Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land

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

THE FIGHT FOR MASHA'S LIFE

Listen," Masha said to me, "I will tell you how Orli saved my life. In the summer of 1943 an epidemic of spotted typhus raged through the camp. There were days when three hundred sick people would report to the area with that dreadful disease. Piles of corpses littered the space in front of every hospital block. At first the Germans did not pay much attention to the epidemic. Apparently they thought that the disease would ravage only the prisoners. But the lice were so impudent that they took to biting the SS men. More and more SS men started coming down with typhus. At that point the camp administrators decided to take measures to stem the epidemic. In Auschwitz that did not mean treating the disease but rather burning the lice along with the people. Whole blocks of sick people went to the gas, and the nurses went with them.

"At that time I came down with typhus. Throughout the course of the sickness I continued to work. I walked around with a temperature of over 40 degrees, only half conscious. Eventually, the Germans found me out and put me on the typhus block. Since the whole block was made up of functionaries, people started deluding themselves that the Germans intended to spare this block. The first few days on the block I was unconscious and did not know what was going on around me. When I returned to consciousness a few days later I was informed that the whole block had been designated for the gas. At that time there were about three hundred sick people on the block. They were all young girls and were already convalescing. Some were actually completely healthy and were slated to leave the hospital the next day. But before anybody could leave, the block was sealed, and the only exit was through the chimneys of the crematorium.

"For three days we waited to be taken to the gas. I was so weak that I didn't care. The other girls, who had returned to health, were going absolutely crazy. They were all looking for some corner in which they could hide, although they knew very well that no such corner existed. They did not want to die. One afternoon

-43-

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Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Translator's Foreword ix
  • Alienation 3
  • Exchange 8
  • New Arrivals 13
  • Without Pity 17
  • Death of the Zugang 22
  • Salvation 27
  • The Roar of the Beast 31
  • The Infirmary 36
  • What Kind of a Person Was Orli Reichert? 41
  • The Fight for Masha's Life 43
  • A Plate of Soup 45
  • Erika's Red Triangle 48
  • A Peculiar Roll Call 51
  • The Block of Death 53
  • Morituri Te Salutant 58
  • Marie and Odette 63
  • Esther's First Born 67
  • Old Words -- New Meanings 72
  • Children 79
  • A Living Torch 81
  • The Little Gypsy 83
  • Taut as a String 85
  • The Extermination of the Midgets 89
  • Natasha's Triumph 94
  • The Price of Life 98
  • The Lovers of Auschwitz 100
  • The Dance of the Rabbis 105
  • Revenge of a Dancer 107
  • The Verdict 110
  • Friendly Meetings 114
  • Old Women 118
  • Ilya Ehrenburg Addresses Us 121
  • The New Year's Celebration 123
  • The Bewitched Sleigh 127
  • The Camp Blanket 132
  • In Pursuit of Life 137
  • The Plagues of Egypt 142
  • Without the Escorts 146
  • The First Days of Freedom 151
  • The Road Back 155
  • Editors' Afterword 163
  • Glossary 183
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