EXCERPT FROM THE LONG NIGHT
“Before us lay a town of barracks that was partly surrounded by barbed wire. With astonishment in their eyes, people stared at us and called to us in foreign languages: Czech, Polish, French and Russian sounds assaulted our ears. Thousands of foreign workers lived in this camp, those who were there of their own free will lived in the “free” barracks, in marked contrast to the forced labourers, such as the Poles who had a little “P” sewn on their chests, and the Ukrainians whose clothes were inscribed “Ost”. Some Poles and Ukrainians greeted us with shouts of abuse so our shared slavery had not healed these people of their anti-Semitism.
That was a bitter realisation. Kapos and a group of supervisors ordered us to march in step because the head of our column had already turned into the camp. The camp leadership, supervisors and Jewish Elders met us at the gates of the camp. We were seized with anxiety, impatience and curiosity as we contemplated life in this new camp. What would our new workplace be like, what should we expect from the hierarchy of this new camp? Instinctively, we sped up the tempo of our march and made a conscious effort to assume a military gait. Finally we stopped in the Appellplatz, the huge camp square.
At the front of the square there was a growing crowd of Kapos and Jewish Elders all screaming. The Kapos, who were officially known as “Group Leaders”, wore plain military boots and white armbands and swung rubber and wire truncheons in their hands. The Jewish Elder was clad in a leather coat, leather trousers and highly polished leather boots; he wildly screamed a staccato torrent of orders at us; but at first we were unaccustomed to such treatment and simply could not understand him. With truncheons and sticks our supervisors abruptly taught us how to stand upright and erect and in ranks and files. The Jewish Elder, who we knew came from a refined Jewish family from a small town in Upper Silesia, gave a short speech which he concluded with an inelegant warning, “You sons of bitches! Whoever deviates from camp discipline will get fifty on their naked arse!” To amplify his meaning he gestured towards two well-built, sturdy men, Herschel Moch and Bossack, who stood slightly apart, idly toying with their truncheons.
Rubber truncheon used at Wiener Neudstadt camp in Austria [USHMM Collection, Gift of Eva Strauss-Marko]
This is the only known picture of prisoners at Märkstadt camp. Taken in 1942 or 1943. Perhaps these were amongst the luckier of the prisoners at the camp, or posed in a relaxed fashion for propaganda purposes. [United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Sam and Helen Bronner]
This is the only known picture of prisoners at Markstadt camp. Taken in 1942 or 1943. Perhaps these were amongst the luckier of the prisoners at the camp, or posed in a relaxed fashion for propaganda purposes. [United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Sam and Helen Bronner]