Vivid memories of unseen gas showers at Auschwitz

THE BELL CURVE: Auschwitz remains stark after 60 years


February 2, 2005

I suspect that all of us have a handful of places or events in our lives that leave such an indelible impression that they are never very far from our consciousness. One such place for me is the Nazi death factory called Auschwitz.

It has been much on my mind this past week as both the print media and television have been full of remembrances of this place on the 60th anniversary of its liberation by the Russian army. Although my memories come from a visit long after the carnage that took place at Auschwitz, they are nonetheless vivid.


[…] We took a bus from Krakow — a delightful river city that ironically serves as the gateway to the horrors of Auschwitz — enduring some 30 miles of garrulous talk in broken English from an anti-Semitic female bus driver who dropped us off at the gates to the prison camp on a lovely late summer day. There was a long, graveled walk to an arch that marked the entrance. We got our first view of the interior of the camp — and were stopped dead in our tracks — when we made a sharp turn at the arch and saw a bevy of German soldiers in uniform, many of them holding straining police dogs on tight leashes, standing guard over dozens of prisoners in striped clothing.

That’s the scene deeply implanted in my memory. We found out quickly that a movie was being shot there that day, but the fictitious German guards became more and more real to me as we explored the camp, and, by day’s end, I found myself unable to put down a smoldering hatred of the actors playing the Nazi soldiers.


It was only a minute’s walk from the unloading platform to the room, full of overhead showers, where most of the new arrivals were sent to disrobe and supposedly be deloused. But instead of water, the showers pumped out gas. […]


* JOSEPH N. BELL is a resident of Santa Ana Heights. His column appears Thursdays.

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