Listen," Masha said to me, "I will tell you how Orli saved my life. In the summer of 1943 an epidemic of spotted typhus raged through the camp. There were days when three hundred sick people would report to the area with that dreadful disease. Piles of corpses littered the space in front of every hospital block. At first the Germans did not pay much attention to the epidemic. Apparently they thought that the disease would ravage only the prisoners. But the lice were so impudent that they took to biting the SS men. More and more SS men started coming down with typhus. At that point the camp administrators decided to take measures to stem the epidemic. In Auschwitz that did not mean treating the disease but rather burning the lice along with the people. Whole blocks of sick people went to the gas, and the nurses went with them.
"At that time I came down with typhus. Throughout the course of the sickness I continued to work. I walked around with a temperature of over 40 degrees, only half conscious. Eventually, the Germans found me out and put me on the typhus block. Since the whole block was made up of functionaries, people started deluding themselves that the Germans intended to spare this block. The first few days on the block I was unconscious and did not know what was going on around me. When I returned to consciousness a few days later I was informed that the whole block had been designated for the gas. At that time there were about three hundred sick people on the block. They were all young girls and were already convalescing. Some were actually completely healthy and were slated to leave the hospital the next day. But before anybody could leave, the block was sealed, and the only exit was through the chimneys of the crematorium.
"For three days we waited to be taken to the gas. I was so weak that I didn't care. The other girls, who had returned to health, were going absolutely crazy. They were all looking for some corner in which they could hide, although they knew very well that no such corner existed. They did not want to die. One afternoon