Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land

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

Lisette had a strange face. It was as if it consisted of two elements that did not match. Her chin and jaw were sharp. You would think that they were those of a crude person, even an evil one. But her cheeks were round and flushed. She had an upturned nose, happy hazel eyes, and while I cannot remember the shape of her mouth, I do recall that there was always a cheerful smile on her lips. I must admit that her smile actually annoyed me. I met Lisette in Auschwitz in 1944, at the most dreadful period, when the sky over the camp was always red and the air reeked with the odor of burning flesh.

It was a macabre summer. There were times when I felt as though everything happening around me was unreal, that it must be the product of a sick imagination. Transports kept arriving day and night, and most of them went straight to the gas. Young, healthy women were instantly inscribed in the book of death. Completely naked, they were herded to an enclosure behind barbed wire. There they waited, under the July sun, without shade, without food, and without water.

The day was one marked by unusual bustle and activity. Trains arrived and departed. The Germans bellowed whenever someone tried to disrupt the established order, whenever someone failed to stand squarely in the line of death, whenever someone tried to hold on to a single valise that remained of all her possessions. All of the activity proceeded at a quickened tempo so that the people would not have a minute's respite during which they might stop to think and perhaps plan some opposition to their captors. "Schneller, schneller,"* the Germans barked, and the people running from the clubs and guns fell inevitably into the German whirlpool. At the very entrance to the bath house stood the camp doctor, the celebrated Mengele, beautiful, elegant, with a smile that inspired trust. With a careless motion of his hand he directed some to the right and some to the left. Women with children, old people, the

____________________
"Faster, faster."

-58-

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