Before they reached the pit they were ordered to turn left and march to the barracks. So began their journey into hell.The cherished objects we had brought with us thus far were left behind on the train, and with them, at last, our illusions.
Every two yards or so stood an SS man with his machine pistol trained on us. Hand in hand we followed the crowd. An SS noncommisioned officer came to meet us, a truncheon in his hand. He gave the order.
"Men to the left! Women to the right!"
Eight words, spoken quietly, indifferently, without emotion. Eight short and simple words. Yet that was the moment when I parted from my mother. I had not had time to think, but already I felt the pressure from my fathers hand: we were alone. For a second I glimpsed my mother and my sisiter Tzipora moving away to the right. Tzipora held mothers hand. I saw them disappear into the distance, my mother was stroking my sisters fair hair, as though to protect her, while I walked on with my father and the other men. I did not know that in that place, at that moment, I was parting from my mother and Tzipora forever. I kept walking, and father held my hand.
Behind me an old man fell to the ground and the SS man unholstered his pistol. My hand shifted to my fathers arm. I had but one thought--not to lose him. Not to be left alone.
The SS officer gave the order. "Form Fives!" Commotion. At all costs we must keep together. "Hey Kid, how old are you?" It was one of the prisoners who asked me this. I could not see his face, but his voice was tense and weary. "I'm not quite fifteen yet" I replied. "No! You're Eighteen" "But I'm not." I said. "Fifteen."
"Fool. Listen to what I say." Then he questioned my father, who replied "Fifty."
The other grew more furious then ever. "No! Not fifty. Forty. Do you understand? Eighteen and forty"
He disappeared into the night shadows. A second man came up to us, spitting oaths.
"What have you come here for, you sons of bitches? What are you doing here?"
Someone dared to answer him. "What do you think? Do you think we came here for our pleasure?"
"You shut your trap you filthy swine, or I'll squash you right now! You'd have done better to have hanged yourselves where you were than to come here. Didn't you know what was in store for you at Auschwitz? Haven't you heard about it? In 1944?"
No we had not heard. No one had told us. He could not believe his ears. His tone of voice became increasingly brutal.
"Don't you see that chimney over there? See it? Do you see those flames? Over there-that's where you are going to be taken. That is your grave, over there. Haven't you realized that, you dumb bastards? You are all going to be burned, frizzled away. Turned into ashes."
He was growing hysterical in his fury. We stayed motionless, petrified. Surely it was all a nightmare? Just an unimaginable nightmare?
I heard murmurs around me. A few sturdy young fellows were speaking of revolt. But the older ones begged them not to do anything foolish. The wind of revolt died down. We continued our march toward the square. In the middle stood the notorious Dr. Mengele (a typical SS officer: a cruel face, but not devoid of intelligence, and wearing a monocle.); a conductor's baton in one hand, he was standing among the other officers. The baton moved unremittingly, sometimes right, sometimes left.
"How old are you?" he asked in a paternal voice. "Eighteen" I said, my voice shaking. "Are you in good health?" "Yes" I replied. "What's your occupation?" Should I say student? "Farmer" I replied. The conversation lasted a few seconds. It seemed like an eternity. The baton moved to the left. I took half a step, waiting to see where he sent father. If he went right, I would as well. The baton moved left. A weight was lifted from my heart.
We did not know which was the better side, right or left. Which road led to the prison and which to the crematory? Another prisoner came up to us. "Satisfied?" "Yes" someone replied.
"Poor Devils, your going to the crematory." He seemed to be telling the truth. Not far from us flames were leaping up from a ditch, gigantic flames. They were burning something. A lorry drew up at the pit and delivered its load -- little children. Babies! Yes, I saw it - saw it with my own eyes....those children in the flames. (Is it surprising I could not sleep after that? Sleep had fled from my eyes)
So this is where we were going. A little farther on was a ditch for adults. I pinched myself. Was I still alive? Was I awake? How can this be happening? How can they burn people, children, and the world keep silent? None of this can be happening, I must be having a nightmare.
My fathers thoughts drew me from my thoughts:
"It's a shame....a shame that you could not have gone with your mother..... I saw many boys your age going with their mothers.
His voice was terribly sad. I realized he did not want to see what they were going to do to me. He did not want to see the burning of his only son. My forehead was bathed in cold sweat. But I told him that I did not believe that they could burn people in our age, that humanity would not allow it.
"Humanity? Humanity is not concerned with us. Today anything is possible, even crematories.." His voice was choking. He was weeping. His body was shaking convulsively. Around us everyone was weeping. Someone began to recite the prayer for the dead. I don't know if that ever happened before, the living reciting the prayer of the dead for themselves.
Night by Elie Wiesel -- pgs. 27-30