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Holocaust Survivor Shlomo Venezia - Inside the Gas Chambers!

Shlomo Venezia

Selected Extracts from Inside the Gas Chambers

 Auschwitz – Birkenau – Sonderkommando Hell  

French news editorial on the experiences of Shlomo Venezia

Shlomo Venezia was deported to Auschwitz – Birkenau from Athens, Greece and he arrived on the 11 April 1944. He was selected to work in the Sonderkommando, at the heart of the empire of death.


Members of the Sonderkommando who worked in the gas chambers and crematoria were murdered after a few months and replaced with others forced to carry out the Nazis evil crimes, but Shlomo managed to join with other prisoners during the evacuation and subsequent “Death March” away from Auschwitz – Birkenau in January 1945.


The following are selected extracts from his book – Inside the Gas Chambers


Arrival at Auschwitz – Birkenau


The train hadn’t blown its whistle when the transport had stopped en-route. So when I heard that peculiar whistle and felt the train suddenly braking, I immediately realised that the convoy had finally reached its destination.


The doors opened onto the Judenrampe, just opposite the potato sheds, my first feeling was a sense of relief, I didn’t know how much longer it would have been possible to survive in this train, without anything left to eat, without any space, air, or toilet facilities.


As soon as the train stopped, the SS opened the doors of the carriage and started yelling “Alle runter!” Alle runter!” (Everyone out) We saw men in uniform pointing their sub-machine guns, and Alsatians barking at us.


Everyone was in a stupor, numb after the journey- and all of a sudden, fierce yells and a whole infernal din to throw us off our guard, and prevent us knowing what was going on.


I happened to be near the door, so I was among the first to climb out, I wanted to stay near the door to help my mother get out. We had to jump for it, as the carriage was high and the terrain was sloping. My mother wasn’t that old, but I knew the journey had worn her out and I wanted to help her.


While I was waiting for her, a German came up behind and struck me two heavy blows on the back of my neck with his stick. He lashed out with such force I thought he’d split my skull. I instinctively placed both my hands on my head to protect myself.


Seeing that he was going to start hitting me again, I ran off to join the others in the queue. Our captors started hitting people as soon as we arrived, to vent their hatred, out of cruelty, and also so that we’d lose our bearings and obey out of fear, without making problems for them.


So that’s what I did, and when I turned around to try to find my mother, she wasn’t there anymore. I never saw her again, she wasn’t there, and neither were my two little sisters, Marica and Marta.


According to the Auschwitz Chronicle approximately 2,500 Jewish men, women and children who were arrested in Athens arrive in a RSHA transport from Greece. After the selection, 320 men and 328 women are admitted to the camp, the remaining people, among them 1,067 men are killed in the gas chambers.


The selection ramp at Birkenau

How was the selection carried out?


As soon as we jumped out of the train, the Germans, with their whips and blows, made us get into two queues, sending the women and children to one side and all the men, without distinction to the other.


They beckoned us into place: “Manner hier und Frauen hier!” (Men here and women here) We stepped into place like robots, in response to the yells and the orders.


How far away from the women were you? Could you still see them?


To begin with, we could, but the crowd very quickly became so dense, and at the same time so orderly that I rapidly found myself surrounded only by men. Of all the men who’d been on that train, only three hundred and twenty of us were left after the selection.


And did you at least manage to stay with your cousins?


Yes, we stayed together I never saw their father or the others again.


They immediately made us all line up in front of a German officer. Another officer arrived shortly afterwards, I don’t know if it was the famous Dr Mengele, it may have been, but I’m not sure.


The officer barely looked at us and made a gesture with his thumb indicating “Links, rechts” (Left, right) and depending on the direction he sent us, each of us had to go one way or the other.


Did you notice any difference between the people who went to the right and those who went to the left?


No, I didn’t notice: there were young men and old men on both sides. The only significant thing was the obvious imbalance between the numbers of people on both sides.


I found myself on the side where there were fewer people, in the end there were just three hundred and twenty men left. All the others set off, without knowing it, for immediate death in the gas chambers at Birkenau.


My brother and my cousins also ended up on the right side with me, our group was sent on foot to Auschwitz 1.


In your view, how long did the process take, from arrival to the end of selection?


I think it lasted about two hours. Why do I think so? Because it was still daytime when we arrived on the Judenrampe, and the prisoners had already stopped working by the time my group reached Auschwitz 1.


We walked the distance, just over a mile or so, from the Judenrampe to the camp at Auschwitz 1, while the others unsuspectingly headed off for the gas chambers at Birkenau.


Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/survivor/shlomo.html


The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team



Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2011

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

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