Authors

Object ID

2019.2.27a-h

Object Name

Narrative

Date

7-13-1945

Files

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Description

"PROTOKOLL" in black print and underlined in upper left corner, eight pages, two holes punched in left side, "NR. 13. VII. 1945" in black print and underlined in upper right corner.

Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Copy of a post WWII narrative given in German by a Slovakian woman Katharina Lorbeer to the Hungarian National Committee for Attending Deportees, describing her deportation to Auschwitz, and her experiences there. She is transported to Auschwitz by railcar in April 1942. Beaten by SS guards as the prisoners exit the train, Lorbeer and fellow prisoners are marched across the men’s section of the camp to the women’s barracks. All belongings are confiscated save one dress and underwear. Along with other women from Slovakia, she is tattooed, her hair is shorn, and her remaining clothes confiscated. She receives lice-ridden uniforms taken from executed Russian soldiers along with wooden shoes. They are taken out to the central yard for roll call, which lasts until past midnight. Lorbeer and her fellow inmates are put to work loading sand onto railcars. She does this for six months, guarded by Jewish “kapos” from the Ravensbruck concentration camp. Rumors persist that they will soon be sent to brothels at the front for German soldiers. In December, they are tasked with carrying bricks for the construction of a new crematorium. She describes a visit by SS chief Heinrich Himmler in December of 1942, in whose honor 50 randomly selected male prisoners are hanged. Lorbeer states that while the camp commander had allowed the prisoners to wear shoes to protect against the bitter cold, Himmler stated that “there is no good or bad weather for inmates,” and decreed that prisoners are to always work shoeless regardless of weather conditions. Moved to the subcamp of Birkenau, Lorbeer finds no latrines, dirt floors in the barracks, and miserable conditions in general. She is in “sumpfkommand” (“swamp commando”) draining the surrounding marshlands. With no access to drinking water, she is forced to rely on water from the swamp, into which the SS guards regularly dump truckloads of ash from the crematorium. Such conditions make diseases such a typhus common. Lorbeer describes the selection of prisoners to be executed in the gas chambers, early in 1943 as 35,000 women in the camp are gathered in the courtyard at two in the morning, as SS doctors Mengele, and others gather by the gate. The prisoners are made to pass through the gate with their hands outstretched, and any prisoner with reddened palms or demonstrating any kind of limp is selected for immediate execution. Only 5,000 women pass muster. Such selections continue daily, although Birkenau is slowly expanded and gains a proper sewer system, leading to improved hygiene. By this time, however, Lorbeer reports that veteran inmates like herself have become apathetic and sluggish, and would be happy to be selected to put an end to their misery. Lorbeer recounts the rumors of horrific medical experiments being performed in Block 10 of Auschwitz, especially on new arrivals. With the advance on the Soviet Army in January 1945, the prisoners are evacuated on a forced march to Ravensbruck, during which hundreds of prisoners starve to death or are shot by guards. From Ravensbruck, they are transported to the subcamp of Retzow. Lorbeer and her companions hide from a further transport from Retzow, and are eventually liberated by Red Army soldiers on May 1st, 1945. Of the 15,000 Slovakian women transported in 1942, only 300 survive.

Dimensions

11 3/4 x 8 1/4"

Keywords

Katharina Lorbeer, Heinrich Himmler, Auschwitz, Birkenau, Mengele

Subcollection

1943-1945: Rescue, Aid and Liberation

Auschwitz Narrative of Katharina Lorbeer

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