Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land

By Sara Nomberg-Przytyk; Eli Pefferkorn et al. | Go to book overview

NEW ARRIVALS

At Auschwitz the zugangi (new arrivals) were at the bottom of the ladder. They were pariahs who were treated contemptuously by the other prisoners. They were beaten and kicked mercilessly and endlessly. They constantly tormented themselves over the orders and commands that were unfamiliar to them and that they could not understand. Zugangi -- the new prisoners who did not know how to "organize" -- did not know how or where to hide; they made themselves absurd trying to defend their human dignity. Just for fun the sztubowa would beat a new prisoner on the face for a long time, until the eyes looked as if they were blue "eyeglasses." The new inmate would be so surprised that she would not even shield her face and would look around innocently and ask: "Why are you hitting me? I am a human being."

The sztubowa would answer, "You are a zugang, a stinking zugang. For my part you can drop dead right now."

On 13 January 1944, I became a zugang, a stinking, hungry, battered outcast of a zugang. That evening, along with the entire transport, I entered the camp through a huge gate on which you could see a sign in iron letters reading: "Arbeit macht frei."* Immediately after entering we were chased into the baths, to the sauna. At that time I was not aware that this infamous phrase evoked feelings of terror in all the prisoners. That gate was the entrance to the valley of death. It was impossible for anyone to imagine what awaited a human being in this death trap. We were ushered through a place that looked like an amphitheatre and from there into the showers. We undressed completely and sat down on the benches. Since the room was unheated we shivered from cold. We waited for the SS men to visit us. They arrived. "Achtung!" the blokowa shouted. We jumped up from our places and stood naked in front of a large group of SS men who looked us over slowly, with disdain in their eyes.

____________________
"Work makes you free."

-13-

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