A worse hell than Auschwitz
19th September 1942: A graphic account of being selected for a working party outside Auschwitz
While one part of the Nazi state wanted to see all Jews exterminated, another saw them as a potential source of labour to be exploited at will to serve the war effort. So - alongside the ‘camps’ that were dedicated solely to extermination - there were camps where those who were selected for work could survive, at least for a little while. Yet such were the attitudes to inmates in the concentration camp system that the objective of obtaining labour from them became confused with the objective of working them to death in the most brutal fashion.
Auschwitz was a camp which accommodated both extermination facilities and barracks where thousands were held for use as labour. They were shipped out to surrounding industrial centres. After surviving in Auschwitz for a time on a relatively benign work detail in the stores, Rudolf Vrba1 was transferred to the army of prisoners who left Auschwitz every day by train for Buna.
‘This, I thought, must be the real hell of Auschwitz. Hell on the double, and an Auschwitz that until then I had managed to avoid; but I was wrong, for it was only a mild form of purgatory, an evil aperitif, so to speak, to prepare us for Buna itself.’
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