Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land

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

THE PRICE OF LIFE

Is it possible to put a price on life? I do not mean somebody else's life but one's own. Can a definite price be set on life, or is it priceless? That is, does life have a value beyond any price? If so, then it is all right knowingly to send other people to be gassed, those prisoners who had been deprived by the almighty Germans of the right to live. Moreover, when death is inevitable is there any point in fighting for life? Is there really such a thing as a meaningful death? Is it better for a human being to face death, knowing that he is about to die, or is it better when death comes upon him suddenly, snuffing him out before he realizes what is happening?

In Auschwitz, a place where death was palpable, where the air was filled with death groans, those questions flowed through our minds continuously. For us these were not merely academic questions. The way you answered these questions determined the way you behaved toward other people, including those who were condemned to death. Those who asserted, "I want to live at any price," would put even their own parents into the car that was going to the crematorium. On the other hand, parents who wanted to live at any price put their small children into valises and then cast the valises aside. Those who asserted, "My life is priceless," dragged out prisoners who were hiding during the selection so that they themselves would be able to escape the danger.

It seems odd, but in Auschwitz everybody wanted to live. Suicides were very rare. In this terrible world there was room for hope and dreams. The most beautiful images of life after the war shimmered in the mind's eye. We imagined that after the war people would be richer for the experience and would create a paradise on earth, without wars and without persecution. Is it any wonder that everyone wanted to see the defeat of Germany and the world that would come into being after that took place? The real challenge was to find the will to overcome the animal instinct of survival at all cost, as reflected in the cynical proverb "Better a

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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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