THE CAMP OF DEATH
But Thou, God! Who from heaven's highest throne
Throws thunder on those who their land defend,
We pray to Thee over this heap of bone
To light the sun for at least our end!
Let the day come through the shining gates of sky
And let them look down at us-while we die.
Since December 15th, 1940, Oswiecim – called by the Germans Auschwitz – has been a name which symbolises the gloomy reality of Polish life under German occupation. The shadow of Auschwitz falls over the whole of Poland; the remotest parts of our country have had to give up their sons and daughters to its execution chambers…
Apart from the Auschwitz camp there is a number of other camps which were founded some time later in almost every administrative district. Life in all these camps is a hell, equaling that of Auschwitz. Here, however, the methods of cruelty have been developed to their highest ingenuity and are being applied in every variety.
For quite a long time the tortures of Auschwitz were shrouded in complete secrecy. For those who fell into its snare there was no return and the memory of their suffering died with them. At the beginning some letters arrived, strange and rare letters, because they had to be written in German and were censored by Germans; and, except for the official words ich bin gesund,2 they contained hardly anything; later on more impressive information followed: a suit, no longer of any use to its former owner, and an official message about the date of his death, with an enquiry as to whether the family wished to collect the ashes of the deceased. Sometimes only a few days passed between the two messages – the one, personally signed with his own hand ich bin gesund2 and the other announcing his death. But sometimes many months of silence filled the gap between the vain hope brought by letters written by the beloved's own hand and the horrible truth revealed by the small box of ashes.
Strange obituary notices began to appear amongst the usual ones in the hated Kurier Warszawski3: "A Requiem Mass for the soul of the deceased will take place tomorrow; the date of the funeral will be announced after the arrival of the ashes."
Sometimes, when a whole column of that notorious paper was filled with this kind of announcement, the sinister secret of Auschwitz seemed to be revealed in its last phase. But soon this only too clear information was banned and the word 'ashes' ceased to appear
in these announcements: they only indicated the date of death, strangely belated compared with the date of the paper. Only from those innocent particulars – a family, informing their friends with such inconceivable dilatoriness of the death of someone beloved – was it possible to guess the place of his death.
The enemy meant to hide his crimes completely. But news began to filter through from Auschwitz. At the beginning it was only slight rumours, later on it developed into something more definite, and finally the secret of the camp of death was revealed. There even appeared a few publications relating fragments of the tragedy of Auschwitz. Today we are adding more material compiled by ourselves. The broad masses of our community are still ignorant as to the true meaning of Auschwitz, but it is essential that we in this country and the whole world should have a picture as complete as possible.
The author has scrupulously checked every detail submitted, and, has carefully avoided lurid details, with the intention of letting facts speak for themselves. They show us the dreadful truth, the mad unleashed sadism, a system of tortures meticulously thought out, a system of rationalised cruelty designed to crush the soul as well as the body.
Perhaps the most terrible picture arising from these pages, is the impression that in many cases camp life has achieved the complete destruction of any social bonds and human feelings until, governed by fear, the prisoner' knows only one desire; to extend and prolong his existence, if only for one day, for one hour. These pages will remain the most dreadful indictment of the system which has created Auschwitz.
That fact is painful and doubts may arise as to whether we were right to publish it, but we think we were, knowing that we are fighting for the very existence of our nation and we must fully realise whom we are fighting. Auschwitz is the true expression of the enemy's spirit.
1 One of the greatest Polish poets (1809-1849).
2 Germ. I am well.
3 German-controlled daily in Warsaw.