Scrapbookpages Blog

April 20, 2012

Holocaust survivor was liberated by the Soviet Army while on the train to the gas chamber on April 23, 1945

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: — furtherglory @ 5:26 pm

I read in a news article here that Marion Blumenthal Lazan, a Holocaust survivor, told a group of middle school students that she was on a train to the gas chamber when the train was liberated by Soviet Soldiers on April 23, 1945.

This quote is from the article in The Tribune, a newspaper in Greeley, CO:

Lazan’s family was liberated by the Soviet Army while on the train to the gas chamber on April 23, 1945. The war between Russia and Germany kept her alive, she said. The 10-hour train trip became two weeks because the train was blocked, and it never arrived at its destination. She spent her last two weeks in captivity crammed into a train with no food, dirty water and no sanitation.

Germany was losing the war in April 1945 and the war was very nearly over.  Yet the Nazis continued their genocial killing of the Jews until the very end.  Regarding the last days of the war and the killing of the Jews, Daniel Goldhagen wrote in his best-selling book Hitler’s Willing Executioners :

Finally, the fidelity of the Germans to their genocidal enterprise was so great as seeming to defy comprehension. Their world was disintegrating around them, yet they persisted in genocidal killing until the end.

The train to the gas chamber was coming from Bergen-Belsen, but where was it going?  I learned at the Bergen-Belsen memorial site that there were three trains headed to the Theresienstadt camp in April 1945.

Bergen-Belsen was an exchange camp, set up for exchanging Jews for Germans being held as prisoners by the Allies.  It became a concentration camp only in the last months of the war.

According to a book written by Eberhard Kolb, which I purchased at the Bergen-Belsen memorial site, Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler had opened a special section at the Bergen-Belsen exchange camp on July 8, 1944, where 1,683 Hungarian Jews from Budapest were brought.

The Jews in the Hungarian section were treated better than all the others at Bergen-Belsen. They received better food and medical care and were not required to work. They wore their own clothes, although they were required to wear a yellow Star of David patch.

The Bergen-Belsen camp had different categories of prisoners, and the Hungarian Jews were in the category of Preferential Jews (Vorzugsjuden) because they were considered desirable for exchange purposes.

Marion Blumenthal was probably in the Vorzugsjuden section of Bergen-Belsen described above by Eberhard Kolb.

I learned the following information on my trip to the Bergen-Belsen memorial site:

Altogether, there was a total of 2,896 Jews released for ransom, including a transport of 1,210 Jews from the Theresienstadt Ghetto who entered Switzerland on February 7, 1945.

After the departure of the second Hungarian transport to Switzerland in December, more transports from Budapest continued to arrive at Bergen-Belsen and the Hungarian section remained in existence there until April 1945.

After the Hungarian Jews had entered Switzerland, there were false reports by the Swiss press that the Jews were being ransomed in exchange for asylum for 200 SS officers who were planning to defect. When Hitler heard this, from Ernst Kaltenbrunner who was no friend of Himmler, he ordered all further releases of Jews for ransom to stop. Nevertheless, Himmler continued to release Jews from the concentration camps, as he continued to negotiate with the Allies.

Between April 6 and April 11, the Hungarian Jews were evacuated from Bergen-Belsen on the orders of Himmler who was planning to use them as bargaining chips in his negotiations with the Allies. The Jews in the Star Camp and also in the Neutrals Camp were also evacuated, along with the Hungarians, in three trains which held altogether about 7,000 Jews who were considered “exchange Jews.”

One of these trains arrived with 1,712 people on April 21, 1945 and entered the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia. Two weeks later the Theresienstadt Ghetto was turned over to the Red Cross, just before Russian troops arrived. The other two trains never made it to Theresienstadt because they had to keep making detours due to frequent Allied air attacks, according to Eberhard Kolb’s book Bergen-Belsen from 1943 to 1945.

One of the trains finally stopped on April 14, 1945 near Magdeburg in northern Germany; the guards ran away and the Jews on the train were liberated by American troops. The third train halted on April 23, 1945 near the village of Tröbitz in the Niederlausitz region; they were liberated by Russian troops after the guards escaped.

Marion Blumenthal was on the train that stopped at the village of Tröbitz.  She was 10 years old and she had been a prisoner of the Nazis for 6 and 1/2 years.

Holocaust survivor who was born in Auschwitz

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 10:06 am

A regular reader of my blog alerted me to an online news story about a Holocaust survivor, Leila Jabarin, who “was born inside Auschwitz, the most notorious symbol of Nazi Germany’s wartime campaign against Europe’s Jews.”

Unmöglich, you say!  No. It is quite possible that she was born in Auschwitz and lived to tell about it 70 years later.  First of all, I have deduced that she was born in the Auschwitz main camp, not the Birkenau death camp.  This quote from the news story explains it:

Her mother, who was from Hungary, and her father, who was of Russian descent, were living in Yugoslavia when they were sent to the Auschwitz with their two young sons in 1941.

When they took them to Auschwitz, she was pregnant with me, and when she gave birth, the Christian doctor at Auschwitz hid me in bath towels,” she says, explaining how the doctor hid the family for three years under the floor of his house inside the camp.

Her mother worked as a maid at the doctor’s home, while her father was the gardener.

“They used to come back at night and sleep under the floor and my mother used to tell us how the Nazis were killing children, but that this doctor saved us,” she says, recalling how her mother used to feed them on dry bread soaked in hot water with salt.

“I still remember the black and white striped pyjamas and remember terrible beatings in the camp. If I was healthy enough, I would have gone back to see it but I have already had four heart attacks.

The uniforms worn by the prisoners at Auschwitz were blue and light grey stripes.  The women wore skirts and blouses, sometimes of a solid color material.  There were no black and white striped uniforms, as far as I know.

The first systematic selection for the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau was made when a transport of Jews arrived on July 4, 1942.   Dr. Josef Mengele, the famous SS man who made the selections at Birkenau, did not arrive at Auschwitz-Birkenau until May 1943.

Years ago, I read the story of Ruth Elias, a survivor of Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, who wrote a book entitled Triumph of Hope. Ruth Elias was one of several women who gave birth to a child at Auschwitz.

Although the men and women were housed in separate barracks at Theresienstadt, Ruth Elias and her husband had conceived a child while she was a prisoner in the Theresienstadt camp, and when she arrived at Birkenau on a transport of Czech prisoners in December 1943, she was three months pregnant. Ruth passed several selections for the gas chamber even though she was obviously pregnant; she and her husband were assigned to the Czech “family camp.” On July 11, 1944, after a selection made by Dr. Mengele, 3,000 prisoners in the Czech family camp, who were not considered fit to work, were sent to the gas chamber, but Ruth passed the selection even though she was in her eighth month of pregnancy. On July 14, 1944, Ruth was sent to Hamburg, Germany to work in clearing rubble from Allied bombing raids.

The thing that most impressed me about Ruth’s story is that, after only four days of working in Hamburg, Ruth Elias was escorted by an SS man, in a private compartment on a passenger train, to the infirmary at Ravensbrück, the women’s concentration camp near Berlin. From there, Ruth and Berta Reich, another prisoner who was nine months pregnant, were soon sent back to Auschwitz on another passenger train. Ruth gave birth to a baby girl at Auschwitz, but Dr. Mengele cruelly ordered her to bind her breasts and not to nurse her child because he wanted to see how long it would take for a baby to die without its mother’s milk.

Mercifully, a woman dentist named Maca Steinberg, who was a prisoner at Auschwitz, obtained some morphine and gave it to Ruth so that she could inject her baby and end its life, after Ruth told her that Dr. Mengele was due to arrive the next morning to take Ruth and her child to the gas chamber.

Berta Reich gave birth a few days later and immediately injected her baby with morphine, then told Dr. Mengele that her child had been stillborn. After saving themselves from certain death in the gas chamber at Auschwitz, both Ruth and Berta were sent to Taucha, a labor camp near Leipzig, which was a sub-camp of Buchenwald.

Gerda Schrage was 24 years old when she was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944. She had been in hiding in Berlin during the war, until someone betrayed her to the Gestapo and she was arrested. According to Gerda’s story, as told in the documentary film “Gerda’s Silence,” when she arrived at Auschwitz, she was pregnant by a married man with whom she had had an affair while she was in hiding. Her baby died in her arms at Birkenau because Dr. Mengele was conducting yet another cruel experiment and would not allow her to nurse the baby.

Leila Jabarin was very lucky that she was in the Auschwitz main camp where her mother had no contact with Dr. Mengele.  As for hiding under the floor of the doctor’s house, I interpret this to mean that Leila’s parents were living in the servant’s quarters in the basement of the house.  Why did they have to hide?  Obviously, to escape the notorious Dr. Mengele and the famous Gisella Perl.

To find out more about what happened to babies born in Auschwitz-Birkenau, do a search on Gisella Perl, a Jewish prisoner at Birkenau, who was a gynecologist.  She was from the same place in Romania as Elie Wiesel; she was deported to Auschwitz in 1944 and put to work helping Dr. Mengele.

According to Wikipedia, Gisella Perl “is most famous, however, for saving the lives of hundreds of mothers by aborting their pregnancies, as pregnant mothers were often beaten and killed or used by Dr. Josef Mengele for vivisections.”