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Birkenau-Auschwitz and Dachau Holocaust Survivor

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Scheiterhaufen (Pyre)

Schlag ihn Tot! (Kill Him!)

Schneller [Quicker (1)]

Schneller [Quicker (2)]

Schweigen (Silences)




Sonderkommando (Special Detachment)

SS (1)

SS (2)



Strafen (Punishments)

Strümpf (Sock)

Synchronization (Synchronization)








The SS-men were faultless in doing their profession of murderers. Especially the mass assassinations they organized with appalling accuracy and punctiliousness. Their pride of prides, the apex attained in organizing the extermination, was incontestably the death factory at Birkenau, indeed, there, death was imparted without perturbances, on the conveyor belt.

It was only one resynchronization that could not be prevented by the "angels of death", as the SS chiefs of Birkenau were called. It was caused by the gap between the burning capacity of the crematoria and the number of those arriving at the platform of death from various corners of Europe. When all the crematoria were functioning, in their 46 ovens, 9.000 corpses could be burned in 24 hours. That fact was known in Berlin, too. Yet, in some days and nights, especially in the summer of 1944, three, four trains would come with furious haste to the death platform, bringing to death, in their closed wagons, more than 10.000 people. But Birkenau had not conditions to keep even one day longer those foredoomed for extermination. They had to go directly from the wagons to the gas chambers. There was no other place for them. Neither could they stay on the platform, as next day other trains, bringing other thousands of victims would arrive.

However, the "angels of death" at Birkenau masters in their profession of killers, quickly invented a valve able to regulate the resynchronization caused by those in Berlin: der Scheiterhaufen, the pyre. All those who could not be burned in the crematoria were burned on the pyre. Their death was incomparably more cruel than that of those put in the gas chambers.

 Der Scheiterhaufen, the pyre, was, in fact, a fifty meters long ditch, six meters wide and three meters deep. On its edge, every six meters an SS-man with a small portable weapon was waiting for the victims. Farther on, at a distance of about fifty meters, another ditch, of the same dimensions, and with the same number of SS-men their fingers on the triggers. In the ditches, dry wood, soaked in gasoline, was burning like huge candles. The burning ditches, with SS-men at their edge, made up the famous den Scheiterhaufen, the famous pyre of Birkenau.

The pyre was hidden behind a row of firtrees, some 150 meters wide. Behind the fir-tree thicket, a kind of a long shed, dilapidated, with the windows covered by wooden boards.

It may have been sometime in the past a peasant house, whose interior walls had been knocked down. In front of it -- surrounded by a strong cordon of SS-men, who keep in leash ferocious wolfhounds -- stand, petrified with fear, thousands of people sent there directly from the arrival platform. Those deported people -- as observed by Niszli Miklós, who many a time witnessed that unconceivable scene -- were having the most dreadful end. Not even water taps were available there -- as there were in the crematoria enclosure -- to quench their tormenting thirst. Neither were those deceitful posters to dissipate their foreboding. There was no gas chamber, which they might have believed to be a bath. Nothing else was there, but a kind of a peasant house, better said a shed painted yellow, covered by straw, with closed shutters, and behind it a huge pillar of smoke rising to the sky and spearing a stink of burned flesh and singed hair.

The shed accommodated three-four hundred people at a time. Under a rain of cudgel blows they would throw off clothes and, naked, would go out through the opposite door of the house, making room for another lot of victims.

As soon as they crossed the threshold &emdash; without allowing them the time to look around, to realize the disaster awaiting them &emdash; thy were compelled, under the threat of the endless and of the horsewhips, to cross, running through the SS-men cordons, the fir-tree serene. Having reached the skirt of the thicket, they would instinctively stop, terrified. The views of the SS-men dangling on their legs, hands on the trigger, standing every six meters alongside the burning ditches, paralyzed them. They had no time to recover. Each victim was seized by two Sonders1 and taken, better said dragged for 15-20 meters up to the edge of the ditch, before a SS-man. The crack of weapons was almost inaudible, being covered by the desperate screams and yells of the victims.

The rhythm was infernally. The chief of der Scheiterhaufens, the pyre, an Oberscharführer, did not allow any stop, any pause. No one verified whether the shot was or not mortal, the victims were thrown into the flames even if they continued to scream with pain. In the case of the babies they economized on bullets. They were thrown directly on the pyre.

On June 9, 1944, when I arrived together with my family on the death platform of Birkenau, der Scheiterhaufen, the pyre, was fully in operation. The cooking smoke that came out of the chimneys of the crematoria covering the entire camp was reeking of burnt flesh. One of the transports, either ours, or the one before us, had been unplanned. A part of the deported persons were to be taken to the ditches. My mother and my three younger brothers were lucky, the escaped the flames of the pyre. They found a place in the gas chambers. And that, at Birkenau, meant to be lucky.

A Häftling (prisoner) from the Sonderkommando, special detachment.




Schlag Ihn TOT!


A day in August. The sun was burning hot.

The Häftling detachment was draining a swamp. Some were digging, others were carrying the earth on barrows. The majorities were straining to roll some huge boulders toward the place where the dam was to be built. The three Kapos were yelling, cursing and striking with the cudgels.

On a knoll wherefrom everything could be controlled, an SS-man stood motionless, as a statue, with the legs wide apart, with the right hand on the sub-machine gun and the left on the horsewhip, this daily "entertainment" cost the life of several detainees…

The eyes of the SS-man search with avidity among the milling crowd. His eyes dwell in the Häftlings carrying a barrow of earth. The hind one can hardly stand an exhausted old man. The one in front is not more than twenty years old. The cheekbones and the chins are identical. The young man holds the barrow very close to the load, trying to lighten the other's burden.

The SS-man grins with satisfaction; he is almost sure of the discovery made. When they pass by him he curtly orders: "Halt!"1 "Are you father and son?" "Yes". "Sehr gut… sehr gut!"2 "Leave the barrow, the old man is tired. So… Now go nicely side by side to the swamp. I accompany you".

The whole area is enveloped in silence. Even the three Kapos stop cursing. All are waiting, eagerly, the outcome.

Having reached a pool of muddy water, the SS-man stops the Häftlings and makes them face each other. He regards them smiling broadly for many seconds, without telling them anything. Sweat streams on the Häftlings' bodies. He keeps silent and rhythmically strikes the top of his boats with the horsewhip. His eyes bulge out with sadism joy when he suddenly turns with the horsewhip pointing at son and yells: "Da, Junge3!… Schlag ihn tot!" Kill him! And, at the same time, points to the old man by dealing him a blow in the chest.

The order has bewildered both of them. The SS-man pounces like a beast.

"Do you want me to beg you, verfluchter Hund4?" he fells him by dealing him a blow over the head with the sub-machine gun. Two Kapo rush to help him, kicking at the helpless body of the Häftling with their boots.

"Enough", the SS-man yells. "Do not kill him. Pour water over him and raise him up!"

Again, the two face each other.

The SS-man regards them with the same broad smile as if nothing has happened. He strikes the top of the boots with the horsewhip in the same rhythm. His eyes bulge again with the same joy, when he suddenly turns, this time towards the father.

 "Du, Alter5… Schlag ihn tot!" Kill him. And at the same moment he points to the young man by dealing him a blow in the chest.

The old Häftling does not even start. The SS-man pounces on him boiling with fury, throws him down and tramples him under foot, until a Kapo dares to whisper: "he has fainted".

They bring again pails of water and in a few minutes the two are again facing each other.

The SS-man again strikes the tops of his boots with the horsewhip, but he no longer smile. He is disappointed, furious that his entertainment has proved a failure.

He looks at the Häftlings and tried to control himself, to keep calm:

"I order you for the last time. One must kill the other, Aber schneller6."

The two mutually contemplate the gaunt faces, the bleeding wounds.

"What are you waiting for?" the SS-man yells, as he cannot control himself any longer.

The eyes of the Häftlings meet and light with understanding. They take a step towards each other. They embrace and, slowly, as if they would fall into an armchair to rest their exhausted bodies they roll into the swamp.

At last, hysterically, the SS-man bursts into laughter. And it seems endless. But only he can hear it. The air does not carry it. The swap refuses to echo it…

 In one of the halls of the Auschwitz museum, on a wall there is a huge painting. The visitors keep on standing for many minutes in front of it. Some can not believe that such an assassination-entertainment took place.

Very well… very well!
You, young man!
Accursed dog!
Yoy, old man!
6 But quicker.






Schneller (1)


In no concentration camp -- and I have passed through many -- did I hear the order schnell! Quickly, but always and from the very beginning: schnell! Quicker!

When I arrived at the death camp of Birkenau-Auschwitz and we were order to get down from the wagons I heard, for the first time, those yells which never stopped assaulting my eardrums, storming my brain day and night:

 "Schneller!… Schneller!… Schneller!… Quicker!… Quicker!… Quicker!…"

Mothers and children, old people and sick ones, in endless columns, were taken from the railway platform directly to the crematorium. After they moved away from the platform, the rest of us who were left behind, could hear nothing but the yells of the SS-men accompanying the columns every time:

"Schneller!… Schneller!… Schneller!… Quicker!… Quicker!… Quicker!…"

At Birkenau, each barrack had two rooms at the end: one for the Blockältestes, the others for the Vertreters. At the other end of the barrack there was the door through which we, the Häftlings, were going in and out. At various hours of the night, the Blockältestes, accompanied by the Vertreters, were coming out of their rooms with cudgels in their hand and yelled:

 "Heraus! Schneller heraus! Out! Quicker out!"

And at the same moment they were starting to beat with those bent cudgels at random, who sever was around. We were rushing toward the exist. But it was only 10 meters wide and we were 1.000 people. A terrible turmoil would ensue. Those fallen were not able to risk and were trampled under foot. The heap of bodies would increase, making the exit even more difficult.

For minutes on end the hut would be filled with the screams of those beaten, over which would resound, increasing the panic and despair, a single bellowed word: "Schneller!… Schneller!… Schneller!… Quicker!… Quicker!… Quicker!…"

Daily, the falling into a column for the roll call would last for hours. From the moment the order antreten zum Appell, fall into a column for the roll call!, was given, till that terrible stillstand!, stand still!, when the SS-man arrived, on all the grounds in front of the barracks of all the camps at Birkenau-Auschwitz nothing was heard but the screams of those beaten by the Blockältestes and Verterers with the same bent cudgels and the sound of cracking bones over which would resound, increasing the panic and despair, a single bellowed word:

 "Schneller!… Schneller!… Schneller!… Quicker!… Quicker!… Quicker!…"

At the selections for the crematorium, too, we were falling into a column terrorized by the same "Schneller!… Schneller!… Schneller!… Which, every time, was accompanied by blows dealt at random, with the same bent cudgel on whomsoever was near.

Those caring huge boulders on the steep slopes at Mauthausen or dragged after them, when returning to the camp, the corpses of the companions who could no longer resist, those who shifted from one place to another the logs in the forests of Bavaria, or with their frozen hands, cleared of snow the roads of Saxonia were driven by the same yell:

 "Schneller!… Schneller!… Schneller!… Quicker!… Quicker!… Quicker!…"

The yell schneller was accompanied, in all camps, by blows dealt with the same bent cudgels… or with the horsewhips… or with the rifle butt… or with all of them at the same time.

From the very first days we became convinced that no matter how quickly an order was carried out -- could one run with those huge boulders, with the logs or with the cement sacks on one's shoulder? -- nevertheless the yells Schneller!… Schneller!… Quicker!… Quicker!… Quicker! And the blows accompanying them did not stop. They did not even diminished in intensity. Lather on we realized that Schneller!, that Quicker! did not concern so much the direct and immediate carrying out of the order, as the fulfillment of a general imperative, valid for all and in all camps: Die!… Disappear… Quicker!… Quicker!… Quicker!

That meaning of the command Schneller! was becoming evident when it resounded in the locker room of the gas chamber. There, the people were made undress. As long as they were undressing they tried to hope that, indeed, they were going to take a bath. Seeing that they were all naked a cold shiver would run down their back. When the massive metal door of the next chamber was opened, all that they have heard about the gas chamber would become a reality. They would steal a last glance toward the door they have entered through. It was blocked by SS-men with sub-machine guns pointed toward them, fingers on the triggers. Everything was becoming a terrible certainty. At that time they had only one last desire: to be given a second, a moment in silence, to recall in their mind the house wherefrom they had been brutally taken, or to hear in their ears a whisper of the beloved, or the murmur of their only child, to utter a prayer or to curse the God who watched from Heavens how they were deprived of that second, of that moment, because the SS-men yelled, bellowed, roared:

 "Schneller!… Schneller!… Schneller!… Quicker!… Quicker!… Quicker!…"





Schneller (2)


Yes, from camp itself I had the intuition that that "Schneller!… Schneller!… Schneller!… Quicker!… Quicker!… Quicker!…" which was incessantly yelled by all the Kapos and Blockältestes in all the concentration camps, by all SS-men irrespective of rank and function with whom we were coming into contact, invariably followed by blows dealt with the cudgel, with the horsewhip, with the rifle butt, in fact, did not directly refer to carrying out the order given by them, but especially to fulfilling a general imperative valid for all the Häftlings from all death camps: Die… Disappear… Schneller!… Schneller!… Schneller!… Quicker!… Quicker!… Quicker!…

That intuition became a certitude only after the liberation when I started reading official documents concerning the Holocaust as they were published. In this way I saw with my eyes the report of Gruppenführer-SS1 Kurt Gerstein about the meeting he had with Gruppenführer-SS Globocnik at Lublin, in mid -- 1942. Gerstein succinctly and clearly showed what "strictly secret" orders he was given on that occasion, quoting Globocnik's words: "… Your second task, a more important one:, Globocnik said, "is the reorganization of our gas chambers, which use at present Diesel exhaust gases; that is to think of something better and quicker. I think especially of prussic acid, the day before yesterday the Führer and Himmler were here. On their directive I am to personally take you there [to the camps which at that time had gas chambers in operation -- O.L.]; I am not allowed to issue to anyone any written entry pass".

Hearing this, Obersturmbannführer-SS Pfannenstiel asked: "What did the Führer say, in fact?"

Globocnik: "Schneller! Quicker!" he said. "Finish the entire operation schneller! Quicker!"

The operation which on the orders of the Führer had to be finished schneller!, quicker!, referred to the extermination of the Jews by gassing.







The desperate wails and screams of those who were waiting in front of the common graves to be exterminated were so loud that the shots in the back of the head were hardly audible. The yells of those packed in the crematoria vans filled our ears. We were turned to stone when the camp was shaken by the cries of the Häftlings undergoing vivisection.

The cries of fright, the desperate curses, the screams of pain mixed up, aseptically during the night, in an overwhelming din.

However, that hubbub was not the most difficult to endure. Die Schweigens, the silences, were more painful, and were more terrible.

The first silence was short, lasting a few seconds

After gathering all of us in the same room, Györffy, a senior sergeant in the Worthiest gendarme corps, decreed:

"From this moment, in the name of the law, I declare all of you arrested. No one should dare to take a step, because I'll immediately shoot him. I will shoot him as I would shoot a dog. Do you understand me?"

 Ein Scweigen, a have, death-like silence followed. We did not dare to breathe even. We were perplexed, shocked, paralyzed. The silence lasted only a few seconds because the senior sergeant hurriedly continued:

'Come on, move, we do not have time to lose. Gather your belongings! You will not return here".

Being bewildered, then, in those few seconds of silence, I did not understand anything, I did not feel anything. They, those moments of silence, gave me much later an increasingly profound pain. Because in the course of the calvary I passthrough, every time I tired to recall to my mind what had happened, to explain to myself how it had been possible, I felt that same profound silence in my soul.

Subsequently, I instantly felt the pain of the silences. When the carts with the families arrested in {oimeni, Fodora and Vultureni stopped at the gate of the brick factory in Cluj, turned into ghetto, I gave a start. With a lugubrious sound the gate opened. Again, ein Schweigen, a heavy, death-like silence fell. It was night time. The sky -- pitch dark. Even now I wonder that my heart did not cease beating in those moments of silence after the screeching of the gate until, beaten with the rifle butt, the buffaloes set the carts in motion, dragging them in the darkness of the ghetto.

There followed the terrifying Schwiegens, silences, in the extermination camps… the silences during the tortures and executions… The silences of selections… the silences after the liquidation of some barracks… the silences in the crematoria vans.

Gathered in square formation we witnessed the punishments. In between the staccato whip lashes or the stifled thuds of the wire-pleated rope, there was each time a silence much more difficult to stand that they yells of the victims. The silences at the moment when Stillstand, attention was ordered, and until the pistol shots were heard or the chain was pulled from under those hung were generating a tension that was more difficult to endure than the fall of those shot or the dangling of the hanged.

The longest, terribly long Schweigen, silence, was lasting each time, only two seconds. Maybe not even that much. And it was repeated every time the selection was made by passing, naked, in a file, in front of Mengele. At that moment when I was passing, the same heavy, death-like silence would envelop me. I would neither hear the desperate cries of those taken away in front of Mengele, at his discreet sign with the finger, for gassing, nor the shouts of the friends who for the moment had escaped. Holding my breath, detached from everything and everybody, I no longer existed but for only one purpose: to hear a step behind me. The step of Emilian, my brother. We always passed by Mengele together, one after the other. The two seconds of silence, or perhaps less, till I heard the step behind me, seemed an eternity.

Late at night, after the rattling of the vans transporting the selected Häftlings to the gas chambers, the camp was enveloped in such a heavy silence, that the camp seemed dead. Neither we, those who had escaped, were sure that we were still alive…

No one could ever describe the most terrible silence. The silences in the crematoria vans. The packing of the Häftlings in the vans was done in an indescribable turmoil. The cudgel and rifle butt blows, the horse whip lashes and the maddening barking of the wolf dogs mingled with the cries and screams of those selected. When the door closed with a rattle of chains, the Häftlings turned to stone. Suddenly, a heavy silence would envelop the van, a death-like one, which lasted till the moment the vehicle started moving. The first screeching of the wheels, the cries and screams, the curses and the yells burst forth with gregarious force.

What did the Häftlings feel, what pained them so much in those moments of silence between the closing of the van and the screeching of the wheels would be never known. From among those packed in the crematorium vans year after year, night after night no one escaped. There is no exception.

That silence in the crematorium vans was a part of the eternal silence. Only it was endured by living people. By our parents, brothers, fellow human beings.







In the camp, die Selbstmörders, the suicides, where considered sometimes heroes, other times cowards; at times courageous, at other times white-liveried, on some occasions clear-sighted, and on others desperate. They were admired by some for their courage to end the sufferings and held in contempt by other for lack of will to survive.

I shall limit myself to state a few facts and allow the reader to decide, to give the appreciation deserved by those victims. There were many, inconceivable many, especially among the Jews. It started immediately after the anti-Jewish laws were enacted; it grew in proportion after the ghettoes were set up; from the moment deportations began. The figures become incredible.

Horthy's gendarmes, when rounding people up for ghettos, were furious whenever, knocking with the rifle butt on the doors of the Jewish apartments, it happened they were not immediately opened. In that case, they would break down the door and rush into the flat. Cursing, they would run to the beds to pull the blankets off the bodies of those whom, as if in defiance, continued to sleep. They would see a syringe or a glass with drops of poison.

Erödi Erno was general director of a big forest exploitation enterprise. He spent the day working at the office. He did not want to leave the matters unfinished. He returned home late at night. He confessed to his wife that he did not intend to go to the ghetto, that he had decided to commit suicide. His young and beautiful wife -- a Christian -- did not panic, did not weep, she simply told him: "We have lived together, we shall die together". They had no time to discuss, as some guests arrived. The hosts immediately opened a bottle of champagne. The guests considered it was normal: "Erodi must enter the ghetto and thus he takes leave of us."

By midnight the guest left. The champagne had lessened a little the pressure felt by the couple. The wife even suggested postponing the suicide for a night, till next morning. However, next day she tried in vain to awaken her husband. He had consumed his dose.

Other ended their life only after they came to the ghetto. Most of them due to the tortures they were put through in order to reveal where had they hidden their alleged valuables. Peoples committed suicide after the first or the second interrogation, afraid of the next one or while waiting for their turn and seeing the state in which those ahead of them were leaving the torture chamber. The wave of Selbstmörders, of suicides, ruthlessly fell upon the ghetto in the North of Transylvania when the deportation became imminent. Writer Zsald Béla, an eyewitness to a series of suicides in the Oradea ghetto, perfectly intuited the cause of that wave. Die Selbstmörders, the suicides, he wrote, "imagined exactly and in detail how they would be crowded, together with 70 others, in a wagon… Then to remain packed, to push for space, to fight for a better place, nearer to the window, to air. Nearer to the can, to the water which, anyway, will be finished in a quarter of an hour, because those who are strong and violent will drink it immediately, and maybe someone would even spill the can. The parents will blackmail on behalf of their children in order to obtain themselves space, air, water. Water -- it is the most dread. The tongue sticks to the palate. Then to fight to reach as close as possible to the pail, to relieve yourself -- the pail feels in a few minutes and spills over &emdash; to quarrel again, maybe to fight someone… Unwashed, unsaved, terrorized by an insupportable itch, to inhale the stinks, the terrible sweat of the packed bodies. And there will be some who will die suddenly. Without having the possibility to clutch at their heart, because in that terrible crush they will not be able to move the arms and will not be able to collapse even, they would have no place; and there will be some who will go mad. And there will be premature births. And the wagons will remain forgotten on God knows which sidelines…"

The number of those who tried to obtain poison was growing from one day to the other "Mr. director… Mr. chemist, I beg you with all my heart get me, give me a strong poison, the strongest one... for my mother... it is for my daughter... it is for my wife, she is pregnant... you know, if necessary, if they try to torture her... to dishonor her... I don'' want her to suffer… she could not endure…"

Eva Heyman, a 13 year old girl, who was in the Oradea ghetto, wrote in the diary that she left behind fragments of what the "grown ups" were discussing at night, when they thought that the "small ones" have gone to sleep: "I have also heard, grandfather told in the dark, that here, in the ghetto, very many commit suicide. In the drugstore of the ghetto there is sufficient poison and grandfather (he was a chemist &emdash; O.L.) gives it to the elder people if they ask. Grandfather also said that the best would be that he himself takes crayoned and give grandmother a dose, too. Hearing this, my mother started weeping and I have heard how she crawled in the dark to grandfather's matters and tearfully implored him: father, please, be patient, it cannot last any longer… The most terrifying was uncle Samoil` Meer, who was very old and hardly addressed a wold to someone. And suddenly I heard his voice in the dark: Lily dear, my girl, I beg you again the thousandth times, let me inject myself, I can no longer endure".

Some Selbstmörders, suicides, have crushed the poison vial in their mouth when they were announced that they would be leaving for the unknown with the next transport. There were also some that feverishly prepared themselves for the great journey, which they felt it was with no return. They also dragged along bent under the burden of the suitcases and backpacks from the ghetto to the railway station. They watched people and luggage been packed into the wagons one on top of the others, old people and children, sick people and pregnant women, then, there, in front of the train ready to leave, swallowed the dose they had made ready in advance. Who could know the number of those who put an end to their days during those nights of endless nightmare in which the trains were running towards Auschwitz. The Horbatzs from Holland resisted the temptation to use the poison -- which the father kept into his pocket for all the members -- till the moment the train stopped at the final station -- the platform at Birkenau. Through the cracks in the walls of the wagons one could see portions of barbed wire, barracks and SS-men. A sweetly small of burned flesh persisted in the nostrils. The father debated a little in his mind, then, without uttering a word, he took out the metal box from his pocket. He gave his wife and the two daughters the already prepared doses: Then he placed his own dose in his mouth.

In the camp and, especially at Birkenau-Auschwitz die Selbstmörders, the suicides were so numerous that suicide, from a terrible event in the ghetto, had become a common one.

The following excerpt from the records of the trial of the die Selbstmörders, Sachsenhausen concentration camp, held in 1947, is significant in that respect:

 "The prosecutor: is it true that the conditions in the lock-up room were so inhuman that the detainees committed suicide, as they could not bear the punishments?

 Eccaruis: Yes, 20 or 25 people committed suicide in the lock-up room".

In the camp, most of the tome it was impossible to make a distinction between assassination and suicide. When, in the morning, a Häftling was found dead, it was difficult to establish who had filled his mouth rags: he himself or his neighbor in order to steal the bread ration he was keeping hidden under his shirt. When another broke his neck falling off the scaffold, it was impossible to establish whether he let himself fall or lost his balance under the cudgel blows of the Kapo. When the third one was moved down by the bullet of the SS guard, no one knew what heed driven the Häftling in the forbidden zone: did he what to end his days or had a kommandoführer thrown die Mütze, the cap, outside the permitted zone and then order him to run after it?

In the camp, Selbstmörders, suicides, were surely those who being no longer able to endure life, "walked into the wire", that is touched the barbed wire fence through which, all of us knew, high voltage current passed, current which caused death.







One thousand and fifty two Häftlings, youths between 14 and 20 years of age. We all stand in line, in rows of five, on the ground in font of barrack number 21 of E camp. We stand to attention, naked. In front of us, SS Captain Doctor Mengele and his retune. There begins die Selektion, the selection for the crematorium.

We are devoid of recollections, toughs, and desires. We are devoid of all that means life.

Only the fear of death has been left to us.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I am thinnest and the shortest in the row. I tremble not only for me, but for the other four, too. If our row will be selected, they perish due to me. Had they taken another, stronger, they would have been beyond danger. I did not want to stand with them. I had already started towards those who were as thin as myself. But they won don't let me. They caught hold of my hand and brought me back to their row. The one having the broadest chest stood in front of me. He is a screen for my skin and bones body. Mengele throws a very superficial glance at us. Usually, if the first in the row is solid, tall, the entire row is safe.

Only one thing terrifies me. I am too short. This is easily to observe.

 Still stand!, attention his been ordered. Any movement is punished with death. I have nothing to lose. My body is stone still, but with the toes I try to gather sand underfoot. To rise... no matter how little... but I must rise... otherwise I am gone... and I'll drag after me, in death, the other four. My last friends...

Mengele has changed his mind. He won't pass by the front. He has stopped in the middle of the ground and has ordered us to pass in a life, naked, in front of him.

To the left and right of Mengele, the SS-men formed a cordon. Five are outside the cordon. They watch the index finger of Mengele's right hand. A small movement with the finger means that the one passing at that moment in front of him is selected. The five SS-men pounce on him, grab him and throw him behind the cordon. His fate is sealed.

My chances are gone. They no longer exist! However, I am determined not to give in. I shall walk on toes. I shall gather my last resources of energy and I shall float in front of him likes a ballet dancer. I must rise, No matter how little, but I must rise. If I do not manage to rise, no matter how little, I am death. But wherefrom the strength to step on toes, when I can hardly stand? I have waited for the commission, standing at attention, naked, almost three hours. OI tremble as if shaken by fever. Is it tiredness? Fright? I don't know myself. I advance unconsciously. I get close to Mengele. In front of me, two brothers. The first is Avram. Tall, solid, passes stiffly in front of Mengele. He has escaped. Only then he is filled with dread. He keeps his breath. He strains his hearing. He wants to distinguish his brother's step behind. He wants to turn. He dares not. At that moment he shakes. His ears are rented by thundering sounds. It is the trampling of the five SS-men who have rushed to grab his brother.

Avram turns and wants to rush towards those behind the cordon. He cannot leave his little brother alone on the road to death. The latter sees his intention and shouts with all his strength: "No! Stay there! You must live! At least one out of the entire family must survive".

Mengele, surprised by the Häftling's courage, turns to one of the SS-men and orders: "Schlag ihn tot!" Kill him!

At that moment I pass in front of him. I take three more steps and collapse. Is it emotion? Is it joy? Am I drained of strength? Who can say? Those coming behind catch me and drag me after them in the barrack.

I have escaped:

Till when? Till the next selection. Which will be the day after tomorrow or even tomorrow. Or maybe after a few hours, towards the evening. Immediately after Appell.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The day after tomorrow, tomorrow or after a few hours we shall stand again in line, in rows of five, naked. Mengele and his retune will again appear in front of us.

Again we shall be devoid of remembrances, thoughts, desires. Of everything that means life. Only the fear of death will remain.







The SS-men killed without compunction. They neither had any scruples in selecting the way. They killed without getting tired, without concern for the consequences. They feared nothing and no one. However, when referring to their activity as killers they would become punctilious, they would select their words, they were keen on euphemisms.

They never mentioned deportations, they were discreetly and punctiliously speaking of moving, displacing, evacuations and extremely rarely of Expulsions to the East.

They did not speak of exterminations and liquidations, they discreetly and punctiliously spoke of special actions, of special treatment, of special lodging.

The Nazi never made a secret of their intention to liquidate to the last the Jews in Europe. However, they avoided the expression the total extermination of Jews and euphemistically spoke of the final solution, of the final settlement of the Jewish question.

Out of all these euphemisms the one most frequently used was Sonderbehandlung (SB), special treatment. "In order to remove any possibility of misunderstanding", as early as September 20, 1939, Reinhard Heydrich, in a circular letter addressed "to all ruling and state police offices:, stipulated the following under item No. 4: "… clear distinction would be made between those who must be subjected to a Sonderbehandlung, a special treatment. The latter case refers to such states of thing witch -- due to their reportable character, preciousness on their propagandistic effect -- deserved to be removed through a brutal procedure, that is through executions, regardless the person".

In a circular order, dated February 20, 1942, issued by Heindrich Himmler, item No. 5 stipulated: "Die Sonderbehandlung, the special treatment is carried out through hanging…".

When the Nazi started the mass extermination of the Jews and, especially, after the extermination through gassing was perfected, the liquidation of whole trains of Jews or the extermination of large masses on the spot was invariably referred to as Sonderbehandlung, special treatment.

In the report "on the events in the USSR" No. 124, dated October 25, 1941, it is stated on pages six: "Due to the extreme danger of epidemics, on October 8, 1941, there started the liquidation to the last person of the Jews in the Vitebsk ghetto. The number of Jews who would be subjected to Sonderbehandlung, to special treatment, is about 3.000".

On May 1, 1942, the then governor and Gauleiter of Wartheland district, Artur Greiser, reported to Himmler: "The Sonderbehandlung, the special treatment action on 100.000 Jews from the territory of my district, approved by you… can be completed in the coming three, four months".

In Birkenau-Auschwitz, the Sonderbehandlung, and the special treatment -- no matter if it referred to a detainee, to a barrack to a whole transport -- was equivalent to liquidation through gassing. O. Kraus and E. Kulka remember: "When barrack No. 7 filled with sick -- and that happened once every two, three weeks, sometimes every week -- the order was given for getting ready the scaled transport for Sonderbehandlung, for special treatment.

"The SS-man supervising the sick bay (Sanitatsdienstgehilfe, S.D.G.), or sometimes the SS doctor himself fixed the number of those who were to undergo special treatment. The detainees holding offices in the sick bay were compelled to deliver in a short time the respective number of sick people.

At dawn, the detainees holding functions looked at the sick noted down the numbers of some of them and took out of the bay. Outside they lined them up, counted them carefully and loaded them, with the help of the other personnel, in the trucks. In order that none of them disappear, they were marked on the left arm, under the detainee number, with the letter L; probably the first letter of the German word Leiche (corps).

"Because the victims knew was in store for them, the SS-men did not hide anything from them. Along side sick people, corpses were also loaded in the trucks".

Sometimes, the expression Sonderbehandlung, special treatment, was replaced by another, more cynical one: Gesonderte Unterbringung, special lodging. It is clear from the Nazi official documents themselves that both the first and the second expression signified the same thing: asphyxia in the modern gas chambers of Birkenau.

In a letter, dated February 20, 1943 and signed by Obersturmführer Schwartz, sent to the Oranienburg central -- concerning the sending of 5.022 Jews from Theresienstadt -- it was reported: "The total number of those arrived on January 21, 1943: 2.000 Jews, out of whom 418 selected for labor (254 men and 164 women), that is 20,9 per cent.

"The transport of January 24, 1943: 2.029 Jews, out of whom 228 selected for labor (148 men and 80 women), that is 11,2 per cent."

"The transport of January 27, 1943: 993 Jews, out of whom 284 selected for labor (212 men and 72 women), that is 22,5 per cent."

 Gesonderte Unterbringung, special lodging was given on January 21, 1943 to a number of 1.582 person's, out of whom 602 men and 980 women and children; on January 24, 1943 to a number of 1.801 persons, out of whom 623 men and 1.178 women and children; on January 27, 1943 to a number of 709 persons, out of which 197 men and 512 women and children.

 Gesonderte Unterbringung, special lodging was given to men on account of physical weakness, and to the majority of women because they were accompanied by children".

I stayed almost four months in "E" camp -- Birkenau and I watched daily the convoys heading towards the gas chambers in order to receive Sonderbehandlung, special treatment or Gesonderte Unterbringung, special logging. Almost four months I watched day and night the smoke coming out of the chimneys of the crematoria after each convoy. The fine grains of ashes, scattered by the wind entered my eyes, my ears, my mouth. However, even now, 45 years after, I cannot but shiver seeing the cynicism, the extreme cruelty with which the SS-men were able to write in an official letter, clearly and unequivocally as the reason for the extermination of thousands of women by gassing "because they were accompanied by children", Yes, Sonderbehandlung, extermination by gassing was applied to my mother, too, because she was accompanied by three children -- my younger brothers.







The organization was the same in all-Nazi concentration camps. Inside, the Häftlings were detailed in huts. In E camp at Birkenau there was no evidence. We even had no numbers. However, each of us knew to which hut he belonged. That was our only identity, the hut in which we were detailed. The records contained only the number of detainees -- about a thousand -- in each hut, in each of the A, B, C, D, E, F camp..., which made up Birkenau. Daily, they subtracted the number of the dead and added the new comers.

Besides that division Inx all the camps there was another one: by detachments, by Kommandos, they were named after the place of work -- Holtzmann-kommando, Mohl-kommando, A.E.G.-kommando -- or took their name from the designation: Kleider1-kommando, Küche2-kommando, etc. An exception to the rule was at Birkenau. A detachment of about 800 people had a name, which did not mean anything: Sondercommando, special detachment.

The Häftlings in the Sonderkommando, from the special detachment, were the people of death. Because they served death, but also because they were irreversibly destined to die.

They were grouped in sub-detachment. Each sub-detachment had its precise destination: the suffocation of those deported in the gas chambers; the extraction of gold teeth from the corpses; the servicing of the crematoria; the sorting out of the goods left in the wagons in which the deportees were arriving; the burning of useless things, of the "worthless trifles"; prayer books, family pictures, identity cards, military decorations, letters patent, diplomas, toras3, marriage licenses, etc.

They had to help the SS-men to forms quickly as possible a column with the mothers, children, old men and sick persons on the platform and, once started, column which once started, won't stop but in the gas chambers. Their detainee cloths, the fact that they were speaking Idish, were meant to help in calming the down, to convince the victims that they were going for a refreshing bath after a tiring journey.

The Sonderkommando people, who ensured the permanent day and night functioning of the death mechanism perfected by Rudolf Höss, the commander of the camp, kept on eating and drinking in their free time. In the wagons arriving daily and from which the deportees were hurriedly pushed out and taken to the gas chambers, there remained large cantos of food and hard drinks which the deportees had not the heart to consume, as they were their last possessions, all that was left to them of their wealth.

Those in the Sonderkommando served death for four months. Then, with mathematical precision, they were also sent to death. By gassing. Or by machineguns. Sometimes, by burning with flamethrowers. In all 13 Sonderkommando succeeded each other at the Birkenau crematoria.

Each new special detachment started its activity by burning those in the preceding one. Then, they quickly learnt that, after four months, another Sonderkommando would come, that would them, too.

It would be never known what those people thought having learnt that they had only four months more to live and that, in all that time, they had to ensure the suffocation and burning of their fellow people, the uninterrupted functioning of the gas chambers and crematoria. As it would not be know how many of those in the special detachments that succeeded each other in the course of years had discovered in the death convoy a friend, an acquaintance or, in a transport a riving from another camp, his own parent or brother? And how many recognized &emdash; in the corpse placed on the trolley in order to introduce it in the oven. Their mother or fiancée? How many of them went mad with pain? How many remained in the gas chamber, together with those whom they pushed in, so that they no longer saw so much death?

"It happened many a time" -- Rudolf Höss pointed out -- "that the Jews in the special detachment discovered close relatives among the corpses or among those taken to the gas chambers. It was of course visible that this fact impressed them, but no incident was ever caused on that account. I was personally present on one of these cases. During the undressing of the corpses in a room in the outer buildings, one of the members of the special detachment remained suddenly motionless, was dumbfounded for a moment but continued after that to undress the corpse, together with his companions. I asked the chief what had happened to him, learnt that the Jew who was thus dumbfounded had discovered his wife among the corpses."

The detainees for the Sonderkommando were personally selected by Schartshuber, the commander of Birkenau. Nevertheless, almost all were shocked when they learnt which was their activity. Some preferred the suicide. Those who started to work suffered a rapid digression. The daily contact with death turned them into brutes, made them callous, annihilated any human feeling in them. They mechanically pushed the people into the gads chambers and tried to keep their mind blank while they separated the clenched corpses, put them on trolleys and introduced them in ovens. When, at last, they withdrew on their burns, no matter how hard they sought to drew in alcohol their horrible work, they could not find rest. They were tortured by the cries of those crowded in the gas chambers which continued to resound in their ears, by the Dantesque sight of corpses clenched together and, especially, by the through that, soon, they would also share that fate.

Doctor Nyiszli Miklos of Oradea, doctor Mengele's former forensic expert at the crematoria of Birkenau-Auschwitz, one of the extremely few survivors of the special detachments, said that a Häftling of the 13th Sonderkommando, a former rabbi aid in a small community in Poland, detailed as fireman at one of the cremation ovens, whispered Kaddish4 continuously for each trolley of corpses pushed into the oven he was filling with coal.

Poor man, he did not realize that not four months he had to live, but even forty four years would not have been enough to enable him to say kaddish for each Jew cremated in the crematoria of Birkenau-Auschwitz. And neither had he whispered continuously the prayer for the death, day and night, 24 hours a day, and lived to the year 2000.

Object used in the Herbrew ritual.
4 A Jewish funeral prayer.






SS (1)


I realized what the SS-men were like even before I saw them. In Cluj they were arresting, mocking at, torturing their younger "brethren", the Horthyst gendarmes and policemen. But they have them free hand in the ghettoes, because after all they trusted the Horthyst gendarmes and policemen completely. It was in Kosice that I saw them for the first time. In fact it was only their riding whips, machine-guns and the death's heads on their helmets that I saw when they took over the 50 wagon train in which 3.000 deportee were crowed.

Lather on, in the camp, when I took a closer look at them I realized that my first impression was right: the SS-men were nothing but riding whips, machine-guns and helmets. Their bodies devoid of blood and nerves, devoid of soul, well set on their legs always spread wide apart were nothing but the support for, their riding whips, machine-guns and helmets on which death's heads were imprinted.

I saw SS-men standing and guarding mountains of corpses (the gas chambers were more efficient than crematoria). They stood and guarded the corpses without bating an eyelid, their legs spread wire apart, a riding whip in the left hand, the right hand on the machine-gun, the helmet with the death's head covering what they had above their necks.

I saw them passing by high hills ashes of burnt bodies. Sometimes they did not even look at them, other times they kicked up the ashes with their stumpy boots without even giving a start.

I saw SS-men who hadn't turned 18 yet. They sprawled their legs, gripping the riding whip in one hand, the other pulling the trigger. When the column was not aligned in a perfect order, when someone made the slights movement as Herr SS-Sturmann passed by, the SS-men who had not turner 18 yet pulled the trigger without hesitation. Some of the Häftlings fell to the ground, their curses mingling with blood. The SS-men who had not turned up yet continued to pull the trigger without hesitation.

I saw SS-men crushing under their boots the hands of a Häftling, I saw them lashing the detainees till they expired, I saw them crushing the detainees' skull with the rifle butt. They did not blink when their impeccably polished leather boots were sprinkled with blood or brains.

At Birkenau-Auschwitz, Kaufering, Landsberg, in all camps I was put to trial were surrounded by barbed wire fences with guarding-towers from place to place, where the SS-men kept watch and ward, day and night, holding the machine-gun in their hands, one finger on the trigger.

I was looking forward to the nights when I could close my eyes to sleep, to no longer see them. It was of no avail. During my sleep I dreamt I escaped the camp and I was running wildly, and covered great distances at Lightening speed. But on all roads of Europe, on the mountain paths and at all crossroads there were watch-towers and in them bodies devoid of blood, nerves and souls, propped on sprawling legs &emdash; nothing but supports for riding whips, machine-guns and helmets. The SDS-men. They pulled the trigger to pierce your heart if you attempted an escape even in your sleep.




SS (2)


To someone who did not see their pleasure in pulling the trigger from the guarding-towers around camps A, B, C, D, E, F of Birkenau, any individual or general portrait of the SS-men might seem exaggerated. To someone who did not see the wicked glitter in their eyes, the snare on their faces when blood was gushing from the bodies of their victims, when their bones cracked during torture, when those shouted were struggling in the jaws of death, to someone who did not hear their ribaldries while they guarded the deportees' trains crowded to the full, in which often three or four days the number of corpses was larger than that of the living and did not see the bored indifference when pushing tens of thousands people -- women and men, children and old -- into the gas chambers, the description of SS-men by a former Häftling may seem too harsh.

And yet, the young people of today and tomorrow must know who were the SS-men in the Totenkopf &emdash; death's head, units, the friends of concentration camps. One cannot accept the way their relatives and friends describe them. Ludwig Ramdohr, the chief of the political division of Ravensbrück women's camp terrorized the women detainees. He cross-examined them personally. The detainees who did not supply him the required information were slaughtered. The survivors of his cross-examinations were half mad when leaving the Bunker.

In 1947, in Hamburg, when Ludwig Ramdohr was sentenced to death by hanging, many and friends appealed to the Court testifying that "kind Ludwig has never been able to hurt a fly", that he "took a delight in nature", "that he protected the poor and oppressed... sometimes when walking in the countryside he jumped in a funny way not to treed on a snake or lizard"... and when he buried his mother-in-law's canary, he "tenderly put the little bird in a box, covered it with a rose and buried it near a rose bush".

Certainly, Ramdohr's relatives and friends had not been at Ravensbrück to see their "kind Ludwig", from of canaries and roses, taking the detainees by their hair and smashing their heads against the walls, crushing their lips with the pistol case and breaking their teeth, tearing out their nails or trampling them underfoot until they fainted.

The young people must know the SS-men in Totenkopf, death's head units were like. I shall let them find out from the description of the SS-men themselves.

Joseph Kramer, former camp commander at Birkenau, Natzweiler-Struthof and Bergen-Belsen: "My name is Joseph Kramer, Hauptsturmführer-SS, 39 years of age... In early August 1943 I received the 80 detainees; one certain evening around nine o'clock I led 15 women in a lorry to the gas chamber. I told them they were taken to a disinfecting room. With the help of a few SS-men we undressed them and when they were naked we pushed them into the gas chamber.

When I closed the door they started screaming. I put some of that salt into a funnel. We looked into the gas chamber through the observation window continued to breathe for half a minute, then, panting for breath, they fell to the ground; when I opened the door, after I turned on the ventilation, they were lying dead on the floor, full of excrements [...]

... I felt nothing when I did that, because I had been ordered to execute the 80 detainees as I have told you; besides, that's the way I was bred".

 Blockführer1 Wilhelm Schubert: "I shot 636 Russian war prisoners with my own hand... In August 1941 I personally executed two detainees, namely I locked them in a washroom, I filled the wash basin with water and drowned them one by one".Gustav Sorge, who was promoted Lagerführer2 for his cruelty: he[the detainee -- O.L.] was buried up to his neck. A pit was dug and he had to stay in that pit up to the neck. Then the pit was filled up. The other detainees were forced to relive nature over head".

 Standartenführer-SS Franz Ziereis, the commander of Mauthausen: "A transport of 2.500 detainees came from Auschwitz to Mauthausen and, in keeping with an order issued in Berlin, the detainees were summoned to the platform where the roll was called every day and where they were thrown icy cold water over... Then I sent them to Gusen, five km's away, dressed only in their drawers. Such actions were repeated countless of times... I don't know where is Oberscharführer-SS Ientsch, who killed too detainees in Gusen I by leaving them outdoors on a --120 frost and pouring cold water over them for an hour or so; Doctor Richter, who operated several hundreds of detainees without reason, partially removing their brains or operating on their stomach, kidneys or liver was sent by me to internment camp Gunskirchen, to take care of the detainees there".

Johan Krutis was Schulz's servant at Mauthausen and secretary of the Political Division. His task was to fill in the deaths' register. This is how he describes his chief: "The second powerful man in Mauthausen after Ziereis was Schulz. Once I heard him telling to a Kapo: "There's no need for these detainees to come back'. This was equivalent to a sentence to death.

Schulz lived like a king in miniature. I had to make his manicure and chiropody.

In the barrack of the Political Division work started at 6. a.m. and lasted till noon; after on hour's break it continued till 6 p.m. Schulz cross-examined the deportees. After cross-examination I had to mop the blood from the floor and air the room".

That is how Hauptsturmführer-SS Georg Bachmayer, a former shoe mender who came to be the first commander of the guard detachment of Mauthausen is described by his Batman Karl Olivia: "Bachmayer pretender to be a man of the world. He was very fond of women. He put on the airs of a gentleman...

He had joined the SS while very young and gradually became captain, and then the commander of the guard detachment of Mauthausen.

He seemed to ignore any moral laws he was cruel and brutal and behaved like a perfect criminal. However, I had the opportunity to see him after an operation as he had slightly wounded himself during a shooting party. He was narcotized and talked incoherently. He kept repeating: "I did everything on orders". He cried and called for his children.

Yes, the very Bachmayer who had killed in cold blood thousands of people.

Bachmayer came home quite often to change his blood-strained uniform. It was I who took the uniform to the laundry... He loved madly his wife and children, just as madly as he loved the girls in the brothel where he actually spent all his spare time. His impeccable uniform, from which every stain of blood had been removed, was his main trump.

Shortly before the collapse of the Reich, he took his family near Schwertburg, were they had lived together with Captain Seller's family.

Two days before liberation, Bachmayer left the camp killed his wife and children and then laid violent hands upon him self.

 Scharführer-SS Joseph Niedermayer, who joined the SS as a volunteer at 18 and 22 had become the chief of the Bunker in Mauthausen declared at this trial: "I beaten the detainees with the cudgel, with my firsts and I kicked them in the cells of the Bunker". He described in detail his participation to gassing the Häftlings and depicted the main friends of the camp, and then he added: "All this I declared not to lay the blame on others or to shun off my responsibility. In actual fact, everybody murdered whenever the opportunity arose."

Block commander.
Camp commander.








 Sterben, to die, was the most usual thing in a concentration camp. I don't mean the people who were killed by the thousands in gas chambers, those machine-gunned in front of ditches that they themselves had been forced to dig, those shot in the nape of the neck or to whom phenol injections were made in the heart. I mean those who died one by one -- but in mass proportions -- and I can see them before my eyes in the thousands of concentration camps scattered throughout Europe under the Nazi heel.

Most of the people died without crying out their pain. They expired in silence unknown by anyone, disturbing no one. Perhaps they were happy their ordeal was over, or perhaps regret overwhelmed them.

 Sterben, to die, was so customary in the concentration camp, that I was no longer impressed by death, although I used to have a downright sickly fear of it, the mere mention of the word made me tremble. I through death put an end not only to the life of the man who died, but affected in a way all the others who had been close to him. I could not imagine that somebody who had lost a brother, a parent or a child could laugh and be happy again, could wish to go on living. But there I saw so much death around that death had become an old acquaintance, devoid of any mystery for me.

I saw a Häftling expiring while the SS-man kicked him in the chest with his heavy, impeccably polished leather boot.

I saw a Häftling who died standing at attention during the Appell, nobody knew for how many hours. When the SS-man passed by he stood motionless like a stone. The fierce sun had drained all his powers. The strain had taken up the last drop of energy. He no longer thought of anyone and anything. Maybe he had died longer before but he further kept standing at attention. Only when the SS-man passed by his line he fell to the ground.

I saw Häftlings who died of electrocution. Everybody who touched the barbed wire conducting high-tension current died a similar death. And yet, It is quite impossible to me to describe a dead detainee who had willingly electrocuted himself. But I could write many pages recalling all those who made for the lethal wire to put an end to their life.

I saw Häftlings who choose to freeze to death. It was the dreadful winter of 1944, somewhere in the Bavarian forests where Kaufering II camps was situated. The Häftling was carrying a heavy cement bag, The cement speared over his face and whole body, the snowflakes moisten it and then it hardened into crusts, in his hair, in the clogs, over his whole body. Because of the storm he could no longer see where to step. The legs no longer obeyed him, his shoulders and arms trembled with the strain, but the Häftling stubbornly continued to carry the cement bags. Another one, ... and another... and when no Kapo or SS-man was in sight he stopped and dropped the cement bag. He made several steps away from the path and let himself fall in the snow of the roadside ditch. He opened wide his arms ready to embrace the white immensity like a huge pillow on which he could rest his tried body. At dawn, when the Nachtschicht was over we picked the dead from snow and carried them back to the camp and placed them in the column for their last Appell.

These are image never to be blurred from the memory of the survivors.

"I suddenly saw an inmate turning up his eyes and collapsing to the ground. He put his hands to his throat, giving a guttural sound while a reddish froth appeared in the corner of his mouth. He was dying. With others, particularly elders, death was less quick. They talked incoherently for a while, they called their wives and children, then they began to rattle in their throats and soon afterwards they died". (Christian Bernadac).

W. Kielar wrote down: "Today I saw... death for the first time. I have never imagined that it could take so long to die, but, perhaps, that Jew was very tough, although he did not seem to be because he was old, thin and shortsighted. He lay by the barrack wall under the fierce June sun, His skull was broken in several places. Flies swarmed over his wounds and over the curdled blood, mixed with sand. Heavy lids dropped over his sunken eyes with dark circles around. Sometimes he opens them but the effort was too great so he closed them immediately. The dark, parched lips moved as he was trying to utter the word "wasser", water.

 Sterben, to die, was the most customary and frequent thing in concentration camps.






The SS-men, champions of murder, plotted and carried out their misdeeds in an organized and coordinated manner. The dreadful experiments on Jewish twins, the so-called "Mengele's twins" -- to increase the fertility of Aryan mothers to give birth to at least twice as much Nazi übermenschen -- were coupled with research with a view to sterilizing the individuals belonging to call "inferior races".

Taking into account the "importance of sterilization in implementing a depopulation policy" -- as the SS doctor of the Reich expressed himself in a letter to Himmler -- a true programmer was worked out to this effect, das Sterilisierungsprogramm, the program of the SS for sterilization.

Initialized by Hitler himself, the program was led by Himmler, everything being done only at his approval and indications.

In the beginning the SS doctors attempted to achieve sterilization with X-rays. Women Häftlings entered one by one a room full of medical apparatus. The SS doctors, dressed in white doctor's smocks politely invited them to sit in an armchair and fill in a form. Scared of such a polite behavior, the detainee began to tremble, but soon she clamed down and sat into the armchair. The unusual ceremony lasted no more than three minutes witch nevertheless sufficed for the invisible beam of X rays, directed to the abdomen of the victim, to take its effect and destroy her life-bearing ovaries.

The sterilization of women was carried out at Birkenau-Auschwitz under the leadership of Hauptsturmführer-SS Wirts, in barrack No. 10. In barrack No. 12 of camp F the same rays were used for castrating young men between 20-23. Irradiation caused terrible burns. The victims had to endure excruciating pains.

Throughout the summer of 1944, day in and day out the cries of those from camp F pierced our ears. The death-conducting wires of the barbed wire fence, which separated us from camp F, could not wall in the desperate cries of pain uttered by those who had been subjected to criminal experiments. In the darkness of the night, the cries of pain of the castrated youths and sterilized women mingled with those of pairs of twins trying to oppose forced copulation.

Soon the X ray method fell out of favor as the sterilization of whole peoples by irradiation was considered too expensive. Another method had to be found and the SS was not late in putting forward the solution: injections. Author: Brigadenführer-SS Prof. Dr. C. Clauberg.

His proposal "Sterilization of women without surgical intervention" aroused such interest as the SS physician of the Reich requested Himmler on May 29, 1941 to set up a special institute detail a whole concentration camp for women by the institute to provide the "research material".

Two years later, on July 7, 1943, Prof. Dr. C. Clauberg reported to Himmler: "Dear Reichsführer... The sterilization of women without operation according to the method I my self found can be considered fully satisfactory. Sterilization is achieved through one single injection in the cervix and can be performed during an usual gynecological check... In all probability, an experienced doctor who has a suitable apparatus... will be able tidally sterilize several hundreds of women if not even one thousand".

Doctor Treite studied sterilization of little grills, he preferred the little gypsies girls who had not turned 10.

Before sterilization they were deflowered by the SS-men Doctor Treite remarked: "We must sterilize them while they are sill very young because they are able to have children at 13".

When not putting into practice their criminal plans, Treite, Wirts, Clauberg, tens and hundreds of SS accursed doctors dreamed of wide eastern territories populated by "barren trees", whole countries inhabited by people without children, countries under their rule in which millions of castrated men and sterilized women would worked and night for the Nazi übermenschen.







In the view of the SS-men everything &emdash; the detainees, their minds, their belongings &emdash; had to be destroyed, burnt to ashes, crushed. Inside the camp they respected no human principle, they observed no rule. The only thing they worshiped were Strafen, punishments, which were usually administered in public, the detainees having to attend them standing to attention. Punishments were divided into categories, which were identical in all concentration camps. Born from the sadism and morbid imagination of some Lagerführer's, SS-men or Kapo's, the various Strafen, punishments were generalized by orders and ordinances and their original carrying into effect ensured the camp's fame.

 SS-Oberführer Eike, the first commander of the first concentration camps, Dachau, stipulated in the regulations that became the guide for all Nazi concentration camps: "Tolerance means weakness. Therefore, punishments will be administered with no mercy..."

Here are some of the most frequent punishments:

 Whipping in public: 25, 50 or 100 strokes. The victims had to count the strokes. If he counted wrong, the lashing was started all over again. If the detainee fainted he was brought back to his senses and then the punishment resumed. The Central Directorate of concentration camps sent on April 4, 1942 an address to all camp chiefs which read: "Reichsführer-SS and the chief of the German Police order that in case of punishment by thatching (both for men and for women) when greater severity is required the strokes will be applied to the are seat". Signed by chief of the Central Directorate, Obersturmbahnführer-SS Liebenhenschel.

 Hanging from a pillar. The detainee's hands were tied behind his arms raised and thus he was let hanging for 30 minutes to two hours from a hook. The SS-men who wanted to have fun bit the victim wit the riding whips till he began to swing or bit him over the most sensible parts of the body.

 Arrest. It could last for, one to forty days, or till "further orders". Depending on the viciousness of the camp commander, arrest meant being isolated in a lock-up cell in which you could lay down on the bare cement, or only stand erect or if you were taller, only crouched. Food was given in a Dixie or was spilt on the floor and you had to lick it up from the cement. According to Eiche's ill-reputed regulations of Dachau, the punishment for not greeting an SS-man was eight days of arrest, which began and ended with 25 bull's puzzle strokes over the bare seat.

 Delinquent detachment. Any punishment could and in the Häftlings death. Nobody will ever know how many people died in the Nazi concentration camps while whipped on the Bock, throttle or while hanging from Baum, tree, standing bare-headed in front of the camp gate under the burn of August or naked in the cold winter months. And yet, the Häftlings headed to the place of execution hoping that they would hold out.

Being sent to a delinquent detachment was equivalent ab ovo with a death sentence. In most of the concentration camps the commander of the delinquent detachment was told in the morning, on leaving the champ, how many corpses he was expected to burning back in the evening.

 Execution. It was carried out by shooting in the nape of the neck.

 Hanging. Sometimes it was done publicly, in front of the whole camp. Other times, the detainees was locked into a room, given a rope and had to hang himself in half an hour.

Beside the above-mentioned punishments, which were official, there was a wide rang of other Strafen, punishments, and the result of a strange combination between the sadism, viciousness and fancy of the SS-men. Sadism and beastliness were the current features of each and every SS-men. They were wanting in imagination, as the trite surroundings showed: the same barbed-wire, the same guarding towers, the same SS-men, Blockälteste and Kapos, the same Appells, Kommandos and Selektions, the same conveyor belt of death. There was one single field in which Nazi imagination proved rich in the end less renovation and enrichment of punishments and the way they were administered.

Let us take several examples.

 Gym exercises. In many concentration camps, after being whipped, the Häftling riling down the Bock, trestle, more dead than alive, had to stand up and make ten genuflection's in order "to set up his muscles" which the 25… 50 or 75 lash, cudgel or bull's puzzle strokes weakened. The gym exercises were the easiest way at hand to humiliate and harass the Häftlings as they could be ordered any time and anywhere in the barrack, in the camp or outside it. "… Silence fell over the barrack. The Häftlings lying on straw, frightened, beaten, exhausted, are trying to fall asleep. But an SS-man and a Kapo appear in the doorway: ´Achtung!ª The detainee jumps to their feet, but no all at a time.

 ´Verfluchte Bande! Ihr Drecksäcle!ª1 -- the Kapo yells. The SS-man calmly takes the pipe out of his mouth, and then he orders in a quiet, almost gentle voice:


The exhausted Häftlings lie down at once. A new order which is more energetic: ´Auf!ª3 The Häftlings jump to their feet. One is late. The SS-man pretends not to have noticed. He shakes out the ashes from his pipe. Suddenly he bawls out ´Hinlegen! Auf! Hinlegen! Auf! Hinlegen! Auf!ª and he seem to go on without end. The shirt sticks to the body, perspiration is dripping over our eyes. Hinlegen! Auf! There are no longer straws on the floor. Only dust, very much dust, gentling in our nose, mouth, eyes. Even the Kapo and the SS-man seem to have disappeared in the dust. We no longer see anything &emdash; we can only hear the tireless voice of the SS-man: Hinlegen! Auf!… Hinlegen! Auf! When will he stop? My knees are as soft as if of cotton, my body is heavier and heavier" (Wieslaw Kielar's recollections).

According to Eugen Kogon, at Buchenwald these gym exercises were called punishment exercises. Countless of times, after the evening roll call the whole camp, a block or a line of barracks had to make punishment exercises for who knew what reasons. "Educate your men by yourselves" said the camp commanders to the block chiefs who were given a full hand in punishing any violation of the regulations: "Down!" "Up!" "March!" "Jump!" "Roll!" "Up!" and again "Down!" Meanwhile the Scharführers kicked the detainees who no longer could stand up. They had a preference for the weak ones. If a detainee did not resist the double quick, and fell down, he was in danger of being beaten out of shape. On the right side of the platform in Buchenwald there used to be a high knoll of rubric stone. Over the years it had become the favorite place for punishment exercises. In winter, when it was covered with ice and snow they ordered climbing up, lying down on the peak and rolling down the sleep slope, so you hurt your face and hands; in summer the other side of the knoll was preferred because it had some deep holes, often full of water. The Scharführers took fun in kicking or pushing a detainee into the muddy water and then kick him again when he tried to get out. Hardly a day passed without when he tried to get out. Hardly a day passed without whole columns being punished by the Scharführers for: marching too slow, or loading too small stones, or too few boards. Punishment exercises were ordered at once.

 Standing erect in front of the barrack, on the Appellplatz or in front of gate. This punishment was terrible after a whole day's work.

 Standing on one's knees, holding a stone in your hands stretched forward.

 Running till collapse.

In winter the detainees were also ordered to get out of barracks and stay naked for several hours in the frost and snow. Sometimes cold water was poured on them.

Eugen Hogon recalls in his book that at Buckenvald in "spring 1938 commander Koch ordered an ´asocialª detainee who had attempted to escape to be locked into a wood box with one wall made of barbed-wire. The detainee was scripted inside. Then Koch ordered some long nails be hammered into the box walls which penetrated the victim's body at the slightest movement. The detainee, a farmer, locked in the box was shown to all detainees aligned on the Appellplatz. He was not given anything to eat and was left there for two days and three nights, there no longer was anything human in his sheiks. On the third day, at dawn, his ordeal was finally put an end to by an injection with poison".

Yes, indeed, there was only one exception, one single domain in which the SS-men showed inventively and imagination: in deviling and administering punishments.

When the trial of the Sachsenhausen camp took place in Berlin in 1947 the prosecutor asked Kurt Eccarius, the chief of the camp look-room whether other tortures beside the punishments stipulated in the regulations were applied.

The defendant admitted that they were and he added: "The block chiefs executed them on their firsts and trampled them underfoot; in winter they poured cold water on them and at night they chased them around the lock room, and so on".

 Strafen Punishments. Various punishments.

Damned gang! Shit bags!
Lie down!





A friend of mine, who had not been detained in any concentration camp, but whose extremely sensitive mind was as hurt of what happened in the Nazi concentration camps as if he had been there, suggested me to include in this camp diary some very usual words, the name of most common thing such as sock… towel…

 Strümf, sock. Such a thing I did not see, such a thing did not exist in camp E of Birkenau, and neither in Landsberg of Kaufering. We put on the clogs on our bare feet, even if they were all sores. In Birkenau we could not even get a piece of paper to cover our infected wounds.

In winter, when our very souls froze, I tore a little piece from the tiny ration of bread and bargained it for a rag to wrap my toes, which were numb with cold.

After a terrible night in which we had ceaselessly carried cement bags pushed and urged by riding whips and rifle butts deep into the Mohl forest where an underground factory was being built we were allowed to tour pieces from the paper bags and wrap up in them. Our first concern was to line the inside of our clogs.

Because of the snow, the wooden sole got soaked, the paper lining became wet, the remnants of cement moisten and then hardened between the fingers and over the bleeding wounds. Anyhow, "the cement socks" prevented your feet from freezing.

True, I saw towels once. One winter evening when I entered the barrack from place to place towels were hanging on the pillars of the barrack. An inspection must have been expected. I never found out the truth. In the morning several towels were missing. At the Appell the SS-man ordered the Häftlings who had taken the towels to wrap them around their bodies to step forward. Nobody stirred a bit. Three Häftlings were chosen at random. Among them, my brother Emilian. They were ordered to undress and take off their clogs. In vain did my brother try to unwrap the towel from his feet and cram it into one of his clogs. The SS-man saw him rushed on him with violence, trampling hum underfoot and whipping him till he fainted.

Seven other Häftlings stepped forward and look off their clogs.

In the evening, when we returned to the barrack there were no more towels. However, during my whole detention, I saw towels once. But Strümfe, socks -- never!






Beside the barre ground of the Appellplatz, there was nothing at Birkenau to remind us of our former life.

The Häftlings in the camp looked rather like living corpses than real human beings.

The SS-men who guarded us had nothing human in them. When we looked at them we saw only their boots, machine-guns and riding whips topped by their helmets on which a death's head was printed.

In none of the Birkenau camps -- neither A, nor B, nor C, nor D, nor E -- grew anything. Neither trees, not flowers, nor grass. One single exception, the yard of crematoria where there was a small patch of a lawn. The long columns of Häftlings selected for gassing, terrified by the long barbed-wire fence they passed by were reassured upon entering the crematory yard and seeing the green grass started to believe that they were indeed taken to have a hot bath, after a tiring journey.

The SS-men hardly cared about the feeling of the new-comers. Their only concern was die Synchronisation to be perfect.

When all people in the column -- mothers, children, old, sick -- all naked were invited by the Kapos and SS-men into the huge bath room, a short command for the SS-men and for those in the Sonderkommando sounded: "Heraus!" That moment a Red Cross car entered the crematorium yard. It was the first stage of synchronization. While the SS-men and the members of the Sonderkommando were leaving the room and the naked Häftlings were looking at the showers in the ceiling or to the four perforated tin tubes in the middle of the room, in the crematorium yard an SS-man a Sanitätdienstgefreiter, a sanitary corporal, got off the Red Cross car, holding four tin boxes, painted green in their hands.

The two made for the two concrete plates which seemed to cover some ventilator chimney treading the grad with their heavy boots.

The moment the SS-men and the members of the Sonderkommando left the bathroom and its heavy doors were shut with a deafening sound, the SS-man and the sanitary corporal raised the first concrete plate in the middle of the lawn.

The second stage of synchronization followed. According to the narrative of Nyiszli Miklos, Mengele's forensic doctor at the Birkenau crematoria, who had witnessed the operation countless of times, the two opened the green boxes and emptied their contents -- some pink grains of beans size -- into the chimneys which communicated with the perforated tin tubes in the middle of the huge bathroom. There 2.000 naked people jostling against one another were anxiously looking up at the ceiling, waiting for first drops of water. In contact with the air, the grains turned into the poisonous Zyklon B gas which immediately pervaded the whole room through the officers in the four tin tubes.

The third stage of synchronization followed. The SS-man and the sanitary corporal sat down on the concrete plate and smoked a cigarette to while the time. When they finished their cigarette and dropped the fags, gassing was ver and the ventilators were turned on. Then they got on the car and left the crematorium yard.

The wells -- which an hour before children were happily running towards in order to quench their thirst after several days of mad journey from who knows what corner of Europe -- further sprinkled the grass. But in the yard there were no more children. Their bodies clinging to the bodies of their mothers made up a huge pile of corpses as… die Synchronisation, synchronization always worked perfectly.


To Oliver Lustig's Biographical Sketch

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