Ruthlessness as a System
The German government developed an extremely efficient system for handling the Final Solution. The pattern set in Germany in the 1930s was repeated in occupied countries later: Jews were identified, civil liberties restricted and property confiscated, work denied; then Jews were forced to wear the Jewish star and forbidden to use public facilities. Finally, Jews were dislocated: assembled in ghettos, cities, or transit camps and deported to death camps in the east, where they were murdered en masse.
What this brutal system of dislocation and slaughter was like for its victims has been told by many survivors. Holocaust history books and survivor testimonies have shown us about life in the ghettos under the Nazis: the starvation, disease, crowding; forced labor; SS “actions” where young children, old people, and sick people were taken away and killed. We have heard from many witnesses what it was like to be transported: the cattle cars—people crowded, stifling, enduring hunger and terrible stench, dying while standing on their feet; the “selections” upon arrival at the concentration camps, which only the young and unencumbered might pass, while the rest were sent immediately to their death; the incredible life in the concentration camps, with hours-on-end roll calls, brutal labor, starvation, crowding, disease, and the constant threat of death.
However, these stories cannot be told too often: not only because history demands that we know the truth, but also because we can only begin to understand this truth in terms of the personal ordeals of the victims.
Stories in this section provide those truths in detail. “In the Dark” makes us aware of how helpless Jews felt upon being deported, never knowing where or what was intended for them, seeing family members mysteriously taken away. “Dachau” gives us a graphic picture of what it was like to arrive at and become an inmate of a concentration camp. “The Tenth Woman on Block Ten” quietly describes the plight of women victims of inhuman medical experiments at Auschwitz, where many were sterilized. “The Gypsies” strikes upon one woman's experience of another infamous event: the overnight liquidation of thousands of gypsies at Auschwitz. The pattern set up for handling the “Jewish problem” in Germany happens again, in “The Law in Lithuania.” The ruthlessness of Romanian gendarmes who carried out German policies in the Ukraine, after