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Two Eye-Witness Reports 

Washington, D.C. 

November, 1944 


It is a fact beyond denial that the Germans have deliberately 
and systematically murdered millions of innocent civilians 
— Jews and Christians alike — all over Europe. This campaign 
of terror and brutality, unprecedented in all history, even 
now continues unabated, and has been part of the German 
plan to subjugate the free peoples of the world. 

So revolting and diabolical are the German atrocities that 
the minds of civilised people find it difficult to believe that 
they have actually taken place. But the governments of the 
United States and of other countries have evidence which 
clearly substantiates the facts. 

The War Refugee Board is engaged in a desperate effort 
to save as many as possible of Hitler's intended victims. 
To facilitate its work the Board has representatives in key 
spots in Europe. These representatives have tested contacts 
throughout Europe and keep the Board fully advised con- 
cerning the German campaign of extermination and torture. 

Recently the Board received from a representative close to 
the scene two eye-witness accounts of events which occurred 

in notorious extermination camps established by the Germans. 
The first report is based upon the experiences of two young 
Slovakian Jews who escaped in April, 194 - 1 , after spending 
two years in the Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz 
and Birkenau in southwestern Poland. The second report 
is made by a non-Jewish Polish major, the only survivor 
of one group imprisoned at Auschwitz. 

The two reports were prepared independently and are 
reproduced exactly in the form they were received by th" War 
Refugee Board, except for a few deletions necessary for the 
protection of persons who may still be alive. The figures 
concerning the size of the Jewish convoys and the numbers 
of men and women admitted to the two camps cannot be taken 
as mathematically exact ; and, in fact, are declared by the 
authors to be no more than reliable approximations. They 
are accepted as such by the Board. 

The Board has every reason to believe that these reports 
present a true picture of the frightful happenings in these 
camps. It is making the reports public in the firm conviction 
that they should be read and understood by all Americans. 

November, IHI. 


The Extermination Camps of Auschwitz (Oswiecimj 
and Birkenau in Upper Silesia 

Two young Slovak Jews — whose names will not be 
disclosed for the time being in the interest of their own 
safety — were fortunate enough to escape after spending 
two years in the concentration camps of BIRKENAU, 
had been deported in 1942 from SLOVAKIA. 

One of them was seht on April 13, 1942, from the assembly 
camp of SERED directly to AUSCHWITZ and then to 
BIRKENAU, while the other was sent from the camp 
of NOVAKY to LUBLIN on June 14, 1942, and, after a 
short stay there, transferred to AUSCHWITZ and, later, 

The following report does not contain everything these 
two men experienced during their captivity, but only 
what one or both together underwent, heard, or experienced 
at first hand. No individual impressions or judgments 
are recorded and nothing passed on from hearsay. 

The report starts with the story of the young Jew who 
was removed from SERED. The account of his experiences 
in BIRKENAU begins at the time the second Jew arrived 
there and is, therefore, based on the statements of both. 
Then follows the individual narrative of the second Jew 
who was sent from NOVAKY to LUBLIN and from there 

The declarations tally with all the trustworthy yet 
fragmentary reports hitherto received, and the dates given 
with regard to transports to various camps agree with the 
official records. These statements can, therefore, be con- 
sidered as entirely credible. 


On April 13, 1942, our group, consisting of 1,000 men, 
was loaded into railroad cars at the assembly camp of 
SERED. The doors were shut so that nothing would 
reveal the direction of the journey, and when they were 
opened after along while we realized that we had crossed 
the Slovak frontier and were in ZWARDON. The train 
had until then been guarded by Hlinka men, but was now 
taken over by SS guards. After a few of the cars had been 
uncoupled from our convoy, we continued on our way, 
arriving at night at AUSCHWITZ, where we slopped 
on a sidetrack. The reason the other cars were left behind 
was apparently the lack of room at AUSCHWITZ. They 
joined us, however, a few days later. Upon arrival we 
were placed in rows of five and counted. There were 643 
of us. After a walk of about 20 minutes with our heavy 
packs (we had left Slovakia well equipped), we reached 
the concentration camp of AUSCHWITZ. 

We were at once led into a huge barrack where on the 
one side we had to deposit all our luggage and on the other 
side completely undress, leaving our clothes and valuables 
behind. Naked, we then proceeded to an adjoining barrack 
where our heads and bodies were shaved and disinfected 
with lysol. At the exit every man was given a number 
which began with 28,600 in consecutive order. With this 
number in hand we were then herded to a third barrack 
where so-called registration took place. This consisted of 
tattooing the numbers we had received in the second barrack 
on the left side of our chests. The extreme brutality with 
which this was effected made many of us faint. The par- 
ticulars of our indentity were also recorded. Then we 
were led in groups of a hundred into a cellar, and later 
to a barrack where we were issued striped prisoners’ clothes 
and wooden clogs. This lasted until 10 a.m. In the afternoon 

our prisoners’ outfits were taken away from us again and 
replaced by the ragged and dirty remains of Russian 
uniforms. Thus equipped we were marched off to 

AUSCHWITZ is a concentration camp for political 
prisoners under so-called “ protective custody.” At the 
time of my arrival, that is in April of 1942, there were 
about 15,000 prisoners in the camp, the majority of whom 
were Poles, Germans, and civilian Russians under pro- 
tective custody. A small number of prisoners came under 
the categories of criminals and “ work-shirkers.” 

AUSCHWITZ camp headquarters controls at the same 
time the work-camp of BIRKENAU as well as the farm 
labor camp of HARMENSE. All the prisoners arrive 
first at AUSCHWITZ where they are provided with 
prisoners’ immatriculation numbers and then are either 
kept there, sent to BIRKENAU or, in very small numbers, 
to HARMENSE. The prisoners receive consecutive 
numbers upon arrival. Every number is only used once 
so that the last number always corresponds to the number 
of prisoners actually in the camp. At the time of our escape, 
that is to say, at the beginning of April, 1944, the number 
had risen up to 180,000. At the outset the numbers were 
tattooed on the left breast, but later, due to their becoming 
blurred, on the left forearm. 

All prisoners, irrespective of category or nationality, 
are treated the same. However, to facilitate identification, 
they are distinguished by various coloured triangles sewed 
on the clothing on the left breast under the immatricula- 
tion number. The first letter indicates the nationality 
of the prisoner. This letter (for instance “ P ” for Poles) 
appears in the middle of the triangle. The coloured triangles 
have the following meanings : 

red triangle political prisoners under protective 

professional criminals 
“ dodgers ” (labor slackers), “ anti- 
socials ” (mostly Russians) 

members of the religious sect of “ Bibel- 

The Jewish prisoners differ from the Aryan prisoners 
in that their triangle (which in the majority of cases is 
red) is turned into a David’s star by adding yellow points. 

Within the enclosure of the camp of AUSCHWITZ 
there are several factories : a war production plant, 

Deutscher Aufriistungswerk (DAW), a factory belonging 
to the KRUPP works and one to the SIEMENS concern. 
Outside the boundary of the camp is a tremendous plant 
covering several square kilometers named “ BUNA.” 
The prisoners work in all the aforementioned factories. 

The prisoners’ actual living quarters, if such a term 
may at all be used, inside the camp proper cover an area 
of approximately 500 by 300 meters surrounded by a 
double row of concrete posts about 3 meters high which 
are connected (both inside and outside) with one another 
by a dense netting of high-tension wires fixed into the 
posts by insulators. Between these two rows of posts, 
at intervals of 150 meters, there are 5 meters high watch- 
towers, equipped with machine guns and searchlights 
In front of the inner high-tension circle there is further 
an ordinary wire fence. Merely touching this fence is 
answered by a stream of bullets from the watchtowers. 
This system is called “ the small or inner chain of sentry 
posts.” The camp itself is composed of three rows of houses. 
Between the first and second row is the camp street, and 

green „ 
black ,, 

pink ,, 
violet „ 


Though Ground Plan of Auschwitz 


—SEHTJty posts — ► X 



■^00) WO. 31 1. 


? ui 



-ROUJ wo, .jr* 


c^ywp street 


"ROUD WO. x. 













between the second and third there used to be a walL 
The Jewish girls deported from Slovakia in March and 
April, 1912, over 7,000 of them, lived in the houses 
separated by this wall up to the middle of August, 1942, 
After these girls had been removed to BIRKENAU, the 
wall between the second and third row of houses was 
removed. The camp entry road cuts across the row of 
houses, while over the entrance gate, which is, of course, 
always heavily guarded, stands the ironic inscription : 
“ Work brings freedom.” 

At a radius of some 2,000 meters the whole camp is 
encircled by a second line called “ the big or outer chain 
of sentry posts” also with watchtowers every 150 meters. 
Between the inner and outer chain of sentry posts are the 
factories and other workshops. The towers of the inner 
chain are only manned at night when the high-tension 
current is switched into the double row of wires. During 
daytime the garrison of the inner chain of sentry posts 
is withdrawn, and the men take up duty in the outer chain. 
Escape through these sentry posts — and many attempts 
have been made — is practically impossible. Getting through 
the inner circle of posts at night is completely impossible, 
and the towers of the outer chain are so dose to one another 
(one every 150 meters, i.e., giving each tower a sector 
with a 75-meter radius to watch) that approaching unnoticed 
is out of the question. The guards shoot without warning. 
The garrison of the outer chain is withdrawn at twilight, 
but only after it has been ascertained that all the prisoners 
are within the inner circle. If the roll call reveals that a 
prisoner is missing, sirens immediately sound the alarm. 

The men in the outer chain remain in their towers on 
the lookout, the inner chain is manned, and a systematic 
search is begun by hundreds of SS guards and bloodhounds. 
The siren brings the whole surrounding countryside to a 
state o f alarm, so that if by miracle the escapee has been 
successful in getting through the outer chain he is nearly 
certain to be caught by one of the numerous German police 
and SS patrols. The escapee is furthermore handicapped 
by his clean-chaven head, his striped prisoner’s outfit or 
red patches sewn on his clothing, and the passiveness of 
the thoroughly intimidated inhabitants. The mere fact 
of neglecting to give information on the whereabouts of 
a prisoner, not to speak of extending help, is punished by 
death. Provided that the prisoner has not been caught 
sooner, the garrison of the outer chain of sentry posts 
remains on the watch for three days and nights after which 
delay it is presumed that the escapee has succeeded in 
breaking through the double circle. The following night 
the outer guard is withdrawn. If the escapee is caught 
alive, he is hanged in the presence of the whole camp ; 
but if he is found dead, his body — wherever it may have 
been located — is brought back to camp (it is easy to 
identify the corpse by means of the tattooed number) 
and seated at the entrance gate, a small notice clasped 
in his hands, reading : “ Here I am.” During our two 
years’ imprisonment many attempts to escape were made 
by prisoners but, with the exception of two or three, all 
were brought back dead or alive. It is not known whether 
the two or three escapees who were not caught actually 
managed to get away. It can, however, be asserted that 
among the Jews who were deported from SLOVAKIA 
to AUSCHWITZ or BIRKENAU we are the only two 
who were lucky enough to save ourselves. 

As stated previously, we were transferred from AUSCH- 
WITZ to BIRKENAU on the day of our arrival. 

Actually there is no such district as BIRKENAU. 
Even the word BIRKENAU is new in that it has been 
” adopted ” from the nearby Birch Forest (BREZINSKY). 
The district now called BIRKENAU was, and is still, 
called “ RAJSKA ” bv the local population. The exist- 
ing camp center of BIRKENAU lies 4 kilometers distant 
from AUSCHWITZ. The outer control zones of both 

BIRKENAU and AUSCHWITZ meet and are merely 
separated by a railway track. We never found anything 
out about NEW-BERUN, probably about 30 to 40 kilo- 
meters away which, oddly enough, we had to indicate 
as postal district for BIRKENAU. 

At the time of our arrival in BIRKENAU we found 
there only one huge kitchen for 15,000 people and three 
stone buildings, two of which were completed and one 
under construction. The buildings were surrounded by 
an ordinary barbed wire fence. The prisoners were housed 
in these buildings and in others later constructed. All 
are built according to a standard model. Each house is 
about 30 meters long and 8 to 10 meter3 wide. Whereas 
the height of the walls hardly exceeds 2 meters, the roof 
is disproportionately high — about 5 meters — so that the 
house gives the impression of i stable surmounted by a 
large hayloft. There is no inner ceiling, so that the room 
reaches a height of 7 meters in the center ; in other words 
the pointed roofing rests directly on the four walls. The 
room is divided in two by a partition running its whole 
length down the middle and fitted with an opening to 
enable communication between the two parts thu3 
separated. Along both side walls, as well as along the 
middle partition, two parallel floors, some 80 centimeters 
apart, have been built which are in turn divided into small 
cells by vertical partitions. Thus there are three flo irs : 
the ground floor and the two built in the side walls. Normally 
three people live in each cubicle. As can be judged from 
the dimensions indicated, these cubicles are too narrow 
for a man to lie stretched out and not high enough for him 
to sit upright. There is no question of having enough 
space to stand upright. In this way some 400 to 500 people 
are accommodated in one house or “ block,” as they are 
also called. 

The present camp of BIRKENAU covers an area of 
some 1,600 by 500 meters which is surrounded — similar 
to AUSCHWITZ — by a so-called small or inner chain of 
sentry posts. Work is now proceeding on a still larger 
compound which is to be added later on to the already 
existing camp. The purpose of this extensive planning 
is not known to us. 

Within a radius of 2 kilometers, as with AUSCHWITZ, 
BIRKENAU is also surrounded by an outer chain of 
sentry posts with the same type of watch system as at 

The buildings we found on our arrival had been erected 
by 12,000 Russian prisoners of war brought there in 
December, 1941. In severe winter weather they had to 
work under inhuman conditions as a result of which most 
of them, with the exception of a small number employed 
in the kitchen, died of exposure. They were numbered 
from 1 to 12,000 in a series which had no connection with 
the ordinary camp numbering system previously described. 
Whenever fresh convoys of Russian prisoners arrived, 
they were not issued the current AUSCHWITZ prisoner 
numbers, but received those of deceased Russians in the 
1 to 12,000 series. It is, therefore, difficult to estimate 
how many prisoners of this category passed through the 
camp. Apparently Russians were transferred to AUSCH- 
WITZ or BIRKENAU on disciplinary grounds from 
regular prisoner-of-war camp3. We found what remiined 
of the Russians in a terrible state of destitution and neglect 
living in the unfinished building without the slightest 
protection against cold or rain. They died en matte 
Hundreds and thousands of their bodies were buried 
superficially, spreading a stench of pestilence. Later we 
had to exhume and burn the corpses. 

A week before our arrival in AUSCHWITZ the first 
group of Jews reached the camp : (the women were dealt 
with separately and received numbers parallel to those 
of the men: the Slovak women receive,] - n il n , 

from 1 to 8,000) 1,320 naturalized French Jews from Paris. 


They were numbered from 27,500 onwards. It is clear, 
therefore, that between this French group and our convoy 
no other men arrived in AUSCHWITZ, since we have 
already pointed out that our numbers started with 28,600. 
We found the 700 French Jews who were still alive in 
terrible condition, the missing 600 having died within a 
week after their arrival. 

The following categories were housed in the three 
completed buildings : 

I. The co-called “ prominencia ” : professional 

criminals and older Polish political prisoners who 
were in charge of the administration of the camp. 

II. The remainder of the French Jews, namely some 

III. The 643 original Slovak Jews to whom were added 
a few days later those who had been left at 

IV. Those Russians who were still alive and housed 
in the unfinished building as well as in the open 
air and whose numbers diminished so rapidly 
that as a group they are scarcely worth mentioning. 

Together with the remaining Russian prisoners the 
Slovak Jews worked at the construction of buildings, 
whereas the French Jews had to do spade work. After 
three days I was ordered, together with 200 other Slovak 
Jews, to work in the German armament factories at 
AUSCHWITZ, but we continued to be housed at 

We left early in the morning, returning at night, and 
worked in the carpentry shop as well as on road con- 
struction. Our food consisted of one litre of turnip soup 
at midday and 300 grams of bad bread in the evening. 
Working conditions were inconceivably hard, so that the 
majority of us, weakened by starvation and the inedible 
food, could not stand it. The mortality was so high that 
every day our group of 200 had 30 to 35 dead. Many were 
simply beaten to death by the overseers — the “ Capos ” 
— during work, without the slightest provocation. The 
gaps in our ranks caused by these deaths were replaced 
daily by prisoners from BIRKENAU. 

Our return at night was extremely painful and dangerous, 
as we had to drag along over a distance of 5 kilometers 
our tools, firewood, heavy caldrons, and the bodies of 
those who had died or had been killed during the working 
day. With these heavy loads we were forced to maintain 
a brisk pace, and anyone incurring the displeasure of one 
of the “ Capos ” was cruelly knocked down, if not beaten 
to death. Until the arrival of the second group of Slovak 
men some 14 days later, our original number had dwindled 
to 150. 

At night we were counted, the bodies of the dead were 
piled up on flat, narrow-gauge cars or in a truck and brought 
to the Birch Forest (BREZINSKY) where they were 
burned in a trench several meters deep and about 15 meters 
long. Every day on our way to work we met a working 
party of 300 Jewish girls from Slovakia who were employed 
on ground work in the vicinity. They were dressed in 
old Russian uniform rags and wore wooden clogs. Their 
heads were shaven and, unfortunately, we could not speak 
to them. 

Until the middle of May, 1942, a total of four convoys 
of male Jews from Slovakia arrived at BIRKENAU and 
all received similar treatment to ours. 

From the first and second transports 120 men were 
chosen (including myself) and placed at the disposal of 
the administration of the camp of AUSCHWITZ, which 
was in need of doctors, dentists, intellectuals, and clerks. 
This group consisted of 90 Slovak and 30 French Jews. 
As I had in the meantime managed to work my way up 
to a good position in BIRKENAU — being in command 

of a group of 50 men, which had brought me considerable 
advantage — I, at first, felt reluctant to leave for AUSCH- 
WITZ. However, I was finally persuaded to go and left. 

After eight days, 18 doctors and attendants as well as 
three further persons were selected from this group of 
120 intellectuals. The doctors were used in the “ sick 
building ” or “ hospital ” at AUSCHWITZ, while we 
three were sent back to BIRKENAU. My two comrades, 
Ladislav Braun from Trnava and Gross from Vrbovfi, 
both of whom have since died, were sent to the Slovak 
block while I was ordered to the French section where 
we were employed at collecting “ personal data ” and at 
“nursing the sick.” The remaining 99 persons were sent 
to work in the gravel pit where they all died within a short 

Shortly thereafter a so-called “ sick-building ” (Kranken- 
bau) was set up. It was destined to become the much 
dreaded “ Block 7 ” where at first I was chief attendant 
and later administrator. The chief of this “ infirmary ” 
was a Pole. Actually this building was nothing else than 
an assembly centre for death candidates. All prisoners 
incapable of working were sent there. There was no question 
of any medical attention or care. We had some 150 dead 
daily and their bodies were sent for cremation to AUSCH- 

At the same time the so-called “ selections ” were intro- 
duced. Twice weekly, Mondays and Thursdays, the camp 
doctor indicated the number of prisoners who were to be 
gassed and then burned. These “ selectees ” were loaded 
into trucks and brought to the Birch Forest. Those still 
alive upon arrival were gassed in a big barrack erected 
near the trench used for burning the bodies. The weekly 
" draft ” in dead from “ Block 7 ” was about 2,000, of 
whom 1,200 died a “ natural death ” and about 800 through 
“ selection.” For those who had not been “ selected ” a 
death certificate was issued and sent to the central adminis- 
tration at ORANIENBURG, whereas for the “ selectees ” 
a special register was kept with the indication “ S.B.” 
(“ Sonderbehandelt ” — special treatment). Until January 
15, 1943, up to which time I was administrator of “ Block 
7.” and therefore in a position to directly observe happen- 
ings, some 50,000 prisoners died of “ natural death ” or 
by “ selection.” 

As previously described, the prisoners were numbered 
consecutively so that we are able to reconstruct fairly 
clearly their order of succession and the fate which befel 
each separate convoy on arrival. 

The first male Jewish transport reaching AUSCHWITZ 
for BIRKENAU was composed, as mentioned, of 1,320 
naturalized French Jews bearing approximately the follow- 
ing numbers : 

27,400—28,600 : 

28.600— 29,600 : 

In April, 1942, the first convoy of Slovak Jews (our 

29.600— 29,700: 

100 men (Aryans) from various concentration camps. 

29.700— 32,700 : 

3 complete convoys of Slovak Jews. 

32.700— 33,100: 

400 professional criminals (Aryans) from Warsaw 

33,100—35,000 : 

1,900 Jews from Cracow. 

35.000— 36,000 : 

1,000 Poles (Aryans) — political prisoners. 

36.000— 37,300 : 

In May, 1942 — 1,300 Slovak Jews from LUBLIN- 

37,300—37,900 : 

600 Poles (Aryans) from RADOM, amongst them 
a few Jews. 


37,900—38,000 : 

100 Poles from the concentration camp of DACHAU. 

38.000— 38,400 : 

400 French naturalized Jews who arrived with their 

This whole convoy consisted of about 1,600 individuals 
of whom approximately 200 girls and 400 men were admitted 
to the camp, while the remaining 1,000 persons (women, 
old people, children as well as men) were sent without 
further procedure from the railroad siding directly .to the 
Birch Forest, and there gassed and burned. From this 
moment on all Jewish convoys were dealt with in the same 
manner. Approximately 10 percent of the men and 5 
percent of the women were allotted to the camps and the 
remaining members were immediately gassed. This process 
of extermination had already been applied earlier to the 
Polish Jews. During long months, without interruption, 
trucks brought thousands of Jews from the various 
“ ghettos ” direct to the pit in the “ Birkenwald.” 
38,400—39,200 : 

800 naturalized French Jews, the remainder of the 
convoy was — as previously described — gassed. 

39.200— 40,000 : 

800 Poles (Aryaus),ypolitical prisoners. 

40.000— 40,150: 

150 Slovak Jews with their families. Outside of a 
group of 50 girls sent to the women’s camp, all other 
members were gassed in the Birch Forest. Among 
the 150 men who came to camp there were a certain 
Zucker (Christian name unknown) and Sonnenschein, 
Viliam, both from Eastern Slovakia. 

40,150—43,800 : 

Approximately 4,000 French naturalized Jews, almost 
all intellectuals ; 1,000 women were directed to the 
women’s camp, while the balance of about 3,000 
persons were gassed in the usual manner. 
43,800—44,200 : 

400 Slovak Jews from LUBLIN, including Matej 
Klein and No. 43820, Meiloch Laufer from Eastern 
Slovakia. This convoy arrived on June 30, 1942. 

44.200— 45,000 : 

200 Slovak Jews. The convoy consisted of 1,000 
persons. A number of women were sent to the women’s 
camp, the rest gassed in the Birch Wood. Among 
the prisoners sent to camp were : Jozef Zelmanovic, 
Snina ; Adolf Kahan, Bratislava ; Walter Reichmann, 
Sucany ; Esther Kahan, Bratislava. 

45.000— 47,000 : 

2,000 Frenchmen (Aryans), communists and other 
political prisoners, among whom were the brother of 
Thorez and the young brother of Leon Blum. The 
latter was atrociously tortured, then gassed and burned. 

47.000— 47,500 : 

500 Jews from Holland, in the majority German 
emigrants. The rest of the convoy, about 2,500 persons, 

47,500—47,800 : 

About 300 so-called Russians under protective custody. 
48,300—48,620 : 

320 Jews from Slovakia. About 70 girls were trans- 
ferred to the woman’s camp, the remainder, some 
650 people, gassed in the Birch Wood. This convoy 
included about 80 people who had been handed over 
by the Hungarian police to the camp of SERED. 
Others from this convoy were : Dr. Zoltan Mandel 
(since deceased); Holz (Christian name unknown), 
butcher from Piestany ; Miklos Engel, Zilina ; Chaim 
Katz, Snina (his wife and 6 children were gassed). 

49.000— 64,800 : 

15,000 naturalized French, Belgian, and Dutch Jews. 
This figure certainly represents less than 10 percent 
of the total convoy. This was between July 1 and 
September 15, 1942. Large family convoys arrived 
from various European countries and were at' once 
directed to the Birch Wood. The special Squad 
(“ Sonderkommando ”) employed for gassing and 
burning worked in day and night shifts.: Hundreds 

of thousands of Jews were gassed during this period. 
64,800—65,000 : 

200 Slovak Jews. Out of this transport about 100 
women were admitted to the camp, the rest of them 
gassed and burned. Among the newly arrived were : 
Ludwig Katz, Zilina ; Avri Burger, Bratislava ; 
Poprad (wife dead); Mikulas Steiner, Povazska 
Bystrica; Juraj Fried, Trencin ; Buchwald ; Josef 
Rosenwasser, Eastern Slovakia ; Julius. Newman, 
Bardejov; Sandor Wertheimer, Vrbove ; Misi Wer- 
theimer, Vrbove ; Bela Vlau, Zilina. 

65.000— 68,000 : 

Naturalized French, Belgian, and Dutch Jews. Not 
more than 1,000 women were “selected” and sent 
to the camp. The others, at the lowest estimate 
30,000, were gassed. 

71.000— 80,000 : 

Naturalized French, Belgian, and Dutch Jews. The 
prisoners brought to the camp hardly represent' 10 
percent of the total transport. A conservative estimate 
would be that approximately 65,000 to 70,000 persons 
were gassed. 

On December 17, 1942, the 200 young Slovak Jews, 
the so-called “ special squad ” employed in gassing and 
burning the condemned, were in turn executed at 
BIRKENAU. They were executed for having' planned to 
mutiny and escape. A Jew betrayed their preparations. 
This frightful job had to be taken over by a group of 200. 
Polish Jews who had just arrived at camp from MAKOW. 

The men belonging to the “ special squad ” lived 
separately. On account of the dreadful smell spread by 
them, people had but little contact with them. Besides 
they were always filthy, destitute, half wild and extra- 
ordinarily brutal and ruthless. It was not uncommon 
to see one of them kill another. This was considered by the 
others a sensation, a change. One simply recorded that 
number so-and-so had died. 

Once I was an eye-witness when a young Polish Jew 
named Jossel demonstrated “scientific” murder on a 
Jew in the presence of an SS guard. He used no weapon, 
merely his bare hands, to kill his victim. 

No. 80,000 marks the beginning of the systematic 
extermination of the Polish ghettos. 

80.00Q— 85,000 : 

Approximately 5,000 Jews from various ghettos in 

For fully 30 days truck-convoys arrived without 
interruption. Only 5,000 persons were sent to the 
concentration camp ; all the others were gassed at 
once. The “ special squad ” worked in two shifts, 
24 hours daily and was scarcely able to cope with the 
gassing and burning. Without exaggerating it may 
be said that out of these convoys some 80,000 to 

90.000 received “ special treatment.” These transports 
also brought in a considerable amount of money, 
valuables, and precious stones. 

85,000—92,000 : 

6.000 Jews from GRODNO, BIALOSTOK and 
CRACOW as well as 1,000 Aryan Poles. The majority 
of the Jewish convoys were directly gaMed and d ill) 
about 4,000 Jews were driven into the gas ebnbmer-. 


During mid-January, 1943, three convoys of 2,000 
persons each from THERESIENSTADT arrived. 
They bore the designations “ CU,” “ CR ” and “ R.” 
(The meaning of these signs is unknown to us.) These 
markings were also stamped on their luggage. Out 
of these 6,000 persons only 600 men and 300 women 
were admitted to the camp. The remainder were 

99.000— 100,000: 

End of January, 1943, large convoys of French and 
Dutch Jews arrived ; only a small proportion of them 
reached the camp. 

100.000— 102,000: 

Jn February, 1943, 2,000 Aryan Poles, mostly 

102.000— 103,000: 

700 Czech Aryans. Later, those still alive were sent 

103.000— 108,000 : 

3,000 French and Dutch Jews and 2,000 Poles 

During the month of February, 1943, two contingents 
arrived daily. They included Polish, French, and Dutch 
Jews who, in the main, were sent to the gas chambers. 
The number gassed during this month can well be 
estimated at 90,000. 

At the end of February, 1943, a new modern crematorium 
and gassing plant was inaugurated at BIRKENAU. The 
gassing and burning of the bodies in the Birch Forest 
was discontinued, the whole job being taken over by the 
four specially built crematoria. The large ditch was filled 
in, the ground levelled, and the ashes used as before for 
fertilizer at the farm labour camp of HERMENSE, so 
that today it is almost impossible to find traces of the 
dreadful mass murder which took place here. 

At present there are four crematoria in operation at 
BIRKENAU, two large ones, I and II, and two smaller 
ones, III and IV. Those of type I and II consist of 3 parts, 
i.e. : (A) the furnace room ; (B) the large hall ; and (C) 
the gas chamber. A huge chimney rises from the furnace 
room around which are grouped nine furnaces, each having 
four openings. Each opening can take three normal corpses 
at once and after an hour and a half the bodies are com- 
pletely burned. This corresponds to a daily capacity of 
about 2,000 bodies. Next to this is a large “ reception 
hall ” which is arranged so as to give the impression of 
the antechamber of a bathing establishment. It holds 

2,000 people and apparently there is a similar waiting room 

on the floor below. From there a door and a few steps 
lead down into the very long and narrow gas chamber. 
The walls of this chamber are also camouflaged with 
simulated entries to shower rooms in order to mislead the 
victims. The roof is fitted with three traps which can 
be hermetically closed from the outside. A track leads 
from the gas chamber towards the furnace room. The 
gassing takes place as follows : the unfortunate victims 
are brought into hall (B) where they are told to undress. 
To complete the fiction that they are going to bathe, each 
person receives a towel and a small piece of soap issued 
by two men clad in white coats. Then they are crowded 
into the gas chamber (C) in such numbers that there is, 
of course, only standing room. To compress this crowd 
into the narrow space, shots are often fired to induce those 
already at the far end to huddle still closer together. When 
everybody is inside, the heavy doors are closed. Then there 
is a short pause, presumably to allow the room temperature 
to rise to a certain level, after which SS men with gas 
masks climb on the roof, open the traps, and shake down 
a preparation in powder form out of tin cans labelled 
“ CYKLON ” “ For use against vermin,” which is manu- 
factured by a Hamburg concern. It is presumed that this 
is a “ CYANIDE ” mixture of some sort which turns into 
gas at a certain temperature. After three minutes everyone 
in the chamber is dead. No one is known to have survived 
this ordeal, although it was not uncommon to discover 
signs of life after the primitive measures employed in the 
Birch Wood. The chamber is then opened, aired, and the 
“ special squad ” carts the bodies on flat trucks to the 
furnace rooms where the burning takes place. Crematoria 
III and IV work on nearly the same principle, but their 
capacity is only half as large. Thus the total capacity 
of the four cremating and gassing plants at BIRKENAU 
amounts to about 6,000 daily. 

On principle only Jews are gassed ; Aryans very seldom, 
as they are usually given “ special treatment ” by shooting. 
Before the crematoria were put into service, the shooting 
took place in the Birch Wood and the bodies were burned 
in the long trench ; later, however, executions took place 
in the large hall of one of the crematoria which has been 
provided with a special installation for this purpose. 

Prominent guests from BERLIN were present at the 
inauguration of the first crematorium in March, 1943. 
The “ program ” consisted of the gassing and burning of 

8,000 Cracow Jews. The guests, both officers and civilians, 
were extremely satisfied with the results and . the special 
peephole fitted into the door of the gas chamber was in 
constant use. They were lavish in their praise of this newly 
erected installation. 

Rough Ground Plan of 


109.000— 119,000: 

At the beginning of March, 1943, 45,000 Jews arrived 
from Saloniki. 10,000 of them came to the camp, 
including a small percentage of the women ; some 
30,000, however, went straight to the cremating 
establishment. Of the 10,000 nearly all died a short 
time later from a contagious illness resembling malaria. 
They also died of typhus due to the general conditions 
prevailing in the camp. 

Malaria among the Jews and typhus took such toll 
among the prisoners in general that the “ selections ” were 
temporarily suspended. The contaminated Greek Jews 
were ordered to present themselves and in spite of our 
repeated warnings many of them did. They were all killed 
by intracardial phenol injections administered by a lance- 
corporal of the medical corps. 

Out of the 10,000 Greek Jews, some 1,000 men remained 
alive and were later sent, together with 500 other Jews, 
to do fortification work in Warsaw. A few weeks later 
several hundred came back in a pitiful state and were 
immediately gassed. The remainder presumably died in 
Warsaw. Foui hundred Greek Jews suffering from malaria 
were sent for “ further treatment ” to LUBLIN after 
the phenol injections had been stopped, and it appears 
that they actually arrived* Their fate is not known to 
us, but it can be taken for granted that out of the original 
number of 10,000 Jews not one eventually remained in 
the camp. 

Simultaneously with the stopping of the “ selections ” 
the murdering of prisoners was forbidden. Prominent 
murderers such as: the Reich German professional criminals 
Alexander Neumann, Zimmer, Albert Haemmerel, Rudi 
Osteringer, Rudi Bechert, and the political prisoners 
Alfred Kien and Alois Stahler, were punished for repeated 
murder and had to make written declaration that they had 
killed so and so many prisoners. 

At the beginning of 1943 the political section of AUSCH- 
WITZ received 500,000 discharge certificates and we 
thought with ill-concealed joy, that at least a few of us 
would be liberated. But the forms were simply filled out 
with the names of those gassed and filed away in the 

119.000— 120,000: 

1.000 Poles (Aryans) from the PAWIAK penitentiary 
in Warsaw. 

120.000— 123,000 : 

3.000 Greek Jews, part of whom were sent to replace 
their comrades in Warsaw. The remainder quickly 
died off. 

123.000— 124,000: 

1.000 Poles (Aryans) from RADOM and TARNOW. 

124.000— 126,000 : 

2.000 from mixed Aryan convoys. 

In the meantime, ceaseless convoys of Polish and a 
few French and Belgian Jews arrived and, without excep- 
tion, were dispatched to the gas chambers. Among them 
was a transport of 1,000 Polish Jews from MAJDANEK 
which included three Slovaks, one of whom was a certain 
Spira from Stropkow or Vranov. 

The flow of convoys abruptly ceased at the end of July* 
1943, and there was a short breathing space. The crematoria 
were thoroughly cleaned, the installations repaired and 
prepared for further use. On August 3 the killing machine 
again went into operation. The first convoys consisted 
of Jews from BENZBURG and SOSNOWITZ and others 
followed during the whole month of August. 

132.000— 136,000: 

Only 4,000 men and a very small number of women 
were brought to the camp. Over 35,000 were gassed. 

Of the aforementioned 4.000 men, many died as a 
result of bad treatment, hunger or illness ; some 
were even murdered. The main responsibility for 
these tragedies lies with the criminal TYN (a Reich 
German) from the concentration camp of SACH- 
SENHAUSEN and the Polish political prisoner No. 
8516, Mieczislav KETERZINSKI, from Warsaw. 

The “ selections ” were introduced again and this 
time to a murderous extent, especially in the women’s 
camp. The camp doctor, an SS “ Hauptsturmfiihrer ” 
and the son or nephew of the police president of Berlin 
(we forget his name) outdid all the others in brutality. 
The selection system has been continued ever since, 
until our escape. 

137.000— 138,000 : 

At the end of August 1,000 Poles came from the • 
PAWIAK prison and 80 Jews from Greece. 

138.000— 141,000 : 

3,000 men from various Aryan transports. 

142.000— 145,000: 

At the beginning of September, 1943, 3,000 Jews 
arrived from Polish working camps and Russian 
prisoners of war. 

148.000— 152,000 : 

During the week following September 7, 1943, family 
transports of Jews arrived from THERESIEN- 
STADT. They enjoyed quite an exceptional status 
which was incomprehensible to us. The families were 
not separated and not a single one of them received 
the customary and “ normal ” gas treatment. Their 
heads were not even shaven, they were able to keep 
their luggage, and were lodged in a separate section 
of the camp, men, women and children together. 
The men were not forced to work and a school was 
even set up for the children under the direction of 
Fredy HIRSCH (Makabi, Prague). They were allowed 
to correspond freely. The worst they had to undergo 
was mistreatment at the hands of their “ camp 
eldest,” a certain professional criminal by the name 
of Arno BOHM, prisoner No. 8. Our astonishment 
increased when we learned of the official indication 
given to this special transport : 

“ SB ” — transport of Czech Jews with six months’ 
quarantine — 

We very well knew what “ SB ” meant (“ Sonder- 
behandlung ”), but could not understand the long 
period of six months’ quarantine and the generally 
clement treatment this group received. The longest 
quarantine period we had witnessed so far was only 
three weeks. Towards the end of the six months’ 
period, however, we became convinced that the fate 
of these Jews would be the same as that of most of 
the others — the gas chamber. We tried to get in touch 
with the leader of this group and explain their lot 
and what they had to expect. Some of them declared 
(especially Fredy HIRSCH who seemed to enjoy the 
full confidence of his companions) that if our fears 
took shape they would organize resistance. Thus, 
some of them hoped to instigate a general revolt iD 
the camp. On March 6, 1944, we heard that the cre- 
matoria were being prepared to receive the Czech Jews. 
I hastened to inform Fredy HIRSCH and begged him 
to take immediate action as they had nothing to lose. 
He replied that he recognized his duty. Before night- 
fall I again crept over to the Czech camn wher ■ I 
learned that Fredy HIRSCH was dying: he had poisoned 
himself with luminol. The next day, March 7 1944, he 
was taken, unconscious, along with his, 3791 comrades 
who had arrived at BIRKENAU on September 7. 
1943, on trucks, to the crematoria and gassed. The 
young people went to their death singing, but to our 


' great disappointment nobody revolted. Some 500 
elderly people died during quarantine. Of all. these 
Jews only 11 twins were left alive. They are being 
i subjected to various medical tests at AUSCHWITZ, 
and when we left BIRICENAU they were still alive. 
Among the gassed was Rozsi FURST, from SERED. 
A week before the gassing, that is to say on March 1, 
1944, everyone in the Czech group in the camp had 
been asked to inform his relatives about his well being. 
The letters had to be dated March 23 to 25, 1944, and 
they were requested to ask for food parcels. 

, 153,000—154.000 : 

1,000 Polish Aryans from the PAVIAK penitentiary. 

155.000— 159.000: 

During October and November, 1943, 4,000 persons 
from various prisons and smaller transports of Jews 
from BENZBURG and vicinity, who had been driven 
out of their hiding places ; also a group of Russians 
under protective custody from the MINSK and 
VITEBSK regions. Some more Russian prisoners of 
,war arrived and, as stated, they as usual received 
numbers between 1 and 12,000. 

160.000— 165,000 : 

In December, 1943, 5,000 men originating from Dutch, 
French, Belgian transports and, f6r the first time, 
Italian Jews from FIUME, TRIESTE and ROME. 
Of these at least 30,000 were immediately gassed. 
The mortality among these Jews was very high and, 

, 'in addition, the “ selection ” system was still deci- 
mating all ranks. The bestiality of the whole procedure 
reached its culminating point between January 10 and 
24, 1944, when even young and healthy persons, irre- 
spective of profession or working classification — with 
the exception of doctors — were ruthlessly “ selected.” 
Every single prisoner was called up, a strict control 

h — 800 meters h h® — 

was established to see that all were present, and the 
*" selection ” proceeded under the supervision of the 
same camp doctor (son or nephew of the Police Presi- 
dent of Berlin) and of the Commandant of BIRKENAU, 
SS “ Untersturmfuhrer ” SCHWARZHUBER. The 
“ infirmary ” had in the meantime been transferred 
from “ Block 7 ” to a separate section of the camp 
where conditions had become quite bearable. Its 
inmates, nevertheless, were gassed to the last man. 
Apart from this group, this general action cost some 
2,500 men and over 6,000 women their lives. 

165.000— 168,000 : 

On December 20, 1943, a further group of 3,000 Jews 
arrived from THERESIENSTADT. The convoy was 
listed under the same category as the one which had 
reached the camp on September 7, i.e. “ SB ” — trans- 
port, Czech Jews with six months’ quarantine.” On 
their arrival, men, women and children all joined the 
September group. They enjoyed the same privileges 
as their predecessors. Twenty-four hours before the 
gassing of the first group took place, the latest arrivals 
were separated from the rest and placed in another 
part of the camp where they still are at present. Their 
quarantine ends on June 20, 1944. 

169.000— 170.000: 

1,000 people in small groups, Jews, Poles and Russians 
under protective custody. 

170.000— 171,000 : 

1.000 Poles and Russians and a number of Yugoslavs. 

171.000— 174,000 ; 

At the end of February and beginning of March, 

3.000 Jews from Holland, Belgium, and for the first 
time long-established French Jews (not naturalized) 
from VICHY, in France. The greater part of this 
transport was gassed immediately upon arrival. 

800 meters h 






, — , CREM .g 



0 0 = 

1 C fit EM JR 






Jews, who had been dragged from hiding, arrived in the 
middle of March. One of them told me that many Polish 
Jews were crossing over to Slovakia and from there to 
Hungary, and that the Slovak Jews helped them on their 
way through. 

After the gassing of the THERESIENSTADT transport 
there were no further arrivals until March 15, 1944. The 
effective strength of the camp rapidly diminished and 
men of later incoming transports, especially Dutch Jews, 
were directed to the camp. When we left on April 7, 1944 
we, heard that large convoys of Greek Jews were expected. 

The camp of BIRKENAU consists of three building 
areas. At present only sections I and II are guarded by the 
inner chain of sentry posts, whereas section III is still under 
construction and uninhabited. At the time of our departure 
from the camp (the beginning of April, 1944), the following 
categories of prisoners were in BIRKENAU : 

Section I (Women’s Concentration Camp) 







la and lb 




In addition to the 




300 Slovak Jewish 
girls, app. 100 are 
employed in the 
administrat io n 
building of 

Section II (Women’s Concentration Camp) 







Ha Quaran- 2 

tine camp 





One of the two 
Slovak Jews is 
Dr. Andreas 
MULLER from 
Podolinec (block 

lib Jews from — 




With a six month* 


lie At present — 



lid “ Stamm- 58 






He Gypsy — 




This is the remainder 
of some 16,000 
gypsies. They are 
not used for work 
and die off rapidly. 

Ilf Infirmary 6 





The six Slovak Jews 
are all employees 
of the building, 
namely : 

No. 36,832 Walter SPITZER, block eldest from 
NEMSOVA, came to LUBLIN from 

„ 29,867 Jozef NEUMANN (“overseer” of the 
“ corpse crew ” ) from SNINA. 

„ 44,989 Josef ZEOMANOVIC, “ staff ” from 

— Cham KATZ, “staff” from SNINA. 

No. 30,049 Ludwig SOLMANN, “ clerk ” from KES- 

„ 32,407 Ludwig EISENSTADTER, tattooist from 

The internal administration of the camp of BIRKENAU 
' is run by specially selected prisoners. The “blocks” are 
not inhabited according to nationalities, but rather according 
to working categories. Each block is supervised by a staff 
of five, i.e., a block eldest, a block recorder, a male nurse, 
and two attendants. 

The block eldest 

He wears an arm band with the number of his block, 
and is responsible for order there. He has power over life 
and death. Until February, 1944, nearly 50 percent of 
the block eldests were Jews, but this was stopped by order 
of BERLIN. They all had to resign with the exception 
of three Jews who, in spite of this order, were able to keep 
their posts. 

The black recorder 

He is the block eldest’s right hand, does all the clerical 
work, keeping the index cards and records. His work is 
of great responsibility and he has to keep his ledgers with 
painful exactitude as the index cards only indicate the 
number and not the name of the prisoners ; errors are 
fatal. For instance, if the recorder has noted down a death 
by mistake — and this often occurs with the unusually 
high mortality — the discrepancy is simply straightened 
out by killing the bearer of the corresponding number. 
Corrections are not admitted. The block recorder occupies 
a key post which is often mis used. 

Nursing and “ room ” duties 

They consist in keeping the inside of the barracks clean 
and carrying out small manual jobs in and around the block. 
Of course there is no question of really taking care of the 

The camp eldest supervises the whole camp ; he is also 
a prisoner. This post is at present held by : 

Franz DANISCH, No. 11,182, a political prisoner, 
from KONIGSHceTTE, Upper Silesia. He is undisputed 
master of the whole camp and has power to nominate 
or dismiss block eldests and block-recorders, hand out 
jobs, etc. 

Further we have a “ chief recorder ” whose position is 
undoubtedly one of the most powerful in the camp. He 
is in direct contact with camp headquarters, receiving 
their orders and reporting on all matters. All camp 
recorders are directly subordinated to him and have to 
submit all their reports to him. The chief recorder of 

Kasimir GORK, No. 31,029, a Pole from WARSAW, 
a former bank clerk. 

The supreme control over the blocks lies in the hands 
of six to eight “ block leaders,” all SS men. Every night 
they hold roll call, the result of which is communicated to : 
The Camp Leader, “ Untersturmfiihrer ” SCHWAR- 
ZHUBER, from the Tyrol. This individual is an alcoholic 
and a sadist. Over him is the camp commander who 
also controls AUSCHWITZ where there is a second 
subordinate camp leader. The camp commander’s 
name is : HOESS. 

The Chief of a work squad or group is called the “ Capo.” 
During work the “ Capo ” has full authority over his 
group of prisoners and not infrequently one of these 
“ Capos ” kills a man working under him. In larger squads 
there may be several “ Capos ” who are then under the 
orders of a “ Capo-in-chief.” At first there were many 
Jewish “ Capos,” but an order from BERLIN prohibited 
their being employed. 

Supreme control over work is carried out by German 



On June 14, 1942, we left NOVAKY, passed through 
ZILINA and arrived at ZWARDON toward 5 o’clock 
in the evening. We were assembled, counted, and SS men 
took over our convoy. One of these guards voiced his 
surprise at the fact that we had made the journey without 
water, by shouting : “ Those Slovak barbarians, give 

them no water 1 ” The journey continued and we reached 
LUBLIN two days later. Here the following order was 
issued : “ Those fit for work aged between 15 and 50 are 
to leave the cars. Children and old people remain.” We 
struggled out of the freight car and discovered that the 
station was surrounded by Lithuanians in SS uniforms, 
all armed with automatic pistols. The cars containing 
the children and old people were immediately closed and 
the train moved on. We do not know where they went 
and what happened to them. 

The SS troop leader in command informed us that we 
had a long way ahead of us, but that whoever wanted to 
take his luggage with him could do so. Those who pre- 
ferred to put it on a truck would certainly receive it later. 
So some of us dragged along our luggage, whereas others 
loaded it on the truck. 

Behind the town stood a clothing factory called the 
“ Bekleidungswerke.” In the courtyard waiting for their 
noon meal some 1,000 prisoners in dirty striped clothing, 
obviously Jews, were lined up and the sight of them was 
none too encouraging. Arriving on a small hill we suddenly 
sighted the vast barrack camp of MAJDANEK surrounded 
by a 3-meter-high barbed-wire fence. No sooner had we 
gone through the entrance gate than I met a prisoner 
who warned me that all our personal belongings would be 
taken away. Around us stood Slovak Jews in a wretched 
condition, their heads shaven, in dirty prison clothes and 
wooden clogs or 6imply bare-footed, many of them having 
swollen feet. They begged us for food and we gave them 
what we could spare, knowing very well that everything 
would be confiscated anyway. We were then conducted 
to the stock room where we had to leave everything we 
possessed. At double time we were herded into another 
barrack where we had to undress, were shaved, and given 
a shower. After this we were issued convict outfits, wooden 
clogs and caps. 

I was assigned to “ working section No. 2 ” as the whole 
camp was divided into three such sections separated by 
wire fences. Section No. 2 was occupied by a number of 
Slovak and Czech Jews. For two full days we were taught 
how to remove and put on our caps when we met a German. 
Then in the pouring rain we practised roll-calling for hours. 

The barrack accommodations were quite original to say 
the least. Three long tables (nearly as long as the barrack 
itself) had been placed one on top of the other. These 
comprised our “ bunks ” (4 floors of them, that is ground 
floor plus the three tables). A small passage was kept 
open along the walls. 

Our food consisted of a fairly thick “ soup ” early in 
the morning which had to be eaten with the hands. We 
got the same soup again at lunch. The evening meal con- 
sisted of a brew called “ tea,” 300 grams of bad bread 
and some 20 to 30 grams of marmalade or artificial fat 
of the worst quality. 

Great importance was attributed during the first few days 
to the learning of the “ camp song.” For hours we stood 
singing : 

From the whole of Europe came 
We Jews of Lublin, 

Much work has to be done 
And this is the beginning. 

To manage this duty 
Forget all about the past. 

For in fulfilment of duty 
There is community. 

Therefore on to work with vigour. 

Let everyone play his part. 

Together we want to work 
At the same pace and rhythm. 

Not all will understand 
Why we stand here in rows. 

Those must we soon force 
To understand its meaning. 

Modern times must teach us. 

Teach us all along. 

That it is to work 

And only to work we belong. 

Therefore on to work with vigour. 

Let everyone play his part. 

Together we want to work 
At the same pace and rhythm. 

(This is a literal translation of the song.) 

Working section No. I was occupied by Slovak Jews. 

„ ,, ,, II ,, „ Slovak and 

Czech Jews. 

,, ,, ,, III ,, ,, Partisans. 

Working sections Nos. IV & V were being built by the Jews 
of Sectors I and II. 

The Partisans in Section III were locked up in thei r 
barracks without having to work and their food was thrown 
at them as if they had been dogs. They died in great numbers 
in their over-crowded barracks and were shot at the slightest 
excuse by the guards who did not dare venture too near 

The “ Capos ” were Reich Germans and Czechs ; whereas 
the Germans were brutal, the Czechs helped wherever 
they could. The camp eldest was a gypsy from HOLIC 
by the name of GALBAVY. His adjutant, a Jew from 
SERED called MITTLER, certainly owed his post to his 
brutal actions. He took full advantage of the power con- 
ferred upon him to torment the Jews who, as it was, 
already had their full share of hardships. The evening roll 
call brought us more brutal treatment from the SS men 
and for hours we had to stand in the open after a hard 
day’s work and sing the “ camp song.” A Jewish orchestra 
leader was forced to conduct from the roof of one of the 
barracks. This was the occasion of much hilarity among 
the SS men. 

During these “ concert parties ” the SS guards were 
very generous with blows and physical punishment. A 
tragic end befell Rabbi ECKSTEIN from SERED who 
was suffering from dysentery and once came a few minutes 
too late for the roll call. The group leader had him seized 
and dipped head first into one of the latrines, then poured 
cold water over him, drew his revolver and shot him. 


The crematorium was located between working sections 
I and II and all the bodies were burned there. With an 
effective strength of 6,000 to 8,000 men per working 
section, the mortality was about 30 a day. This figure 
later increased five-and sixfold. In other instances 10 to 
20 inmates were removed from the sick room, brought 
to the crematorium and burned, after having been put to 
death in a manner which I have not been able to find out. 
This crematorium was electrically heated and the attendants 
were Russians. 

Illnesses increased as a result of the bad food and intoler- 
able living conditions. Serious stomach troubles and a 
seemingly incurable foot disease spread throughout the 
camp. The feet of the victims swelled up to the point 
where they could not walk. More and more of the sick 
were now being taken to the crematorium and when, on 
June 26, 1942, the number thus treated rose to 70, I decided 
to take an opportunity which was offered to me and applied 
for a transfer to AUSCHWITZ. 

On June 27, 1942, I discarded my prisoner’s outfit and 
travelled to AUSCHWITZ in civilian clothes. 

After a journey of 48 hours during which we were couped 
up in freight cars without food or water, we arrived at 
AUSCHWITZ half dead. At the entrance gate the huge 
poster : “ Work brings freedom,” greeted us. As the 

courtyard was clean and well kept, and the brick buildings 
made a good impression after the dirty and primitive 
barracks of LUBLIN, we thought that the change was 
for the best. We were taken to a cellar and received tea 
and bread. Next day, however, our civilian clothes were 
taken away, our heads were shaved, and our numbers 
were tattooed on our forearms in the usual way. Finally, 
we were issued a set of prisoner’s clothes similar to those we 
had worn in LUBLIN and were enrolled as “ political 
prisoners ” in the concentration camp of AUSCHWITZ. 

We were billeted in “ Block 17 ” and slept on the floor. 
In an adjoining row of buildings, separated from ours by 
a high wall, the Jewish girls from Slovakia, who had been 
brought there in March and April of 1942, were quartered. 
We worked in the huge “BUNA” plant to which we 
were herded every morning about 3 a.m. At midday our 
food consisted of potato or turnip soup and in the evening 
we received some bread. During work we were terribly 
mistreated. As our working place was situated outside 
the large chain of sentry posts, it was divided into small 
sectors of 10x10 meters, each guarded by an SS man. 
Whoever stepped outside these squares during working 
hours was immediately shot without warning for having 
“ attempted to escape.” Often it happened that out of 
pure spite an SS man would order a prisoner to fetch some 
given object outside his square. If he followed the order, 
he was shot for having left his assigned place. The work 
was extremely hard and there were no rest periods. The 
way to and from work had to be covered at a brisk military 
trot ; anyone falling out of line was shot. On my arrival 
about 3,000 people, of whom 2,000 were Slovak Jews, 
were working on this emplacement. Very few could bear 
the strain and although escape seemed hopeless, attempts 
were made every day. The result was several hangings a week. 

After a number of weeks of painful work at the “ BUNA ” 
plant a terrible typhus epidemic broke out. The weaker 
prisoners died in hundreds. An immediate quarantine 
was ordered and work at the “ BUNA ” stopped. Those 
still alive were sent, at the end of July, 1942, to the gravel 
pit but there work was even still more strenuous. We 
were in such a state of weakness that, even in trying to 
do our best, we could not satisfy the overseers. Most of 
us got swollen feet. Due to our inability to perform the 
heavy work demanded of us our squad was accused of 
being lazy and disorderly. Soon after a medical commission 
inspected all of us ; they carried out their job very 
thoroughly. Anyone with swollen feet or particularly weak 
was separated from the rest. Although I was in great pain. 

I controlled myself and stood erect in front of the com- 
mission who passed me as physically fit. Out of 300 persons 
examined, 200 were found to be unfit and immediately 
sent to BIRKENAU and gassed. I was then detailed 
for work at the DAW (Deutsche Aufrustungswerke) where 
we had to paint skis. The prescribed mi nim um to be painted 
each day was 120. Anyone unable to paint this many 
was thoroughly flogged in the evening. It meant working 
very hard to avoid this punishment. Another group was 
employed at making cases for hand grenades. At one time 
15,000 had been completed but it was found that they 
were a few centimeters too small. As p unishm ent., several 
Jews were shot for sabotage. 

Somewhere around the middle of August, 1942, all 
the Jewish girls from Slovakia who lived next to our 
quarters, on the other side of the wall, were transferred 
to BIRKENAU. I had the opportunity to talk to them 
and was able to see how weak and half-starved all of them 
were. They were dressed in old Russian uniform rags 
and wore wooden clogs. Their heads were shaven clean. 
The same day we again had to undergo a strict examination 
and those suspected of having typhus were removed to 
the Birch Wood. The remainder were shaved afresh, bathed, 
issued a new set of clothes and finally billeted in the barracks 
the girls had just left. By chance I learned that there was 
an opening in the “ clearance squad ” and I handed in 
my application. I was detailed to this task. 

This squad consisted of about a hundred Jewish prisoners. 
We were sent to a far corner of the camp, away from all 
our comrades. Here we found huge shed-! full of knapsacks, 
suitcases, and other luggage. We had to open each piece 
of baggage and sort the contents into large cases specially 
prepared for each category of goods, i.e., combs, mirrors, 
sugar, canned food, chocolate, medicines, etc. The cases 
were then stored away. Underwear, shorts and clothes 
of all kinds went to a special barrack, where they were 
sorted out and packed by Jewish girls. Old and worn 
clothes were addressed to the “TEXTILE FACTORY” 
at MEMEL, whereas the usable garments were dispatched 
to a collecting center in BERLIN. Gold, money, bank 
notes, and precious stones had to be handed over to the 
political section. Many of these objects were, however, 
stolen by the SS guards or by prisoners. A brutal and 
vile individual who often struck the women is commander 
of this squad. He is SS “ Scharfiihrer ” WYKLEFF. 

Every day the girls who came to their work from 
BIRKENAU described to us the terrible conditions pre- 
vailing there. They were beaten and brutalized and their 
mortality was much higher than among the men. Twice 
a week “ selections ” took place, and every day new girls- 
replaced those who had disappeared. 

During a night shift I was able to witness for the first 
time how incoming convoys were handled. The transport 
I saw contained Polish Jews. They had received no water 
for days and when the doors of the freight cars were opened 
we were ordered to chase them out with loud shouts. They 
were utterly exhausted and about a hundred of them had 
died during the journey. The living were lined up in rows 
of five. Our job was to remove the dead, dying, and the 
luggage from the cars. The dead, and this included anyone 
unable to stand on his feet, were piled in a heap. Luggage 
and parcels were collected and stacked up. Then the rail- 
road cars had to be thoroughly cleaned so that no trace 
of their frightful load was left behind. A commission from 
the political department proceeded with the “ selection ” 
of approximately 10 percent of the men and 5 percent of 
the women and had them transferred to the camps. Tbc 
remainder were loaded on trucks, sent to BIRKENAU. 
and gassed while the dead and dying were taken directly 
to the furnaces. It often happened that small children 
were thrown alive into the trucks along with the dead. 
Parcels and luggage were taken to the warehouses and 
sorted out in the previously described manner. 


Between July and September, 1942, a typhus epidemic 
had raged in AUSCHWITZ, especially in the women’s 
camp of BIRKENAU. None of the sick received medical 
attention and in the first stages of the epidemic a great 
many were killed by phenol injections, and later on others 
were gassed wholesale. Some 15,000 to 20,000, mostly Jews, 
died during these two months. The girls’ camp suffered 
the most, as it was not fitted with sanitary installations, 
and the poor wretches were covered with lice. Every week 
large “ selections ” took place and the gii'ls had to present 
themselves naked to the “ selection committee,” regardless 
of weather conditions. They waited in deadly fear whether 
they would be chosen or given another week’s grace. 
Suicides were frequent and were mostly committed by 
throwing one’s self against the high tension wires of the 
inner fence. This went on until they had dwindled to 
5 percent of their original number. Now there are only 
400 of these girls left and most of them have been able 
to secure some sort of clerical post in the women’s camp. 
About 100 girls hold jobs at the staff building in AUSCH- 
WITZ where they do all the clerical work connected with 
the administration of the two camps. Thanks to their 
knowledge of languages they are also used as interpreters. 
Others are employed in the main kitchen and laundry. 
Of late these girls have been able to dress themselves quite 
well as • they have had opportunities to complete their 
wardrobes which, in some cases, even include silk stockings. 
Generally speaking they are reasonably well off and are 
even allowed to let their hair grow. Of course this cannot 

be said of the other Jewish inmates of the women’s camp. 
It just so happens that these Slovak Jewish girls have beep 
in the camp the longest of all. But if, today, they enjoy 
certain privileges, they have previously undergone fright-, 
ful sufferings. 

I was not to hold this comparatively good job with the 
“ clearance squad ” for long. Shortly afterwards I was 
transferred to BIRKENAU on disciplinary grounds and 
remained there over a year and a half. On April 7, 1944, 
I managed to escape with my companion. 

Careful estimate of the number of Jews gassed in 
BIRKENAU between April, 1942, and April, 1944 (accord- 
ing to countries of origin) : 

Poland (transported by truck) approximately 300,000 

„ ( ,, ,, train) „ 600,000 

Holland „ 100,000 

Greece . . . . . . . . „ 45,000 

France . . . . . . . . „ 150,000 

Belgium .. .. .. .. ,, 50,000 

Germany .... . . . . „ 60,000 

Yugoslavia, Italy and Norway ,, 50,000 

Lithuania . . . . . . ,, 50,000 

Bohemia, Moravia and Austria ,, 30,000 

Slovakia .. .. .. .. „ 30,000 

Various camps for foreign Jews in 

Poland „ 300,000 

Approximately 1,765,000 



On August 6, 1944, a report was received in Switzerland 
covering the happenings in BIRKENAU during the period 
between April 7 and May 27. This second report was drawn 
up by two other young Jews who succeeded in escaping 
from this camp and reaching Slovakia. Their declarations 
complete the first report, particularly in regard to the 
arrival of the Hungarian Jews in BIRKENAU. They 
also add certain new details not contained in the previous 
accounts. It has not been possible, however, to check 
the origin of this “ second report ” as closely as it was 
the first. 

After the flight of the two Slovak Jews from BIRKENAU 
on April 7, 1944, great excitement reigned in the camp. 
The “ Political Division ” of the Gestapo instituted a 
thorough-going investigation, and the friends and superiors 
of the two escapees were closely questioned, although in 
vain. Since the two had held posts as “ block recorders,” 
all Jews exercising such functions, by way of punishment 
and also as a precautionary measure, were removed and, 
as the Gestapo suspected that they had succeeded in 
escaping through Building No. 3, the outer chain of sentry 
posts was considerably shortened so that now it cuts 
through the middle of Building No. 3. 

At the beginning of the month of April, a transport of 
Greek Jews arrived, of whom about 200 were admitted 
to the camp. The remainder of circa 1,500 were immediately 

Between the 10th and 15th of April some 5,000 “ Aryans ” 
arrived in BIRKENAU, mainly Poles, some 2,000 to 3,000 
women among them being from the abandoned camp of 
LUBLIN-MAJDANEK. They were given numbers running 
from approximately : 

176,000—181,000 : 

Among the women were about 300 Jewish girls from 
Poland. The greater part of the new arrivals were 
ill, weak, and very run down. According to their 
information the healthy ones had been sent from 
LUBLIN to German concentration camps. Con- 
cerning the fate of the Jews held in the camp of 
LUBLIN-MAJDANEK, we learned from them, 
especially from the Jewish girls, that on November 
3, 1943, all Jews in this camp, that is some 11,000 
men and 6,000 women, were killed. 

We recalled that about this time the SS in 
BIRKENAU had reported that LUBLIN had been 
attacked by partisans and, in order to fight against 
the latter, a number of the SS personnel from 
BIRKENAU had been temporarily transferred to 
LUBLIN. It was now clear to us for what purpose 
our SS had gone to LUBLIN. 

Apparently the Jews had been compelled to dig 
a long, deep grave in Field V of the camp of MAJ- 
DANEK and on November 3 they were brought out 
in groups of 200 to 300, shot and thrown into the grave. 
Within 24 hours everything was over. During the 
execution, loud music was played to drown out the 

Three hundred girls who were active in LUBLIN 
on the “ clearing-up Commando ” and as recorders 
were left alive. Three days after their arrival in 
BIRKENAU they were all gassed and burned on 
special order of BERLIN. Through an error on the 
part of the “ recorder ” two of the girls were not sent 
to the gas chamber. This was discovered, however, 
the next day, and the girls were immediately shot 
and the recorder replaced. 

The fate of the LUBLIN Jews caused great depression 
among the Jews in the camp of BIRKENAU who 
became afraid that one day the whole of BIRKENAU 
would suddenly be “ liquidated ” in the same way. 

Approximately No. 182,000 
Toward the end of April more Greek Jews were brought 
to BIRKENAU. Some 200 were admitted to the 
camp and about 3,000 exterminated. 

183,000 to 185,000 : 

At the beginning of May, 1944, smaller transports 
of Dutch, French, Belgian, and Greek Jews arrived, 
as well as Polish “ Aryans.” Most of them were put 
to work in the BUNA plant. 

On May 10, 1944, the first transport of Hungarian Jews 
arrived in BIRKENAU. They were principally from the 
prisons of Budapest, including those who had been arrested 
in the streets and railroad stations of the city. Among 
the women were : 

Ruth Lorant 
IViici Lorant 
Ruth Quasztler 
Irene Roth 
Barna Fuchs. 

The transport was received in AUSCHWITZ and 
BIRKENAU according to the well-known procedure 
(heads shaved, numbers tattooed, etc.). The men were 
given numbers beginning with 186,000 and the women 
were placed in the women’s camp. About 600 men, of 
whom some 150 were between the ages of 45 and 60, were 
brought to BIRKENAU where they were divided up 
among various work detachments. Tbe remainder stayed 
in AUSCHWITZ where they worked in the BUNA plant. 

The members of the transport were all left alive and 
none of them, as had been customary, were sent directly 
to the crematoria. In the postcards which they were 
allowed to write, they had to give “ Waldsee ” as return 

On May 15 mass transports from Hungary began to 
arrive in BIRKENAU. Some 14,000 to 15,000 
arrived daily. The spur railroad track which ran into the 
camp to the crematoria was completed in great haste, 
the crews working night and day, so that the transports 
could be brought directly to the crematoria. Only about 
10 percent of these transports were admitted to the camp ; 
the balance were immediately gassed and burned. Never 
had so many Jews been gassed since the establishment 
of BIRKENAU. The “ Special Commando ” had to In- 
increased to 600 men and, after two or three days, to 800 
(people being recruited from among the Hungarian Jews 
who had arrived first). The size of the “ Clearing Com- 
mando ” was stepped up from 150 to 700 men. Three 
crematoria worked day and night (the 4th was being 


repaired at that time) and, since the capacity of the 
crematoria was not enough, great pits 30 meters long and 
15 meters wide were once more dug in the “ Birkenwald ” 
(as in the time before the crematoria) where corpses were 
burned day and night. Thus the “ exterminating capacity ” 
became almost unlimited. 

The Hungarian Jews who were left alive (about 10 
percent) were not included in the normal camp “ enroll- 
ment.” Although they were shaved and shorn and received 
convict’s clothing, they were not tattooed. They were 
housed in a separate section of the camp, section “ C,” 
and were later transferred to various concentration camps 
in the German Reich : Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Gross- 
rosen, Gusen, Flossenburg, Sachsenhausen, etc. The 
women were temporarily quartered in the “ gypsy camp ” 
in separate blocks and then also transferred elsewhere. 
Jewish girls from Slovakia were “ block eldests ” there. 

The first Hungarian transports came from : Munkacs, 
Nagyszollos, Nyiregyhaza, Ungvar, Huszt, Kassau, 
Beregszasz, Marmarossziget, Nagyberezna. Among those 
remaining alive were : 

Robert and Ervin Waizen 

Katz, Chaim. 

The last two have already been transferred. The parents 
of the Waizen brothers were gassed. 

The transports of Hungarian Jews were under the par- 
ticular control of the former Camp Commander “ Haupt- 
sturmbannfiihrer ” HOSS, who travelled continually 
between AUSCHWITZ and Budapest. The Commandant 
of Birkenau at this time was HOSS’s former adjutant, 
“ Hauptsturmfiihrer ” KRAMER. 

187,000 to 189,000 : 

1,600 French “ Aryans,” almost exclusively intellectuals 
and prominent persons, including a small number of 
Polish “ emigres.” Among the French were high 
officers, members of leading French financial circles, 
well-known journalists and politicians, and even, 
it was said, former ministers. On their arrival some 
of them rebelled but were put down in an exceedingly 
brutal fashion by the SS, some of them being shot 
on the spot. The French were very courageous and 
self-possessed. They were strictly isolated in BIR- 
KENAU and no one was allowed to have any contact 
with them. After two weeks, on orders from Berlin, 
they were sent to Mauthausen (near Linz, in Austria). 

Since the middle of May the newly arrived Jews no 
longer received consecutive numbers, as formerly. A new 
numbering system was inaugurated beginning with No. 1 
preceded by the tattooed letter “ A.” We do not know 
the reason for this measure. At the time of our flight, 
on May 27, 1944, about 4,000 Jews had received these 
new numbers. The 4,000 were composed of 1,000 Dutch, 
French, and Italian Jews and 3,000 Jews from THERE- 
SIENSTADT who reached BIRKENAU on May 23, 1944. 
These were treated exactly as the previous two transports 
from THERESIENSTADT. They were quartered (unshorn) 
with the members of the previous convoy from THERE- 
SIENSTADT (who have been in BIRKENAU since 

December 20, 1943, and whose “ quarantine ” is due to 
be up on June 20, 1944) in Section I IB. 

According to the statement of a Jew from the “ Special 
Commando,” “ Reichsfiihrer ” Himmler was said to have 
visited BIRKENAU on the 15th or 16th of May. On 
one of these days I myself saw three automobiles and five 
men in civilian clothing drive towird the crem itoria. 
The Jew who made this statement declared that he, as 
well as others, recognized Himmler, who had visited 
crematorium No. 1, and after a stay of about half an hour 
had again driven off with those accompanying him. On the 
day after there was an account in the Silesian newspapers 
of Himmler’s visit to Cracow, so that? this report could 
be true. 

One other happening should not be forgotten which was 
told to us by the men of the “ Special Commando.” In 
the late summer of 1943, a commission of four Dutch Jews 
— distinguished looking men — came to AUSCHWITZ. 
Their visit had already apparently been announced to 
the Camp Commander, for the Dutch Jews in AUSCH- 
WITZ received better clothes, as well as regular eating 
equipment (plates, spoons, etc.) and better food. The 
commission of four were very politely received and were 
shown over the camp buildings and particularly those 
portions which were clean and made a good impression. 
Dutch Jews from the camp were brought to them who 
reported that only a portion of the Dutch Jews were in 
this camp, the others being in other s imil ar camps. In 
this manner the four men were satisfied and signed a state- 
ment according to which the commission had found every- 
thing in good order in AUSCHWITZ. After the signing 
the four Dutch Jews expressed a desire to see the camp 
of BIRKENAU and particularly the crematoria about 
which they had heard some stories. The camp authorities 
declared themselves quite willing to show them both 
BIRKENAU and the crematoria, the latter being used, 
they said, to cremate those who died in the camp. The 
commission was then taken to BIRKENAU, accompanied 
by the camp leader, Aumayer, and immediately to 
crematorium No. 1. Here they were shot from behind. 
A telegram was supposedly sent to Holland reporting 
that after leaving AUSCHWITZ the four men had been 
victims of an unfortunate automobile accident. 

There is a biological laboratory in AUSCHWITZ where 
SS, civilian, and internee doctors are occupied. The women 
and girls on whom experiments are performed are housed 
in Block 10. For a long time the “ block eldest ” there 
was Magda Hellinger from Michalovce and a girl named 
Rozsi (family name unknown) from Hummene. Experi- 
ments were carried out only on Jewish girls and women, 
although to date no Slovakian girls have been used. 
Experiments were also performed on men but the latter 
were not housed separately. A great many died as a result 
of these experiments. Often gypsies were used. Block 10, 
where the “ subjects ” of the experiments are housed, 
is completely isolated, and even the window openings are 
walled up. No one whatsoever had admission to it. 

The Commandants of AUSCHWITZ and BIRKENAU 
have been to date, the following : AUMAYER, SCHWAR- 














a - 


(c #/*>/>) 

1 | 

K/tuPP [ | 

A v ^x 

x X X * 



It * 1 

OF St** 

X X X 


■I.n.m.ff-Gas chamber and crematorium 
with distinctive sign a high chimney 




(The Polish Major’s Report) 



On March 24, 1942, we were gathered together in special 
“ assembling cell ” No. 2 of the Montelupich prison in 
Cracow. We knew that our group consisting of 60 men 
was to be sent to the concentration camp of OSWIECIM 
(AUSCHWITZ). At 8 o’clock the next morning, two SS 
guards appeared with lists and started counting those 
present. We had to undress and wait. Finally the doors 
were opened and we caught sight of two columns of SS 
guards and policemen with fixed bayonets. In the court- 
yard two trucks were parked in each of which 30 men had 
to take their places. These trucks were quite small and 
the space on the inside was divided in two by a chain 
running across the middle. The first to enter had to stand 
with bent heads, whereas the others crouched down between 
the legs of the standing men. In this way it was possible 
to fill up the very small space with 30 men. We were 
loaded in with blows from rifle-butts, shouts and k'cks. 
In the second separated section of the truck, two SS men 
stood guard with machine guns. We departed. Behind us, 
at a certain distance, followed motor-cyclists with machine 
guns. Our trucks were hermetically closed so that there 
was no pos ibility of seeing where we were going. Our 
journey lasted lj hours with several short stops. Our 
lim bs grew stiff as there was no possibility of changing 
one’s position, and one of our men who was up against 
the chain became unconscious. He was brought back to 
his senses by blows from the guards. At last we arrived, 
staggered to the ground, and found ourselves standing 
in front of a gate over which we could read : “ Work 
brings freedom.” Inside, an orchestra was playing. This 
was AUSCHWITZ and it appeared that we were expected. 

We were lined up in columns of five (a system applied 
on every conceivable occasion in the camp) and the names 
of the “ newcomers ” were once fnore read out. The man 
called up had immediately to run over to the one reading 
the roll and place himself in a line with those already sum- 
moned, after having received his number from the hands 
of an assistant. From this moment on, names were replaced 
by numbers. This system of “ reception ” was maintained 
until the summer of 1943. Later, all the prisoners (with 
the exception of Germans) had their numbers tattooed 
on their upper forearms, which had been the practice in 
the case of Jews from the beginning. This whole numbering 
system was apparently applied to lessen the possibility 
of escape and to make it easier to identify the bodies. 
These numbers were handed to us by the “ block leader ” 
named STUBA, after which we went bareheaded and 
accompanied by the orchestra into the camp itself. The 
clock stood at 11 a.m. After a short visit to the “ stock ” 
room, we were shut up in a barrack until 5 p.m. There 
we were visited by a number of old inmates who earnestly 
begged us to give them our watches, rings, lighters, and 
cigarettes to avoid their being confiscated. Any food brought 
with us should be eaten at once, as it would be taken away 
as well. In return the prisoners promised us bread, soup, 
etc., once we were officially incorporated into their ranks. 
At last the Capo (a sort of camp overseer) arrived and 
delivered a short talk in which he stressed that a prisoner 
could not exist in this camp for more than two months 
without the help of his comrades ; and this was to be 
confirmed later on by numerous examples. Out of the 60 
originally in my group I was to be the only survivor. 

At 5 p.m. we were herded out into the corridor. There 
we had to undress and pack our clothes into bundles pro- 

vided with our respective numbers. We stood there naked. 
All we were allowed to keep were a belt and two handker- 
chiefs. I wanted to keep a small holy picture, but one of 
the prisoners who acted as assistant in these operations 
dissuaded me, saying : “ It isn’t worth while ; you will 
merely be laughed at and it will finally be taken anyway.” 
First, our hair was cut short and then our heads shaved, 
after which we were given a bath. The water was very warm. 
All these preparations prior to being admitted as an inmate 
to the camp took place in “ Block 27.” Next, although 
it was snowing, we had to run to “ Block 26 ” where the 
clothing room was, located. There we were issued our 
prisoner’s outfits wh : ch consisted of a shirt, underpants, 
shoes, socks, a warm jacket, trousers, vest, cap, and blanket. 
Everything was filthy, patched, and practically worn out. 
My jacket, for instance, could be buttoned up in front, 
but the back and sleeves merely consisted of black strips 
of cloth patched together. Finally this operation came to 
an end and we were again lined up : n rows of five and taken 
to one of the “ blocks.” There we were awaited by the 
“ block leader ” (most of them were Poles from Upper 
Silesia) who initiated us into the mysteries of barrack duties. 
We were instructed in sweeping and cleaning the dormi- 
tories, in taking off our caps when commanded, and how 
to keep in line and step. Orders were given in German 
and when badly carried out the block leader grew furious 
and struck people right and left. The evening roll call 
finally put an end to these exercises. The block leader 
then assembled his people in front of their respective blocks 
and, in turn, all the block leaders presented their figures 
to the chief recorder or clerk. If the number of prisoners 
tallied with the records, the roll call was over ; actually 
the whole tiring ceremony was nothing else but one of 
the numerous ways in which the prisoners were mistreated. 
During 1940, 1941, and 1942 the roll call was usually 
expected to last at least an hour in all weather conditions 
— frost, rain, or snow — the prisoners having to wait patiently 
with bare heads. If an escape was reported, which resulted 
in a “ manco ” at evening roll call, all those assembled 
had to wait outside until the result of the search was known. 
The search parties usually returned three or four hours 
later and with disastrous consequences for all the prisoners’ 
health. In 1940, for example, one escape cost the lives of a 
hundred inmates. It was during severe winter weather 
and the prisoners were forced to stand out of doors from 
3.30 in the afternoon until 11 o’clock next morning, as a 
result of which a hundred totally or half-frozen men were 

After the roll call we returned to our blocks where we 
were allotted “ rooms ” ; we slept three to a bad. Old-timers 
told us that the best thing to do was to use our clothing 
as a pillow ; otherwise something was bound to be stolen. 
So we lay down without having had the slightest bit of 
food the whole day. The “ reception ” had been so strenuous 
and exhausting that all of us immediately fell asleep. 

At 4 a.m. we were awakened by a gong and frightful 
confusion ensued. About 100 ppople were compressed into 
the small hall space and in a wild stampede each one first 
tried to tidy up his bed (the block leader would not tolerate 
the smallest wrinkle in the bedding) and diess himself. 
There was no question of washing. Ten minutes after the 
gong had sounded the “ room eldest ” arrived and kicked 
everyone out into the corridor as the “ rooms ” had to be 
cleaned. The corridor was thronged with people who 


flocked together from all over the block. Most of them 
had managed to get dressed. There was really scarcely room 
to move in this crowd and we were pushed against walls 
and squashed into corners and often kicked or hit for no 
apparent reason. After having been in the camp for over 
24 hours, we finally received some cold, unsweetened coffee, 
after which there was a further wait of one and one-half 
hours until roll call ; then all the prisoners were taken to 
work. The newcomers were at first told to fill in question- 
naires in which they had to indicate an address where they 
desired their letters to be sent. It was strictly forbidden 
not to give an address or not to write, as “ they ” obviously 
needed an address to which the death of a prisoner could 
be reported when the need arose. 

Each of us was issued a piece of cloth with a triangle 
and his number painted on it, which we were instructed 
to sew on our tunics. Prisoners were numbered from No. 1 
onwards, and in November, 1943, the last consecutive 
serial number had reached 170,000. The triangles in 
question were of different colors, each representing a 
category of criminal or prisoner. The “ Aryan ” triangle 
was red, the red corresponding, to a political prisoner, green 
to professional criminals, black to “ work-shirkers,” pink 
to homosexuals (according to paragraph 175) and violet 
to members of the “ Bibelforscher ” religious sect. In 
addition, a large letter indicated the nationality of the 
prisoner, such as “ P ” for the Poles, etc. For Jews the 
insignia was composed of a yellow triangle on which was 
sewn a second triangle whose color corresponded to the 
“ crime,” the whole forming a Jewish star. From this 
marking system one could therefore rapidly pick out, for 
instance, a Polish Jewish political prisoner or a Jewish 
“ work-slacker,” etc. 

When we had finished sewing on our triangles and numbers, 
we were herded over to the “ infirmary ” where we were 
to be “ examined ” by a German doctor regarding our 
physical aptness for work. Again we had to undress and 
stand in a chilly corridor for almost three hours, shivering, 
as the weather was still very cold even at the end of March. 
We met old acquaintances who were working in the infir- 
mary and their first concern was to have news of their 
relatives. Upon the doctor’s arrival we had to present 
ourselves in groups, standing stiffly at attention. All that 
was required of us was to stretch out an arm, move the 
fingers, turn around and march off. The examination 
consisted of nothing more and all of us were, of course, 
considered fit for work. Hadn’t we come here for this very 
purpose and besides, didn’t “ Work bring freedom ” ? We 
knew only too well what it meant to be considered unfit 
for work : being taken away and condemned to “ liqui- 
dation ” by gas. At last we received our first warm nourish- 
ment in 36 hours. The camp food consisted of coffee or 
cold tea (made from acorn leaves, etc.) in the morning 
and soup, thick or thin as the case might be, at midday. 
From the time of our arrival at the camp we had soup 
made from water and turnips during fully five months. 
After evening roll call we received 300 grams of bread, 
although its weight was usually considerably diminished 
by the time it reached the prisoner. On Mondays and 
Saturdays, 300 to 400 grams of cheese were distributed. 
It was some sort of a crude home-made, peasant cheese 
which often contained more worms than cheese. Rations 
further included £ kilo of margarine for twelve persons. 

distributed every Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday, and blood 
sausage or red sausage on Wednesdays and Mondays. These 
rations represented approximately 300 to 400 grams. In 
addition to margarine on Tuesdays and Fridays we also 
received a spoonful of marmalade per person. Since the 
barrel, however, bore a label stating that the marmalade 
was destined for the camp, its quality was correspondingly 
bad. Theoretically, the above are the rations each inmate 
received but, practically, a good part of them were stolen 
before they were actually distributed. In the evening, 
tea or coffee was distributed with the bread. The soup had 
to be licked up, as most of the prisoners did not possess 
spoons. I forgot to mention that we had to eat our food 
squatting on our haunches as a punishment by the room 
eldest to us newcomers for having crowded around the soup 
kettle during distribution. 

After our meal we were sent to the identification service 
where photographs from three different angles were taken. 
So on that day the camp picture gallery was increased by 
60 more criminals ! One by one we were called up, and I 
noticed that my comrades came out of the photographer’s 
room looking frightened. Beware ! It was my turn. I 
was seated on a chair and photographed. When I tried to 
get up, the floor started moving and, losing my balance, 
I was thrown against the wall. It was a practical joke 
played by the photographers (all of whom were Poles), in 
setting the revolving platform in motion when one got 
up. It was not surprising that they sometimes had to 
have some kind of amusement even at the expense of their 
camp comrades. We then returned to our quarters and 
by that time the roll call was again due. So ended our 
second day in camp ; and the next morning we were to be 
marched off to work with all the other inmates. 

All the prisoners had to work except the sick, those in 
“ quarantine,” and those confined to their cells. The total 
camp strength was divided into camp commandos or squads 
which were each headed by a “ Capo,” or leader, and several 
foremen. At the head of large working units was a “ Chief 
Capo ” who was assisted by several “ Capos ” and foremen. 
The size of one of these squads varied from one to several 
hundred men. Although the Capo was really in charge, 
a foreman often took over a group of ten, twenty, or thirty 
workmen. The head of the labor administration chose the 
“ Capos,” with the consent of the “ Chief Capo,” the 
prisoners being assigned to squads by the central adminis- 
tration. Work started after the morning roll call, i.e. in 
summer from 5 a.m. to 12 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., in winter 
from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. without interruption. There were 
workshops for craftsmen, farmers, industrial workers, and 
various technical trades. Many, particularly those in 
favor, worked in the camp administration. The camp 
was provided with an “ infirmary,” a “ canteen,” a laundry, 
a bakery, and a slaughter house. Thus prisoners with 
certain technical training could, in principle, work in their 
own trades. Intellectuals, liberal professional men, shop 
keepers, or office workers were the worst off and they repre- 
sented fully 70 percent of the total number of prisoners. 
The latter were all employed as unskilled labor in the worst 
and hardest jobs, such as the coal and gravel pits. The 
mortality among them was frightfully high. But it seemed 
to be the aim of the camp administration to kill them off 
as rapidly as possible. 



My first job was with a demolition squad. Since the 
area surrounding the camp of AUSCHWITZ had been 
evacuated for a radius of almost 100 kilometers, all buildings, 
unless taken over by the camp, had to be torn down. Even 
new buildings were demolished. Our work consisted in 
tearing down such houses and was exceedingly strenuous, 
particularly since we were expected to work at top speed. 
A squad consisting of 50 men was supposed to demolish 
a large building within three to four days ; and we were 
instructed to salvage all building material. The roof of a 
house, for instance, had to be carefully taken down and all 
planks, beams, tiles, etc., stacked away. Nothing was to 
be broken ; in fact, the slightest damage to anything 
resulted in an immediate and severe beating with a shovel 
or pick handle. The walls had to be broken down literally 
by hand, brick by brick, the cement sticking to each brick 
being afterwards removed and the bricks piled neatly up. 
Even the foundations had to be torn out and the ground 
afterwards levelled so that no trace of the house remained. 
Many men died at this work, not only from exposure and 
the strain, but from falling walls and beams — especially 
those who were elderly or slow. From the 50 who set out 
in the morning seldom more than 40 returned on then- 
own legs. The remainder were either brought as corpses 
or in a state of complete collapse in wheelbarrows or on 
boards. These poor souls still were expected to appear 
at evening roll call, after which they were taken to the 
infirmary. From my working comrades who went there 
I never saw one alive again. 

My work with this squad lasted over a month. I was 
then transferred to the ditch-digging squad. Trenches of 
from 2J to 3 meters deep had to be dug, and for the last 
50 centimeters we worked standing in water. We were, 
of course, not allowed to leave the trench during work, 
and this job was considered as one of the hardest in the camp. 
Many died at it daily. Some time later I was shifted to the 
“ concrete squad,” where I had to heave heavy posts and 
sacks of cement ; but after the arrival of new prisoners 
I was detailed to the making of concrete bricks. This 
had the advantage of at least being work under a roof ; 
which was very important inasmuch as work went on 
regardless of the weather. 

In addition, the prisoners were continually mistreated 
and struck by commando leaders. Capos, and foremen. 
In general, anyone holding a commanding position in the 
camp liked to give special emphasis to his position of super- 
iority. Naturally, the character of the person concerned 
played a considerable role ; but the fundamental rule was 
the direct responsibility of the superior for his inferiors, 
each individual being in turn responsible to the collectivity. 

These circumstances fostered the “ stool pigeon ” system. 
For example, one day a working comrade discovered a 
few pieces of turnip which he carefully hid. He con- 
tinued his work but, from time to time, took surreptitious 
bites off his treasure. Another prisoner having “ squealed ” 
on him, the Capo arrived a few minutes later. It must 
be remembered that the Capo is absolute master of his 
commando, and that everybody tries to get into his good 
graces. Unfortunately, this favor often had to be attained 
to the detriment of the well-being or sometimes even of 
the lives of other prisoners. The Capo proceeded to search 
our comrade and, finding the pieces of turnip, knocked 
the weakened man to the ground, hitting him brutally 
about the head and face and in the stomach. He then 
ordered him to sit up, hands outstretched in front of him 
on the ground with a weight of bricks on each hand ; the 

pieces of turnip were stuck in his mouth. All the men 
were then assembled and informed that the unfortunate 
man was to stay in this position for a whole hour. We 
were warned that this punishment would befall any member 
of the commando who committed a similar “ offense.” The 
condemned man underwent this ordeal guarded by one of 
the foremen, very eager to fulfil his task to the satisfaction 
of the Capo, so that he hit our friend every time he tried 
to shift his position slightly. After 15 to 20 minutes the 
man became unconscious, but a bucket of water was 
poured over him and he was again forced into his original 
position. After he had slumped over senseless for a second 
time, his body was thrown aside and nobody was allowed 
to pay further attention to him. After roll call that evening 
he was taken to the “ infirmary,” where he died two days 

Or another example : on Easter Monday, 1942, the 

weather was extremely bad with a heavy snowfall. We 
were sitting in the mud scraping cement off bricks, frozen 
half stiff. Suddenly the Commando Chief appeared and 
barked the following order : “ Discard caps, coats and 

j ackets ! ” Sick with fear for what might follow, we obeyed 
and continued working in our shirt sleeves. The Capo 
sneered at us : “ You dirty Poles, now you can celebrate ! ” 
A young prisoner, not more than 16 years old, had hidden 
in a trench. He was terribly thin and so trembling with 
the cold that he evidently did not hear the order. Or 
perhaps he didn’t care whether he heard it or not. The 
Capo, however, had meanwhile staggered off (he was half 
drunk) since he didn’t intend to remain out-of-doors in 
this wretched weather. As a matter of fact, he cared very 
little about the prisoners ; the sooner they died the better. 
The snow had stopped falling, but in the cold wind we 
froze in our shirt sleeves ; certain death awaited us. Nobody 
knew when the Capo might come back, perhaps in a moment, 
perhaps in a week, or in a month. While we waited, the snow 
started to fall again. A new foreman came running in our 
direction from a stove around which they had been sitting, 
to see how we are getting on with our work. One of them 
discovered the hidden youngster and shouted “ All your 
clothes off, at once, you swine ! ” As the kid did not react, 
the foreman pounced on him and started beating him : 
“ Undress or I will beat the life out of you or, better still, 
I will report you to the Chief.” At that moment the Capo 
arrived. A sharp blow of a whistle : “Fall in ! ” We 
formed our columns and knew that it meant “ sticking 
together.” We were led into an open space where we sank 
ankle-deep in mud. Now the “ sport ” started. “ Down ! 
Up ! Quick march ! ” etc. We literally rolled in the mud. 
“ Flatten out ! Jump ! Run ! Hands out front ! ” We 
were covered with mud from head to foot and scarcely able 
to stand. The “ exercise ” had now been going on for about 
half an hour. To finish we had to do “ push up ” exercises, 
alternately lying down flat and supporting our bodies on 
our hands. “ Up, Down, Up, Down ! ” The Chief of the 
Commando inspected the rows and saw an old man who 
was unable to continue. Immediately an SS guard threw 
himself upon him and kicked him in the head and face 
with heavy hob-nailed boots. When at last the poor old 
man gave no further sign of life, he was left alone. We were 
then allowed to stand up and continue with our work. 
The badly injured man was carried over to a dry spot 
among piles of bricks. He opened his eyes, tried to say 
something but couldn’t utter a word ; and we had to 
leave him as in the meantime the order was given to 
resume work. The result was that at the end of the day 


we tarried home another corpse. But we had grown used 
to it. We marched and sang jolly German songs, as the 
Capo wanted it to be so. The Commando Chief walked 
alongside the group ; he grinned : “You do sing well ! ” 

During my work in the “ concrete squad ” I caught pneu- 
monia (as was found out later). At the beginning I avoided 
the “ infirmary ” and hoped I would get over it. I knew 
too well what happened there and that seldom one left the 
place alive. But I became so weak that I could hardly move, 
and finally had to give in. I became completely indifferent. 
In one way I was lucky that my friends in the “ infirmary ” 
took care of me so that I was then able to enjoy “ privileged ” 
conditions. When I entered the “ Krankenbau ” it was 
composed of three different buildings : Block 28 — internal 
illnesses, Block 20 — infectious illnesses. Block 21 surgery. 
Later on three new “ blocks ” (Blocks 19, 9, and 10) were 
attached to the “ infirmary.” They composed the so-called 
“ Hygiene Institute.” Here, sterilizing by X-ray treatment, 
artificial insemination of women, as well as experiments 
on blood transfusions were carried on. Male and female 
prisoners, especially Jews, served as “ guinea pigs ” for 
these experiments. This “ block ” was completely isolated 
from the rest of the camp so that news from it reached 
us only very seldom. 

It was not easy to be admitted to the “ infirmary,” as 
the “ minimum ” symptom was a fever of from 38.6 to 
39 degrees (C). Light cases of fever were not admitted. 
All applications for transfer to the “ infirmary ” had to be 
submitted to the chief of one’s own “ block,” who had the 
right to reject any such request. Then the sick person 
had to wait for hours in the courtyard of the “ infirmary ” 
before being called in for preliminary examination. If the 
doctor (a prisoner) considered him worth treating, he had 
to undress and usually take a cold bath before being pre- 
sented to the German doctor, after further long hours of 
waiting. The sick were classified into two groups, “ Aryans ” 
and Jews. These groups were again subdivided into further 
groups, of which the first included the sick who were to 
remain in hospital, being considered “ curable.” The 
second consisted of extremely rundown patients, chronic 
cases, and the half-starving or mutilated whose recovery 
could only be effected by a long stay in the hospital. This 
gTOup was practically condemned to death by phenol 
injections in the heart region. Racial considerations played 
an important role. An “ Aryan ” really had to be seriously 
ill to be condemned to death by injection, whereas 80 to 
90 percent of the Jews “ hospitalized ” there were “ elimi- 
nated ” in this manner. Many of them knew about this 
method and applied for admission as so-called “ suicide 
candidates,” not having the courage to throw themselves 
on to the high tension wires. 

This situation lasted during the whole of 1942 until the 
time the mass extermination of interned Jews at AUSCH- 
WITZ began. Danger of death by injection did not only 
threaten the newly-arrived hospital cases or casualties. 
From time to time (usually once a month) the German 
doctor used to effect a minute control of all the sick. In 
each ward an attendant (usually a doctor) had to “ present ” 
each patient and give full account of his illness. If the 
patient’s stay happened to have exceeded a month, or if 
he were very weak, he was listed. The German doctor 
always kept the sick records of the condemned so as to 
avoid any attempt at interference on the part of the prisoners 
themselves. Each such special check-up by the German 
doctor usually resulted in a list of 200 to 400 men condemned 
to death, while the “ normal ” death list of the daily 
routine inspection varied from 20 to 80. The injections 
were given on the same day. The new patients who were 
booked for the “ syringe ” (as it was called in the camp 
jargon) received no clothes and had to remain waiting in 
the corridor — naked. They were then led from Block 28 
to Block 20 where the “ operation ” took place in a special 
room. An SS man by the name of KLER, a shoemaker 

by profession, gave the injections. He had taken up this 
post in the hospital as a simple SS private, but was later 
promoted to SS “ group leader,” although practically a 
moron. He also received supplementary food rations and 
was awarded the Iron Cross. There were days when this 
psychopath picked out victims from the wards on his own 
initiative, without instructions from the German doctor, 
on whom to practice his “ technique.” He was a complete 
sadist, torturing his victims with animal-like brutality 
before putting them to death. Later it was decided that his 
nerves had been strained by “ overwork ” so an “ assistant ” 
was recruited, a Polish volunteer, by the name of PANS- 
ZCZYK, No. 607 from Cracow, who was transferred to 
Germany during the winter of 1942 where he presumably 
died. The injections were then sporadically administered 
by “ Sanitatsdienstgehilfen,” or given by the chief of the 
“ infirmary.” For a certain time, another Pole named 
JERZY SZYMKOWIAK, No. 15490, “ functioned ” 

voluntarily ; he died in the summer of 1943. 

The injections were not only administered to the weak 
and ill, but also to prisoners in the political section who 
were condemned to death. Apart from this, on one occasion, 
two groups (the first composed of 40, the second of 80 
prisoners) of young and strong youths between the ages 
of 13 and 16 years were put to death, on the ground that 
they were “ orphans ” and could not be considered in the 
camp as full-fledged workers. 

In the autumn of 1942 came the massacre of the LUBLIN 
transports which caused great unrest in the camp. One 
of the sanitary service attendants refused to administer 
injections, stating that he was an SS man and not a 
murderer of children. Another attendant had to be summoned 
to carry out the job. This affair caused a lot of talk and stir as 
at least 15,000 to 20,000 people lost their lives and even 
BERLIN asked for an explanation of the high mortality rate 
in the hospital. The head-doctor, WIRTZ, disclaimed all 
knowledge of such events and laid the blame on the camp 
doctor whose name was ENTREST, a German from the 
POSEN district. A mock inquiry was held at which wit- 
nesses from the hospital administration had to testify 
and the lists of the “ deceased ” were checked. As “ punish- 
ment ” the camp doctor was simply transferred in the same 
capacity to the “ BUNA.” As a result of all this, murdering 
by means of injections stopped for a while, although it 
was resumed on a smaller scale soon afterwards for hope- 
lessly sick cases. Many of those condemned to the “ syringe ” 
were used as experimental material in the “ Hygiene 
Institute ” (Block 10). The injections doubtlessly frightened 
the prisoners from asking to be admitted to the hospital. 

Another major danger in the camp was “ delousing,” as 
it was euphemistically called. The whole camp obviously 
was covered with lice and fleas and large disinfection pro- 
grams were carried out. However, the results were never 
apparent and our “ washing ” always came back almost 
as full of lice. Actually, the “ delousing ” was designed 
to combat typhus epidemics which had become a real 
plague at the camp. During these actions everybody was 
examined and those with bad complexions or in weakened 
bodily condition were, according to the camp doctor’s 
mood, destined to be gassed. They were simply led to 
the “ infirmary ” from where 40 to 50 percent were 
“ evacuated.” A “ delousing ” action which took a par- 
ticularly large toll in victims was conducted in July, 1942. 
During the course of this “ purge ” the weak, those ill with 
typhus or in post-typhus quarantine, were all sent to 
BRZINSKI without exception. This method was con- 
sidered the most radical for eliminating typhus. The way- 
in which those condemned to the gas chambers were 
transferred to their doom was exceptionally brutal and 
inhuman. Serious cases from the surgical word who still 
had their bandages on, and a procession of exhausted and 
horribly emaciated patients, even convalescents on the road 
to recovery, were loaded on to trucks. They were all nuked 


and the spectacle was dreadful in the extreme. The trucks 
pulled up at the entrance of the block and the unfortunate 
victims were simply thrown or piled on by the attendants 
(I frequently witnessed such tragic transports). A hundred 
people were often jammed into a small truck. They all 
knew exactly what their fate was to be. The large majority 
remained completely apathetic while others, mostly patients 
from the surgery with bloody and gaping wounds or frightful 
sores, struggled frantically. All around the trucks SS men 
milled about like madmen, beating back the howling crowd 
trying to lean out. Every time it was a terrible experience 

to have to drag our friends to the truck. Most of them were 
quiet and bid us farewell, but never forgot to remind us ; 
“Do not forget revenge.” Under such conditions men’s 
hearts turn to stone. Imagine a prisoner’s killing his brother 
in one of the wards so as to avoid his having to undergo 
the dreadful trip by truck. (I happen to know the names 
and immatriculation numbers of these two particular 
prisoners.) It can well be imagined that we just shrugged 
our shoulders when told the. Germ an fairy tales regarding 
the KATYN incident. 


Originally, the camp of AUSCHWITZ was intended only 
for Poles. It was guarded by a group of Germans (no more 
than 30 at the beginning) who had been transferred from 
a German concentration camp. They were prisoners as 
well but “ camp veterans,” if such an expression may be 
used. Most of them had been imprisoned as far back as 
1934 and were all more or less professional criminals. But 
as time went on AUSCHWITZ became more and more 
of an international camp and the first Jews started to arrive 
in 1941. They were immediately separated from the 
“ Aryans ” and quartered in special “ blocks.” Although 
at the time systematic executions were not an established 
rule, it can be stated that as a result of bad treatment 
by SS men. Capos and foremen (the majority of German 
origin but often Poles who were enlisted by force), a Jew 
— irrespective of his physical condition — could not last 
more than two weeks. A young Jew, for instance, who was 
robust enough to be able to do his work “ on the double ” 
(for example, pushing a heavily laden wheelbarrow) would 
most probably be unable to keep it up in the long run. 
If he should show signs of holding out, he would inevitably 
be killed sooner or later by such mistreatment as being 
beaten with a shovel or pick handle. 

In those days all the Jews had to work in the “ quarry 
squad.” At a trot they had to bring gravel on wheelbarrows 
from a pit about 15 to 20 meters deep up a steep slope. 
At the top, SS men and Capos checked their work and the 
speed at which it was carried out, and anyone considered 
as “ loafing ” was simply pushed over backwards when 
he arrived at the top so that he crashed back down the 
incline with his fully laden barrow. This was one of the 
guards’ favourite pastimes. Such treatment of Jewish 
prisoners prevailed from the time the first Jews arrived 
at the camp until the spring of 1942, when the first large 
transports of Jews (tens of thousands) began to arrive and 
the extermination campaign was getting under way. At first 
there were few Jews at the camp, most of them of Polish 
origin, who had been sent there along with other Poles. 
They were immediately separated from the latter. They 
had been arrested not as a consequence of their being 
Jewish, but for offences directed against “ the security of 
the German State.” Only from the spring of 1942 on were 
they rounded up and exterminated en masse on racial 
grounds. Certain large-scale preparations had to be made 
to receive these mass transports and a special concentration 
camp was opened at BIRKENAU (the Polish name of the 
village is RAJSKO). Administered by Germans and Poles, 
the camp was guarded by SS detachments. Conditions were 
appalling. The camp had no water, no drainage system, 
and not even the most elementary hygienic installations. 
The Jews remained in civilian clothes which were marked 
with red paint. Food was supposed to be distributed to 
them on a basis similar to that prevailing in AUSCHWITZ, 
but abuse was flagrant. It often happened that the inmates 
received nothing to eat for days and then only a small 
part of the rations they should have had. Altogether 

they were inhumanly treated. The slightest complaint 
was punishable by death. 

The first large convoys arrived from France and Slovakia. 
Physically able men and women — those without children 
or the mothers of grownup children — were sent to the 
camp of BIRKENAU. The remainder, i.e. old or weak 
men, women and small children, and all those unfit for 
labour, were taken to. the Birch Wood (BRZEZINKI) 
and killed by means of hydrocyanic gas. For this purpose 
special gassing barracks had been built there. These con- 
sisted of large halls, airtight, and provided with ventilators 
which could be opened or closed according to the need. 
Inside they were equipped so as to create the impression 
ox bathing establishments. This was done to deceive the 
victims and make them more manageable. The executions 
took place as follows : each death convoy consisted of some 
8 to 10 trucks packed with the “ selectees ” ; the convoy 
was unguarded as the whole frightful drama took place 
on camp territory. A private car containing the camp doctor 
followed each truck convoy since it was compulsory for 
him to be present at these mass executions. On their arrival 
at the gassing establishment, which was surrounded by a 
double barbed wire fence, men, women and children had to 
completely undress. Each of them was given a towel and 
a piece of soap. Then they were driven into the barrack 
until it was completely filled up. Everything was hermetic- 
ally closed, and specially trained SS units threw hydrocyanic 
bombs through the ventilation openings. After about ten 
minutes the doors were opened, and a special squad com- 
posed exclusively of Jews had to clear away the bodies 
and prepare for a new group of ‘ selectees.” The crematoria 
had not yet been constructed, although there was a small 
one at AUSCHWITZ which, however, was not employed 
for burning these bodies. Mass graves were dug at that time 
into which the corpses were simply thrown. This continued 
into the autumn of 1942. By this time extermination by 
gas was being intensified and there was no more time even 
for such summary burial. Row upon row of bodies of 
murdered Jews, covered only by a thin layer of earth, 
were widely dispersed in the surrounding fields, causing 
the soil to become almost marshy through the putrefaction 
of the bodies. The smell emanating from these fields became 
intolerable. In the autumn of 1942 all that remained of 
the bodies had to be exhumed and burned in the crematoria 
(by that time four had been completed). An alternative 
was to gather the remains of the unfortunate victims into 
heaps, pour gasoline over them, and leave it to the flimes 
to finish the tragedy. The immense quantity of human 
ashes thus collected was carted away in every direction 
to be scattered over the fields where these martyrs had 
found their last rest. 

In the meantime, the crematoria had been finished 
and the number of arrivals was steadily increasing. Gassing 
and burning were carried out at record speed, but the supply 
of corpses became so large that occasionally they had to 
resort to the old method of open air cremation. It is esti- 


inntcd that approximately 1£ million Jews were exter- 
minated in this manner. With the exception of the 
Polish Jews, the other Jews had no idea of what was in 
store for them tit AUSCHWITZ. We were told by Dutch 
and French Jews that the Germans had informed them 
that they were leaving their country to be transferred to 
Poland where everyone would be able to continue work 
in his own profession or, still better, where for each shop, 
concern, or factory seized by the Germans an equivalent 
source of livelihood would be put at their disposal. They 
were to take their whole fortunes with them and liquid cash 
for at least six weeks. This resulted in considerable amounts 
of money and valuables being brought to AUSCHWITZ 
(most of them by Dutch bankers and diamond merchants), 
most of which was stolen by the camp staff, SS men, and 
prisoners. The condemned Jews generally faced their fate 
calmly, although those arriving in 1943 had a clearer idea 
of what awaited them. The sporadic attempts at rebellion 
und mass escape, when the freight cars were unloaded upon 
arrival, were bloodily repelled. The special railway s'ding 
reserved for the convoys was surrounded by searchlight 
and machine gun posts. On one occasion these unfortunate 
people scored a small success. It must have been during 

September or October, 1943, after a transport of women 
had arrived. The accompanying SS men had ordered 
them to undress and were about to drive them into the 
gas chamber. This moment was always used by the guards 
as a good opportunity for looting, and rings and wrist 
watches were torn off women’s fingers and arms. In the 
confusion resulting from one such attack, one woman 
managed to snatch the pistol of SS. Groupleader 
SCHILLINGER and fire three shots at him. He was 
seriously wounded and died the next day. This gave the 
signal for the others to attack the executioners and their 
henchmen. One SS man had his nose torn off, another 
was scalped, but unfortunately none of the women was 
able to escape. Although an attempt was made to keep 
this incident secret, it resulted in an order being issued 
whereby SS men were not allowed to remain in camp after 
8 p.m. 

The extermination of Jews continued relentlessly, 
although in the camp tension relaxed to a certain extent. 
The fate of those Jews admitted to the camp has been 
described in the sections of my report dealing with the 
gassing and killing of the ill by means of injections. 


Until the summer of 1941 AUSCHWITZ was mainly 
a concentration camp in which no executions had taken 
place so far. The first executions came as a surprise for 
the majority of the camp’s inmates. They began in the 
summer of 1941 when one evening after roll call, various 
numbers were called up (I well remember there were 18 
men from Cracow alone). The men whose numbers had 
been called were ordered to the stock room, where they 
had to give up their clothes and were given old rags (a 
shirt and pants) in exchange. Then they were taken to 
the gravel pit and shot with pistols at point blank range. 
The other prisoners were not allowed to be present at the 
shooting, but the execution was so arranged that practically 
the whole camp could witness the proceedings. After the 
execution a special commando was designated to bury 
the bodies. This incident caused a great deal of unrest 
within the camp, as we had assumed until then that 
deportation to a concentration camp excluded the death 
penalty for offences against the security of the German 
State. From this day on executions were carried out at 
more or less regular intervals, the victims being called up 
on Tuesdays and Fridays. Later a special place of execu- 
tion was set up within the camp’s boundary, an open space 
between “ Blocks 10 and 11 ” where executions took place 
generally in the morning. 

The index cards of the condemned men were sent from 
the chief clerk’s office to the respective “ blocks ” and in 
the morning, immediately after roll call, the numbers of 
the prisoners were called out by the “ block recorder.” 
If the index card bore the inscription “ to report immediately 
after roll call ” and the signature of the “ recording clerk,” 
it meant that the prisoner called up was to be shot. The 
“ block recorder ” assembled the victims and brought 
them over to the chief clerk’s office. There the numbers, 
names, and dates of birth were checked again. Ordered 
into rows of five by the camp eldest and the block eldest 
(also prisoners), they were then marched to the place of 
execution. If the shooting was only to take place a few 
hours later, the men were locked up in cells. If the execu- 
tion, however, was to be carried out at once they were 
taken first to the washhouse. They undressed and their 
numbers were marked on their thighs with indelible pencil. 
After these preparations, they were again lined up in fives 
and then sent out to the execution wall (first four men 
and then two at a time). The men were led out by the 
block eldest of “ Block 11 ” or then by the Capo of the 
cell block (a Jew), who took hold of the hands of the con- 
demned and dragged them out to the wall where he stood 
between the two. In the beginning the condemned were 
forced to kneel and bend their heads forward, but later 




Execution Place 



Below: Cell Block 



they were usually shot standing. The executioners shot 
their victims in the back of the head with a short-barrelled 
rifle which made a muffled report. 

After the execution the “body bearers” went into 
action and removed the corpses to a nearby stable where 
they were thrown on a heap of straw. The blood stains 
were removed and the emplacement prepared for the 
execution of two further victims. After the whole group 
had been liquidated, the bodies were kept in “ Block 28 ” 
until the evening. At dusk all the bodies, including those 
of other prisoners deceased during the same day, were 
piled on to a big cart and pulled to the crematoria. Later, 
the corpses were also removed from the place of execution 
in coffins and, if a considerable number were involved, a 
truck was used for this purpose. These “ death tran- 
sports” always took place during hours of curfew, as the 
camp authorities wished to keep the executions as secret 
as possible, in which they were, however, not particularly 

As mentioned before, such executions started during the 
summer of 1941 and reached a peak in 1942 with the transfer 
of “ disciplinary companies ” from AUSCHWITZ to 
BAJSKO (BIRKENAU) towards the end of May, 1942. 
Together with a large group of “ Muselmaner ” (“ Musel- 
mann ” was a term applied in camp jargon to convicts 
utterly exhausted by starvation or over work) many young 
and sturdy men were selected and drafted into these 
“ disciplinary companies.” They were all marked with 
a large red dot, as in these special groups the inmates were 
differentiated by red dots on their chests and backs for 
offences committed in civil life and by black circles for 
“ crimes ” committed in the camp itself. Such “ com- 
panies ” were made up of about 500 men of whom, every 
second day, 10 to 15 were shot. The rest of them had to 
work extremely hard and await their turn. At the same 
time mass executions started in AUSCHWITZ (middle 
of May, 1942). Once, twice, or three times a week, 40 to 
60 men were simply picked out and shot. Restlessness 
increased in the camp, when by the middle of June the 
situation had not changed, to a point approaching open 
rebellion especially after one mass execution which cost 
the lives of 120 prisoners. The camp administration 
apparently got wind of this and, during a roll call sometime 
in June, ie was announced that executions would cease 
and the death penalty would be abolished. It was true 
that the prisoners reacted with deep distrust, but on the 
whole the news had a quieting effect on everybody. 
And, in fact, there was a pause of 1 to 1£ months after 
which executions began again, although less often and 
only in small groups. This state of affairs continued until 
October, 1942, when one of the largest mass executions 
ever held took 247 victims, all Poles from the LUBLIN 
and PODHALA districts. Terror broke out in the camp 
as a result, although again many reacted with complete 
apathy. This ended a ghastly series of executions of 
prisoners who, upon arrival in the camp, were already 
condemned to death. But some of them had been in camp 
over a year without knowing that their fate was already 
sealed. It often happened, for instance, that a prisoner 
selected for execution would be lying ill in the hospital 
but, as the sentence had to be carried out, he received a 
deadly injection in his bed. The famous Polish actor 
Witold ZACHAREWICZ was murdered in this way. 

All this, of course, did not mean that October, 1942, saw 
the end of the execution of prisoners brought to AUSCH- 
WITZ with death warrants already signed. Only, the method 
underwent certain changes. In the early days, for instance, 
the Aryan prisoners had always been given numbers and 
then incorporated into the camp. Later a new method 
was evolved consisting in immediately dividing the new- 
comers into two groups : those condemned to death and 

those who were to remain as regular inmates. The first 
group was not allotted serial numbers but directly trans- 
ferred from the “ block leader’s ” central office to the cells 
in “Block 11.” The executions took place there and the 
arrivals were either shot at once or a few days later. This 
procedure was adopted in an attempt to keep the whole 
matter secret, and executions were only carried out late 
at night. In addition, the camp inmates were led to believe 
that only “ civilians ” were submitted to this radical 
treatment (it must be stated that only a permanent camp 
inmate was considered a “ prisoner,” whereas newcomers, 
without numbers and who had not yet joined the ranks, 
were still designated as “ civilians ”). So long as only 
“ civilians ” were executed the regular inmates were not 
particularly upset. 

Executions of “ prisoners,” however, did not cease 
altogether. The camp administration was extremely severe 
regarding discipline and respect of camp rules. For the 
slightest omission one was marched off to the execution 
cells and, of course, never returned. Things became even 
worse when the political section (meaning the camp 
Gestapo) decided to take charge of the punishment of 
petty internal offences. The frequent result was that they 
decided questions of life and death according to their own 
judgment. Bribery became the order of the day. Among 
the “ offences ” for being locked up in the execution cells 
were: being “politically suspect” on the grounds of 

having contacted “ civilians ” in the camp, spreading 
political news or commenting on the German High Com- 
mand’s communique, drunkenness, theft (foodstuffs, 
gold, precious stones), premeditated escape, etc. The death 
cells were always overcrowded and every now and then 
they had to be “ evacuated.” This took place as follows : 
the camp leader, chief of the political section, GRABNER 
by name, dashed in, accompanied by a number of SS men 
as drunk as himself. They went from cell to cell, taking 
down the particulars of each occupant’s case, the reason 
for his punishment, etc. If the camp leader had a list of 
those condemned to death in hand, the prisoners could 
consider themselves lucky, inasmuch as it might not yet 
be their turn. But usually no notice was taken of such a 
list. What decided the individual prisoner’s fate was 
mainly the impression he made on this gang of drunkards 
and the mood in which the camp leader happened to be. 
There was no question of considering the actual penalty. 
If the impression he made was not too unfavourable, the 
prisoner remained in his cell to await his execution at a 
later date unless he went to his death voluntarily. The whole 
inspection was accompanied by a great deal of vile language 
and brutal treatment. Usually 85 to 90 percent of the death 
cell occupants were “ evacuated ” and shot in front of 
the wall so that space was again available for new arrivals. 
The camp in general was, of course, never informed of 
this secret justice nor who were its victims. It is true that 
the relatives of the victims were duly informed, but the 
cause of death was always given as being “ natural.” An 
incredible amount of paper was wasted compiling fake 
records of illnesses, fever charts, etc., destined to justify 
each single death. Death announcements were telegraphed 
never more than at the rate of two a day so as not to mouse 
suspicion on the “ outside.” From the beginning the 
executions were carried out by a single man : first, by 
“ Oberscharfiihrer ” PALITSCH, who was later sent to 
an officers’ training center, and then by “ Scharfiihrer ” 
STIWETZ, who still performs these duties. Executions 
of women were reported from AUSCHWITZ, but in small 
numbers. On the other hand, great numbers of people 
were shot after having been brought in by truck straight 
from freedom or from prisons. In two instances whole 
families were executed, parents together with their children. 
In one case, an infant a few months old ended his short 
life in the arms of his mother before the execution wall. 



(Reprinted in Eire by the Office of War Information of the United Stales of America 
at 15 Merrion Square, Dublin.)