Mother and baby are directed to Krema II gas chamber on the other side of an incoming train at Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp
Sally Rosen is an 82-year-old survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Joshua is a student in a middle school in Toronto. They shared Holocaust survival stories when Ms. Rosen recently gave a talk at Joshua’s school.
According to her story, Ms. Rosen was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau on a train in 1944. It is well known that everyone under the age of 15 was destined for the gas chamber, but Ms. Rosen was saved when Dr. Josef Mengele looked away for a moment, and she was able to join the saved line and also shove her mother into the saved line.
How did Ms. Rosen know about the two lines at Birkenau? Note the prisoner, wearing striped “pajamas,” on the left side of the photo above. The Nazis had the courtesy to post prisoners, who were Kapos, at the selections; the Kapos informed the incoming prisoners on methods of survival.
In the photo below, new arrivals at Auschwitz-Birkenau are shown in two lines, one line for men and another line for women and children. Dr. Mengele is shown at the head of the line of men, holding a cigarette at chest height, totally unconcerned that some of the Jews might try to sneak into a different line.
Dr. Mengele turns his back on two columns of prisoners at Auschwitz-Birkenau
This quote is from an article, about the talk that Ms. Rosen gave to middle school students in Toronto, which you can read in full in the Canadian National Post here:
New arrivals were broken into four lines and inspected by Josef Mengele, the notorious Nazi doctor. They were divided into two groups. One lived. One died.
“Mengele looked at me and I looked down,” Ms. Rosen says. “You couldn’t look him in the eye. And then God said — ‘I shall make you a miracle’ — and Mengele, in that moment, he looked away, and so I pushed my mother into the [group that lived].”
Note that Ms. Rosen did not refer to Dr. Mengele as Doctor, although he had two degrees: A Doctor of Medicine and a PhD in Anthropology. Most Holocaust survivors are alive today because Dr. Mengele made some kind of mistake. Yet, he gets no respect.
Where are the photos of the alleged four lines and two groups, one group that was intended to live and one group was intended to die? Of course, the Nazis didn’t photograph that. The photo below shows a line of men and a line of women; two women have just been sent to the left of the incoming train. This road led to Krema III, Krema IV and Krema V, but it also led to the Sauna where incoming prisoners took a shower. (Part of this road is now covered by the International Monument.)
Two women at Auschwitz-Birkenau are sent to the SS man’s left
As you are facing the end of the tracks into the Birkenau camp, with your back to the “Gate of Death,” Krema II is on the left, as shown in the photo below. Krema III, Krema IV, Krema V and the Sauna are on the other side of the tracks.
Krema II is on the left side of an incoming train at Birkenau
This quote is from the article about Ms. Rosen’s talk to the students:
She [Rosen] remembers the sign on the camp gates: “Work will set you free.” She remembers a terrible stench. Death. It is a smell that has followed her through the years, a sensory memory she can’t shake.
The photo below accompanies the article about Ms. Rosen’s talk to the students.
Gate into the Auschwitz main camp; Sally Rosen was sent to the Auschwitz II camp, aka Birkenau
Photo Credit: REUTERS /Kacper Pempel
How could Sally Rosen have seen the Arbeit Macht Frei gate at the Auschwitz I camp, as she told the students? Did the train from the Lodz ghetto arrive first at the main camp, where she was marched though the gate under the iconic sign? No, the train tracks didn’t go to the main camp.
I previously blogged about the meaning of the Arbeit Macht Frei sign here.
In her talk, Ms. Rosen made a big fuss about Holocaust deniers telling lies. The quote below is from the article:
Ms. Rosen grew tired of people forgetting about a decade ago, tired of people telling lies. She couldn’t stand the stories she would see bubble up in the media about an Ernst Zundel, the German-Canadian hate-monger, or a David Irving, the so-called British historian, or a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the erratic Iranian president, spouting off about the Holocaust.
So Ms. Rosen decided to tell a few lies herself?
What about Joshua, the 8th grade student, who wanted to tell his story to her? This quote is from the article:
Joshua’s Zadie, or was it his Bubby, [grandfather or grandmother] survived the Holocaust, just like Ms. Rosen did. On the way to Auschwitz they fell deathly ill and were thrown off the train so that the other unwitting concentration-camp-bound passengers wouldn’t contract whatever it was they had. They were left for dead. And yet, somehow, they lived.
Who threw grandpa (or was it grandma) off the train? The Nazis or the other passengers? The Nazis would not have cared if all the passengers on a train to a death camp contracted a disease and died. This would have saved them the cost of the Zyklon-B gas pellets needed to gas the sick prisoners when the train arrived. The passengers could not have unlocked the doors on the train, because if this had been possible, they would all have jumped off the train.
Prisoners in the Lodz ghetto were among the last of the Jews to be sent to Auschwitz. This quote is from this website:
On June 10, 1944, Heinrich Himmler ordered the liquidation of the Lodz ghetto. The Nazis told Rumkowski who then told the residents that workers were needed in Germany to repair damage caused by Allied air raids. The first transport left on June 23, with many others following until July 15. On July 15, 1944 the transports halted. The decision had been made to liquidate Chelmno because Soviet troops were getting close. Unfortunately, this only created a two week hiatus, for the remaining transports would be sent to Auschwitz.
On August 4, 1944, a final liquidation transport of 74,000 Jews from Lodz was sent out from the ghetto on its way to the gas chambers at Auschwitz. Though a few remaining workers were retained by the Nazis to finish confiscating materials and valuables out of the ghetto, everyone else living in the ghetto had been deported. Even Rumkowski and his family were included in these last transports to Auschwitz.
Five months later, on January 19, 1945, the Soviets liberated the Lodz ghetto.