Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land

By Sara Nomberg-Przytyk; Eli Pefferkorn et al. | Go to book overview
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WHAT KIND OF A PERSON WAS Orli REICHERT?

Before I met Orli I had heard many different stories about her. Among the members of the anti-Fascist organization there was a wide range of opinion about this young, beautiful German who had been in prisons and concentration camps since 1933. As soon as Hitler came to power she was thrown into prison. At the time she was eighteen years old. She was sentenced to five years in prison for having been involved in some sort of manifesto. When the time came for her release in 1938, the Gestapo gave her a choice: either she could expose all the anti-Fascists with whom she had been in contact or she would spend the rest of her life in a concentration camp. Having refused to cooperate with the Gestapo, she was transported to various camps in Germany; following the occupation of Poland she was sent to Auschwitz. She was the most senior person in this death camp. She served as lagerälteste of the area. You could say, in plain language, that she held the lives of many women prisoners in her hands.

At the time I was in the camp I was fascinated by Orli's individualism. I must admit that even today I often think about her. She was a true German and yet a Communist at the same time. To what extent the camp demoralized her I cannot say. It seemed to me at the time that the Gestapo deliberately gave her power to undermine her ideals. They set her against the Communists of other nations who were struggling to survive in the Hell of Auschwitz.

I cannot judge Orli. I will not even try. I really do not understand her. I always saw her in a variety of situations, and in each situation she was a different person. On one occasion she would be defiant to the authorities; on another she would be cruel to the prisoners. At one moment she was filled with compassion for human suffering; at another, without blinking an eye, she made sure that not even one of the victims sentenced to the gas chamber

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