Josef Kramer

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Josef Kramer (Birkenau)

“Josef Kramer was the commandant of the camp of Birkenau; the face he showed when he came to listen to the orchestra was certainly not that known to the other men and women of the camp. The only one who had said anything about him at all was Ewa: he loved music, and it was he, with Mandel, who kept us alive; we depended on him. He always behaved correctly with us, but a Polish comrade who worked in the infirmary had told Ewa that he was not immune to the sort of collective hysteria that seized the SS when the loaded their trucks for the crematoria. On occasion he could be as wild as the rest of them, not hesitating to shatter a woman’s skull with a blow of his club.So this was the brute – I couldn’t think of him as a man – who was about to make his entrance. I was curious to see him. I would have liked to talk with him, to understand. To understand – it was a mania with me. I continued to believe that there was something to understand, that this desire for extermination was motivated by reasons which simply escaped me. One didn’t organize death for death’s sake; there must have been another purpose, but what? Those men who, in defiance of all human laws, obeyed those perpetrators of monstrous genocide, behind what were they taking refuge so as to live with themselves?”

Excerpted from……”PLAYING FOR TIME”, Fania Fenelon with Marcelle Routier. Athenium, New York, 1977. ISBN 0-689-10796-X , p. 91