Chapter XXIII

ANNIHILATION TIME HAD COME FOR the 4,500 inhabitants of the Gypsy Camp. The measures taken were the same as those taken for the liquidation of the Czech Camp. All the barracks were quarantined. SS guards, leading their police dogs, invaded the Gypsy quarters and chased the inhabitants outside, where they were made to line up. Rations of bread and salami were distributed. The gypsies were made to believe that they were being shipped to another camp, and they swallowed the story. A very easy and efficacious way of calming their fears. No one thought of the crematoriums, for then why would rations of food have been distributed?

This strategy on the part of the SS was dictated neither by pity nor a regard for those condemned to death, but merely by their desire to expedite a large group of people, without any unnecessary incidents or delays, to the gas chambers, guarded by a relatively small patrol. The strategy worked to perfection. Everything went off as planned. Throughout the night the chimneys of numbers one and two crematoriums sent flames roaring skyward, so that the entire camp was lighted with a sinister glow.

Next day the Gypsy Camp, once so noisy, lay silent and deserted. The only sound was the monotonous chant of the barbed wires rubbing together, while the doors and windows left open banged and squeaked endlessly under the powerful wind of the Volhynian steppes.

Once again Europe’s pyromaniacs had organized a gigantic display of fireworks. Once again the setting was the Auschwitz concentration camp. This time, however, the victims thrown to the flames were not Jews, but Christians: Catholic gypsies from Germany and Austria. By morning their bodies had been transformed into a pile of silvery ashes rising in the crematorium courtyard. The bodies of twelve sets of twins had not been consigned to the flames. Even before sending them to the gas chamber, Dr. Mengele had marked a Z.S. on their chests with his special chalk.

In this collection of bodies there were twins of all ages, ranging from newborn infants to sixteen-year-olds. For the moment, the twelve pairs of corpses were stretched out on the concrete floor of the “morgue.” Bodies of black-haired, dark-skinned children. The job of classifying them by pairs was a tiring one. I was careful not to mix them up, for I knew that if I should render these rare and precious specimens unusable for his research, Dr. Mengele would make me pay for it with my life.

Only a few days before I had been sitting with him in the work room, near the table, looking through the records already set up on twins, when he noticed a faint spot of grease on the bright blue cover of one of the files. I often handled the records in the course of my dissections, and had probably spotted it with a bit of grease. Dr. Mengele shot a withering glance at me and said, very seriously:

“How can you be so careless with these files, which I have compiled with so much love!”

The word “love” had just crossed Dr. Mengele’s lips. I was so taken aback that I sat there dumbfounded, unable to think of anything to say in reply.

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