Death march from Gross Rosen – each man for himself

EXCERPT FROM THE LONG NIGHT

Gross Rosen

“Then an announcement was made that all prisoners were to be transported from Grossrosen…

…Naturally we were curious about our ultimate destination. We knew that most of us could not survive a march lasting more than a few days. The mere mention of such possibilities terrified us. Until this time I had managed to avoid the dreaded condition of becoming a muselmann, which meant being unable to work and certain death. I was determined to work, no matter what the circumstances, because it meant I was free to move around and would receive a minimum of food to survive. In short, a better chance to stay alive and keep going until the end of the regime of terror. With this goal before me, I tried to remain with my friends from Fünfteichen. I knew from past experience that we could overcome many of the difficulties on the march if we could stay together. I was shocked to find these friends behaved very strangely towards me. They appeared alien and indifferent as they stood in front of me, as if I had demanded some impossible service from them. My initial disappointment finally gave way to resignation. The deathly and deadening environment of Grossrosen had even transformed both the appearance and mental condition of my friends. Everyone had to become an animal and take up the fight for life with sharpened senses and instincts. The defence of one’s own life was the only rule…

…Ties of friendship were now severed so that they did not become an encumbrance that might otherwise have endangered one’s own life. I knew what it meant to be alone…I realised that if I allowed myself to remain isolated and alone I was doomed. In my helplessness I turned to my old friend Bloch. He promised to allow me to join his group, but his offer was accompanied by a most unusual warning. He instructed me that I had to become totally self-reliant…

…At long last came the evening Appell and with it the command to take a blanket to continue the march. I looked out for my friend Bloch, but in vain. My agitation slowly mounted as I went from column to column, searching for other friends, always without success.”