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Confessions of an Auschwitz Number
  Joseph Rogel author
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Poet Joseph Rogel was interned in several Nazi concentration camps, the most notorious of which was Auschwitz in his native Poland. There, the infamous sign over the gate announced with cruel deception, "Arbeit Macht Frei," or "Work Makes You Free."

Auschwitz had been established in 1940, and quickly expanded under the command of Rudolf Hoess. There, between 1942 and 1944, more than one million people, mainly Jews from every European country under German occupation, would meet their deaths. Auschwitz, actually a complex of camps, was divided into three main sections: Auschwitz, Birkenau and Monowice and covered 40 square kilometres. It was a location large enough for the Nazis to envisage the realization of their "final solution" to the Jewish question and remote enough to mask their terrible program.

Before the construction of specialized gas chambers, the SS gassed victims in adapted farmhouses. Their bodies were burned on funeral pyres or in mass graves before the massive crematoria could be finished. The smoke could be smelled for miles and the light from the fires was considered a hazard by the Nazis' local air defence.

Later, victims, under the pretext of being sent to the bathhouse, were crammed into sealed chambers and killed by poison gas that came through ceiling vents. Fellow prisoners were forced to remove the bodies, only to be killed later themselves.

Gold teeth were extracted from corpses and shorn hair was saved for other uses. Eyeglasses and shoes were heaped into massive piles.

Prisoners not immediately selected for death were tattooed with identification numbers on the inside of their left forearms. They spent their foreshortened lives in starvation and forced labour, punctuated by roll calls that forced them to stand at attention for several hours. Internees were forced to witness the killing of fellow prisoners and subjected to beatings and humiliation by SS guards. Many chose the moments of their own deaths by running up against the fences, where they were electrocuted or shot.

At times, Rogel had been consigned to the notorious Block 11, where especially cruel tortures and executions were committed. Rogel settled in Montreal after the war and over the ensuing decades reflected on his experiences and their aftermath in poetry.

From the book

  I Received A Letter Excerpt

  I See                           Excerpt

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