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July 04, 1986 - Image 22

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-07-04

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Friday, July 4, 1986



Auschwitz Escapee

Continued from Page 2

twenty minutes, a monument
in concrete, indeed, to its buil-
der, Herr Walter Dejaco.
Auschwitz survivors who,
like myself, were the slave
laborers who worked to build
it, may be interested to learn,
incidentally, that Herr Dejaco
still practices his craft in Re-
utte, a town in the Austrian
Tyrol. In 1963 he won warm
praise from Bishop Rusk of
Innsbruck for the fine new
Presbytery he had built for
Reutte's Parish Priest.
In 1943, however, there was a
war on and he was concerned
with more practical demon-
strations of his skill. The ex-
termination industry was still
in its infancy, but, thanks to his
efficiency, it was about to
make its first really dramatic
stride towards greatness that
morning when Himmler came
to visit us.
He certainly saw an impres-
sive demonstration, marred
only by a time table that would
have caused concern in many a
small German railway station.
Commandant Hoess, anxious
to display his new toy at its
most efficient, had arranged
for a special transport of 3,000
Polish Jews to be present for
slaughter in the modern, Ger-
man way.
Himmler arrived at eight
o'clock that morning and the
show was to start an hour la-
ter. By eight forty-five, the new
gas chambers, with their
clever dummy showers and
their notices "Keep Clean,"
"Keep Quiet" and so on, were
packed to capacity.
The S.S. Guards, indeed, had
made sure that not an inch of
space would be wasted by fir-
ing a few shots at the entrance.
This encouraged those already
inside to press away from the
doors and more victims were
ushered in. Then babies and
very small children were tos-
sed onto the heads of the adults
and the doors were closed and
An S.S. man, wearing a
heavy service gas mask, stood
on the roof of the chamber,
waiting to drop in the Cyclon B
pellets which released a hyd-
rogen cyanide gas. His was a
post of honor that day, for sel-
dom would he have had such a
distinguished audience and he
probably felt as tense as the
starter of the Derby.
By eight fifty-five, the ten-
sion was almost unbearable.
The man in the gas mask was
fidgetting with his boxes of pel-
lets. He had a fine full house
beneath him. But there was no
sign of the Reichsfuhrer who
had gone off to have breakfast
with Commandant Hoess.
Somewhere a phone rang.
Every head turned towards it.
A junior N.C.O. clattered over
to the officer in charge of the
operation, saluted hastily and
panted out a message. The
officer's face stiffened, but he
said not a word.
The message was: "The
Reichsfuhrer hasn't finished
his breakfast yet."
Everyone relaxed slightly.

Then another phone call. An-
other dash by a perspiring
N.C.O. Another message. The
officer in charge swore to him-
self and muttered to those of
equal rank around him.
The Reichsfuhrer, it seemed,
was still at his breakfast. The
S.S. man on the roof of the gas
chamber squatted on his
haunches. Inside the chamber
itself frantic men and women,
who knew by that time what a
shower in Auschwitz meant,
began shouting, screaming
and pounding weakly on the
door; but nobody outside
heard them because the new
chamber was sound-proof as
well as gas-proof.
Even if they had been heard,
nobody would have taken any
notice of them, for the S.S. men
had their own worries. The
morning dragged on and the
messengers came and went. By
ten o'clock the marathon
breakfast was still under way.
By half past ten the S.S. men
had become almost immune to
false alarms and the man on
the roof remained on his
haunches even when the dis-
tant telephone rang.
But by eleven o'clock, just
two hours late, a car drew up.
Himmler and Hoess got out
and chatted for a while to the
senior officers present. Him-
mler listened intently, as they
explained the procedure to
him in detail. He ambled over
to the sealed door, glanced
casually through the small,
thick observation window at
the squirming bodies inside,
then returned to fire some
more questions at his underl-
At last, however, everything
was ready for action. A sharp
command was given to the S.S.
man on the roof. He opened a
circular lid and dropped the
pellets quickly onto the heads
below him. He knew, everyone
knew, that the heat of those
packed bodies would cause
these pellets to release their
gases in a few minutes; and so
he closed the lid quickly.
The gassing had begun. Hav-
ing waited for a while so that
the poison would have circu-
lated properly, Hoess courte-
ously invited his guest to have
another peep through the. ob-
servation window. For some
minutes Himmler peered into
the death chamber, obviously
impressed, and then turned
with new interest to his Com-
mandant with a fresh batch of
What he had seen seemed to
have satisfied him and put him
in good humor. Though he
rarely smoked, he accepted a
cigarette from an officer, and,
as he puffed at it rather clum-
sily, he laughed and joked.
The introduction of this
more homely atmosphere, of
course, did not mean any neg-
lect of the essential business.
Several times he left the group
of officers to watch the pro-
gress through the peep hole;
and, when everyone inside was
dead, he took a keen interest in
the procedure that followed.

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