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Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Day 73 - The Hiding of Arms at Buchenwald!!

The tree of Goethe was blown over in the blast and was laying on its side.  Prisoners were now cutting pieces of wood from the tree to make souvenirs.
Another prophecy and revelation had come to pass which was that when the foliage starts to die that the thousand year Reich would be close to its downfall.  This had come to pass and was happening now.

God only helps those who help themselves. This saying and others were coming into action and fulfillment at this moment!

The S.S. left us pretty much alone for three days.  We burned our dead and they tried to give their few, important, fallen figureheads a silent luguber ceremonial re-burial, a demonic Te Deum.  Substandard and with weird, funeral music that we could now hear over the distant vibrations of the purified air.  It seemed quasi mystical, more like black magic rites and very unpleasant to the ears.  From their preoccupation with the occult they were burying their insanity, void of light, understanding and pity.

We took advantage of these days of rest to augment our supply of arms.  The arms came in with the provision carts on the goods run from Weimer, which passed by the ruins.  This process was helped along by the total destruction and temporary set back to the S.S.' iron oaths and crumbling discipline - having received a lot of hard punches right on and in full face.

In Weimar, we heard that the people had heard the noise from the bombardment better than us - this gave them a prelude to what was in store for them.  After the third day, the S.S. monster came back into its own but something was lost forever.  They pulled themselves together but they never had the same stature and bearing as before the bombing.

Regarding the hiding of arms, hardly anybody knew, not even myself.  That was the sole responsibility of the elders of the camp as was the radio.  Eight prisoners had given their life for the radio, they were taken at random after the raid, taken to Weimer for interrogation, torture and then vanished from the scene - without talking.

We still had our secret to be used, as a last resort, at the appropriate time. Nobody was able to interfere with that, for himself or his buddies, this rule was for the benefit of the whole camp and a divine rule.

To be continued ...

Day 72 - My Dad's Prisoner Card

Elizabeth Kobler Ros from Arizona wrote this piece before she passed away! For me it is an excellent tribute in memory of my Dad and Dave Noble who passed away last year of cancer.

 "The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These people have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness and a deep loving concern..."

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Day 71 - The flames at Buchenwald were as high as those at Auschwitz!

"An eerie and dusty atmosphere now prevailed - souls had departed but their sacrifice had not been in vain.  A peculiar rushing noise was now heard over the scene similar to the one that had been heard over the field at "The Battle of Waterloo" - maybe it was just the wind!

The high rise, S.S. building, appeared to be untouched.  For a moment, the injustice of it all overwhelmed us but this feeling did not last long.  We could now see that all their shelters had been destroyed without exception - all plowed over just like after a harvester that had just plowed the land in preparation for seed sowing but at the same time destroying all the vermin sheltering within the earth.

To escape the shrapnel, the S.S. had run as one man from the buildings and vicinity into their quickly covered gangways and mazes.  The waves of judgement rolling overhead had released their heavy loads onto the buildings so that the main carpet bombing had come down exactly in the right area.
There must have been a good bit of planning and preparation put into this bombing and the rest was The Lord's.  Only the best pilots were good enough for this kind of operation.

The S.S. who were in training were killed en masse -  in what I would say they would have liked to inflict upon us and our people.  Justice or retribution  had now taken place on a grand scale. The carnage among the S.S. must have been tenfold to ours.   We will never know the exact figures but it was satisfying to know that the score was being evened out.  Their bodies wouldn't be burned with ours - they would stay buried where they became entombed.

The remarkable, outstanding occurrences we now noticed on the Gothic signs which had previously read, " Right or Wrong My Country", were now being covered by small flames that licked up the beams giving the slogans the illusion of crawling upwards  snake wise in their finality -  like the saying itself!

The guards weren't there and we never looked for them either.  They had probably been in the shelters too which were only twenty yards away from us now.  No "Mutzen ab", or "hats off" now, "Versekwunden".  The top heavy eagle had been taken up and blown fifty yards away from its spot now laying on it's side as if  thrown by a giant.  The totem pole was in a hundred splinters with a "voltreffer" close by which had landed right by its side.  We were in total amazement as we now walked passed!

At this time, we were caring for our wounded and  transporting them in batches.  We were sorrowful and amazed at it all but still more intact and with a new glow of hope burning inside us - we pulled ourselves together quicker than the S.S.

We had our heads raised high and didn't see one S.S. for a while.  It was if the earth had swallowed them up, which it really had done with only the worms having a laid out feast.  The fate of some of the S.S. now was in sharp contrast to the sarcastic poem and inscription that they had written, for our benefit, above the crematorium,  which read as:

         Nicht onhele Wurme soll mein Leib erndhren,
         Die reine flamme, die soll ihn verzehren,
         Ich liebe slets die Warme und das light,
         Denn verbrennt und begrabt mich night.

***My Dad was not sure if his spelling or translation of the above poem 
     are entirely correct.  His translation is as follows:

         Not one worm shall my life approach
         the pure flame shall I make sure of
         I love the state of the heat and light
         Then don't burn and bury me.

That evening we burned our dead and the flames from the ovens in Buchenwald would go as high as those in Auschwitz but not to the glory of the murderous S.S. and the Nazi hierarchy but to our salvation.

This would be our epitaph, "To Each his Own", as we stood looking into the flames in memory of so many good and absent friends and some brethren as if in a last farewell to our misery in arms.

To be continued ..

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Day 70 - The Destruction of Guzloffe Werke!

"A lot of dust whirled up and obscured the sunlight but more planes were still coming on and suddenly long shining sticks (about one man in length) were thickly falling now and dropping among us - impaling quite a few unfortunate prisoners on the forest floor and then instantly exploding all over the place.

Some of us started running wildly only to be splattered by the immense fire bits from exploding incendiary bombs, that's the objects we were being hit by now!  Those infernal things being so light got blown or rather sucked backwards towards us in a vacuum created by the former explosions and by a counter wind that blew them off target.

Besides dust there was also smoke and fire and more cries from victims all intermingled like Hell Fire.  Also, a rush was on - the guardian S.S. had retreated down the slope and a bit more and they were in the bushes ready for the next onslaught of men that would go in that direction - which I could say was going to happen at any moment now!  Better to stay put, this was no time for a mass outbreak -  unless we had already prepared for it and had known it would happen like this - even the pilots did not envisage this turn of events!

As I was pondering the events before me I suddenly heard short bursts of machine gun fire, rifles and pistol salvo's resounding from the direction of the massive rush and then more screams.  The rest of the crowd came running back towards us now, they got no further than that!  The S.S. following on their heels, luckily with the shooting stopping now and the S.S. saying to us, "that's what your friends did to you all - "!Now pointing to the victims and deaths before us.  All of us looking in disbelief at our friends, some of whom had their intestines hanging out of their bellies as they had been ripped open.

This was the fruits of war and the accidents with it - nobody knew which was the worst, but one provoked the other.  There was no safe course in between the battling opposites.  The poor chaps who had run had gone from the frying pan into the fire - from being torn to pieces one minute to the piercing bullets in the other minute.  I don't know of any battle that is worse or better, it is, all "To Each His Own" over and over again.

The theme would return till it was over and done with.  The ultimate price we all had to pay, friend and foe alike with the relentless march of the conquerors and their war horses!

I noticed now that the S.S. were not brandishing their pistols as much and one of them said he was in just as much a state of shock as we were, which was good to observe on them.  He let us walk back unmolested to pick up our wounded, who cared about the dead at that moment, nobody!

One of my unfortunate friends was totally disemboweled and we felt like putting his entrails back for him but he was far beyond the point of pain and just smiled peacefully at us - still having presence of mind.  He expired quickly after that with us both holding his hands.  He was the one who told us about keeping a stick or twig in our mouths during the impact of the explosions!

We were now holding and helping to support a couple of prisoners who had been shot in their legs.  We came to an open clearing, near the entrance of the forest and while avoiding the big, gaping, open craters in the ground we looked back, on our left side, at what had been Guzloff Werke.

As far as we could see, at that moment, there was nothing remaining apart from a few walls and ruins with pits.  Total destruction had been achieved and beyond that nothing much, a few more walls here and there were now breaking into view, a grandiose view of almost complete devastation.

That was only a quick glance because we now hurried to get back into the camp, struggling with the wounded hopping in between us.....".

To be continued ...

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Day 69 - Bombs and Destruction on August 23, 1944.

"One day a delegation from the Red Cross came to Buchenwald - there were also others with them too. To us, this was good news, as it was evidence that our courier had reached his target on the outside and had supplied information to others about the camp.  The resistance had become aware of the good news before the delegation had arrived as coded messages had already been deciphered on the radio. 

The S.S. now mounted a "look and search raid", within the camp.  They never found anything to go on - little did they know that there was treason within their own ranks, this was now clearly working to our full advantage.

The delegation's visit was timed perfectly to coincide with an air raid alarm.    This was to enable us to go out as if we were going for cover in the tall pine trees in the woods for protection against the aerial bombardment.  

Everything had been well planned and organized and our purpose was to arrange ourselves into a certain formation so that we could form an easily visible target for the incoming planes.   The target formed was of all importance and so had been organized on a grand scale.

Well after the Red Cross Delegation had left the camp, this exercise was kept up until Memorial Day, on twenty third of August, 1944.  The pressure from the air had been constant so that the S.S. would not be able to relax and keep us inside Gouzloff Werk for too long!

On this lovely day, I was just nicely relaxing and lazily settling down under a nice, thick tree, looking at the foliage on top of me and the very clear sky.  Suddenly, I heard the familiar droning sound of the planes coming on but this was quite different from the usual sound.  The planes were at a much lower altitude and were clearly preparing for full attacking speed - which I now recognized as;  full speed go, let all loose!

They came on steadily in close formation like a holocaust of their own judgement, assuming an almost deadly appearance.  The first wave looked similar to speedy whitish crosses with the bouncing sun rays on their coffin like bodies.  They were dangerously close now, just visible in the openings of the foliage above our heads, causing me to quickly flatten myself beneath the tree I had just been sitting at.

I could see amazement and whitish staring fear in my friend's eyes who was sitting on his haunches and looking upwards to the  sky.  In no time, he was flat next to me and practically on top of me, the only place left.

Now we heard the mass of destructive bombs coming down incessantly, screeching.  If was as if the air above us was torn open.  There was more hissing than whistling.  It was loud and heavy as the bombs exploded on impact around us.  As we were laying flat and lower than anything around most of the noise would be heard better further away from us!

The air wall moved among and mostly above us pressing everything further away downwards and pushing on like a wind of hurricane force - making me press myself as flat as I possibly could against the ground.  I now felt myself being lifted up and down like a feather.

I had just put a twig into my mouth to save my eardrums from the blast - an old soldier's trick.

There were terrible screams coming from all over as bombs had dropped just near to the entrance of the forest.  More and more people now piled onto me for protection as if in a safe haven....."

To be continued ...

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Day 68 - Sabotage and Indentured Couriers!

"Auspicious symbols had helped get me a better placement within the camp.  For a short time I earned extra porridge and was supplied with some dregs of wine and cigarettes.  The work was easier and more refined than hard labor in the quarry.  The Ukranians now smoked their Margorka from newspapers that had been thrown away by the S.S. - they looked like flaming torches in big clouds of bellowing smoke.

My first placement was also in the first department of the workshop.  There was an assembly of small electrical components on benches with drilling for  bakelite flat panels.  These panels fitted together with a terminal hole for an antenna in the middle - it was a guide system, for what?  There were also milling and drilling machines.

One civil engineer and two female assistants worked with us as silent partners.  They were the first women we had seen in a long time, so it was a renewed experienced for us.  They showed us the ropes and the intricacies of the job.  I managed to have a convivial short chat with them while standing back with the technicians - the women kept well away from us.

The technician knew Ostend very well and was very casual and jovial.  He talked about how he had enjoyed going to the coast at Ostend before the war.  At that point, we had to stop the conversation because Tom Mix came along on a patrol!  He was an older, S.S. guard, assigned to keep an eye on us - so, we were good boys now!

He noticed the numbers on our arms were from Auschwitz and was curious as to how we had landed up at Buchanwald.  I suppose, he was probably wondering how the upper command had let us out - it was unheard of before our enchanted trip!  Everybody now watched Tom Mix closely until he was out of sight.

As soon as he was gone, the first thing that surprised me was the senior, a Frenchman.  He was cracking the panels in front of him and throwing most of them away.  After watching him pushing the drills down very hard he instructed me to do the same.  If that was the play!, I was game, of course.  Somehow, it seemed alright.  The sabotage was on in full swing now.

All the panels that now passed us included invisible cracks, those that were too bad were thrown away for scrap.  These panels certainly must have been guides for something, but what?  Was it submarines, planes or a new system altogether?  It seemed to be a closed secret and a closed shop for us too.

The civilian supervisor, seemed to be a very clever man - he looked like a space age scientist, A Werner Von Braun type, tall, blond, thin and full of intense energy.  On the other hand, he could also have been the arche type for the ideal S.S. man, portrayed in the typical Germanic, Aryan specimens they so much desired to back breed.

Sunday was our day off!  On Sunday morning, I was busy walking around to the wooden barracks, we were allowed to do this, they were near to the appeal or gathering place and I was eagerly looking for recognizable faces.  This was one of the few times, for a long time, that I had decided to be more up front instead of keeping out of sight and in the background.

As this moment, the tragic prophesy that had been predicted at that table in Fort Du-ha came true - I now bumped into Janeck again and as foretold we were meeting on a hill in Germany!

Janeck was already well established with the Polish patriots in his block and already knew the score in regards to the underground activities.  By the sound of it he knew more than I did!  He didn't have much to say except on the issue of Guzloff - it was definitely a secret project and most likely involved a top secret weapon.  He had to go now, but our next meeting would bring us close together again to see if we could be of help to each other.

At this point, it was very probable that I would be brought into line for courier preparation for underground activities.  I had to be told everything by my own section in the block I was in.  There was a more mature, indentured courier launched well before me - I was put on the reserve.  In case of his failure, only then would I be activated for sure.  My full acknowledgement, until the appropriate time, was not all that much desired in case of complications!

To be continued ...

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Day 67 - Big Targets and Russian Prisoners!

I sometimes wondered about the first Commando's, the ones now guarded by dogs.  They had grotesque, big targets displayed on their clothes.  Everyday, the number of escapees from this group was diminishing.  I could easily have been one of them!  I had to keep silent and not talk too much to others.  I understood the importance of accepting my position - not wondering too much!

The Russian prisoners, some of which, were soldiers and others were suspected of being commissars, wore drab, green uniforms with pointed hats like Mongolian and Tartar Huns.  The Russians were now leading the column ahead of us, marching in rhythm, their heads bobbing up and down, passing the Caracho Weg, the guards, the eagle and away!

We were like robots, moving silently along, hardly aware of the music that was fading into the distance as we marched to the same rhythm.  The woods and trees around us seemed to be weeping with crystal dew drops, all in array ready for another nice morning.

Not for us though - deep in thought!  We were always aware that on one command from the eternal Mutzen ab, we could be poked with a bayonet or even worse could happen as we continued to march.  The baboons and bear must have still been asleep, too cold for them.  Anyway, what was the use of them watching the suffering of boring mankind!

A short while after this daily performance, I landed up in Gouzloff-Werke. I believe that my trade school background together with the assistance of the camp, "Underground Movement", were the auspicious symbols that had helped me get there!

We were all well acquainted with Gouzloff-Werke but it was still a big and great unknown for us!

To be continued ...

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Day 66 - Attitude! and Ukranian Blackshirts!

In August 1944, I was assigned to Middle or Mi-bau, the Eastern part of the center building still under construction for Gouzloff; there were trenches that had to be made for strong, thick cables, roads and small annexes.  The roadworks were called strassen bau Entw - short for Entwalterung).

All this work was performed under the close scrutiny and control of a patrolling S.S.  We were located near the last guard fence with the gate end towards Weimer.  The work force was supplemented by Ukranian, S.S. blackshirts - somehow, they would try to socialize with us and share their small cobs or sweet corn, which were the results of the latest experiments by the German food specialists.

This fraternization was becoming dangerously close to a catastrophe for all of us.  There was a particular S.S. guard who was continually sneaking up on us -trying to catch somebody - the prisoners by preference!  This was to obtain his three day vacation bonus which could be obtained by finding reasons to punish a victim for some form of disobedience.

By now, we had all been getting over-confident about using our hiding place to eat the rations we had saved to absolve our hunger pangs.  Somehow, we may have been given away or by using a signal the S.S. guard might have been informed!  The blackshirts had a victim ready in the trap. 

So, it happened when my turn came - I tasted that coal tar jam and suddenly as if from nowhere bees appeared.   I had never seen or noticed them in that place before.  Just as surprising to me, a bad product from the S.S. popped up in the unfinished doorway.  Giving me a grin of satisfaction now with his sadistic nature being worked up to a peak.

I hardened myself for what was to come but also knew that I had to contain my violent strength, to be used, if necessary, at the end as a last resort - similar to what I had done before.  Slowly, he came to stand in front of me, his legs wide apart, studying my badges and in the meantime putting on his gloves.   He gave another strange, close look to my red triangle with my nationality and he was now ready, so was I!

All in strict orders, he then told me to stand straight to attention and not to move.  With his full strength and weight behind it he swung his fist in a right hook and then told me to stand to attention again, giving me a left punch now, on both occasions right on the jaw.

I went halfway down on every swing but straightened up again for the next.  He knew I was tough and hard and I saw amazement in his eyes now, more in admiration than a further challenge - probably he was hurt too and tired out.  As a last resort, he picked up a plank which was laying nearby.  The plank was about arms length and about two inches thick.

Grinning again, probably with self-gratification and facing me full frontal again  he indicated towards the entrance opening that was to be for the door.  He told me to make a run for it as soon as he gave the order.  I had to by-pass him of course - the obstruction would make my run more difficult.

His game was worse than cat and mouse play and all the dice were on his side but I persevered.  There was no choice but to endure what I was about to receive.  So, on his yelling, I started on my way, not bumping into him but with the awful result of my ducking to the right - I got the full impact of the plank in the center of my back.

By now, my sense of feeling had gone numb as on previous occasions during my escapes and also because of my state of being, which was as hard as the plank itself by now.  The instrument of my torture had snapped without him having to throw it at all.  When he applied the following six beats they came to be only half as hard as the first one.

He appeared to be astonished and told me to get on with my job in the trench at the same time taking a long last look at me.  I picked up my pick again and worked strenuously as if nothing had happened until he was very well out of sight.

Then suddenly the reactions were setting in and I could feel the pain in my jaws and could hardly move them after a while - my back was not too bad.  A boiling anger for revenge was the next thing that swelled up in me - I never did meet up with him again until he was killed at liberation time.

For myself, I came to the conclusion that if I had to, with more toughening up I could probably walk through a wall.   The sores gave me trouble for a couple more days.  That incident taught me not to trust anybody, not even for a few seconds - that was the best alternative/attitude I could take.

In the dawn of the next morning, while waiting our turn to get out of the gate and with our solemn heads bobbing up and down we were marched until we were facing the sunrise.  At the same time, being watched for the slightest mistake by the angels of death - the music driving us by might or force!

"Today, I found the following quote and thought it was very relevant to some parts of my Dad's Memoirs.  In particular, I was very touched by my Dad's recollection of the little girls at Auschwitz, they knew they were going to die and threw bread over the fence towards my Dad's group.

"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." -- Viktor Frankl

To be continued ...

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Day 65 - Starvation and Cannibilism!

A few German homosexuals tried out the "Army of the Damned", only to be destroyed in the process.  They were put in between the Germans and the Russians.  I don't know where one's breaking point is, it differed greatly from person to person.  Some people never talked or gave anybody away while others talked under the simplest of tortures.

My new block was now next to the fence in the Guinea Pig block or experimental block.  It was also the center for the combined operations of the  camp resistance, we were the main group.  The rest of the resistance network was spread out evenly in all the blocks.  At this point, the biggest threat to us were the German Greens, they were the rascals.  They were still patriots and used as "Ferrets" - so we had to replace them as quickly as possible - we got rid of them through concessions given to us by the S.S. - due to our status as political prisoners.

The S.S. still needed us to fulfill their programs for the delivery of new weapons.  The war was now beginning, more and more to take a turn against the Germans and so our rights as political prisoners had to be considered more carefully now.  This balance was achieved through a transition that sent the worst elements into oblivion!

Due to this new perspective, we were now supplied with a bit more food, this   only lasted for a very short time.  The extra food was in the form of a thin porridge in the morning and Austrian cigarettes supplied by the S.S., later in the day.  However, we were soon back to Magorka cigarettes , which consisted of  chopped stems from Russian tobacco plants - made from the bottom dregs of Russia's country vineyards at Moselle.  We could buy these with our Marks - these small pauses, in our daily routine, gave us a bit of a breather. 

By June or July the heat was pretty constant now -  so our small slice of bread, with a finger of margarine, was now supplied in the evening.  This was  before the watery soup round, which sometimes had the addition of a small amount of salami or jam. The allocation of food was all experimental stuff or at least most of it.  They were always figuring out what was the minimum amount of food/rations that we could eat while still being of use to them.

The bread consisted of a lot of potato flour with straw in it and other local products - only some of the wheat was present as far as we saw and knew, the remainder consisted of birch nut flour and lots of chestnuts.  The margarine and jam were all concoctions and produced by the coal industry. 

The meat or salami - unknown to us in its consistency - was about one half an inch thick and one inch wide - it didn't last long either with its meager supply.  Sometimes, they made our rations smaller to suit themselves and then the ravages of hunger after that were terrible for us!

If you are wondering whether cannibalism had taken place - yes, we had heard of it.  One night, a body was laying outside in the quarantine area, waiting to be collected and in the morning the body was missing a foot. 

Nobody saw what happened!  New arrivals were constantly coming in via transports on an ongoing basis, usually from worse conditions, very likely coming over to die, which was more usual than unusual near the end...

Monday, 9 April 2012

Day 64 - The Army of the Damned

I think I had the luck of innocence on my side.  I  never had to wear an exclusive striped suit with big targets on it like other recaptured escapees. I don't know who I had to thank for that but it was as if my file had been changed or disappeared - or as if , "the organization" was looking after me.  However, I was still in the camp so danger was lurking at every corner.
The confusion was probably helped along by the fact that the Germans, even with their over-efficiency, had too much going on to be concerned with every detail happening within the camp. 

At times, we thought the S.S. played darts when picking victims for execution.  Frequently, they would call out random names over the loud speakers.  When this happened we always sat in fear, minute by minute, expecting to hear our name being called at any moment - we never saw anybody coming back from those calls!   Often, the S.S., would have to come and fetch their victims and drive them up and away like reluctant animals to the slaughter -  realizing that their time was up the chosen victims would often resist until the very end!

I can see all these episodes vividly in my mind as clearly as the day they happened.  We just slithered through it all by sheer luck, resilience, strength and endurance.  For your own sake, you had to be like Samson and also very much like a soldier at the front - there really was not much difference except that a soldier at the front could shoot at the enemy.

No matter how desperate we became there was no way you could join the S.S.
What did happen was that you could join, "The Army of the Damned", under the impression that you could make a quick getaway.... 

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Day 63 - ""Never Give Up and Persevere at all Times!

The food was deficient in nourishment and our hard labour in the quarry extremely heavy.  This was another weeding out process to identify the toughest prisoners.  There was no respite; the "round the clock" S.S. bullies were on our backs all the time!  The whips wound around their wrists ready for the first prisoner they could catch, especially those who were trying to hide in the crevices. 

Luckily, all of us were capable of being actors when necessary - sometimes we would allow our picks to go up and down breaking next to nothing, this was the only way to last out and to survive a bit longer!  Sometimes, they would harness from six to a dozen of us and with a stick placed across our chests we would have to pull slabs of stone up the slope.

One day, at about noon, I dropped down and fell onto the only patch of clover I had ever seen in this place.  I picked out a four leaf clover which I put into my small religious book.  For a long time after that I kept this book, together with my meticulously written in diary and when I left the camp these two books and the four leaf clover left with me!

One day, I was wounded when my ankle got knocked when I slipped among the rocks on the cliff.  The old prisoners had told us that the stones were poisonous and to make sure that we didn't get scratched.  My wound never did heal up properly but I managed - as I had to: -

 "To Never Give Up and Persevere At All Times - through thick and thin".

The fleas and lice on our block were a terrible nuisance.  I had big holes in the same leg as the wounded ankle due to the fleas and lice.  Some of the holes in our flesh were big enough to enable a person to insert their little finger.  Our wounded flesh looked like we had beri-beri -  that is likely because of the lack of nourishment and Vitamin C, which would have assisted the healing process.

If a flea bite could do that much harm you can imagine how other wounds fared!  The people who had been badly bitten by the dogs, when we arrived, died in agony shortly afterwards, mostly from tetanus.  People still kept dying and transports were in the offing again!  I stayed on and I do not know why.  Puzzle.!!!

Eventually, I passed through the labour exchange and was consigned to Gouzloff Werke and to the Upper Camp or rather Senior Camp now, the luck of the draw or maybe picked, I don't know!!!  After the stripes another suite with squares on instead of indelible dye, it seemed as if I had been chosen!  My haircut was pretty normal too, not in the Iroquois style of cocks comb!

I had a cross-interrogation by an elder from my new block.  He appeared to be a well-trained Belgian who came from somewhere around Poperinge. He had been in Moscow and had also belonged to a Belgian resistance group.

In other words, he was a communist agent and commissar - another foreign power's intelligence too.  He was likely chosen for the job because he could verify many of my home regions, recognition points as well as my immediate background in Ostend - my place of origin.

They already knew of some of my exploits through other prisoners, like my escape, reliability and knowledge.  It seemed that I fitted the needs of their organization and pattern of operations.  Having contacts on the outside was also very important too!  I was in their hands now and I am convinced I was also in other people's hands too!!!

To be continued ....

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Day 62 - Prisoner Justice!

We discovered that there was camp money in circulation - marks that could be changed.  We would receive camp money for our first work commando which was the quarry for sure - a touch of the hardest labour to begin with!  
The quarry was called "Steinbuck", and was on the southern side of the hill overlooking the forested undulations of Franconia and Bavaria - the nearest town being Eisenach. 

"Steinbuck", would have been a good point to have escaped from had it not been for a close chain of guards.  When it was misty and if there were low cloud they doubled the guard - the grey uniforms, Totenkaphen, which consisted of four, foreign S.S., entwining Ukranians!  They had formed their own international too which was in the style of the Nazi's of course.

On one off our "off duty", days we followed a black marketeer who convinced us how to get rid of our money.  He led us to the rear end of the quarantine camp where we encountered two, poor desolate figures huddled together in a corner.  So that's what the money exchange was for - for those "Miserables" still speculating.

One turned out to be grandfather, Michelin and the other an Armenian millionaire.  They had both sold crucifixes and other paraphenalia at Lourdes before having received their wages for sin here!  This practice was looked at with distaste by the other prisoners.  In no time, our black marketeer was spotted and chased and we were warned not to take any heed of him.

On our way back we noticed a prisoner with two buckets full of stones and sand standing fixed on a wooden box.  This prisoner had stolen food from his comrades - we now realized what severe punishment could happen if caught in such as act and we quickly learned our lesson.

The camp was like an underworld full of petty intrigue and corruption.  After a while in quarantine, all pent up revenge on suspected and guilty traitors would break loose and a quick trial would be executed.  This would be carried out by commandos bringing in sharp instruments or by drowning - this involved holding the victim's head down in the troughs, surrounded by the crowd.

Another method was to chase the fellow out into the evening, at curfew -  with no other alternative but to throw themselves onto the barbed wire near the electrical fence were they would be shot simultaneously by the "Miradors".  They were not always suicides as shown in photos.

The S.S. didn't care a bit and the bodies were just added to the rest laying along the block with the others, to be taken away by the "leich tragers", body carriers to the crematorium, it's yard infested with rats and other vermin.  The mouths of the victims open and limbs broken before burning and being thrown onto a death pile until ready for cremation.

The Jews in Buchenwald had almost completely disappeared, either to Auschwitz, Bergen Belsen or Mathausen.  There were still thirty Jews hidden amongst us - strong builders and probably more that I didn't know about, the rest were mixed in with us and unknown to anybody.  We saw the shoe piles left from past prisoners, only the uppers, the soles had been used by other prisoners.

Personal fights in desperation only landed people in the crematorium.  The people killed as traitors, which I witnessed, were as far as I could make out,  guilty without a doubt.  On one occasion, we had watched an individual, from Eastern Europe, flattering the S.S. around us in a very obvious manner.  French inmates knew that he had given them away on previous occasions while in French jails.  They loathed him, his ways and manners gave him the look of a creep.

One day his ordeal came to pass!  He was stabbed in the liver with a small, needle sharp bar, which had been smuggled in from the Guzloffe-Werke.  He was then gradually driven to the trough and from there pushed in and held under water until drowned.  After this, I remember his accusers, straight-away, looking around for others - it seemed to be easy, once done, such was the mood.  In addition, people were apt to commit bestialities with impunity and no second thoughts about it.

One of the Capo's had become as cruel and crude as the S.S.  He beat up  other prisoners with his stick until they were laying flat on the ground and then kicked them -  to the delight of the watching S.S.

This one had to go for sure, one way or the other!

To be continued ...

Day 61 - Injections and Indoctrination Movies!

There was also an unemployment bureau within the camp.  This bureau would determine which task we were was best suited to perform.   Behind the S.S. buildings was a quarry which supplied stones for the roads and camp and even contracts further afield.

In a place called "Valkenhof", falcon house, there were more animals and a fenced park for deer and boar which was tended to by prisoners.  There was also Villa's for the V.I.P.'s - between 1944 to 1945 the camp was closely associated  with the einsatz groups of the S.S who very likely stayed in these villas. 

We had arrived at a good time to join the international resistance within the camp, which, at that time was growing stronger and stronger by the day.  The  camp resistance group had originally been started by Germans, of which eighty percent had now disappeared.

Personalities who had been at the camp prior to their release in 1940 were; Richard Thalmann, Hood and Walter Poller. From our side were people like; Blum, the Brussels redactor!, from the newspaper, "Le Peuple", Dewever, a dentist from Antwerp and many other representatives with diverse political opinions - not just from the left, as implied by the press and other sources.  To our dismay and to the merriment of the Nazi's rivalry, chauvinism, bias and small mindedness were always rife and present within our ranks,.    

We now moved slowly to the lower camp, a quarantine camp.  Here we could verify most of the things we had recently heard from the other prisoners.  The atmosphere and environment we now found ourselves in was very similar to Auschwitz.  A dirty, little quagmire with closed barracks, one blanket, open pit toilets and outside washing pipes with troughs.  We were separated from the upper or senior camp by a fence.  We were also kept separate from the brothel and indoctrination hall below us.

For the next three weeks we received so many injections that we were warned to try and dodge them by passing them through the skin pressed between our fingers, inside one way and out the other if possible.  The injections were administered by the Capo's and camp helpers and an S.S., who couldn't always be everywhere -  so this was the method to employ while he was distracted.

During the quiet spells there we searched for lost friends and at other transports for news of friends and acquaintances back home.  We were also taken to the indoctrination block to be photographed, measured and receive more new numbers.  Then we were shown an S.S. film about their superior qualities in training and fighting - which we had to watch.  Nothing about cruelty as they had enough experience of that with the prisoners and for us to look at within the camp! 

After that our new numbers were sewn on the coats and trousers which were striped.

To be continued ...

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Day 60 - Lamp Shades and Ilsa Koch

"We were now greeted by a big open space.  We then saw the confines of the wooden billets.  For the next mile or so, after the billets, were row after row of two story, stone buildings.  Below were more buildings, which included a brothel and an indoctrination hall for propaganda films and picture taking, no lectures.

A quarantine camp was situated in between the junior and senior camps  which appeared to be two to four rows in depth and length.  On your left was a small first aid station or hospital.  To the right was the crematorium but no gas chambers.  The crematorium was smaller than a single building in Auschwitz but similar to the building we had last seen with the little girls.
We then entered the shaving block area and finally came to a large kitchen.  The kitchen struck us as not very big for the camp size! 

The hanging tree of Goethe was in front of us   It was a big, thick oak tree and was just coming into bloom. In the center were concrete trenches used to dangle victims after being hung.  Goethe used to sit at that tree writing and looking at the landscape, very likely in serene meditation not realizing what would become of his special place in the coming years.

In all of this horror there had to be some salvation for the international prisoners represented at Buchenwald.  This presented itself in the form of, "The Ark.  "The Ark", was an underground resistance movement which gave, some of us, the strength to float above the atrocities and survive.

We now entered the sorting and shearing rooms again, as we passed through we just had enough time to gather more information about the camp from senior prisoners.  It was the 14th of May, 1944 and we were facing a new period of detention albeit with a diminished group.  The CAPO's and helpers guiding us through the process under the surveillance of a single S.S. 

The inmates warned us that we needed to be on our best behavior at all times -  which meant orders had to be followed promptly.  We were also instructed to be subservient, to the extreme of what one could bear and at the same time be unobtrusive!

Lastly, they said it was better not to be covered in or show beautiful tattoos.  They said,  "keep those fellow/fellows out of view".  The reason being that the wife of the Commandant had a peculiar hobby of picking those bodies out for the purpose of covering lampshades!

The Commandant's wife was, Ilse Koch.  She would spy on potential candidates from secret holes and compartments and look for anything that appealed to her morbid sense of satisfaction, which included making lampshades from human skin.

Once again, we were shaved all over our bodies and bathed too.  Our clothes, from Auschwitz, were exchanged for striped ones with red triangles on that had numbers for this camp.

We were ever reminded of the nightmare that we were still involved in as the cruel stories continually reached our ears from the other prisoners".

To be continued ...

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Day 59 - "Jedem Das Seine" or "To Each his Own"

"Recht oder Unrecht mein Vaterland", Right or Wrong my Country.

"To commit wrongness in the name of patriotism is certainly not the right thing to do!  It brings to mind the saying "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel".

We now came to the habitat of the Commandant, at "half way house".  It was on the left of us and well constructed with a garden and in front of it were two soixante-quinze guns. You could call him the son of a gun then!
The house was in the Cararcho Weg/Way and was quite nice.  No formal greeting here that would be coming.

On our right, we could see the electrical fence and some of the camp site sloping downwards and there was also a lane of tree coverage between us.  The setting and decor was ideal and grand and it would get better.  As we proceeded we walked as if to eternity, getting one surprise after another.  Continually, moving towards the sunset now or in the morning to the sunrise, heads bobbing up and down.

We came to what looked like part of an actual zoo.  These animals had come from the Berlin Tiergarden Zoo to be put in a safe place away from the bombing  and under the protection of the camp.  There was, of course, the rock garden with baboons showing their bald bottoms to us.  There was also a black bear present who we guessed was being better fed than we were. 
Behind the animals was a dug out space with a ramp of soil. 

This space was there to receive the impact of the machine gun bullets from the ripped in half victims who were placed on the wooden stakes - more often to be replaced than not.  I suppose the barking of the dog baboons assisted in muffling up the noise that was made.  One can comprehend how the nerves of these animals must have become agitated every time executions were carried out.

With our "dimmed view", we now had to wait on the spot.  Looking over the camp and on a short curve to the right, we could now see a big center tower.  It had cellular constructions extending from the base, these were the execution or torture cells which were located on each side of the tower.  They also used these constructions for quick interrogations and for firing squad and guillotine transports.

The "Mutzen ab", order was given again and then we had the "privilege" of hearing the best band in Germany performing or beating time for our benefit. 
They were dressed in the most colourful uniforms taken from the nineteenth century orchestra or military capelle.  They looked like real clowns or a circus band.  By the way, these people were originally  musicians from the Philharmonic Orchestra of Prague,  they were taken as hostages for some disturbances that had occurred in Czechoslavakia at that time.  Only the best were good enough for this.

Around the camp were many "Miradors", as the French called them, or Watch Towers - these were manned by a machine gunner with a search light and two more soldiers.  On the center tower were several search lights placed on the balcony.  From this point, the Administration could watch the crowds, who were to be counted, as well as see the entirety of the whole camp which was in the shape of a nearly perfect pentagon and on a slope.

On a clear day we could see the statue of Barberossa which was an enormous obelisk in the distance.  Barberossa was a Swedish, Field Marshal and conqueror of renown.  More often than not, in the late season, as we stood for roll call, we were covered with a mist or rather low passing clouds.

Turning in from the corner end our band stood, the Commandant in the company of his wife of a certain fame, named Ilse Koch and his S.S. Handlangers! with their whips ready.

We were now faced with the gate in wrought iron!  On the bars in letters about the width and height of a man were the words, "Jedem Das Seine" or "To Each his Own". 

The gates opened for us and we would enter now!  It was like the entrance of hell on the way to heaven, guarded by the devil and his demons.  Only Saint Peter was absent".....

To be continued ...