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Recollections of Auschwitz

Auschwitz Remembered

Recollections from those who were there...


Wieslaw Kielar describes his arrival on the first transport into the camp from Tarnow June 1940:


Wieslaw Kielar

We stop for a long time at some station. It turns out that this is the frontier between the Generalgouvernement and the Reich. We continue our journey. Next we stop at what, judging from the number of trucks on either side of the train must be a major station.


The name of the place, written in large letters on the station building is: Auschwitz. Someone explains that this is Oswiecim. Some dump or other. We don’t think about it anymore because now our train has started to move again. Presumably we are being shunted into a siding since the train curves sharply so that the wheels squeal remorselessly.


Now we are not allowed to move at all. We mustn’t so much as look in the direction of the windows. We sit still our train seems to have got the hiccups. Now it moves a few yards, now it stops. From the other side of the window come the sounds of voices shouting in German, of feet running and stamping.


Suddenly the doors of our carriage are flung open. Someone on the platform shouts at the top of his voice “Everybody out! Get a move on, you shits.” Our escorts assist us to climb out of the train in their own way. They bring the butts of their carbines down on our backs with resounding blows.


We all dash like mad towards the one and only exit. One by one we jump down from the high carriage and land directly at the feet of scores of SS men; they are lined up in rows leading towards a high fence which encircles a large building.


Beaten, pushed and terrified by the SS men yelling at us, we rush like a flock of panicking sheep through the open gate.


Stefan Solarczyk, a Pole who lived in Auschwitz and helped in the construction of the camp:


I was working on a locomotive on the narrow- gauge railway. They were moving large cobblestones and some SS surrounded the group. One of the SS picked up one of the stones and threw it into a prisoner’s back. I saw him hit the prisoner’s spine and his spine was twisted.


The prisoner was lying on the ground motionless and he went up to him with a large pick handle which he laid on his neck, put one foot on one side and the other on the other. His legs twitched for a moment or two.


There were also shootings. I was particularly struck by one SS man who had a boy from Krakow, he was his favourite: he let him go and bathe and go in the water during the summer. One day he just sort of began shooting live rounds at him.


The boy swam off and he shot into the water near him and then hit him with the effect that he sank.  


Wieslaw Kielar describes how he became a number not a name:


After we had been divided into small groups we were led into the basement where all our personal belongings were taken away; this included the removal of hair from every part of our body, followed by a bath in ice-cold water.


We were handed a cardboard tab with a number which was to replace our names from now on. My number was 290, Romek Trojanowski’s 44 and Edek Galinski’s 537. Thus in a perfectly simple manner we became numbers.


Kazimierz Piechowski describes how prisoners who stole food were dealt with:


What was done to get rid of such people, they were liquidated, the prisoners killed them at night. They put a blanket over his face and kept it there until he stopped breathing.


No one would ask questions, in the morning the Block Elder would report “so many dead, fair enough.”  And you didn’t feel anything, this was normal?


Absolutely, it was completely normal, except for a kind of flash, subconscious perhaps. Gone! And still things such as this are happening and still things such as.


But these things couldn’t be helped, in other words don’t think about it, its been and gone. Now think about where to go to work – to survive the following day. Just to survive the following day. Watch your bread so that no-one steals it, so that you get to eat some breakfast 


Go to work and try to find a lighter job – this is what you were pre-occupied with and this was a constant vigilance – be vigilant – you have to survive.


Jerzy Bielecki (now and then)

Jerzy Bielecki witnessed how Soviet Prisoners of War were treated at Auschwitz:


Prisoner overseers beat them mercilessly, kicked them, clubbed them, they would fall to the ground. It was a macabre scene. I have never in my life seen anything like it. Neither did I later on even though I remained in the camp for a long time after.


I saw an SS man, a junior officer walking around the gravel pit with a pistol in his hand, it was sadism. “You dogs, you damn Communists, you pieces of shit” horrible words like these. And from time to time he would direct the pistol downwards and shoot.


Wieslar Kielar recounts the aftermath of the first mass gassing of Russian Prisoners of War in the bunkers of Block 11, the penal company in September 1941:


The heavy wooden door to the yard of the penal company opened. We pushed the trucks into the yard and turned them round, facing the gate. Waiting in the yard was the entire SS retinue, with Lagerfuhrer Fritsch and camp doctor Entress at the head.


We stood expectantly while the SS men conferred for a time, after which they summoned Gienek and Teofil. They were handed gas masks. Palitzsch and several Blockfuhrers also put on their gas masks.


Together they approached the entrance to the block cellars. They stayed down there for rather a long time. We waited in silence. Night fell. in the yard it was now quite dark. Only above the entrance to the bunker a naked bulb cast a feeble gleam of light over the group of SS men waiting by the steps.


Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/othercamps/auschremembered.html


The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team




Copyright Carmelo  Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

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