“A man waited with a needle by our truck. Already busy tattooing numbers on the arms of my fellow refugees. The thrum as we packed into the filthy dirty noisy truck like a bunch of pigs, and the open engine making it impossible for anyone to rest. “I want to be free,” I told my mother, and she said, “Time, Jonah, time. Life goes on, and we must follow.”
I remember. The shouts and yells as we were ushered into the trucks. A man waited with a needle by our truck. Already busy tattooing numbers on the arms of my fellow refugees. The thrum as we packed into the filthy dirty noisy truck like a bunch of pigs, and the open engine making it impossible for anyone to rest. “I want to be free,” I told my mother, and she said, “Time, Jonah, time. Life goes on, and we must follow.”
Chapter one: Life ever goes on
It was eight years to that fateful day, three years before the end of the war, and still as ever I yearned to be free. It was around sundown, and I had returned from hard work, digging trenches for cisterns down the road. I had been on my feet for twelve hours. My body protested. The food here was little more than a scrap of bread that has been nibbled upon and encrusted completely with mold. It tasted awful. As the soldiers briskly walked through the alleyways of the camp, yelling “Nahaufnahme! Standbildaufnahme!” I had been here long enough to know what that meant. “Close up! Lock down!” and every night after evening bell, I remembered my mother’s words to me. Since that fateful moment on the truck, she was transferred to Bergen Belsen. But I remember her words well. Life ever does go on. And that is true even now, because even in the tyranny of the Germans, a boy still grows to become a man.
Chapter Two: Dog Days
(October 1942-June 1943)
Every day was the same. Every month was the same. Every year was the same. We would rise at around 04:12. We would have a quick breakfast of moldy strawberries and sour orange juice. There was spoiled milk if we wanted it. We were only allowed to spend ten minutes each at the breakfast table. Then we would travel back to the dorms for cold showers. Each person was only allowed 60 seconds under ice cold water. You got five minutes under lukewarm if you pleased the warden. Then it would be off to our backbreaking work. There we would be forced to dig trenches all day, or wade through patches of stinging nettles, and every chance I got I stared at the sky and thought about just how much I wanted to be free. But my mother’s words sustained me. After backbreaking work, all through the day, we were called to return to the meal hall. But before we could eat, we were required to line up. And then the warden decided who would never see the sunlight, but just clouds of red gas. Then it was time. At around 12 hours after we got up, the soldiers shoved us back into our bunks, and once again yelled the ever persistent phrase. “Nahaufnahme! Standbildaufnahme!” There was a buzz and suddenly everything was dark and we found ourselves unable to open the doors or windows, as it was every night. And that was the day, and I didn’t know it then, but salvation was on its way.
Chapter Three: New Arrivals
(June 26 1943)
That afternoon, we had a very very rare occasion: lunch. Soon we all discovered why. A thrumming could be heard, and the military caravan drove in. There were trucks and soldiers in blue uniforms, motorcycles with sidecars and jeeps with officers. The caravan stopped and soldiers jumped down from the tailgates of transports, undoing the canvas on the back of the trucks. I heard a few wild yells as berserking prisoners tried to make a break through the now-open gates and into the yard, but there was much gunfire and when the smoke cleared all you could see was bodies twisted in astute and odd directions and positions. Yet another reminder to people already in the camp. Try to escape, and the guards would shoot first and ask questions later. Startled, the rest of the new arrivals fell into long lines and obeyed the sergeant’s command. “Marsch!” One or two, however, did not look like the rest of the pack, and the sunlight gleamed on something metal that they had. We knew that something was amiss when we saw that glint of metal.
In the evening, they called us to the common room of our bunk, saying, “Brothers! We will meet tonight after the lockdown. For the Germans are fools. They don’t do anything once the lockdown has been settled. Except there are no lights and no people entering or exiting. So we may have a secret meeting after dark.” I was very very excited. When darkness came I was one of the first people in the room. Already in the room were the three people that we had seen coming off the trucks that afternoon, they said, “Welcome, brother! Welcome! We are of the Jewish Society, of the city of Boden. There, Jews are safe. We wish to aid you in escaping. We have been hired by the Swedish government to get ourselves captured so we can help you escape. But before we get into all of that, we have a present for you.” And he produced some of the most unlikely things possible: a metal box full of pistols. I gasped, along with my fellow captives. He said, “Now which of you here are trained infantry?” About twenty people raised their hands. “Alright then,” he said. “Come up one at a time to get your weapons. Do not fire them for we only have limited ammunition.” And so the line progressed along. “Conceal these well. If you do not, you will be killed. Now, brothers. In a few days we will work out our plan. Good luck to everyone.” And that was the start of salvation.
Chapter Four: The Plan
(July 21 1943)
Three weeks later….
The new arrivals had become accustomed to camp life. And now, they had let the word out that it was time to convene, come up with a plan and get out of this slum. So that day, we broke our backs and cut our hands and strained the muscles in our our legs. But we did all of this happily because we knew that soon we would start our plan to escape. That night was both a happy night and a sad night. The sad part: Lieutenant Captain Mark Smith was gassed at around 8. The happy part: it was time for us to begin our escape at last. We all rushed back to our bunk. We were happy all through lockdown. Then it was time. When the two men from the Jewish Society entered the room, they said, “Davidson, you still got your pistol?” “Yep,” he said. “What about you, Jacobean?” “Yep!” And so the process continued. The man finally said, “Alright. Everyone has checked in. So we may begin. We can give you a few ideas on what has worked in other camps. But overall you are the people who know this camp best. You are the ones who’ll be the base of the plan. One of the things that worked a lot is having someone hide out with a pistol in one of the bunks and fire off a shot, causing the guards to run over there. He can kill a guard or two. That way more guards will have to come through and divert their attention from the posts on the exit. All in favor of that plan?” About half of the people said “yes” and half of the people said “no.” The people who said “no” offered to dig tunnels. And the Swedish sergeant said, “Alright then. It is decided. Now for your jobs. Mister Steel, you will work on acquiring supplies. Mister Manning, you will be the engineer, working out safety for the tunnels and the rail lines that we will build inside. Mister Shire, you will work on forging passes for us to get out of the country to Sweden. We have a network in case the plan fails, but if all goes well the plan will work out.” Then he said, “The rest of you: you are guards. you will take your pistol and guard our operation, injuring and even killing soldiers if need be. Oh, and by the way, Mister George, you will be the persuader. You will work to curry favor in the German ranks and use them as supply links. Any amendments?”
After three hours, the plan was decided. Everything would go as originally said, except for the fact that the Swedes would be leading two “divisions” each of the divisions would have workers that worked on things the Swedish officer was skilled at. It was almost time to implement the plan. But there was one more very important part. That was the secrecy swearing. Everyone had to be sworn to secrecy and promise that they would not reveal the plan and also aid the plan wherever it took them. Once this was complete, the two Swedes said, “It’s almost midnight. You get some rest or you will only have four hours and twelve minutes to sleep. Go now.”
Chapter Five: Implementation
(July 22 to Midnight July 23 1943)
In the morning, I walked off to my position as a guard. I was assigned to the forgers. I concealed my pistol carefully underneath several layers of the thin papery bedsheets. We had arranged to that some of the Swedes were now guards, stationed strategically at the frisking point leading to the work areas. They deliberately ignored bedsheet-wrapped bundles in our orange belts. We exited out of the camp inner sanctum walls, to the work areas in the outer ring. My job today would be to enter the office and make sure that the forgers were not discovered. I scurried along to the door and I sat down to wait.
BOOM. “Herauskommen! Hände über dem Kopf! Fallen keine Waffen auf dem Boden!” Two German soldiers raised their rifles and prepared to fire. A third ran forward with handcuffs and so I stepped out with my hands above my head and my glinting pistol lying on the ground. One of the soldiers called the sergeant over and abruptly the sergeant yelled, “Isolation. Zehn Tage. Jetzt. Wärter!” So two guards came with handcuffs and marched me off to the Isolation chamber. They locked the doors and said, “You won’t get any food for two weeks. Sergeant’s orders. Goodnight!” The door slammed shut with such force that it caused the entire wooden shed to vibrate.
The head of the theft and forgery division said, “Where’s Mathewson?! He’s needed to be a forge guard and he hasn’t shown up since the morning!” “Sir, he’s in the isolation chamber,” came the sad reply. “Alright then. We must do it now! Quickly, notify all people to proceed to hiding place one.” Then everyone was running towards an insignificant little shed that the guards had always presumed to be an outhouse down by the edge of the camp. Not wanting anyone to escape, all waste was placed in the holding tanks so that no one could possibly escape by sewer. But they had deliberately kept the tanks clean. So they stood inside the toilet and climbed down. Inside of the septic tank, instead of human waste it was like a small apartment. There were canned foods lining the walls and a modestly sized radio transceiver. One of the Swedes stepped up to the transceiver. He pressed a button and after around 30 seconds something flashed orange and a crackly voice came through with a bit of an accent. “Welcome to the Swedish Intelligence Office. This is the Center for Radio Control. How may I help you?” “This is Operative 1313978A. We require assistance on the mission. This radio may be monitored, so we can’t say much. But we require extra agents and perhaps a government supervisor.” “Alright. That can be arranged,” was the reply. The new agents will arrive by sundown tomorrow. I wish you luck and hope it works out. Goodbye.” And the radio fizzled out. “Alright,” said the Swedish supervisor already there. “Our first step is to rescue Jonah from isolation. “Let’s do it, then!” said one of the guards. And so they set off.
Chapter Six: Rescue
Midnight July 23 1943
It was now dark. Someone had picked the lock on the front door. During midnight blackout, there were no guards on duty, so they passed the isolation building in the far left corner unnoticed. The isolation building was surrounded by a tall wire fence. “Alright,” one of them whispered quietly. “Since there are no guards on duty, there’s no one to open the skeleton gate leading to the isolation room. We’re going to have to cut our way through.” “Supplies. Have you managed to acquire any wire cutters?”
“Yes,” someone replied.
“Great. Lets go.” So they cut through the wire and snuck along in the darkness to the door. “Lockpick” was the whispered command. And so the lock was picked and they entered.
There was a bolt on Jonah’s door, but we opened it with ease. Inside, Jonah jumped up and said “You came to rescue me!”
“Of course!” said the Swedish agent. “Now lets get out of here, it’s almost midnight.” So they ran back to the bunk and were inside with the door locked by 11:59. “Phew, that was close,” one of them said. “Now make it look as if you were sleeping.” So they did.
Chapter Seven: Two Turnings of Tides
Sunset the next day… we heard the roar of a plane. The German guards look up and just figured it was a military plane departing from the nearby airbase.
The two Swedish operatives are down in the septic tank base. The radio crackles to life. “This is the Swedish field service. We are progressing towards your location. Please provide a means of entry,” I heard a squawking voice on the other end of the line. “Right,” was the reply. “Guards, see to it that the gate is unlocked and open for the operatives to arrive.” Once again I addressed the person on the other side of the radio. “We only have another half hour before the German guards come back on duty. You better be quick.” “Of course,” said this squawking voice. “Signing off.”
There was suddenly a light outside of the gate, and the soft patter of wilderness uniform boots on the hard packed dirt outside the compound. They saw the Swedish operatives run in. I jumped with joy. Reinforcements! The tide was finally ready to be turned.
“Lets all go to sleep now, we have a long day ahead of us. It’s one step closer to freedom!”
In the morning, something quite unusual happened. We were roused at our normal time, but besides the usual breakfast hubbub, there were many more soldiers marching about than usual. One German sergeant shouted, “Inspektion! Aufstellung!”
I grimaced as we lined up. SO this was another of those dreaded inspections. Most of these inspections ended with half of the camp going away to the gas chambers. I gasped as I realized they were doing this inspection because they heard the operatives coming in last night. Their safety is in jeopardy. As one soldier passed me, I tried to appear rigid, my face not worried. Soon one of the Swedish intelligence officers was wrestled out of the crowd by two German soldiers who put them in handcuffs. He was pushed up against the wire fence behind a line of soldiers. Soon another one came out of the crowd, then another, then another, then soon all the Swedish operatives, our only hope for freedom, were picked out by the Germans. They formed quite a sizable number, the total of them.
One of the Germans barked, “Why have you got a bulging spine?”
“Because I’ve got THIS” said the Swedish operative, and he pulled out and automatic rifle, shooting down three German Soldiers in rapid succession.
The guards brought their weapons to bear quickly and fired upon them. A fierce gun battle ensued, the guards, me included, went into this sort of protect-the-leader rage and all pulled out pistols. More and more guards came and soon we were outnumbered, still fighting. We weren’t defeated yet and we wanted the Germans to know that. Soon one of our members, Jacobean fell to the unending barrage of machine gunfire. The other agents all pulled out automatic machine gun rifles from their shirts too and soon it became a scene of mass carnage, more and more German soldiers and more and more operative streamed through the camp. The time for secrecy was over. We would probably all be executed in a few days, but at that time we didn’t care, I didn’t care, my friends didn’t care. We were fighting for freedom and that’s all that mattered.We had killed three German guards by now and wounded 7 more but we were still outnumbered. However, the Swedish operatives were more skilled than the standard German infantry and the Swedish operatives had a kill rate of around 20 to 1. However, the Germans had the advantage of numbers on their side and soon it almost swarmed us over. We retreated back to the septic tank. They all jumped into the toilet and closed the lid. With a bang, German soldiers ran toward the outhouse. Everywhere was a tumultuous smoke of gunfire as the operatives made their retreat. There was angry yelling and I could tell that the commander was angry. Suddenly I heard a whirring, grinding noise and I saw a tank. I couldn’t believe it, I yelled to my comrades to take shelter. We dived to the bottom of the tank, covering our ears. There was a sonic BOOM and the tank shell ripped through the ceiling. Suddenly, all around me, metal was twisting and groaning. Smoke was billowing. I could hear the screams of my friends trapped under the masses of mangled metal. We had the get out of here but how? There was a tank and 5000 german soldiers on the surface, what were we supposed to do. Suddenly, I heard a wailing.
Oh no, not an air raid! If there was an air raid on top of what we were already facing then we would all probably die. I said my final prayers, cried for my mother for a moment, and then steeled.
I could hear a faint and distant whistling. The sirens, the screams, the shouts, all drew distant as my world faded to black.
When I woke up I was in a dark room covered with a soiled white sheet which stank of human body byproducts. I groaned and rolled over. So I wasn’t dead, but I would still be forced to live on in torture forever. My head felt heavy and I stared up at the lamp hanging above my head. Goodbye, I told the world, goodbye.
And I slept.
Chapter 8: Air Raids
November 19-November 26 1943
In the morning I woke up and there was a soldier beside my bed. He spoke to the white clothed doctor beside him. “Ist er tot?” “Nein.” a voice replied out of the darkness.
Hazily, I understood. They were discussing whether I was dead. It appears that they had come to the conclusion that I had not, which was true of course, but I had no idea why in the world I was alive.
There was more talk, “Sollen wir ihn wieder an die Arbeit?”
A reply came out of the darkness.
“Geben ihm drei Stunden und weisen Sie dann ihn bis zu einem gewissen geringeren Innen Pflicht. Persönlich ist mir egal, wenn er stirbt, und weder sollten Sie.”
Now I understood. They were going to send me back to work, even in my poor condition. They really didn’t care about people’s lives here and I doubted they ever would. So, and hour passed and then I was put to the work of peeling and chopping potatoes for the evening mess. The potatoes were the least meaty of the crop, just enough to keep someone alive, and covered with mold and gone bad. Our job was to scrape the mold off and then peel the potato, placing them in the pot for cooking. We were not allowed near scalding hot water lest we use it as a weapon against the guards. I sprained at least three fingers in the course of doing this, got whipped by a German soldier once, and shocked in the leg by another. After a hellish six hours, that backbreaking, unbearably painful work was finally done. I sighed. They said, “normally you wouldn’t get dinner, but we need to keep you alive to break your back.”
I’m kidding, they didn’t actually say that, but it sure sounded like that.
I dejectedly picked at my moldy peas which looked wilted and were bitter. They made us eat raw pork here so I had several cases of tapeworms already. Then the air raids happened. We all ran out of the building and cheered as several allied aircrafts raced overhead, bombing the massive camp. There was a radio signal picked up by the radio in the septic tank saying ‘We are raiding the camp, , hide in the potato warehouse, that is the one place we are not bombing. That way you can survive for liberation. Quickly now!”
We all rushed happily yet sadly to the potato warehouse, barricading ourselves inside. Several German soldiers charged in and held us at gunpoint, every one of us. They said into our radio that if the air raid didn’t stop they would slaughter every one of us, so the air raid had no choice but to be stopped, as advent as we were about bringing death to the German forces. The German soldiers released us quickly, shoving us into one another, marching us out of the warehouse into the gas chambers.
Chapter 9: Survival
Noon November 27 1943
As we entered into the gas chamber, which, of course, they did not expect us to know it was a gas chamber, there was a small window. As we entered the ‘baths’ as they called them. A little girl whined. “I’m suffocating, mama,” she said, “Will you tell the man to open a window?”
I wanted to laugh and say, “ha, to have you suffocate is the idea!” But I refrained.
It seems that the Germans were not yet ready to reveal the true purpose so they said, “Alright, one window may be open for five minutes.”
And that is how we survived. I returned to the bunk in high fervor, excited about surviving the gas chambers. The Swedish agents had reconvened yet again, brought in more agents and better manpower, spun captivating capture stories that the Germans believed to be in every way true. This time, they brought in an automatic rifle for each guard and told them to conceal it in an inner pocket of their pants.
“Now for the second plan,” the new Swedish head of operations said. “We have a better plan now and automatic rifles to help us along. WE shall do the same as before except that now all guards will be equipped with forged ‘warden’s pardons’ which will allow them to be about in the camp without supervision from soldiers. Then we will be protected from isolation and other forms of torture that the Germans may subject us to. Now onto the second phase of the plan. We’ve got Swedish operatives posing as German soldiers and actually officers in the German high command that will attempt to work on giving you as much leeway as possible. Of this, Hitler will not and must not know. For freedom!
There was a rising responding call.
The officer told us to get some sleep and then we did.
Chapter 10: Implementation ii
November 27-November 30 1943
We had a plan. We would pose as prisoners transferring to a different camp and board military trucks that were manned by the Swedish operatives posing as German soldiers. When we got in, we would make for the boarder of Germany and freedom in Sweden. This way we didn’t have to focus on forging and we had one less thing to do but we would escape they assured us.
Time to go, work on reacquiring supplies and escape this hellhole once and for all!
We all went about our jobs. The old persuader worked to get the prisoner transferred orders. We all worked hard to seem as innocent as we could, and the Germans seemed happy that for once, we were acting as dejected hopeless Jews instead of budding revolutionaries. Time went on, but we endured the cruel tortures happily, knowing that freedom was on the horizon.
Chapter 11 – War, Bad News and a Spark of Hope Extinguished
Somebody had stolen a newspaper from one of the guards and the news that it carried was not good.
In den Nachrichten an diesem Morgen, ist eine atemberaubende Durchbruch. Es wurde festgestellt, dass die schwedische Betrieb sind pro-jüdische Zellen, die Juden zu befreien, so dass sie uns helfen kann zu zerstören. Entlang von diesem, hat Ihr Anführer und Beschützer Schweden den Krieg erklärt. er schwört, dass wir werden nicht aufhören, bis wir erbärmlich Schweden in unserem Kielwasser zerdrückt. Lange kann das deutsche Vaterland und die arische Rasse zu leben.
In my later years, I have found time to translate this news article and it may be found in the Annex materials section. However, we have no time to read that now, so heres the basic content. The Germans have discovered the Swedish intent, and intend to declare war upon them so we cannot be free. I go back to my work saddened by this prospect, but the Swedish operatives are telling us that they will continue to aid us at all costs. This cheers me a little, but not much. They say we must go on with our plan, but after reading the article some of my brothers have abandoned the attempt. I, however, and most of my friends have not. ¨The plan must continue,” we say. For those of us who are not abandoning the plan, we are close to salvation but yet another setback occurs and we are yet again set back.
It was morning time. The Swedish operatives came out of the shelter looking dejected. One of them sighed and proceeded to tell us ”Because of the war, our superiors demand that we pull out and aid them in the war and aid them in the defense of our country. We will not be doing any offensive campaigning because that would result in the loss of too many lives unless there is a breach in the German defenses which we will fully utilize. I will not see you for a long time and I hope we meet again on free ground, my brothers. Now, I must leave.” So he went to the car where the two German soldiers were waiting for them. ”Me and my remaining comrades did something bad so they would transfer us between camps aboard a truck. A Swedish plane will raid the truck and pull us out so that we can go home.” All of the people of the camp were sad as the agents car drove away. Some cried. Some fainted. Others attempted to throw themselves at the door to the gas chamber. I myself sighed and fell on the spot. The blissful blackness of the dirt encasing me…
I woke up again in that same bed of the same building I had been in before. Once again, the familiar conversation, ”Ist er tot?” ”Nein.” ”Sollen wir ihn wieder an die Arbeit?”, ”Geben ihm drei Stunden und weisen Sie dann ihn bis zu einem gewissen geringeren Innen Pflicht. Persönlich ist mir egal, wenn er stirbt, und weder sollten Sie.” Three hours later, as normal, I was put back to work. Time flowed by unendingly. There was no hope now. Sweden was gone. There was not now but oppression. No hope. Nobody. No nothing. Just war. War and death. I fought to keep myself alive. Now there was nothing. The air raids had been forced to stop. No salvation. War. I prayed to Adonai hoping for something better and it turned out that God didn’t wish for me to die today. There would be another attempt. Soon, that attempt presented itself…
Chapter 12 – Freedom Eludes Us Again
April to early May 1945
Soon, that other opportunity presented itself. Into the camp, two Jews, who had been escape artists in the circus, they promised that they might be able to save us and our beliefs. We gave them the wire cutters that weeks ago (it seemed like years now) supplied the escape effort. On June 22, 1939, it was scheduled to happen. We would break free at all costs. We swore, saying we would come out of battle free or dead. That was the rekindling of the spark of hope. The next day was that fated day; it was June 22. Morning rose quietly but trembling with anticipation. It was time for the escape. The artists met at the appointed hour in Bunk 6. It was time. Blackout had come and gone. The final planning was over. We went together to the gate. “Hey!” I yelled. “Aufhalten!” he replied, “Stop, stop now! Succumb, I order you!” I pulled out a rifle I had saved for the last uprising. I fired. The guard fell. Wild yells penetrated the air around me. Yells of anguish and happiness as more people charged forward. They ran. The rest of the guards held them to the choking point. I, however, as one of them was able to divert the attention from the real escape. The artists dived out from behind cover. They snuck to a point about 780 feet west of the nearest guard tower. One of them pulled the wire cutters from their pants. They attempted to make a step to make a hole. The time left of the diversion was running out. The main body was rapidly being overwhelmed by the guards. I ran to the front and, shooting down one guard, narrowly missed three more shots fired by another. I ran for it. Diving behind cover when I could, I charged one of the towers. Three people backed me and together we were able to defeat the guard. They were almost through. We had to give them five more seconds. “Five! Just five!” I told myself.
I hurried to fire a few more shots. Another one of our friends fell to the guard. Five! Four! Three! Two! One! Boom!!
It was over. We had failed. I saw the artist lying dead on the ground by the wire. There was blood but the ground was rapidly soaking. There were yells and dejectedly we once again dropped our rifles. Some fell from exhaustion just then. I slumped over. We had been foiled. Escape was now a long way away. The guards handcuffed us. We were sent back to the gas chambers which, thankfully, we once again survived. This time they did not hesitate to inject the gas to the chamber. Each of us, however, had nose clips stowed in our outer pockets. I clipped my nose clip over my nose and whipped out a pair of goggles. These I placed over my head. I also had a rubber mask. I placed that on as did most of my friends. We let the red gas wash over us. Then there was just darkness. 23 seconds later it was over. All over. The gas had dissipated. Assuming of course that we were all dead. We did our best to appear so and whipped off our nose clips and eye masks and lay down on the floor, splayed out as if dead. They came and carried us away and placed us in the ‘Tomb of Auschwitz.’ There they left us. Suffocating in the brittle air, we struggled to survive. Day by day we crawled to the door, struggling for breath. As quietly as we could we exposed and activated the trigger for the vile of gas that we had procured. We debated, whispering quietly among ourselves, “Should we kill the Germans? It’s the only way to be free. But do we want to take anyone’s lives in the quest to be free? But it’s the only way to be free!”
Then we were at the door. We climbed out. We were free. However, a steady guard of Germans had been placed at the entrance to the Tomb of Auschwitz because they had known that one of us would probably play a trick like this eventually. Now our trouble was getting past the German guards. WE didn’t want to have to do this but we had captured a vial of Zyklon B. This we threw at the guards and that was how we got out of the tomb. It was very very hard for me to throw the canister. I didn’t want to kill anyone in the quest for freedom but if it had to be done, it had to be done. So we got out and prepared to escape.
Chapter 13: Victory and Tipping Points
May 7th 1945
But then we heard a heated discussion between four German officers.
“We have surrendered to the Allies but should we tell the prisoners now or later? Should we let them be free now?”
“Tell them now, we have surrendered and if we do not free them now the allies may kill us” another soldier retorted.
We began to chatter excitedly among ourselves.
“Let’s go back to the camp so we can receive British aid.”
An so that’s what we did!
That was it. Salvation was here. Trucks drove in but this time they weren’t German trucks. They were Allied trucks. A soldier stepped up to me and said, “Hey, do you speak English?”
“Yes,” I replied calmly.
“Please get aboard the truck now then, we will take you to the airport at Trier. From there we will fly you to the British constituate in Spain. From here you can do whatever you wish. You deserve to be free, you have been through a lot. I myself am of your brethren and I commend you for what you have done and the people you have lost. Get aboard the truck now.”
And so I got aboard the bus. We left the camp behind. It was now covered in a grey film of dust. During the Allied occupation of Germany the camp was used as a training site for Allied bombers. Some buildings were tossed aside and the gas chambers were the first to be bombed.
Epilogue: In Memoriam and My Travels in The World
The minister finished his prayer with an amen that was echoed by all.
“And so,” he said, “These heroic people fell in battle for freedom of religion, of belief, and physically. They died fighting for their brethren, their life. And I commend them for their losses. May everyone watch over them.”
It had been a long mourning, filled with stories, heartfelt narratives that are too long to include in this narrative, but I think that they were beautiful and represented the dead more than adequately. Once I was free, I traveled by plane to the United States in 1956. There I stayed for ten years visiting the sights and telling the people of my experience at the camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, but the most important place that I ever traveled in that time was in fact the same place I had come away from. Germany. The refugee society member tracked down my mother. I visited her. She was overjoyed to see me as I was to see her. I was happy and overjoyed to know that after the deportation of men to Auschwitz, Jews were isolated from the rest of the camp an not assigned to work teams. In October 1943 1700 people were sent to Auschwitz so the remaining Jews were not assigned to work teams, so her condition did not deteriorate as much as mine. We discussed our experiences and she was horrified to learn that I had gone to Auschwitz and noted that the conditions that I must have faced were probably ten times worse than hers. She constantly pestered me. I told her of all the details and she told me of hers. Then I traveled to France, visiting sites where prisoners like myself had languished and I was free after 11 years of terror.
Here are some things that will help you understand this story better:
In the news this morning, a stunning breakthrough is made. It has been discovered that the Swedish are operating pro-Jewish cells which help to free Jews so that they may destroy us. Along by this, your leader and protector has declared war on Sweden. He vows that we will not stop until we have crushed pathetic Sweden in our wake. Long may live the German fatherland and the Aryan race.
Here There Is No Why by Rachel Chencinski Roth
Night by Elie Weisel
The Book Thief by Markus
THe Diary of Anne Frank
Surviving Auschwitz by Primo Levi
Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman