Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A is for Auschwitz: Blogging A to Z April 2014 Challenge

Blogging From A to Z April Challenge

As you (should) know, my theme for this year's blog-fest is WWII. I'm jumping right in with a weighted topic for my premiere post in this year's challenge.  It mirrors my motto of, "Go big or go home" and overall life philosophy.  I'm no wallflower.  You will know I'm at the party.  I'll be the crazy bitch chugging vodka, Chelsea Handler style, and dancing on your dining room table.  I'm a classy bitch though, so clothes will remain ON.

Moving on...

I like to include links in my posts.  I have an inquisitive mind and if something interests me, I always like to know more about it. On that note, let's get down to business...

A is for Auschwitz

I think we all know enough about the actual camp and the heinous activities perpetrated by the Nazis. 

We are not going through the gates of Auschwitz today.  

I want to tell you a story about a man who, luckily, never arrived at those hellish gates. 

Leo Bretholz
He and a friend jumped from a train en route to Auschwitz and avoided certain death.

Leo Bretholz and a friend were on the train to Auschwitz, having been deported from the Drancy concentration camp outside of Paris, France.  This was not his first escape, but it was probably the one that saved his life.  Below is a transcript of Mr. Bretholz's oral testimony about his escape from the death train. What an amazing person.  

Watch Leo Bretholz tell his story.  CLICK HERE (this will open a new window)


But as soon as the train started in the morning, and we were out of Paris for, about half an hour or so out of Paris, we decided our task to, to pry these bars apart. And we know that when you make a cloth wet, a towel wet, it has tensile strength in wringing it, you can wring it, and when you twist it it becomes like a tourniquet. So we took off our sweaters, pullovers, v-necks, and dipped them into that human waste in the bucket, and didn't even have to use the bucket because the floor of the, we were squatting in it, and walking in it, and inhaling it, and it's still up there in my nostrils right now even when I talk about it. And, uh, we used these sweaters to twist around the bars--if these are the bars, twisted around--and twist, and twist, and twist until all the liquid had poured out and had been twisted out, by that time, it had developed that strength, and we did that often enough, alternating between him and myself, until the bars started to somewhat move in the frame. We saw them move. Why? Because the rust in the frame started falling down in dust. Rusty dust. And when we saw these bars moving, that was the light at the end of the tunnel, to use a cliche, or, uh, what do you call it, a metaphor. That was it. We knew that if we would continue that often enough, that eventually these bars will be giving enough for us to be able to bend them. Up and down, up and down, until finally they had moved enough where we could bend them into a, into a position where the opening was wide enough for us to be able to squeeze through, and we did, at a given moment we did, and after we escaped, that, uh, we lay there in the, in the, in the ravine for a while that almost seemed like an eternity, made our way into a village, went to a bakeshop, the apprentice came to the door and told us there was no bread now, not until the morning, and we said we're not interested in bread, we would like to know where the village priest lives, and he said he was going to take us to his house or home which was right adjoining a sacristy, uh, joining the church, and we got to him, we had torn off our Jewish stars. I feel now that if we had them on it would have been more reassuring for him because he would have known who we were, although we could have been a, it could have been a trap, but, uh, he recog--and we told him that we had escaped from a train, we were very frank with him, and we didn't know, he could have been a collaborator too, you know, but we felt we were in good hands as we saw the face of the man. And he said, "Yeah, they come through here several times a week," and, uh, we know, we know that, but you know, he says, "I can let you stay here for the night. But in the morning, very early, I'd have to get you out of your warm bed, because between five and six, a patrol can come by here almost regularly." So he, he gave us milk, and bread, and cheese, warm milk, put us into a feather bed, into a crisp white sheet, and that after being in Drancy with a straw on a cement floor and vermin and, uh, putrid stench, and it was like you were on a cloud. And when he woke us with that soft voice in the morning: "Hey, fellows, faut que vous levez. You have to get up. Il faut que vous partez. Il faut partir. You have to get away because you know...." Gave us a, uh, a letter to another colleague of his, also a priest in a village, not too far, and we spent the next day in his place, an adjoining stable, not a barn, a stable, and we spending that night lying between cows.

End of transcript.
This story, and many others, can be accessed for free at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's website at