The Holocaust Historiography Project

Winning Contest Entries, October 31, 2006

Here are the full texts of the winning entries to this year's contest.

First Place — $200.00

Murder for Profit

  • Clark Kinnaird, This Must Not Happen Again: The Black Book of Fascist Horror. New York: Pilot Press — distributed by Howell, Soskin, Inc.; 1945. Pages 41-42.

An execution chamber built like a theatre with spectators' seats for German officials on a dais was built in Pangrac Prison, Prague, in 1943. There the Nazis killed at least 1,078 Czechs, including 250 women. When a prisoner had heard the verdict in an adjoining criminal court, a black curtain was drawn aside and he was taken straight to the white-tiled place of execution.

[…]

At Buchenwald,* in the "Little Camp," where prisoners slept 16 to a shelf, an infraction of discipline — particularly an attempt to escape — not infrequenly resulted in all 16 being condemned. Such persons were immediately marched to a small door in the fence of the back yard at a point immediately adjacent to the incinerator building. This door opened inward until it hit a door stop which held it in a position parallel to the building's wall, thus creating a corridor 4 feet wide and 3 feet deep. At the far end was an opening about 4 feet by 4 feet, flush with the ground, the head of a concrete shaft, about 13 feet deep the bottom floor of which was a continuation of the concrete floor of the room at the front end of the basement. The condemned prisoners, on being hurried and pushed through the door in the fence, inevitably fell into this shaft and crashed 13 feet down to the cement cellar floor. This room, on the floor at one end of which they now found themselves, was the strangling room. As they hit the floor they were garroted, with a short double-end noose, by SS. guards and hung on hooks along the side walls, about 6½ feet above the floor. When a consignment had been hung up, any who were still struggling were stunned by a wooden mallet, which was exhibited to us in the chamber still bearing stains of blood. The bodies were left on the hooks until called for by the incinerator crew.

[…]

* This is a quotation from Document No. 47 of the 79th Congress, a report of the Joint Congressional Committee that investigated concentration camps in Germany in April 1945.

Submitted by a contestant who wishes to remain anonymous.

Second Place — $50.00

The testimony of Moshe Maurice Garbarz regarding Auschwitz

  • Source: Jean-Claude Pressac, Auschwitz: Technique of Operation of the Gas Chambers. New York: Beate Klarsfeld Foundation; 1989. Pages 163-164.

Written with his son Elie and published by editions Plon in Paris in 1984 under the title «Un Survivant». Trapped like Mr Benroubi, Mr Garbarz escaped from the work at from the work at Bunker 1 in the same way its he did: through being detailed for the Jawischowitz coalmine.

[Extracts from «Un Survivant». 

[…]

All seven of us, on arrival, without exchanging a word, understood why our SS had been so benevolent. Immediately my stomach turned over. We saw big rectangles traced on the ground twenty or thirty metres wide by fifty or wide by fifty or sixty metres long. In one of them the ground was stained red. Three regularly spaced posts with reflectors on top stood in the middle. The second rectangle was a simple outline on the ground, the soil was the normal colour and instead of the posts, three holes had been dug.  

The SS explained: «You see the installation here (he pointed at the posts in the first rectangle.) Over there (he showed the second rectangle) the same thing. You're the electricians, get to it». Then he withdrew thirty or forty metres Why so far? I do not know. Perhaps the previous kommando had revolted?

We began our work. Our team of seven included only real professionals. One had been given special hooks to hoist himself to the top of the posts. He disconnected the electricity and brought down the wires and the reflector. Then we got ourselves into position to pull out the posts. And then wallow in the red, and the red was blood. The first contact with it gave us the shivers and we lost the power to speak. And yet we already knew about it. But between knowing and experiencing there is just no comparison. Underneath us there were men like us and, for sure the team of our seven predecessors was also beneath our feet …

We carried the three posts, wedged them in the holes that had already been dug and installed the reflectors. This first day we scarcely worked three hours. Then we stayed shut in the hut where we ate. We were forbidden to look at what was happening outside.

The second day we were on the site a little earlier than the first. We had to wait at a distance while the besonderkommando (that’s what my comrades and I called it in Yiddish: the German word is Sonderkommando «special Kommando»] finished its work — work that I shall describe for you in a moment. 

[…]

But let us return to the morning of the second day. The rectangle where we had the previous day installed the posts had been dug out and transformed into a kind of empty swimming pool with cleanly cut edges, about one metre fifty deep. The ground had been left around our posts to stop them falling.

Some rails were installed, starting one metre from the little house. As soon as the Jews were gassed, a new team came along and added rails as far as the edge of the swimming pool. This group also belonged to the besonderkommando. The men of this kommando ate well; they were properly dressed. They lived entirely separately and no longer returned to our camp to sleep. The SS said that in a week we would be enrolled with them. So I now had less than a week in which I had to try something, however desperate.

We saw the special commando put platform trolleys on the rails. Then they brought out the men, women and children who had been gassed to load them on these flat wagons. In order not to lose any on the way, they stacked them like sacks of flour, five widthways, five lengthways.

Their work was tough and their Capo, a German, would not allow a moment's rest. He was constantly crying: «Schneller! Schneller! (Faster Faster!) otherwise I'll wipe you out, I'll gas you on the spot» and he kicked them. All the men, women and children were very quickly thrown in the hole and covered with earth. 

Then we went into action, wallowing in human blood to recover the lamp posts. I could not understand why the corpses bled. The pressure when they heaped earth on them? Or the effect of the gas? My six companions had received almost new shoes, but not me because my mountain shoes were still in good condition.

At night, another kommando certainly came to dig a new swimming pool around and in the light of our lamp posts because we found it the next morning on arriving. I never saw this kommando, but a comrade said that once he was in a group that had this task. He was taken from his hut, with many other deportees, perhaps 200. They did not belong to the besonderkommando but were from the camp and had not guessed the purpose of this hole.

[…]

Submitted by a contestant who wishes to remain anonymous.