Just after I had recovered from the shock of learning that Christian Bernadac was not a prisoner at Mauthausen, I received another e-mail which alerted me to a new photo of Elie Wiesel that has gone up on a web site that is devoted to proving that Elie was not a prisoner at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. This new photo shows 5 of the Buchenwald orphans, known as “the boys of Buchenwald,” after they were taken to France, following the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp. (more…)
July 13, 2011
Thanks to a French-speaking e-mail correspondent, who wishes to remain anonymous, I have learned that French author Christian Bernadac “was able to reconstruct the life of an inmate, that he is a famous journalist investigator, on various subjects and wars…” This description of Bernadac’s book The 186 Steps comes from a web site that is written in French.
I bought Bernadac’s book from an online used book seller in 2003. I don’t read French so it was not possible for me to read an online description of Bernadac’s book before I purchased it. I assumed that Bernadac’s book was the true story of his time in the Mauthausen concentration camp.
In my defense, I would like to point out that nowhere in Bernadac’s book does it state that the book is a reconstruction of the life of an inmate. The entire book is written in the first person. Chapter One is entitled “The Scene is Set.” The Scene in the title refers to the author’s detailed description of how the prisoners were forced to carry heavy granite boulders up the 186 steps from the Mauthausen quarry.
This quote is from the second page in the first chapter of The 186 Steps:
For two months and six days I performed the acrobatics required to keep from plunging into either of these pitfalls. I was lucky to be young.
How was I supposed to know that this first person account of the life of a Mauthausen prisoner was a “reconstruction of the life of an inmate”? How was I supposed to know that he was only 7 years old when Mauthausen was liberated in May 1945? In his book, Bernadac wrote that he was 30 years old when he was sent to Mauthausen after he was captured as a French Resistance fighter.
Before I went to see the Treblinka memorial site in 1998, I purchased a book about the camp in a local book store. The book was written by Jean-Francois Steiner and entitled Treblinka. The sub-title is “The inspiring story of the 600 Jews who revolted against their murderers and burned a Nazi death camp to the ground.”
On the very first page, on the inside of the front cover of Steiner’s book, it is made clear that Steiner was not a prisoner at Treblinka himself.
This quote is at the bottom of the first page:
JEAN-FRANCOIS STEINER was two years old when his father and other relatives died in concentration camps. Out of his compelling urge to know what happened and why the Jews went to their deaths apparently without resistance has come this overpowering book. By tracking down and interviewing the scattered survivors of Treblinka, he has created the true story that shook the world.
I don’t know if Bernadac’s book is still in print. My copy was published in 1974. I don’t know if there are later editions. If this book is ever reprinted, it should have a paragraph on the first page, similar to the paragraph about Steiner’s book. The first paragraph in the book should mention that Bernadac was seven years old when Mauthausen was liberated, and out of his “compelling urge” to lie about what happened at Mauthausen has come this “overpowering book.” It should be pointed out that Bernadac tracked down the real survivors of Mauthausen and incorporated their lies into his “true story that shook the world.”
There are many other books which I now believe are “reconstructions of the life of an inmate.” Among these books are Dr. Miklos Nyiszli’s book about his time at Auschwitz and Elie Wiesel’s book Night. Filip Müller’s book Three Years in a Gas Chamber at Auschwitz is pure fiction, although Müller was actually a prisoner at Auschwitz.