Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust

By Anita Brostoff; Sheila Chamovitz | Go to book overview

III
Ruthlessness as a System

The German government developed an extremely efficient system for handling the Final Solution. The pattern set in Germany in the 1930s was repeated in occupied countries later: Jews were identified, civil liberties restricted and property confiscated, work denied; then Jews were forced to wear the Jewish star and forbidden to use public facilities. Finally, Jews were dislocated: assembled in ghettos, cities, or transit camps and deported to death camps in the east, where they were murdered en masse.

What this brutal system of dislocation and slaughter was like for its victims has been told by many survivors. Holocaust history books and survivor testimonies have shown us about life in the ghettos under the Nazis: the starvation, disease, crowding; forced labor; SS “actions” where young children, old people, and sick people were taken away and killed. We have heard from many witnesses what it was like to be transported: the cattle cars—people crowded, stifling, enduring hunger and terrible stench, dying while standing on their feet; the “selections” upon arrival at the concentration camps, which only the young and unencumbered might pass, while the rest were sent immediately to their death; the incredible life in the concentration camps, with hours-on-end roll calls, brutal labor, starvation, crowding, disease, and the constant threat of death.

However, these stories cannot be told too often: not only because history demands that we know the truth, but also because we can only begin to understand this truth in terms of the personal ordeals of the victims.

Stories in this section provide those truths in detail. “In the Dark” makes us aware of how helpless Jews felt upon being deported, never knowing where or what was intended for them, seeing family members mysteriously taken away. “Dachau” gives us a graphic picture of what it was like to arrive at and become an inmate of a concentration camp. “The Tenth Woman on Block Ten” quietly describes the plight of women victims of inhuman medical experiments at Auschwitz, where many were sterilized. “The Gypsies” strikes upon one woman's experience of another infamous event: the overnight liquidation of thousands of gypsies at Auschwitz. The pattern set up for handling the “Jewish problem” in Germany happens again, in “The Law in Lithuania.” The ruthlessness of Romanian gendarmes who carried out German policies in the Ukraine, after

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Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vi
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword xiii
  • Timeline of the Holocaust xv
  • Map of Concentration Camps in Europe xxviii
  • Preface xxix
  • Introduction xxxiii
  • I - Snapshots: Jewish Life Before the Holocaust 1
  • Snapshots 2
  • War Arrives in Lithuania 3
  • A German Family 7
  • Betrayal 11
  • Parting 13
  • II - The Destruction of a Society 15
  • Herr B. 17
  • A Kristallnacht Journey 18
  • An Action Against the Jews 20
  • Leaving Germany, Leaving Home 24
  • Escape to England 26
  • The Best-Laid Plans 28
  • A Life-Defining Impression 30
  • The Harbinger of What? 32
  • The Beginning and the End 33
  • A Family Gone, One by One 34
  • The Abandonment of Mielec 36
  • A Shtetl's Life is Ended 37
  • What Ever Happened to the Jews of Skudvil? 40
  • III - Ruthlessness as a System 43
  • In the Dark 45
  • Theresienstadt 47
  • Dachau 50
  • Auschwitz, 1944 55
  • The Tenth Woman on Block Ten 56
  • The Means to Survive 58
  • The Gypsies 60
  • Nazi Murderers 61
  • How Many Made It? 63
  • The Law in Lithuania 64
  • Horrors of War 70
  • IV - The Lottery of Death and Life 81
  • German Roulette 83
  • My Sister Rieke 84
  • A Definition of Survival 86
  • An Unforgettable Passover Seder 89
  • Trying to Go Home 90
  • Bar Mitzvah Boy 93
  • The Skull with the Golden Braid 95
  • The Concentration Camp Lottery 96
  • The Girl with Wooden Shoes 101
  • The Wagon 102
  • The Child 103
  • V - Disguise as a Way of Hiding 105
  • In Constant Terror 107
  • Posing as a Christian 114
  • I Choose Life 116
  • Lost Families 119
  • Beyond Memory 121
  • A Hidden Child in Greece 123
  • VI - The Sustaining Power of Family Love 143
  • The Promise 144
  • A Mother's Courage 147
  • Miracles 151
  • A Dream of Milk 155
  • In Praise of Manual Labor 156
  • A Son in Deed 158
  • The Psychologist 162
  • VII - The Virtuous and the Vicious 163
  • A Narrow Escaper 165
  • The Kindness of Strangers 168
  • A Saintly Person 170
  • The Convent in Marseilles 173
  • Among the Righteous 176
  • The Killing Hunger 179
  • Captain Zimmer 180
  • The Volunteer Group 181
  • Mazel 182
  • The Farmer Kowarski 185
  • A Surprise Package 187
  • VIII - Disguise as a Way of Hiding 189
  • Lithuanian Friends 191
  • Unsung Heroes 199
  • Friend or Enemy? 202
  • Resist in Everything! 208
  • IX - Emergence into Light 225
  • The Golden Chain of Judaism 227
  • Flight to Freedom 236
  • The Last Hiding Place 243
  • One Day War, the Next Day Not 245
  • The Long Road After Liberation 247
  • On the Way to Health 249
  • An Ending and a Beginning 252
  • The Tiny Flame 254
  • X - The Aftermath: Remembering 257
  • The Aftermath 258
  • The Barber 260
  • Kaleidoscope: Salonika, Greece, 1945 261
  • The Sewing Basket 263
  • Children from the Camps Going to England 265
  • The Chief of the Gestapo 268
  • Herr Schluemper 270
  • The Miracle 272
  • To Bear Witness About the Holocaust 274
  • It Shall Not Be Forgotten nor Forgiven! 276
  • Addendum - Seen with My Own Eyes: Stories by American Liberators 279
  • The Photograph 281
  • Germany, 1945: View from a Tank 283
  • Gusen: A Nurse's Tale 286
  • A Letter from Dachau 288
  • I Saw Buchenwald 291
  • Re-Entry 296
  • Biographies of Survivor-Authors 298
  • Biographies of Survivor-Authors 298
  • Photographs of Liberator-Authors 336
  • Author Index 342
  • Story Index 343
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