Lessons from Auschwitz - The Purbeck School Humanities Blog

When all the women in the transport
Had their heads shaved
Four workmen with brooms made of birch twigs
Swept up
And gathered up the hair
Behind clean glass
The stiff hair lies
Of those suffocated in gas chambers
There are pins and side combs
In this hair
The hair is not shot through with light
Is not parted by the breeze
Is not touched by any hand
Or rain or lips
In huge chests
Clouds of dry hair
Of those suffocated
And a faded plait
A pigtail with a ribbon
Pulled at schools
By naughty boys
Gena was born on Krakow in 1923 and survived Plaszow, Auschwitz- Birkenau and BergenBelsen.
“We must have been walking for about three weeks and it snowed all the way. We kept
wondering: ‘When will it end? How much further?’
As we got nearer to Auschwitz and the German border, some people came out their houses
with buckets of water and deliberately poured it on the ground in front of us, to mock us. Some
stood eating chunks of bread as they watched us pass by…
At Auschwitz- Birkenau, every last remnant of respect and dignity was squeezed out of us. In
our lose, striped, insect ridden clothing and with our hair cropped or shaved, we felt
completely dehumanised.
Elie was born in Romania and deported to Auschwitz where his parents and sister were
For a part of a second I glimpsed my mother and my sisters moving away to the right… I saw
them disappear into the distance; my mother was stroking my sister’s fair hair, as though to
protect her, while I walked on with my father and other men. And I did not know that in that
place, at that moment, I was parting from my mother and Tzipora forever.
A little farther on was another and larger ditch for adults. I pinched my face. Was I still alive?
Was I awake? I could not believe it. How could it be possible for them to burn people, children
and for the world to keep silent?