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Like Dying Candles: Concentration Camp Routine

Selection on the platform at Birkenau. CL:Archives of the State Museum in Oswiecim

"Men, women, young girls, children, babies, cripples all stark naked. filed by. At the corner stood a burly SS man. with a loud priestlike voice. 'Nothing terrible is going to happen to you!' he told the poor wretches. 'All you have to do is breathe deeply.'" Kurt Gerstein, Nazi officer, Belzec Witness

"We stood there. shivering, trembling, cropped and ragged. And only then did we look at each other. Not even the closest relatives were recognizable...Fortunately, we couldn't see ourselves, but some, looking at their companions.burst into hysterical 1auqhter or uncontrollable weeping." Reska Weiss, Survivor, Journey Through Hell

Hungarian Jewish women are selected for slave labor in Birkenau, Summer 1944. CL:Archives of the State Museum in Qswlecim

Disposal of corpses at Auschwitz-Birkenau. CL:Archives of the State Museum in Oswiecim
Inmates work in the stone quarries at Flossenbuerg concentration camp in 1942/1943. CL:BPK

Clandestine photo showing a prisoner and the exchange of straw mattresses in Dachau, 1943. CL:Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial

Brutal and dehumanizing, the concentration camp system's main product was death. For those fit enough to work, their misfortune was slave labor, where murder occurred through work. The cycle of the day in such camps was work, hunger, and pain, always in the shadow of the sadistic violence of guards and instant execution for the slightest infraction.

"You get up at 3 am....For the slightest irregularity in bed-making the punishment was 25 lashes after which it was impossible to lie or sit for a whole month."

"At 12 noon there was a break for a meal...half a litre of soup, or some watery liquid, without fats, tasteless... No spoons were allowed....One had to drink the soup out of the bowl and lick it like a dog...I must emphasize that if we were lucky we got a noon meal."

"There were 'days of punishment'...when our stomach was empty for the whole day."

"Afternoon work was the same: blows and blows again until 6 PM. At 6 there was the evening headcount....Usually we were left standing at attention for an hour or two, while some prisoners were called up for 'punishment parade'....They were stripped naked publicly, laid out on specially constructed benches, and whipped, with 25 or 50 lashes. But they kept to their fathers' traditions, even in Maidanek. I shall never forget a young, blond man from Holland who could not accept the order to be bareheaded. He got himself a tiny skullcap and wore it...he used to fix the cap to his ears with thin pieces of string. The overseers sometmes saw this and beat him up severely."
Y. Pfeffer, Maidanek Survivor

Panel 28Index to Courage to RememberPanel 30
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