by Mitch Albom
I was walking through Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel and one of the most haunting places in the world when I stopped to listen to a video from an elderly female survivor.
She was talking about the questions she got after the war, including “Why did Jews (like her) willingly board the Nazi trains if they knew those trains were going to concentration camps?”
She explained that they didn’t know. That the Nazis often forced other Jewish people, under the threat of death, to stand on the train platforms and lie, assuring the passengers being herded into boxcars that they were going to new jobs and new homes. The Nazis even gave them phony receipts after taking all their money, claiming they could exchange them for foreign currency once they arrived in their new “resettlement.”
Of course, there was no resettlement. When the boxcar doors opened, the Jews were greeted with snarling dogs and pointed guns. They were shoved into lines, and those deemed too old, too young or too feeble were murdered the same day. Many were led to gas chambers disguised as showers. They were told to strip, crowd inside, and wait by the faucets.
No water came out. Instead, poison gas soon left a chamber full of corpses, which were lugged to a nearby crematorium and burned. A survivor once recounted, when she asked where the rest of her family was, how a Nazi pointed to the plumes of smoke rising from the crematorium chimneys and said, “There.”
This is not a maybe. This is not up for debate. This is fact – stark, horrible, evil fact told again and again by the people who were forced to endure it.