, was death.

Although I realize that they are incredible for any "dictionary", nevertheless I feel in duty bound to state some of the preoccupations of the SS medical officers in the concentration camps. I confine myself to write down only those mentioned by Rudolf Höss, the commander of the Birkenau-Auschwitz camp, before the International Military Tribunal of Nürnberg: to select for the crematoria, immediately after getting down from the wagons, all those unfit for work, the people, the sick, the mothers with children up to 14 years of age included… To be present at the exterminations in the gas chambers, to ascertain whether the extermination was total… To convince themselves, through tests, that the Häftlings of the Sonderkommando had pulled out all the golden teeth from those gassed… To pick out every week those who were seriously sick in the Reviers and to send them for extermination; to kill by injections those who could not rise from the bed… To be present at all executions by hanging and by shooting in the back of the head…

No matter how horrible is this enumeration, it mast be said that those recorded are but a part, and a relatively small one, of the criminal medical activity in the camps, as compared to the bestiality of the experiments carried out on the living by these diabolic medical officers.

The experiments in which the Häftlings served as guinea-pigs became wide-spread that with the knowledge and approval of the SS Lagerarzts, the SS chief medical officers, the fanciest experiments were concomitantly carried out: maiming surgical operations, amputations without narcosis. A young medical officer, König, used to select detainees with inflamed extremities and practiced amputations. Even the criminals, who had become overnight made nurses used to operate. They started whit finger amputations without narcosis, passed to hand amputations and went up to appendectomy and ulcer operations.

The SS medical officers, accursed ones, perpetrated their crimes with ease, confidently, always in high spirits. The shuddered for the first time only when, at Nürnberg, the first paragraph of the indictment was read to them: "Between September 1939 and April 1945, all individuals named here worked in agreement, unlawfully, voluntarily and with full knowledge, conspiring together and with various other individuals to commit war crimes, as well as crimes against humanity…"

The endless list of crimes perpetrated by the Lagerarzte, the chief medical officers, and by all the other SS medical officers of the concentration camps was divided into four categories:

  1. Lack of medical assistance and refusal to give medical attendance.
  2. Selecting for extermination
  3. Scientifically assassination.
  4. The experiments on living persons, about which the indictment said: "… we consider them the most abominable crimes because they are not only qualified crimes, but include the most diverse elements of bestial behavior through tortures, atrocities, made by the medical officers "in cold blood", whiteout any qualms, with "scientific" detachment, which represent the very negation of man."

Any attempt to draw the portrait of a Lagerarzt can not be, I think, more realistic, more convincing than the self-portrait made by Lagerarzt Heinz Beaukötter, the chief medical officer of Sachsenhausen concentration camp, before a Soviet tribunal, while answering the questions of the prosecutor:

 The Prosecutor: "What position did you have at Sachsenhausen?"

Baumkötter: "I had to personally attend or to send a subordinate to the executions, to punishments, to shootings, hangings or gassings… to make the list of sick detainees and of those unfit for work, who were to be transferred to other camps and, lastly, I had to make experiments in accordance with the orders received."

 The Prosecutor: "For what purpose did you order that the detainees, after the beating on the trestle, had to lunge and to practice ´sportsª?"

 Baumkötter: "This was the custom at Sachsenhausen and contributed to a better blood circulation."

 The Prosecutor: "Do you know what were the experiments with phlegmons?"

 Baumkötter: "Incisions were made on the detainees thighs, and the incisions were filled with old rags and dirty straws. This induced the desired septicemia."

The Prosecutor: "How many detainees were sent for extermination in other camps on your orders?"

 Baumkötter: (after meditating for a long time): "About 8.000 detainees were sent off on the basis of the lists I made."









The central figure in the inner hierarchy of the concentration camps was the Lagerälteste, who dominated the mass of the Häftlings with the help of cohorts of tens and hundreds of Blockälteste and Kapo. At Landsberg there also existed the Lagerkapo, a Kapo who was in charge of the whole camp, therefore a position rivaling with that of Lagerälteste.

Starting the winter of 1944 and until liberation the Lagerkapo at Landsberg was Lulu Grünfeld, a deportee from Cluj. He was a tall, strong man, with a lead-heavy punch. When he yelled, the whole camp roared with his strong voice that could be heard even in the SS quarters.

 Lagerkapo Lulu did not spare either his first or his voice.

In the morning, in the Appellplatz, people would jostle each other to enter those detachments that were in charge of a less savage Kapo. But then Lulu would come and the Häftlings would fall to the ground under his heavy fists as if mowed down. Order was restored within a few minutes.

While hitting the detainees, he roared:

"Attention! Chests out! Why are you bending like milk-soaps?"

"It-s bitter cold. We are frizzing, Herr Lagerkapo," some Häftling who was a native of Cluj dared.

"Who's the son of a bitch?" Lulu roared, punching to the ground the one that had dared protest his order.

In the concentration camps there were no days of rest. The detainees worked on Sundays, too. December 25, 1944 was the first day when we were not taken out for work. The morning roll call had been held in daylight for the first time. We feverishly thought that, al last, we would be able to keep one day indoors, protected from wind and snow, to dress our wounds and sleep… sleep.

But this time, too, Lagerkapo Lulu invented something to prove his zeal: he ordered that some of the Häftlings should chop wood for the SS men all day, while others should clear the snow in front of the barracks. He selected the detainees himself. Among them there was a young man of Cluj. He plucked up courage, stepped out of line and stopped at attention in front of Lulu, after he had taken off his cap. He was shivering from top to toe with cold and fear.

"Take pity! I'm the youngest of all and I'm almost barefoot. Let me repair my sabots. I'm from Cluj, too. Please…"

He could not finish his entreaty. With a punch Lulu threw him to the ground; then he began shouting while kicking him with the boot:

"Were do you think you are, you miserable creature? Back home, close to your mother's skirts? This is a concentration camp, you son of bitch!"

Late that winter, Landsberg No 1 was put in quarantine as the typhus was playing havoc among the detainees. The sick were moved to the neighboring camp Kaufering No 4. In its unheated slam barracks, some 4.000 Häftlings, lying on bare boards and covered with rags struggled with the unbearable fever of typhus.

Three weeks later those who had remained at Landsberg resumed the work. We gathered in the Appellplatz where the detachments were reorganized. After much beating and swearing they managed to from 15 detachments, one hundred people each that was accommodated in the first 15 barracks. Those detachments were supposed to carry cement into the Mohl forest. The cement bags had to be carried on one's back from the skirt of the forest to a place in the middle of the forest, where they were building an underground factory. For the weakened detainees being selected in the Mohl detachments was sure death. That is the reason why the 16th detachment was impossible to from. The Häftlings threw themselves to the ground, saying they were sick and asking to taken to the Rivier. They did not care about beating any more. They knew that if they were to carry cement they would not be able to survive more than two or three days.

Passing among us, those pretending to be sick. Lagerkapo Lulu spotted a detainee from Cluj. He made him a sign to stand up and follow him:

"I know you're all weakened, particularly you, the younger ones. I'd like to spare you a little, so that you may not say I forgot you. Tell the detainees from Cluj and your friends that a detachment called ´Special Command Wª will be formed. It will be an easier job, at the outskirts of a village, where you will also be able to get some food."

While in the middle of the Appellplatz the Kapos were still beating and swearing at the detainees in the attempt to from the 16th Mohl detachment, in a corner of the camp a Kapo invited, in a strong voice, all people wishing to work in ´Special Command Wª to gather and form in a line. As hundreds of people rushed to the Kapo, Lulu came to the spot to make order.

"Why are you crowding like animals? There are too many of you. We only need one hundred people", he roared, knocking down with his heavy firsts all those jostling each to enter the already formed lines.

When the column was ready, he ordered:

"16th Mohl Detachment attention! To barrack no 16 forward march1"

We started to move on slowing and staggeringly, as if making for our own graves.

 Lagerkapo Lulu grinned with satisfaction:

"Who did you think you were trying your strength against?"

 After liberation they looked for Lulu for weeks and months on end. Former Häftlings from Dachau and Feldafing, from Bergen-Belsen and Mühlhausen kept coming to Landsberg every day. They first asked not about whom of their relatives and acquaintances had survived, but about Lagerkapo Lulu, who had become famous in all concentration camps in Bavaria. If someone had pointed his finger at him, then he would have been killed on the spot, without any trial.








I carried a huge backpack on my shoulders all the way from the ghetto to the railway station. On the road leading to the unknown we had been allowed to take &emdash; out of everything we had, of everything our grandfather and grand-grandfathers had gathered &emdash; as Mich. as one could carry on his shoulders from the ghetto to the station. That huge backpack &emdash; in which I had packed clothes and books, bedclothes and food, my childhood and my teenager's dreams (I was 18) &emdash; left bruises on my shoulders and hurt my soul.

When we arrived at Birkenau-Auschwitz, the doors of the 50 wagons in which we had been crowded were unlocked and pushed aside, and then on the platform one could hear but one order:

 "Heraus! Schneller heraus! Alles dort lassen! Get down! Quickly! Lease everything on the spot!"

We formed into two columns: one was dragging towards the gas chambers, the other towards camp E. We had all been relieved of our backpacks. But their Last, their burden continued to lie heavy on our shoulders and hurt our hearts.

At Birkenau-Auschwitz the detainees were put to carry blocks of stone uselessly. Some carried them up a slope, while others carried them back down the slope. The next day they changed roles. When we climbed up the slop[e, the stone on our backs seemed to become heaving with every other step. When we carried the stone down the slope, it was as if the whole sky was but one huge block crushing us under its weight. The fear that I might slip and that the block of stone rolling down the slope might hurt or even kill the Häftlings in front of me was paralyzing.

Leaving Birkenau it was not only the crematoria that I left behind, but also its nocks of stone. But their Last, their burden kept on crushing my shoulders and my soul in all the camps I was moved to.

In the Bavarian forests we carried fir trunks. Some 40 Häftlings lent over the trunk at the same time. The Kapo yelled:

 "Auf! Los, auf, verfluchten Hunde!" Up, quickly up, you bloody dogs!

Each word was accompanies by a heavy blow on our bent backs. The Kapo had a long heavy cudgel with which he could break three spines with just one blow. Those hit tried hard to raise the trunk, but the trunk would not move as the other Häftlings, who were not within the reach of the Kapo at the moment, helplessly leant upon it. When the Kapo reached them, they tried hard under the Kapo's heavy blows, while the other Häftlings, relieved of the cudgel menace, stood passively and touched their wounds. So the Kapo would run from one end of the trunk to the other, shouting: Auf! Los, auf, verfluchten Hunde! and hitting the detainees at random for minutes on end until we straightened our backs, raised the trunk on our shoulders and painfully started to move.

The trunk had to be carried on a distance of almost two kilometers. But after barely a few steps some of the detainees, whose wounds left by the huge backpacks they had carried from the ghetto to the station, then by the blocks of stone they carried at Birkenau-Auschwitz started to bleed would lower the feel the Last, the burden suddenly growing. And then they would lower their shoulders, too. The bang with which the trunk fell to the ground made us shiver. The Kapo and his lot heavy cudgel that could break three spines with just one blow were back at work.

A Landsberg I worked in the "white detachment" in night shifts. That was a group of a few hundreds of detainees selected to carry cement bags from the skirt of the Mohl forest up to its middle, where foundations were being laid for a plane factory. Kapos planted within one hundred metered from each other on the route ensured a constant pace with the help of their cudgels.

I never understood how could I carry the cement bag on my shoulders that were badly hurt by the huge backpack, the heavy blocks of stone of Birkenau, or the pine trunks of the Bavarian forest.

From the moment I left the ghetto carrying that huge backpack on my back, in which I had packed clothes and books, bedclothes and food, my childhood and my teenager's dreams, and I made my first step towards Birkenau-Auschwitz forty-five years ago, it was only once that I felt my soul and my shoulders relieved of that burden. It happened during that unique, unbelievably bright moment when, mad with joy, I fore off my striped clothes and ran beyond the fallen gates of Landsberg, howling so that the whole would should hear me, so that I should hear it my self: I'm free… freeee…

Yes, it was then alone. And only for a short moment, because afterwards my shoulders and my soul continued to bleed. Even today, after forty-five years, the Last, the burden of the huge backpack I carried from the ghetto to the railway station, the burden of the blocks of stone al Birkenau-Auschwitz, of the pine trunks of the Bavarian forest, or of the cement bags I carried during moonless nights in the terrible winter of the 1944-1945 keeps hurting me. Actually it is the burden of deportation I have never been relieved of, for I will carry it on my back and in my heart to the end of my life.







At Birkenau-Auschwitz we had been told, the very moment of our arrival, that the barbed wire surrounding and dividing camps A, B, C, D, E, F was conducting high voltage current. Lethal current. Along the fences and five meters in front of them, the "thoughtful" SS-men had planted stakes, two hundred meters from each other, supporting rectangular plates on which one could read the following, in white letters against a black background: Lebensgefahr! Danger of death. Skull and crossbones had been placed under the inscription to make it even more alarming.

Suchlike warning plates had been placed everywhere in the camp. If, for various reasons, a ditch had to be dug for the installation of a cable, a new plate with the inscription Achtung! Lebensgefahr! Showed up on the spot.

There was one dangerous place where there was no warning plate. The gas chambers. Rectangular plates were hanging on their doors, indeed, but they were not black and had no skull and crossbones on them. Instead, the plates on the doors of the gas chambers were of immaculate white carrying just one word, written in four languages (German, French, Greek and Hungarian), in larger letters and relaxing colors: Waschraum, bathroom.






L (Leiche)


Being pointed the L letter on their backs, was regarded by many detainees with indifference as they through that the L letter stood for Lager. Some of them did not realize not even when they entered the gas chamber, that L mark they had worn on their backs stood for Leiche (corpse). As a matter of fact, from the moment onwards nothing of what had happened or of what might have still happened had any importance any more. For them it was the implacable beginning of the end. And the end was a very short one, lasting ten minutes at the most.

Around the large camps, the mother-camps so to say, such as Dachau, Mauthausen, Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, Ravensbürck, there was a multitude of smaller camps that did not have gas chambers. When the decision was made to terminate the emaciated Häftlings, not by tens but by hundreds, they were moved to the mother-camps, provided with "perfected extermination facilities". A 25 centimeter-high L was painted in indelible paint on the back of each transferred Häftling to prevent them from mixing with other Häftlings, upon arrival, which would have rendered the operation more difficult.

Once arrived in the new camp, the marked Häftlings had to wait one day and night, at times even more, until their turn came. Crammed into barracks already filled with other detainees, some of the newcomers would learn about what was in stone for them and then try all night through, while the others were sleeping, to remove the paint with saliva, or rule it off with their nails and teeth. Poor things! They did not know that the paint was indelible!

At one time during this desperate struggle with death someone had the salutary idea of cutting the marked patch of cloth and turning it inside out. One only had to get a needle and some thread from the tailoring workshop, and for this one had to have a friend among the Kapos or the Blockältesten. The trick was quickly found out and with it the idea it self was gone. Instead of painting a 25 centimeter-high L on the back of the Häftling they started to tattoo a tiny L on his left arm. Now that the meaning or the tattooed letter had become known, the Häftling did no longer try to rub it off with his nails or teeth. He just looked at it.

However, on entering the gas chamber, most of the marked detainees still believed that the tattooed L on their arms meant Lager. It was only when feeling that they were choking and toying to make themselves more room with the help of their arms that, taking glimpse of the tattoo, they realized, for a very short while, that L actually stood for Leiche (corpse).







Initially, the extermination camps were meant only to be Todesmühlen, death factories, and the deportations &emdash; the most efficient method of supplying those factories. All those entering the gates of the concentration camps were considered ccandidates to death. Those who did not directly to the gas chambers were called living corpses. But, yet corpses.

Soon, the SS-men discovered Leichenfledderei als Profitquelle, robbing from the corpses as s source of profit. Immediately, the Central Economic-Administrative Directorate of the SS was set up, headed by Obergruppenhführer1-SS Oswald Pohl, to whom all the concentration camps were subordinated.

The living corpses had to be exploited to total exhaustion. The commanders of the camps received orders to use the Häftlings in slave labor "bis zu den Grenzenihrere Körperlichen Kräfte", to the limit of their bodies' strenght. Greedy to receive as much money marks as possible from the big trusts for the Häftlings' slavery work, Himmler towards the end of the war, when the cams supplying with fresh candidates to death became more difficult personally intervened to prolong with a few weeks the average life span of a detainee in the concentration camps.

Another method: the delivery of Häftlings to the trusts for experiment purposes. Here are five letters on this subject, recorded by the American Military Tribunal in Nürnberg.

 The first letter: "In connection with our intention to experiment a new soporific, we would be glad if you place at our disposal a number of women. Waiting for your reply..."

 The second letter: "We have received your answer.200 marks for a woman is too big a price. We agree to pay at the most 170 marks. If this price is acceptable to you, we shall take the women. We need about 150 women..."

 The third letter: "We confirm the receipt of your consent.

Prepare for us 150 women whose health is as good as possible. The moment you announce us that they are ready, we shall take them over..."

 The fourth letter: "We have received the 150 women ordered. Although they are in a state of exhaustion, they have been considered satisfactory. We shall keep you informed with the course of the experiments..."

 The fifth letter: "The experiments have carried out. All the persons have died. We shall soon get in touch with you in connection with a new delivery..."

 Leichenfledderei als Profitquelle, the robbing of corpses as a source of profit, witnessed a sharp diversification.

Before being exterminated, the buckle cavity of the Häftlings was examined. If they had gold or platinum teeth, they were marked on the chest, thus facilitating the removal of the precious metal dental works after shot or gassed. A detainee from the Sonderkommando prized open with a crow bar the jaws of the marked corps, while another pulled out or, more correctly, tore off the gold teeth. After cleaning them in a solution of hydrochloric acid which decomposed the bone and flesh bits that clung to the metal, the teeth were melted and turned into gold bars of half a kilogram each before sending them to the Reich's Bank. It has been estimated that from Birkenau-Auschwitz alone 6.000 kilograms of dental gold were sent to Berlin.

The same brutally was used to tear out the ear-rings from the women and the wedding rings from the fingers. After liberation, thousands of kilograms of wedding rings were found among the gold stocks discovered in the concentration camps (the SS had not had the time to send them to Berlin).

At the Nürenberg trial, Emil Phul, former vice-chairman of the Reich's Bank, stated: "In the summer of 1942, the chairman of the bank and the minister economy, Walther Funk... told me that he had reached an agreement with Reichsführere Himmler with regard to keeping in the bank a quantity of gold and jewelry belonging to the SS. He told me it was a matter of wealth confiscated in the occupied eastern regions and asked me to refrain from putting further questions.

Among the objects deposited by the SS in the bank there were jewels, watches, spectacles frames, gold fountain pens and other such objects in huge quantities, confiscated by the SS from the Jews, from the victims in the concentration camps and from other persons".

The hair too was used; Colonel-General of the SS Pohl took personal care, to the smallest details, of that matter. He addressed letters to the commanders of sixteen extermination camps asking: "... that all human hair collected in the concentration camps be turned to account. The hair could be industrially processed to make felt or to spin it into thread. The women's hair, well combed and correctly cut, could be made into felt-toots for the U-Boot crews and into felt socks for the German railways' staff. It is therefore ordered that all the hair obtained from the female prisoners be carefully disinfected and kept. The hair obtained from the males can be used only if it is more than 20 mm in length..."

The circular letter ended by adding: "Starting from September 5, 1942, on the fifth of each month reports will be sent concerning the quantity of hair collected from the males and, separately, from the females".

Some 60 tons of hair were sent from Birkenau-Auschwitz alone. According to the orders, the female hair was valued at 0,5 marks per kilogram. On the liberation, the Soviet troops still found in the camp seven tons of hair cut from 140.000 women.

At Birkenau-Auschwitz everything was turned to account. The flesh and blood of the Häftlings included. Doctor Vilem Jorovic, detainee No. 32046, underlined in his deposition that in 1943 an Institute of Hygiene for the members of the SS-units headed by an SS-ist, Weber, was established on the territory of the Auschwitz concern. "Human flesh, brought from the crematoria, where the camp's dead were transported daily, was used in this institute in the preparation of bacterial cultures. The blood for the experiments was taken from the sick detainees, from the convalescent ones and from those executed by shooting. It was the cheapest means to get human blood and flesh, which the Nazi lacked at the end of the war".

Human flesh was in sufficient quantity. A cool cynicism and a rationalization of assassination were evident everywhere in the camp.

 Leichenfledderei, the robbing of the "living corpses" and of the "true corpses", was total. The ashen were used as fertilizer.








When I arrived at Birkenau-Auschwitz, I was only 17 and I terribly feared death. Until then I had never looked at a corpse. My families were all alive. Only a grandfather had when I was very little and I no longer remembered him. But in Birkenau-Auschwitz, in camp BIIE my fear of death vanished after the first days. Death was there such an ordinary, frequent and prevailing phenomenon, that you could no longer tell which was first and foremost: life or death. We, those alive, were actually Totenkandidaten, candidates to death. They called us walking corpses and we mixed all the time with the dead-corpses because all those who died of diseases or exhaustion, who committed suicide or were beaten to death at night or during the day, stayed on with us the barrack or in front of it till the evening Appell, when the corpses had to be lain at the right flank of the front. In order to count them more easily, some SS men claimed that the corpses should be supported in vertical position. It was after Appell that they were taken to the Leichenhalle, the morgue.

W. Kielar recalls that at the beginning the Leichenhalle, morgue, of Birkenau-Auschwitz lay in the cellar of block No. 28 and was endowed with about two dozens of boxes which served for carrying the corpses to the crematoria and some stretchers for carrying the dead from blocks to the morgue. When executions by shooting were started the wooden stretchers were replaced by plate iron ones, as the traces of blood could be removed more easily.

To enter the Leichenhalle, the morgue, of concentration camps was similar to entering the Hell. The sight was apocalyptic.

Denise Leboucher noted down in her notebook in Ravensbrück: "An underground shelter of reinforced concrete. Some stairs and an open door: the smell of disinfectant mingling with the stink of corpses pilled up one over the others. A nightmarish sight... A silent ossuary, bare bodies or rather skeletons, true mummies without dressings, yellow like parchment, or violet and blue, often already spotted with green... tumefied abdomens, the bones of the pelvis so bulging that they penetrated the hips... an arm cut off, a leg bleeding like meat in the slaughter house.

On the autopsy table a corpse laid open... not even bleeding... A female doctor, if one could call her so, zealously cutting, hacking and extirpating liver, stomach, lungs, heart, all these awful viscera taken out in order to see what was in the dead body; then, once the examination is over, everything is thrown back into the open belly and that piece of human " meat" is tied up in haste. Terrifying rictuses, bulging eyes, screwed up faces, grinning teeth which seem willing to bite dust because the bodies were thrown heaps upon heaps. A woman, who died in childbirth, the infant still tied to her through the umbilical cord and the little corpse between her legs, like a doll with open eyes.

When the Leichenhalle, the morgue, was cramped, another one in open air was set up. Smaller camps did not have a special building for Leichenhalle, for the morgue, simply a place was assigned for pilling up the corpses, heaps upon heaps, waiting for their turn to be incinerated or buried. The same Denise Lebourcher who worked in the morgue of Ravensbrück recalls: "I often happened to be complied to clear with a spade the snow that had covered the dead women during the night. The only white shroud they were allowed to have. The bodies were frozen. The sad noise of disentangled corpses was painful. It seemed to me that the operation could still hurt them. Sometimes they did not wait until the dying women from the Revier expired, and quite often some of those poor creatures ended their agony among the corpses pilled up in the Waschraum, lavatory. One day something horrible happened. In the morning, when the sexton detainees entered the morgue to bring in fresh corpses, a bear, mad woman rushed out shrieking from that cave and collapsed into the snow. She had spent the night buried under a pile of corpses... She had woken up among the dead bodies, she herself frozen with cold and fear. Panic-stricken she rushed out and collapsed in front of the door. She was quickly taken to the Revier... The poor miserable lived for another three days and then she really died."

The largest Leichenhalle, morgue, in the open, a hallucinating morgue was the one in Bergen-Belsen. "When the camp was liberated &emdash; Christian Bernadac wrote in his book &emdash; the English found there 13.000 corpses laid on the ground, heaped up in piles, between the blocks, in the blocks, on the stairs of the blocks, in front, behind the blocks, everywhere. They found corpses serving as benches, corpses-benches and corpses-chairs, corpses-beds (lice desert the dead)." 







The reason for the existence of the concentration camps was death.

Killing went on day in and day out. Consequently, the job of Leichenträger, corpse carrier, was among the most important in a KZ. At Birkenau-Auschwitz, beside those gassed, the number of the dead, -- executed, worn out, crushed and trampled underfoot, electrocuted -- was so great that the Leichenträgern, the corpse carriers gathered them from blocks, from Appellplatzs, from toilets as if they were mere objects. In the precincts of the morgue the corpse carriers behave just like in an ordinary workshop.

W. Kielar, who during five years spent in Auschwitz was also a Leichenträger, a corpse carrier, recalls: "I often went down into the morgue to have a chat. Gienek Obojski got some potatoes. As there was a coke stove in the cellar we used to bake potato pies on it. We sat on confines around the heated stove, the pies were sizzling and their pleasant smell was tickling our nostrils, stronger than the reek of chlorine the corpses had been sprinkled with. We were so used to the corpses that had been sprinkled with. We were so used to the corpses that they no longer moved us at all."

At the beginning, in Birkenau the corpses were carried on srtretchers. When they proved insufficient for the task, carts replaced them, which filled up with corpses were pulled and dragged by Leichenträger, the corpse carriers. W. Kielar recalls: "The pile was increasing. It was more and more difficult to throw the corpses up. Gienek arranged them one near the other, just like wheat sheaf's during harvesting.

Holding the corpse by the hands and legs and swinging it mighty well, we threw it up where Gienek with his legs wide apart and wall set into the pile of trunks, arms, legs and heads, caught it and arranged it in layers so that the cart should take in as many of them as possible. In this way, he spared our time and work, which we wanted, finished as soon as possible.

The carts were cracking and the squeaking wheels set into motion, leaving deep traces in the humid ground. Soon one of the wheels, seemingly passing over softer earth went deeply into the ground; the shaft turned with a sudden jerk and Objski was thrown like a ball into the wall of the next block. The overloaded cart slanted. Some of the medical orderlies managed to jump aside in time. A loud crack and the overloaded cart turned upside down in a second, in the clamor of swears and moans of those who did not manage to jump aside and who were buried under a pile of corpses."

In Kaufering and Landsberg, actually in all smaller KZs almost everyone had to carry corpses by turns.

I mean the bodies of our fellow-inmates who died at work. To carry them on your shoulder, some four-six km. after 12 hours of toil was a nightmare, particularly in winter. The columns of Häftlings always marched in rows of fives. Each corpse was varied by four detainees, thereby making up groups of five in order to facilitate surveillance and counting. The corpse-bearer had to be replaced quite often. Utterly exhausted by the work which lasted the whole day, faint with hunger, unable to hold tight the corpse on their shoulders with their fingers benumbed, walking into the knee-high snow, after some 100-150 meters they could no longer hold their burden which fell down. And then the riding whips of the SS-men and cudgels of the Kapo's urged them to raise it up again and further carry it on their shoulders.

At Bergen-Belsen, at the end of the war, whole blocks of Häftlings were turned into Leichenträgern, corpse carries. The crematorium oven had burnt out, so the SS-men decided to burn the corpses on bonfire. Heaped up in huge piles, the corpses were set on fire. But this practice was soon to be abandoned because of the lack of wood to keep the fire burning. The camp was full of corpses. When the British troops started to draw nearer, the SS-men decided to have some huge pits dug in the earth. The most difficult thing was to drag the corpses to the pits. One of the survivors, who had been deported from Hungary, recalls: "The deportees in our part of the camp were ordered to drag to those large pits the corpses from block no 11, then all the other corpses scattered through the camp and finally a large amount of women's corpses brought in lorries from the women's camp' and unloaded on the main alley of the camp. Nobody was exempt from this work, nor could anyone avoid it. As we were very weak, in the end they allowed us to pull by fours the dead bodies tied at joints with rags or whatever could serve for the purpose. The groups followed one another in a line, making up a two kilometers procession advancing stumblingly and moan kingly under the strikes of tens of Kapo's who had become uncontested masters. Many of us died. This lasted from April 11 to April 14. Thereafter, nobody was able to do it anymore. For this work which lasted from early morning till night we got a helping of soup and nothing else, neither bread, nor water, because the camp was wholly contaminated with typhus. The inmates fought for a piece of beet. The typhus took its daily toil of hundreds of victims. Detainees died of starvation by hundreds."

 Le Druillenec of France was also deeply impressed by his work as Leichenträger, corpse carrier, al Bergen-Belsen: "We tied stripes of blankets to the wrists and ankles of the corpses witch we chose out carefully. First we selected the smallest bodies: they were weaker and more emaciated than I could have even imagined. Therefore, the smallest were the lightest. Then we looked for the corpses, which had not blackened too much. Our first duty in the morning was to bury the recent dead who had been brought to the mortuary yard from various barracks and not the dead in the morgue. Despite the fact that over 2.000 people were compelled to do this job, every morning we had to clear the mortuary yard before we could enter the morgue and bury the older dead. We set out from the northern gate of the yard, dragging the corpse behind, some two meters far from the following and precedent groups respectively. If the distance increased, a stroke over the head made us quicken our steps. We went along the central alley to the inhumation pits. Flanking the alley the Kapo's saw to the ceaseless progress of the operation."







I learned almost all the words and phrases in this Dictionary by hearing the SS-sits, Kapo's, Block-and Lagerältestes shouting them. They shouted them ceaselessly and overtime accompanied them by blows. So that I learnt them first and only after that I perceived their meaning. Some, very few, being but rarely and surreptitiously uttered, I understood after a long time, having tried thousands of times to grasp their meaning. Among these is the word Lüge, lie.

When the liquidation of the Cluj ghetto started, a Hortyst lieutenant, accompanied by a SS one, officially and solemnly informed us: "You will be transported to Dunántúl, To a modern labor camp, were, you can do useful work in munch better conditions than here."

Having learnt that no one could take more than one could carry on his back up to the railway station, a commotion bordering panic gripped the ghetto. A new announcement was made to us: "All those who leave shall pack their belongings in boxes and bundles on which they will write their names. The letters will be written legibly in black ink so that the authorities will have no difficulty in their transport and subsequent distribution."

After the departure of the first transport of 3000 people on May 26, 1944, the first post-cards arrived in a few days and described the favorable conditions in the modern Dunántúl camp.

Everything was nothing else but eine Lüge, a lie.

The reality: those who left the ghetto, having been embarked in cattle-wagons, got off only on the selection platform at Birkenau-Auschwitz. And between the selection platform and the gas chambers the distance was under a kilometer.

In some ghettos, the people were told to take along, if they could, timber, which would be used for fitting up the barracks in the labor camp in which they would be transported. Some did. At Birkenau, the timber found in the wagons was used for burning, in trenches, the mothers and children, on the days when the crematoria could not cope.

In Poland, when the transports to Treblinka, were started, the SS-ists haunches the rumor: "he who volunteers for work outside the ghetto receives their kilograms of bread and margarine." The men, whose families were on the verge of death from hunger, literally rushed. They stood in queue in fours to be registered. After embarkation's, the trains went directly to Treblinka. There, from the wagons, the men were taken directly to the gas chamber.

In the Nazi concentration camps, die Lüge, the lie, was made ruling principle and carried almost to perfection.

The Untersturmführer-SS Dr, Becker, in charge of the first vans used for the extermination by gassing, reported: "I ordered that the vehicles in D group be disguised as sleeping quarters and for this purpose I ordered that the small ones be filled with a window on each side. And the bigger one with two, similar to those we often see in the peasant houses."

At Mauthausen, those meant to be liquidated by gassing were transported to the gassing installation at the Hartheim castle in postal vans to which false windows had been fitted and which were painted blue in order to give them "a more gay appearance."

When it was decided at Ravensbrück that the small annex-camp at Uckermark be turned into an extermination camp, die Lüge, the lie, was bunched that it had been turned into a convalescence camp and was given the name Jugenlager1. The sick, all the exhausted women were advised to declare that they had not the strength to work so that they would be sent in the convalescence camp. In order that the big Lüge, lie, be credible, the camp was provided with a Revier and a women doctor, who was known and appreciated by the female detainees, was sent there.

Of course, the truth became quickly known. The respective Revier had neither medicines, nor heating and not even pallets; the sick women who arrived in the convalescence camp were immediately made to take off their overcoats and every woolen gourmets and forced to stand in the snow for days, almost without food, until their turn to go to the snow for days, almost without food, until their turn to go to the gas chamber came.

When it was decided to liquidate the Theresienstadt camp, the Nazi authorities gave the following order:

The SS Governmental Commission
of the Reich for the mobilization
and distribution of the citizens
obliged to do forced labor

Call-up Order

… every male Jew from the territories under German protectorate is informed that, on the orders of the above authority, he comes under the total mobilization of the labor force. The departure for the work places will be in-groups. Before leaving, the mobilized is obliged to show to the delegate of the above-mentioned authorities the tools or instruments needed for practicing his profession, winter clothing, bedding and provisions for a week. The date and the hour of departure will be noticed.



20,000 male Jews apt for work arrived on the death platform at Birkenau with such orders. All were gassed and turned to ashes in the flames of the crematoria.

After 11 days, new trains from Theresienstadt arrived at the same platform. Only women and children got down from the wagons. No selection was made. All were formed into columns and sent directly to the crematoria. On the floor of the anteroom to the gas chamber, among dresses, footwear and children's toys, after each transport there were hundreds of summonses with the following texts:


The above named authority allows the wife and children of…, Jew from the territories under German protectorate, mobilized for work, to go to the place of work of the above-mentioned Jew and to live as a family for the duration of his forced labor. An adequate house is placed at their disposal. The family members will take with them winter clothing, bedding and provisions for a week. Theresienstadt


This Lüge, lie, of unheard-of meanness, sent to death 20.000 devoted wives who wanted to lighten their husbands' fate and thousands of children who had no other fault but that they were born Jews and that they wanted to see again their father.

The SS-men lied to us every day, at every step.

On April 27, 1945, the commander of Landsberg No 1 gathered all the Häftlings in the court and told us, for the first time in a solemn voice, without shouting: "An agreement was concluded between the SS and the International Red Cross: We shall go in marching column to the Swiss border where you will be handed over. I demand of you order, discipline, submission. Who strays outside the column will be shot."

I was the last Lüge, lie. In reality, the column had to reach Dachau, where Himmler's order to liquidate all the detainees without exception, had already arrived.

The column was freed by the American troops when it was a few tens of kilometers from Dachau.

1 Youth Camp.


To Oliver Lustig's Biographical Sketch

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