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auschwitz: inside the nazi state
Auschwitz 1940-1945 Introduction Surprise Beginnings Orders & Initatives Factories of DeathCorruptionMurder & IntrigueLiberation & Revenge


Killing EvolutionVictims & PerpetratorsGermany & the Camp System

Victims and Perpetrators

Victims and Perpetrators

Foreword
 
 
 

The Perpetrators
 
 

The Victims

Thomas Blatt: Jewish prisoner, Sobibor

Thomas Blatt, former Jewish prisoner at Sobibor

Thomas Blatt, former Jewish prisoner at Sobibor

Thomas Blatt was one of the very few survivors of Sobibor, a Nazi killing center in eastern Poland where 250,000 Jews were murdered in 1942-1943. During and after the war, much of the property in Eastern Europe that once belonged to Jews was taken over by others. In the late 1980s, Blatt returned to Izbica, Poland, to visit the home where he had grown up with his parents. His conversation with the "owner" of the house at that time helps to show some of the Holocaust's destructive reverberations.

Thomas Blatt: He let me in. I've seen the chair. My old chair from a long time ago. And I say - oh, I recognise this chair! My father used to sit on it.


[current owner of house] 'No, no, no, I bought it!'


So I took the chair, turn it over, and there was our name on the other side.


He said Mr Blatt -' why the whole comedy with the chair, I know why you are here. You have hidden money here, your parents had some money'


He was so angry. [I said] Goodbye.


He said, Mr Blatt, wait a minute you could take it out and we divide even the money. Give him 50% and 50% me.


I just left.

Thomas Blatt returned to Izbican a few years later to find that the house had become uninhabitable.

So I went to neighbors and asked the neighbour what's happened here?


She said, 'Oh, Mr Blatt, when you left we were unable to sleep because day and night he was looking for the treasure that you were supposed to leave.


He took the floor apart, the walls apart, everything. And later he found himself in the position where he couldn't fix it -- too much money, so he left it. Take a look -- it's a ruin.


Pavel Stenkin: Soviet POW, Auschwitz

Pavel Stenkin, former Soviet POW, Auschwitz

Pavel Stenkin, former Soviet POW, Auschwitz

Pavel Stenkin was a Red Army prisoner at Auschwitz. One of the Russian POWs forced to build the camp at Birkenau, he was among the few who survived that hard labor. Upon liberation from Auschwitz by his Russian comrades in 1945, Stenkin was exiled to the Ural mountains, a victim of Stalin's policy that all surviving POWs should be treated as suspected traitors. His eventual destination was a labor camp within the Soviet Gulag system. Only after Stalin's death, and twelve years after his capture by the Germans in 1941, was Stenkin finally released in 1953.

Pavel Stenkin: They invented that at Auschwitz—this Camp of Death, they were training spies. So somebody got this idea in his head—what if they had turned me into a spy?


When I arrived in Perm [in the Urals] to work I was called in every 2nd night—"admit this, agree to that, we know everything, we only don't know the purpose you were sent here for. But we will find out with or without your help. Come on, admit that you are a spy."


And I would say—"I am not a spy, I'm an honest Soviet man."


And the interrogator smiled ironically—"Soviet man." And he smiled again. "Just confess and it'll all be over."


They were tormenting and tormenting me. And then they decided to get rid of me. They sent me to prison. And the details of my sentence—do you think I heard anything or I read anything about it? I heard nothing and read nothing. Judges were in a rush, they had theatre tickets so they were in hurry to leave the court.


I was always feeling hungry.


It was not until I was released from prison, in 1953 that I started to eat my fill.


Moshe Tavor: Jewish Brigade Member

Moshe Tavor, Jewish Brigade member who fought against the Germans in Italy

Moshe Tavor, Jewish Brigade member who fought against the Germans in Italy

Moshe Tavor was a member of the Jewish Brigade, a unit of the British Army that fought the Germans in Italy in 1944-45. Tavor and others in the unit resolved to take justice into their own hands and pay back the Germans for the atrocities they had committed. Using whatever information they could find, they tracked down Germans who, they believed, had participated in killing Jews. Tavor and his comrades succeeded in locating relatively few Germans who were allegedly involved in Nazi extermination programs, but when they did identify suspects, they took them to isolated places and executed them.

In 1960, Moshe Tavor was part of the Israeli team that kidnapped former SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann, who was hiding in Argentina. Eichmann, who had coordinated much of the "Final Solution," was brought to Israel, where he was placed on trial and convicted for crimes against the Jewish people, sentenced to death, and executed on June 1, 1962.

Moshe Tavor, Jewish Brigade member who fought against the Germans in Italy

Moshe Tavor, Jewish Brigade member who fought against the Germans in Italy

Moshe Tavor: We [Jewish Brigade members] got angrier and angrier. Many of us felt that it wasn't enough that we just participated in the war.


A few of us gathered together and we decided we had to try to take revenge on the people who had done this. We had no illusions that we could get all of them, but maybe we could get a few of them, at least.


We drove to a place we had selected before. Like a forest or some place that was inhabited. And there we put him on trial, and we read him all the charges. They were based on everything we knew from the underground. Sometimes he had a chance to say a few words to defend himself. And then we would finish him off.


Usually one of us would strangle him.


Interviewer: Did you ever strangle someone like that?


Moshe Tavor: Yes, not that I was happy to do it, but I did it. I was completely aware of what I did. I didn't have to drink beforehand to lift my morale, I was always enthusiastic enough. I knew that my uncles and my grandparents and other relatives - tens of them were annihilated.


Interviewer: But you killed a person without a proper trial. How do you feel about that? How can you possibly explain that?


Moshe Tavor: Look, in my life until then I'd already done quite a few things which were not exactly straight.


But to say that I feel guilty for what I did to them, on the contrary, completely the opposite.


I feel guilty for what we didn't do to them.

Continued

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