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Shofar FTP Archive File: camps/auschwitz/hilberg.01

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Holocaust Almanac: Two Hours to Live (1 of 2) 
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

  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),
  	35. Elie Cohen, Human Behavior in the Concentration Camp (New York,
  	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
  	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), 
  	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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