One day late in November of 1944 we received a visit from Hans, an Austrian comrade. This summer the resistance had arranged to get him assigned to the komando working on the train ramp. They wanted him to inform the new prisoners arriving in Auschwitz what was awaiting them in the showers. He barely escaped the gas chamber himself, because the skeptical prisoners began to question the SS men in order to corroborate the information he had given them. Having succeeded in eluding the SS, he had come, now, to visit us, cheerful and full of positive thoughts, as ever. He brought me as a present a beautiful winter coat, which I sold in April of 1945 in Rostock for a loaf of soggy bread and half a box of margarine.
As so often happened, we got into a discussion on the future of the camp. Hans had brought us interesting news. The Red Army had crossed the Prussian frontier and the fighting was taking place on German soil.
"That's why they stopped the gassing in Auschwitz," Hans said. "They are afraid that the Germans may suffer the same fate. It seems that the Russians have given them an ultimatum about that."
Now I understood why Mengele had not sent those decrepit old people to the gas. The rulers of the world were afraid, those same rulers who, as early as July 1941, had painted signs in big white letters on their trucks: "Berlin-Moscow." Although the war was not yet over, they were being forced to yield and to make an attempt to placate the winners.
It was in the waning hours of a short fall day that Orli came into the infirmary. "Have somebody stand at the gate and guard the entrance," she said. "I will give you a copy of the latest issue of Goebbels's newspaper, Das Reich, in which a speech by Ilya Ehrenburg is reprinted."
At first I thought that I must have heard it wrong. How could that be? Goebbels printing an article by Ehrenburg? Maybe he had printed it as a provocation.