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Bearing Witness . . .

Since the end of World War II, numerous books and articles have been written about Hitler's concentration camps. Most of the authors have been professional writers or historians. We, the surviving inmates, have written relatively little. Fifty-five years after our liberation, we are still living in the Shadow of the Beast, unable to free ourselves from the trauma of that darkest of all periods in Mankind's history. Now, finally, some of us are speaking out. Speaking out with an honesty born of actual experience.

While lecturing on the Holocaust I am often asked to describe Nazi concentration camps. Officially, the Germans defined their camps as: "Where the enemies of the Third Reich are concentrated in one place to be rendered harmless." From my experiences I would define these camps as: "Where pure evil had absolute power over pure goodness."

In reality the camps were a concentration of the worst elements of Hitler's Reich. Sadists, murderers, and psychopaths were deliberately put in charge of these camps to deal with the inmates as they saw fit. Those in charge were men of pure evil, who could kill us, torture us, subject us to any type of treatment that their sick imaginations could conjure up. And who were the inmates?

Inmates were divided in two classes:

The first class: These were the finest elements of European society; liberals, democrats, authors, painters, intellectuals who opposed the Nazis. In a normal Western democratic democracy they would be considered the elite. One could see why such people could be considered the enemies of the Third Reich.

The second class: The innocents-- Jews, gypsies, gays, mentally incapacitated, etc. These were considered enemies of the Reich because of Germany's new "cleansing" and racial laws. But the true reason was because Hitler hated these elements, especially the Jews.

One could ask a rational question: "Why did he hate the Jews so much that he was ready to murder all of them, including the children?"

In most Hitler's biographies one fact stands out: Besides being an anti-Semite, which so many in Austria were and are, Hitler harbored a venomous grudge towards one particular Jew; the head of the Viennese Academy of Arts. As a young man, when Hitler applied to be accepted as a student of art to the academy, the director refused his entry on the grounds that he was not talented enough. Little did he know that years later that megalomaniac would send a million and a half Jewish children and four and half million adults to the gas chambers because a Jew offended his vanity! And this was the person the German people picked to govern their country!

Therefore, for the Jews, Hitler devised a different type of camp, the Death Camp.

These were actually not concentration camps. They were pure and simple, Murder Factories. Studying history one comes across unspeakable cruelty, bloodshed, murder, and even genocide of whole peoples perpetrated by the cruelest and bloodiest of tyrants.

But assembly line Murder Factories like Auschwitz, were unprecedented.

Throughout Germany, with typical German efficiency, thousands of cattle trains stuffed with Jews were routed to Auschwitz/ Birkenau, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, Triblinka, and other places in Poland, where the Jewish goods were unloaded, quickly stuffed into air proof chambers, and promptly gassed.

After agonizing screams for about half an hour, the human cargo would finally die, and special Jewish squads called commandos, would drag their bodies to the nearby crematoriums where they were burned to ashes. But not before the commandos, with ordinary pliers, would extract the gold teeth of the victims and drop them into wooden boxes, later to be converted into gold bars, stamped with the Swastika, and sent to Switzerland to private Nazi accounts.

There are hundreds of men still alive today (the year 2000) who bore witness to the above-described events in numerous trials of Nazis throughout the world. There were also hundreds of confessions by SS personal who ran these Murder Factories. They never denied these facts, they only claimed in self defense that they only were fulfilling the orders of their superiors. And as far as the Nazi gold arriving in Switzerland, there is lately ample evidence of that as well. A recommended book on this subject is Nazi Gold by Tom Bower.

Many young people in the United States, Germany, and Japan where I lecture on the Holocaust are asked by their teachers to read parts of my book, Light One Candle. Often they are astounded to hear about the events of the Holocaust. They inevitably ask why the rest of the world did not properly react to these atrocities perpetrated against the Jewish people in Germany and other parts of Europe. Didn't the allies know what was going on? Government officials after the war often claimed that the Western governments of the US, England and the others simply didn't know the full truth of what was going on.

Of course, they lied. Officials in the Roosevelt administration knew Hitler's plan for the Jews.

They knew exactly what was going on because the Americans had broken the German secret code, called "enigma." The Germans were so sure that the code was absolutely foolproof that they were unafraid to send by simple wire all their secrets. Among the information sent to Berlin from Lithuania, Latvia and the occupied Russian lands, was the exact number of Jews being killed daily in those countries. The West knew exactly what the Germans were doing with the Jews, yet they kept quiet, allowing the Nazis to slaughter the Jews without lifting a finger to help.

Let us be clear about another historical fact. Before the war the Nazis were only too willing to let the Jews go. Any Jew who had a visa to any country in the world was allowed to leave Germany. In 1938, the Chinese consul in Vienna, Mr. Ho, even managed to get Jews out of the Dachau Concentration camp, by showing the Gestapo that certain Jewish inmates whom he knew had received Chinese visas from him. This people were released and were able to leave Austria.

Two events sealed the fate of the Jews in those days. One was the episode with the German passenger vessel St. Louis, filled with German-Jewish refugees. After unsuccessfully trying to disembark in Cuba, it headed for the United States. But the United States Coast Guard forced the St Louis out of the US territorial waters. After no other country in the world would accept them, and the refugees were forced to return to Germany and their death sentences.

The second episode was the international conference at Evian, convened to discuss the fate of war refugees, especially Jewish refugees. Instead of deciding how to help Jewish refugees, delegates decided not to help them at all. When the Australian representative was asked how many Jewish refugees Australia was willing to let in his answer was: "We have our own problems and don't want to import new ones." The Canadian representative was even more blatant. When asked the same question he answered: "Quite frankly, one would be too many!"

When Hitler heard of these incidents, he rubbed his hands with glee. "Gentleman‚" he said to his cabinet ministers, "Gentlemen, we have just been given the green light by the world to do with the Jews what we want. No one wants them any more than we do."

Subsequent silence, by the Western powers to Nazi mass murders, confirmed their early assumptions. The Germans could murder the Jews with impunity and no one was going to make a fuss about the matter. To find out more about the betrayal of the Jews by the West, one should read two books: One is by Arthur D. Morse, While Six Millions Died. The other is by David S. Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews.

Documents that have been kept secret for half a century have finally confirmed what we survivors believed all along. The West by its silence and indifference gave Adolf Hitler the green light to murder us. He would never have dared to do so otherwise.

Solly Ganor, Herzelia, Israel, June 2000
Author of Light One Candle.