"...in the life of every child and every
man, the little word "'why" plays a big
part, and rightly so. The saying, "You
must ask in order to know," is true in
so far as it leads to thinking about
things, and by thinking nobody can
get worse but will only get better."
In October 1942, my wife and I were digging potatoes near the Warsaw-Moscow Highway. We saw Soviet citizens in automobiles being taken to a place near a few pits in the ground, which were 100 meters from the road and 600 meters from our house. We heard crying and screaming. We heard the sounds of hundreds of gunshots. It went on for three days. I do not know where the people came from, or how many of them died.
I also witnessed how bodies were brought there from the village of Bereza. This also took place in October 1942. The pits were dug one day before the people were brought there. The inhabitants of our village, including my wife, were forced to dig the pits. Also, I know about the execution of the family of Peter S. Poznayak, numbering nine people, three of them small children. They were buried in a pit near the house. I do not know why they were executed.¹
Large ravines were excavated next to the crematoria. The dead bodies were thrown into them... then doused with benzine and set aflame. The flames leapt upwards, and the sky was turned red by the gigantic fire... We would go out to the front of the [woman's hospital] block and stare at the reddened sky. We were not so much mesmerised by the flames as by the sea of human blood... All summer we groped our way around in the smoke that belched from the chimneys of the crematoria above and from the burning bodies in the ravines below...
All around us was quiet that night, because there was no transport. Apparently there was a large backlog of corpses that had to be burned before the new raw material essential to the functioning of the death factory could be brought in. Suddenly, the stillness was broken by the screaming of children, as if a single scream had been torn out of hundreds of mouths, a single scream of fear and unusual pain... repeated a thousand times in the singe word, "Mama", a scream that increased in intensity every second...
Our lips parted without our being conscious of what we were doing, a scream of despair tore out of our throats, growing louder all the time. The blokowa and the sztubowa chased us into the block and threw blankets over us to smother our screams... Finally, our screaming stopped... we could still hear the screams of the children who were being murdered, then only sighs, and at the end everything was enveloped in death and silence. The next day the men told us that the SS men loaded the children into wheelbarrows and dumped them into the fiery ravines.²
I remember one set of twins in particular: Guido and Ina, aged about four. One day, Mengele took them away. When they returned, they were in a terrible state: they had been sewn together, back to back, like Siamese twins. Their wounds were infected and oozing pus. They screamed day and night. Then their parents - I remember the mother's name was Stella - managed to get some morphine and they killed the children in order to end their suffering.³
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1. Simon, Andrea. Bashert: A Granddaughter's Holocaust Quest, University Press of Mississippi, 2002. 2. Nomberg-Przytyk, Sara. Auschwitz: True Tales from a Grotesque Land, The University of Carolina Press, 1985. 3. Berenbaum, Michael. The World Must Know: The History of the Holocaust as Told in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Brown Little, 1993.