Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land

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

A PLATE OF SOUP

Sonia came from the Ural Mountains. She had been in Auschwitz since 1943. She had come here straight from the front, one of a group of eleven nurses and one doctor -- a surgeon known in Auschwitz as Dr. Lubow. They all managed to get to the area, but I do not really know how they all did it. The Russians were different from other prisoners. They were all broad, well built, and strong. Sonia was a very pretty girl, with a happy, smiling face. She was very kind. In fact, she was so good that she was somewhat helpless. It was dangerous to be too good in Auschwitz. As they say, in Auschwitz the pigs liked to feast on good people.

Sonia was a nurse on one of the blocks in the area. Orli knew her and respected her. I never heard Sonia criticize anybody and that includes Orli. But then again, Sonia really could not conceive the full range of Orli's behavior.

"When I first came to the area" Sonia told me, "I didn't expect to last for a week. At every step I encountered such horrible suffering that I couldn't bear it. I was used to helping people who were suffering. But what could I do here? It was hard for me to get oriented. From the moment I arrived on the area I admired Orli. In that sea of suffering she moved with confidence and self-assurance. She was able to decide who could be helped and who was to be sacrificed. Since you can't help everybody, you've got to know who can benefit from being helped and, of those who can benefit, who is most in need. Orli always knew." Sonia paused for a moment, as though looking for words that would express what she was feeling just then.

I remember thinking, during that interlude in Sonia's narrative, that in Auschwitz there was nothing more important than trying to help your fellow sufferers and yet, at the same time, how immoral it was to decide whose suffering should be alleviated and whose should continue unabated. Who had given us the right to condemn or to save another? In Auschwitz there was no fairness

-45-

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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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