Auschwitz, Poland, part 1…This should never have happened!—Auschwitz, Polonia, parte 1… ¡Esto nunca debió de haber sucedido!


Text credits:
What Was the Holocaust?
The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. Holocaust is a word of Greek origin meaning “sacrifice by fire.” The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were “racially superior” and that the Jews, deemed “inferior,” were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community.Text credits:

The trip ended—we arrived on at Auschwitz on Shavuos. We heard “aussteigen aussteigen!”. (Get out! Get out!) It was night. It was like a burning hell, not bodies, but piles and piles of luggage that had been confiscated from the Jews. We saw people in striped uniforms—who were they? The men in uniforms pulled everyone off the train. Young people to the right, men to the left, older people straight ahead. I wanted to follow our mother and grandmother, but a prisoner made me go to the right—“you’ll be better off” he said.

Copy of a page from an alphabetical list of 497 Hungarian and 3 Polish Jewish women transferred from Auschwitz to Hasag-Altenburg (a subcamp of Buchenwald). This page shows the names (highlighted) of four of the sisters.
Copy of a page from an alphabetical list of 497 Hungarian and 3 Polish Jewish women transferred from Auschwitz to Hasag-Altenburg (a subcamp of Buchenwald). This page shows the names (highlighted) of four of the sisters. View high resolution image.

We five sisters hid our father, so they wouldn’t take him away from us with the men. But the prisoners saw him and pulled him out—they knew we were hiding someone. He went with the men. The people who worked in the crematorium told us that the people in the new transports were sent immediately to the gas chamber and then cremated. Our father was 62 years old, our mother was 61, and our grandmother was 93.

In Auschwitz, we were brought to special barracks [probably Camp C]. In Esther’s voice: I volunteered to take the dead people into the camp to see if I could find our parents. A girlfriend and I carried a body in the ambulance, to see if I could find them. There was nobody there. This was the Vernichtungs (extermination) camp—I think it was in Birkenau. Dr. Mengele came there every week to do the selection. [Note: Many Auschwitz survivors recall seeing and interacting with Mengele, the SS men actually seen by the sisters may have been other SS personnel. Josef Mengele was one of about 20 SS physicians who worked on the selection ramp.]

Dr. Mengele would point at the people in the line, as if to say “You and you go to the left side, go burn a little bit.” Once thousands of kids came in from Lódz, Poland, and some girls were hiding under our bunk. Mengele took something out of his pocket, and hit the four girls. All four of them died—what a monster he was. One day, he befriended a little gypsy boy and dressed him like his own son—dressed him up in a Nazi uniform—and the next day he threw the boy into the gas chamber alive; that’s what Mengele did.

In Esther’s voice: They gave me a silk dress and a slip, but no underwear. The dress was too long, so I tore a part of it off to wear like a scarf on her head. That night somebody stole the scarf from my head, and someone stole my shoes. I slept in a barrack, on a cement floor, for about a week—they gave us a little soup. We were five sisters together. We did not have numbers tattooed on our arms—we did not know why. [Note: They probably did not receive tattoos because they were being held in a special compound for prisoners to be sent to other concentration camps in Germany.]

In Goldie’s voice: One night, at two o’clock in the morning, I went with a group of girls—we sneaked out of the barracks to go take showers. While we were in the large round shower room, someone stole all of our clothing, including our underwear and shoes. We had to return to our barracks naked.

One day someone found some beet peels. We rubbed our cheeks with the beet peels to give ourselves some color.

Our sister Goldie (Iren) was a very compassionate woman. She tore the knitted sleeve off her dress to give Esther a hat, and gave the other sleeve to Chana (Anna). So she had no sleeves. Goldie gave Esther her stockings, and she kept her shoes.

Finally, we were sent into a barrack holding a thousand girls. There were twelve girls in each bunk, four layers, three girls on each layer, sleeping head to foot. There was nothing on the boards of the bunk. People were screaming, going crazy, yelling “I want chocolate cake, I want chicken fricassee”—they went wild. We heard that the Nazis put something into the bread and the coffee to calm us down, and to stop us from getting our periods. The people who didn’t drink the coffee ended up committing suicide.

In Esther’s voice: I never complained, I was just sitting like a “dummy.” My older sisters went to one of the Blockältesten (supervisors), Etta Rubinrot, and told her they knew how to sew. They sewed beautiful clothing for this woman. Otherwise there was nothing to do, just the roll call every morning and evening. One day, out of the one thousand girls at roll call, one girl was missing. From four o’clock until twelve o’clock we were kneeling outside; they wanted to find the girl. A thousand girls were suffering. She was hiding in the latrine and when she came out, they killed her.

In Esther’s voice: I did nothing, except for pulling thread out of clothes to help my sisters. On the first day, we sat in a circle on the bunk, and we passed around a big pot of soup. Everyone took a sip. I got a big chunk of meat, and the blockälteste said “spit it out—this is human meat!” After that, I ate only the bread and the coffee, and I never touched anything with meat in it. The soup was terrible—it had bran in it—you had to spit it out. The blockälteste liked us because we sewed for her. She gave us the pail from the margarine so we could lick it out.

In Goldie’s voice: Many girls would keep their daily bread in a sack. Once when I returned from taking a shower, I found that my sack had been stolen. Across the barrack, another girl discovered that her bunkmate had eaten my bread in bed. The girl beat her until she finally returned my sack, but it was already empty.

Latrine call was at 4:00 am, there were about 100 seats, for men and women. You would go to the bathroom and wash. It was freezing. There was no soap, no towels. Right after that was roll call until 9:00 in the morning when we were counted. At 10:00, the sun came out so strong, and the electric wires gave off so much heat, that we had blisters on our lips and our bodies. One day we saw a woman who worked in the kitchen, she wanted to give her child a little soup, she put the child on a piece of wood to slide him under the wire—the guards shot the mother. The little girl fell on the wire and was electrocuted. Many people would go to “touch the wire” and then they were lying there dead—they looked so beautiful.

One mother had three daughters and she ate up their bread so the girls were yelling, “Everybody’s mother was killed, why couldn’t they kill you?” The people went crazy there; they didn’t know what they were saying.

We saw many beatings. There were four sisters hiding under our bunk—Mengele [or another camp official] saw them, pulled them out, took an instrument out of his pocket, and hit them all. They died in front of us. In Esther’s voice: I could never eat a piece of meat because of the smell of burning flesh and hair.

We saw the flames, heard the screaming, and smelled the burning flesh and burning hair. All night long we heard screaming. The flames were shooting high, and the whole sky was red.

One night—it was probably August—it was pouring. We were on the top bunk (we were privileged because we sewed for the blockälteste). Esther: I must have caught a sore throat, I woke up with a rash and 106 fever. It was scarlet fever, other girls had it too. We were all sent to the doctor, who said you have to go to the crematorium. My four sisters started to scream, and told the blockälteste that they wouldn’t sew for her anymore. So the doctor said okay, you have to go out for the roll call, but during the day you can lie next to the heater. I was burning up—I was dying. I saw my mother Rivka come to me, and she pushed me back with her two hands. She said “Not yet”. She did this several times. She looked beautiful.

Then, my fever broke, and I felt better. The next week Mengele came for a selection. My whole body was peeling, so he threw me to the left. Also my sister Berta—we were to be taken to the gas chambers. We went to touch the wire. We were so close to the wire, but the blockälteste saw us, and called “Grossman! Grossman!.” She pulled us away so we could stay with our sisters—she needed us.

In Goldie’s voice: I dreamed one night that I was in an empty big place, naked, running, screaming. I saw the searchlights focusing on me, and there was no one else around. I yelled out, “Apuka (Father), I can’t stand it anymore!” Our father said be patient until Hoshana Rabba. (When we were released, we saw Jewish guys on a truck, one threw her a twig, he said it was for Hoshana Rabba.)

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Créditos de este texto:
El Holocausto fue la persecución y el asesinato sistemático burocráticamente organizado de aproximadamente seis millones de judíos por el gobierno nazi y sus colaboradores. “Holocausto” es una palabra de origen griega, que significa “sacrificio por fuego.” Los nazis, que tomaron el poder en Alemania en enero de 1933, creían que los alemanes eran una “raza superior” y que los judíos, considerados “inferiores”, no merecían vivir. Durante el Holocausto, los nazis también tuvieron en su mira a otros grupos por razón de su percibida “inferioridad racial”: los romas (gitanos), los discapacitados, y algunos grupos eslavos (polacos, rusos, y otros). Otros grupos fueron perseguidos por razones políticas, religiosas o de orientación sexual: comunistas, socialistas, testigos de Jehová y homosexuales.

Créditos de este texto:
El complejo de campos de concentración de Auschwitz fue el más grande que creó el régimen nazi. Incluía tres campos principales; en todos ellos los prisioneros eran utilizados para realizar trabajos forzados. Uno de los campos también funcionó durante mucho tiempo como campo de exterminio. Los campos estaban ubicados aproximadamente 59 kilómetros al oeste de Cracovia, cerca de la frontera germano-polaca de antes de la guerra, en la Alta Silesia, un área anexada por la Alemania Nazi en 1939 después de invadir y conquistar Polonia. Las autoridades de las SS crearon tres grandes campos principales cerca de la ciudad polaca de Oswiecim: Auschwitz I en mayo de 1940, Auschwitz II (también denominado Auschwitz-Birkenau) a comienzos de 1942 y Auschwitz III (también llamado Auschwitz-Monowitz) en octubre de 1942.
El complejo de campos de concentración de Auschwitz estaba subordinado a la Inspección de Campos de Concentración. Hasta marzo de 1942, la Inspección de Campos de Concentración era una agencia de la Oficina Central de las SS, y desde 1941, de la Oficina Central de Operaciones de las SS. Desde marzo de 1942 hasta la liberación de Auschwitz, la Inspección estuvo subordinada a la Oficina Central de Economía y Administración de las SS.
En noviembre de 1943, las SS decretaron que Auschwitz-Birkenau y Auschwitz-Monowitz se convirtieran en campos de concentración independientes. El comandante de Auschwitz I continuó siendo el jefe de guarnición de todas las unidades de las SS asignadas a Auschwitz y se le consideraba el superior de los tres comandantes. Las oficinas de las SS donde se guardaban los archivos de los prisioneros y se dirigían las actividades que estos realizaban continuaron funcionando en Auschwitz I, desde donde se dirigía toda la operación. En noviembre de 1944, Auschwitz II se reunificó con Auschwitz I. Auschwitz III recibió el nuevo nombre de campo de concentración Monowitz.
Los comandantes del complejo de campos de concentración de Auschwitz fueron el Teniente Coronel de las SS Rudolf Hoess desde mayo de 1940 hasta noviembre de 1943, el Teniente Coronel de las SS Arthur Liebehenschel desde noviembre de 1943 hasta mediados de mayo de 1944, y el Mayor de las SS Richard Baer desde mediados de mayo de 1944 hasta el 27 de enero de 1945. Mientras Auschwitz-Birkenau fue independiente (desde noviembre de 1943 hasta noviembre de 1944) sus comandantes fueron el Teniente Coronel de las SS Friedrich Hartjenstein desde noviembre de 1943 hasta mediados de mayo de 1944 y el Capitán de las SS Josef Kremer desde mediados de mayo hasta noviembre de 1944. El comandante del campo de concentración de Monowitz fue el Capitán de las SS Heinrich Schwarz, quien estuvo en ese cargo desde noviembre de 1943 hasta enero de 1945.

Auschwitz I, el campo principal, fue el primer campo creado cerca de Oswiecim. La construcción comenzó en mayo de 1940 en una barraca de artillería abandonada del ejército polaco, ubicada en las afueras de la ciudad. Las autoridades de las SS utilizaron todo el tiempo a los prisioneros como mano de obra forzada para ampliar el perímetro del campo. Durante el primer año de existencia de este campo, las SS y la policía limpiaron una zona de aproximadamente 40 kilómetros cuadrados para crear una “zona de desarrollo” reservada para uso exclusivo del campo. Los primeros prisioneros de Auschwitz fueron alemanes traídos desde el campo de concentración Sachsenhausen de Alemania (que habían sido encarcelados por ser delincuentes reincidentes) y presos políticos polacos de Lodz traídos del campo de concentración de Dachau y desde Tarnow en el distrito de Cracovia del Gobierno General (la zona de Polonia bajo ocupación alemana que no estaba anexada a la Alemania Nazi, unida administrativamente a la Prusia oriental alemana o incorporada al territorio soviético ocupado por Alemania).
Al igual que la mayoría de los campos de concentración alemanes, Auschwitz I fue construido para cumplir tres objetivos: 1) encarcelar por un periodo indefinido a los enemigos (reales o presuntos) del régimen nazi y de las autoridades de la ocupación alemana en Polonia; 2) suministrar mano de obra forzada para las empresas de construcción de las SS (y luego para la producción de armamentos y otros elementos bélicos); y 3) tener un lugar donde eliminar físicamente a pequeños grupos escogidos de la población, cuya muerte las autoridades de las SS y de la policía consideraban esencial para la seguridad de la Alemania Nazi. Como muchos de los otros campos de concentración, Auschwitz I contaba con cámara de gas y crematorio. En un comienzo, los ingenieros de las SS construyeron una cámara de gas improvisada en el sótano del edificio de la prisión, el Edificio 11. Luego se construyó una cámara de gas permanente, más grande, como parte del crematorio original, en un edificio independiente fuera del recinto donde se encontraban los prisioneros.
En el hospital de la Barraca (Edificio) 10 de Auschwitz I, los médicos de las SS llevaron a cabo experimentos médicos. Realizaron investigaciones seudocientíficas en niños, mellizos y enanos y practicaron esterilizaciones forzosas, castraciones y experimentos de hipotermia en adultos. El más conocido de estos médicos fue el Capitán de las SS Dr. Josef Mengele.
Entre el crematorio y la barraca donde se realizaban los experimentos médicos se levantaba la “Pared Negra”, donde los guardias de las SS ejecutaron a miles de prisioneros.

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