The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: camps/auschwitz/auschwitz.02

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Holocaust Almanac: The Fires of Auschwitz
Followup-To: alt.revisionism
Organization: The Nizkor Project, Vancouver Island, CANADA
Keywords: Auschwitz,fires

Archive/File: camps/auschwitz auschwitz.02
Last-Modified: 1994/06/09

"Deprived of all strength and the desire to live, confused and exhausted,
we were pushed into another room. Before we had a chance to notice exactly
what was happening, men with shavers began to shave our hair. One shaved
our heads, another our underarms, and a young boy in a pair of shorts
shaved the hair of our genitals. The men were experienced; it seemed to
take no time at all. Oblivious to everything, we moved like robots from one
shaver to another, yielding without a word. Nothing mattered any more. The
long room was full of hair, some blond, some brown, some black. None was
gray as there were no older women left among us. Then we were rushed into
another room with showers.

After all we had gone through during the last few days, it seemed that it
was the gas that would now finish us. We looked at each other, realizing
what our destiny was to be at last. No one uttered a word; we were resigned
and ready.

Suddenly the showers were opened, and freezing water rinsed our naked
bodies. We were alive.


It was now morning. Our discolored bodies were covered in the most
ridiculous garments, and with the queer wodden shoes on our feet, we were
quite a sight. We walked in fives.

`How funny you look.' Pola started laughing.

`And you, look at yourself!' Anna snapped.

`Stop it, girls. We all look funny, but we're alive, aren't we?' Mania

`Who cares? We might as well be dead,' Pola answered.

`Stop it, will you?' I said sadly; for we had just turned off the muddy
road and were marching in a different direction. All we could see, at a
distance clearly visible against the morning sky that was in front of us,
was fire. An ocean of fire. As far as the eye could see there was fire, and
no other way to go. The hard morning light revealed a landscape dark with
people and illuminated each vacant face.

`What a beautiful sight,' Pola said acidly.

Behind us, a woman was holding her daughter's hand, and I heard her say: 
`After all we have been through ... after this monstrous shaving ... we
have to go into the fire now?'

Her sixteen-year-old daughter replied calmly: `At least we shall be warm,

That was, in fact, how we all felt by now -- a moving wall of broken-down
forms driven by cold and despair.

Despite all this, to me the fire also meant something else -- a tender
reconciliation with my mother. In each little flame, I saw her kisses, her
love, gliding toward me then heavenward. I heard her last words: `My
angels, my dolls, may God help you.' We knew, now, that she must have been
taken into the gas chamber during the night, and it was her body along with
thousands of others, young and old, beautiful and ugly, that was burning in
this inferno.

And somewhere, too, through the searing flames, I could see the last worry
on my dearest friend's face, when she said to me: `Take care of my son.'
She, also, must have found her tragic end last night. I thought of how the
two women had died together.

We were now just a few steps away from the barbed wire separating us from
the fire. At any given moment, the gate would open and we would be led into
the fire where violent red flames were sending blue flecks into the dark,
smoke-filled sky. It appeared that the Germans were playing tricks on us.
During the last few days we had died an innumerable number of deaths; at
first, the suffocation on the train, then the segregations, afterward, the
showers, and now a fire. Most of us had experienced something akin to dying
each time, and it was as if part of us had died each time. Yet this wasn't
going to be the last time either. As soon as we were almost so close that
there seemed to be no turning from it, we were led onto a different road
and away from the fire. Nevertheless, the Germans had accomplished their
goal, for in that fire, a great part of our soul had been obliterated --
the part of us that knew how to love, respect, and hope. Here was where our
parents, our brothers and sisters, and most of our friends had died. We
knew now what the gas chambers of Auschwitz had meant. As we moved away
from the fire, the smell of burning corpes stayed with us all through our
march -- as it would stay all through our stay in Auschwitz. Whether the
smell was of freshly burned bodies or carried over from previous burnings,
it was always there, and we could never help but be aware of it."

Excerpted from----------------------------------------------------------
"The Survivor in Us All - A Memoir of the Holocaust," Erna F. Rubinstein
(Hamden, Connecticut: Archon Books, 1983) ISBN 0-208-02025-X  pp.120-122

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