Newsgroups: alt.revisionism Subject: "In 1942, my father was shot..." From: Ken McVay
Organization: The Nizkor Project Archive/File: camps/auschwitz auschwitz.015 Last-Modified: 1994/07/14 Jack Goldman, though born in Mannheim, Germany, was jailed with his father as a Polish Jew. He was in Auschwitz during the uprising of September 1944. The Germans kept all the Polish citizens confined until the war with Poland was over. The Poles who were not Jewish were then sent home. The Jews were kept in jail until they were sent to camps. My uncle was on the first transport to Buchenwald. The rest of us were sent to Sachsenhausen, near Berlin. We were kept in a Jewish barrack and not permitted to mingle with other prisoners. We were not the first Jews to arrive. Some had been in the camp for years, but the life in the camp changed radically at this time. Before our arrival Jews worked in their own trade. They were carpenters, mechanics, orderlies in hospitals, depending on the training they had received before their arrest. But when we came Jews were treated as entirely different beings. We were put in quarantine and expected to sit on a hard floor in a specific position, and the only people who came into our barrack were the SS. They would beat a few people, give us a little fresh air and chase us around the barracks, whipping and beating us as we ran. In our barrack we put the oldest and weakest men in the center and the youngest and strongest guys in the first row, which was only a step from the door. When an SS man came in he was likely to slap the first guy in his way, so we changed the first guy so that the same one wouldn't get slapped all the time. The we practiced the domino theory of falling - that means the guy that gets hit falls at the first blow and pulls the others down with him. This made the SS very happy. As soon as they saw somebody falling down they had accomplished what they wanted.... After a few months they gave us shovels and took us out to work. We would carry sand from one place to another and then back again for no purpose. That went on for months and months until they picked a few of us to learn bricklaying. This too was frustrating because we would build a wall and take it down and build it again. The only good thing about it was that we were given an extra slice of bread at the end of the day. When we became expert at laying bricks the camp commander had us build a pigpen with tiled stalls. It was his own animal farm with a kitchen where they prepared the food for the animals. We could see that the animals had much better food and shelter than we did. We would steal the animal food when nobody was looking and bring back our slice of bread to someone in the barracks who was hungry.... The Germans were always cooperative on a fast day. They didn't give us any food for those twenty-four hours.... Russian POWs began to arrive. They were kept in separate camps in unheated barracks and with no clothes to keep them warm. So many of them died that we had to build a crematorium. There were no gas chambers at that time. The Russians were taken into a room for a physical exam. They were told to stand against the wall to be measured and shot in the neck while they were stretched to their full height. Those were the first mass murders I heard of. Jewish prisoners were murdered individually. They would be beaten to death or the guards would take a guy they didn't like and put his head into a bucket of water until he died. This went on every day but the systematic mass killing started when the first Russian POWs arrived. When we were working a guard would take somebody's cap and throw it over the line we were not allowed to cross. "Go get your hat," they would say. If you didn't get it they might shoot you for disobeying an order; if you did they would shoot you for trying to escape. But with the Russians there was no teasing. They just killed them, without any ceremony. In 1942 my father was shot. It was in the spring when the governor in Czechoslovakia was assassinated. That same evening the Jews had to remain in formation after the others left. At random they picked a hundred Jews to retaliate for that killing. My father wasn't with me. He had hurt his knee and was in the camp dispensary. My cousin was standing next to me and the SS pulled him out. When they started to march away I pulled him back. He would never have had the guts to do it himself. They went off without him and for a moment I thought I had saved him. He died a little later of tuberculosis. My father, however, was taken with all the patients in the hospital and shot the next morning.... One fine day in 1942 they took the Jews in Sachsenhausen to the far end of the parade ground...After a while they began taking small groups away and they didn't come back. We had heard by then about gas chambers and Auschwitz and we were wondering what was going on. When they finally took us to the bathhouse one of young guys, one of the group that had been together from the beginning, said, "Hey, I forgot my toothbrush." The SS man just said, "Never mind, you won't need it." So we really didn't expect to come out of the shower alive. We went through, came out clean and were given some clean clothes but without a belt or socks, just patched old clothes and wooden shoes. Our group huddled in a corner and made up our minds that we would try to take some of them along if they tried to kill us.... We jumped out as we planned and tackled the SS. Fortunately for us the camp commandant gave orders not to shoot. If they began to shoot from the towers his men would be in danger and he would have to report the incident to headquarters, which would be bad for his record. So we fought with the SS until they subdued us, and we were lying on our stomachs with our faces to the ground and the rest of the camp stood around absolutely silent, waiting for the worst. The commandant came over and said, "Boys, what were you trying to do? Do you want to get yourselves killed?" He was talking so nice and sweet to us, as if he were our schoolmaster. It was unbelievable. "Get up," he says to us. "Don't be there on the ground. Stand up!" So we stood. He wanted to know who the ringleader was and he finally made us talk. We told him that we thought for sure we were going to be killed and we wanted to take some SS with us. He listened sympathetically, told us we were silly and there was nothing to be afraid of. He gave orders to get us socks and hats and belts for our pants. He even arranged some hot soup for us and that same night put us on the train to Auschwitz.... In September 1944 there was a plan to blow up the gas chambers and that was to be a signal for the camp to break out. The British air force was to bomb the area and set us free. We communicated with the British by an underground radio...We worked in cells...Nobody knew who the leader was. But the SS men were in the habit of killings the prisoners who worked in the gas chambers about every six months and the men had to jump the gun. Also there was a foreman who was a traitor, even though he was Jewish. Jews are human, and you have rotten apples everywhere. He told the SS that something was going to happen. There was a small Krupp factory nearby where male and female prisoners were working. They smuggled explosives, powder and small arms over the wall. When the men working in the gas chamber saw they had to leave they started to blow up the gas chambers. We were all at our work stations. A fight erupted between the few Jews around the SS. All they had were a few small pistols and handguns.... Staying alive from day to day was our resistance. When I could, I would *nudzh* the SS. I would innocently ask about Birkenau: "What's going on there? What are those flames?" The SS man would say he had no idea and never gave it a thought. "So you leave the thinking for those with bigger heads," I would say, digging, digging, trying to undermine his morale, trying to see if there was any bit of humanity left in him. But there were no more killings after the uprising in Auschwitz in September 1944. Two gas chambers were destroyed. And one day we had a call for volunteers to come and tear down the gas chambers. They got lots of volunteers. We marched to Birkenau singing Hebrew songs. I'll never forget the sight of the gas chambers and the grapple hooks and ropes connected to the chimney.... When the Russians began to come close to Auschwitz the Germans began marching all the prisoners who could walk right into Germany. It was January 1945 and we walked through the night in the cold and snow. We slept as we walked...The group I was in ended up in Dachau.... I contracted typhoid fever...I was delirious. I remember one time they wanted us to march again and I couldn't move and I told the German army guy, "Shoot me. Do what you want. I can't go another step." He hit me with his rifle butt and told me to get up. "Go," he said. "The Americans are here. Go." So he saved my life. The others who couldn't move were shot. [...] Transcript from the Wiener Oral History Library of the American Jewish Committee, as quoted in Rothchild, Sylvia: "Voices From the Holocaust" (Meridian paperback edition, New American Library, 1981) pp. 155-164.
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