Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land

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

THE VERDICT

In October 1944 the whole hospital was moved to camp "C," the old gypsy camp. That is when I met Mrs. Helena. She had been doing the same job I was doing, except that she was a clerk in the infirmary for non-Jewish prisoners. In the new block, the separate infirmaries were liquidated and combined into one. The new infirmary was located in a separate barrack. In addition to the reception room there was a beautiful room containing three bunk beds. Five of the beds were occupied by the workers in the infirmary: Helena and I, the clerks; Mancy and Frieda, the two doctors; and nurse Marusia. The sixth bed was taken by Kwieta, who worked in the leichenkomando.

Mrs. Helena stuck out oddly in our group of five. Perhaps because she was older than we were, we felt very inhibited in her presence. She maintained a constant silence and seemed always to be steeped in her own thoughts. She lived her own life and said nothing to anyone. We did not even know how she had gotten to Auschwitz. She was slim, light-haired, and had an inscrutable face. She did not take part in our discussions, and she never judged anybody. She eavesdropped on our gossiping and seemed to be saying, "I would like to see how you would behave in a similar situation."

One evening, while we were discussing conscious and unconscious death, we were surprised to hear Helena break heatedly into our discussion:

"Listen to the story I am going to tell you about the death of 156 girls from Krakow, and then you can tell me what you think of the way I behaved." We all stopped talking, and complete silence descended on our cell.

"We were just finishing receiving the sick" Mrs. Helena started quietly. "While Mengele was looking over the women who had been admitted to the area, we had but one thought in our minds: we hoped he would leave soon. I remember that it was a scorching July day. The atmosphere in the infirmary was almost unbearable. The last sick woman moved through the line, passing in

-110-

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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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