Nothing was accidental, all was consciously accomplished, all to a specific end. At long last I was grasping the true meaning of Auschwitz; it was created for systematically smashing and destroying people.
Although the reasons for her arrest by the Germans were unspecified, a Polish woman named Pelagia Lewinska found herself in Cracow Prison in the winter of 1942-- 1943. The prison was badly overcrowded, and so the prisoners suspected that one of three fates would be theirs. Of the first two, release seemed much less likely than death. But the third option--concentration camp--seemed even more menacing than death. That fate, which Lewinska called at first "a vertiginous plunge into unfathomable vagueness," began to be hers on January 23, 1943, the date she got her Crawcow Prison departure notice.
Cracow is not far from Auschwitz, only forty miles or so. But the train trip that took Lewinska and about 160 other women to that place was a journey into the unknown. What was unknown would become known--too soon, too well--and yet, Lewinska reports, it could still take time for a prisoner to figure out what was happening at Auschwitz. Twenty Months at Auschwitz, Lewinska's book about her experience there, uses the detail of life and death in the camp to focus what she calls "the ultimate purpose of Auschwitz." Her observations, after liberation as well as during her captivity, convinced her that Auschwitz existed to smash, destroy, and exterminate people systematically. This purpose meant that, strictly speaking, nothing happened by accident Auschwitz. Everything--the camp's mud, lice, lack of water, and capricious violence--advanced the intended goals of degradation and destruction.