Contest-winning full entries, October 31, 2009
A survivor’s memories
- In a pile of corpses, toothless and weighing 28 kilograms, Allied troops found Abraham Frischer on his 22nd birthday. He had survived five years in Nazi camps.
Yesterday, during Holocaust Memorial Day, Abraham Frischer told his improbable story.
Holocaust survivor Abraham Frischer grew up in Auschwitz. Not the camp, but the town. When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, they ordered Abraham to help them convert a Polish military installation into the Auschwitz death camp. He then helped build the camp where hundreds of thousands of Jews would be put to death. He had no idea that he himself would be among them. When all the work was done and the Nazis could start their killing, Abraham was sent to another camp, a camp he has forgotten the name of.
Slowly and in detail, he portrays the years between 1940 and 1945. He tells of moving from camp to camp and how he wanted to die.
In this no-name-camp, Abraham saw prisoners who looked like tulips, with heads as big as flowers and bodies as thin as stalks. They stood there waving in the wind as if they were tulips. They had their prison numbers tatooed in their forehead, not the arm. It was the evil Dr. Mengele who had turned them into tulips, Abraham says.
At this camp, there were body parts and human bones in the drain, and it was Abraham’s job to clean it. The stench, he says, was horrible, but Abraham had nothing left to throw up and “it was as if the intestines came up in my throat.”
After some time, Abraham was transferred to Bergen-Belsen in northern Germany. He ended up in a pile of corpses where he lay for several days. German soldiers were shooting randomly into the pile of dead bodies. One shot almost hit him in the knee.
Abraham could not move, and was covered in blood and excrement. The only thing he could do is to moisten his lips with the blood from other dead Jews.
Exactly how long he was there he does not remember, but eventually the camp was liberated, with the liberators moving the piles of dead bodies with snow scrapers.
“They discovered I was still alive,” says Frischer. “I saw a flash, and I thought I’d been shot, but it was the photographer from the Allied forces taking pictures of the dead bodies.”
He could not understand what happened. Gradually he realized his journey through hell was over.
“It happened April 15, 1945, exactly on my birthday. I had been in various camps for five years and did not believe that anyone could help me. I had lost hope.”
In June Abraham traveled by ship to Gothenburg, Sweden, and sent to a field hospital. His teeth had been knocked out, and he could move only with great difficulty. He had to be fed with a bottle. […]
Although Sabka and I were no longer involved in any medical experiments, occasionally we were called into the infirmary for mood tests. One blustery day we were waiting in the infirmary, and I was seized by the urge to look through the door toward the back of the infirmary. It had been the exit for many prisoners when Sabka and I were undergoing medical experiments. Neither of us had ever seen anyone return through those doors. Tiptoeing softly, I stealthily crept to the rear of the infirmary and slowly turned the knob and peered through the crack. Sabka followed close behind me. Both of us gasped! In the next room lay scores of sick, emaciated Jews. Connected to each skeletal body were three bottles. Those barely alive people were being drained of their blood! The Nazi doctors had inserted one tube into each person’s neck, one into the crook of the arm, and the other at the back of the knee. Three pints of blood were simultaneously drawn from each prisoner.
No wonder we never saw any of those prisoners come back through the infirmary,” I whispered that night to Sabka. “I can’t believe that Jewish blood is good enough to save the lives of German soldiers, but not good enough to let any of us live.”
But Sabka, older and wiser, whispered in return, “That blood will never go into a German. That blood will be used to save the lives of the Poles and the friends of the Germans who are helping them. Never would a German be defiled by Jewish blood.”
The next day when the woman woke, she was lucid and explained to me that her eighteen-year-old daughter had died in Auschwitz-Birkenau. She told me that her daughter and another group of young girls had been taken to block seven. They had literally been drained of their own blood for plasma for the German army and allies. “I cannot live without her,” she told me. […]