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Helen Rodak-Izso

The Last Chance to Remember



Chapter 16. STUTTHOF

The hell of all hells is in the outskirts of Danzig. Vernichtungslager, which greeted the newly arrived groups with the familiar greetings: Arbeit macht frei! The first building in the front is really a welcoming sign with its balconies covered with blooming flowers and of course the music was playing at the entrance.

As we approached the reality, the hell itself opened up to us. A similar picture waited for us, as in Auschwitz.` The conditions here were unbelievable. As we marched in, we saw tortured creatures. Full of excitement everywhere, they called out to us, as it always happens when a new transport comes in. Names of cities, places, families were shouting in the air back and forth, from our side too. Everybody was hoping to find lost relatives and family members. This was the place where we found Clara, our aunt, who was there already. We were parted at Kaiserwald and didn't know where she had disappeared to. She had a nightmarish trip by a boat which was much too overloaded. It was a miracle that they didn't sink.

Here the guards were released prisoners, condemned for murder. One of them named Max had his own passion and way of torturing us. Openly!

One day he asked us aloud if we wanted to send or get some mail. Of course, everybody wanted to and this is what he was waiting for and wanted to hear. He ordered us to line up in double line at the side of the barrack. He positioned himself at the opposite barracks window and started his game by aiming at our side, at our heads with beer bottles. He thought it was a hilarious joke, but certainly it was not for us. We tried to hide, tried to escape, we were crying and asking for help but there was no mercy.

Our woman guard was from the Ukraine with the same illustrious past as Max. She ordered 100 women of our group to lie down in a small room, like sardines, which meant, one with the head, another with legs tightly as possible, there was no room otherwise. When everybody was in the required position, she went out and returned with two pails of water and with all her fury she poured the contents all over us. And probably this was not enough for her, didn't satisfy her hunger for meanness, because she went out again and came back with two buckets of water and we had another shot, and were forced to lie in it until the morning came to rescue us. The beast of all beasts, here she found a good place where she could give full vent to her passion.

It was at Stutthof that I lost my best friend, Magda Burger. For some reason she became wrinkled so she looked much older and at the next selection, she had to go! I hear her voice even today as she called from the window of the doomed building, asking for help!! When I was helpless myself! Such a helpless feeling is very hard to overcome. Her sister-in-law decided to go with her, although she didn't have to go, she was a pharmacist. Magda's husband was Gere'b Gyuri, a well known and liked person in our city.

Stutthof was in a way like Auschwitz, if not worse. Selections were often, whole groups disappeared. Other groups were standing, waiting, never knowing what would come next. In the worst heat in the middle of the summer, once we witnessed something very peculiar change at the other group next to us. They had to leave and suddenly they appeared in real winter clothing. It was a heat wave at the time and was a real queer picture to see them in fur. In this outfit they were led away. We never heard of them again!

Some tried their luck and changed place with others while standing appell. It had to happen in the quickest way, because this move was terribly risky, and besides nobody knew where the other group might be going. It was just a desperate try while the Lager Führer or whoever made the selections did his best to confuse us.. The selection was always the most frightening time. Every minute was uncertain and full of despair.

Marching in front of them was always risky and dangerous. They were watching and trying to look up some stubborn scab, which didn't heal or any other mark. One needed only good luck .

Stutthof, despite the welcome sign, remains forever the darkest of all camps. We didn't work here, at least not regularly. Our full time occupation was to wait for the next roll-call. To go through numerous selections, each time to tremble at the outcome, anguish and mystery, to suffer unspeakable fearful hours until day time became evening, this was our work. Then we didn't know whether to look back or wait for the next day, which was more frightening. They had nothing else to do than chase us, to torture us with all kinds of tricks, and after the selections to enjoy themselves watching their victims going to pieces We were at their mercy!

We found Clara here, our aunt, hardly recognizable and vowed to each other that from now on we should try to stay together. We wouldn't separate anymore if there is just one possibility.

We all looked like haunted animals, dressed in all kinds of rags, without hair, our bodies emaciated, ready to run at any minute. Hunger and inner pain ate up our flesh. Our eyes sunk deep, were full of fear of whipping, no matter who received it. To witness others sufferings was our pain too.

When we left this cursed, damned hole, even the cattle train was better and almost welcome. Again with the roofless box cars, so the same type of agony escorted us. This uncertainty hung over our head all the time. Under the beautiful sky, birds and other free creatures were happily flying over our heads. They were our companions and our eyes followed them.

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