This quote is from the website of Dr. Edith Eger, Ph.D. at http://www.heroicjourney.com/pages/about/edieeger.htm
Almost a year to the day from when she arrived in Auschwitz, [Edith Eger] was pulled from the pile of corpses in the woods by an American GI who was there with the 71st Infantry to liberate the Gunskirchen Larger camp. He saw her hand move. She weighed 60 pounds and had a broken back, but she was alive!
On January 18, 1945, Jewish prisoners were marched out of Auschwitz and taken to various camps, including Mauthausen where a tent camp was set up for the Hungarian Jews. Gunskirchen was a sub-camp of the Mauthausen Class III camp in Austria, where prisoners were sent to work in factories.
You can read about the liberation of Gunskirchen, and see many photos of the dead and dying prisoners, on this website:
On the website, cited above, there are many photos of corpses lying on the ground when the Americans arrived.
This quote is from the website of Edie Eger:
Edie’s story began in Kassa, Hungary where she grew up with her parents and older sisters, Magda and Klara. In May of 1944 at the age of 16 her life changed forever. Edie was sent by the Germans to Auschwitz concentration camp along with her parents and sister Magda. [...]
…the guards [at Auschwitz] found out from other inmates that Edie had been a ballerina in Hungry. They told Dr. Mengele, who liked to be entertained by the inmates. He sent for Edie to dance for him. As Edie was onstage dancing for Dr. Mengele, she saw the black smoke from the gas chamber, which likely contained the ashes of her mother, drift upward toward heaven.
How terribly insensitive of Dr. Mengele! He had 16-year-old Edie dancing on a stage that was outside where she could see the black smoke coming from the gas chamber building, which likely contained the ashes of her mother. Edie was 16 years old, so she had not been selected for the gas chamber, which was the fate of the prisoners under the age of 15 or over the age of 45.
But it gets worse!
This quote is from Edie’s website:
Edie said as she continued to dance, “Dr. Mengele discussed with the guards who should die next. I prayed. Not for myself, but for Dr. Mengele, so he would not have to kill me. It was then that I began to pity the Nazis; they were more imprisoned than I. Somehow I would survive, but they would always have to live with what they had done.”
Edie and her sister Magda were close to death many times. Whenever they showered, they never knew if they would receive water or gas. They had to carry ammunitions for the Nazis on the infamous “death march.” They were used as human shields on top of a train full of ammunitions. The Nazis thought that the allies would not drop bombs on a train carrying prisoners, but they were wrong. The bombs killed others around them, but Edie and her sister survived.
From June 1944 to May 1945 Edie and Magda were moved from camp to camp, eventually ending up in Gunskirchen Larger camp. They were becoming exhausted and emaciated with hunger. Edie became so weak that she went in and out of consciousness. Even her sister’s vigilance as a caretaker couldn’t revive Edie. She was unconscious when guards thought she was dead and they tossed her in a mass grave in the woods behind the camp.
According to Holocaust historian Martin Gilbert, in his book entitled Holocaust, the last death marches of the war began on May 1, 1945 as the American Army approached; prisoners from the main camp at Mauthausen and the sub-camps at Gusen and St. Valentin were marched to Gunskirchen and Ebensee. Hundreds of them died from exhaustion, or were shot because they couldn’t keep up, or as they attempted to escape. When American troops in the 80th Infantry Division arrived on May 4, 1945, there were around 60,000 prisoners from 25 different countries at Ebensee.
I don’t have much information about Gunskirchen, but you can read about Ebensee, a similar sub-camp of Mauthausen, on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Mauthausen/KZMauthausen/Subcamps/Ebensee01.html
I previously blogged about Dr. Edith Eger here. She first told the story that she was saved from the gas chamber by turning cartwheels to distract the guards.
You can read more about Dr. Eger’s ordeal in The Budapest Times newspaper here.
This quote is from The Budapest Times:
Many in the audience suppressed tears as Eger told the story of her survival. She was the youngest daughter of a Jewish tailor in Budapest, and she was transported to Auschwitz just as she turned 16. Her sister, a talented violinist, managed to hide and avoid deportation.
Their father, a stubborn man, was shot upon arrival at the concentration camp because he refused to shave his head. The remaining two children were ripped from their mother’s arms still on the ramp leading off the train, and she continued her way to the gas chamber.
Edith and her sister Magda were saved only by luck and instinct. The talented Edith entertained Dr. Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death”, with private ballet presentations, and in return she got a piece of bread and more time to live.
“I did what the victims of violence often do: I dissociated,” Eger said of her encounter with Mengele. “I imagined that the music is from Tchaikovsky and I am dancing on the stage of the Budapest Opera in the role of Julia.”.
What? Edie’s father “refused to shave his head”? I didn’t know that the Jews had to shave their own heads at Auschwitz. The hair was shaved from the heads of the prisoners in order to control the lice that spreads typhus.
The photo above shows Hungarian women walking into the women’s section on the south side of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp after they have had a shower and a change of clothes. Behind them is a transport train and in the background on the left is one of the camp guards. The woman with dark hair in the center of the photo is Ella Hart Gutmann who is in the outside row facing inward. Next to her is Lida Hausler Leibovics; both women were from Uzhgorod. Their heads have been shaved in an attempt to control the lice that spreads typhus.
What is the point of all this? When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade — or you write books — or you turn your ordeal into a lucrative career in Psychology — and laugh all the way to the bank. Along the way, you sprinkle in a few lies, such as the one about Dr. Mengele discussing which prisoners he was going to kill next. This happened while you were dancing and watching the smoke come out of the chimney while your mother’s body was burning. Oh, the humanity!