The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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128. Not all the Jews who were sent to Auschwitz were killed
immediately.  We have seen that on their arrival in the camp
a "selection" was generally carried out, and those who
appeared fit for work were put to hard labour until their
strength gave out.  And if a person did not die from hard
labour or as a result of torture at the hands of the
slavedrivers, then he was finally killed by gas, or by the
injection of poison into his veins (T/90, p. 11).  The
witness Ze'ev Sapir described a selection carried out in
Auschwitz thus (Session 53, Vol. III, p. 57):

     "A. I arrived there together with my parents.
     "Q. Did you also have brothers and a sister?
     "A. I arrived there with my four brothers and one
     "Q. How old were your brothers?
     "A. One brother was born in 1929 - he was then 15;
     another brother was born in 1933 - he was then 11; my
     sister was born in 1936 - she was then 8; another
     brother was born in 1938 - he was then 6; and there was
     a little baby brother who was born in 1941 - he was
     then three 3.
     "Q. What happened to your parents and to all the
     brothers and sister whom you mentioned?
     "A. After the selection had been made...the selection
     was very simple.  A doctor stood there and, merely with
     a slight movement of his hand, people were to go to the
     right or to the left.  My parents went to the right. I
     did not have time to take leave of them.  I was amongst
     those sentenced who, for some reason, were destined to
     live; I went to the left.
     "Q. And your brothers and sister?
     "A. They all went with my parents.
     "Q. Did you see them again, after this?
     "A. No, I did not see them at all, after this."
     Living Conditions in the Camps

129. We heard evidence about the reign of terror in
Auschwitz in the shadow of the smoke going up from the
crematoria, and in the many camps connected with Auschwitz.
There was evidence, similar in content, about conditions in
the Majdanek camp in the East and in the many labour and
concentration camps scattered throughout eastern Europe.
The system was uniform, with local variations, according to
the sadistic inventiveness of the commanders and of the
guards, who had the lives of the Jews at their mercy.  We
shall quote witnesses on this subject, too, who suffered
this regime with their own bodies.  Here, too, the items we
picked at random from the enormous amount of evidence
brought before us will suffice to illustrate that the aim of
this entire regime was to exterminate the Jew by making him
work under inhuman conditions until the last drop of
strength had been squeezed out of him.  This applied also to
the few who were kept alive in the extermination camps, to
be employed for a time in the camp, until they, too, went
the way of their exterminated brethren.

 We heard the following about the Majdanek camp from Yisrael
Gutman (Session 63, Vol. III, p. 1154):

     "There stood very long huts, stables for horses, and
     this was where we were housed... There was a notice on
     the hut that it could hold fifty-two horses...we were
     about eight hundred people in this hut...the bunks we
     slept on were in three tiers.  I imagine that the width
     of such a bunk was about 80 centimetres, perhaps 60...
     They made two people lied down in one bunk of this
     kind... Our daily work schedule was as follows: They
     made us get up at 4.30 for the morning roll- call... We
     carried stones from one place to another... The stones
     had to be placed in the folds of our clothes, and they
     used to check whether we had taken enough stones.  The
     work had to be done at the double... They gave us
     wooden clogs for our feet - plain pieces of wood which
     had a strap of cloth one and a half or maybe one
     centimetre wide and that was a valued possession.  And,
     on one of the early nights, one of these clogs was
     stolen from me, and at these roll-calls,  at 4.30 in
     the morning - I had to stand with one foot bare - and
     the weather was extremely cold at the time.  Some days
     later, I ran a high temperature."

Dr. Aharon Beilin describes the living conditions in the
Auschwitz camp:

     "It was terribly overcrowded, sixteen of us lay on a
     ledge which was intended, more or less, for six people.
     We would only lie on our side, for if one of us wanted
     to turn over, everyone had to turn over.  If someone
     got down during the night in order to relieve himself,
     he could not come back and had to lie down on the
     concrete floor of the was too crowded, and
     he would annoy all the others because he would be
     disturbing their sleep.  I remember a case where...a
     man got down and froze.  This was during the winter and
     the block was not heated.  The crowded condition also
     had an advantage - we kept each other warm.  That man
     lay the whole night on the concrete floor - he had
     diarrhoea.  I must point out that seventy per cent of
     the people in this block died in the course of these
     four weeks." (Session 69, Vol. III, p. 1256).

Nor did the persecutors spare the women.  Judge Beisky gives
evidence about the Plaszow camp in the suburbs of Cracow
(Session 21, Vol. I, p. 353-354):

     "I don't know what the significance of a labour camp
     is.  A labour camp is a different concept.  For us, it
     was an extermination camp... There was work within the
     camp which was done solely by women and this was the
     task of dragging stones from the quarry which was below
     that new area being prepared for building a road.  They
     used to load stones on to eight to ten waggons on the
     short railway tracks.  At the end of the train, there
     were long ropes and along the ropes on both sides,
     women  of the camp were harnessed. Nd in this way they
     would walk up a fairly steep road from the quarry
     below,  for a distance of two and a half kilometres, up
     the hill, under all weather conditions for twelve
     hours.  The most horrible thing was that the women were
     dressed like us, with wooden shoes which used to slip
     in the snow and the mud.  And in this way one could
     visualize the picture which I am unable to describe -
     and I do not know whether others would be able to
     describe  - how women walked for a whole night,
     stumbling and pulling these waggons."

And this is what Yitzhak Zuckerman said about forced labour
of Jews from Warsaw in the Kampinos camp (Session 25,  Vol.
I, p. 409):

     "We were taken before dawn - a community of several
     hundred Jews, a weakened who had not
     had enough to eat for a long time...  When we arrived,
     we had to work on diverting rivers...and draining
     swamps.  So we used to work for ten to twelve hours,
     standing in the water almost up to our necks.
     Afterwards we were taken back and had to sleep in the
     same clothes.  It was Spring, cold, very cold.  The
     same thing happened the next morning - the food was
     meagre -  a beverage they called coffee, 15 or 20 deka
     of bread, and I need hardly add that, after two years
     of life in the Warsaw Ghetto, these Jews who had come
     to work populated the Kampinos cemetery already in the
     first few weeks - they died."
Witnesses described cruel corporal punishments - the
"Stehbunker" (standing cell), a narrow cell, where a man
could not turn around nor move his hands.  People were kept
standing there for ten to twelve hours and more, and when
they emerged, tortured and dazed, they had to go back to
work immediately.  They related how a man was hanged in the
presence of his comrades during roll-call, because of some
potatoes he had taken to still his hunger.  They told of
endless tortures, such as marksmanship competitions among SS
men, using live men as targets.  Dov Freiberg says in
evidence (Session 64, Vol. III, p. 1171-1172 ):

     "I can talk about one of the many days that passed.  We
     were then working in the sorting camp [in Sobibor].  We
     began sorting out the piles that had been heaped up in
     the course of time.  We finished taking out personal
     belongings from one of the sheds.  Paul was then our
     commander.  It so happened that, between the rafters
     and the roof, a torn umbrella had been left behind.
     Paul sent one of our boys to climb up and bring the
     umbrella down.  It was seven to eight metres high -
     these were large sheds. The lad climbed up though the
     rafters, moving along on his hands.  He was not agile
     enough, fell down and broke his limbs.  For falling
     down, he received twenty-five strokes of the whip and
     Beri [Paul's dog] dealt with him.  This appealed to
     Paul, and he went and called other Germans.  I remember
     Oberscharfuehrer Michel, Schteufel.  He called out to
     them: `I have discovered parachutists amongst the Jews.
     Do you want to see?'  They burst out laughing, and he
     began sending people up, one after the other, to go on
     to the rafters.  I went over it twice - I was fairly
     agile; and whoever fell from fear...fell to the ground.
     When they fell to the ground, they were given murderous
     blows, and the dog bit them incessantly... After that
     someone invented something else... When the personal
     effects were piled up, there were a lot of mice.  The
     order was given: `Five men were to go outside, the
     others were to catch the mice. Everyone had to catch
     two mice; whoever failed to do so would be put to
     death'...  They tied up the bottoms of the trousers of
     five men and we had to fill them with mice.  The men
     were ordered to stand at attention. They could not
     stand that.  They wriggled this way and that, and were
     given murderous blows.  The Germans roared with

Let these examples suffice.  Of course, more could be added
from the stories of woe and suffering to which we listened,
in order to prove that the reign of terror in the camps was
bound to break a man's spirit, as well as his mental and
physical powers of resistance.

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