A cold, penetrating rain had been falling for a few days. Such rains were not unusual in Auschwitz. I opened the the gate of the infirmary very quietly so as not to disturb the performance and listened. "Plop, plop," -- the drops continued falling without a stop. Outside it was dark and quiet. The lights on the ramp of the station were out. It had been a few days since the last trainload of victims had arrived at Auschwitz. Perhaps, I thought, they would not bring any more victims here.
I sat down in the corner to watch the performance. It was Sunday. Since everything was at peace this day, Irena had organized a cultural evening in the infirmary. She had planned an evening of dancing -- without men, of course. But then, it is possible to dance without men, too.
Irena was an actress. Although she was originally from Poland, she had lived in Paris some fourteen years before being shipped to Auschwitz. She was tall, strong, and straight. I remember that when I first met her it was hard for me to believe that she was an actress. Looking at her, you would absolutely never guess that she was an actress. The girls who knew her swore that once she got on the stage she changed so completely that you would never recognize her. She was particularly wonderful, they said, as a character actress.
In Auschwitz we often organized such friendly get-togethers. I remember that for the first few months of my stay here those get- togethers struck me as being indecent. How was it possible that we could sing while the sky above was red with the flames of the crematoria.
"How can you joke, dance, and tell stories," I asked, "when we are enveloped in a sea of suffering, pain, and tears?"
"You will get used to it. Then you will understand." So said the old prisoners.
One evening, as I was returning from the infirmary to the barracks for the night, I bumped into a group of girls from the lei-