I am writing about the Lessons from Auschwitz project again today because I learned this from an article that was published by The Jewish Chronicle Online on Feb. 17, 2012:
Before the Nazis came, Jews accounted for almost two-thirds of Oswiecim’s then 12,000 population. Not a single Jew lives there now.
A student who has taken a trip sponsored by the Lessons from Auschwitz project commented on a previous post on my blog, disputing my statement that there is currently no Jewish community in Oswiecim.
This quote is also from the article in the JC Online website:
A disbelieving hush descends on the Home Counties sixth-formers touring the Auschwitz memorial and museum as they enter a room housing a mountainous display of human hair – equivalent to that shorn from 40,000 women, their Polish guide explains quietly.
What else did the Polish guide explain quietly to the students? Maybe she said something like this:
Notice that the hair is decomposing. Human hair does not decompose. This hair has been treated with chemicals to kill any lice that may have been in the hair. The hair was shorn from the heads of all the prisoners, women and men alike, the moment that they arrived at Auschwitz, so as not to bring in lice that spreads typhus. In spite of all the precautions that were taken by the Germans, there were two typhus epidemics at the Birkenau camp which caused thousands of deaths. But it was nothing like the epidemic during World War I, in which 4 million people died from typhus in Poland.
Did the Polish guide really say that to the students? No, of course not. Students are led to believe that the hair was shorn from the women in order to humiliate them and to obtain hair that the Germans could use to make cloth.
This quote is from the JC Online article:
The 183 students and two dozen teachers are halfway through a day trip organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust as part of its Lessons from Auschwitz project. On the preceding Sunday, they had gathered in London to hear an emotive address from survivor Susan Pollack, whose extended family was all but wiped out in the Holocaust. [...]
The latest group takes participation in Lessons from Auschwitz beyond the 15,000 mark. The final elements of the programme – which is supported by the government and the Welsh and Scottish administrations – are a post-trip seminar and taking what they have learned into their schools and beyond.
I googled Susan Pollack and found this website which gives the story of Susan Pollack:
The family was first held in the Vac ghetto and Monor internment camp before moving, in May 1944, to Auschwitz, in the last transport of Hungarians. “Day after day in a dark, closed wagon, no hygiene, no food or water, people dying. There was not a breath of fresh air.’ [...]
Susan was transferred to the Gubben slave labour camp and finally force-marched to Bergen-Belsen in the winter of 1944-45. “On liberation, I was virtually a corpse, unable to walk, and would soon have died.”
Note that Susan Pollack was taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau and then transferred. Birkenau was a transit camp, as well as a death camp. That explains why there are so many Holocaust survivors alive today. There was a typhus epidemic at Bergen-Belsen in the last months of the war and Susan may have been “virtually a corpse” because she had typhus.