Today I am writing about Holocaust survivor David Chase, who has recently passed away at age of 86.
The following quote is from a news article about his death:
David Chase was a self-made businessman who survived the Holocaust and built his life anew. He escaped the concentration camp at Auschwitz jumping into a ditch as he and other inmates were being led to the gas chambers. He later took cover in the forest, but his parents and siblings perished in the Nazi concentration camps. He remembers that it was a sunny day in Auschwitz when his mother was murdered. “I raised my hands and said, ‘My G-d, of all people, why her? She was a wonderful human being who had so much compassion and love for others—why her?’”
The mother of David Chase was apparently not spry enough to jump into a ditch on the march to the gas chamber. It was relatively easy to escape the gas chamber at Birkenau but you had to be spry enough to jump off the cart that was carrying you there, and you had to be able to jump into a ditch that might be filled with muddy water after a recent rain.
I have a whole section on my scrapbookpages.com website about Auschwitz: http://www.scrapbookpages.com/AuschwitzScrapbook/Tour/index.html
A little history of Auschwitz-Birkenau might be in order here:
The first prisoners at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp had to tear down the brick houses in the Polish village of Brzezinka, which the Germans called Birkenau. The bricks were used to construct primitive barracks, built on the ground without foundations. Eventually, the houses in 6 more Polish villages were torn down in order to expand the Birkenau camp.
Auschwitz-Birkenau was built on marshy ground which had to be drained. The ground at Birkenau is still so wet that there are spots at the western end that look like a bog garden, a place with plants that grow only in wet places.
The photo below shows prisoners digging a drainage ditch at the western end of the camp. This was part of Heinrich Himmler’s ambitious plan to set up a huge farm at Auschwitz.
According to the book entitled Auschwitz, 1270 to the present by Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt, Heinrich Himmler got the idea of using the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp to establish a large agricultural estate as early as November 1940, after Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Hoess had paid him a visit. According to the book, cited above: “The two men began to plan the transformation of Auschwitz [Birkenau] into an agricultural experiment station which would service the entire region.”
At that early date, in November 1940, the projected inmate population of Auschwitz-Birkenau was 10,000 and Himmler envisioned that most of the prisoners would work on an experimental farm, according to Dwork and van Pelt, as written in their book.
Dwork and van Pelt wrote: “It was the metamorphosis of the camp into an agricultural estate worked by slaves that caught [Himmler’s] fancy; it fit his fantasy of the German east, and he was enraptured by the vision of Auschwitz playing a central role in the reclamation of that area.”
The town of Auschwitz had originally been built by Germans and German farmers had formerly owned the land in that area, which Himmler wanted to reclaim for the Greater German Reich.
According to the book by Dwork and Van Pelt, most of the slave labor on the Auschwitz experimental farm was done by women. The following quote is from Auschwitz, 1270 to the present:
His [Himmler’s] bucolic fantasy engendered a brutality that exceeded the conditions in the sand and gravel pit industrial work assigned to men. The women simply had no machinery of any kind to help them. It was lethal work. Many died, and nearly no one survived without permanent injury.
It was too great an assault for anyone to sustain, and it is possible that one day early in October 1942, women slave laborers at the agricultural farm in the Auschwitz subcamp of Budy tried to break out. German women kapos killed the approximately ninety French Jews with poles and axes, claiming to suppress an uprising. Not one of the prisoners survived that day.