Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land

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

ERIKA'S RED TRIANGLE

Erika Schneider was a German. On the sleeve of her uniform she wore a four-digit number, which showed that she belonged to the earliest group of prisoners to arrive in Auschwitz, and above the number was a red triangle, which showed that she was a political prisoner. Erika was a dyed-in-the-wool Communist. She had been in prisons and camps ever since Hitler took power. When I met her in 1944 she was about forty years old. She was possessed of a young, sweet face set off by short, gray hair.

Erika did not like Orli. She criticized her attitude and her behavior, as well as her peculiar brand of communism. She reproached her weakness and denounced her for submitting to the SS men and for adopting their immoral attitude toward other human beings. Erika was a dogmatist not only in her appraisal of facts but, what was worse, in her appraisal of people. She overlooked the fact that Orli started her Golgotha as an eighteen-yearold girl. Orli had told us as much herself. She had gotten involved in the leftist movement, not for reasons of her own, but because her father and brother were members of the German Communist party. When Erika was arrested she was thirty years old, an agent of the Communist movement and a comrade of Mr. Thelman.

Erika was not a camp functionary, even though as a German she could have had a much easier life than the rest of us. "For that very reason," she used to say, "just because I am a German I want to share the fate of the pariahs of the camp." I must admit that Erika interested me. I was fascinated by that uncompromising communism and fanaticism, which sparkled with such a beautiful glow in this merciless world of Auschwitz. Once, as we were sitting in the darkness in the infirmary, we started to discuss Orli.

"Listen" Erika said to me. "I will tell you about one incident which will illustrate to you why I dislike Orli. A year ago there was a terrible selection in the area, which involved all of the hospital blocks. There was a prisoner on one of the blocks who was one of my dear friends. She was a Jewish girl from Germany. The girl,

-48-

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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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