Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Belzec.

The Belzec death camp, created as part of Operation Reinhard (see Treblinka post for more details), was in use from March 1942 to June 1943. Along with Chelmno, Treblinka, Sobibor, Majdanek and Auschwitz it was used to destroy the Jewish people, Romani people, Homosexuals and many others, of Europe. Can you imagine attempting to destroy entire peoples?

Although it was a small camp, it is estimated (again we have no exact figures of the innocent people that were murdered there) that around 500,000 people were gassed at Belzec in 15 months. After the terrified victims had been ordered to undress they were then herded into a gas chamber. Their bodies were dumped in mass graves, but when the Nazis realised they were losing the war, they ordered the Sonderkommando (prisoners made to work the camp, herd people into gas chambers, dispose of bodies etc.) to dig all the bodies up and burn them, (so it seems that they did know what they were doing was wrong and the whole propaganda about the Jewish problem was just an excuse). 

Belzec, like every other Nazi camp, was hell on earth. As well as the horrifying mass murder that was taking place, there are also many instances of horrendous cruelty from the camp guards. It is clear that the SS and Ukrainian guards of Belzec did not see their victims as people but as vermin, the lesson of dehumanisation is one we can all learn from.

Chaim Hirszman one of the few survivors of Belzec  (and the war but who was murdered by Polish anti-Semities after the war) remembered:

“A transport of children up to three years of age arrived. The workers were told to dig a big hole into which the children were thrown and buried alive. I cannot forget how the earth rose, until the children suffocated.

Today we want to be focussing on the perpetrators, people who ordered children to be buried alive, who beat a 16 year old boy to death in front of his brother, who laughed as innocent people begged for their lives and who willingly destroyed families. You may ask us why we are paying attention to them? Well, to understand and really learn from the Holocaust we need to understand the actions of the perpetrators too.   People like Reinhold Feix, Irma Grese, Isle KochFranz Stangle and Amon Goth, who all made choices. The perpetrators were not monsters, they just chose (and yes, it was a choice, they were not required to work in concentration camps) to do monsterous things and we have to ask ourselves how? How could adults bury children alive? We aren't sure to be honest, all we know is how horrendous it was and that it must never happen again.

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