January 28, 2005

Never forget

The following passage is from one of the blackest pieces of writing I have ever read. I find it sickening in a way I find few other things sickening, I hate it. I also recommend reading it, or just this sliver of it:

The killing of these Russian prisoners-of-war did not cause me much concern at the time. The order had been given, and I had to carry it out. I must even admit that this gassing set my mind at rest, for the mass extermination of the Jews was to start soon and at that time neither Eichmann nor I was certain how these mass killings were to be carried out. It would be by gas, but we did not know which gas or how it was to be used. Now we had the gas, and we had established the procedure. I always shuddered at the thought of carrying out exterminations by shooting, when I thought of the vast numbers concerned, and of the women and children. The shooting of hostages, and the group executions ordered by the Reichsfuehrer SS or by the Reich Security Head Office had been enough for me. I was therefore relieved to think that we were to be spared all these blood-baths, and that the victims too would be spared suffering until their last moment came. It was precisely this which had caused me the greatest concern when I had heard Eichmann's description of Jews being mowed down by the Special Squads [Einsatzkommandos] armed with machine-guns and machine-pistols. Many gruesome scenes are said to have taken place, people running away after being shot, the finishing off of the wounded and particularly of the women and children. Many members of the Einsatzkommandos, unable to endure wading through blood any longer, had committed suicide. Some had even gone mad. Most of the members of these Kommandos had to rely on alcohol when carrying out their horrible work....

In the spring of 1942 the first transports of Jews, all earmarked for extermination, arrived from Upper Silesia.

They were taken from the detraining platform to the 'Cottage' -- to Bunker I -- across the meadows where later Building Site II was located. The transport was conducted by Aumeier and Palitzsch and some of the block leaders. They talked with the Jews about general topics, enquiring concerning their qualifications and trades, with a view to misleading them. On arrival at the 'Cottage', they were told to undress. At first they went calmly into the rooms where they were supposed to be disinfected. But some of them showed signs of alarm, and spoke of death by suffocation and annihilation. A sort of panic set in at once. Immediately all the Jews still outside were pushed into the chambers, and the doors were screwed shut. With subsequent transports the difficult individuals were picked out early on and most carefully supervised. At the first signs of unrest, those responsible were unobtrusively led behind the building and killed with a small-calibre gun, that was inaudible to the others....

The passages come from Commandant of Auschwitz, the autobiography of Rudolf Hoess. In the following pages, Hoess describes the horrors he presided over; of women begging for their children's lives, or trying to hide their babies among the clothing prisoners shed before going to the chambers, of the wailing and shrieking and pleading, of the desperate stratagems those he was putting to death employed to try to win a few days' reprieve, and he felt great sympathy for the victims of all this -- he and his fellow officers and guards who would be inhuman, after all, were they not affected by these scenes.

Posted by Ideofact at January 28, 2005 12:11 AM