In the news today is the story of Dr. William Samelson, who was the only one of his extended family, of over 50 people, to survive the Holocaust. He will be speaking at a Holocaust Remembrance ceremony today. The first part of the news article is quoted below:
In the movie “Sophie’s Choice,” the title character has to choose at Auschwitz which one of her two children would be in a labor camp and which one would go to a gas chamber.
A similar choice faced William Samelson’s mother as Nazis gave her the option of staying with her two sons or going with her 6-year-old daughter. She went with her daughter, and though they were told they’d be resettled, they were sent to their deaths.
Samelson was 11 years old when he began enduring six years of labor and concentration camps at the hands of the Nazis, but he survived.
The photo below was taken on May 26, 1945 when a transport of Hungarian Jews arrived at Auschwitz. The newly arrived prisoners had to form two lines, men and boys in one line and women and children in another line. Strangely, Samelson’s mother was given a choice between joining the men’s line with her two sons, or going to her death with her 6-year-old daughter.
Men and women with children form two lines for selection at Auschwitz-Birkenau
I googled “William Samelson” to find out more about this strange exception which the Nazis made for his family and found that he has written an article which you can read in full here. The title of the article is World Class Assassins, referring to the Nazis who killed 6 million Jews.
Wannsee house where the Final Solution was planned
This is a quote from Dr. Samelson’s article:
All of that (the genocide of the Jews) was brought about as a result of a planned meeting of the finest criminal Nazi minds in a charming Wannsee chalet on the outskirts of Berlin. They met there to implement their leader’s mandate to come up with a practical “solution to the Jewish Question.” (In view of the plans laid out during that meeting, I am inclined to take the liberty of misspelling the first “n” into an “h”, thus resulting in the name Wahnsee—Lake of Insanity—which more accurately describes the memorable site. Dutifully, the assemblage of thugs quickly submitted to their Fuehrer (Hitler) their full-proof (sic) program; the methodical implementation of the murder of all accessible Jews in occupied territories. And they called it “The Final Solution.” (The Holocaust Chronicle, Publications International, Ltd., Lincolnwood, Ill., 2000, pp. 92, 129, ff.).
You can read more about the Wannsee Conference on my website here.
The fatal flaw in “The Final Solution” was that the Nazis allowed at least one young person in each family to live and give testimony about the genocide of the Jews. Many of these young children, who were spared by the Nazis, are telling the world today about what happened at Auschwitz.
Dr. Samelson was allowed to live, even though he was only 11 years old and hardly qualified to do any kind of work; the rule at the Auschwitz “death camp” was death for anyone under 15 or over 45. Sometimes, the rule was changed so selections were made by measuring the height of the young boys. In Dr. Samelson’s case, his mother was allowed to choose which of her children would live. His mother made the supreme sacrifice and went to her death with her daughter, allowing her two sons to live.
Women and children, including some young boys, walking to the gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau
Men selected for labor are walking down the same road
The two photos above show that, after the selections were made, the men who were selected to work walked down the same road as the women and children, who were selected for the gas chamber. This road led to the Sauna where the men took a shower. The same road also led to Crematorium IV and Crematoriaum V which were two buildings that had gas chambers disguised as shower rooms. The victims did not know until the last minute whether water or gas would come out of the shower faucets, as was shown in the movie Shindler’s List.
Women who were selected for labor went to the Sauna where they took a shower and had their heads shaved (to prevent lice which spreads typhus). Women and children, like Samelson’s mother and sister, went to the fake shower rooms where they were gassed.