Newsgroups: alt.revisionism Subject: Holocaust Almanac: Two Hours to Live (1 of 2) Reply-To: email@example.com Followup-To: alt.revisionism Organization: The Nizkor Project, Vancouver Island, CANADA Keywords: Auschwitz,Belzec,Lodz,Sobibor Archive/File: camps/auschwitz hilberg.01 Last-Modified: 1993/11/02 "The 'Conveyer Belt' The killing operation was a combination of physical layout and psychological technique. Camp officials covered every step from the train platform to the gas chambers with a series of precise orders. A show of force impressed upon the victims the seriousness of unruliness or recalcitrance, even as misleading explanations reassured them in their new, ominous surroundings. Although there were breakdowns and mishaps in this system, it was perfected to a degree that justified its characterization by an SS doctor as a conveyor belt (am laufenden Band).<28> The initial action in the predetermined sequence was notification of the camp that a transport was arriving.<29> Notice was followed by a mobilization of guards and inmates who were going to be involved in the processing.<30> Everyone knew what would happen and what he had to do. From the moment the doors of a train were opened, all but a few of the departees had only two hours to live.<31> The arriving Jews, on the other hand, were unprepared for a death camp. Rumors and intimations that had reached them were simply not absorbed. These forewarnings were rejected because they were not sufficiently complete, or precise, or convincing. When, in May 1942, a group of deportees was being marched from Zolkiewka to the Krasnystaw station (where a train was to take them to Sobibor), Polish inhabitants called out to the column: 'Hey, Zydzi, idziecie na spalenie! [Hey Jews, you are going to burn!].'<32> A survivor of that transport recalls: 'The meaning of these words escaped us. We had heard of the death camp of Belzec, but we didn't believe it'.<33> A sophisticated Viennese physician who was in a cattle car remembers that another deportee noticed a sign in a railway station and called out 'Auschwitz!'. The physician noticed the outline of an 'immense camp' stretched out in the dawn and he heard the shouts and whistles of command. 'We did not know their meaning,' he says. In the evening, he enquired where a friend had been sent and was told by one of the old prisoners that he could see him 'there.' A hand pointed to the chimney, but the new inmate could not understand the gesture until the truth was explained to him 'in plain words.'<34> Another physician, from Holland, reports: I refused to...leave any room for the thought of the gassing of the Jews, of which I could surely not have pretended ignorance. As early as 1942 I had heard rumors about the gassing of Polish Jews...Nobody had ever heard, however, when these gassings took place, and it was definitely not known that people were gassed immediately upon arrival.<35> The great majority of the deportees could not grasp the situation so long as they did not know the details of the killing operation, the when and the how. Those who came with premonitions and forebodings were usually unable to think of a way out. On a Warsaw transport to Treblinka in August 1942, a young deportee heard the words, 'Jews, we're done for!' The old men in the car began to say the prayer for the dead.<36> Another young man, stepping off a train in Treblinka, saw mounds of clothing and said to his wife that this was the end (Das ist das Ende).<37> Cognition was thus converted to fatalism more readily than to escape or resistance. The German administrators, however, were determined not to take chances, lest some impetuous resistor in the crowd create a dangerous confrontation. They were going to move swiftly while reinforcing Jewish illusions to the last possible moment. To this end they set a pattern of procedures that was virtually the same in every camp save only for those variations that stemmed from the different layouts and installations in each enclosure. The ramps at Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka were too short to accommodate lengthy trains. At each of these camps, transports were backed into the compound to be unloaded a few cars at a time.<38> On the Belzec ramp the arriving Jews were received with the music and singing of a ten-man inmate orchestra.<39> Kulmhof was reachable only by road or narrow-gauge railway. Initially, deportees were brought from the immediate vicinity on trucks. Trains from the Lodz ghetto halted at Warthbrucken (Kolo),<40> where the victims were sometimes kept overnight in the local synagogue and from where they were taken by truck to Kulmhof. Later a more complicated logistic procedure was instituted to avoid public display of the deported Jews in Warthbrucken. The victims were loaded on a narrow-gauge train and kept overnight in a mill at Zawacki. They were then driven to Kulmhof in trucks.<41> At Auschwitz the ramp was first located between the old camp and Birkenau. Those who were directed to the Auschwitz I gas chamber 'streamed' through the gate. When Birkenau was opened, long columns ran through a gauntlet several hundred yards long to one of the crematoria.<42> Not until the spring of 1944 was the spur built in Birkenau. On the new ramp, trains were unloaded a short distance from the gas chambers.<43> The cars, emptied of the living and the dead, were moved to a fumigation installation. One hot day, a loadmaster opened up a car and was jolted when a blackened corpse tumbled out. The car was filled with bodies that the camp personnel had neglected to remove.<44> Following the unloading of the trains, there was a twofold selection procedure. The old, infirm, and sometimes small children were placed face down near a pit to be shot.<45> At Sobibor, where trucks picked up the aged and infants, guards would occasionally try to toss the babies from a considerable distance into the vehicle.<46> At Treblinka those unable to stand were taken to a pit near the infirmary for shooting.<47> From the first Auschwitz ramp, trucks would remove the old and the infirm to the gas chambers.<48> The camps also selected strong persons for labor. In the General- government camps, or Kulmhof, very few individuals were needed as work crews, and women among those chosen were but a handful.<49> Asked about the children, a former member of the SS establishment in Treblinka declared at his trial that 'saving children in Treblinka was impossible [Kinder in Treblinka zu retten war unmoglich].'<50> Labor requirements at Auschwitz were greater, and at the Birkenau platform SS doctors (Mengele, Konig, Thilo, or Klein) would choose employable Jews for the industrial machine. Selections were not very thorough, however. The victims were paraded in front of the physician, who would then make spot decisions by pointing to the right for work or to the left for the gas chamber.<51> Men and women were separated for undressing in barracks. An impression was being created that clothes were to be reclaimed after showers.<52> At Sobibor, one of the SS men, dressed in a white coat, would issue elaborate instructions about folding the garments, sometimes adding remarks about a Jewish state that the deportees were going to build in the Ukraine.<53> At Kulmhof the victims were told that they would be sent for labor to Germany, and in Belzec a specially chosen SS man made similar quieting speeches.<54> In all three of the Generalgouvernement camps, there were special counters for the deposit of valuables.<55> The hair of the women was shorn,<56> and the procession was formed, men first. In Sobibor, groups of fifty to one hundred were marched through the 'hose' by an SS man walking in front and four or five Ukranians following at the rear of the column.<57> At Belzec, screaming women were prodded with whips and bayonets.<58> The Jews arriving in Treblinka, states Hoss, almost always knew that they were going to die.<59> Sometimes they could see mountains of corpses, partially decomposed.<60> Some suffered nervous shock, laughing and crying alternately.<61> To rush the procedure, the women at Treblinka were told that the water in the showers was cooling down.<62> The victims would then be forced to walk or run naked through the 'hose' with their hands raised.<63> During the winter of 1942-43, however, the undressed people might have to stand outdoors for hours to wait their turn.<64> There they could hear the cries of those who had preceded them into the gas chambers.<65>" (Hilberg, 967-976) Hilberg's end notes follow: 28. Affidavit by Friedrich Entress, April 14, 1947, NO-2368 29. See Novak to Hoss, copy to Liebenhenschel, January 23, 1943, on arrival of three Da trains from Theresienstadt, Case Novak, vol. 17, p.295. 30. Adalbert Ruckerl, NS-Vernichtungslager (Munich, 1977), pp. 135, 138 (Belzec), p. 181 (Sobibor), p. 217 (Treblinka). 31. Ibid, p.226 32. Itzhak Lichtman, 'From Zolkiewka to Sobibor,' in Miriam Novitch, Sobibor (New York, 1980) pp.80-85 33. Ibid. 34. Victor Frankl, From Death Camp to Existentialism(Boston, 1949), pp.6-12. 35. Elie Cohen, Human Behavior in the Concentration Camp (New York, 1953),p.119. 36. Abraham Krzepicki, 'Eighteen Days in Treblinka', in Alexander Donat, ed. The Death Camp at Treblinka (New York, 1979), pp. 77-145, at p. 79. Krzepicki escaped to the Warsaw ghetto, where he recorded his experiences from December 1942 to January 1943. During the Warsaw ghetto battle, he was wounded and abandoned in a burning building. His account was found after the war. 37. Ruckerl, NS-Vernichtungslager, p. 218. 38. Ibid, pp. 138, 166-67, 217. On Treblinka, see detailed statement by David Milgrom in Bratislava, August 30,, 1943, enclosed by US Vice-Consul Melbourne (Instanbul) to Secretary of State, January 13, 1944, National Archives Record Group 226/OSS58603. Milgrom had escaped. 39. Statement by Stefan Kirsz (Polish locomotive helper), October 15, 1945, Belzec case 1 Js 278/60, vol. 6, pp. 1147-49. 40. Deutsche Reichsbahn/Verkehrsamt in Lodz to Gestapo in Lodz, May 19, 1942, Judisches Historisches Institut Warschau, Faschimus-Getto-Massenmord (Berlin, 1961),pp. 280-81. 41. Ruckerl, NS-Vernichtungslager, pp.268-69, 277, 285. A photograph of what appears to be a two-tiered narrow-gauge train being loaded with Jews is on page 284 of Faschismus-Getto-Massenmord. 42. Filip Muller, Eyewitness Auschwitz(New York, 1979), pp.173(map),31,69. 43. Danuta Czech, 'Kalendarium,' Hefte von Auschwitz 7 (1964): 92n, 94. The Hungarian transports were unloaded on the new siding. 44. Testimony by Adolf Johann Bartlemass, December 2, 1964, Case Novak, vol.13, pp.281-89, and his statement of April 11, 1967, Case Novak, vol. 16,p.338. Interrogation of Willy Hilse, ca. 1964, Case Novak, vol.12, p.605, and his testimony, Case Novak, vol.13, pp. 248-57. Both were railroad men at Auschwitz. 45. Ruckerl, NS-Vernichtungslager, pp.14-41 46. Ibid., pp. 171, 191-92 47. Ibid., p.219. 48. Affidavit by Entress, April 14, 1947, NO-2368. 49. Krzepicki, 'Eighteen Days,' in Donat, Treblinka, p.117. 50. Ruckerl, NS-Vernichtungslager, p.223. 51. Olga Lengyel, Five Chimneys, (Chicago and New York, 1947), p.10. Testimony by Auerbach (Jewish survivor), Case No. 11, tr. pp. 2512-14. Sehn, 'Oswiecim,' German Crimes in Poland, vol.1,pp.41, 77-78. See also photographs, taken by SS photographers at Auschwitz, of arrival procedure in Peter Hellman, The Auschwitz Album (New York, 1981). 52. Ruckerl, NS-Vernichtungslager, pp. 135, 167, 202, 218-219. 53. Ibid., p. 167 54. Ibid., p. 269. Statement by Karl Schluch (Belzec cadre), November 10, 1961, Belzec case, vol. 8, pp.1503-25. 55. Ruckerl, NS-Vernichtungslager, pp. 135, 139, 166, 219. 56. Ibid., pp. 135, 222-23. At Belzec the naked women who had their hair cut were beaten on the head and in the face. Statement by Rudolf Reder made shortly after the war in Poland, Belzec case, vol. 1, pp. 28.31. Reder was the only Jewish escapee from Belzec known to have been alive in 1945. 57. Ruckkerl, NS-Vernichtungslager, pp. 182, 135. 58. Postwar statement by Reder, Belzec case, vol. 2, pp. 258-87. 60. Ruckerl, NS-Vernichtungslager, pp.208-9. 61. Samuel Rajzman in Hearings, House Foreign Affairs Committee, 79th Cong., 1st sess., on H.R. 93, March 22-26, 1945, pp.121-25. 62. Ruckerl, NS-Vernichtungslager, p. 223. 63. Ibid, pp. 224-25. Jankel Wiernik, 'One Year in Treblinka, ' in Donat, Treblinka, pp. 147-88, at p.163. 64. Wiernik, Ibid, p.163. 65. Ruckerl, NS-Vernichtungslager, p. 226. Statement by Milgrom, August 30, 1943, in National Archives Record Group 226/OSS 58603. Work Cited Hilberg, Raul. The Destruction of the European Jews. Holmes & Meier, 1985.
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