Auschwitz/Birkenau, April 1943 – January 1945
6. Cattle Car Train to Auschwitz
In April 1943, all the camp’s prisoners are deported. Abe and the other prisoners once again board cattle cars. They are packed so tightly into the railroad cars that they can’t even squat to sit, much less lie down to sleep. They ride for two days with no food, no water, no toilet facilities–with only dirty straw on the floor. They finally arrive at their destination, glad to finally be breathing fresh air when the cattle car doors are pulled open. Instead they are greeted with shouts of anger, with guns and bayonets pointed at them, and with guards holding back police dogs ready to tear them apart. A stench fills the air. They are at Birkenau, part of the Auschwitz complex, called by some “the mother of all concentration camps. ”
In this illustration, you can see the coming together of many tracks that span all of Europe. Auschwitz was the end of the line for millions of Jews, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other innocents. Abe spends almost two years in this most infamous of concentration camps. The average prisoner only survived eight weeks in Auschwitz. Abe learns the ins and outs of survival in Auschwitz. He steals from the Nazis and trades these “organized” goods with Polish citizens when he works outside the gates of the camp.
Abe tells his own version of the now famous story of the Polish dancer named Horowitz, who bravely attacks an SS guard named Schillinger while he is trying to force her to undress in the gas chamber, disguised as a shower. She kills Schillinger with his own gun and wounds another guard before she is machine-gunned to her own death.
Abe also describes how the underground resistance movement operated in Auschwitz, including his own involvement. He tells of his one-sided love for another now famous heroine, Roza Robota, who is hanged with three other women for her role in the Birkenau Sonderkommando Uprising, just weeks before all three Auschwitz camps are evacuated.