Scrapbookpages Blog

June 22, 2013

Auschwitz survivor explains, in a new book, the motive for the Czech family camp at Auschwitz

New book by Otto Dov Kulka, a survivor of Auschwitz

New book by Otto Dov Kulka, a survivor of Auschwitz

According to a review of the book, shown above, which you can read in full here, Otto Dov Kulka, a survivor of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, wrote about two groups of Czech Jews in the Theresienstadt ghetto, who were sent to the Birkenau camp, where each group was put into a “family camp,” and given privileges not allowed to the rest of the prisoners. In his book, Kulka claimed that “On March 7, 1944, six months after they arrived, all but a handful of Jews from the first group [of Czech Jews] were murdered in the [Auschwitz] gas chambers in a single night.”

According to the book review, written by Raimond Gaita:

Otto Dov Kulka was nine when he and his mother arrived in Auschwitz with the first group [of Czech prisoners from Theresienstadt]. His father had been taken to other concentration camps in 1939 and to Auschwitz in 1942.

Wait a minute!  Otto Dov Kulta was in the first group of prisoners who were put into a “family camp,” but he was not gassed when all the prisoners in the family camp were murdered in one night.  Apparently he was one of “a handful of Jews” who were saved so that they could write books about how the entire family camp was murdered in one night.  This may seem strange to some people, but the Nazis always made sure that they left some witnesses to tell the story, since they never kept records of the Jews who were gassed.

This quote is from the review of the book:

In 1943, the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit Theresienstadt. The Nazis were allowed plenty of time to make the camp appear like a model community under occupation to a criminally gullible delegation (to put it kindly). Anxious that the ICRC might ask to visit camps in Poland, Himmler ordered the establishment of the family camp in Auschwitz, in order, Kulka writes, ”to serve as living proof that reports about the annihilation of Jews deported to the east were false”. When the ICRC declared that its visit to Theresienstadt had ”satisfied all their expectations”, Himmler ceased the grotesque charade.

So there you have it.  The motive for setting up the “family camp” at Auschwitz-Birkenau was to provide a separate camp for the Red Cross to visit, so that they wouldn’t see what it was really like in Auschwitz-Birkenau.  That sounds plausible, but the Red Cross had been inspecting the Auschwitz camp before that.

In September 1943, December 1943 and May 1944, just before the scheduled Red Cross visit to the Theresienstadt ghetto, there was a total of seven transports to Auschwitz-Birkenau, on which 17,517 Jews were sent to the death camp.

The Czech Jews from these transports were placed in a “family camp” at Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Men, women and children were allowed to stay together in a separate camp, in contrast to the other prisoners at Auschwitz-Birkenau who had to live in fenced-off sections where the men and women were segregated from each other. The Czech Jews were allowed to wear civilian clothes instead of the blue and gray striped prison uniforms that the other inmates had to wear. Most importantly, the Czech Jews were allowed to send letters back to Theresienstadt to tell the others about how well they were being treated in the camp. Six months after it was opened, the “family camp” was closed and only 1,168 of the Czech Jews allegedly survived. The others were allegedly gassed in a single night, as told by Otto Dov Kulka.

How stupid was that?  Allowing 1,168 survivors to live so that they could write books and tell the story of how thousands of Jews were gassed “in a single night.”

What else could have happened to the Czech Jews who were allegedly “gassed in a single night?”  Auschwitz-Birkenau was not just a “death camp” where thousands of Jews were gassed.  It was also a “transit camp” from which Jews were sent to other camps, after a short stay at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Recall the story of Irene Zisblatt, who was pulled out of a gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau because the room was too full.  A Sonderkommando (Jewish helper) threw her over a 10-ft-high barbed wire fence into a railroad car that was bound for the Neuengamme labor camp.

What if the prisoners in the Czech family camp were also transferred to another camp, but the 1,168 survivors of the family camp were not told this?