Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land

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

THE BLOCK OF DEATH

Rapportführer SS man Taube was famous in Auschwitz for his ability to kill a person in two motions. First he would hit the victim on the head to knock the person unconscious, and then he would put his foot on the person's throat strangling her to death. I remember being a witness to one of his executions on the zugangen block. One night Taube was in charge of the evening roll call, and that evening there was a number missing. The Sztubowe were sent scurrying through the camp to look for the lost woman while I stood there trembling with fear to think what might happen to her when they found her. It turned out that she was in the camp latrine. She could not leave the place because she was suffering from dysentery. She was not yet aware of how important a cog she was in the camp mechanism, that they were not able to finish the roll call unless she was present. She had to be there, and the saubowe had to drag her to appear before the rapportführer. It did not matter whether she were dead or alive. When the sztubowa hauled her to the roll call area she was half dead with fright. Taube approached her slowly and then snuffed out her life with his usual technique. It took no more than five seconds for Taube to perform the execution. After the execution we were permitted to return to our blocks. All numbers were accounted for, and the roll call was finished.

No one would tell me, and I asked often, why Taube, during the roll call of the first transport of Jews from Slovakia in 1941, should have noticed Cyla and appointed her to be blokowa of Number 25, the death block. Rosina, a nurse, and Mancy, a doctor from Bratislawa, told me stories about Cyla.

"Taube must have seen something terrible in Cyla" I said, "something that made her stand out from the other prisoners."

"Nothing of the sort" the girls answered. "She was almost a child when she first came to the camp. She was barely fifteen years old; when she was on the transport with us she was still wearing a school apron. She was slim, not too tall, and she was

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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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