On reaching our destination, we were left confined to the trains for hours while the station area was cleared of previous transports.  At the time, numerous transports were reaching Auschwitz in rapid succession.  As an German railway man remarked to a colleague: "You get the impression that Auschwitz is a large and rapidly expanding city: thousands of people go there, but no one never leaves." Indeed, one of the grounds for sitting the "final solution" complex at this location was the fact it constituted a rail junction with lines from numerous parts of Poland.  Up to 1942, all transports were "unloaded" at a platform near Auschwitz 1. In 1942 the Germans began using a second platform which, being Jews, became known as the 'Judenrampe'. It was to this platform that we were brought.


In the afternoon, the freight car doors were flung open.  "Out of the cars!" In harsh tones, the German command boomed from the loudspeakers.  "Packages to the left in the cars!"


Needing no urging, we hurtled out of the packed wagons; but before we could catch our breath, we found ourselves face to face with the fearsome S.S. The platform was encompassed by hundreds of S.S. men armed with machine guns, assault rifles, clubs and revolvers.  Many held the leashes of Alsatian attack dogs, who flashed their teeth and emitted menacing growls.  EREZ the teacher descended carrying a small bundle, an offense for which he was clubbed till his head was bloody.  Rabbi DAVID FEIGENBAUM was also savagely beaten, for no apparent reason.


A command rang out, bellowing and insistent: "Men on this side, women and children on the other!" The distance between the two groups was about one hundred meters, but for those divided from their dear ones, they were worlds apart.  The separation of women and children from husbands and fathers was attended by heartrending sobs.  But all were dazed and terrified, leaving them incapable of independent reflection.  The loud orders, with their accompanying cacophony of curses and imprecations, the harking of dogs and thuds of rifle butts, deadened all thought. It occurred to no one to resist the command.


Now carne the infamous "selection". I do not know who directed it that particular day.  Subsequently consigned to eternal infamy, Nazi quasi-scientist Dr. Josef Mengele had been posted to Auschwitz on the recommendation of Berlln's Academy of Sciences.  At the camp, he established a laboratory for inhuman experimentation on human beings, women and identical twins particularly.  Not far behind in the perpetration of hideous war crimes was one of his team, Romanian-born Dr. Viktor Capsius, who held the rank of major, officiating in Auschwitz as head pharmacist.  In 1944, he abandoned his pharmacy to dedicate himself to the extermination of Jews.  When Hungarian Jews were brought to the camp, Capsius was Dr. Mengele's chief aide in conducting the selections.  He personally dispatched one transport of 1,800 persons to the gas chambers.  From another transport, he and Dr. Mengele sent 1,200 children to be gassed.  On October 10, while Mengele conducted a large-scale selection which consigned all Birkenau hospital patients to the gas chambers, Dr. Capsius made sure gas was delivered on schedule and in prearranged quantities.  He also tested intoxicants on inmates, at least two of whom died in the experiments.


When we reached the camp at the beginning of 1943, the team supervising the selection also included Wilhelm Boger, of whom I shall have more to relate.


We stood in rows of five while a senior S.S. officer strode by, indicating with one finger those who were  remain in place, and those to be sent to another group. Right, left, right, left.  The selection was arbitrary, by superficial appearance.  The process was depicted by Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Ferdinand Hoess, in his testimony at the Nuremberg trials, and in his memoirs:


"The selection process was as follows.  The wagons were cleared in succession.  After the cargo was unloaded, the Jews, one by one, were forced to pass before an S.S. doctor and, as they passed, he assessed the fitness of each one.  Those fit for work were immediately taken in small groups to the camp.  The fitness percentage averaged 25-30 in each transport, but there were numerous fluctuations."


We soon caught on that those younger and stronger in appearance were consigned to one group, women with children were sent to another group.  Men who looked sickly or frail, were sent to one side, as were women without children.  Grasping the thrust of the selection , some attempted to steal over to the group of the young and strong.  Anyone caught doing so received a severe beating.


As a rule, the selection went through with no questions asked.  Only in rare cases did the officer pose two queries: "How old are you'?" and "What is your profession?" It is evident in hindsight that anyone admitting to a clerical calling was consigned to the gas chambers.  Those claiming to be builders or electricians, etc. were retained in the camp.  Hoess testified that Jewish physicians and medical personnel were without exception consigned to the camp.


On being asked my age during the selection, I gave my year of birth as 1924, making me one year older than I was at the time. I considered it advisable to claim that I was no child.  My father, who lined up with the Judenrat members and employees, was sent to one side, with his colleagues.  We soon learned the reason: unlike the ghetto, where the Council of Jews served the Germans as a convenient tool, the German interest in the extermination camp - where they sought to control and subdue the prisoners without courting rebellion - was the swift elimination of any kind of leadership.


It is evident in hindsight that, had the multitudes shown any resistance, it would have hindered the Germans in herding them to the gas chambers.  As it was, being ignorant of where they were headed, all went meekly.  Had it been otherwise, the Germans would have had to deploy numerous soldiers, of a higher caliber than those posted to the camps; in addition, they were reluctant to expend ammunition.  In their operation of the camps, the Germans were abetted by Hungarians, Croats, Poles and others who, as anti-Semites, collaborated willingly in the extermination of the Jews; but, not being soldiers, these underlings would have been powerless to cope with an organized revolt by hordes of prisoners.


Had the entire camp rebelled, the guards would have been easily overpowered - as indeed occurred at Sobibor in October 1943.  When the Warsaw ghetto uprising erupted in 1944, the Germans were obliged to deploy considerable forces for its suppression.


Right up to the very end of the war, there was no revolt in the extermination camps - one reason being the fact that the Germans eliminated any leadership.  Left leaderless, individual inmates thought only of holding out another day, and another, until war's end.  In the depths of his heart, each one was convinced that he would he lucky enough to survive.


Of each transport of 2.500 to reach Auschwitz-Birkenau from Pruzany. about three hundred men and two hundred women - 1,200 men and 800 women in all - were selected for admission into the camp.  The rest, including the dead and sick. were all loaded on trucks and taken to Blrkenau, one mile from the rail station.  'Those of us remaining behind had no inkling that it would he their final journey on this earth.  A long time elapsed before scraps of conversation we picked up opened our eyes to what the Germans had done with those taken away.


In the midst of a birch copse stood a modest-sized white structure which the S.S. had converted into a gas chamber.  Men and women were herded together into a wooden hut, where they were commanded to undress; then, naked, as many as 2,000 at a time were packed into the small structure.  The doors were sealed hermetically.  An S.S. man clambered up on the roof and lobbed poison gas canisters through special hatches which were then shut.  When the Germans were sure that all had succumbed to the gas, the doors were opened for disposal of the corpses; gold teeth were extracted and the hair shorn off women and children before the bodies were flung into a great pit lined with dry wood, where they were doused with gasoline and set ablaze.


On occasion, the victims endured vicious torment at their killers' hands before being put to death.  Such was the fate of the third transport from Pruzany, which reached the extermination camp on February 2, 1943.  Scenting the stench of charred flesh, the deportees halted in their tracks, refusing to go to the gas chambers like sheep to the slaughter.  The Germans promptly set their dogs on them and heat them with clubs.  When they ultimately got them to the gas chambers, the lethal Zyklon was introduced in amounts smaller than usual.  Three hours passed before the last of the tormented souls succumbed.


In March 1943, the Germans streamlined their death machine when they completed construction of the large crematoria, which were promptly operated at full capacity.  Outwardly, they resembled modern bathhouses.  Right up to the last moment, the victims did not realize where they were being led.  They were herded into large chambers where misleadingly innocuous inscriptions instructed each person to arrange the clothes he removed and tie his shoes together, so as to facilitate their return on his emergence from the shower.  They were each given a towel and bar of soap, and led to a basement whose entrance bore the sign: "To the showers".  When the chamber was full - it could hold 3,000 persons, and its ceiling was fitted with simulated showerheads - the doors were bolted.  Instead of water, the pipes now released a stream of lethal Zykion.


When we reached the camp early in February 1943, we had absolutely no inkling of these horrors.