"Atmosphere of death"

"you could smell people being burnt"
Edith Birkin

 

Transcript

Image of German commander

"Auschwitz was very frightening in a certain extent, because it was full of Germans. Because until then we didn't see a lot of Germans in the ghetto, only occasionally. It was full of Germans and the Germans with dogs, and there were these barbed wires, with electricity in it you know. Discipline, very strict discipline. This feeling of death, all these people going in the gas chamber. It was a very weird place, very weird place. With this atmosphere of death all the time you know, and this unbelievable situation of people being… you could smell, you could smell these people being burnt. All the time you smelt this… it was a little bit like you know, when people used to boil glue, it was the bones that smelt like glue. You had volunteers who would go with the Germans you know, and get a bit of food, and they were what was called the kapo, and the block leader you know. Because every of these huts, it was a block, which was called a block, had a block leader who had a little cubicle all to herself, with the women a woman and with the men a man. Because there were only women in our block, we were separated then from the men, so the men had men and the women had women. And it was like a glass cubicle, so they could see us. And you could recognise them because they were not starved, you know, they looked normal in their faces, in their bodies, they weren't hungry, they had enough to eat, and they had reasonable clothes on, they had good clothes on. So, you knew who they were, and they were very sadistic and very cruel, and they treated us, the other prisoners, very very badly. They were prisoners like us, but they had privileged positions you see."

Biography

Edith Birkin
Born 1927, Prague, Czechoslovakia.
Lodz ghetto 1941. Auschwitz camp 1944. Sent to work camp and munitions factory. 1945 death march to Flossenburg camp, then to Belsen. Arrived in England 1946. Married, three adopted children.