EXCERPT FROM THE LONG NIGHT
Ernst was often exposed to news from other camps as new arrivals were transported from one camp to another. Auschwitz was regarded as the most deadly of them all.
“My comrades were mainly “old hands”, people who had been sent to Fünfteichen before me. They had all come from Auschwitz. Most of them were skin and bone, and in hardly any condition to keep up with the tempo of our march. They limped and stumbled as they tried to march. I discovered the truth of what was happening in Auschwitz from their conversation. As I marched back in the evening I was stunned by what I heard was happening in Auschwitz. My thoughts constantly focussed on the same question, “who from my family might still be alive? Maybe my father, or both my sisters who would now be sixteen and eighteen years old? And what had happened to my little brother who would now be only fourteen? Had he been allowed to live or had they murdered him?”
Row of ovens in one of the crematoria at Auschwitz [United States Holocaust Memorial Museum courtesy unknown Russian archive.]
I could not bear to think about my mother. I was dominated by the sobering thought, who of all of them had the best chance to save their lives? “Who like me was just marching on a country road guarded by the SS and their trained dogs? If they were really still alive were they still recognisable as people or were they already nearer to death than to life? Had they found helpful people as I had, or had they been irretrievably delivered to the mercy of their torturers?’’