The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/m/mueller.filip/muller.015


Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Holocaust Almanac - Eyewitness Auschwitz: The Dancer
Summary: Birkenau deceptions fail to fool young dancer, who wounds SS
         man inside changing rooms at Birkenau. Nazi attempt to mislead
         transport of victims fails - they resort to tried and true
         brutality. SS man dies after shooting, while another is wounded.
Reply-To: kmcvay@oneb.almanac.bc.ca
Followup-To: alt.revisionism
Organization: The Old Frog's Almanac, Vancouver Island, CANADA
Keywords: Ackermann,Auschwitz,Birkenau,Gorges,Ho"ssler,Kurschuss,Voss

Archive/File: holocaust/poland/auschwitz muller.015
Last-modified: 1993/09/20 
XRef: index auschwitz

   "This evening as I went on night duty the crematorium yard was
   deserted, dimly and scantily lit by a few arc lamps.  From afar we
   could hear the sound of women's voices.  They came from the women's
   camp which was separated from crematorium 2 only by a fence.  No
   doubt this was the hour when the famished inmates were given their
   daily bread rations.  Every oven had been fired since morning.  We
   were ordered to keep the fires going which meant feeding them with
   two wheelbarrowfuls of coke every half hour.  

   Contrary to their wont, several SS leaders including Oberscharfu"hrer
   Voss and his aides, Gorges, Kurschuss and Ackermann were in the
   crematorium before us, busily dashing about and poking their noses
   into all sorts of things.  They checked to see that the fire in the
   ovens was burning well; they checked the door to the mortuary to make
   sure it was properly locked; they checked that there were no traces
   of blood anywhere, they checked the fans; and they switched the light
   in the gas chamber on and off a few times.  Normally the concrete
   floors in the gas chamber as well as in the changing room were damp:
   today they were carefully dried.  To this end a few coke-burning
   stoves had been set up and kept going all day.  Kurschuss was running
   about holding a large atomizer from which he sprayed clouds of a
   sweetish fragrance.  Quite obviously the people expected today must
   not be met by the customary musty odour, but rather get the
   impression that they were in fact inside a perfectly hygienic bath-
   house.  The notices at the entrance to the changing room were
   replaced by new and larger ones.  The red letters announcing that
   this was the 'entrance to the baths and disinfecting room' stood out
   well against a pale blue background.

   Another party of SS-Unterfu"hrers arrived, among them Quackernack,
   Hustek, Emmerich, Schillinger and Obersturmfu"hrer Schwarzhuber,
   together with Dr Thilo, medical officer on duty.  All was now ready
   to receive this clearly out-of-the-ordinary transport.

   After a while a convoy of trucks covered with tarpaulins entered the
   crematorium yard.  The SS men who had come with the transport leapt
   down from the running-boards, ran to the back and let down the
   tail-boards.  Then they raised the tarpaulins and asked the people to
   step down.  This was done so courteously that I could hardly believe
   my eyes and ears.  I was puzzled: what sort of people were these who
   had just arrived ?  I noticed that not one of them wore a Star of
   David.  As the people were climbing down from the trucks there was
   none of the usual shouting, beating and general harassment.  On the
   contrary, the SS men were at their most polite and helpful wherever
   required.  After a short while some 1,000 people were standing in the
   yard.  There were more men than women; all were well dressed, none
   had any luggage; that, too, was unusual.  

   A wooden box was set up in the centre of the yard arousing the
   interest of the people who craned their necks to see what was going
   on.  Climbing onto this improvised speaker's platform was
   Lagerfu"hrer Schwarzhuber, followed by a man in a leather coat and
   grey hat with the brim pulled well down.  I thought he might be a
   member of the Gestapo who had been assigned to a special mission.  In
   the yard all was hushed.  The crowd stood expectantly waiting to be
   addressed.

   Schwarzhuber spoke first: 'Ladies and gentlemen!' he began.  'On
   behalf of the camp administration I welcome you.  We have been
   instructed to do everything possible to expedite your departure
   abroad.  For this purpose a representative of the Foreign Ministry is
   here to tell you how the rest of your journey has been organized, and
   he will now speak to you.'

   The so-called representative of the Foreign Ministry now mounted the
   platform.  'Ladies and gentlemen!' he said.  'I have been instructed
   by the Foreign Ministry to organize your journey to Switzerland.
   This is your last stop on the territory of the Third Reich.  We have
   brought you here because the Swiss authorities insist that each one
   of you must be disinfected before you cross the frontier.' He went on
   officiously: 'Here we have the facilities for carrying out
   large-scale disinfection proceedings.  In this building,' he pointed
   at the crematorium, 'a large bath-house has been installed where you
   are to go later.  Another thing!  After your bath, please have your
   travel documents ready so that we can certify that you have been
   disinfected.  Once more, may I point out that the Swiss authorities
   have declared that nobody will be allowed to cross the frontier
   without this certificate in his passport.  Your special train is
   waiting at the station.  It is scheduled to depart at 7 tomorrow
   morning and will take you to the frontier.  I would therefore ask you
   in your own interest to follow the instructions of the camp
   personnel.  May I end by wishing you a pleasant journey for
   tomorrow.' 

   It seemed to me that these words had the desired effect.
   Instinctively many people reached into their breast pockets as though
   to make sure that their passports were still there.  For at that
   moment they meant more to them than anything else in the world.  

   The way in which the so-called representative of the Foreign Ministry
   behaved, his gestures and, above all, his voice, seemed familiar.  He
   was indeed none other than Obersturmf"uhrer Ho"ssler.  

   Not long after Ho"ssler's address all the people had left for the
   underground changing room.  Ho"ssler's promises and the courteous and
   correct conduct of the SS men helped to make everything go off
   without a hitch.  We prisoners of the Sonderkommando were kept away.
   Perhaps they thought that our presence might make the people hesitant
   or give us a chance of speaking to them.  

   The order for the Kapo of the stoker team to fill up the ovens with
   coke came about a quarter of an hour later than usual.  No doubt the
   delay had been carefully planned: first, it was necessary to wait
   until the yard had been cleared of people; and second, the noise of
   coke being fed into the ovens might have made the crowd suspicious.

   The lift linking the underground rooms with the cremation room was
   constantly going up and down.  The nervousness displayed by the SS
   men indicated that, after initially all going so perfectly according
   to plan, their well-organized murder operation had struck a snag.
   Kaminski, our Kapo, was ordered to stand by with eighteen prisoners,
   of whom I was one.  Some time later an SS man took us down in the
   lift.  There we waited in the corridor from which doors led to the
   gas chamber, the mortuary, and the changing room.  From the latter
   came a humming of voices, and, at intervals, firm commands ordering
   the people to undress.  

   Eventually Oberscharfu"hrer Voss took us into the mortuary.  There
   behind a pile of emaciated corpses six hand-painted signboards were
   propped against the wall.  They had the letters A-D, E-H, and so on,
   down to Z, painted on them in black letters and had arrived at the
   crematorium some days earlier; nobody could imagine what they were
   meant for.  And now the mystery was to be resolved.  Oberscharfu"hrer
   Voss lined us up in rows of three.  The man in the middle of each row
   was told to hold one of the boards.  Then we marched into the
   changing room where we took our places along one of the walls, facing
   the people who had come with the transport.  Each board was turned so
   that they could read the letters.  

   Naturally we attracted their attention and suddenly there was a
   silence while the crowd was looking at us and at the boards.
   Ho"ssler, that cunning fox, who was still playing his part as
   representative of the Foreign Ministry, swiftly exploited the
   silence.  He stepped before the crowd and started to speak again:
   'Ladies and gentlemen!' he began.  'You can all see the boards with
   the letters of the alphabet which have just been brought in.  Now
   please look at them carefully.' Here he pointed at the boards, one
   after the other, from A to Z.  Then he went on: 'When you have
   dressed after your bath, kindly queue up at the board with the first
   letter of your surname where you will be given a certificate
   confirming that you have been disinfected.  Please also remember the
   number of your hook in the changing room so that the necessary
   formalities can be dealt with as quickly and as smoothly as possible.
   And do not regard this disinfection business as something we have
   thought up to annoy you.  It is, let me re-emphasize, the Swiss
   authorities who insist on it.  It is therefore in your own interest
   to submit to this unavoidable procedure as quickly as possible.  You
   must also remember that railway tracks are often blocked through
   enemy terror raids.  So please hurry up if you want to get away from
   here without delay !' While he was finishing his speech Ho"ssler
   gazed at the people facing him like a priest eager to gain the
   confidence and credibility of his congregation.

   When he had finished, the people went into huddles to consult each
   other.  They were talking in Yiddish, and some of them had clearly
   become suspicious.  They were Jews from eastern Europe who doubtless
   had heard rumours of mass extermination.  And yet Ho"ssler's words
   had impressed many so that they now began to undress.  But there were
   others who were still standing around undecided, ignoring the
   constant urgings by the SS men that they should hurry and undress.
   Ho"ssler's speech had not convinced them.  They knew somehow that
   they were in a trap and that their lives were at risk.  Therefore
   they thought it best not to take off their clothes which contained
   their travel documents.

   After a few minutes' hesitation the SS men began to usher the ones
   who had undressed into the gas chamber, possibly in the belief that
   once they had them out of the way they might be able to deal with the
   recalcitrant ones more efficiently.  

   Presently more than half the people were behind the great door of the
   gas chamber.  It seemed that the others still in the changing room
   were trying to gain time.  Time for what, though?  The crematorium
   was surrounded by armed SS men.  None of us prisoners was willing to
   join them in what would be a senseless attempt to get away.  Nor was
   there any chance of telling the people that they were about to be
   gassed.  This might have persuaded them that it was more honourable
   to die fighting than meekly inside the gas chamber.  However, every
   phase, from their arrival on the ramp to the moment when they were
   hustled into the gas chamber was deliberately carried out in a
   tearing hurry leaving the victims no time to think or take decisions.

   Surreptitiously SS-Unterfu"hrers Quackernack, Hustek, Voss Boger,
   Schillinger, Gorges, Emmerich, Kurschuss, Ackermann and others left
   the changing room one by one, returning after a short time armed with
   sticks.  No doubt Lagerfu"hrer Schwarzhuber had given them the green
   light to deal with these people in the usual way.  Instead of their
   earlier marked courtesy and Iying talk there were now terse requests
   of ' Get undressed !  Hurry up !  Get ready for your baths!  Come on,
   come on!' The people did not respond, but simply kept standing about,
   doing nothing.  It was not surprising therefore that the SS men grew
   nervous.  In order to demonstrate that they meant business they
   shifted their holsters round to the front and opened the flaps.  Then
   they came closer to the crowd and, assuming a menacing attitude,
   began to shout.  When this had no effect either, they started to
   strike blindly at the crowd with their sticks.  Now the ones standing
   in front, in an attempt to dodge the blows, tried to back away while
   those exposed in turn tried to get out of the way, so that there was
   utter chaos.  The SS increased their furious, merciless beatings.  By
   now many people were bleeding profusely from blows they had received.
   And at long last the rest realized that resistance was useless.
   There was no way out.  They began to undress, whereupon the SS men
   stopped beating them.  Why we were still standing by the wall holding
   our boards no one knew.  

   It was obvious that the SS felt themselves once more to be masters of
   the situation.  Quackernack and Schillinger were strutting back and
   forth in front of the humiliated crowd with a self-important swagger.
   Suddenly they stopped in their tracks, attracted by a strikingly
   handsome woman with blue-black hair who was taking off her right
   shoe.  The woman, as soon as she noticed that the two men were ogling
   her, launched into what appeared to be a titillating and seductive
   strip-tease act.  She lifted her skirt to allow a glimpse of thigh
   and suspender.  Slowly she undid her stocking and peeled it off her
   foot.  From out of the corner of her eye she carefully observed what
   was going on round her.  The two SS men were fascinated by her
   performance and paid no attention to anything else.  They were
   standing there with arms akimbo, their whips dangling from their
   wrists, and their eyes firmly glued on the woman.  

   She had taken off her blouse and was standing in front of her
   lecherous audience in her brassiere.  Then she steadied herself
   against a concrete pillar with her left arm and bent down, slightly
   lifting her foot, in order to take off her shoe.  What happened next
   took place with lightning speed: quick as a flash she grabbed her
   shoe and slammed its high heel violently against Quackernack's
   forehead.  He winced with pain and covered his face with both hands.
   At this moment the young woman flung herself at him and made a quick
   grab for his pistol.  Then there was a shot.  Schillinger cried out
   and fell to the ground.  Seconds later there was a second shot aimed
   at Quackernack which narrowly missed him.  

   A panic broke out in the changing room.  The young woman had
   disappeared in the crowd.  Any moment she might appear somewhere else
   and aim her pistol at another of her executioners.  The SS men
   realized this danger.  One by one they crept outside.  The wounded
   Schillinger was still Iying unattended on the floor.  

   After a while a few SS men came in and dragged him hastily to the
   door.  Then a third shot was fired: one of the SS men pulling
   Schillinger let go of him and started to limp to the door as fast as
   he could.  Then the light went out.  Simultaneously the door was
   bolted from the outside.  We, too, were now caught inside the
   pitch-dark room.  

   The people who had lost their bearings in the dark were running about
   in confusion.  I, too, was afraid that this might be the end for all
   of us.  Just now, I thought ruefully, when our plans for a rebellion
   were going ahead, and when we had a not inconsiderable hoard of arms
   and ammunition, why did it have to be just now ?  I began to grope my
   way along the wall towards the exit.  When I finally reached it I
   found nearly all of my companions, but also many of the others who
   instinctively had made for the door.  They were weeping and bemoaning
   their fate, some were praying, others bidding each other farewell.
   There was considerable speculation as to the identity of the woman
   who had fired the shots.

   A man who was standing near us had noticed that we did not belong to
   their group.  He spoke to us in the dark and wanted to know from
   where we came.

   'From the death factory,' one of my companions replied tersely.  The
   man was very agitated and demanded loudly: 'I don't understand what
   this is all about.  After all, we have valid entry visas for
   Paraguay; and what's more, we paid the Gestapo a great deal of money
   to get our exit permits.  I handed over three diamonds worth at least
   100,00 zloty; it was all I had left of my inheritance.  And that
   young dancer, the one who fired the shots a little while ago, she had
   to pay a lot more.'

   Suddenly the door was flung open.  I was blinded by the glare of
   several searchlights.  Then I heard Voss shouting: 'All members of
   the Sonderkommando come out !' Greatly relieved we dashed outside and
   ran up the stairs and into the yard.  Outside the door to the
   changing room two machine-guns had been set up, and behind them
   several searchlights.  Steel-helmeted SS men were Iying ready to
   operate the machine-guns.  A horde of armed SS men were milling about
   in the yard.

   I was on my way to the cremation room when a car drew up and
   Lagerkommandant Ho"ss climbed out.  Then there was the rattle of
   machine-guns.  A terrible blood-bath was wrought about the people
   caught in the changing room.  A very few who had managed to hide
   behind pillars or in corners were later seized and shot.  In the
   meantime, the 'disinfecting officers' had thrown their deadly Zyclon
   B gas down into the gas chamber where the credulous, placing their
   trust in Ho"ssler's deceitful words, had gone less than an hour
   earlier.

   Next morning we learnt that Schillinger had died on the way to
   hospital, while Unterscharfu"hrer Emmerich had been wounded.  The
   news was received with satisfaction by many camp inmates; for in
   section B2d of the men's camp Schillinger had been regarded as an
   extremely brutal and capricious sadist.

   The body of the young dancer was laid out in the dissecting room of
   crematorium 2.  SS men went there to look at her corpse before its
   incineration.  Perhaps the sight of her was to be a warning as well
   as an illustration of the dire consequences one moment's lack of
   vigilance might have for an SS man.

   As for us, these events had taught us once again that there simply
   was no chance of escape once a person entered the crematorium: by
   then it was too late.  The promises of the SS, ranging from work
   inside the camp to emigration to Switzerland, were nothing but
   barefaced deception, as they had proved to be for these wretched
   people who had wanted to emigrate to Paraguay." (Mu"ller, 82-89)

                              Work Cited

Mu"ller, Filip. Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers.
New York: Stein and Day, 1979

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