Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land

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

TAUT AS A STRING

Karola was a registered nurse. Before the war she had worked in a hospital in Krakow. If it is true that the practice of a profession influences a person's outward appearance as well as a person's psyche, then Karola was an excellent example of the rule. All you had to do was to take one look at her and you would instantly know what her profession was. The tranquil expression on her face, the calmness of her movements, her quick, light step, and the nobility of her figure all indicated that Karola must have been a wonderful nurse. When I first met her in Auschwitz she was about thirty-five years old.

She was not eager to reveal her intimate secrets. Always she seemed to be lost in thought. I knew very little about her. Her coolness was intimidating. I saw her often, since Karola worked on the hospital block. Her manner was unchanging: calm and quiet.

It was rumored in the camp that Karola had left two children with her sister -- a thirteen-year-old daughter and five-year-old son. She very rarely spoke about them. Apparently she feared that the mere mention of them might have the power to bring them here to her. Rumor had it that Karola's sister had found a place outside the ghetto, among good gentile friends, and that there she took care of Karola's children.

I remember that hot summer day when Karola was informed that her sister, along with the children, was on the ramp in Auschwitz, waiting with the others for the arrival of the German doctor.

It was twelve o'clock. Dr. Koenig was in the clinic, looking over the sick. He was tall and skinny and gloomy. Even so, we preferred him to Dr. Mengele, who often talked to the sick like a benefactor. Suddenly the door of the infirmary opened and Karola burst in like a hurricane. She kneeled in the middle of the infirmary and stretched out her hands to Dr. Koenig in a beseeching way. She begged for the lives of her children. Orli, who had come into the infirmary with Karola, was standing next to her. Karola was lucky.

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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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