The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: camps/auschwitz/auschwitz.05

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism,soc.history
Subject: Holocaust Almanac -  Salmen Lewenthal's manuscript
Followup-To: alt.revisionism
Organization: The Nizkor Project, Vancouver Island, CANADA
Keywords: Auschwitz,Birkenau,Lewental

Archive/File: camps/auschwitz auschwitz.05
Last-Modified: 1994/06/09

"Among the most remarkable documents to have survived the war is the
manuscript written in Birkenau by one of the members of the Sonderkommando,
Salmen Lewental.  This particular manuscript was discovered in 1962 in a
jar buried in the ground near Crematorium III, where Lewental worked.  The
gaps in it are words destroyed by dampness which seeped into the jar.
Lewental, who did not survive his gruesome work, recalled in his note book
the same episode witnessed in its opening stages by Madame Vaillant
Couturier and Rudolf Vrba.

Lewental's account is headed '3,000 naked people'.  It reads:

     This was at the beginning of 1944.  A cold, dry lashing wind was
     blowing.  The soil was quite frozen.  The first lorry, loaded brimful
     with naked women and grils, drove in front of Crematorium III.  They
     were not standing close to one another, as usual, no; they did not
     stand on their feet at all, they were exhausted, they lay inertly one
     upon another in a state of utter exhaustion.  They were sighing and

     The lorry stopped, the tarpaulin was raised and they began to dump
     down the human mass in the way in which gravel is unloaded on to the
     road.  Those that had lain at the edge, fell upon the hard ground,
     breaking their heads upon [...] so that they weakened completely and
     had no strength left to move.  The remaining [women] fell upon them,
     pressing them down with their weight.  One heard [...] groans.

     Those that were dumped down later, began to extricate themselves from
     the pile of bodies, stood [...] on their feet and tried to walk [...]
     the ground, they trembled and jerked horribly with cold, they slowly
     dragged themselves to the bunker, which was called Auskleidungsraum,
     'undressing room' and to which steps led down, like to a cellar.

     The remainder [of the women] were taken down by men from the Kommando
     who swiftly ran upstairs, raised the fainted victims, left without
     help, extricated them carefully, crushed and barely breathing, from
     the heap [of bodies] and led them quickly downstairs.  They were a
     long time in the camp and knew that the bunker (the gas-chamber) was
     the last step [leading] to death.

     But still they were very grateful, with their eyes begging for mercy
     and with [the movements] of their trembling heads they expressed
     their thanks, at the same time giving signs with their hands that
     they were unable to speak.  They found solace in seeing tears of
     compassion and [an expression] of depression [...] in the faces of
     those who were leading them downstairs.  They were shaking with cold
     and [...].

     The women were taken downstairs, were permitted to sit down, the rest
     of them were led into this [con]fined, cold room, they jerked
     horribly and trembled with cold, [so] a coke stove was brought.  Only
     some of them drew near enough to be able to feel the warmth emanating
     from the small stove.  The rest sat, plunged in pain and sadness.  It
     was cold but they were so resigned and embittered with their lives
     that they thought with abhorrence of physical sensations of any
     kind...  They were sitting far in the background and were silent.

Lewentel then set down the story of a girl from the ghetto of Bedzin, who
had been brought to Birkenau 'towards the end of the summer', and who now
talked as she lay 'helpless':

     She was left the only one of a numerous family.  All the time she had
     been working hard, was undernourished, suffered the cold.  Still, she
     was in good health and was well.  She thought she would survive.
     Eight days ago no Jewish child was allowed to go to work.  The order
     came. 'Juden, antreten!' 'Jews, leave the ranks!' Then the blocks
     were filled with Jewish girls.  During the selection nobody paid
     attention whether they looked well or not, whetherh they were sick or

     They were lined outside the block and later they were led to Block
     25, there they were ordered to strip naked; [allegedly] they were to
     be examined as to their health.  When they had stripped, all were
     driven to three blocks; one thousand persons in a block and there
     they were shut for three days and three nights, without getting a
     drop of water or a crumb of bread, even.

     So they had lived for three awful days and it was only the third
     night that bread was brought; one loaf of bread weighing 1,40
     kilogramme for sixteen persons, afterwards [...]

     'If they had shot us then, gassed us, it would have been better.
     Many [women] lost consciousness and others were only semi-conscious.
     They lay crowded on bunks, motionless, helpless.  Death would not
     have impressed us at all then.

     'The fourth day we were lead from the block, the weakest were led to
     the Krankenstube (infirmary), and the rest were again given the
     normal camp ration of food and were left [...] were taken [...] to

     'On the eighth day, that is five days later, we were again ordered to
     strip naked, Blocksperre (permission for prisoners to leave the
     blocks) was ordained.  Our clothes were at once loaded and we, after
     many hours of waiting in the frost, were loaded into lorries and here
     we were dumped down on the ground.  Such is the sad end of our
     mistaken illusions.  We have been, evidently, cursed even in our
     mothers' wombs, since such a sad end fell to our lot.'

The girl from Bedzin had finished her story.  As Lewental noted:

     She could no more pronounce the last words because her voice became
     stifled with flowing [tears] [...] from [...] some women still tried
     to wrench themselves away, they looked at our faces, seeking
     compassion in them.

     One of us, standing aside and looking at the immensity of unhappiness
     of those defenceless, tormented souls, could not master his feelings
     and wept.

     One young girl then cried, 'Look, what I have lived yet to see before
     my death: a look of compassion and tears shed because of our dreadful
     fate.  Here, in the murderers' camp, where they torture and beat and
     where they torment, where one sees murders and falling victims, here
     where men have lost the consciousness of the greatest disasters,
     here, where a brother or sister falls down in your sight, you cannot
     even vouchsafe them a [farewell] sigh, a man is still found who took
     to heart our horrible disaster and who expressed his sympathy with
     tears.  Ah, this is wonderful, not natural.  The tears and sighs of a
     living [man] will accompany us to our death, there is still somebody
     who will weep for us.  And I thought we shall pass away like deserted
     orphans.  The young man has given me some solace.  Amidst only
     bandits and murderers I have seen, before my death, a man who still

     She turned to the wall, propped her head against it and sobbed
     quietly, pathetically.  She was deeply moved.  Many girls stood and
     sat around, their heads bowed, and preserved a stubborn silence,
     looked with deep revulsion at this base world and particularly at us.

     One of them spoke, 'I am still so young, I have really not
     experienced anything in my life, why should death of this kind fall
     to my lot?  Why?' She spoke very slowly in a faltering voice.  She
     sighed heavily and proceeded, 'And one should like so much to live a
     little bit longer.'

     Having finished, she fell into a state of melancholy reverie and
     fixed her gaze on some distant point; fear of death emanated from her
     wildly shining eyes.  Her companion regarded her with a sarcastic
     smile, seh said, 'This happy hour of which I dreamed so much has come
     at last.  When the heart is full of pain and suffering, when it is
     oppressed by the criminal world, full of baseness and low corruption,
     [full of] limitless evil, then life becomes so troublesome, so hard
     and unbearable that one looks to death for rescue, for release.  The
     nightmare, oppressing me, will vanish forever.  My tormented thoughts
     will experience eternal rest.  How dear, how sweet is the death of
     which one dreamed in the course of so many wakeful nights.'

     She spoke with fervour, with pathos and with dignity. 'I am only
     sorry to sit here so naked, but to render death more sweet one must
     pass throught that indignity, too.' A young emaciated girl lay aloof
     and was moaning softly, 'I am ..., I ... am' [;] a
     film was covering her eyes which turned this way and that [...], they
     begged to live [...].

     A mother was sitting with her daughter, they both spoke in Polish.
     She sat helplessly, spoke so softly that she could harldy be heard.
     She was clasping the head of her daughter with her hands and hugging
     her tightly. [She spoke] 'In an hour we both shall die.  What
     tragedy.  My dearest, my last hope will die with you.' She sat [...]
     immersed in thought, with wide open, dimmed eyes [...] threw [...]
     around her so [...].

     After some minutes she came to and continued to speak, 'On account of
     you my pain is so great that I am dying when I think of it.' She let
     down her stiff arms and her daughter's head sank down upon her
     mother's knees.

     A shiver passed through the body of the young girl, she called
     desperately, 'Mamma!' And she spoke no more, those were her last

The order was then given, as Lewental noted, to conduct the women 'into the
road leading to the crematorium'.  [3]"

[3] Salmen Lewental notebook: Bezwinska and Czech, AMIDST A NIGHTMARE
1973, pages 142-5.

Extracted from--------------------------------------------------------
"The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second
World War", by Martin Gilbert, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1985.
(pp. 649-653)

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