Dear Gentlemen (presuming that there are no ladies among you),
I am learning from the press that these last two days, you had a conference in order to examine, in a scientific way, the Holocaust and question whether Nazi Germany used gas chambers to kill Jews. I do not know the outcome of your conference, but I can give the answer to your question without any scientific research, just from my own life. It is: Yes.
What I unterstood
I was born in 1933 in the then Free City of Danzig, the annexion of which to Germany by the Nazis marked the beginning of World War II. My family lived in a residential area of the town. Our neighbours to the right were a Polish family with three girls about the age of my sisters and me, we played together and were good friends. Our neighbours to the left were an elderly Jewish couple, whom we called Uncle and Auntie, visited them often and liked them very much.
When the war and with it the Nazi time began, I was six years old. I think you know that small children, although they do not really understand things, feel very well what is going on around them, feel danger and threats. I felt that there was something wrong in the family of our Polish friends; their father was not seen any more. Much later I learned that he, a teacher at the Polish high school, was taken to a concentration camp during the first days of the war; he never came back. I felt that Uncle and Auntie seemed to be very afraid, that it became dangerous to visit them. They sold their house and moved to a smaller apartment in town, and we rarely saw them.
To be fetched
Then, one day in late winter 1941/42, my mother came in saying that last night, our Polish neighbours, mother and daughters, were “fetched”, and that Uncle and Auntie were fetched, too. At that time, I was old enough to understand: I knew the word “to fetch”, I had heard it rather often. To be fetched meant to be taken to a concentration camp, and I knew very well that there was such a camp not far from our town, the name was Stutthof. Several persons my parents knew were in this camp. I did not know exactly what was going on therein, but my eldest sister told me much later that one night she overheard my parents talking about the camp Stutthof – and what she learned at that moment spoiled all her youth, she said.
After some time, the empty house of the Polish family was taken over by an SS man coming from another part of Germany with his wife and two children. Much later it was found out that this man, who coveted the house, had arranged to take the Polish family on a transport of Jews to the Warsaw Ghetto. On the transport, they were together with Uncle and Auntie. Through various circumstances, they could get out of the Ghetto and stayed alive, but Uncle and Auntie were transported “elsewhere”, and were never seen again.
My parents first forbade to me to play with the new neighbours’ children, but later on I occasionally did play with the girl who was a bit younger than I. And it happened what my parents had been afraid of: I mentioned to her something I had heard concerning people of our acquaintance who were in danger to be taken to the camp. The girl told their maid (luckily not her parents!), who told my parents, and my father gave me the only terrible slap of my life.
Children know what parents know. During the last years of the war, although officially it was never mentioned, it was well known among us children that there were concentration camps, were not only everybody who said something against the Nazis got in, but where all the Jews finally got in and most of them killed, and the word “gas chamber” was absolutely common to us. I remember the moment when one class mate told me with horror that “they” were now making soap out of the bones of killed jews. I was eleven then; apparently at that age children can stand horrible news quite easily; I was horrified but it did not “spoil my youth”.
This “soap” thing, I have been hearing later on from many people of my age and of different regions of Germany, that at that time being children they had talked about it. I do not know that its truth has ever been scientifically proved. You may call it a “myth”, but: dont’t you think that such a myth can only be spread when it is rather obvious that somewhere people are killed in masses, so that one could emangine that their bones can be used like this?
Be sure: the Holocaust took place!
After all this, since I am adult, one thing is clear to me: human beings are able to commit the most horrible crimes when the context is appropriate. And when they are a people like mine, who are said to be excellent organizers and do all things throroughly – then they are able to organize a mass killing.
I am part of this people. My feelings towards Germany are like one’s feelings towards one’s family: One is happy when family members do good things, and one is ashamed when they commit crimes. And I am terribly ashamed of what members of my people have done. My striving throughout my life has been: such things must never happen again!
I know, Gentlemen: the moral reputation of Germany is not your concern. Your concern is to deny the right of existence of the State of Israel.
But if you insist on this, Gentlemen, then – find another pretext !
The Holocaust took place.
But I want to make one thing clear: To me, the Holocaust is not a reason to excuse the actions of Israeli politics towards the Palestinians. I do and will continue to criticize how the Palestinians are treated by Israel in many respects.
But the alternative is not the eradication of the State of Israel. The alternative is that all parties concerned must make all efforts that Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and welfare in the region.
Tags: Holocaust, Jews, Israel, Palestine, Iran, concentration camps, gas chambers