The train wasn’t headed to Germany. Stos was on the first transport of Polish prisoners to Auschwitz. There to greet them were 30 hardened German convicts, brought by the SS from a prison near Berlin. Guards confiscated Stos’ belongings and issued him a number. Sixty-nine years later, he slid a business card across the dining room table as his daughter brought us cups of tea. It read “Jozef Stos, former Auschwitz Concentration Camp Prisoner No. 752.” “I was there on the first day,” he said. “They had me for five years and five days.”
Radio became popular in Germany during the 1930s; over 70 percent of households owned a receiver by 1939, more than any other country. By July 1933, radio station staffs were purged of leftists and others deemed undesirable. Propaganda and speeches were typical radio fare immediately after the seizure of power, but as time went on Goebbels insisted that more music be played so that listeners would not turn to foreign broadcasters for entertainment.
On 28 October, selections began for women to be relocated to Bergen-Belsen. More than 8,000 women, including Anne and Margot Frank, and Auguste van Pels, were transported. Edith Frank was left behind and died from starvation. Tents were erected at Bergen-Belsen to accommodate the influx of prisoners, and as the population rose, the death toll due to disease increased rapidly. Frank was briefly reunited with two friends, Hanneli Goslar and Nanette Blitz, who were confined in another section of the camp. Goslar and Blitz survived the war, and discussed the brief conversations they had conducted with Frank through a fence. Blitz described Anne as bald, emaciated, and shivering. Goslar noted Auguste van Pels was with Anne and Margot Frank, and was caring for Margot, who was severely ill. Neither of them saw Margot, as she was too weak to leave her bunk. Anne told Blitz and Goslar she believed her parents were dead, and for that reason she did not wish to live any longer. Goslar later estimated their meetings had taken place in late January or early February 1945.
And for that purpose it is necessary not to think of the camps simply as a hellscape. Reading Wachsmann’s deeply researched, groundbreaking history of the entire camp system makes clear that Dachau and Buchenwald were the products of institutional and ideological forces that we can understand, perhaps all too well. Indeed, it’s possible to think of the camps as what happens when you cross three disciplinary institutions that all societies possess—the prison, the army, and the factory. Over the several phases of their existence, the Nazi camps took on the aspects of all of these, so that prisoners were treated simultaneously as inmates to be corrected, enemies to be combatted, and workers to be exploited. When these forms of dehumanization were combined, and amplified to the maximum by ideology and war, the result was the Konzentrationlager, or K.L.
From there we were sent to Buna (an Auschwitz sub camp) and were set to work. After a few months there, I went for a walk one day and saw a few tomatoes growing. I was starving by then so tried to take them and was given a beating so severe, I don’t know how I survived it. I still have the scars from it today. I was taken to hospital and knew the rule: if you didn’t heal in four to five days, they’d take you to Birkenau and you’d be gassed.
Anne Frank Stichting. Anne Frank 1929–1945. Heidelberg: 1979; Idem. Exhibition catalogue in Dutch and English, Anne Frank in the World 1929–1945. Amsterdam: 1985; Idem. Exhibition catalogue in Japanese, Anne Frank in the World. Amsterdam: 1985; Idem. Exhibition catalogue in English, Anne Frank: A History for Today. Amsterdam: 1996; Idem. Anne Frank Magazine 1998. Amsterdam: 1998; Bernard, Catherine A. Tell Him that I …: Women Writing the Holocaust. Stanford: 1995; Barnouw, David, and Gerrold van der Stroom (editors). The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition. London: 1989; Bettelheim, Bruno. “The Ignored Lesson of Anne Frank.” Harper’s, November 1960, 45–50; Boonstra, Janrense, and Jose Rijnder. The Anne Frank House: A Museum with a Story. Amsterdam: 1992; Doneson, Judith E. “The Diary of Anne Frank in the Context of Post-War America and the 1950s.” In The Holocaust in American Film, 57–85. Philadelphia: 1987; Idem. “The American History of Anne Frank’s Diary.” Holocaust and Genocide Studies Vol. 2 No. 1 (1987): 149–160; “ Evans, Martin, and Kenneth Lunn (editors). War and Memory in the Twentieth Century. London: 1997; Fogelman, Eva. Conscience and Courage: Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust. London: 1995; Frank, Anne. Tales from the Secret Annexe. London: 1982; Gies, Miep, and Alison Leslie Gold. Anne Frank Remembered. New York: 1987; Gill, Anton. The Journey Back from Hell: Conversations with Concentration Camp Survivors. London: 1988; Gold, Alison Leslie. Memories of Anne Frank: Reflections of a Childhood Friend. New York: 1997; Goodrich, Frances, and Albert Hackett. The Diary of Anne Frank. London: 1970; Graver, Lawrence. An Obsession with Anne Frank: Meyer Levin and the Diary. London: 1995; Hellwig, Joachim, and Gunther Deicke. Ein Tagebuch für Anne Frank. Berlin: 1959; Hillesum, Etty. Letters from Westerbork. London: 1986; Holliday, Laurel (editor). Children’s Wartime Diaries. London: 1995; de Jong, Louis, and Simon Schema. The Netherlands and Nazi Germany. Connecticut: 1990; Kedward, H. R. Resistance in Vichy France. Oxford: 1978; Kolb, Eberhard. Bergen-Belsen from 1943–1945. Gottingen: 1988; Lasker-Wallfisch, Anita. Inherit the Truth: 1939–1945. London: 1996; Lee, Carol Ann. Roses from the Earth. London: 1999; Levin, Meir. Obsession. New York: 1973; Levy, Isaac. Witness to Evil: Bergen-Belsen 1945. London: 1995; Lindwer, Willy. The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank. New York: 1991; van Maarsen, Jacqueline. My Friend Anne Frank. New York: 1996; Marks, Jane. Hidden Children: Secret Survivors of the Holocaust. London: 1995; Melnick, Ralph. The Stolen Legacy of Anne Frank. Connecticut: 1997; Moore, Bob. Victims and Survivors: The Nazi Persecution of the Jews in the Netherlands 1940–1945. New York: 1997; Mulder, Dirk. Kamp Westerbork. Westerbork: 1991; Müller, Melissa. Das Mädchen Anne Frank. München: 1998; Nijstad, Jaap. Westerbork Drawings: The Life and Work of Leo Kok 1923–1945. Amsterdam: 1990; Pick, Hella, and Simon Wiesenthal. A Life in Search of Justice. London: 1996; Presser, Jacob. Ashes in the Wind: The Destruction of Dutch Jewry. London: 1968; Reilly, Jo, David Cesarani, Tony Kushner and Colin Richmond (editors). Belsen in History and Memory. London: 1997; van der Rol, Ruud, and Rian Verhoeven. Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary. London: 1993; Roodnat, A. C., and M. de Klijn. A Tour of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Amsterdam: 1971; Rosenfeld, Alvin H. “Popularization and Memory: The Case of Anne Frank.” In Lessons and Legacies, edited by Peter Hayes, 243–279. Evanston, Illinois: 1991; Sanchez, Leopold Diego. Jean-Michel Frank. Paris: 1980; Schloss, Eva, with Evelyn Julia Kent. Eva’s Story: A Survivor’s Tale by the Step-sister of Anne Frank. London: 1988; Schnabel, Ernst. The Footsteps of Anne Frank. London: 1976; Shapiro, Eda. “The Reminiscences of Victor Kugler, the ‘Mr Kraler’ of Anne Frank’s Diary.” Yad Vashem Studies 13 (1979); Shawn, Karen. The End of Innocence: Anne Frank and the Holocaust. New York: 1989; Steenmeijer, Anna G., and Otto H. Frank (editors). A Tribute to Anne Frank. New York: 1971; Stoutenbeek, Jan, and Paul Vigeveno. A Guide to Jewish Amsterdam. Amsterdam: 1985; Wiesenthal, Simon. Justice Not Vengeance: The Test Case. London: 1989; Wilson, Cara. Love, Otto. Kansas: 1995; von Wolzogen, Wolf. Anne aus Frankfurt. Frankfurt: 1994.
When I returned this past autumn, the hair was a barely differentiated mass of gray, more like wool than human locks. Only the occasional braid signaled the remnants of something unprecedented and awful—the site where the Third Reich perpetrated the largest mass murder in human history. At least 1.1 million people were killed here, most within hours of their arrival.
Construction of crematorium I began at Auschwitz I at the end of June or beginning of July 1940. Initially intended not for mass murder but for prisoners who had been executed or had otherwise died in the camps, the crematorium was in operation from August 1940 until July 1943, by which time the crematoria at Auschwitz II had taken over. By May 1942 three ovens had been installed in crematorium I, which together could burn 340 bodies in 24 hours.
After Germany's annexation of Austria in March 1938, the Nazis arrested German and Austrian Jews and imprisoned them in the Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen concentration camps, all located in Germany. Following the violent Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass") pogroms in November 1938, the Nazis conducted mass arrests of adult male Jews and incarcerated them in camps for brief periods.
If it isn’t already clear, we are not reliving the thirties, and Trump is not Hitler. One of the journalists whom Schneidermann admires is Edgar Ansel Mowrer, a correspondent for the Chicago Daily News who had already been in Berlin for a decade when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, in January, 1933. Mowrer’s work strongly captures the widespread anti-Semitic violence of the years that preceded Hitler: Jews were assaulted in public, Jewish students were beaten up by classmates. And all German political parties had armed militias that confronted one another frequently—and violently—in the streets; hundreds of people were killed during the 1932 election campaign. This was the context in which Hitler was elected. After Mowrer published a book on this material, the same month as Hitler’s inauguration, he was expelled from Germany.
“Responsibility is extremely direct in face-to-face shootings,” Dwork says. “In gassing and cremation, each person is given only a small part.” Eventually, Germans took part only by tossing the cyanide pellets into the gas chambers. Everything else—herding prisoners into the chambers, ripping out gold fillings and loading corpses into the crematoria—was handled by groups of prisoners, known as Sonderkommandos.
After conquering Poland, Hitler focused on defeating Britain and France. As the war expanded, the Nazi Party formed alliances with Japan and Italy in the Tripartite Pact of 1940, and honored its 1939 Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact with the Soviet Union until 1941, when Germany launched a massive blitzkrieg invasion of the Soviet Union. In the brutal fighting that followed, Nazi troops tried to realize the long-held goal of crushing the world’s major communist power. After the United States entered the war in 1941, Germany found itself fighting in North Africa, Italy, France, the Balkans and in a counterattacking Soviet Union. At the beginning of the war, Hitler and his Nazi Party were fighting to dominate Europe; five years later they were fighting to exist.
The Nazi Party won the greatest share of the popular vote in the two Reichstag general elections of 1932, making them the largest party in the legislature by far, but still short of an outright majority. Because none of the parties were willing or able to put together a coalition government, in 1933 Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany by President Paul Von Hindenburg, through the support and connivance of traditional conservative nationalists who believed that they could control him and his party. Through the use of emergency presidential decrees by Hindenburg, and a change in the Weimar Constitution which allowed the Cabinet to rule by direct decree, bypassing both Hindenburg and the Reichstag, the Nazis had soon established a one-party state.
Between 1933 and the fall of Nazi Germany in 1945, more than 3.5 million Germans were forced to spend time in concentration camps and prisons for political reasons, and approximately 77,000 Germans were executed for one or another form of resistance by Special Courts, courts-martial, and the civil justice system. Many of these Germans had served in government, the military, or in civil positions, which enabled them to engage in subversion and conspiracy against the Nazis.