This was at the beginning of 1944
. A cold, dry lashing wind was blowing. The soil was quite frozen. The first lorry, loaded brimful with naked
women and girls, drove in front of Crematorium
III. They were not standing close to one another, as usual, no; they did not stand on their feet at all, they were exhausted, they lay inert
ly one upon another in a state of utter exhaustion
. They were sighing and groaning.
The lorry stopped, the tarpaulin was raised and they began to dump down the human mass in the way in which gravel is unloaded on to the road. Those that had lain at the edge, fell upon the hard ground, breaking their heads upon (...) so that they weakened completely and had no strength left to move. The remaining (women) fell upon them, pressing them down with their weight. One heard (...) groans.
Those that were dumped down later, began to extricate themselves from the pile of bodies, stood (...) on their feet and tried to walk (...) the ground, they trembled and jerked horribly with cold, they slowly dragged themselves to the bunker, which was called Auskleidungsraum, 'undressing room' and to which steps led down, like to a cellar.
The remainder (of the women) were taken down by men from the Kommando who swiftly ran upstairs, raised the fainted victims, left without help, extricated them carefully, crushed and barely breathing, from the heap (of bodies) and led them quickly downstairs. They were a long time in the camp and knew that the bunker (the gas chamber) was the last step leading to death.
But still they were very grateful, with their eyes begging for mercy and with (the movements) of their trembling heads they expressed their thanks, at the same time giving signs with their hands that they were unable to speak. They found solace in seeing tears of compassion and (an expression) of depression (...) in the faces of those who were leading them downstairs. They were shaking with cold and (...)
The women were taken downstairs, were permitted to sit down, the rest of them were led into this (con)fined, cold room, they jerked horribly and trembled with cold, (so) a coke stove was brought. Only some of them drew near enough to be able to feel the warmth emanating from the small stove. The rest sat, plunged in pain and sadness. It was cold but they were so resigned and embittered with their lives that they thought with abhorrence of physical sensations of any kind... They were sitting far in the background and were silent.
(the story of a girl from the ghetto of Bedzin)
"She was left the only one of a numerous family. All the time she had been working hard, was undernourished, suffered the cold. Still, she was in good health and was well. She thought she would survive. Eight days ago, no Jewish child was allowed to go to work. The order came. 'Juden, antreten!' 'Jews, leave the ranks!' Then the blocks were filled with Jewish girls. During the selection nobody paid attention whether they looked well or not, whether they were sick or well.
They were lined outside the block and later they were led to Block 25, there they were ordered to strip naked; (allegedly) they were to be examined as to their health. When they had stripped, all were driven to three blocks; one thousand persons in a block and there they were shut for three days and three nights, without getting a drop of water or a crumb of bread, even.
So they had lived for three awful days and it was only the third night that bread was brought; one loaf of bread weighing 1.4 kilogram for sixteen persons, afterwards (...)
'If they had shot us then, gassed us, it would have been better. Many (women) lost consciousness and others were only semiconscious. They lay crowded on bunks, motionless, helpless. Death would not have impressed us at all then.
The fourth day we were lead from the block, the weakest were led to the Krankenstube (infirmary), and the rest were again given the normal camp ration of food and were left (...) were taken (...) to (life).
On the eighth day, that is five days later, we were again ordered to strip naked, Blocksperre (permission for prisoners to leave the blocks) was ordained. Our clothes were at once loaded and we, after many hours of waiting in the frost, were loaded into lorries and here we were dumped down on the ground. Such is the sad end of our mistaken illusions. We have been, evidently, cursed even in our mothers' wombs, since such a sad end fell to our lot."
She could no more pronounce the last words because her voice became stifled with flowing (tears) (...) from (...) some women still tried to wrench themselves away, they looked at our faces, seeking compassion in them.
One of us, standing aside and looking at the immensity of unhappiness of those defenseless, tormented souls, could not master his feelings and wept.
One young girl then cried, 'Look, what I have lived yet to see before my death: a look of compassion and tears shed because of our dreadful fate. Here, in the murderers' camp, where they torture and beat and where they torment, where one sees murders and falling victims, here where men have lost the consciousness of the greatest disasters, here, where a brother or sister falls down in your sight, you cannot even vouchsafe them a (farewell) sigh, a man is still found who took to heart our horrible disaster and who expressed his sympathy with tears. Ah, this is wonderful, not natural. The tears and sighs of a living (man) will accompany us to our death, there is still somebody who will weep for us. And I thought we shall pass away like deserted orphans. The young man has given me some solace. Amidst only bandits and murderers I have seen, before my death, a man who still feels.'
She turned to the wall, propped her head against it and sobbed quietly, pathetically. She was deeply moved. Many girls stood and sat around, their heads bowed, and preserved a stubborn silence, looked with deep revulsion at this base world and particularly at us.
One of them spoke, 'I am still so young, I have really not experienced anything in my life, why should death of this kind fall to my lot? Why?' She spoke very slowly in a faltering voice. She sighed heavily and proceeded, 'And one should like so much to live a little bit longer.'
Having finished, she fell into a state of melancholy reverie and fixed her gaze on some distant point; fear of death emanated from her wildly shining eyes. Her companion regarded her with a sarcastic smile, she said, 'This happy hour of which I dreamed so much has come at last. When the heart is full of pain and suffering, when it is oppressed by the criminal world, full of baseness and low corruption, (full of) limitless evil, then life becomes so troublesome, so hard and unbearable that one looks to death for rescue, for release. The nightmare, oppressing me, will vanish forever. My tormented thoughts will experience eternal rest. How dear, how sweet is the death of which one dreamed in the course of so many wakeful nights.'
She spoke with fervor, with pathos and with dignity. 'I am only sorry to sit here so naked, but to render death more sweet one must pass through that indignity, too.' A young emaciated girl lay aloof and was moaning softly, 'I am ... dy...ing, I ... am dy...ing' (;) a film was covering her eyes which turned this way and that (...), they begged to live (...)
A mother was sitting with her daughter, they both spoke in Polish. She sat helplessly, spoke so softly that she could hardly be heard. She was clasping the head of her daughter with her hands and hugging her tightly. (She spoke) 'In an hour we both shall die. What tragedy. My dearest, my last hope will die with you.' She sat (...) immersed in thought, with wide open, dimmed eyes (...) threw (...) around her so (...)
After some minutes she came to and continued to speak, 'On account of you, my pain is so great that I am dying when I think of it.' She let down her stiff arms and her daughter's head sank down upon her mother's knees.
A shiver passed through the body of the young girl, she called desperately, 'Mamma!' And she spoke no more, those were her last words.
The order was then given to conduct the women into the road leading to the crematorium.
- by Salmen Lewental, one of the Birkenau Sonderkommandos. This manuscript was discovered in a jar buried in the ground near Crematorium III, where Lewental had worked and died. The gaps in the (excerpt of the) text represent words which had been destroyed by the dampness which seeped into the jar between when it was buried and discovered in 1962.