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On arrival at Fünfteichen camp


Barbed wire, electric fence at Fünfteichen camp [Gross Rosen Museum]

“Rapport Führer Schrammel, who we later came to know as a bloodhound of an SS man, arrived while we were still standing in formation and commanded us, “Hats off! Hats on! Hats off! Hats on!…” Since we did not respond instantly and in unison we were ordered “Lie down! Roll on the ground! Get up!” We were driven forward by the Kapos and Block Elders.

We had to wallow in the dirt. Those who failed to complete this “exercise” to total satisfaction were beaten. The SS compelled the Kapos to treat us as strictly as possible. Finally, we had to get up and once more the order resounded, “Hats off! Hats on!” We were threatened that this exercise might last for hours until every single one of us carried it out correctly. There were some who were so frail they could barely stand up. They found this hours-long “exercise” very difficult and when the strain became too great they began to stagger and sway. This was the moment when the SS stormed at them and trampled some of them to death. Their bodies were pushed aside but remained in full view so that when we were counted nobody was missing.

Then the prisoners were ordered to give up their utensils and everything of value. Anyone failing to complete this demand would be shot on the spot. I had nothing to give up because I had entrusted all my things to Meister Hermann. However, others who did not have a hiding place for the belongings they had accumulated over time, from foreign workers and German civilians, had to give everything up, with a heavy heart. Some hurriedly scuffed the ground with their feet as they tried to bury their money in the hope of retrieving it later. Those who were caught were heavily beaten until they collapsed.

After we had been chased around the Appellplatz until midday we were told: “Take everything off, fold your clothes and put them in a pile”. We were only allowed to keep our shoes and belts. We stood naked on the Appellplatz on this cold December day. There was a table around which a white circle had been drawn in chalk, and we had to march past it in single file. Here we had to give up our things and afterwards we were subjected to a humiliating body search. Then we were marched in double-quick time to the next table where a commission of SS men were seated. Among them was a doctor who inspected each and every one of us, but only superficially. We had to stand still for a few moments before walking to the next table where the decision who was and who was not fit for further work was made. All those whose final reserves of strength had been lost in the cement works in Märkstadt looked as if they no longer had a single drop of blood, and there was no room for them in Fünfteichen. Several hundred of these unfortunates were written off and taken to a special block. Some of them who were then sent to Auschwitz and by extraordinary good fortune escaped with their lives spoke after the war about the final fate of these transports.”

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