Essay on Holocaust: The Holocaust and Abc-clio Ebook Collection

Submitted By cassadaga
Words: 1697
Pages: 7

Through the Chamber of Death & Deceit The Holocaust (1933-1945) was an infamous period in history, which was led by Adolf Hitler and carried out by the Nazis. It started out as unfair treatment to the Jews in Germany, but over the course of time, it progressed into a movement to exterminate them completely. Innocent people were being forced into concentration camps where they were tortured, experimented on, and murdered. “[These] killing centers were streamlined, high-tech operations capable of killing and disposing of thousands upon thousands of people in a day” (Soumerai and Schulz 184). However, the two most efficient systems utilized within these centers were the gas chamber and the crematoria. From the arrival of the prisoners to the disposal of their corpses, secrecy and deceit were necessary elements which were carefully maintained. During the Holocaust, the phrase “going to the east,” though understood by German officials to be a euphemism for killing, to the Jews and their neighbors meant simply relocating to Poland to perform more hard labor. To someone ignorant of the truth, each order leading to deportation was just one more in a series of painful, but not deadly, demands (139). The Nazis created an intake system which was both simple and effective. Upon arrival to the camps by train, the Jews were “hurried from the boxcars and ordered to leave their personal belongings behind. They were then forced to stand in one of two lines, the men in one and the women in the other” (Fischel 82). It was at this time that they were evaluated in a selection process which determined who would live and who would die. “Those who appeared strong and healthy were

Burke 2 waved to one side and designated for hard labor. The others were sent to the gas chambers” (81). Additionally, any prisoner suspected to be infected with Typhus was undeniably placed in the line of those to be gassed (Baumslag 59). The prisoners were never made aware of what each line represented or of what fate awaited them, in-turn making them less likely to rebel. The task of pairing the prisoners with their appropriate lines was placed in the hands of SS (Schutzstaffel) doctors such as the nefarious Dr. Josef Mengele. Extensive measures were taken in order to deceive those who were selected for death; this aided the soldiers by reducing the resistance from prisoners. These inmates were first told that they were going to the bath houses to be bathed and deloused. “In an underground dressing room, approximately 107 feet by 25 feet by 9 feet, people were instructed to undress and leave their clothing neatly piled, and to remember where their clothes were placed so they could be retrieved after the showers” (Soumerai and Schulz 184). This method of verbal deception reassured the prisoners that they would be coming out alive, thus rendering them more likely to cooperate. The gas chambers themselves were strategically camouflaged to look like showers, outfitted with real pipes and showerheads. At times, prisoners were even handed a bar of soap as they made their way to the chamber. There were signs posted on the walls which also helped contribute to the illusion that the showers were in-fact genuine. When translated to English, the signs read “To the baths and disinfecting rooms,” “Cleanliness brings freedom!,” and “One louse can kill you” (184). Once they reached the chamber, the women and children were the first to be escorted into the guised showers, then the men. Sonderkommandos, a special unit of mostly Jewish prisoners, were often present during this process to help maintain the facade. As the prisoners were ushered into the chamber, the Sonderkommandos would say almost anything to convince their fellow inmates that no harm awaited them within. The guards would then stand

Burke 3 inside the chamber with the prisoners until the very last moment to further perpetuate the masquerade. The process of gassing the victims was fairly straightforward from a