Louis Emanuel Fynaut
with a brief introduction by
Paula Fynaut is the daughter of Louis Emanuel Fynaut. She writes, "Louis Emanuel Fynaut was my Dad;
he wrote his memoirs about his war experiences in Belgium, France and Germany
from approximately 1940 until 1945, which I am now blogging on an almost daily basis.
He always had great integrity and courage and I hope that someone will benefit
from reading his memoirs and will learn how to be strong and TO NEVER GIVE UP!
He was a Flemish teenager, still in high school in Ostend, when the Nazis
invaded Belgium in 1940. He watched Belgium's antiquated bi-planes fly off to
face Germany's far more advanced Messerschmitts, with a sense of impending doom.
Pieces written by my Dad were found with his memoirs
on loose sheets of paper. I
bolded "To Each His Own," which was the title of his memoirs. Also, he
talks of spectres, past and present—our family fought the Germans in WWI as
well as WWII, so he may be referring to that part of our family history!
Glory To War
by Louis Emanuel Fynaut
To Each His Own evolves a picture of an adverse assembly of spectres, past and
sitting on a multitude of battle-ready horses with mad, drunken,
hysterical staring eyes;
guided firmly in the saddle by the terrible ghost of grim
cloaked in all kinds of beautiful apparel of stupendous
rich ornaments, tiaras, uniforms and medallions.
Covered by an
eerie aura of bad stormy weather,
darkening the pomp and glamour spectacle
wallowing in unsurpassed greediness
with the sweet, rotten stench of
death ever-present around.
Passing by like a macabre parade;
trampling casually on the mutilated corpses of
long-suffering mankind, foe and friend alike.
Little voices crying from beneath the holocaust,
faintly heard by the stunned helpless survivors:
"We are next ...
Tell the world, please!"
It was the twenty-sixth of April, 1944 ...
I was abruptly woken by cries and noise outside, the train coming to a long halt
and a sudden stop. Noise and a tumult of short orders, doors flung open, one
after the other, until it came to ours with the shouting and ordering of Ër
rausch" (Get Out!) ... They continuously insulted us now, one gets quickly accustomed to
being treated like an animal! We were total wrecks, unshaven, bewildered, sick,
frustrated, indifferent and completely disorientated—that's the way they
wanted us to be!
The biggest part of all that was that it had been carefully planned and
calculated with what they called a proficient German efficiency program.
Murder Incorporated was waiting for us en masse. All sorts of S.S. fighting and
political units from Tartarus (hell) welcomed us with an authentic and theatrical
bit of real Teutonic reversed charm. Whoever amongst us still had any doubts
would have, within a few seconds, all dreams of compassion dashed
The S.S. all had big grins; to compare those grins to hyenas' would be an insult
to the animals, I think. Anyway, they were there in full force, ready to begin
their lugubrious work as a business.
What transpired now one had to be there to believe, and even then it is hard to
Whilst we started gathering and still some being carried out from the wagons, by
their mates, I had a quick glance at the enormity of the camp and its extensions
afar from where I stood I couldn't see the end of it from my left side at all.
The security fence appeared to be double-barbed with the outer electrified;
once confined you were certainly well secured; no expense seemed to have been
too much. I had a quick glance at some of the inmates nearest to us, now.
Women, men, I couldn't see any children. All dressed up as if ready for an
enormous ball or carnival, moving along like zombies, some carrying between
them, on long poles, a big barrel dangling in the middle.
It was more than enough to see, the threatening S.S. drew my attention now. A
tall, grinning, skull-and-crossbones S.S. officer shouted at the wagon occupants
to bring out their wounded and half dead near to him and he stood legs spread
out on what looked like woodpiles about twenty feet away. He faced the whole
miserable herd in length and breadth of our column as seeming to have descended
from Dante's inferno. He was gesticulating and waving his long arms with a
luger in his hand in every direction possible.
He might as well have had no uniform or flesh on his body, Death itself!
The wounded all very much alive pulled along by the S.S. soldiers and spread out
at the officer's feet, some begging, I do not know for what—feeling death too
near I suppose! Now pointing his luger at us in a sinister way,
laughing, he then began to shoot the lot of them, twenty to twenty four, one at
a time in the head, some in the neck still hysterically laughing more and more
now. When he had finished he just went on laughing again as though he enjoyed
the whole thing tremendously...
We just stood there perplexed as though we had arrived in another hell hole,
which was another inferno being stoked up for us, beyond any credibility.
A French Officer, a few paces from me, detached himself from us giving us the
usual gesture as if he was going to relieve himself but about twenty feet from
our end of the column stood an S.S. motorbike. A German policeman was in
between and slightly sideways probably wondering what the Frenchman had in mind
at that moment. The man kept coming on so that the S.S. officer noticed it and
screaming loudly to the police officer; he said, "shoot him quickly, he is after
At this the policeman shot him in the leg at close range which made the
Frenchman tumble in his length backwards; he got up again and now putting his
arms up as a surrender sign. The S.S. officer still storming forward in a
rage now, howled to the policeman, "shoot him" and they shot him in the heart. When he did that, in hesitancy, it was the Coup de Grace to finish it off!
Auschwitz—Gas Chambers and Crematorium
Somehow, with all the effort and
excitement this seemed to have taken the breath away from the S.S. officer and
it appeared that he had enough of it; a pause for us!
The burly, younger, hooligan S.S. soldiers took over and mumbled obscene, blistering ghoulish remarks such as, "Funeral March".
An open van had now arrived with senior inmates and they began gathering the
well-expected harvest of cut-down bodies. They threw them casually into the van
like they were sacks of potatoes—in a very similar manner to harvest time,
as if this was a usual occurrence.
We were then pushed and bullied around until we formed ranks of five and had to
give each other an arm, this made it easier for them to watch us. After this the
march started with the van and victims leading.
I noticed Janeck just behind me in the next row, a bit too close for safety. A
bully of an S.S. Officer and his mate were marching alongside us now and we were
too near to the front for my liking. The bulky soldier said to his
companion, "I think one is going to break free from here", and he put his hand
on his hip ready to pull out his pistol. Luckily, for us nothing happened!
As we marched down we passed by an electrical barbed-wire fence and made our way
toward a group of small trees where carrion crows were sitting; the crows were
making a din and screeching, which reminded me of vultures gathering. Some
circled around and swooped down in erratic, long, swift glides, croaking and
fluttering, making a remarkable spectacle for the approaching column. No other
birds were present in the pale sky and one was aware of an atmosphere of
disaster and utter despair all around us!
It was quiet and noiseless. The column of death kept marching on relentlessly,
moving along that muddy dirt ride in Poland. Coming out of the woods, the first
thing we saw in the distance was the foothills of the Karpathes. I started
dreaming of reaching those hills at the first opportunity. Still very thirsty
and dry now, but at the back of my mind was the image of the gruesome reception
that the "Welcome Committee" had laid on for us. At this moment, I had the
illusion of babbling cool mountain streams around us with dark green meadows
that I could drop into and be cajoled into lusty frolicking games.
In the meantime, the S.S. officer and soldier had moved forward, giving Janeck
the opportunity to talk—Janeck now moved closer to me to do so. On our left
and behind the barbed wire fence a couple of weird, grotesque-looking buildings
appeared, quite large in size. They were at least thirty to fifty feet long and
about twenty five feet wide and loomed up in our wide-eyed view. One side
had barred windows and the other side had small rectangular openings that could
be hermetically sealed—the walls looked to be as thick as a safe's.
The side which had the windows also had long bars.
I now said to Janeck, "Is that where we are going to work?" Janeck who was more
with it and up-to-date than I, quickly responded, "Don't be silly, those are gas
chambers and crematoriums, all in one system, newly constructed and a maximum of
one year old at the most".
As a matter of fact, this was still hard for us to swallow, but there it was in
all its glory. It could not be more clear to us now as it unfolded itself
perfectly before our open eyes. Since our arrival, one shock had followed the
other in rapid succession, from this one to the next as we kept on marching...
We were still alive, less 25 people. Our mood which was very down now became
more and more somber by the minute ...
"Kanada and Wintershelp"
It was the end of April when we set out and now it was the second of May 1944.
Nobody had heard of the hidden extermination camp yet; all this was very much
incognito. Nevertheless, after the war and during this period of time,
they showed us aerial views of people standing in queues waiting for their turn
in the gas chambers.
Why not bomb the whole place completely—what were the odds for any of us?
After the Jews it was us and anybody under the slightest suspicion and those
considered untermensch, they would have made "lebensroum" [livingt
room] just for themselves
and have enough slaves left over to serve them in turn. This scheme was far too
big and well-organized with the other grotesque ideas that they had in mind with
the thousand year "Reich"—solutions to be just for religions, ethnics or their
The weather at this time was still very humid and cold with waterlogged, flat
land. On our arrival when we had still been with the wagons, which were now well
behind us, we had noticed a little sharp church steeple to the north west. some
distance away—I later learned that that church was in Birken au Village. We
all noticed that those ghastly buildings had a tall square tapering chimney in
each centre; they were not smoking at this time.
We finally came to a halt at a big gate, hell's gate. Our luggage followed the
dead in the front and the living in the middle and behind us the leftovers.
After entering the gate, which was open wide and under close surveillance we
were stopped and gradually led into what looked like a sorting building which
was long and low, called "Kanada". Numerous working inmates were rushing
around, looking nervous, ready to receive their orders from the S.S., who were standing
around en masse, some with dogs.
All our belongings were being sorted and passed along the human assembly line,
including that which we had on except for our belts—which for this moment was
still a good sign, as later we were to be outfitted with other clothes. The
destination for our clothes was "Wintershelp" for the Germans, including the
soldiers on the eastern front.
The Gestapo bureau was a lucrative business and a well-oiled enterprise with a
lot of the state under its total control, being a state within a state. No
Mafia or other old established order had come as near to this situation, in such
a short time span, with so much crime dispatched and displayed, it seemed, with
such utter, complete enjoyment!
Kramer: The Bully of Sacksenhausen!
To our further amazement an S.S. was going over our files with our numbers
again, contemplating the order of our fate. Later, I realized that the
big, round-faced S.S. officer going over our files was Kramer, the well-known
bully of Sacksenhausen. He had his dog with him and was continuously
shaking his head at some of the Jewish helpers called, "der sonder-commando" or
the sin commando. They were so named because they survived by doing
the burning, hard labour and dirty work.
If they were lucky, they could get a further six-month extension on their lives; then they would eventually be replaced and in turn become candidates for the
gas chambers. They helped put their own families into the gas chambers as well
as other people, and then would pull them out to be cremated in the powerful
ovens. All this was told to us by their own people as we were waiting.
All around us there seemed to be a lot of complications, orders and counter-orders were going back and forth in a somewhat oversubscribed communication
system. It was even suggested that we shouldn't be there at all.
Apparently we were in the wrong place and accommodations needed to be found for
us as soon as possible—they wanted to move us along so that we wouldn't see
too much of what was going on whilst we were there. We were
still designated under N.N., the disappearing number or "Nacht und Nebel".
We were to be shot directly if we went slightly out of line. This turned out to
be very much so. I had gone inside and lost track of Janeck. Everybody had been
busy looking after themselves and some of us had still been contemplating how to
attack as a last resort. I had decided that the middle of the pack would be best,
as nobody would move from the forward position.
I was half-way down, sitting against what we were told were showers but the
concrete boxes looked like old contraptions to me—big thick doors again, dark
cellular-looking insides with a pipe sticking out from the ceiling. At first, I
thought that maybe they were disinfecting chambers for clothes but we
were told that they were old gas chambers. This was the first old building they
had used for this—the "stable" they called it. I worked out that they could take
maybe ten or more people and there were about three or four of them as far as I
could see. I didn't look too closely, don't forget we were still in a state of
dehydration which was getting worse by the minute. Some had drunk from the
water on the ground which was dirty and disease-ridden.
Rushed orders came suddenly and we started moving! I left the damned doors
quickly and hurried into the queue to be shaven. On an elevated platform
were prisoner barbers—shaving us crudely of every hair that they could
find with blunt and rusty razors. We came out of this ordeal scratched and
A fairly large Jew from Antwerp, better dressed than the others, explained to
us the ins and outs, the daily routine of the camp and what we should keep.
Every batch was then assembled in a larger place with security at both ends and
big sliding doors. One S.S. was waiting inside the doors, controlling the valves for water, lucky for us! He let about twenty of us in at a time.
After he had opened some valves a few drips came out from the pipes above us,
which we drank eagerly, looking stupidly at each other whilst waiting for more;
and then we looked at the S.S. soldier hoping for more!
At that moment, a tumult arose on my left and near the corner closest to me; approaching it I saw there were already some people near. The S.S. were coming
too, swearing like hell now; I kept my distance ...
Simon Wiesenthal and the Sorry-Looking Clowns!
With the belts, one prisoner had tried to cut his wrist with razor blades; a
tourniquet was wound around his wrist and the S.S. furiously told him off saying
that he couldn't cut his wrist without permission and how stupid he was! That
fellow must have been Simon Wiesenthal (later, he became a famous Jewish Nazi
hunter); anyway, he survived and came all the way with us—they never noticed
or separated him from the rest of us.
He wasn't allowed to take his own life, what a sarcastic twist of the whole
chicanery—they were going to take our lives away when they felt like it but
even that had become their prerogative. Obviously, they thought the only real
authority was from the abyss; the oath they had taken said so.
Before we passed through the opposite door we received a complete immersion in a
concrete trough filled to the brim with a green liquid. The liquid must have
been a kind of disinfectant; as we passed through the door somebody put a heavy,
round mop on our heads; it looked like a plunger and they dipped it in the
It was like a baptism! After this glorified treatment we found ourselves in a
long draughty corridor, which we had to run to its length. As it was night, cold
and early in the year, you can imagine that we were only too glad to make a good
run for it—it felt near to the freezing point. Chilled to the bone now and
still having that sausage with us that we couldn't eat —we had had nothing to
eat now for a long time—I think that five days had passed by now since we had
last eaten but we had lost track of time.
At the end of the hall we came to a room full of clothes spread out and you
quickly had to choose the ones that fit best. These were full of bullet holes
and were of a dried red colour and covered with lime; they looked like they had
been quickly prepared in old gas chambers.
So we put them on looking like sorry clowns, similar to the people we had seen
running around when we had arrived. Even in our state, when looking at each
other, we couldn't help but release a pitiful laugh, and some poked their
fingers through the holes, as in disbelief.
It seems to me that in situations such as these the mind can only take so much,
and then it stops and you just keep on going or it snaps altogether.
Since my release, I have met people from all walks of life who told me that as I
didn't see everything with my own eyes and only heard some things from other
prisoners that somehow those things didn't happen ...
I have also witnessed the aftermath on some of my fellow prisoners who came back
to us with their lugubrious news of horrible and disturbing events. As they
recounted these things, it appeared to me that they themselves had a hard time
comprehending or convincing themselves that such things were really happening—even though they were witnessing them with their own eyes!
Just us and Nothingness!
Later in the evening we had our first glimpse of the new arrivals who came in
two big transports similar to what ours had been. In great haste, men, women
and children all Jews from Hungary were placed in the barracks opposite to us.
The Eichmann program had started on the Reich's declaration of the final
solution—which was direct and total dissemination with no pause at all!
The fires were waiting and stoked to the full for all the human fat, hair and
ashes. Everything had a use in the camp!
We were put in our barracks again, safely out of view, with a 24-hour guard. Not the slightest movement was allowed, not even a quick peek near the doors was
permitted—many of our deceased inmates had learned their lesson the hard way
and therefore nobody disobeyed the rules now!
All though the night we heard shuffling, muffled cries and weeping, interrupted
by the shouting of the S.S. here and there. Death itself was among us; it was walking the perimeter in whatever form or shape you may wish to imagine. It was
all around us, you could hear it, think it, and feel it, almost see it, mostly
by using your senses like animals.
Death was ever-present that night, just like a thick, dirty bog full of
skeletons and there was also the ever-present stench of human flesh. Already the
column for mass slaughter was being moved towards the fires, an endless ribbon
of human misery and tragedy.
At last, after an uneasy sleep, in which nightmares were unnecessary as reality
was even worse! Our guards left, their mission completed and now they walked out
into the sunlight and we followed them into the blinding sunlight and "Oh my
God"! we looked at the chimney stacks—they were smoking!
The stacks were belching big fires close to the top. The smoke, driven by the
wind, rose high into the sky and then tailed off into a thick, fat, oily
looking, ball-like formation. The shape then curled off in one direction,
spreading far out over the damp landscape and dissipated into nothingness.
This is what had become of the people we had heard during the night. All that
remained were ashes. Believe me, this time there were tears in our eyes! In our
incapacity and feeling complete desolation we stood there watching and there was
nothing we could do about it—not even one grey uniform to be seen around us
now, just us!
We stood there clenched fists, lost in our own thoughts, hopeless. We looked at
the empty billets and again a terrible feeling of desolation swept over us! No
life at all, not the slightest sign, absolutely nothing, just us!
On the double gates of the barracks were big boards on which notices were posted
indicating that there had been cholera and typhus fumigations, the great lie,
and so what, we knew that the Jewish Hungarians had come in alive. The notices
were for our benefit to make us believe that we had imagined things and had not
seen or heard anything.
It is beyond me how this action could be explained away like that by the S.S.
They must have been half mad themselves to go though with such a procedure! It
aggravates ones thinking of "justice", when one has witnessed a massacre of such
magnitude and injustice.
We have failed abysmally, we are not capable of running things right, the wisdom
is awfully lacking if what we witnessed was made possible!
We were now moving away from this gory sight, always moving further inside the
camp but separate from the Jewish sections which we could see all around us.
We still had about 30 Jewish people hidden among us, nobody had squealed or
showed they noticed".
Day 54—"Tell the World", Please!
We were given better bunks than our Jewish inmates. We were also given one
blanket and running though the centre of our barracks was a heated floor
constructed with bricks—it looked like an ancient Roman drain. We also had
more drips of water than in Compiegne but nevertheless our accommodation was
cold and spartan. On a regular basis, the same food/brew was brought to us in
barrels carried by their Hebrew slaves.
During morning and evening roll call, we were made to watch how they mistreated
our Jewish inmates who stood opposite and a bit further along from us. On one
occasion, we saw the Commandant, Mengele and also his beautiful camp companion
about fifty yards away. It was a show for our benefit! With whips in their
hands they gave orders to other Capa prisoners or supervisors to beat up fellow
prisoners—they would point out some made-up disorderly conduct issues that
they imagined to be fit for punishment with a horse whip.
They told one prisoner to lay down and expose his back. They then beat him up
and gave him a final last kick to indicate that he should join the ranks again.
This was the order of the day the prisoners told us.
We were now at the eleventh day, doing nothing and not knowing what would
happen to us. We had a weekend over with and were still alive. We suddenly heard
music from some sort of band, floating on a feeble wind—it was the music for
the marching to the gas chambers by the old stables. We came to know this from
More and more of us became very sick, very ill actually, maybe from the drinking
of the dirty water and maybe other diseases were starting to take their toll. We
also heard shooting further away, we couldn't see too much as we were kept well
away from the scene.
I couldn't actually tell you whether we had been at the stables exactly either
but we thought we had been somewhere in that area when we first arrived. So,
even being there in the camp, we found ourselves always in doubt at any given
We were then told we were due for transport and when the moment came we were led
out to the other side of the camp. There we saw more crematoriums with gas
chambers which we hadn't seen before. All in all there must have been five
As we turned the corner, we saw some Jewish girls near their own circled fence
and a bit further away were lots of Jewish children playing like on any other
school ground or playing fields. They even started throwing bread to us and
speaking in French saying they came from Lille, northern France.
Somehow, somebody put the question to them, "What do you think will happen to
you?" In unison, they looked at the crematoriums and chimneys and pointed to
them and said, "That's where we are going soon", shaking their heads up and down
in one accord, they knew and had no doubts, even smiling in a sure way well
aware of the short time that they had left to live. We looked more frightened
and worried than them - as anybody would have.
We were shouted at to move on and quickly they cried to us hanging on with their
little hands on the fence, "Tell the world, please, what happened to us".
Again, tears streamed down our faces, to what use! We rubbed our hands over our
faces and took off now moved by force, departing with drooping heads.
We arrived at the rail tracks at what looked like the construction of the inside
of a station. There were lots of Jewish labourers as slaves on their six month
reprieve, still working or labouring away whilst barely alive, looking at us
with vacant eyes. This was still in the camp, one can just imagine the enormous
size of it all.
Of course, selfish humans that we were, we were pleased to get away from there
with the feeling of being given a hard green apple and then probably getting an
apple less green later for being such good boys.
A lanky officer asked us if we were Arians and now told us that we were going to
work in the most organized camp in Germany, namely Buchenwald"!
Leaving Auschwitz for Buchenwald!
We noticed the smaller and cozier looking goods wagons in which we started
entering now with S.S. all around us—they appeared to be in a jovial mood.
The insides of the wagons were whitewashed and spread all over with
disinfectant. There was also newly made, wooden latrines, neatly constructed
and painted light blue. Ample rations of bread were available to us in the form
of what looked like a long and consistent loaf, lots of water and lots of room
to sit and lay down.
Our fellow comrades left behind were considered to be too sick to come with us.
Over two hundred were now going to get the "proper treatment" and we all knew
what that meant! Of course, we would never hear of them again! They were very
likely, very quickly, all made to join the throngs in the gas and crematorium
queues. In fact, probably right at this moment, as I am talking to you!
We were told that they would be hospitalized—that is something we didn't ever
see in the camp, for sure, a hospital. Soon the oils, fat and ashes of our
comrades would be mixed Arian and Semite and used for the same purposes, then to
fertilization, of no difference or consequence but as a handy use for the living
in an unadulterated form.
We were thinking gravely now, speaking for myself and others we had never seen
mass grave pits while we were there but they were there just like everything
else—we would hear about it in a similar camp.
The only thing the S.S. didn't have to do now was to use too many bullets to
tire their arms. To them and their helpers, conscious or not of all that was
happening, with their mind set and the continuous, drummed indoctrination the
events happening were probably similar to a butcher slaughtering animals and
that's all it probably felt like for them. For us, it had all become a daily
routine and for the time being we all had to accept that unless some force could
There were gallows and injections but we didn't see that either. Like myself
and others, you have got to believe that it all happened and then make logical
deductions from the facts and the whole picture. If one thing was there then
the other things had to be told by the survivors.
I believe that the horror that we witnessed was mostly produced by a variety of
multiple actions. The inflicting of pain and suffering in this super-imposed
hatred campaign, worthy of a deep primitive background was perpetuated with a
ferocity common, at that time, to the Nazis. It was made to be so painful and
quickly executed for speed's sake, the pattern plus the revenge.
Finally, our lanky S.S. announced the usual, rehearsed, "Bon Voyage", we felt
very apprehensive as the wagons were softly closed. Off we went onto the next
voyage into the unknown. Glad to be still alive on the eleventh day since our
arrival in Auschwitz.
First Impressions of Buchenwald!
We were on our way back to Weimar, the old republic of Saxony and Goethe's
paradise and home region. There was no attempt at anything like escaping, it
was out of the question—our brains could only absorb so much! We now wondered
what Buchenwald would be like!
As usual, the railway ran on time and gradually we mounted the slope leading up
to the wooded area of Eisenberg—all nicely tucked away so that nobody could
see too much. Near the bottom of the hill was a massive cordon of
tank corps situated at the outer circle. On top of the hill was a full S.S.
training camp and then there were the guards and the electrical fence circling
the entire concentration camp. Buchenwald had started out as a rehabilitation
camp for dissidents and from thereon had gone from bad to worse.
We came to the camp station just next to and outside the fence and were greeted
by the usual welcome party—ferocious dogs. Some of us were bitten straight
away, pieces of flesh were bitten right out of our buttocks leaving bleeding and
large open wounds. In this situation one just had to run for his life.
On my left side I noticed that there were newly built factories. I was walked or
rather I should say rushed around with those dogs behind me, panting and
drooling and trying to get a bite. At this point it was us against the dogs.
Then suddenly the human "Welcome Society" came into view—they seemed to be as
obedient as the dogs. They were armed with whips and comprised of the underdog
slave drivers or camp elders and CAPO's. Everybody had badges with red
Some of the guards were Germans who had survived the rise of the Reich with
Hitler as Fuhrer—they had extra Rights and Privileges because according to the
Nazis they were not considered to be "ordinary criminals". They were mostly just
a bit left-wing, communist or socialist. There were also some religious
representatives—mostly protestants. In addition, there were deserters and
people considered to be abnormal.
They all wore ordinary civilian suits and berets usually of typical European
origin. The suits had been altered using dye or by the addition of squares that
had been sewn in so one could clearly see the markings and they also had the
white-blue stripes of galley prisoners. There was a number under the triangle
and a stripped ribbon with block and wing marks as well as armbands with the
word "Capo" on. These camp guards now took charge of us instead of the S.S.
standing beside us.
I remember all the details clearly. Auschwitz had looked like a forest with
dead/death trees sticking out of a bog, very bare in comparison with this camp,
which in contrast, had a a superb view, similar to what I would expect to see in
a holiday camp.
At a four point crossroads elevated on a green, grass patch was a pole, very
much like a totem pole. The pole had planks jutting out that were being used as
sign posts. On one was a clearly drawn and painted caricature of S.S. marching
figures. They were drawn in groups of four in full regalia with weapons. This
particular plank pointed towards the S.S. quarters which stuck out in the
distance. The buildings resembled high rise flats and were of a somber grey
The rest of the planks at the crossroads had the following images: an affluent
Jewish capitalist with the yellow star of King David, a political prisoner with
a red triangle, a criminal with a green triangle and a purple, black and blue
triangle representing: religions, homosexuals, saboteurs and deserters.
Lastly, was "Gouzloff Werke", which represented factory installations. These
factories were next to the thick woods by the station and on the other side of
the train tracks. Gouzloff was a German capitalist or industrialist and a major
shareholder in the company.
"Caracho Weg", Good Road or Paradise Way!
Our files followed us everywhere and while in Buchenwald our deaths would come
about by hard labour in the quarry or strassen-bau, firing squad, machine gun,
hanging, injection, torture and chopping off of heads— which was the privilege
of another outside department, you were specially sent for on this occasion!
There were also a number of on-demand applications performed by the S.S. doctors
such as garroting with piano wires or meat hooks and dissecting, as well as
other medicinal and scientific experiments. The human guinea pigs were there in
ample supply and always available at any time.
There was a tower too, the Bismarck Tower; I could now faintly see the
silhouette of the tower though the mist. Under this tower were the broken
bodies of so many buried in mass graves.
Towards the direction of Weimer, beyond the work places, was Goethe's tree
house. This stood near to a double gate with more fences. Goethe wrote many of
his best works here and spent many hours relaxing at this spot. We couldn't see
the tree house as we were walking but could see an indictor/sign that pointed to
The road for the prisoners in the camp was nicely captioned too and was written
in Russian and read "Caracho Weg", meaning the Good Road or Paradise Way—so
Buchenwald might as well have been called Shangri-la too! The sarcasm of it all
had just begun!
At this point, we were just reaching two guard houses, one on each side of the
road when we encountered two representatives from this "mock paradise", with
weapons pointed they ordered us to "Mutzen ab" (take caps off).
Perched on a pillar, in the middle of the road was an enormous eagle, carved in
stone, hewn from the quarry.
On a wooden board, above the guardhouse entrance was inscribed in Goethe
script "Recht oder Unrecht mein Vaterland", meaning "Right or Wrong my Country".
"Jedem Das Seine" or "To Each his Own"
To commit wrongs in the name of patriotism is certainly not the right thing to
do! It brings to mind the saying "Patriotism is the last refuge of the
We now came to the habitat of the Commandant, at "half way house". It was on
the left of us and well constructed with a garden and in front of it were two
soixante-quinze guns. You could call him the son of a gun then!
The house was in the Cararcho Weg/Way and was quite nice. No formal greeting
here that would be coming.
On our right, we could see the electrical fence and some of the camp site
sloping downwards and there was also a lane of tree coverage between us. The
setting and decor was ideal and grand and it would get better. As we proceeded
we walked as if to eternity, getting one surprise after another. Continually,
moving towards the sunset now or in the morning to the sunrise, heads bobbing up
We came to what looked like part of an actual zoo. These animals had come from
the Berlin Tiergarden Zoo to be put in a safe place away from the bombing and
under the protection of the camp. There was, of course, the rock garden with
baboons showing their bald bottoms to us. There was also a black bear present
who we guessed was being better fed than we were.
Behind the animals was a dug out space with a ramp of soil. This space was there
to receive the impact of the machine gun bullets from the ripped-in-half victims
who were placed on the wooden stakes—more often to be replaced than not. I
suppose the barking of the dog baboons assisted in muffling up the noise that
was made. One can comprehend how the nerves of these animals must have become
agitated every time executions were carried out.
With our "dimmed view", we now had to wait on the spot. Looking over the camp
and on a short curve to the right, we could now see a big center tower. It had
cellular constructions extending from the base, these were the execution or
torture cells which were located on each side of the tower. They also used
these constructions for quick interrogations and for firing squad and guillotine
The "Mutzen ab", order was given again and then we had the "privilege" of
hearing the best band in Germany performing or beating time for our
benefit. They were dressed in the most colourful uniforms taken from the
nineteenth century orchestra or military capelle. They looked like real clowns
or a circus band. By the way, these people were originally musicians from the
Philharmonic Orchestra of Prague; they had been taken as hostages for some
disturbances that had occurred in Czechoslavakia at that time. Only the best
were good enough for this.
Around the camp were many "Miradors", as the French called them, or Watch Towers—these were manned by a machine gunner with a search light and two more
soldiers. On the center tower were several search lights placed on the balcony.
From this point, the Administration could watch the crowds, who were to be
counted, as well as see the entirety of the camp, which was in the shape of a
nearly perfect pentagon and on a slope.
On a clear day we could see the statue of Barberossa which was an enormous
obelisk in the distance. Barberossa was a Swedish, Field Marshal and conqueror
of renown. More often than not, in the late season, as we stood for roll call,
we were covered with a mist or rather low passing clouds.
Turning in from the corner end our band stood, the Commandant in the company of
his wife of a certain fame, named Ilse Koch and his S.S. Handlangers with their
We were now faced with the gate in wrought iron! On the bars in letters about
the width and height of a man were the words, "Jedem Das Seine" or "To Each his
The gates opened for us and we would enter now! It was like the entrance of
hell on the way to heaven, guarded by the devil and his demons. Only Saint
Peter was absent ...
Lamp Shades and Ilsa Koch
We were now greeted by a big open space. We then saw the confines of the wooden
billets. For the next mile or so, after the billets, were row after row of
two-story stone buildings. Below were more buildings, which included a brothel
and an indoctrination hall for propaganda films and picture taking, no lectures.
A quarantine camp was situated in between the junior and senior camps, which
appeared to be two to four rows in depth and length. On your left was a small
first aid station or hospital. To the right was the crematorium but no gas
chambers. The crematorium was smaller than a single building in Auschwitz but
similar to the building we had last seen with the little girls.
We then entered the shaving block area and finally came to a large kitchen. The
kitchen struck us as not very big for the camp size!
The hanging tree of Goethe was in front of us It was a big, thick
oak tree and was just coming into bloom. In the center were concrete trenches
used to dangle victims after being hung. Goethe used to sit at that tree
writing and looking at the landscape, very likely in serene meditation not
realizing what would become of his special place in the coming years.
In all of this horror there had to be some salvation for the international
prisoners represented at Buchenwald. This presented itself in the form of "The
Ark." The Ark was an underground resistance movement which gave some of us the
strength to float above the atrocities and survive.
We now entered the sorting and shearing rooms again; as we passed through we
just had enough time to gather more information about the camp from senior
prisoners. It was the 14th of May, 1944 and we were facing a new period of
detention, albeit with a diminished group. The Capos and helpers guided us
through the process under the surveillance of a single S.S. agent.
The inmates warned us that we needed to be on our best behavior at all times— which meant orders had to be followed promptly. We were also instructed to be
subservient, to the extreme of what one could bear, and at the same time be
Lastly, they said it was better not to be covered in or show beautiful tattoos.
They said, "keep those fellow/fellows out of view". The reason being that the
wife of the Commandant had a peculiar hobby of picking those bodies out for the
purpose of covering lampshades!
The Commandant's wife was Ilse Koch. She would spy on potential candidates from
secret holes and compartments and look for anything that appealed to her morbid
sense of satisfaction, which included making lampshades from human skin.
Once again, we were shaved all over our bodies and bathed too. Our clothes,
from Auschwitz, were exchanged for striped ones with red triangles on that had
numbers for this camp.
We were continually reminded of the nightmare that we were still involved in as
the cruel stories continually reached our ears from the other prisoners.
Injections and Indoctrination Movies!
There was also an unemployment bureau within the camp. This bureau would
determine which tasks we were was best suited to perform. Behind the S.S.
buildings was a quarry which supplied stones for the roads and camp and even
contracts further afield.
In a place called "Valkenhof", falcon house, there were more animals and a
fenced park for deer and boar which was tended to by prisoners. There was also
villas for the VIPs—between 1944 to 1945 the camp was closely associated with
the einsatz groups of the S.S who very likely stayed in these villas.
We had arrived at a good time to join the international resistance within the
camp, which at that time was growing stronger and stronger by the day. The
camp resistance group had originally been started by Germans, of which eighty
percent had now disappeared.
Personalities who had been at the camp prior to their release in 1940 were
Richard Thalmann, Hood and Walter Poller. From our side were people like Blum,
the Brussels redactor from the newspaper "Le Peuple"; Dewever, a dentist from
Antwerp; and many other representatives with diverse political opinions—not
just from the left, as implied by the press and other sources. To our dismay
and to the merriment of the Nazi's rivalry, chauvinism, bias and small
mindedness were always rife and present within our ranks.
We now moved slowly to the lower camp, a quarantine camp. Here we could verify
most of the things we had recently heard from the other prisoners. The
atmosphere and environment we now found ourselves in was very similar to
Auschwitz. A dirty little quagmire with closed barracks, one blanket, open pit
toilets and outside washing pipes with troughs. We were separated from the
upper or senior camp by a fence. We were also kept separate from the brothel
and indoctrination hall below us.
For the next three weeks we received so many injections that we were warned to
try and dodge them by passing them through the skin pressed between our fingers,
inside one way and out the other if possible. The injections were administered
by the Capos and camp helpers and an S.S., who couldn't always be everywhere— so this was the method to employ while he was distracted.
During the quiet spells there we searched for lost friends and at other
transports for news of friends and acquaintances back home. We were also taken
to the indoctrination block to be photographed, measured and receive more new
numbers. Then we were shown an S.S. film about their superior qualities in
training and fighting—which we had to watch. Nothing about cruelty as they
had enough experience of that with the prisoners and for us to look at within
After that our new numbers were sewn on the coats and trousers, which were
We discovered that there was camp money in circulation—marks that could be
changed. We would receive camp money for our first work command, which was the
quarry—a touch of the hardest labour to begin with! The quarry was called "Steinbuck",
and was on the southern side of the hill overlooking the forested undulations of
Franconia and Bavaria—the nearest town being Eisenach.
"Steinbuck" would have been a good point to have escaped from had it not been
for a close chain of guards. When it was misty and if there was low cloud they
doubled the guard—the grey uniforms, Totenkaphen, which consisted of four
foreign S.S., entwining Ukrainians! They had formed their own international [?]
too, which was in the style of the Nazi's of course.
On one off our "off duty", days we followed a black marketer who helped get rid
of our money. He led us to the rear end of the quarantine camp where we
encountered two poor desolate figures huddled together in a corner. So that's
what the money exchange was for—for those "Miserables" still speculating.
One turned out to be grandfather, Michelin and the other an Armenian
millionaire. They had both sold crucifixes and other paraphernalia at Lourdes
before having received their wages for sin here! This practice was looked at
with distaste by the other prisoners. In no time, our black marketer was
spotted and chased and we were warned not to take any heed of him.
On our way back we noticed a prisoner with two buckets full of stones and sand
standing fixed on a wooden box. This prisoner had stolen food from his comrades—we now realized what severe punishment could happen if caught in such as act
and we quickly learned our lesson.
The camp was like an underworld, full of petty intrigue and corruption. After a
while in quarantine, all pent up revenge on suspected and guilty traitors would
break loose and a quick trial would be executed. This would be carried out by
commandos bringing in sharp instruments or by drowning—this involved holding
the victim's head down in the troughs, surrounded by the crowd.
Another method was to chase the fellow out into the evening, at curfew— with
no other alternative but to throw themselves onto the barbed wire near the
electrical fence were they would be shot simultaneously by the "Miradors". They
were not always suicides as shown in photos.
The S.S. didn't care a bit and the bodies were just added to the rest laying
along the block with the others, to be taken away by the "leich tragers", body
carriers to the crematorium, its yard infested with rats and other vermin. The
mouths of the victims hung open and their limbs lay broken before the corpses
were burnt then thrown onto a death pile for cremation.
The Jews in Buchenwald had almost completely disappeared, either to Auschwitz,
Bergen Belsen or Mathausen. There were still thirty Jews hidden amongst us—strong builders and probably more that I didn't know about, the rest were mixed
in with us and unknown to anybody. We saw the shoe piles left from past
prisoners, only the uppers, the soles had been used by other prisoners.
Personal fights of desperation only landed people in the crematorium. The
people killed as traitors, which I witnessed, were as far as I could make
out, guilty without a doubt. On one occasion, we watched an individual from
Eastern Europe flattering the S.S. around us in a very obvious manner. French
inmates knew that he had given them away on previous occasions while in French
jails. They loathed him; his ways and manners gave him the look of a creep.
One day his ordeal came to pass! He was stabbed in the liver with a small,
needle sharp bar, which had been smuggled in from the Guzloffe-Werke. He was
then gradually driven to the trough and from there pushed in and held under
water until drowned. After this, I remember his accusers, straight-away,
looking around for others—it seemed to be easy, once done, such was the mood.
In addition, people were apt to commit bestialities with impunity and no second
thoughts about it.
One of the Capos had become as cruel and crude as the S.S. He beat up other
prisoners with his stick until they were laying flat on the ground and then
kicked them— to the delight of the watching S.S.
This one had to go for sure, one way or the other!