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December 24, 2011

what students can learn from Michael Berenbaum’s book “A Promise to Remember: The Holocaust in the Words and Voices of its Survivors”

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 10:26 am

I have not read Michael Berenbaum’s book A Promise to Remember, published by Boston Bulfinch Press in 2003, but a review of the book by Robert Hutcheson, a teacher in Missouri, gives some insights into what this books offers to students in Holocaust education classes.  You can read the full review here.

This quote is from Robert Hutcheson’s book review:

In “The Sonderkommando” chapter, Sam Itzkowitz (see CD) tells of his experiences and describes the death of Bess Platka, the details of which should be shared in pre-college classrooms only with care and discretion. She strangles her baby rather than letting the SS man do it, throws the corpse in his face, hits him over the head with a large beer bottle, and grabs his gun and empties the chamber into him before she meets her own death. This chapter also uses the rather famous and somewhat lurid sketches of David Olére (who painted under the name “Prisoner No. 106144”) which one should also use with great care in the classroom (I would not use most of these myself, though his later painting, “The End of Law and the Rights of Man,” 1950, at the Warsaw Ghetto Fighters House could be used with older students if a print can be obtained). The photo of clothing falling out of a warehouse door (22), however, pointedly and silently witnesses to some of the prisoners who were gassed at Auschwitz.

I have highlighted two different sentences in this single paragraph.  The story of Bess Platka is reminiscent of the story of Franceska Mann, who shot an SS man at Auschwitz.  I previously blogged about her here.  Note that Bess Platka didn’t wait for an SS man to grab her baby and kill it in some monstrous fashion.  No, she took the initiative and got revenge for all the babies whose heads had been bashed against a tree by a German soldier! I previously blogged about head bashing stories here.

The last sentence in the quote above is about the clothes found in a warehouse at Auschwitz.  The clothing “pointedly and silently witnesses to some of the prisoners who were gassed at Auschwitz.”

Clothing spilling out of a door at Auschwitz-Birkenau

How does this clothing prove that prisoners were gassed at Auschwitz-Birkenau? 

I have identified the photo above as a photo of the Sauna building at Auschwitz-Birkenau.  You can see the whole Sauna building in the photo below.  The door in the old photo is shown on the left side of the photo below.

My photo of the Sauna building at Auschwitz-Birkenau, October 2005

Prisoners who were selected to work were taken to the Sauna where they took a shower and were then given clean clothes to wear.  The clothing that they were wearing when they arrived was disinfected in steam chambers which is why the building was called “the Central Sauna.”  The steam chambers looked like those in an old fashioned Sauna.

Steam chamber for delousing clothes at Auschwitz-Birkenau

The clothing taken from the prisoners who were gassed was probably also sent to the Sauna to be disinfected, but the massive amount of clothing found by the Soviet liberators is only proof that a great number of people were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, so many that the SS men could not keep up with the disinfection process.

There was also a huge pile of clothing found by the American liberators of Dachau, which is shown in the photo below.

Clothing piled up outside Dachau gas chamber

Clothing hung up outside Dachau disinfection gas chambers

The American soldiers who liberated Dachau assumed that the Jews had to hang their clothes neatly on hangers before going into the Gaskammer to be killed.  Actually, the photo above was taken outside the four disinfection chambers at Dachau where the clothing was deloused.  The German name for a delousing chamber was Gaskammer, which means gas chamber in English.

A book that is intended for Holocaust education in American schools should explain all this and not use a photo of a pile of clothing to prove that anyone was gassed.


  1. I forgot to mention, Bernard Czardybon, avoided being gassed at Birkenau from 1942 – close of play, as he was the kapo of Canada I. He testified at Hoess’ trial in Cracow, that based on the amount of belongings he’d sorted, 5 – 5.5 million were killed at Auschwitz (all camps presumably.)

    F. Piper. Auschwitz: How Many Perished. 1996. Pages 7/8

    Comment by Black Rabbit — December 24, 2011 @ 5:21 pm

  2. That’s a great bit of Ho£ocaust aggadah from Sam Itzkowitz, similar to Filip Müller’s tale of the Jewess doing a striptease for the gas chamber, before impaling her stiletto heel into a SS man’s forehead, then grabbing another’s SS man’s pistol and shooting him.

    I wonder if Berenbaum writes about the SS making sausages from Jews, as claimed by David Olere.

    Olere’s cartoons are XXX-rated, and strongly suggest he was into BDSM and lesbian incest.

    Olere famous picture “Our Hair, Our Teeth, Our Ashes”, is relied on heavily for the convergence of evidence™ for the Zyklon B introduction chimneys in Birkenau’s Krema II & III.
    Supposedly drawn in 1946, but even Pressac suggested Olere made at least one of his cartoons look far older than it really was, by lying when he wrote the date on it.

    Merry Christmas to you furtherglory and all readers of your blog, particularly the Jews. Merry Christmas Jews.

    Comment by Black Rabbit — December 24, 2011 @ 5:13 pm

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