Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land

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

THE DANCE OF THE RABBIS

There came a day when Magda was ready to stand in front of the infirmary and shout at the top of her voice, "People, don't let them deceive you. You are on the way to die in the gas chambers!"

That day a transport arrived in the late afternoon. We heard the noise of the train and the whistles of the SS men. We closed the gate, but through a crack we watched what was happening on the ramp. We had become accustomed to watching the goings on, because the trains stopped in front of the infirmary. It was a hot, stuffy summer day. A thick stench hung in the air. The people were leaving the wagons. Mengele, as usual, was performing the selections. Out of one of the wagons came a group of about a hundred rabbis. They were all dressed in long, black, satin coats and black hats, and some of them were even wearing fur caps in spite of the intense heat. All of them were elderly and they all had long, white beards. Where did they get them all? How did they manage to round up that many rabbis in a single transport? Since the train came from Hungary, these must have been Hungarian rabbis.

Mengele shunted them off to the side. We guessed instantly that they were trying to figure out something special for them. Between the tracks and the infirmary was an empty wasteland full of holes and craters. This barren landscape was dotted with stones, refuse, wires, broken desks. Everything was flung there helter skelter. The SS men herded the rabbis into this barren area. They were squeezed closely together, fearful and troubled. We could not hear Mengele's orders, but we saw the tightly packed rabbis scatter, forming a huge circle that started moving on the uneven terrain in some sort of a macabre dance. Some of them tripped and fell, breaking the rhythm of the other dancing rabbis. Then you could hear the hum of the whip, and one of the old men would get to his feet and resume dancing.

Apparently Mengele issued a new command, because they now lifted their eyes and arms to heaven. They kept on dancing. Men

-105-

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