EXCERPT FROM THE LONG NIGHT
Upon hearing that new inmates had arrived from his hometown:
“So I asked Meister Hermann to smuggle me into the hall where these inmates were working so that I could look out for relatives and friends. We were able to gain access to the hall under the pretext of connecting electrical power points. Hermann was in agreement. We draped electric cables around us and walked into the hall. Soon we met the first set of inmates who could not be distinguished from one another in their striped uniforms. Their faces were like pale masks. It was difficult to distinguish their facial features. It was also almost impossible to judge their ages. They differed only in their height. While they bent over machinery as they worked SS people and Kapos, armed with clubs, marched up and down amongst them.
When I discovered my Uncle Meisel in the masses I discreetly notified Hermann and we deposited our material close to my uncle. The first thing my uncle asked for was tobacco so that he could swap it for bread and soup. I hid a small packet of tobacco under a machine for him to secretly recover later. Then I urgently enquired about my parents and brother and sisters and asked what had happened to them. His eyes filled with tears and when he finally answered he tried to do so in a soothing tone, “Don’t ask Srulutsch, don’t ask! My wife and my two dear children are no longer alive. They have been gassed and burned at Auschwitz. Therefore don’t ask any more! Make sure you stay alive and that you keep your strength! Tomorrow bring me more tobacco if you can, because Uncle Zimmermann is also here. His wife, Aunt Eva, and the three children are also no longer alive.” As I noticed that the SS guards and Kapos were watching us I moved away from the area of the machines where I had spread out the electric cables. As I passed other inmates some quickly tried to whisper things to me which obviously had to do with their own fate or perhaps they knew me…but I could no longer recognise their faces.”
A row of ovens in one of the crematoria at Auschwitz c. 1943 [United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Unknown Russian archive