Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land

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

ESTHER'S FIRST BORN

April 1944 was unusually sunny. In the air you could feel the warm breezes of spring. This year, in the neighborhood of the railroad tracks that led straight to the crematorium, the women were at work laying sidewalks and arranging bunches of flowers. The earth, which smelled of freedom, was freshly dug, and hope entered our hearts. Not far from the fence, new earth was piled up and topped with a floor. This was where the camp orchestra gave concerts and singers sang famous solos. Once a week, after lunch, those concerts took place in the area. Anyone who could drag his feet came. Benches were taken out of the barracks. The healthier people stood or sat on the ground. Those who were able to get to the concert listened, and their thoughts would escape far beyond the present stinking, sordid life.

The orchestra consisted of many instruments. The conductors were a Russian woman and a Hungarian woman. A beautiful Hungarian woman was the soloist. The members of the orchestra wore identical outfits, and the soloist even wore an evening gown. I can remember one of those red, low-cut dresses in which she did not hesitate to appear for the performance. The Russian girl was young -- very poised and calm. As soon as she tapped with her baton, the Strauss waltzes started flowing immediately. Everything looked so innocent, but we who knew how much human misery, degradation, and suffering were being covered by this curtain of music, and how many shattered dreams were there, were startled by this seeming innocence. The second conductor was dark and fiery. She also played the violin, and as she played she turned one way and another, setting the rhythm of a czardas for the orchestra, which accompanied her as she played the longing notes of a gypsy melody.

Sometimes, near the barbed wire, a train would go by, carrying Jews from the west in Pullman cars. The people tried to get to the window to wave to us. They took in the ideal picture, which calmed them and allowed them to believe that they were really

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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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