Inside Auschwitz: Four Memoirs
by Dagmar C. G. Lorenz
Auschwitz and the term Holocaust have been merged into a broad metaphor suggesting horror beyond words.1 Such universal use of specific historical places and events has had a trivializing effect. The misapplication leads to a denial of uniqueness of place and event, and to the false reassurance that there were, after all, other, similar catastrophes, so perhaps we need not deal with this one.
The name Auschwitz evokes famous memoirs, histories, films, and fiction.2 These well-known works have eclipsed the memoirs of uncelebrated survivors of Auschwitz, both published and unpublished, which do contain, however, authentic insights into individual lives and valuable information about places and events. Although the Nazi perpetrators intended the same fate for all their victims and thus made every effort to deprive them of their individuality, no two memoirs read alike. Such accounts serve a documentary rather than a literary function; as eyewitness reports they go beyond the nature and purpose of aesthetic discourse. Like the art produced during the Holocaust,3 these memoirs are documents, important by virtue of their content alone. Insofar as they are informed by literary models and, in turn, may inform and correct literary discourse, they are not entirely separate from it.
I have chosen for analysis in this essay the unknown memoirs of four survivors of Auschwitz: Erna Low, Nina Weilova, Norbert Troller, and Hans Winterfeld.4
All four authors look at the past in retrospect. Such recollection is never entirely free of an element of fiction. Desires and emotions are expressed; recollections are organized in a discursive way and molded into a more or less literary form. Priority choices are made; genre lines become fluid. Troller, even when he tries to write fiction, does not escape his personal concerns. Winterfeld's memoir is structurally modeled on the educational novel.5 While the texts bear witness to Nazi crimes, they also show the limits of the perpetrators' power to reduce and ultimately destroy their victims. This is true even with young, impressionable individuals. Most authors of memoirs discuss the perpetrators surprisingly little. Their own situation is the focal point.
These four survivors of Auschwitz are individuals of Germanspeaking Jewish background, two men and two women. One man and one woman are adults upon entering Auschwitz; the other two, youngsters. Not one of them is prepared for what is to come. They are vulnerable and strong in different ways, and develop survival skills appropriate to their particular needs. The memoirs describe living and coping in the face -of death. They can serve as correctives to sentimental cliches about Nazi concentration camps in popular culture and contribute to demythologizing what often comes across as a Star Wars vision of the Nazis and their victims. Erna Low, Nina Weilova, Norbert Troller, and Hans Winterfeld experienced Auschwitz at different times under different circumstances. Reading their reports, we can hardly believe that they are speaking about the same place.
Erna Low was born in Austria. She writes about her experiences in Auschwitz in English while (no date is mentioned) on a ship destined for the United States. When Low was deported, she was old enough to have an almost grown-up daughter. However, she gives no information about her previous life, as if to indicate that she views the camp experience as an exceptional situation that cannot be integrated. This limitation, as well as her abandoning the German language for English, distinguishes her from the other authors who place the camp accounts into the context of a more complete biographical framework. The latter mode of writing may indicate literary influences, for instance, of the German educational novel. Low writes fluently, in a precise and deliberate style, but without literary ambition.
Low begins with her deportation. At the assigned meeting place, she is confronted with a family who, when they are apprehended, wanted to commit suicide. Low does not yet understand such an extreme reaction.
We told ourselves at the time that they were hypersensitive people, hysterical, too highly strung. Hadn't they behaved like maniacs when they were found? But they were none of these things. They were from Germany and they knew what awaited us.6
Like Weilova's mother, like Troller and Winterfeld, she seems to have trusted that the values of a civilized society would not be totally suspended. The disbelief at what happened finds expression in jean Amery's observations:
It is a known fact: it did not happen in a developing country; nor as the direct result of a tyrannical regime, as in the Soviet Union; nor in the bloody battle of a revolution fearing for its survival, as in Robbespierre's France. It happened in Germany.7
Norbert Troller, born 1896 in Brno, was a World War I Austrian officer. He studied at the Vienna Art Academy (Akademie der bildenden Kunste) and became an architect. In 1933 he married a gentile and was divorced in 1939. Thus he became subject to deportation, first to Theresienstadt. He stresses that they would have remained married if he and his wife had suspected the consequences, but
nothing in our lives until then, in our experience and our trust in civilization, had prepared us for what happened so suddenly to us Jews, defenseless and helpless.... How naive, not to say stupid and gullible, we were not to have escaped abroad immediately after the occupation.8
On a deeper level, Troller seems to have experienced his divorce as a betrayal; numerous stories in his portfolio deal with strategic divorces and subsequent abandonment by the non-Jewish partner. Troller's attitude toward the past is ambivalent:
I refuse to forget. I sketch what I experienced then because I hope that someone will read this short chapter about the "final solution of the Jewish question" and together with others will try to fight for his human dignity and his survival.9
While Troller's age is a handicap, his education and life experience are assets. His biography contradicts Jean Amery's assessment that formally educated prisoners were at a disadvantage.10 Troller manages to get on the painters' detail in Theresienstadt. His ghetto experience benefits him in Auschwitz I, 11 a camp mainly for nonJewish prisoners. In contrast to Birkenau, it is a relatively stable camp. Troller becomes a protege of Pan Scimanski, a Polish kapo, whom he tutors in architecture until 20,000 Poles, including Scimanski, are deported.
Winterfeld wrote his memoir 23 years after the liberation, because he could not escape the memories of the first 19 years of his life. He deplores that because of his father's greed his family had not emigrated in time. Having lived until 1944 under false names in Berlin, Winterfeld and his father are latecomers to Auschwitz. Winterfeld had never had a normal life. Even as a child, he was constantly on the run from antisernitic persecution-from the country to the city, where he eked out a living by hook or by crook. Winterfeld, unlike Troller, had neither a complete education nor previous camp experience; but his street smarts, the result of a life in hiding, help him cope.12 His first impressions of Auschwitz are chaotic, but he is used to improvising. His father, a slick black marketeer, "Dr. Winter," with an instinct for power structures, teaches him how to get along inconspicuously. Winterfeld is assigned menial, dangerous jobs, for instance, on the latrine detail. He is saved by the impending German defeat. He survives a death march to Mauthausen and, abandoned at Gunskirchen, is liberated.
Weilovd's memoir is written in fluent, correct, detached German as if to protect the author from being emotionally overwhelmed. It begins with the description of the day of the Prague occupation, 15 March 1939, to WeilovS the beginning of World War II. She is barely seven years old, a half orphan (her father died) of a Czech Jewish family, a spoiled child who suffers an enormous shock from the almost immediate restrictions. Cinema, concerts, swimming, sports, restaurants, parks, and even forests are off limits; eventually all schools are closed to Jewish children.13 In May 1942 Weilova and her mother are deported to Theresienstadt, and in December 1943 to Auschwitz. After her mother's death, Nina is selected for forced labor in and around Stutthof, where she survived until liberation by the Red Army.
While Troller fends for himself, Winterfeld shares a part of his experience with his father, whose support he acknowledges without displaying any fondness. Low and her daughter operate as a team. Weilovd and her mother are devoted to each other in a symbiotic relationship that lasts beyond the mother's death. Later Nina bonds with mother surrogates. The company of someone who can be ultimately trusted-mother-daughter and father-son teams are typical 14 -is of utmost importance, particularly for prisoners without means and connections. At a closer look, Troller's survival also depends on interpersonal arrangements. His status is a result of his previous privileged marriage. His sense of having a mission for his community seems a surrogate for a more immediate relationship.
The four individuals survive in different strata of the camp society. Troller seems to have the most control over his life. The two youngsters, particularly Weilova after her mother's death, are the most at risk. Troller's position is the exception. The others are bogged down by worries concerning food and health care, although Low is relatively safe at the storerooms. They have no opportunity to better themselves. Their insights into the camp as a whole remain limited. Memoirs such as Fania Fenelon's Sursis pour Vorchestre show Jewish women in exceptional positions as members of the orchestra, but their status does not equal that of certain male prisoners, particularly non- Jews. The situation of the women reflects the camp hierarchy and Nazi society in general. The highest-level positions are held by men.15
Whereas in Holocaust fiction, sex exchange and even romance are points of interest, particularly in the case of women protagonists,16 in none of the memoirs at hand does sex serve as a survival strategy-it is not even an option. Winterfeld mentions one instance at Mauthausen. He is propositioned by a Blockowy from Hamburg, an offer which he, unbathed for half a year, sick and sexually naive, does not understand and refuses. His reaction would draw into question Kautsky's assertion that homosexuality in the camp was the norm.17 Certain statements explain why, in spite of occasional sexual fantasies, no sexual or romantic relationships were formed.
Troller's texts are written throughout his life partly in German, partly in English. Some of them are captions for his watercolor paintings and sketches. The portfolio documents Troller's ongoing battle with his camp experience through words and images during and after the event. Troller wants to free himself of the past but feels he can achieve this only by looking back and describing precisely what bothers him. 18 In New York he is still tormented by nightmares, although less than in the first 15 years after his liberation. Troller paints and describes his visions. They are always the same: how "they" chased, surrounded, imprisoned "us." Troller consistently refers to himself as a member of the collective of Jews-perhaps particularly so since he was an outsider in Auschwitz 1. He draws strength from his feeling of belonging. Being robbed in his sleep (because stealing goes on all the time) is his ultimate nightmare. Being robbed by fellow prisoners would disprove his ideal of a community of fellow sufferers, a notion on which he relies long after the Holocaust. 19
The problem of how to escape dominates nightmares. He considers tearing off the Yellow Star. Troller deals repeatedly with the loss of identity.20 He expresses his pain openly, pleading with an implied understanding reader/viewer for compassion.21 Troller's portfolio is a document of the language crisis brought about by the Holocaust. English and German texts alternate, overlap. He trusts neither image nor language to carry his message. Some texts supplement pictures; others are attempts toward a memoir, but digress, stop, and start anew. There is also some fiction that deals with disappointments all too familiar: betrayal by a spouse or lover. Troller's material controls and overwhelms the author.
Troller is taken from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz in one of the "Pullmans" mentioned in Shoah, a regular express train that has doors without handles, only slits for windows. From September 1944 to January 1945, Troller is a prisoner in the Auschwitz main camp. He describes it as a newcomer approaching naively from the outside: concrete posts, electric fences, barbed wire, the gate with the motto Arbeit macht frei.
After a short time as a slave laborer, Troller becomes Scimanski's private tutor and is assigned to the painters' workshop in a building with the brothel and the museum. This position allows him to observe his environment. While painting kitsch for the SS-Tyrolian landscapes, sunsets, farmhouses, yodeling girls and boys, grazing deer near the forest, and rotund monks- Troller also produces an illegal portfolio of paintings and sketches to document camp life. Lower-middle-class taste determines style and subject of his official work. It does not matter that Troller is not a professional painter.
The museum custodian, a Polish major and nobleman, works for a similar cause. The museum, filled with objects from "Canada," looks "insanely pathetic" to meet the taste of the Nazis. Actually the collection of ridiculous, randomly collected local objects such as the flag of the fire brigade camouflages the custodian's collection of medals, nobility patents, and merits and distinctions granted to Jews that document the merits of Jewish German citizens. "Did they not understand, did they not fear that these objects might be the last fossils of nations destroyed by them in the most atrocious way?"22
Troller's and Winterfeld's general impressions are similar: hunger, thirst, and the extreme poverty of people who were already stripped of their belongings before their arrival in Auschwitz. However, Troller is privy to more detailed information. Unlike Winterfeld, he has peacetime memories of a family life, a profession, possessions, love, and friendship.23 The happy episodes of his life become the material for his daydreams to ease the pressure.24 However, his memory is not only an asset. He is also in the grip of every humiliating detail, how people crouched closely together like bats to keep warm 25 or how the tattooed number completely erased the prisoners' identities after the names Sara and Israel had already been forced upon them.
Troller describes his fellow prisoners as a minority of rich, well-fed registrars in elegant uniforms and polished boots, including the Blockowy's protected pleasure boy, and a majority of have-nots. 26 The latter, he points out, adhere to their own secret, strictly enforced laws.27 Troller is familiar with an entire underground hierarchy of different political groups, most importantly communists. He mentions a spy network that enables communication with relatives and traffic of money and medical supplies.28 The secret trial of the sadistic kapo Spielmann from Theresienstadt illustrates the power of such groups. The trial, Troller assumes, took place with the knowledge of local SS and Gestapo and resulted in the killing of Spielmann.29
At times Troller's use of language shows the influence of the Nazi jargon on the prisoners.30 Unlike Winterfeld, he accepts authoritarian behavior as a given. In his discussion of rank and status, he uses Nazi terms. Characters like Pan Scimanski, the supervisor of the work details and Troller's student, are unthinkable without the interdependence of SS and certain prisoners. Troller describes him in positive terms: a man "under thirty, very elegant, a custom-made prison uniform; black, polished dress shoes; manicured hands; and a wellfed, open, square Polish face.31 As a part of the establishment, Scimanski has a large bedroom and study. Troller benefits from his student's position. He is paid in food and cigarettes, which replace the regular currency: 10 cigarettes equal a 4- pound loaf of bread. While the other prisoners march out with their work details, Troller composes a makeshift architecture manual.
Troller likens Auschwitz I to a military camp,32 with its own institutions such as a hospital, a prison, workshops, a museum, and a brothel. There are fashions imitating the SS for Blockowys and Kapos: tailor-made suits lined with wool or fur for the winter, high collars, white scarves, and creases. Only the stripes indicate the prisoner status.33 Troller becomes active in the "fashion industry": he earns extra rations by painting pennants.34
His activities enable him to get a glimpse of the privileged. The selfproclaimed functionaries with their double and triple rations do as they please, keeping their previous social status except for changed titles. Former doctors are called medical orderlies (Pfleger). On the other hand, Troller sees formerly famous people like the athlete Fritta undernourished and demoralized.35 Troller finds that the position of an individual frequently is an indication of his personality and level of education. Blockowys tend to be uneducated and cruel. Since they cannot read or write, they have a trusty (Kalfaktor). Many of them are homosexual.36 The younger SS who had not "learned to think" are "aggressive, without compassion, brutal, vulgar, and eager to kill." He considers the uneducated, ethnic German SS dangerous. The SS scientists are described as "arrogant, pompous, lower middle class of rank, Dr. med., Dr. jur., Dr. phil." and "fanatic, hard-working, and able when it comes to inventing means for killing-mostly losers and drunks."37 Troller and Winterfeld experience the citizens of the country that claimed to be the first victim of Nazism, "the congenial Austrians, the Viennese blood, from Vienna City, or from St. Po1ten, the kings of waltz," as particularly brutal.38 Troller agrees with the way George Grosz painted them: as submissive toadies and pedants, of a "viciousness that tried to hide behind smiling joviality ... fanatic plebeians."39
Status determines the extent of an individual's emotional life. Love and sex- out of reach for slaves-are reserved for the privileged classes. While bathing, Troller and his companions can observe women from the window. Seeing the naked, pale women driven by female kapos inspires him and, he assumes, the other men with an impulse to help and protect them. He speaks of a "magical, unusually spiritual effect."40 His is a typical reaction:
In many men's memoirs and novels, glimpses of starved and ragged female inmates arouse in men an awareness of losing their protective role, or simply painful feelings, but little about the women themelves.41
Passion, tenderness, "serious, deep love, breathless expectation"however, without a chance of physical contact-are privileges of the Blockowys, for whom Troller prepares love letters and post cards. He has something like a monopoly on illustrated love messages. His subjects are trivial and sentimental, for instance, hearts with wings and chains.42 However, the cards are successful and open the door to his assignment as a painter.
There is only limited communication from one camp to another. Particularly low-status prisoners are excluded from a lot of information. Gossip is rampant.43 Troller can see the smokestacks of Birkenau, but he knows only rumors until the major informs him about the mass murder and the processing of humans as raw material. "It is rightly called [a] death factory," Troller marvels.
How ingeniously they had organized all that. The helpless, desperate herd, surrounded by electric barbed-wire fences, and rows and rows of hardened, stone-faced men of the SS and Sl), were first robbed naked of all their belongings.44
Troller is an outsider at his place of work because of the "basic, almost relentless antisernitism of the strictly Catholic Poles,"45 who, in other respects, were not primitive people. Around him are "Buddy-Groups" sticking together for mutual safety.46 Only persons of the same status can be trusted. The Nazi system of different categories of prisoners prevents communication. The Poles, according to Troller, built an organization so strong that they were convinced of their autonomy. They forget "who were the masters here. ... The rest of us never forgot."47
Yet appearances are deceiving. Unexpectedly the Poles are deported. Only the Fraulain Huren, the prostitutes, are spared.48 Troller remembers Scimanski's departure. He is now, except for his warm, tailor-made uniform, a regular prisoner keeping his composure.49
Troller stresses the paramount importance of self-discipline. To fall ill and show it may mean death. Addressing an SS man may be likewise fatal. A show of weakness increases the risk of being abused. Prisoners hate to bathe since it puts them at risk to catch cold, under normal circumstances a trifle, but potentially fatal for undernourished men. Hospitalization may mean being killed or becoming the subject of medical experiments. Troller escapes from the clinic into a garbage heap when he realizes that his life is in danger.
The band playing popular marches while the details march in and out is as integral a part of Auschwitz as the bordello with its bidets, colored light bulbs, and curtains, which Troller can see from the painter's shop. He remembers the prostitutes as Polish women, "sturdy, somewhat corpulent types, long past their prime, wrapped in colorful kerchiefs."50 Neither the Nazis nor "we" are among their clients, rather successful slaves who are rewarded by free visits. They provide the women with cigarettes and raspberry candy.
Late in 1944, since "the enemy" approaches, the SS begins to burn the immaculately kept lists:51 the destroyers destroy their own creation. "Documents were being burnt which could bear witness to unheard of, ruthless regime of the fanatical supermen, the 1000-Year Reich." Suddenly the SS leaves, only to return just as suddenly.52
Last, desperate selections of Jews take place before the liberation by the Red Army. An army of deserters turned civilians pass through on their way west. The waiting period before the arrival of the Russians is tense; no one is sure if the SS will once more return.53
Left to their own devices, the prisoners find an abundance of stored goods and food. Having lived in abject need next to a wealth that defies words enrages them: "These pigs, the SS, plundered all of Europe." Troller describes the magic effect of the masses of food on the starved people.54
Even after the liberation, no end seems in sight. Troller encounters bureaucratic confusion in Cracow, the city where the Hoss trial takes place. Penniless as he is, he has difficulty finding living quarters. He experiences the first delayed reactions of his imprisonment during his stay at an Ursuline convent while pretending to be Catholic: irresistible hunger, having to get used to regular food,55 low self-esteem around women. He tries to make money as soon as possible by painting and selling portraits. His KZ friendships are lasting; he feels completely at ease only with former prisoners, the majority of whom live in welfare institutions run by the Russians. Troller believes that physical deterioration is not the main reason for his anxiety; the outside world has simply become a strange place. He needs to get adjusted to small things like sitting at a restaurant table with a white tablecloth "like a gentleman."56
Troller's texts and pictures before Theresienstadt are markedly different from his camp pictures, which are visions of hope and horror in green and blue, showing apocalyptic animal figures, endless rows of bunks, human figures resembling marionettes, and increasingly demonic landscapes with trees and barren trunks. Such images persist during the postwar years. At times there are memories of a lost world: details from his living room in Brno, portraits of family members, and childhood impressions.57
Erna Low is a woman of strong opinions. She does not mince words-for instance, when referring to female kapos as hyenas.58 Her energy, self- reliance, and assertiveness play an important part in her survival. Low is ready to deviate from tradition, to adjust as necessary. This personality trait is also reflected in her rejection of the literary heritage. Her text begins almost like a novella: the number on her arm introduces a flashback, images from Dante's Inferno are employed as a foil to express the atrocities she survived- yet literary convention fails. Thus she departs from it: "Hitler's hell was unfathomable."59 Already in the camp Low becomes estranged from her native language. She claims that being a speaker of German at Auschwitz is a disadvantage, but in all likelihood her contempt for the Germans made her dissociate form their language. "Nothing changed as much in the camps as our sense of values,"60 Low observes with remarkably little regret. Survival and food become the highest goods.61 Low's outward flexibility appears to contrast with her stubborn rigidity, her contempt for the oppressors, as her driving force. Claudia Koonz points out that women's bicultural experience under patriarchy worked to their advantage in concentration camps, where their acquired skill of separating the private person from the public persona helped them to appear harmless, no matter what their feelings.62
Low does not know about the gas chambers before coming to Auschwitz. At first she rejects the news with disbelief, since she is not directly exposed to the extermination machinery. On her somewhat privileged job, namely, sorting goods, she is in no immediate danger and acts accordingly. She commits acts of sabotage damaging as much material as possible.63 Low perceives a confrontation with Hoss as a personal triumph: She speaks up to the camp commander, who continues to treat her politely. Sensitive to any form of humiliation and highly rank-conscious, Low considers the "smartly dressed women's band,"64 the topic of Fenelon's Sursis pour l'orchestre, as the ultimate insult. The music heightens her inner torment, because it reminds her of the discrepancy between past and present.65
While doing what is necessary to survive, Low refuses to integrate herself into the camp community. She takes pride in the fact that she and her daughter are rather unpopular. Painfully aware of their outward deterioration- she uses terms similar to Aichinger's characterization of Joe and Joan in "Gare Maritime"-she stresses their inner resistance. "We filed past the SS leaders like shabby old marionettes from a rubbish heap, each commando accompanied by SS guards and their savage dogs."66
Low rates self-discipline very high. Road construction, work in the ammunition factory, the monthly delousing-a procedure which takes the whole night-and beatings while washing do not break mother and daughter, nor cause them to abandon their personal hygiene. (Winterfeld, on the other hand, laments frequently about his apathy and lack of personal cleanliness.) To Low, physical and psychic strength are tantamount to survival: "It seems as if I had been split into a subjective and into an objective personality. . . . I conquered the former with the latter.67 Low observes the effects of the environment-the deformations caused by malnutrition, the skeleton-like appearance, the swollen bellies, the skin diseases. At the same time she acknowledges that she is fortunate to be at thebetter camp; conditions at Birkenau are much worse.68
When the Red Army approaches, Low is sent on a forced march to Ravensbruck. Although she does not express it as dramatically as Troller and Winterfeld, Auschwitz weighs heavily on her mind: "I relive it all again. We cry, scream, we beat each other in despair."69 Aside from documenting her survival, Low's memoir in all likelihood also served the purpose of bringing comfort to the author.
Winterfeld starts out almost in a fairy-tale mode: "It has been 23 years . . .- 70 However, he has not overcome his past. A word, a color, faces, a taste, or a smell can kindle his memories. Years later in Yonkers, his wife calms him when he cries out in his sleep.71 Winterfeld tells about his past in order to cope. His text follows a chronological order, and his diction is more disciplined than Troller's. Winterfeld is a man of the word, the German word, a scholar of German language and literature.
The section "In the Cattle Car to Auschwitz"72 begins with this observation:
One could expect anything from the Nazis, but, after all, we lived in a civilized country. At least all of us in our cattle car were convinced that we would not be gassed.73
All age groups are represented in this late family transport, which begins 16 June 1944 and lasts half a night and a day. Winterfeld recalls the conversations about business, actors, and music. Of the accompanying policemen, two are hostile, two friendly. When Winterfeld suggests that they tie up the hostile policemen and get off the trainan entirely feasible plan, as he recalls-the rest of the company refuse. They do not want to cause trouble for the friendly policemen.74 Writing postcards is the only transgression they dare commit.
Winterfeld lists impressionistically his first perceptions of Auschwitz: the misleading sign Arbeit macht frei, the train taking off for Kattowitz, the trucks, the whispered good wishes of the two friendly policemen, the coarse orders of the SS guards, the smell of something burning, the huge red-brick buildings with chimneys. One of them spouts yellowish smoke. Winterfeld recalls: he has never seen such factory chimneys. Finally he concludes that they belong to bakeries, since such a huge camp needs a lot of bread.75 He notices that the men who welcome the new arrivals are well groomed and dressed, in contrast to the ragged prisoners marching in formation. He notices the "marvelous haircuts" and the tailored prison uniforms.76 The good-looking SS officer who wishes everyone a good evening and gives polite directions inspires Winterfeld with confidence. He is surprised when he hears: "Would the ladies please line up on this side and the gentlemen over there? 77 It amazes him that an SS officer treats Jews so kindly. He is relieved that pregnant women, mothers, and older people are grouped together to receive preferential treatment.
When the rush begins-the shaving of the hair and the dressing in ill-fitting rags-Winterfeld is frightened by the contrasts: mildmannered, educated SS and coarse, yelling, and beating henchmen; well-fed men who take care of the prisoners and wretched men being pushed around; clean offices and bleak barracks; extensive, well-kept lawns with lavish flowers and the camp without vegetation. None of it matches anything Winterfeld has ever experienced. Yet he still believes that the block elder who beats a prisoner will have to answer for his crime. When a Polish Jew tells him that he is at Europe's biggest killing factory, which no one will leave but through the chimney,78 he does not understand.
Being treated like merchandise-even the gold teeth are registered upon entering-and the constant exposure to killers and dead bodies initially hurt Winterfeld's sensitivity. For the first time in his life, he sees a dead person. It offends him that the dead are treated without respect. The sight of naked women shocks him even more.79 However, in order to survive in a place where nakedness is part of everyday life, he overcomes his feelings of shame.
As many other prisoners-for example, Eli Wiesel and Primo Levi-Winterfeld lives close to another human being, his father, who orders him to eat and to keep a low profile at all cost.80 While his father, who is 54 years old-in the Auschwitz context, ancient-is physically at a disadvantage, his experience as a black marketeer helps him develop survival strategies. He finds out that with connections everything can be obtained, that "the prisoner who lived according to the rules was in a short time a death candidate."81 Both Winterfelds quickly adjust to the unwritten rules of the camp, the underlying logic of which is absurdity. For instance, Hans tells of Mengele's complaint about the sloppy bandage of a man about to be gassed and of the gypsy weddings with music and merrymaking before the killing. Being able to get by in Yiddish, which he refers to as the universal camp language, is one of Winterfeld's assets.82
Significantly, Winterfeld refuses categorically to perish in Auschwitz.83 He is determined to defy the many forms of destruction: the fire pits in the forests where people are shot, sadists such as Moll,84 gas chambers, crematories, hunger and disease-a world in which, according to the estimate of the Nazi collaborator Dr. Nyiszli, a person in top condition collapsed within three to four weeks as a result of starvation, dirt, beating, and work.85 Kautsky believes that no Jew could live longer than six months in Auschwitz, because the prisoners were robbed of all resources.86
Much to Winterfeld's surprise, most people make the decision to survive. 87 He witnesses relatively few suicides. Unlike other prisoners, he does not resort to religion. In his view God is good, but powerless. 88 In spite of his commitment to life, Winterfeld compromises his basic values very little. He does not act defiant or heroic. He is free of the ambition and faith in authority that made men like Nyiszli pillars of the KZ structure. By no means, however, is he a martyr. While Nyiszli could not wait to serve,89 Winterfeld tries to get by. He vehemently rejects the view advanced by Bettelheirn and others that the Jews allowed themselves to be slaughtered. He points out that the prisoners not only were unarmed, but also had no chance to organize since they were constantly watched.90 He mentions the general demoralization and the lack of trust-results of terror through murder, the setting of examples, and the public killing and exhibition of captured fugitives. Terror also dominates special occasions like Christmas. Winterfeld remembers the huge electrically lit and pedantically decorated tree, under which the prisoners had to stand at attention for hours. Under such circumstances, every action to sustain life is resistance.
The brutality of the guards influences the behavior of the prisoners. Prominent prisoners beat others for fun.91 However, he rarely observes SS personnel beat anyone, but, he concedes, Jewish prisoners in general have no contact with the SS.92 In contrast to literature about other camps and Troller's observations about Auschwitz 1, Winterfeld notes that the color of the triangle is no indication of character.93
No less chaotic than his introduction to the camp is the end of Winterfeld's imprisonment. During the night of 19 January 1945, the prisoners are awakened, and sent on a march the next day at 11:30 with a two days' ration of bread. While some hide, hoping for the arrival of the Red Army-Troller was among them-the majority start on their way in ice and frost, guarded by SS and bloodhounds.94 Those who cannot continue are shot and loaded on trucks, a fate Winterfeld narrowly escapes when he slows down to help a man search for his glasses. In spite of the hardship, he counts himself lucky. He learns of another transport where everyone was shot except for two men who played dead.
The following trip in cattle cars to Mauthausen is sheer chaos.95 Winterfeld points out that hunger and thirst reduce educated and uneducated people to the same level: they act like wild animals. By the end of his captivity, he hardly thinks of anyone but himself. His physical condition precludes any thought of his parents or other people. The destination of Mauthausen belies its idyllic setting with a rare and beautiful view, as Nyiszli puts it.96 Conditions at Mauthausen are worse than at Auschwitz. The Austrian SS are particularly sadistic and lack the efficiency of the Upper Silesian personnel.
After another forced march, Winterfeld and his fellow prisoners are abandoned by the SS at Gunskirchen. There is no "liberation"; food is thrown to the survivors from Allied convoys. Stronger survivors assume airs of authority while others lie around apathetically. No one is certain if the SS has left for good. Winterfeld, sick and ridiculed as a "Jecke" by the six Poles in his room, is free, but unhappy. He realizes that
the Allies never fought against Nazi Germany in order to save a few million Jews. They pushed the German army back, were victorious, and happened to find us on the way.97
Nina Weilova, even younger than Winterfeld, enjoyed watching the German formations as they invaded Prague. Her mother was aware of the persecutions of Jews in Germany. In addition to general information, she had learned details from an uncle, a refugee from Berlin. For the first time Nina, a spoiled only child and the center of a large extended family, experiences restrictions. In the end the apartment is their only asylum. She feels the first pressures at school; racial theories are introduced, with special emphasis on the negative characteristics of the Jews. While many students stand by her, some make her life miserable. The Jewish school, immediately after she has been accepted, is closed. Private lessons are illegal and risky business. Nina notes that the Germans had neither sympathy nor interest in the instruction of Jewish children.98 Only one playground, Hagibor in Strasnice, remains open. There Nina meets Fredi Hirsch, who plays with the children, organizes games, and discusses their problems.
The ordinance to wear the Yellow Star, the depressing news about the German victories, the deportation of her best friends and her idol Fredi Hirsch, and the retributions following the assassination of Heydrich precede Nina's and her mother's deportation. By then they have no refuge but their apartment. Nina is 10 when, clinging to her mother and her doll, she leaves for Theresienstadt,99 where typhus, malnutrition, mistreatment, and verbal abuse await her. Transports to the East destroy newly formed friendships. Once again, Fredi Hirsch is deported before Nina. At Theresienstadt, Nina learns from a group of ragged children, hysterical with fear, about the mass murders by gassing. Despite much evidence, few people believe the horrible news.100
After the hectic renovation of Theresienstadt for the visit of the Red Cross commission, Nina and her mother are taken East on 15 December 1943. Nina's mother is able to buy a few cigarettes, sugar, and bread on the black market.101 In the cattle car there is no room for standing, sitting, or lying down. Nina stresses how important being with her mother is at this time: "Being able to cuddle up to somebody, to hold hands, means more than anything else in the world in such bad times.102 The air in the wagon is unbearable; many people get sick, others die.103 The late night arrival at the Auschwitz ramp bathed in floodlight is accompanied by a terrible noise. SS with dogs are everywhere. In the unclescribable chaos, Nina's mother loses her bread bag.
When prisoners warn them secretly not to report sick, mother and daughter try to look as healthy and strong as possible.104 Scenes such as the first selection, which they survive, being motioned to the right, and the conditions in the family camp are described in detail.105 The wooden barrack is unsuited for winter weather. The three-story bunks are like the ones in Theresienstadt, but ten persons occupy a space for four. Food is served without spoons in old, dented bowls. The latrines are unhygienic and in ill repair. Nina understands that humiliation is a part of the Nazi program: "Cheap victories over defenseless men, women, and children."106 The tattooed number on the left lower arm-the mother's is No. 71 978, Nina's 71 979-is a part of this program. Other data are registered in extensive lists. The blanket is dirty, full of lice. Relentless velling of Schnell, schnell and beatings begin at dawn and last throughout the daily routine. Nina believes herself to be the youngest prisoner; she still hangs on to her doll.
Young SS men look on when the women bathe; however, no one, young or old, is ashamed. Embarrassment is a luxury no one can afford. To Nina the emaciated bodies are a horrible view: "The grinning of the Germans around us confirmed our miserable appearance."107 What is left of their individuality is destroyed by the vilesmelling prison uniforms, worn without underwear, and the wooden clogs. Finally Nina's doll is taken away; the child is forced into the adult community.
Nina is reunited with Fredi Hirsch, who works with the Auschwitz children. She is happy to be in the children's block, away from the bleak conversations of the adults, at a place where she does not have to watch all the time how SS beat up old and sick people. It is a short respite. When Hirsch hears of his pending deportation from the children's camp and the extermination of the children, he commits suicide.108
Weilova speculates about the psychological motives of members of the camp personnel. There is a rumor that kapo Willi at the children's camp killed his wife or lover. It is maybe his bad conscience that prompts him to produce a play with the children about such a crime. Before the premiere, however, he is dismissed. The new kapo is even more unpleasant; he beats, slaps, and makes the children stand at attention for hours. Weilova's observations are direct, dictated by context, in contrast to attempts at a more systematic "psychology" of people in the camp, as written by Kautsky, Adler, or Langbein.
There is increasingly less freedom of movement. Nina finds it difficult to visit her sick mother. Nina's mother is dying but conceals her condition to spare her daughter. Fellow prisoners help her to lie close to the stove. In her despair Nina turns to a German doctor, who slaps her in the face, and recommends, "Let her croak."109 A rabbi tries to comfort the twelve-year-old girl and prays with her. Otherwise, as in the other three memoirs, religion is not central. The mother's body lies in the snow for two weeks:
Thus I had two weeks' time to say goodbye to my dear mother every day. . . . As long as I could visit her every day even if she was already dead, I did not feel quite so alone.110
Only after the removal of the body, does Nina feel the extent of her loneliness. Not knowing where her mother's ashes are buried contributes to her sorrow. Being able to remember her father's grave at the Jewish cemetery in Prague gives her consolation.
On her secret wanderings she sees different parts of the camp and gains an impression of the scope of the Nazi crimes. For instance, she observes Germans burn gypsy children in a huge fire; the screams of the children can be heard at a distance. Selections conducted by Mengele doom masses of people to their death. Nina begins to judge herself like a piece of merchandise:
I was tall enough, but naturally very weak, and I did not make a trustworthy impression in my prison clothes, which were far too big. I sweated from fear.111
During one selection, fear of dying inspires her to address Mengele in bad German. She tells him about her mother's death, her willingness and ability to work so that she cart return to Prague.112 Mengele changes his verdict and sends her to the right with the "lucky ones."
Nina believes that she is one of the youngest female prisoners to be selected for work. She owes her survival to her mother's initial precaution of registering her as two years older; otherwise, Nina would have been grouped with the young children, who were immediately gassed. In the women's camp Nina meets acquaintances, a woman and her daughter, and joins them. The women's camp is by far worse than the family or children's camp.113 Nina mentions Mengele's frequent visits in search of subjects for his medical experiments. She is deported to Stutthof for harvest work.114 Until the women are driven on a forced march entirely without food, chances for survival seem better there than at Auschwitz. In her dwindling group Nina teams up with a woman who lost her daughter. She shares her garlic with Nina, thus saving her life.115 When the front approaches, the guards gradually disappear.
Everyone cried with joy, no one was ashamed of the tears. We were finally free.... We were jubilant and embraced one another. All at once we were aware that we were no longer German slaves, but free persons.116
After the liberators' departure, the women discover masses of supplies abandoned in the prison. They devour everything in sight without considering the risks from their compulsive eating. As the hunger subsides, sorrow about the loss of relatives, fear of the future, and worries about her condition beset Nina. On 24 January 1945 she was twelve and a half years old, 1.50 in tall, and weighed 28 kg.
What was supposed to become of me? ... I had learned to obey in the last few years.... The next day the great triumph about being liberated was already over."117
These four texts about Auschwitz defy generalizations such as those by Hanna Levy-Hass 118 that male and female bodies react differently to hunger and cold, that men are constitutionally incapable of the same endurance as women,119 that men are physically and morally less resistant.120 Not one man and not one woman has experienced the concentration camp under the same conditions. The difference in background, age, and physical condition must be taken into consideration. Heinemann notes as a common theme that "both sexes perceive the other sex as more victimized, women tend to be more concrete about the greater weakness of men."121
Claims about gender-specific collective tendencies, such as courage or self- sacrifice, and statements "that women survived better than men"122 suffer from obvious fallacies. What determines the quality of survival as long as the individual does survive? If such quality differences could be assessed, are the notions of what constitutes morality and a quality life not dictated by the larger cultural context? Western culture trains women to endure and sacrifice themselves for a greater good, while it prescribes for men individuality and self-sufficiency. Such connections have been established by feminist scholars; the unegalitarian sex roles, exposed in feminist criticism. Fascism is recognized as the ultimate consequence of patriarchy.123 Why then in the context of the Holocaust introduce traditional female behavior with a value bias? Moreover, for each observed gender- specific behavior, there are counterexamples and parallels for the other sex.
Jewish men and women were separated upon entering Auschwitz. Their separate places, however, served the same purpose. Their captivity varied in detail, not in essence-the goal was to kill them, either outright or through work. Women were granted fewer privileges than men, if one can speak of privileges at such a place. The discrimination against women, however, is common to Western society, not only Nazism. Women are supposed to demand less for themselves than men. Vulnerability through sexuality-rape, harassment, legislated reproduction, limited mobility-are not foreign to Christian, Muslim, and Jewish patriarchies. Not everything in Auschwitz is different, although oppression and exploitation are more blatant. Everything is more extreme: the staggering differences between the possessing and the poor, the extremity of greed in a capitalist society without goods, the exploitation of the weak.
It should be taken seriously that neither of the women mentions sexual exploitation, and young Winterfeld tells of only one attempt. Rather than bashfulness on the part of the writers, the absence of sex indicates the degradation of low-status prisoners. Sexuality was a luxury, above all for the "master race," and secondly, for a few privileged prisoners. Even Troller mentions only sexual fantasies.
For the sake of an accurate and detailed documentation of selfpreservation and survival during the Holocaust, it is necessary to consider impartially the largest possible number of accounts, including oral history, regardless of the politics, religion, or personal idiosyncrasies of the intended Nazi victims. While a large number of such memoirs have been published, just as many, or even more, have not. Only a very small number of such materials have had a wide reception. The obscure texts, however, may be more significant in answering questions about the Holocaust experience than readily available books. Publishers want to make money. In order to attract a readership, a text has to follow basic rules of form, style, and content. It has to accommodate reader expectations and to satisfy general curiosity. Thus, a host of accounts are immediately disqualified from becoming generally available.
What is published tends to be more dramatic than most memoirs, stressing the unusual rather than the common. Holocaust books, like other literature, tend to tell of adventure, violence, and heroism. Occasionally they are experimental, a part of the literary avant-garde of a given period, but most present their content in traditional forms. Some resemble a novel or a novella. The eyewitness tends to become a persona much like fictitious first-person protagonists. Such a narrator often mirrors the character and gender roles common in fiction. Cultural stereotypes relating to gender, age, and type dominate published memoirs and Holocaust fiction. New ones are added, some in the service of current political and theoretical trends, some in response to marketing demands.
The memoirs of Troller, Low, Winterfeld, and Weilova do not seem to have been intended for book publication, as intrinsic characteristics indicate. Troller did not produce a coherent narrative account. His texts resist genre classification and with respect to content defy reader expectations. His short stories center primarily on the betrayal of Jews by loved ones, members of their own family, husbands, and wives. Because they focus on the gray areas instead of painting a black-andwhite picture, they would be hard to market.124 Troller's resourcefulness and resilience documented in the memoir fragment, his ability to use the camp structure to his own ends, would be controversial, as was Fenelon's book-and even more so, Arthur Miller's film based on it. Playing for Time has disappeared from the movie and TV schedules altogether.
Low's account is too short to appear independently. While she writes English with enough ease, it is apparent that it is not her native language. This in itself does not deter a good editor; but her particular stance-her angry defiance and rigorous self-discipline, particularly on the part of a woman- would probably meet resistance. Aloof and elitist, Low is not easily likable. While she and her daughter are inseparable-her language indicates that she considers the daughter as an extension of herself-Low hardly displays any collective tendencies often attributed to women survivors. She bears a vague resemblance to personalities such as Alma Rose, Fenelon's highly disciplined conductor, and to some extent, to Fenelon herself.
The relationship of Weilova and her mother appears exclusive, even during times of forced separation. In this memoir some mutual nurturing takes place. Other women help the mother when she lies sick; after her mother's death Weilova successfully reproduces the mother-daughter relationship with other individuals. As a youngster she depends on family situations for her survival. But even this twelve-year-old girl is more than the recipient of care. While her mother as a volunteer nurse saved her from dying of typhus in Theresienstadt, Nina becomes a care giver for her mother in Auschwitz.
Of the four authors, Winterfeld comes closest to being a Muselman, a death candidate without a will of his own. His decline occurs after the separation from his father and the death march to Mauthausen, two drastic events for a youngster who, as he himself states, despite his familiarity with disaster, never learned basics skills, such as hygiene, sexuality, and social and communicative skills beyond making business arrangements.
Stylistically and structurally Weilova's and Winterfeld's memoirs are more reader-friendly than those of the older survivors. Both, however, along with Troller's and Low's, avoid sensationalism, shock effects, and high-pitched emotions. The four authors report about situations that were a part of their past everyday lives. They describe their emotions rather than manipulate the reader into experiencing them vicariously. Troller in the captions for his pictures comes across as the most emotional-as if he did not entirely trust their visual impact. Low is the most detached, Weilova closest to moving the reader when she describes her visits to her dead mother.
Generally speaking, however, the texts, written in an epic rather than dramatic mode, are more factual than exciting. Although memoirs like these do not accommodate contemporary literary taste, they need to be integrated into the Holocaust discourse and, in turn, allowed to shape future texts about the Holocaust lest Holocaust literature and criticism reproduce stereotypes.
1. See, for example, Marlene E. Heinemann, Gender and Destiny: Women Writers and the Holocaust (New York, 1986), p. 2: "The word 'Auschwitz' has become a new metaphor for atrocity and evil, frequently misapplied to lesser injustices to emphasize their severities."
2. See, for example, Primo Levi, If This Is a Man, trans. from the Italian (New York, 1959); Victor Frankl, Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager (Vienna, 1946); Elie Wiesel, Night, trans. from the French (New York, 1960); Fania FC-nelon, Sursis pour l'orchestre (Paris, 1976); Hermann Langbein, Menschen in Auschwitz (Vienna, 1972); Eugen Kogon, Der SSStaat (Frankfurt, 1946); Benedikt Kautsky, Teufel und Verdammte (Zurich, 1946). See also Ruth K. Angress, "Discussing Holocaust Literature," SWC Annual 2 (1985): 179-92, and idem, "Lanzmann's Shoah and Its Audience," ibid. 3 (1986): 249-60.
3. See Janet Blatter and Sybil Milton, Art of the Holocaust (New York, 1981).
4. For Erna Low, see New York, Leo Baeck Institute Archives [hereafter cited as LBIJ, Memoirs Collection: Erna Low, "I was in Oswiecim," n.p., n.d. [hereafter cited as Erna Low Memoir]; for Nina WeilovS, see Vienna, Dokumentationsarchiv des bsterreichischen Widerstandes (DOW): Nina Weilovd, "71978, Jude: Erinnerungen," n.p., n.d. [hereafter cited as Nina Weilov6 Memoir]; for Norbert Troller, see LBI, AR 7368, Norbert Troller Papers [hereaft & cited as Norbert Troller Papers]; for Hans Winterfeld, see LBI, Memoirs Collection: Hans Winterfeld, "Deutschland, ein Zeitbild 1926-1945: Leidensweg eines deutschen Juden in den ersten 19 Jahren seines Lebens," Yonkers, NY, 1969 [hereafter cited as Hans Winterfeld Memoir].
5. Goethe's Wilhelm Meister is the prototype of the German educational novel, or Bildungsroman. Usually educational novels begin with the protagonist's childhood and end with his successful integration into society. Typically, the hero of such a novel is male.
6. Erna Low Memoir, p. 1.
7. Jean Amery, Jenseits von Schuld und Siihne: Bewaltigungsversuche eines Uberwdltigten (Stuttgart, 1977), p. 9.
8. Norbert Troller Papers, p. 1. This collection contains unfinished memoir manuscripts partly in German, partly in English, as well as portfolios of sketches, drawings, and watercolors of his experiences in Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, and of his life before and after the Holocaust. Titled texts accompany the drawings, or captions that are numbered as T-1, T-2, etc. [hereafter cited as Norbert Troller Portfolio]. Insight into Troller's life, circumstances, and social class before the Holocaust can be gained from the memoir of Troller's relative, Mia Milnzer Le Comte, I Still Dream of Prague (New York, 1986).
9. Norbert Troller Papers: "Der Judenstern," p. 6.
10. Amery was in Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen, and Auschwitz-Monowitz as a Jewish member of the Belgian Resistance. He points out that being a craftsman in the KZ was of advantage since prisoners who were not gassed were grouped according to profession. Intellectuals and merchants were the underdogs of the camp, sent to the worst work details, such as digging ditches and carrying cement. Educated people became unskilled workers who had to work mainly outside-a death sentence. Amery, Schuld und Sahne, pp. 20-21. Amery was in one block with Primo Levi and Victor Frankl. He mentions how intellectuals attempted to conceal their qualifications to avoid the rage of the uneducated SS men or kapos. Lawyers claimed to be accountants and journalists to be printers. Since most of them were, according to Amery, neither sturdy nor skillful, they tended to be soon exhausted.
11. Norbert Troller Papers: Troller's memoir of September 1944-January 1945, "Konzentrations-Lager: Hauptlager Auschwitz I,- n.p., n.d., [hereafter cited as Norbert Troller Memoir].
12. There are distinct parallels with Konig's experience before his escape to Palestine. Joel Konig, Den Netzen entronnen (Gottingen, 1967), is the memoir on which Peter Lilienthal's film David is based.
13. Nina WeilovS Memoir, p. 2.
14. See Wiesel, Night; Inge Deutschkron, Ich trug den gelben Stern (Gutersloh, 1978), describes how she survived in hiding with her mother.
15. Hans Buchheim, "Befehl und Gehorsam," in Anatomie des SS-Staates, 2 vols. (Stuttgart, 1967), 1: 255, illustrates that the nature of the humiliations to which new SS men were subjected resembled those of concentration camp prisoners. He refers to a former member of the Waffen-SS who describes how recruits were ordered to pick up bullets with their mouths, how they were yelled at and insulted, how they had to perform senseless gymnastics.
16. William Styron, Sophie's Choice (New York, 1969); Ka-Tzetnik 135633 House of Dolls (London, 1956); Fenelon, Playing for Time, who portrays sex in Auschwitz without voyeuristic overtones; Arnost Lustig, The Unloved: From the Diaries of Perla S. (New York, 1985); Edgar Hilsenrath, Nacht (Milnchen, 1964). Sexual situations may appear more frequently in texts about ghettos because men and women are not strictly separated, and there is a less rigid organization. Joan Ringelheim "Women and the Holocaust: A Reconsideration of Research," Signs 10, no. 4 (1985): 745, speculates that women rarely tell sex stories from the camps, because they feel such accounts may desecrate the memory of the dead or the Holocaust, or because such stories are seen as trivial.
17. Kautsky, Teufel und Verdammte, p. 195.
18. Norbert Troller Memoir, p. 9.
19. Vastly different conceptions of self are possible, as a comparison with Hilsenrath's ghetto novel Nacht illustrates. In his work community and compassion between fellow sufferers are rare. The separateness of individuals is emphasized.
20. Norbert Troller Portfolio, p. 4: "This is the unknown Sarah. She is all Sarahs. Our mothers, grandmothers, neighbors, relatives. She sits and waits. She sits on her suitcases with her last miserable belongings."
21. Ibid., p. 5: "When you look at these drawings, you have to thank God that your mother or grandmother might have been selected for this old people's transport No. - to the East, and that she remained in the ghetto."
22. Norbert Troller Memoir, pp. 38-39.
23. Ibid., p. 3: "People who had families, practiced professions, enjoyed life, could laugh and love and think."
24. Ibid., p. 66a.
25. Ibid., p. 5.
26. Ibid., p. 53.
27. Ibid., P. 10.
28. Ibid., p. 15.
29. Ibid., p. 13. Kautsky, Teufel und Verdammte, p. 38, mentions vigilante courts established by rival groups of prisoners.
30. Langbein, Menschen in Auschwitz, p. 26, states that camp jargon was an integral part of the organization. The leadership principle (Fahrerprinzip) also regulated the relationships among prisoners and the prisoners' selfadministration.
31. Norbert Troller Memoir, p. 14.
32. Ibid., p. 20.
33. Langbein, Menschen in Auschwitz, p. 93, mentions these fashions, pants with breeches and boots, which were also worn by Jews.
34. Norbert Troller Memoir, p. 24.
35. Ibid., p. 73.
36. Ibid., p. 21. Heinz Heger, Die Manner mit dein rosa Winkel (Hamburg, 1972), is the memoir of a Viennese homosexual man in Sachsenhausen. Heger states that Jews, homosexuals, and gypsies suffered the most abuse by SS and kapos (p. 33). Heger mentions that he was given better assignments in exchange for sex with his Blockowy.
37. Norbert Troller Memoir, pp. 61, 64. Kautsky, Teufel und Verdaminte, pp. 61- 64, considers the SS to be mercenaries and social climbers of the civil war to whom the traditional Prussian militarism based on discipline and order was foreign. Many leading SS officers came from a good home and had even been university students. However, war, inflation, and permanent unemployment had ended their careers, and they felt uprooted.
38. Norbert Troller Memoir, p. 63.
39. Ibid., pp. 63, 65. See also Gerhard Botz, "The Jews of Vienna From the Anschluss to the Holocaust," in: Jews, Antiseinitisin, and Culture in Vienna, ed. Ivar Oxaal, Michael Pollak, and Gerhard Botz (London and New York, 1987), p. 185: "Austria, and particularly Vienna, have managed so far to obscure their participation in the history of the Third Reich. After all, the 1943 Moscow Declaration of the Allied foreign ministers declared Austria the first victim of Hitler's aggression, and the whole self-image of the Second Republic is based on this simplification of history."
40. Norbert Troller Memoir, p. 30.
41. Heinemann, Gender and Destiny, p. 3: "Even the most impartial and sensitive male survivor will be unable to provide an insider's picture of women's experiences in the Nazi camps, since male and female prisoners were segregated in separate camps. Opportunities for observing the opposite sex in the Holocaust were greatest in the communal life of towns and ghettos; but in camps these opportunities were limited to forbidden glimpses across barbed wire fences or while marching to outdoor work sites, or to work occasionally performed by work groups in another camp."
42. Norbert Troller Memoir, p. 32.
43. Langbein, Menschen in Auschwitz, pp. 18, 194, discusses the discrepancy between "objective" historical accounts and personal memoirs. The perspective of the constantly hungry low-class prisoner was decidedly different from that of the functionary. Auschwitz itself in 1942 was different from Auschwitz in 1944. Langbein claims that conditions in Auschwitz improved with the pending defeat when more and more documentation was smuggled out of the camp.
44. Norbert Troller Memoir, p. 69.
45. Ibid., p. 48.
46. Ibid., p. 53.
47. Ibid., p. 74. Langbein, Menschen in Auschwitz, p. 96, indicates that the administration consciously played the Poles against the Germans so that the Poles had to learn German, others Polish. They used the traditional Polish antisemitism and the antisemitism of many prisoners classified as criminal and asocial.
48. Norbert Troller Memoir, p. 79.
49. [bid., p. 81.
50. Ibid., p. 45. Kogon, SS-Staat, pp. 206ff., mentions that brothels were established following an order by Himmler in 1943. The first one was in Buchenwald; Sachsenhausen, Mauthausen, Dachau, and the others soon followed. According to Langbein, Menschen in Auschwitz, p. 329, brothel visits may have been one way to motivate personnel to kill. The SS tended to disregard orders against sexual intercourse with the Fremdvolkischen (ethnic aliens). Langbein refers to the relationship of Rudolf H6ss (Commandant of Auschwitz, 1940-1943) with the prisoner Eleonora Hodys, whom H6ss tried to have killed after she got pregnant.
51. Norbert Troller Memoir, pp. 98ff.
52. Ibid., p. 98, describes 28 Jan. 1945.
53. Ibid., pp. 107-8.
54. Ibid.: "Small wonder that we stood there with our mouths open, as if under a spell, incapable of making a choice. But we were still fainthearted-and what about the SS?"
55. Ibid., p. 29.
57. A comparison of Troller's World War I and post-World War I pictures with his art from Theresienstadt and Auschwitz shows that the experiences of the catastrophic war and that of the Holocaust are in no way comparable. The concentration camp experience caused a drastic change in his expressive modes, subjects, and mind-set.
58. Erna Low Memoir, p. 2.
59. Ibid., p. 4.
60. Ibid., p. 5.
61. Practicality may not have been the only reason for Low's switching languages. Langbein, Menschen in Auschwitz, p. 100, mentions that German Jews were at an advantage because of their language in comparison with East European Jews.
62. Claudia Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland (New York, 1987), pp. 407-8.
63. Erna Low Memoir, p. 5.
64. Ibid., p. 6.
65. Ibid., p. 10.
66. Ibid., p. 6; Ilse Aichinger, Schlechte Worter (Frankfurt, 1976). A prohibition mentioned in Claude Lanzmann's film Shoah comes to mind. The workers who had to dig up the bodies at Treblinka to burn the proof of the mass murder were forbidden to refer to them as humans. They were ordered to call the bodies figures (Figuren) or rags (Lumpen).
67. Erna Low Memoir, p. 6.
68. Heinemann, Gender and Destiny, p. 40, mentions three typical models in the camps: survivor, victim, hero. Low would best fit the last category.
69. Erna Low Memoir, p. 12.
70. Hans Winterfeld Memoir, p. 1: "Es sind jetzt 23 Jahre her
71. Ibid., p. 2.
72. Ibid., "Im Viehwagen nach Auschwitz," pp. 310ff.
73. Ibid., p. 310.
74. Ibid., p. 313.
75. Ibid., pp. 310, 314. Langbein, Menschen in Auschwitz, pp. 502-3, quotes Kaduk's statements at the Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt: "When the ovens were burning, there was a flame 5 meters high. You could see it from the station. The entire station was full of civilians. No one said anything. There were also vacation trains. . . ." Pery Broad talks about pitch-black clouds of smoke that could be seen for miles, and an unbearable smell. According to railroad officials, the flames could be seen for 15 to 20 kilometers. It was known that human beings were burnt there. From the tracks SS and formations of prisoners were visible. At the camp the children of the SS played "Gassing."
76. Hans Winterfeld Memoir, p. 315.
77. Ibid., p. 316. Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland, p. 407: "Separation of men and women meant more than preventing sexual activity.. it meant eroding emotional bonds-leaving individuals bereft in a horrifying world.... Splitting women from men did stun the victims, but only temporarily. Nazi planners failed to realize that the separation from biological siblings or spouses did not prevent victims from restoring lost loved ones in new relationships."
78. Hans Winterfeld Memoir, p. 322.
79. Ibid., p. 335.
80. Ibid., p. 339.
81. Ibid., p. 334.
82. Ibid., p. 328.
83. Ibid., p. 328.
84. Other authors-for instance, Langbein, Menschen in Auschwitz, and H. G. Adler, Der verwaltete Mensch (Tiibingen, 1974)-mention Otto Moll, a man who used the extermination camp to make a career, a fanatic who neither drank nor smoked.
85. Miklos Nyiszli, Auschwitz, ed. Bruno Bettelheim (reprint; Greenwich, CT, 1960), p. 29.
86. Kautsky, Teufel und Verdammte, p. 43.
87. Hans Winterfeld Memoir, p. 353: "Everyone wanted to survive. But why? In order to continue to bear that horrible life, the hunger, the beatings, the hard work?"
88. Ibid., pp. 323ff.
89. Nyiszli, Auschwitz, p. 24: "1 broke ranks and presented myself."
90. Hans Winterfeld Memoir, p. 335.
91. Kautsky, Teufel und Verdammte, p. 45, characterizes life in the extermination camp as "beating, hunger, corruption of the SS and the prominent prisoners." Langbein, Menschen in Auschwitz, p. 93, concurs: Kapos and block elders imitated the SS in brutality and appearance. However, he indicates that kapos were beaten themselves if they did not beat fellow prisoners.
92. Hans Winterfeld Memoir, p. 339; Kautsky, Teufel und Verdanunte, p. 61, confirms that higher-ranking SS had no contact with prisoners, but holds that they were informed about every detail of the camp.
93. See, for example, Bruno Apitz, Nackt unter W51fen (Halle, 1958), who gives the impression that the "red" triangle of the political prisoner was an indication of a reliable, dedicated comrade.
94. Hans Winterfeld Memoir, pp. 363ff.
95. Ibid., pp. 370ff.
96. Nysizli, Auschwitz, p. 152.
97. Hans Winterfeld Memoir, p. 402.
98. Nina Weilova Memoir, p. 2.
99. Ibid., p. 7.
100. Ibid., p. 18. Kautsky, Teufel und Verdammte, p. 273, reports that in the family camp in Theresienstadt children were treated better than in Auschwitz. However, Auschwitz also had a playground until epidemics spread, claiming masses of victims.
101. Nina Weilova Memoir, p. 19.
102. Ibid., p. 21.
103. Ibid., p. 22.
104. Ibid., p. 23.
105. Ibid- p. 24.
106. Ibid., p. 27.
107. Ibid., p. 24-25.
108. Ibid., p. 28.
109. Ibid., p. 31.
110. Ibid., p. 33.
111. Ibid., p. 35.
112. Ibid., p. 36.
113. Even the most primitive facilities were missing in the gypsy camp and the women's camp. Langbein, Menschen in Auschwitz, p. 66.
114. Nina Weilova Memoir, pp. 27, 38.
115. Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland, p. 407, stresses that survival was a social, not an individual achievement. Units which felt like families formed, often consisting only of members of the same sex. "The family (sometimes in its biological sense, but more often as a myth or a model) formed the basis for secret preserves of decency, love, and trust. Victims and opponents of Nazism, searching for a vocabulary with which to describe the deep ties they formed with their fellows, adapted the familiar vocabulary that carried reassurances of steadfastness and shared devotion in the midst of a lethal environment."
116. Nina Weilova Memoir, p. 45.
117. Ibid., p. 46.
118. Hanna Levy-Hass, Vielleicht war das alies erst der Anfang (Berlin, 1979), p. 29. Ringelheim, "Women and the Holocaust," p. 758, concurs and refers to reports about bonding, affection, and friendship among women. However, she points out that such bonding was distorted and limited and must not be confounded with female solidarity. "Did the terror of isolation and death not affect the women because they were bonded?" she asks.
119. Levy-Hass, Vielleicht war das alles, p. 88.
120. Ibid., p. 10.
121. Heinemann, Gender and Destiny, p. 3.
122. Ringelheim, "Women and the Holocaust," pp. 741-42, suggests that sexuality made women especially vulnerable to abuse, rape, murder, suicide, and child murder. Women speak of sexual humiliation, rape, sex exchange, pregnancy, abortion, and the like. "Perceptions of Jewish women have been obscured and absorbed into descriptions of men's lives." Nonetheless, Ringelheim stresses, p. 746, the advantages of women's social behavior. According to Heinemann, Gender and Destiny, p. 3, this resulted from the fact that "men and women live in different cultural spheres in all known societies and have experienced many historical epochs and turning points in quite different ways." The difference in social spheres, however, is not caused by biological gender, but by culture and class.
123. Klaus Theweleit, Mannerphantasien, 2 vols. (Hamburg, 1980), 2: 255.
124. Hilsenrath experienced difficulty trying to publish his autobiographical ghetto novel Nacht, which portrays Jews in captivity as hungry people who exploit and oppress one another, while the Nazis remain at the periphery.