History has a way of reminding us that the worst chapters in humanity keep finding ways to remind us of them. During renovations at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp, now a museum for the Holocaust, workers discovered a bottle with a letter signed by inmates 65 years ago. It serves as yet another reminder of the individual humanity lost in the mass murder of the Nazi Final Solution:
Workers demolishing the wall of a building that once belonged to the former Nazi German Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp have found a message in a bottle written by prisoners 65 years ago, Auschwitz museum officials said.
“We know two of the Auschwitz prisoners who signed the message survived the camp, but their later fate isn’t known,” Auschwitz-Birkenau museum historian Jerzy Mensfelt told AFP in a telephone interview.
“If they are alive, they would be in their 80s now. Perhaps the publicity surrounding this discovery will lead to more information,” he said.
Workers found the bottled message when recently demolishing a wall at the State Higher Vocational School in the southern Polish town of Oswiecim, the site of the infamous World War II Auschwitz Nazi German death camp.
The bottle with a note inside had been placed in the mortar of a wall of building which had served as a warehouse for the camp’s Nazi guards during the war.
Hand-written in pencil, the note bears the names and camp ID numbers of seven camp prisoners including four Poles and one Frenchman from Lyon, Mr Mensfelt confirmed. All were aged 18 to 20.
Facing annihilation, these inmates of an charnel house run by the dregs of mankind knew they had to find a way to testify to their existence. They wanted to make sure that people knew they had been there, so that when the Nazi regime finally collapsed, someone would be held accountable for their fate. It speaks to the hopelessness of their own situation, but contradictorily to the hope they had that someone would eventually find the evidence and do something about it.
The Nazis could kill them by the millions, but they could never crush their spirit, nor their faith that good would eventually prevail. Amazing.
Update: HA commenter Unclesmrgol supplies this link to a follow-up with one of the survivors:
“I am a little shaken up by this bottle business – it’s a mystery,” Albert Veissid, now a sprightly 84-year-old, said at his home in Allauch in southeastern France.
“It’s incredible. I remember everything from the camp, from A to Z. As I speak to you now, I can see the images before my eyes.
“But this bottle business is an enigma. The biggest surprise of my life,” said the former fairground worker, who was arrested by collaborationist French authorities in 1943 and deported to Poland the following year. …
Mr Veissid said he remembers meeting the six Poles in question while working as a builder at the camp.
“It’s true I did them some favours. There was food supplied upstairs and they used to steal tubs of marmalade, which I would hide downstairs,” he said.
“Maybe they wrote my name in the bottle as a way of thanking me.”
I hope some of the others are still with us. I’ll keep my eyes open for more follow-ups.