Desperation and Survival

sonder

I have often wondered how the Sonderkommandos coped with their  work.

Sonderkommandos were the were forced labour units made up of  Nazi death camp prisoners. usually Jews.They were forced to help with the disposal of gas chamber victims among other duties. Sometimes even removing family members.

It is not like they had a choice, it was either work and have a chance to survive or get killed themselves. I have heard people call them traitors but I don’t subscribe to that point of view, The basic instinct of any human being is to survive.

How hard it was for these victims, for they to were victims, is illustrated in the testimony of Filip Müller, a Slovak Jewish member of the Sonderkommando.

Muller

Filip had become so desperate that he tried to commit suicide by smuggling himself into the gas chamber.

Below are some excerpts from his testimony taken from his book ‘ Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers’

“In the great confusion near the door I managed to mingle with the pushing and shoving crowd of people who were being driven into the gas chamber. Quickly I ran to the back and stood behind one of the concrete pillars. I thought that here I would remain undiscovered until the gas chamber was full, when it would be locked. Until then I must try to remain unnoticed. I was overcome by a feeling of indifference: everything had become meaningless. Even the thought of a painful death from Zyklon B gas, whose effect I of all people knew only too well, no longer filled me with fear and horror. I faced my fate with composure.Eyewitness

Inside the gas chamber the singing had stopped. Now there was only weeping and sobbing. People, their faces smashed and bleeding, were still streaming through the door, driven by blows and goaded by vicious dogs. Desperate children who had become separated from their parents in the scramble were rushing around calling for them. All at once, a small boy was standing before me. He looked at me curiously; perhaps he had noticed me there at the back standing all by myself. Then, his little face puckered with worry, he asked timidly: “Do you know where my mummy and my daddy are hiding?” I tried to comfort him, explaining that his parents were sure to be among all those people milling round in the front part of the room. “You run along there,” I told him, “and they’ll be waiting for you, you’ll see.”

The only reason he survived is because he was approached by a few girls.

“Suddenly a few girls, naked and in the full bloom of youth, came up to me. They stood in front of me without a word, gazing at me deep in thought and shaking their heads uncomprehendingly. At last one of them plucked up courage and spoke to me: “We understand that you have chosen to die with us of your own free will, and we have come to tell you that we think your decision pointless: for it helps no one.” She went on: “We must die, but you still have a chance to save your life. You have to return to the camp, and tell everybody about our last hours,” she commanded. “You have to explain to them that they must free themselves from any illusions. They ought to fight, that’s better than dying here helplessly. It’ll be easier for them, since they have no children. As for you, perhaps you’ll survive this terrible tragedy and then you must tell everybody what happened to you. One more thing,” she went on, “you can do me one last favour: this gold chain around my neck: when I’m dead, take it off and give it to my boyfriend Sasha. He works in the bakery. Remember me to him. Say ‘love from Yana.’ When it’s all over, you’ll find me here.” She pointed at a place next to the concrete pillar where I was standing. Those were her last words.”

Burning bodies

Müller first testified during his recovery in a post-liberation hospital and subsequently in several trials. His testimonies were included in “The Death Factory” written by two fellow Holocaust survivors, Erich Kulka and Ota Kraus. He was also interviewed for the 1985 French documentary Shoah by Claude Lanzmann, who himself had been a Holocaust survivor and French resistance fighter.

Müller died on November 9, 2013. In my opinion there is only one word to describe him. Hero.

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Do you sleep at night?

cohen

Do you sleep at night, knowing what you did to me?

Does your conscience bother you?

Do you have a soul? And if you do how could you do what you did?

Do you have children of your own? Or do you have nieces or nephews?

Would you kill them?

We both know you wouldn’t because they are innocent.

Well so was I , but yet that didn’t stop you.

Were you just carrying out orders?

Or did you enjoy taking my life?

I am Janine Onijas and was killed on August 19,1942 aged 8. Murdered in Auschwitz.

Do you sleep at night?

Dr Schumann’s sterilization experiments in Auschwitz

Schumann

Not only was Auschwitz a death camp it also had an endless supply of humans that could be used for  experiments,without the fear of repercussions for those who carried out the experiments.

Dr Carl Clauberg and Dr Horst Schumann, were assigned to head the sterilization  experiments  in Auschwitz,

claberg

Dr Clauberg was an well known gynecologist  with expertise in infertility treatment.

Schumann had been working for  the Public Health Office in Halle. He was recruited to the Luftwaffe  as a physician in 1939. But moved on from the Luftwaffe to   joined the Aktion T4 Euthanasia program in early October 1939,

Schumann, SS-Sturmbannführer   began his sterilization experiments using X-rays at the request of Viktor Brack, the organizer of the T4 Programme.

The purpose of the sterilisation  experiments was to perfect a technique in which non-Aryans could be prevented  from reproducing while still being used  as slave laborers.

On  the 28th of  July 1941, Horst Schumann arrived in Auschwitz. Where he started  work at Block 30 in the women’s hospital, where he set up an x-ray station in 1942.

women

Here both  men and women were sterilized without consent  by being put repeatedly for several minutes between two x-ray machines, the rays aiming at their sexual organs. Most victims  died after great suffering, or were gassed immediately because the radiation burns from which they suffered rendered them unfit for work.

By 31 December 1942 about 200 men had been sterilized and would later be castrated by Shumann to determine the effects  of the radiation method of sterilization
Their testicles were removed and sent to Breslau for  examination.

The women were injected with  liquid into the uterus while they were on the X-ray table and were X-rayed while the injection went on

Schumann selected the  test ‘subjects’  himself. They were always  Jewish men, women and girls in their prime , but  who looked like they aged rapidly  after the experiments.

The parts of the body that were treated with the rays were burnt,and pus would have developed . Many times the intestines would also be affected. Many died.

camp

Part of Schumann’s ‘quality’ check to determine if  the radiation had worked, was the so-called semen check: a wooden implement  covered with a rubber hose was pushed  into the rectum of a male victim and the glands stimulated until ejaculation occurred so that the ejaculate could be tested for sperm  The samples were sent to the University of Breslau  for examination.

Schumann selected some  women of Block 10 in the main camp of Auschwitz. In this Block Jewish women had been selected for human experiments. To control the radiation on women, prisoner doctors Dr. Maximilian Samuel and Dr. Wladislaw Dering had to remove an ovary.

block 10

Horst Schmann also conducted  typhus experiments by injecting people with blood from typhus infected patients with the aim to then  cure the newly infected subjects. Schumann left Auschwitz in September 1944 and was appointed to the Sonnenstein Clinic in Saxony which had earlier been converted into a military hospital.

After the war he worked as a sports doctor in a clinic in Gladbeck,  Germany.He was only identified after he applied for a hunting rifle in 1951. A warrant for his arrest was issued then. Through a technicality he was not arrested, he claimed he didn’t have a German passport so he applied for a passport in Japan, which he got.He then fled to Egypt and later settled in Khartoum in Sudan where he got a job as the head of a Hospital.After he was recognized by an Auschwitz survivor, he fled to Ghana, where he received protection from Kwame Nkrumah. the head of state of Ghana.

ghana

in 1966 Schumann’s luck seemed to have run out when he was extradited to Germany.He stood trial in 1970, but was released from jail in 1972 due to his heart condition and generally deteriorating health. It wasn’t until 1983 before he died.

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Research Gate

A working day in Auschwitz

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Every aspect in Auschwitz was designed for either extermination of dehumanization of the prisoners, mainly Jewish prisoners.

For those young and fit enough to work there was a daily roll call, sometimes these could last for hours. Prisoner were forced to stand still, wearing very thin clothing regardless what weather condition ,even the slightest movement could lead to severe physical punishment or death.

Roll call

The typical working would began at 4:30 during the summer and 5:30 in the winter. After the roll call a working day would be 11-12 hours long. Prisoners doing labor in remote places several kilometers away did not have to participate in the roll call,they left for work earlier. Neither  did the prisoners from camp labor details as the hospital, kitchen, or orchestra.

orchestra

Typically they would have an hour break time.

Three times a day they would receive a meal, or at least what the Nazis thought constituted a meal good enough for the prisoners.

In the mornings they would get something that vaguely resembled coffee, really it was boiled water with a grain based substitute for coffee, or a herbal tea. This in the eyes of the Nazi was enough for breakfast.

The lunch was made up of  of about a liter of soup, the main ingredients  were potatoes,  a kind of turnip , and small amounts of groats, rye flour, and Avocado food extract.

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The evening meal  consisted of about 300 grams of black bread, served with a small bit of sausage, about 25 grams, or a tablespoon of marmalade ,cheese,or margarine.

The calorie count  ranged from 1,300 calories for light-work prisoners to 1,700 calories for prisoners performing hard labor.

Where really  a hardworking man needs 4,800 calories  per 24 hours and an average working man more than 3,600 calories.

If you weren’t selected for the Gas chamber you would likely die of malnutrition and disease.

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Why?

Abraham

Why do you hate me? We have never met before.

How can you look at me and feel a justification to kill me?

Why do you follow orders of someone who doesn’t care about you?

How can you still consider yourself a human being.

Why do you hate me? We have never met before

How is it you are able to kill me without regrets and go home to your own son age 4 like me, without feeling physically sick?

Why, oh why me?

I am Louis Abraham Belifante born August 30 ,1940 in Katwijk,  Zuid-Holland, Netherlands.

Killed  25 Oct 1944 in Auschwitz

All I want to do is play with my Toys.

pavel

I don’t want to be a burden to anyone, just put me in a sandpit and i’ll be happy.

I am not a danger to anyone, how could I be I am only 3

All I want to do is to play with my toys, just like any other boy my age.

I don’t think of complicated things. My only worry is if I will like the vegetables with my dinner.

At 3 what do you expect me to be?

I am a child, with child thought,child worries and child joys. No danger am I.

When you play with me, I laugh. When you hurt me a cry.

But that is not enough for you, you want me to die.

I am only 3, a ‘danger’ to society.

At 3 I am a victim of a vile regime.

Pavel Bock was only 3 when he was  murdered at Auschwitz on December 15,1943

 

 

The First prisoners of Auschwitz

Auschwitz

More so than any other extermination or concentration camp is Auschwitz associated with the mass extermination of Jews. However it did not start of that way.

At the beginning Auschwitz was a relatively ‘small’ camp and the first prisoners were Polish political prisoners, most of them were Catholic and only 20  or so were Jews.

On  the 14th of  June 1940 during . A  transport  train left  from the southern Polish city of Tarnów,  to Auschwitz and consisted of 728 Poles and about 20 Polish Jews They were considered ‘political prisoners’ and members of the Polish resistance. Basically anyone could have been considered a ‘political’ prisoner most of them were lawyers, teachers or priests.

Only 728 arrived in Auschwitz it is unclear what happened to the rest, it is thought that one of the prisoners was released at the rail platform and others may have been returned to Tarnów.

First_transport_to_Auschwitz_(Tarnów_-_14th_June_1940)

When they arrived they were ‘greeted’ by Hauptsturmführer Karl Fritzsch, with the following words.Karl_Fritzsch_at_Auschwitz

“This is Auschwitz Concentration Camp….Any resistance or disobedience will be ruthlessly punished. Anyone disobeying superiors, or trying to escape, will be sentenced to death. Young and healthy people don’t live longer than three months here. Priests one month, Jews two weeks. There is only one way out — through the crematorium chimneys”

chimney

Although the crematorium did not begin operation until the 15th of  August 1940.

Despite this, it is believed about 200 of the first prisoners survived the camp.

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Mengele’s arrival in Auschwitz

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On May 23rd 1943 Dr Joseph Mengele started his ‘work’ at Auschwitz. I am not going to say too much about this evil personified individual.

He particularly found pleasure in working in Auschwitz

The Doctors in Auschwitz were all scheduled according a work rota for the selections when new victims arrived by train, but Mengele was the only one to volunteer for the selections and would sometimes ask if he could take over a slot in the rota.

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He came from a very privileged background and had a Phd  in Anthropology as well as a Doctorate in Medicines.He made weekly visits to the hospital barracks and sent to the gas chambers any prisoners who had not recovered after two weeks in bed.

Auschwitz gave him the opportunity to conduct experiments in order to continue his anthropology studies. The Nazi regime allowed him to experiment in the vilest of way without impunity.

He was especially interested in twins.They had to undergo weekly examinations and measurements of their physical attributes by Mengele himself or one of his  assistants.  Experiments performed on twins included unnecessary amputation of limbs, intentionally infecting one twin with typhus or other diseases, and transfusing the blood of one twin into the other.

josef-mengele-twins-experiment.jpg

He was  transferred to Gross-Rosen concentration camp in Lower Silesia  January 17, 1945, bringing along  2 boxes of examples and records of his experiments.

He managed to escape Gross-Rosen on 18 February, a week before the Soviets arrived, disguised as a Wehrmacht soldier .

He  managed capture by  the  Allies until June 1945 , when he was picked up by an American patrol. He was traveling under his own name at the time, but the wanted criminal list hadn’t been efficiently distributed and also he did not have the SS blood group tattoo.so  the Americans let him go. Mengele spent some time working as a farmhand before deciding to skip out of the country in 1949.

On 17 April 1949. withe the aide of  a network of former SS members, Mengele traveled to Genoa, where he managed to get  a passport under the alias “Helmut Gregor” from the International Committee of the Red Cross. He sailed to Argentina in July.

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Despite many attempts to catch him he was able to elude justice. I have always been skeptical about this, I think that the allied never really wanted to catch him because if they did, it would have been easy enough to do so.He was more or less hiding in plain sight in Argentina.

He eventually drowned in 1979 while swimming in the Atlantic ocean, after suffering a stroke.

wanted

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Yad Vashem

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arbeit Macht Frei

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Even if you don’t know any German you will know what those 3 words mean. Arbeit macht Frei- Work will set you free.

3 simple words which had such a great impact. The Nazis turned these words, which when you look at them basically had an honorable intend, into the most despicable words ever uttered.

They gave a false sense of hope to those who arrived at the concentration camps and death camps. For it made them believe if they would work hard  and do as their were told they would be set free.

3

Many didn’t even get to see those words over the gates for they had already perished on the transport to Auschwitz,Dachau or any of the other camps.

Arbeit macht Frei where it should have said “Hier wirst du sterben” -Here you will die.

2

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I Color the sky

himmel fab

I Color the sky, that is what my name says Himmelfarb,Sky Color

But I can’t really color anything

I am only 2 I am from Paris

Paris, the city of love, But not for me. I was taken from there.

I am only 2 and I don’t know how any one could hate me.

In my prettiest dress and a beautiful flower I look like an Angel.

That doesn’t matter though because to some I am a nobody.

I am only 2, a whole life still to pursue

Not me though, 2 is what I’ll always be.

I am only 2,my name Camille Himmelfarb Sarnacka, murdered in Auschwitz in 1942.