Auschwitz survivors recall the horror 60 years on
WARSAW — Jerzy Afanasjew’s body tenses and his eyes close when he recalls the day he crawled out from the overcrowded cattle train as a 14-year-old boy to begin a six-month nightmare.
“What was Auschwitz? It was hell. Hell. A death factory,” he says in a measured pace. “If you weren’t gassed, you were exhausted to death, if you weren’t exhausted to death, you starved, if you didn’t starve, you died of disease.”
Terrified, foul smelling and starving, those who made the trip were often relieved at the prospect of fresh air and food. They did not know that the smoke from nearby chimneys was coming from crematoria burning the bodies of earlier arrivals.
The smell of burning corpses confirmed their worst suspicions as they gradually realised what fate met the others.
“There was endless monotony, endless fear, endless roll call, endless shouts, endless beatings, endless smell of the burning flesh from the crematorium,” said Afanasjew.
A dark, macabre humour existed, said Myriam Nick, a Jew who survived several camps before arriving in Auschwitz in 1944.
Many in the camp believed the Nazis were using human fat to produce soap and Nick said friends would joke with each other when saying goodbye — “Maybe one day, we’ll meet again lying side by side as two bars of soap.”
Khaleej Times Online
17 January 2005
© 2004 Khaleej Times All Rights Reserved.