The Real Memories of Auschwitz

… from Non-Jew Prisoners

Here are excerpts from the book “Witness” by V.N. Karzin, who was wounded when captured and on his way to Mauthausen in December of 1943, together with other Soviet prisoners of war, among whom there were many wounded and disabled, temporarily visited Auschwitz.  Very unusual evidence.

“… Although my imprisonment (as of our entire large group) in Auschwitz was short-term (December of 1943), but it was enough for me to understand that in this camp there were people of many European nationalities, and not only Jews.

However, it may be worth citing the fact that, as with us, former Soviet prisoners of war, many of whom were disabled or wounded, on the first day after arrival and after sanitization, we were in a quarantine barracks, where we were placed.  In the evening, after the “dinner” (one small ladle of ersatz-coffee), many of our comrades gathered in groups and exchanged first impressions of the camp.  Suddenly, the gates opened to the barracks (there were gates at both ends) and a group of strong guys, led by the SS man, burst into the barracks.  They were excited, rather even furious, an SS man with a gun, guys with sticks, and the mass beating began.  From the crowd of the beaten, several people were captured and taken away.  Then we learned that they had been brought to another barrack and there, with their hands tied behind their backs, hung up to the rafters.  But what then struck us all was the fact that everyone who beat us with sticks were “kapo” – the executors of the order of the camp administration, who provided the regime for the detention of prisoners – they were all Jews.

… In the camp there was controlled by the SS hierarchy of power.  In this administration, the SS select reliable people and those who may be useful and necessary to them.  Here nationality does not matter:  Jew, non-Jew, etc.  So in the Mauthausen concentration camp in our barn, as it later became known, the French millionaire was hiding from all sorts of work under the guise of a sick man.  He paid off SS men, giving pay-stubs as financial obligations for the future.  Apparently, something similar happened with the Jewish “kapos” in “Auschwitz”.  There is no place for any ideology.  Here, as in the entire capitalist world, the power of money prevails.

… The two subsequent camps, especially the last Mauthausen, where I and my comrades have been since July of 1944, have convinced us that the term “special treatment” applies to all prisoners of the concentration camps in equal measure.  In the concentration camps, such as those where we were, there was not one, where all the prisoners in them or the majority were Jews, or where they were kept separately from other prisoners.

… In 1945, in Mauthausen, we were almost not fed, and the Jews were given a regular ration.  Later, the representatives of the Swiss Red Cross arrived and took out a large group of Jews as to be released.

… And you know, Peritsa, what surprises me?  There is not one Jew in our ranks.  Here we have great comrades, there are Germans, Hungarians, Remini, but there are no Jews.  It’s a shame even.  They are being bullied, but they are silent.  How are they so stupid, intimidated?  Is it really not clear – they will not be spared by beasts!  And there is no other way, except to fight.  The mind is incomprehensible.  How is it, Peritsa, to understand?

– You wait, listen.  Both useful and improbable.  Remember, in August, at the height of the uprising, when I was preparing to take people out of the Vrshats to the unit, Savva (secretary of the underground local administration) asked me to find out, if it is possible for young guys from the ghetto, those who are physically stronger, to persuade them to join the guerrilla detachment.  We will provide them with an escape from the ghetto, Savva said.  And I had a connection with Weiss, the youngest from the ghetto.  Then the Germans did not guard the ghetto really well, and the Jews bartered what they had with the locals.  So I met with them and told our proposal.  Do you know what they said to me?  You, they said, forgive us, but no one will go for it.  I was surprised:  how is it, you have no chance, if Hitler wins, you will not live.  If you don’t want to be in our unit, we will help you to cross the Danube, and then there will be free guerrilla territory, organize and fight.  Weiss somehow sadly looked at me and repeated that no one will do this.  And he added:  “If you think about it, we still have some chances.  We can always bribe someone.”  Seeing my bewilderment, he explained:  “They are able to send to Hungary for a lot of money, and there are other rules there.  Some have already been shipped.  Such is my answer to you.”  Weiss finished our conversation.  Of course, all this nonsense, but believe in this opportunity.  As a result, there is not a single one in our ranks – this is a fact, summarized Peritsa, our conversation.

We parted with Peritsa, went about own business.  In my head, another one was added to my different dirty thoughts.  How can some people be so condemned to fight, to die, to gain victory over fascist gangsters in incredible pains, while others at the same time will buy off the gangsters.  That is how smart we are.”

In the book “Hitler’s Penal Battalions” (by A. Vsilchenko, M., 2008) recollects the work of SAW prisoners (Wehrmacht soldiers) of the German Communist Bernhard Kandt, formerly a deputy of the Mecklenburg Landtag, and later in Sakselhausen:

“We had to place six meters of sand on forest soil.  The forest was not cut down, which should have been done by a special army team.  There were pines, as I recall, which were 100-120 years old.  None of them were uprooted.  Prisoners were not given axes.  One of the boys had to climb to the top, tie a long rope, and at the bottom two hundred men had to pull it.  “Pull!  Pull!  Pull!”.  Looking at them, the thought came of the construction of the Egyptian pyramids.  Overseers (kapo) of these former Wehrmacht officers were two Jews:  Wolfe and Lachmann.  They axed out two clubs from the roots of the uprooted pines and beat this boy in turn … So through the mockery, without shovels and axes, the prisoners uprooted all the pines with the roots!”  According to the memories of surviving, prisoners hated the entire Jewish nation after that …

The Ukrainian political prisoner, Omelyan Koval, in his book “In the Catacombs of Auschwitz” (Winnipeg, 1990) recalls:

“… Two SS men passed by them.  In a moment appeared in the courtyard of the kapo bunker – Jacob.  He was a Jew – an athlete of heavy weight.  He was distinguished by an unusual strength and, therefore, the camp administration used him to torture prisoners.  Also, when hanging some prisoners publicly, in the camp, he performed the role of the executioner.  This time, as soon as he appeared in the courtyard, he asked for an order from one of the SS men, and he gave him an order of what to do with the group of torn skeletons shaking from the cold.  After hearing the order, Jacob straightened up in harmony with the SS man and exclaimed:  “Yavol, Herr bloxfurer”.  From what the SS man told Jacob, I realized that here was discussed the punishment of prisoners from one command, who, taking advantage of the absence of the SS man, left the job and were searching for something to eat.  Now they have to be punished, so that they do not do it any more.

SS men retreated to the side, and Jacob, taking a club in hand, prepared for the move.  Having put the guys in rows of five at a distance of one meter and gave the command to start.  The guys began walking slowly from place, but Jacob was not happy with this, because he cried out in a loud voice:  “Tempo, tempo, shell ir swine gunde” … and with all his strength began to strike where he could:  on the head, back, legs.  Several immediately fell bloodied, but he ran up to them and immediately began to help them with his feet.  The guys stuck out their tongues like dogs, and fled, helping each other.  Those who were exhausted, the comrades lifted them by arms.  Such a run here and there lasted for a few minutes.

After that came another kind of sport – “kniboigne-gipfen”.  Tired and depressed, this was very difficult for the prisoners.  Some, having jumped several times, fell and could not get up.  Here again the club of Jacob went to work, which he, after breaking, exchanged for a new one.  The SS men themselves did not interfere in that “sport”.  They stood a little, watched, and then got out of the yard, leaving Jacob to bring the punishment to the end … I heard the voice of one tall young man, who with eyes full of hatred threw at Jacob:  “And what does that scoundrel want from us?  For a bowl of soup, which the dogs give him, he will drive the soul out of us.  The cursed Lucifer.”  Jacob, apparently, understood something, because he now spoke in Russian:  “Who is this chatting something there?  Who is displeased – come out here.”  Everyone was silent, as if with mouths full of water, only with contempt they looked at the enraged club-Jacob.  Having repeatedly asked and not hearing an answer, Jacob rushed, as an angry bull, into a circle of weakened skeletons, and with all his strength began to strike them with the club.  Everyone scattered in the yard, but nobody could escape the punitive hand of Jacob.  A few minutes of such a walk, and almost everyone laid on the ground, bloody, or stunned.  To some after that, even first aid, in the form of winter water, did not help any.

Jacob was not walking around the battleground, with his head up, and with his nostrils wide.  Every minute he threw his eyes on the work of his hands.  From his position and the expression of his face, a sense of ease from the fulfillment of duty could be read …”

“To Auschwitz – For Ukraine!” – This is the book of the former prisoner of Auschwitz, Stepan Peletitsky.  The Nazis arrested him in the spring of 1943.  Petelitsky was tattooed with number 154922.  He was settled in the barrack 4, and he recalls that there was a Capo Jew, who beat and mocked, calling the Ukrainians “policemen”.

The Jewish police in the Westerbork concentration camp (Holland), in their collaboration with the Nazis, was brutal towards prisoners.  It consisted of the Jews of Holland and other European countries.  The members of Ordnungsdienst were responsible for guarding the block of punishments and for maintaining the general order in the concentration camp.  The Ordnungsdienst in the Westerbork concentration camp numbered 20 in mid-1942, 182 in April of 1943 and 67 in February of 1944.


Translated by:  Dmitriy Kushnir

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