The words, in the title of my blog post, were written by Primo Levi, a famous Holocaust survivor, who is shown in the photo above. He was a prisoner at the Monowitz camp, which was also known as the Auschwitz III camp.
You can read about the Monowitz camp on my website at : http://www.scrapbookpages.com/AuschwitzScrapbook/History/Articles/Monowitz.html
In my previous blog post, I wrote the following about Primo Levi:
Auschwitz was abandoned by the German SS guards on January 18, 1945 and it was ten days before Soviet troops arrived to rescue the prisoners. Primo Levi was an Italian Jew, who was a prisoner at the Monowitz labor camp in the Auschwitz complex. In 1947, Levi wrote a poem entitled “If this is a man,” which is included in a book published in America under the title Survival in Auschwitz, the Nazi Assault on Humanity.
Chapter 17 of the book is entitled, “The Story of Ten Days.” This is the story of what happened during the ten days that the prisoners were on their own, without the Germans to keep order and feed them. There are some surprising revelations in this chapter.
Primo Levi had come down with scarlet fever on January 11, 1945 and he had been put into the hospital at Monowitz, so he was not able to join the march out of the camp on January 18, 1945. He wrote that he was being treated in the hospital with sulpha drugs.
There has been a lot of speculation about why some of the prisoners stayed in the three Auschwitz camps (Auschwitz I, Birkenau and Monowitz) instead of following the fleeing Germans on January 18, 1945. The Holocaust experts believe that the prisoners were marched out of the camp for the purpose of killing them so that they could not testify about the gassing of the prisoners. They believe that the prisoners joined the march for fear that they would be killed if they stayed behind.
Levi wrote that there were “rumours which had been circulating for some days: that the Russians were at Censtochowa sixty miles to the north; […] that at Buna (Monowitz) the Germans were already preparing to sabotage mines.”
Strangely, Levi did not mention anything about the Germans blowing up the gas chambers at Birkenau. Levi was a prisoner at Monowitz and perhaps he didn’t know what was going on at Birkenau.
In the “Author’s Preface” to the book, the first sentence reads: “It was my good fortune to be deported to Auschwitz only in 1944, that is, after the German Government had decided, owing to the growing scarcity of labour, to lengthen the average life-span of the prisoners destined for elimination…” Primo Levi was never in the Birkenau camp, so he apparently never knew that 450,000 Hungarian Jews were gassed and burned there in only 10 weeks, starting in May 1944.
Levi had arrived in Auschwitz in January 1944. He had been captured by the Italian Fascist Militia on 13 December 1943, according to his book. He wrote that he had fled into the mountains to help set up what “should have become a partisan band affiliated with the Resistance movement Justice and Liberty.” Levi thought that “the admission of my political activity would have meant torture and certain death.” Remarkably, he wrote that he “preferred to admit my status of Italian citizen of Jewish race.”
So on the first page of Chapter 1 in his book, Levy reveals that he thought he would be killed if he admitted to being a partisan, but not if he admitted to being a Jew. Yet on page 20, he wrote, with regard to the selections for the gas chamber, that “later a simpler method was often adopted of merely opening both of the doors of the wagon without warning or instructions to the new arrivals. Those who by chance climbed down on one side of the convoy entered the camp; the others went to the gas chamber.”
Levi wrote in Chapter 17 that the day before the Monowitz camp was to be evacuated, a Greek doctor who was a prisoner himself came to the hospital and told the prisoners that “all patients able to walk would be given shoes and clothes and would leave the following day with the healthy ones on a twelve mile march.” The others would remain in the hospital with assistants to be chosen from the patients who were the least sick. When Levi asked the doctor what would happen to the sick prisoners, the doctor said that “probably the Germans would leave us to our fate: no, he did not think that they would kill us.”