p 33

Kasriel K. Eilender, M.D.

next >

THE BARBER OF GOERLITZ - A MEMOIR

< PHOTOS < CONTENTS < BACK   

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

Amon Goeth

the Camp Commandant,

would go among

 workers and say to 

one of them: 

"Hey, you are too slow"

 and shoot him 

right on the spot. 

 

Several teams composed of SS officer’s, officials and other experts came from the city of Lublin to assess the situation about the future of the Blizyn camp and its inmates. Apparently, there was still some discussion about liquidating our camp and destroying all the prisoners, which had to take place in the better-equipped facility, or to leave the camp in existence since it was an important part and a source of skilled labor supporting the war effort of Germany.

As our King Solomon said so long ago: "Nothing could be hidden under the sun." No matter how much we were cut off from the world, there were all kinds of rumors. It was my experience during the war that some of the rumors were true. One of the rumors circulating was the possibility that the inmates from our camp would be transferred to the satellite concentration camp by the name of Trawniki.

Trawniki was originally a labor camp established in the fall of 1941 and was located outside of Lublin. It housed Soviet prisoners of war as well as Jews. As time went on, camp Trawniki was promoted to a training ground for guards in extermination camps. Among the "graduates" were some notorious sadists. Finally, the decision was made not to liquidate Blizyn.

In May of 1944, a group of skilled workers, among them the entire workforce of our leather workshop, as well as some other groups, were transferred to the concentration camp of Plaszow.

As we know now from the history of World War II, Hitler had already lost the war. Not only did he have a considerable shortage of manpower and gasoline but also a shortage of supplies. The military had Italian shovel holders from the First World War.

Our task was to help the workers in the huge local camp shop readjust the holders to German-size-and-type shovels. By this time, I was already a skilled worker and found myself among many prisoners who had to do the job in a hurry.

The Plaszow camp was notorious for inhumane, vicious and horrible terrors, which were amplified by the reign of the sadistic and cruel commandant Amon Goeth. He was Austrian by nationality, born into a middle or upper-middle class family. He attended, among other universities, the University of Munich, which I went to after the war.

Plaszow was situated in Southern Poland out side of Krakow’s city limits on a site of two Jewish cemeteries. When I arrived there, and was waiting to be processed, I noticed that I was sitting on gravestones. It started as a work camp in 1942, and then in January of 1944, Plaszow was made a concentration camp. From time to time, the camp was enlarged and in 1944 it was extended for 200 acres. 

During its existence, Plaszow contained 150,000 civilian prisoners. That number varied from time to time, and in May of 1944 when I arrived there, the number was about 22,000 to 24,000 including 6,000-8,000 Jews from Hungary. In the early stages, there were also about 1000 Polish prisoners and that number rose to about 10,000 after the Warsaw uprising. 

The camp also contained German criminals, who were employed as Kapos and had other various duties. There was also a group of German homosexuals.

Amon Goeth, the camp commandant, from February 1943 to September 1944 rampaged in a delirious frenzy and personally committed heinous crimes of mass murder. Nobody was safe. He would go among workers and say to one of them: "Hey, you are too slow" and shoot him right on the spot. 

One day he came to our shop and pointed to two people who had been suspected of bringing bread from the outside of the camp, and shot one of them right away. The other one leaned over the body, started to cry, and talked to the dead man: "Why did you do it, you should not have done it. I told you not to do it." And believe it, this saved his life for the time being. 

Until 1944, most of the camp guards were Ukrainians and other Nazi sympathizers; however, when Plaszow became a real concentration camp, a couple of hundred SS men came in as guards from the other SS units.

In Plaszow, there was a notorious hill, which was called in Polish Chujowa gorka (the Penile Hill). This was the place for all the executions, and many Poles who had been sentenced for patriotic activities were brought there and shot. I do not know exactly how many of these young people died. On several occasions, SS guards picked up some members of my group including myself and took us to a nearby forest to get some branches from trees. These branches were used to cover bodies on Penile Hill in layers and then burned. Also, as the Soviet forces were moving west and the news was getting worse and worse on the eastern front, Himmler had ordered the excavation of the bodies of 2,000 Jews murdered on the streets of Krakow on March 13th and 14th of 1943 during the liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto. At this time most of the people had been deported to the Belzec extermination camp and the 8,000 remaining were incarcerated in Plaszow camp. 

These 2,000 bodies taken from the streets had been buried in Plaszow. This was my "extracurricular activity" with some other prisoners, to dig out those bodies, pile them between the layers of wood and then burn them. This was not the only attempt by Germans to obliterate all the traces of these horrible crimes, since in January of 1945 about 9,000 bodies of Jews were exhumed and cremated.  

next  >