The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: camps/auschwitz/Boger_Swing

"In the middle of the year 1943 a strange procession could be observed
every morning in the Auschwitz concentration camp. The procession moved
from the gate above which large letters proclaiming that "Arbeit macht
frei", towards the former post office barrack which was then used as the
place where defendants were interrogated. At the head of the procession
you could see eight prisoners who carried two mysterious wooden
structures, somewhat like hurdles. 50 or 80 police prisoners followed
them. They were barely able to walk to the barracks, some where supported
by their fellow-sufferers. A considerable number of Gestapo officers had
riding-whips at their belts, some had dried and specially prepared
bull-hide whips, so widely known in concentration camps. Their equipment
was further completed by typewriters and thick briefcases. Guards with
automatic pistols escorted the prisoners, though the latter were too weak
to offer any resistance. The Gestapo officers entered the barrack where
the wooden structure were also brought in. The prisoners who were first to
be interrogated followed. The rest had to wait outside, guarded by the
sentinels. Soon after, a bellowing of the interrogating Gestapo men was
heard, together with of overturned chairs and the noise of blows. The
horrible cries of the cruelly tortured men were heard from afar. All of
them met the most cruel treatment of they were not immediately ready to
confess their "guilt", or if they were suspected to have some knowledge as
to the hiding-places of weapons or as to the names of the "members of the
bands". Not many knew what purpose the wodden structure served. Those
initiated knew that they were "swings", as those implements of the
Inquisition were cynically called. One Gestapo officer was responsible
for the idea of constructing the "swings" at Auschwitz. He had come from
some State Police Office to interrogate a prisoner at Auschwitz. A queer,
subdued groaning was suddenly heard from the room which had been put at his
disposal. WHen the concentration camp officers entered the room they saw a
spectacle which suprised them ... Two tables had been
placed side by side with a gap of 1 meter between them. The victim had to
sit down on the floor and cross his hands in front of his drawn up knees.
His wrists were then bound. A thick bar was put between his elbows
and knees. The ends of the bar lay on both tables. He was helplessly
swinging between the tables, his head downwards. Then his posterior and
naked feet soles were flogged with a bull-hide whip. The blows were so
violent that the tortured man rotated wheel-wise. Every time his posterior
came into a convenient position, a powerful blow was dealt with all
strength. When his cries grew too piercing, the fiendish Gestapo man
smothered them by putting a gas-mask on the victim's head. The mask was
taken off from time to time and the tortured man would be asked whether he
was ready to confess. He was accused to have had arms, having probably
fallen victim to an unscroupulous informer. After some 15 minutes the
convulsive movements of the tortured man were no longer observable. He was
unable to speak and only shook his head weakly when the gas-mask had been
removed and he was told to make his confession. His trousers were a dark
red colour and blood was dripping on the floor. His head finally hung down
motionless, he had fainted. But the Gestapo officer was not moved by
that spectacle. With a knowiong look he took out of his pocket a small
bottle of sharply smelling liquid and held it to the prisoner's nose, who
in fact became conscious again after a few minutes. His buttocks were in
such a state that further flogging hardly have increased the pain and so
the inquisitor had a better idea. He dripped hot water into the victim's
nose. The burning pain must have been indescribable. The inquisitor got
what he wanted. After another question, sneeringly asked with full
certainty of victory over the fiendishly maltreated man, the latter nodded
that he would confess. The bar was then taken from the tables and was
upended on the floor so that the mancled man slid down. After pulling the
bar away, it ws only with some difficulty that they succeeded in taking
off the handcuffs from the purplish, thickly swollen wrists of the
maltreated man who lay as if lifeless on the floor. Since he did not react
when they shouted at him to come to the table and sign the "confession",
he was flogged with the bull-hide whip. The blows fell indiscriminately on
his head and back; he was kicked too. Finally, he painfully managed to
straighten himself up and sign his "confession". The shakey handwriting
and the perspiration stain, where his hand had rested on the record, made
it clear to an expert that the interrogation was conducted on the lines of
the third degree methods. They called it in offical papers: "an
interrogation conducted with the help of all available means", or "a
pressing questioning". That method of questioning became popular in
Auschwitz. But the device with the two tables, between which the iron bar
kept sliding and finally fell to the floor together with the victim, was
found to be too primitive. The prisoners who were working in the building
section workshops were therefore instructed to make two wooden frames with
a moveable steel bar. Thus the torments could be augmented because the
tortured person was made to turn a complete circle."

Source: Bezwinska and Czech, KL Auschwitz Seen by the SS, pp.152-154.

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