Chaim Zalmen Gradowski was born in Suwalki in 1910 and was only allowed to live as a part of a Jewish Sonderkommando at the Birkenau Death Camp. He was transported to Auschwitz from Kelbasin and was selected for this gruesome work in Birkenau. But his description of the events within the Death Camp commenced along the journey which took him, his Wife Sarah and their Family from Kelbasin to certain death. On December 5th. 1942, Chaim Zalmen Gradowski and his Wife Sarah, formerly Zlotoyabko, were assembled amongst the Jews of Lunna-Wola. Together with Jews from the environs around their Town they were assembled and directed toward Kelbasin for future transport to Auschwitz. A convoy, Transport 3 consisting of 20 freight train carriages awaited them, and all told some 2,500 Jews were sealed inside. The journey took about 3 days from Kelbasin to Auschwitz, and typically of these resettlement trains, both Food and Water ran out for so many of the enclosed Jews.
Hygiene levels were minimal and sanitation plummeted them toward a debilitation ahead of their eventual destruction. Remember too, that there were those Elderly and the Children who could not be considered able to manage the survival expected of those purportedly still in their prime. These Jews then, as was the case for many such transports, and it was probably reasoned well by these Jews to be resettled that their fate would not be as the Nazis had had them imagine. Of course, the uncertainty, the need for hope and the essential of their protective arm for the most vulnerable of their Community’s, suggested that the Germans could not be other than civilised. Rumour had of course suggested there were places like Treblinka and that they were indeed Death Camps. It is somewhat of an irony that the final journey for the majority of these 2,500 Jews took them past the Bialystok Ghetto and on toward the station at Malkinia.
Here, the junction which serviced all of Warsaw Jewry, merged the Jews from all over Europe toward Treblinka and into a catastrophe we recognise as The Holocaust. As Chaim and his Family journeyed forth he wrote of the travels toward a hope for labour and this account, along with the detail I will present to you was subsequently discovered, buried beside the Birkenau Krematoria that he had been forced to work in. On the morning of December 8th. 1942, the transport arrived for selection at the Auschwitz Birkenau Death Camp and of those who had managed to Survive, 231 Jewish Men were selected for the work kommando and more than 2,000 Jewish Women and Their Children were immediately Gassed and Destroyed. The following day, December 9th. 1942 the SS made a selection of those arrivals for the Sonderkommando of the Death Detail, of about 120 Jewish Kommando per Krematoria.
These, some 80 new arrivals were brought to replenish the ritually liquidated Sonderkommando who had outlived their usefulness. Amongst these selected from Transport 3 were:
1) Berl Becker, (Krema IV)
2) Moshe Chernyawski, (Krema II)
3) Yosef Derewianski, (Krema II)
4) Eliezer Eisenshmidt, (Krema IV)
5) Shneur-Zalman Friedman, (Krema II)
6) Kalman Furman, (Krema IV)
7) Yehoshua Furman, (Did not Survive the Selection process)
8) Tewel Gisser, (Krema IV)
9) David Goland, (Krema II)
10) Zalman Gradowski, (Krema II)
11) Aron Leibowicz, (Krema IV)
12) Nissel Lewin, (Krema IV)
13) Aizik Nowik, (Krema IV)
14) Chaim Rochkin, (Did not Survive the Selection process)
15) Zalman Rochkin, (Krema IV)
16) Abba Suchowlanski, (Krema IV) and
17) Eliezer Welbel. (Krema IV)
The process of annihilation was unrelenting and as the remnants of European Jewry came under increasing scrutiny, it was the last vestiges of any large Jewish Community, that of Hungary, which had so far persisted, drew closer attention. By the end of September 1944, with even Auschwitz and Birkenau being called upon to destroy its very evidence of the atrocity and disguise the corroborating facts that would piece together what had happened to the Jews of Europe as we surveyed the remnants of these Jewish Community’s. The Sonderkommando knew full well its own demise was at hand. As the Russian Armies drew ever closer, there was a call to arms, and an armed insurrection was contemplated.
With no outside aid, the Jews of the Death Camp would struggle to act with little more than knives, axes, clubs, a few hand guns, a limited supply of munitions, molotov cocktails and their bare hands. My narrative detail for this insurrection is for another piece but amongst those who forfeited their lives was Chaim Zalman Gradowski, a leader of that effort. As 1945 arrived, with the Russian forces within earshot, on January 18th. 5,000 Jewish Survivors were force marched out of Auschwitz leaving about 7,000 so severely debilitated they were considered an incumbrance to the success of a Death March! On January 27th. Auschwitz Birkenau was liberated by the forces of the Russian State and Memory of The Holocaust began to be built upon. Most of these Books I have listed here are coloured by the experiences of those who Survived a fate worse than the Death.
"..They showed an immense courage refusing to budge from ..spot. They set up a loud shout ..hurled themselves upon ..guards with hammers and axes ..wounded some of them ..rest they beat with what they could get at ..they pelted them with stones without further ado. It is easy to imagine what was ..upshot of this. Few moments had passed when a whole detachment of SS men drove in ..armed with machine guns and grenades. There were so many of them that each had two machine guns for one prisoner. Even such an army was mobilised against them." Zalman Lewental.
But all of these works represent a part of an archive which expands upon Auschwitz’s ability for an atrocity which was unprecedented in all of History and remains unparalleled within our Humanity. This destructive force, which was meted out to more than 1,100,000 Jews and countless other's, Gypsies, Poles, nationals of every border, and the religious of many a persuasion, who did not fit Hitler's requirement for life were singled out. These Books then are merely a subjective selection from my own Library and deliver to the reader what I consider is to be gained as insightful in the research of the atrocity that is Auschwitz. While aiming toward a comprehension we can barely come to terms with, we continue to seek out any form of comprehension. For me, I constantly read of the ordeal of other’s in the hope that I can understand a little of the Jewish suffering. It is in that compelling need to wonder as to why it happened in the first place and why we allowed it to happen at all that my search is insatiable.
1) Adelsberger, Lucie Auschwitz: A Doctor's Story.
2) Czech, Danuta Auschwitz Chronicle.
3) Delbo, Charlotte Auschwitz and After.
4) Dwork, Deborah Auschwitz.
5) Friedrich, Otto The Auschwitz Kingdom.
6) Hart, Kitty I Am Alive.
7) Hart, Kitty Return to Auschwitz.
8) Jacob, Lili The Auschwitz Album.
9) Klarsfeld, Serge French Children and The Holocaust.
10) Kulka, Erich Escape from Auschwitz.
11) Kulka, Otto Dov Landscapes of Metropolis of Death.
12) Langbein, Hermann People in Auschwitz.
13) Lengyel, Olga Five Chimneys.
14) Levi, Primo If This Is a Man.
15) Levi, Primo The Truce.
16) Levi, Primo The Wrench.
17) Levi, Primo The Periodic Table.
18) Levi, Primo If Not Now, When?
19) Levi, Primo Moments of Reprieve.
20) Levi, Primo The Mirror Maker.
21) Millu, Liana Smoke Over Birkenau.
22) Muller, Filip Eyewitness Auschwitz.
23) Nieuwsman, Milton. J Surviving Auschwitz.
24) Nomberg-Prestyk, Sarah Auschwitz.
25) Nyiszli, Dr. Miklos Auschwitz.
26) Schloss, Eva After Auschwitz.
27) Steinbacher, Sybille Auschwitz.
28) Szmaglewska, Seweryna Smoke Over Birkenau.
29) Venetzia, Shlomo Inside the Gas Chambers.
30) Vrba, Rudolf I Escaped from Auschwitz.
31) Wetzler, Alfred Escape from Hell.
32) Wiesel, Elie Night.
33) Wiesel, Elie A Jew Today.
34) Wiesel, Elie All River's Run to The Sea.
There are also those who have managed to leave to posterity what is placed before you and here in the words of non-Survivors like Zalman Lewental and Chaim Zalmen Gradowski, I present them to you. During this period of The Holocaust therefore, from November 1942 until his death on October 7th. 1944, Chaim Zalmen Gradowski managed to Survive and inform us of an atrocity so brutal, it slays the heart that is rendered by its detail. But here, Chaim Zalmen Gradowski’s message is an immensely terrifying account of the very atrocity he was ordered to perform. These are Chaim Zalmen Gradowski’s words, not extinguished by time but distinguished by the necessity to recall, to remember and for us not to allow it all to be forgotten.
"..In ..big hall ..in ..middle 12 pillars are supporting ..load of ..building ..now shines a bright electric light. Along ..walls ..around ..pillars ..benches with hooks for ..clothes of ..victims are ready for a long time. On ..first pillar a sign is nailed in several languages ..advising newcomers as they arrived to ..bathroom ..and that they should take off their clothes for disinfection. ..doors are open. Hell is yawning in front of ..victims. ..representatives of ..great power are lined up like for a military parade in ..anteroom leading to ..tomb. ..entire Political Section is now coming to ..party. High ranking officers ..of which we have never seen ..face in ..course of ..last 16 months. Among them ..a woman ..SS ..commandant of ..women's camp. .. last woman crept with difficulty into ..bunker. ..door already slams ..is hermetically sealed and locked ..that not a stream of air can enter. They are pressed together there ..victims ..like in a barrel. ..In ..light of ..moon we see ..2 silhouettes. They put on their masks to pour ..deadly gas. They carry 2 metal boxes ..which will kill 1,000’s of victims buried there. ..they go an innocent step to each eye of ..underground bunker ..pour ..gas ..then cover ..opened eye with a heavy lid so that ..gas cannot find back. ..Through ..peephole in ..door of ..tomb ..they themselves ..authorities ..big mass of men fall down dead as a result of ..deadly gas. ..Trembling hands ..brothers turn ..knobs and raise 4 latches. 2 doors opened 2 huge tombs. ..Here protrudes a pan back ..head and legs buried under other bodies. Here you can see a hand ..a leg ..pointing in ..air ..whole body ..engulfed in ..deep sea nudity. You only see bits and pieces of human bodies to ..surface of this world of nudity. On this vast sea naked floating heads. They are raised to ..surface of these bare waves. What it looks like swimming in ..vast deep sea ..and only ..heads emerge from these deep abysses nudity. Heads ..brown ..blond ..brown ..stand alone this general nudity. One should harden his heart ..stifle sensitivity blunt all painful feeling. One must drive back ..agony pounding like a hurricane in all ..members. One must be transformed into a machine ..see nothing ..feel nothing ..know nothing. ..legs and arms began to work. There is a group of comrades ..each divided into his task. One pulls ..one rips ..corpses out of this tangle by force ..one here by one foot ..one there by ..hand ..as it is better suited. It seems they will dismember through being pulled in every direction. One drags ..corpse on ..floor of glazed and stained cement. ..3 men stand there to prepare ..body. One with a cold pincers ..it sinks into ..beautiful mouth in search of treasure ..a gold tooth ..and when he finds it ..he tears it with ..flesh. ..second with scissors ..he cuts curly hair ..strips women of their crown. ..third tears earrings ..often stained with blood. And rings that will not leave are pulled off with pliers. Now it can be delivered to ..elevator. 2 men throw bodies like logs on ..platform ..and when their number reaches 7 or 8 ..give a signal with a stick ..and ..elevator rises. Up there ..near ..elevator ..were 4 men. 2 on one side ..pulling ..body to ..reserve. And 2 others who pull them directly to ..furnaces. One lays out 2 on 2 before each oven mouth. Small children are stacked on a large pile on ..side ..they are added ..thrown on 2 adults. ..bodies are placed one on ..other on ..iron stretcher ..mouth of hell is opened ..and ..stretcher is pushed into ..furnace. ..fire of hell sticks his tongue out like ..seized ..body as a treasure. Hair catches fire first. ..skin swells bubbles ..which burst in a few seconds. ..arms and legs writhe ..veins and nerves are tense and moving limbs. ..body is already ablaze all around ..skin is cracked ..grease flowing ..and you hear ..sizzle of burning fire. You can see more body ..only infernal furnace fire that consumes something in it. ..belly bursts. Intestines and bowels gush ..and within minutes it is still a trace. ..head takes longer to burn. 2 little blue flames shimmering in ..orbits ..eyes that burn with very bottom brains and mouth still calcined language. ..whole process lasts 20 minutes ..a body ..a world was reduced to ashes. You remain transfixed ..watching. Here we ask for 2 more on .. stretcher. 2 people ..2 worlds ..who held their place in humanity ..who lived and existed ..acted and created. Who worked for ..world and for themselves ..laid a brick on ..big building ..woven wire for ..world and for ..future ..and in 20 minutes there will be no trace of them any more. Here are 2 others now put there ..they were made to freshen up. 2 young and beautiful women ..they had to be splendid. They had a place on earth ..occupying 2 whole worlds ..so much happiness and pleasure have provided ..world ..every smile was a comfort ..a delight every look ..every word a delight ..like a heavenly song ..and where arose ..they brought them joy and happiness. So many hearts loved ..and now here they are extended to both on this board with iron ..and soon will open ..jaws of hell ..and in a few minutes there will be no trace of them more. Here we extend to 3 now. A child pressed on ..mother's womb. So much happiness ..so much joy experienced his Mother ..his Father ..birth of their child. They built a home ..woven future ..world was for them an idyll ..and in 20 minutes there will be no trace of them more. ..elevator goes up and down ..carrying countless victims. As a huge slaughterhouse stacks there heaps of corpses ..waiting their turn ..waiting to be removed. ..30 infernal mouths blaze now in 2 large buildings and engulf countless victims. It will not take long for these 5,000 persons ..5,000 worlds ..are devoured by ..flames. turn ..knobs and raise 4 latches ..to open ..2 doors ..of crematoria 2 and 3." Chaim Zalmen Gradowski.
This hideous detail is all that Hitler ordained for the Jewish People and this is what those who followed Hitler without morality or ethical probity perpetrated in his name. Please, as you read and consume the obscenity that this piece presents to you, know that it is not the detail described by Chaim Zalmen Gradowski that is obscene. It is before the detail, for what Gradowski wishes you to know was what Hitler achieved, that detailed fact is what is obscene. This is the truth that in our time, a person such as Hitler was given the manoeuvrability in which to destroy in excess of 6,000,000 Jews of Europe. This depiction here is a rendition of only a part of that immense account but is of such an prodigious pain and obvious torture for Chaim, that he must have sensed the extreme detail would choke our emotion. Chaim assessed that he had measured our future accusation of those who ensured that Chaim had a deadly task to perform would not be as slight as it has been.
This horror of a depiction, a graphic obscenity is only a small part of The Final Solution of The Jewish Question, die Endlosung der Judenfrage which escalated the capacity for annihilation to 6,000,000 Murdered Jewish People of Europe. That these Jews were all Murdered Men and Women with Their Children is obscene enough. That it was ordered and carried out by those for whom Hitler commanded, and given the desire of so many to achieve all that Hitler so wished, is a rancid indictment of a grave wrong. Here, before you in words presented by a man of enormous bravery is the decapitation of God, the demise of religion in the face of an affront to any God who could stand as idly by as this World did!