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,