Scrapbookpages Blog

August 28, 2012

The lone child in Buchenwald was tattooed with a number on his arm

Filed under: Buchenwald, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: — furtherglory @ 9:40 am

I was startled to read this morning, in a comment on a previous post on my blog, that there were no children in the Buchenwald concentration camp, save one.  Yisrael Meir Lau, the lone child at Buchenwald claims that “there were no children in Buchenwald.” 

What about the 904 orphans in Block 66 at Buchenwald?  Forget them!  Most of the orphans in Block 66 were teen-agers; only 30 of them were under the age of 13.

Only Yisrael Meir Lau, who was sent to Buchenwald at the age of 5 and liberated from the camp at the age of 8, was a child prisoner at Buchenwald, by his own account.  Yisrael Meir Lau claims that he was tattooed with the number 117030 when he entered Buchewald.

8-year-old Meir Lau on his way to Israel after being liberated from Buchenwald

This quote is from an article which you can read in full here:

…. leading the march on Zmievskaya Balka was Israel’s Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau—the most unlikely survivor of Hitler’s “final solution.” Rabbi Lau was a five years old when he outwitted the Nazis and became an inmate in Buchenwald, where there were no children, and survived in defiance of all odds to become Israel’s chief rabbi.

“In one of the rooms where Jews were tortured in Buchenwald,” recalled Rabbi Lau, “a Jew scraped the word ‘revenge’ into the wall. What does it mean? Are we going to fight? Will we wage war? Our revenge is to live and follow the Jewish traditions and to give birth to Jewish people. ” Rabbi Lau recited the kaddish at the memorial site, and the Kel Maleh Rachamim prayer.

On Friday, Rabbi Lau visited the burial place of Feodore Mikhailichenko and offered a prayer over the grave of the non-Jewish prisoner who took little Lulek, as Rabbi Lau was called, under his guardianship in Buchenwald, and saved his life.

Another news article about the march led by Rabbi Lau at Rostov-On-Don, Russia disputes the story that Jews were killed by the Nazis at this location in August 1942. Could this be another one of those “events that never happened, but are true”?

The story of Israel Meir Lau is told, in his own words, as quoted below, from this website:

“At Buchenwald, the gold watch Mama had given (my brother) Tulek was used to bribe one of the German wardens to ignore my presence. A Czech doctor saved my life by injecting me with only a half-dose of the vaccination he gave to all the men. Through a series of miracles and with the help of many good people, I passed through all the selektzias (selections).

“Often, when I think of the war, I feel amazed when I contemplate the chain of miracles that happened to me.

“After the injections, we were taken to a tunnel equipped with a row of showerheads. By 1945, everybody knew what to expect from showerheads in a Nazi camp, and we prepared to die a miserable death. One of the men in our group suddenly fell down dead. Ever since we left the Piotrkow ghetto, he’d been keeping a cyanide capsule hidden under a temporary filling in his tooth, and he’d decided this was the moment to use it. But the showerheads were turned on, and ice cold water sprayed out. I don’t know how to describe the life-giving warmth we felt from that icy water.

“Next, we were given our prison uniforms and had our numbers tattooed on our arms. Naftali (Tulek) was number 117029; I was number 117030. Then we entered Block 52.

Building at Buchenwald where incoming prisoners took a shower

I took the photo above, of the former disinfection building at Buchenwald, when I visited the Memorial Site in 1999.   This building was built in 1942; it was converted into an art museum in 1990.

When the Buchenwald camp was in operation, prisoners were taken to the disinfection building, shown above, upon arrival. The procedure was to shave the new prisoner’s head and all his body hair in an attempt to control lice which spreads typhus. Then his civilian clothing would be surrendered and disinfected with Zyklon-B, an insecticide which was also used for gassing the Jews.

The clothing and personal possessions of the in-coming prisoners were then kept in the nearby storehouse until such time as the prisoner would be released. After that, the prisoner would be dipped into a disinfection solution and then chased naked through an underground tunnel to the neighboring storehouse where he would receive a striped blue and gray uniform that looked like a pair of pajamas.  According to Israel Meir Lau, the tunnel had shower heads where the prisoners took a shower on their way to the storehouse.

Israel Meir Lau’s story continues with this quote from this website:

On the third day, I was moved to Block Eight, where the conditions were comparatively good. My brother had cautioned me not to say I was Jewish. One of the Russian prisoners, Fyodor, stole some potatoes and cooked up a soup for me, and he sewed an earmuff for me, too. Meanwhile, my brother was looking worse every time I saw him, but now I was in a position to do something for him sometimes, like smuggling him a slice of bread with margarine.”

No orphan’s block for Meir Lau.  He was in Block 8 where he was saved by a Russian prisoner who was not Jewish.  Perhaps he didn’t know that there were 904 orphans in Block 66.  After the war, the orphans were sent to France.  Little 8-year-old Meir Lau went straight to Israel.  However, Israel Meir Lau did mention that he knew that Elie Wiesel was in Buchenwald.  Did Elie advise him never to show his tattoo?  Did he learn from Elie Wiesel that “some things never happened, but are true”?