The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: camps/auschwitz/auschwitz.014

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism,soc.history
Subject: Holocaust Almanac - The Children of Auschwitz at Play
Summary: A Polish prisoner relates how the numbers of children killed
         were estimated by the prams left outside the crematoria, and
         a Jewish survivor discusses the games played by the children.
Followup-To: alt.revisionism
Organization: The Nizkor Project, Vancouver Island, CANADA
Keywords: Auschwitz,Terezin
Lines: 139

Archive/File: camps/auschwitz auschwitz.014
Last-Modified: 1994/01/26

   "A child in Terezin might still sense the protection of adults
   powerful enough to secretly defy the injunction against educating
   children. But the process of community destruction begun in the
   cites, and escalated in the ghettos, the concentration camps, and
   finally the death camps, rendered adults powerless to protect the
   young in Auschwitz. Protection now existed only in the isolated
   acts of a few people conspiring together to hide a sick child from
   the ruthless selection of the weak for death, or of an inmate
   warning mothers on the arrival platform to say a ten-year-old was
   fourteen (thus making the child a candidate for slave labor rather
   than for immediate death).

   One survivor, Esther Wajs, reports that women on the arrival
   platforms in August 1944 were warned, 'Vilt ihr lebn bleibn --
   varft avek die kinder' (If you want to remain alive -- throw the
   children away.) <3>

      We had great difficulties with the youngest children. We
      tried to tell the children stories about life as we wished
      it to be. But when we couldn't take care of them they
      played out life the way they lived it. They played 'Block
      Leader' and 'Concentration Camp Chief,' and 'Roll-Call.'
      They played 'The Sick' who fainted during roll call and
      were beaten for it, or 'Doctor' who took away your food
      ration and refused help if you would not give it to him.
      Once they also played 'Gas Chamber.' They made a big hole
      into which they shoved stones one after the other. These
      were supposed to be the people who came to the
      crematorium, and the imitated their screams. I was asked to
      show them how to erect a chimney. <4>

   The situation of children in Auschwitz is discussed in an exchange
   between Prosecutor Smirnov and Witness S. Smaglewska, before the
   International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1946.

      SMIRNOV: Did you yourself see the children being sent to the gas
      WITNESS: I used to work very close to the railway lines leading
	       to the crematorium. I used often to stand near the
	       lavatory in the early morning; from here I could watch
	       what happened to the convoys without being noticed. I
	       saw lots of children with the Jewish people who were
	       brought to the camp. Some families had several
	       children. The Court is aware, no doubt, that a
	       selection was made before the people were sent to the

      SMIRNOV: The selection was made by doctors?

      WITNESS: Not always; sometimes it was done by SS men.

      SMIRNOV: But there were doctors there too?

      WITNESS: Yes. At the time when these selections were made, only
	       a few of the young and healthy Jews were admitted to
	       the camp. Women carrying children were sent to the gas
	       chambers seperately. When the extermination of the Jews
	       in the gas chambers was at its height, orders were
	       issued that children were to be thrown straight into
	       the crematorium furnaces, or into a pit near the
	       crematoriu, without being gassed first.

      SMIRNOV: How am I to understand this? Did they throw them into
	       the fire alive, or did they kill them first?

      WITNESS: They threw them in alive. Their screams could be heard
	       at the camp. It is difficult to say how many children
	       were destroyed in this way.

      SMIRNOV: Why did they do this?

      WITNESS: It's difficult to say. We don't know whether they
	       wanted to economize on gas, or if it was because there
	       was not enough room in the gas chambers. I should like
	       to add that it is impossible to say exactly how many of
	       these people -- Jewish people, for instance -- were sent
	       straight to the crematoria. They were not registered or
	       tattooed, and often they were not even counted. Those
	       of us prisoners who tried to keep a check on the number
	       of children gassed had no means of judging except by
	       the number of prams brought into the store-room.
	       Sometimes there were a hundred, sometimes even as many
	       as a thousand.<5>


   It is difficult to establish the number of children who were killed
   in Auschwitz. At the Nuremberg Trials, witnesses game approximate
   numbers. According to Poltawska, some based their estimates on the
   number of prams left in front of the crematoria. <7> Kraus and
   Kulka estimated that a million children under sixteen were killed.
   <8> Kulka reported also that blood was taken from children
   recovering from typhoid to provide immunization for the Reich

   On November 26, 1944, Himmler, foreseeing defeat and concerned for
   his own survival, gave the order to shut down the crematoria.<10> 
   Frantic efforts to destroy evidence ensued, to dismantle the
   machinery of death. Potential witnesses, including children, were
   shot or taken away on death marches. The skies were red as the camp
   warehouses burned for days. Bursts of gunfire could be heard
   drawing closer with the approach of the Russian front. On January
   27, 1945, the day the camp was liberated by the Russian soldiers,
   approximately three hundred children were found, barely alive."
   (Moskovitz, 20-23)

Author's End Notes:
< 3> Esther Wajs, eyewitness account #1354/1306, Yad Vashem Archives,
< 4> Hanna Hoffman-Fischel in Deutchkron, 'Kinder in Ghettos und
     Lagern: ihrer war die Ho"lle' (Cologne: Mohn, 1965), p. 54
< 5> S. Smaglewska, Nuremberg testimony, 1946, in Kraus and Kulka,
     "The Death Factory," The Death Factory: Documents on Auschwitz
     1966. (New York: Pergamon Press, 1966) pp. 112-14.
< 7> Ibid.
< 8> Kraus and Kulka, op. cit., p. 107
< 9> Erich Kulka, taped interview, Los Angeles, 1979.
<10> Erich Kulka, 'Auschwitz Hefte' [the records of transports and
     events kept by the SS in Auschwitz] II, 12 (1944).
                             Work Cited

Moskovitz, Sarah. Love Despite Hate: Child Survivors of the Holocaust and
Their Adult Lives. New York: Schocken Books, 1983

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