Desperation and Survival

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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?

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

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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Age 9, I have my whole life yet to live.

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I dream of becoming a football star, thousands cheering my name when I score a goal.

I dream of becoming a pilot,fly away free as a bird. Not knowing where I will land.

I dream of becoming an architect. millions of people admiring all the buildings I have designed.

Age 9, I have my whole life yet to live.

In my dreams I am a knight or a cowboy, on a horse riding off in the sunset with the dust whirling up behind me.

In my dreams I am whatever I want to be, no one can stop me of being anything.

Age 9, I have my whole life yet to live.

But no more

Age 9, I have my whole life yet to live. Born in Versaille

Age 9, I am Adolphe Benhamou

Age 9, I have been killed in Auschwitz

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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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Source

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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

You could have been my teacher

Frieda

You could have been my teacher

You could have been the mother of my best friend

You could have been the midwife who helped deliver me

You could have been my dentist

You could have been a waitress in my favourite restaurant

You could have been a lady working in a shoo who wraps my gifts

You could have been working behind the bar in my local pub

You could have been the first woman on the moon.

You could have been anything you wanted to

But some people thought you were not a valuable member of society

In fact they didn’t think you were anything.

They thought you were an impurity not worthy to live

Someone who would blemish their pure Aryan race.

You had to be removed from this world

And that they did on February 11 1944, in Auschwitz they killed you, aged 4.

You are Frieda Marianne Van Den Bergh from Nijmegen in the Netherlands.

You could have been my teacher but instead you are a star in heaven.

Looking down on us, sometimes with a smile, sometimes with a tear.

Your tears are the rain falling from the skies, for you are sad thinking of all of those 4 year olds who died with you,before you and after you.

Your tears are the rain falling from the skies, for you think you have been forgotten

But cry no more because you are remembered and loved in our hearts.