The Dentist of Auschwitz

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The Dentist of Auschwitz

Postby Van Canna » Tue Nov 08, 2016 8:51 pm


Traumatized, starved, and soaked with human waste, we looked to be the inhuman, useless creatures the Nazis had characterized us as being. It was dark when the train stopped. Dawn came a few minutes later, and light began breaking through the windows.

We are not at a station. Why did they stop? we wondered. A few minutes later the wheels began to roll slowly; then they stopped and rolled and stopped again, screeching.

It was light enough to see distant fences. We must be at a camp, and at least at the end of this misery. Perhaps the prophecy of our doom and death was wrong after all? The smoke, with the odor of burning flesh, that we suddenly smelled we passed off as the friction of the train's wheels on the rails.

As the locomotive crept forward, we saw strangers on a ridge dressed in striped clothes with matching berets, walking like zombies and staring at our train as though they had been expecting us. We yelled, asking them to tell us where we were. But no words came back, just a sign from one of them: he slid his hand across his throat in a cutting gesture.

The others that looked at our caravan twirled their fingers at the sky. We stared, frightened, in disbelief. We knew that it meant crematories. In the quiet that followed, a boy of perhaps sixteen asked what the strange gestures meant. No one answered him.

No one wanted to share his grimmest thoughts. It is hard to describe our macabre mood. The meaning of the smoke was now apparent. It was not the train. My father was praying. I no longer thought that God could save us. My trust in him had ended. My genesis without him had taken place long ago, in Steineck.
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Re: The Dentist of Auschwitz

Postby Van Canna » Sun Nov 13, 2016 7:09 am


Confronting the unimaginable
By Beverly Beckham |

I thought that Auschwitz might explain it. That's why I went. To learn. To know.

But nothing can explain what happened here. No building, no picture, no book, no movie, no first-person account, no rooms full of shorn hair, dry as dust, or broken eyeglasses, rusted and entwined, or mounds of shoes and abandoned suitcases.

Yet this is all that remains.

A platform shoe of faded red, a sandal with an ankle strap, is one of thousands piled behind glass.

It tells a story. It's a shoe that a young woman with shiny hair and a zest for life would have worn.

I look at it, discolored now, and wonder if its owner wore it on her long transport to this place and in line as she walked to her death. Or if she packed it in her suitcase, with all of her other best things, in hope of a better day.

The Nazis exterminated some 11 million people between 1933 and 1945 in camps they built throughout Europe. The exact number is unknown, because in 1942, they stopped counting. Auschwitz was their biggest and most efficient death camp. It was an abandoned prisoner camp in the southwestern part of Poland, and they claimed it for their own when they invaded.

They didn't fix it up. They expanded it, turning this one camp into three - Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Monowice - so that they could kill people faster and more efficiently. They evicted all the Polish residents from the area, about 1,000 of them, then converted their farmhouses into prisons and gas chambers and their fields into a maze of barracks separated by electrified barbed wire that stretched for miles.

The mass graves? The pyres where the bodies were burned? The ash from the bodies? The SS kept these among thick groves of trees, careful to hide what they were doing.

My visit to Auschwitz last week brought me face to face with this past. In photos that line the walls of what is now a state museum, I saw the eyes of innocents condemned to death. Back home now, the fear and incomprehension in those eyes remain with me.

Until 1942, the Nazis took pictures of all the men, women, and children condemned to death at Auschwitz. But as more and more people arrived for extermination, they abandoned this. Those headed for the gas chambers were marched straight there and eliminated, no names asked. And those chosen for work were branded with numbers, no names needed.

Polish prisoners were the first to be gassed at Auschwitz. There are hundreds of black and white pictures of these men and women, young and old, in their thin prison stripes, their heads shaved, interchangeable except for the looks in their eyes.

Not one of them survived.

A smaller wall holds photos of children. Dr. Josef Mengele insisted that each child be photographed three times, facing left, middle, then right. The black and white shots look as if they could have been taken in one of those machines that you duck into at an amusement park; click, click, and you have a strip of film.

Except that these children are wearing prison clothes and are not smiling. One girl, 10, maybe 12, is puzzled in the first pose, sad when she is facing front, and in the last frame, when she is looking off to the right, you can see a single tear.

Outside, lining the main street of Auschwitz, where a band played each day, where the great Nazi charade was in full force, are tall, green trees. The dead had planted them, birches and Lombardy poplars. Their beauty contrasts with everything around them.

The prisoners were forced to line up on this street for roll call. Sometimes when they were being punished they stood barefoot in the snow for hours. They passed out. They fell down. They were shot for not standing up straight, for moving too slow, for asking to urinate, for not asking to urinate, for sport, for recreation.

Down the main street, inside this prison is another prison - underground, dank, rat-infested, no light, no latrine - where men and women were kept until they were forced to strip naked and marched outside to be shot against a wall.

SS men killed with abandon and brought home with them at night the booty from their slaughter. An infant's sweater. A shawl. A toy.

When I was a child and read "The Diary of Anne Frank" and all the other books about people in hiding and children who never grew up, I wondered at the kind of people who did these things. How could they?

The world has changed since the 1940s. Countries and soldiers and militants can't hide what they do anymore. There may be indifference now, but no one can plead ignorance. The Nazis duped the Red Cross. This couldn't happen today.

In 2002, after journalist Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and beheaded in Pakistan, I watched the video and wondered how someone could do this.

I didn't make the connection that for more than a decade there was an endless line of Daniel Pearls, one after the other, being slaughtered, only we didn't see.

We see now.

Auschwitz didn't tell me why. But it showed me how.
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Re: The Dentist of Auschwitz

Postby f.Channell » Wed Jun 14, 2017 5:20 pm

Interesting that you posted this Van. He was my neighbor in Vermont for many years. I will never forget the numbers he had tattooed on his body from the concentration camp.
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Re: The Dentist of Auschwitz

Postby Van Canna » Wed Jun 14, 2017 9:24 pm

Hi Fred,

I can't imagine...the poor soul.

If there was ever a hell on earth.

My uncle was taken prisoner by the /German army fleeing the Allied invasion...and put into a labor camp...

He was able to escape and was hidden in the house of a beautiful Fraulein who took care of him before he was able to vanish.

I saw him in bed at my grandparents' much happiness in just being alive.

Good workout last night...say hello to Peter for me...he trains hard...he will be a good shodan. Keep working the evasive angles and hand speed drills.

Tell him to check out my forum here...


Nice seeing you.
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Van Canna
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