Tag Archives: Poland

"Abortion Drone" to be Launched from Germany into Poland

Written by  for THE NEW AMERICAN MAGAZINE
POLAND
It’s not exactly a Panzer division, and goose-stepping troops won’t be occupying Warsaw. But a drone equipped to take innocent lives will be sent from Germany into Poland this Saturday. The handiwork of pro-abortion activists trying to undermine the eastern European nation’s pro-life laws, the drone will carry prenatal-murder drugs, which will then be dispensed to pregnant women. As the Guardian reports:
The “abortion drone” will carry World Health Organisation-approved drugs from Frankfurt an der Oder to the Polish border town of Slubice on Saturday, where it will be met by women’s groups who will hand on the pills to those who need them.
The mission is being planned by Women on Waves [WOW], a non-profit group of doctors and activists from the Netherlands. Poland, a strictly Roman Catholic country, is one of the few places in Europe where women can get a legal abortion only if there is proof of rape or incest, the mother’s life is endangered or the foetus is severely malformed.
The group said it had chosen the unusual method of delivery in order to highlight Poland’s restrictive abortion laws.
Amazingly, the Culture of Death Drone (CODD) scheme is supposedly not illegal. As Channel 4 News reports, “In a statement, Women on Waves said: ‘As the abortion drone weighs less than 5kg, is not used for commercial [sic] purposes, will stay within the sight of the person flying it and does not fly in controlled airspace, no authorization is required under Polish or German law.’” Moreover, Polish women taking the CODD’s prenatal-murder drugs won’t be running afoul of the authorities, either. Stated Rebecca Gomperts, a doctor and founder of WOW, “Women who have abortions in Poland are not criminalized; it’s the people who provide the abortions who are acting illegally.”
Yet this raises a question about this weekend’s providers. Perhaps WOW itself has no legal culpability as it’s not operating on Polish soil, but what of “the women’s groups who will hand on the pills to those who need them”? Whether they can or will be held legally accountable has not been reported.
There also could be a question of malpractice. The CODD’s prenatal-murder drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, can be taken only up to nine weeks into a pregnancy. Will the local activists be able to ensure that women closer to delivery won’t be using them?
Yet it appears that what matters most to the abortionists is not the health of women, but ideological conquest. Quartz writes that “campaigners hope it [the CODD] will also deliver a message about inequality,” with “equality” apparently being defined as the embrace of Western European secular values. Of course, these “values” ignore completely the lives of the innocent unborn.
But ideological conquest is not a new ambition for WOW, and the group plans to expand its operations. As Channel 4 News also tells us:
In the past the group have [sic] used a mobile clinic onboard a ship which they dock in countries where abortion is restricted.
[As Gomperts explained,] “We use ships, online apps, our website, anything we can to let women make their own choices on when to have children. The drone can cover some distances and it is affordable — the technology is now available for broader purposes than it was designed. This is a pilot project — we will learn all we can from it and the experience and we will hopefully develop this method as another one of our tools.”
Gomberts [sic] [also] said that should the flight this weekend work out, there is a possibility they could do the same thing in Ireland, where abortion remains very strictly controlled on both sides of the border.
Not surprisingly, the CODD action is justified with the usual rationalizations. As Quartz puts it, “The drone delivery will also make very visible something that happens anyway. Women in countries where abortion is illegal still obtain them.” As to this, and assuming the numbers are accurate, abortionists point out that 50,000 underground prenatal murders are performed annually in Poland. The idea is that there’s no point having laws protecting the unborn because people will violate them anyway.
Of course, this reasoning could be applied to any law. There are approximately 13,000 murders (or, as some might say, extreme late-term abortions) and 3.7 million burglaries a year in the United States, but this doesn’t mean laws criminalizing murder and theft should be stricken from the books. The principle governing whether a law should exist is that it must be just, which is the case when it reflects a moral principle and is government’s domain. And laws against prenatal murder qualify.
Moreover, it’s a bit odd when statists — which abortionists are almost exclusively — express skepticism about the effectiveness of laws; after all, statists believe in law as remedy for every societal ill, real and perceived. One might suppose that if they truly believed their pro-life-law rhetoric, they’d be anarchists (actual ones, as opposed to just the moral variety).
And, of course, laws and their attendant enforcement do influence behavior. For example, it’s rare to find Americans who wouldn’t sometimes drive faster were it not for speed laws. And despite their protestations to the contrary, abortionists tacitly acknowledge this reality with respect to prohibitions against prenatal murder. The Guardian reports Gomperts as lamenting that while wealthy Poles can travel abroad to have prenatal murders performed, poor women are, as she put it, “suffering”; this echoes Barack Obama, mind you, who once said that if women make a “mistake,” they shouldn’t be “punished with a baby.” But what this implies is that pro-life laws do prevent a certain number of prenatal murders.
Moreover, that WOW considers its facilitation of prenatal murder necessary — and in fact plans to expand its operations — also implies that not as many prenatal murders as could occur are occurring. Besides, if the “They’re going to do it, anyway” argument is valid, why do abortionists support laws prohibiting protests in front of abortion clinics?
The truth is that because many pregnant young women are scared, confused, and unsure what decision to make, strong pro-life laws will influence a certain number of them to choose life.
As for WOW’s weekend invasion, Polish pro-life groups have vowed to shoot the CODD down. Whether or not this would be legal has not been reported, but perhaps it doesn’t matter. After all, people will just do what they do, anyway.
Photo of Frankfurt-an-der-Oder, Germany (left), and Slubice, Poland

“Abortion Drone” to be Launched from Germany into Poland

Written by  for THE NEW AMERICAN MAGAZINE

POLAND

It’s not exactly a Panzer division, and goose-stepping troops won’t be occupying Warsaw. But a drone equipped to take innocent lives will be sent from Germany into Poland this Saturday. The handiwork of pro-abortion activists trying to undermine the eastern European nation’s pro-life laws, the drone will carry prenatal-murder drugs, which will then be dispensed to pregnant women. As the Guardian reports:

The “abortion drone” will carry World Health Organisation-approved drugs from Frankfurt an der Oder to the Polish border town of Slubice on Saturday, where it will be met by women’s groups who will hand on the pills to those who need them.

The mission is being planned by Women on Waves [WOW], a non-profit group of doctors and activists from the Netherlands. Poland, a strictly Roman Catholic country, is one of the few places in Europe where women can get a legal abortion only if there is proof of rape or incest, the mother’s life is endangered or the foetus is severely malformed.

The group said it had chosen the unusual method of delivery in order to highlight Poland’s restrictive abortion laws.

Amazingly, the Culture of Death Drone (CODD) scheme is supposedly not illegal. As Channel 4 News reports, “In a statement, Women on Waves said: ‘As the abortion drone weighs less than 5kg, is not used for commercial [sic] purposes, will stay within the sight of the person flying it and does not fly in controlled airspace, no authorization is required under Polish or German law.’” Moreover, Polish women taking the CODD’s prenatal-murder drugs won’t be running afoul of the authorities, either. Stated Rebecca Gomperts, a doctor and founder of WOW, “Women who have abortions in Poland are not criminalized; it’s the people who provide the abortions who are acting illegally.”

Yet this raises a question about this weekend’s providers. Perhaps WOW itself has no legal culpability as it’s not operating on Polish soil, but what of “the women’s groups who will hand on the pills to those who need them”? Whether they can or will be held legally accountable has not been reported.

There also could be a question of malpractice. The CODD’s prenatal-murder drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, can be taken only up to nine weeks into a pregnancy. Will the local activists be able to ensure that women closer to delivery won’t be using them?

Yet it appears that what matters most to the abortionists is not the health of women, but ideological conquest. Quartz writes that “campaigners hope it [the CODD] will also deliver a message about inequality,” with “equality” apparently being defined as the embrace of Western European secular values. Of course, these “values” ignore completely the lives of the innocent unborn.

But ideological conquest is not a new ambition for WOW, and the group plans to expand its operations. As Channel 4 News also tells us:

In the past the group have [sic] used a mobile clinic onboard a ship which they dock in countries where abortion is restricted.

[As Gomperts explained,] “We use ships, online apps, our website, anything we can to let women make their own choices on when to have children. The drone can cover some distances and it is affordable — the technology is now available for broader purposes than it was designed. This is a pilot project — we will learn all we can from it and the experience and we will hopefully develop this method as another one of our tools.”

Gomberts [sic] [also] said that should the flight this weekend work out, there is a possibility they could do the same thing in Ireland, where abortion remains very strictly controlled on both sides of the border.

Not surprisingly, the CODD action is justified with the usual rationalizations. As Quartz puts it, “The drone delivery will also make very visible something that happens anyway. Women in countries where abortion is illegal still obtain them.” As to this, and assuming the numbers are accurate, abortionists point out that 50,000 underground prenatal murders are performed annually in Poland. The idea is that there’s no point having laws protecting the unborn because people will violate them anyway.

Of course, this reasoning could be applied to any law. There are approximately 13,000 murders (or, as some might say, extreme late-term abortions) and 3.7 million burglaries a year in the United States, but this doesn’t mean laws criminalizing murder and theft should be stricken from the books. The principle governing whether a law should exist is that it must be just, which is the case when it reflects a moral principle and is government’s domain. And laws against prenatal murder qualify.

Moreover, it’s a bit odd when statists — which abortionists are almost exclusively — express skepticism about the effectiveness of laws; after all, statists believe in law as remedy for every societal ill, real and perceived. One might suppose that if they truly believed their pro-life-law rhetoric, they’d be anarchists (actual ones, as opposed to just the moral variety).

And, of course, laws and their attendant enforcement do influence behavior. For example, it’s rare to find Americans who wouldn’t sometimes drive faster were it not for speed laws. And despite their protestations to the contrary, abortionists tacitly acknowledge this reality with respect to prohibitions against prenatal murder. The Guardian reports Gomperts as lamenting that while wealthy Poles can travel abroad to have prenatal murders performed, poor women are, as she put it, “suffering”; this echoes Barack Obama, mind you, who once said that if women make a “mistake,” they shouldn’t be “punished with a baby.” But what this implies is that pro-life laws do prevent a certain number of prenatal murders.

Moreover, that WOW considers its facilitation of prenatal murder necessary — and in fact plans to expand its operations — also implies that not as many prenatal murders as could occur are occurring. Besides, if the “They’re going to do it, anyway” argument is valid, why do abortionists support laws prohibiting protests in front of abortion clinics?

The truth is that because many pregnant young women are scared, confused, and unsure what decision to make, strong pro-life laws will influence a certain number of them to choose life.

As for WOW’s weekend invasion, Polish pro-life groups have vowed to shoot the CODD down. Whether or not this would be legal has not been reported, but perhaps it doesn’t matter. After all, people will just do what they do, anyway.

Photo of Frankfurt-an-der-Oder, Germany (left), and Slubice, Poland

The Holocaust – We Must Remember – Dr. Samuel Oliner – Altruistic Personality: Rescuers Of Jews In Nazi Europe

THE HOLOCAUST: WE MUST REMEMBER 

30-Hour Series of Interviews broadcast on the Roger Fredinburg Radio Program

2-11-1998 Fourteenth Program in Series

Guest: Dr. Samuel Oliner

Book: Altruistic Personality: Rescuers Of Jews In Nazi Europe

ISBN-10: 0029238293   and   ISBN-13: 978-0029238295

Oliner

Roger:   Welcome once again, ladies and gentlemen, to our Wednesday night special, the Holocaust Series. It will be over in a few weeks. It’s been a great pleasure. I want to once again thank Chey Simonton and Kelleigh Nelson for all their effort in helping me locate some of the great authors and survivors and onlookers to talk about this tragic time in world history. It’s really tough, I know, week after week; but, we’re leading up to something, ladies and gentlemen, a climax that will shake your very soul. I can’t say much more about it; but, hang in there with us because this is really going somewhere!

We have a wonderful guest this evening. I’ve been thumbing through the book today and it’s just fascinating! The book is titled, “The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe.” It’s just a fascinating book, a collection, and anthology—- just stories of people who put everything on the line, trying to do something innately good, something not found often in the human character, I must tell you!

Our guest is Dr. Samuel Oliner. He is Project Director of the Altruistic Personality and the Prosocial Behavior Institute. He’s a survivor of the holocaust and has written “The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe,” “Who Shall Live: the Wilhelm Bachner Story,” and “Restless Memories: Recollections of the Holocaust Years.” 

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s welcome Samuel Oliner to the program! Sam, how are you?

Dr. Oliner: I’m very well! How are you, Roger?

Roger: I’m doing just great, Sam! This is really a great book because you touch on an aspect that is not often talked about. When we talk about Nazi Germany generally, we just think of all the bad people, all the evil and all of the hell! I suppose it is depicted about as well have I’ve read it in your book, in the Forward, the first paragraph! Somebody else wrote your Forward, didn’t they?

Dr. Oliner:  A renowned man of the cloth, Rabbi Harold Schulweis wrote the preface.

Roger: Let me read that first paragraph, just to set the tone here:

Victor Frankl, the founder of logotherapy, recalls lying at night in his bunk at Auschwitz. Next to him his fellow inmate lay tossing and turning, uttering tortured screams. Frankl wondered whether he should rouse him from his dreams. But rouse him–to what?

At Auschwitz reality was more frightening than nightmares. Frankl decided to let him alone.

That’s a powerful paragraph and it just really brings it home! That your worst nightmare couldn’t be as bad as what we’ve always observed in Nazi Germany! Terrible stuff! But you found some goodness there, you’re saying? 

Dr. Oliner:  Yes. As you said already, Roger, I was rescued myself in Nazi occupied Poland by a wonderful, beautiful, simple peasant woman and her family in the southern part of Poland. This happened, right after my entire family,everyone that I loved, along with 1,000 other people from a tiny little ghetto in Poland were all taken to a mass grave and executed!

My stepmother’s last words to me were, “You’ve got to run… you’ve got to hide… you’ve got to save yourself!” Of course, a 12 year-old boy didn’t know much so she gave me permission to survive.

Roger:  Well, I read your story, Sam, how you shinnied up to the roof and stayed up there on the roof for a couple of days, then you came down off the roof and ran into a Polish child that you’d known in the ghetto and you ended up in a fight with him. He ran off and you spent the night in a closet. It was just a fascinating story! A 12 year-old kid to go through that! I can’t even imagine it!

Dr. Oliner:  I often wonder whether I would be able to do this again. I guess the will to survive is so strong so you always feel that somehow or other you’ll make it, especially when your parents, your loving stepmother tells you to go and hide, run and survive. This kid was a kid who was an anti-Semitic kid! He didn’t like Jewish people particularly so his objective, because the ghetto was being searched as a mop up action by the Nazis, his objective was to let the guards know that here was a Jew-boy and betray me. So, the only solution I had was to pounce on him and pulverize him so that I could get away through the hole in the fence and run away across the field!

Roger:   Now, you were in your pajamas?

Dr. Oliner: Right. We need to back up for just a second! Why I was in pajamas….

Friday morning, very early in the morning, August 14, 1942 the Nazis surrounded the ghetto very early, brought dozens and dozens of huge miliary trucks into the square of the town, the ghetto. They went around knocking on doors and asking all people to get out and move to the square upon penalty of death! In a state of trance and shock, I was still in my pajamas. Hundreds and hundreds of people were brutally led into the square and then loaded into the trucks and subsequently took them to a mass grave! So, that’s how I found myself in pajamas.

In a state of fear and trance I was hiding in various places. Finally I was able to get some clothing and tried to make a break for it, run to the fence where I knew there was a hole… and this kid saw me. He tried to notify the guards who were mopping up the place.

I escaped and was wandering in a state of fear and fright. I already knew, from nearby peasants, where they took my entire family and the rest of the ghetto people, they took them to a pre-dug mass grave, a little hill probably 8 or 9 miles from the ghetto. They undressed them all, forcibly humiliating them and dragged them all into the mass grave where there planks were laid. They were machine-gunned, falling down either wounded or from fright. At the end of 18 hours, they covered them up with chemicals and dirt. Lots of bodies were still moving! Subsequently, one man who escaped from the top of the pile of bodies, his mind snapped and he became totally insane with the shock. Of course, the Nazis caught him a few days later and finished him off too.

So, I escaped and wandered around the village a little while, then I thought of this Polish family of a woman named Balwina. She saw me and she knew exactly what happened! She saw me, she took me in, she calmed me down and hid me for a while because there were also certain individuals (not too many) who made their living catching Jews and delivering them to the Gestapo. That means betraying Jewish people who were hiding and those Polish Catholics who were hiding them!

She kept me for a while and taught me the catechism. I changed my name to a typical Polish name and then went from village to village – she directed me in that area – and I found a job as a stable boy, ironically at a Jewish farm where the Jewish owners had been exterminated and the place was rented to an anti-semitic man by the Nazis. She and her son kept an eye on me throughout the balance of the years. She helped me authenticate my lie because I did nothing but lie to this new employer. He wanted to know who I was and where I was from, what kind of payment I wanted to be his stable boy; so she helped me survive that way!

This act of kindness by this one woman’s family, I could never forget! In some ways it motivated the rest of my life in the sense that when I came to this country as an immigrant in 1950 (by the way, I was almost immediately drafted into the Korean War) I got my U.S. citizenship quickly. When I got my PhD from the University of California in Berkeley I studied much about “evil.” I did all kinds of research on “evil”; racism, anti-Semitism, genocide, holocaust, intolerance generally.

Roger: Let’s talk about for a minute because I’m trying to imagine, first of all, what does a 12 year-old boy, meandering down a muddy trail right after his parents have been killed, what is going through a 12 year-old’s mind at that point?

Dr. Oliner: Well, disbelief at first, that it couldn’t have happened, a kind of denial! Then a kind of fear and cunning because you wanted to survive. You were told to survive! You were given instructions by a loving adult. Then I was fortunate enough to be guided by compassionate, loving people. 

Roger:  Did you hate, Sam?

Dr. Oliner:  Yes, I did. I did; but, right after the war, for instance, in 1945 I was a 15-1/2-year-old kid and I found myself in Germany in the American zone of occupation. I’d been in the middle of Germany so I hated Germans with great passion! I discovered as I grew older that hate in itself is destructive.

Roger: Isn’t hate evil?

Dr. Oliner: Extremely evil! And it was actually destroying me, my hatred! That’s one of the reason I subsequently studied so much about “evil”. One day at Humboldt State University in Northern California where I have worked for about 29 years or so, I introduced a course on The Holocaust because believe it or not, Roger, there are still people today in certain parts of the US and other parts of the world, that think the Holocaust is a hoax, it’s Jewish conspiracy to defraud, hoodwink humanity! When I heard this I became extremely angry as an adult, as a GI, has a PhD in Sociology.

I asked my Dean for permission to introduce a course on The Holocaust. When I did that — what do you talk about in a course on The Holocaust? Just the dates, the names, the places, the evil, the Auschwitz, the murders, the films, the documentaries of evil?

In one of my classes, and this is another pivotal point in my life, a young German woman who was married to an American boy, got up on the fourth or fifth day of my class and with a German accent and said to me in tears, “Professor, I’ve got to drop your class, not because it’s bad, not because your information is not valuable; but, because I feel so guilty–what my people did to your people.” I was moved to tears because in some ways this was an innocent woman. That single act of hers made me start thinking, “Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Is there anything else that happened in WW II besides the killing of 50,000,000 people— the sum total of the war itself including 6,000,000 Jews?” So I started thinking of Balwina, that woman who rescued me. That launched me and my life’s partner, my wife, Dr. Pearl Oliner — launched us on this project.

For the last 18 years we’ve been studying “Goodness”! Goodness is altruism, goodness is prosocial behavior, goodness is rescuing, goodness is hospice volunteers, goodness is the kind of heroes in this country who risk their lives to save strangers from certain death!

Roger:  Sam, what is “altruism”? I mean in its purest form?

Dr. Oliner: First of all, there are a lot of sceptics out there and I’ve run across critics who say “altruism” does not exist. I say to those people, “I’m sorry to inform you; but, it exists, it’s measurable. Just like bigotry exists and is measurable, so is “goodness”!

Altruism, Roger, would be something as follows: It is an act of helping someone who will benefit from such help which involves high risk and high cost to you, the helper, the rescuer and for which you are not expecting any external reward– no checks, no medals! You are just doing it as an act of kindness, an act of humanity, an act of recognizing your fellow human being.

Roger: So, someone rushing out into the middle of the highway to save a child from a moving vehicle without regard for their own life is an altruist?

Dr. Oliner:  Absolutely! As a matter of fact, our current research we’ve just begun less than a month ago is on America and Canadians who risked their lives for total strangers; saving from drowning, from burning, from various accidents, from violence, from guns, shootings and so forth. So, yes, that would be a good example of heroic altruism.

Conventional altruism, Roger, is the thousands and millions of acts of kindness, the 75,000,000 people who are unpaid volunteers in this country. If somebody paid them, they’d be earning

$150 billion dollars a year! These are examples of conventional altruism and heroic altruism. It exists! It is real! We hope and pray that more people move from the Bystander “I-don’t-care/these are not my people,” position to the position of people who intervene on behalf of humanity.

That’s what we’ve been doing, interviewing. In the book that you mentioned, “The Altruistic Personality,” which is published by the Free Press, what were doing is actually interviewing bona fide rescuers, heroes, people like the woman Balwina who saved me.   For purposes of trying to find out what motivated them, Roger, we compared them to a group of bystanders. We wanted to know what the difference was between them. That’s what this research was about. It’s a kind of systematic social science research. It goes beyond simple anecdotes. The anecdotes that you kindly recited, referred to are simply anecdotes of heroism; but, the analysis of these 800 respondents that we have done over a period of 8 years — which was from Poland, from Germany and from the United States, those rescuers that came to the United States after the war, from Canada, France, Italy and even Norway–from this we had a combination of some 800 rescuers and bystanders.

From this data we drew some conclusions about what makes a compassionate person which we are kind of proud of. It’s been critiqued and quite well-accepted by …..

Roger:  But, Sam, didn’t the very fact that the Holocaust happened, bring credence to the concept that man is inherently evil?

Dr. Oliner: No! No, I’m not willing to buy this! Man is born….

Roger:   I mean, even the altruists in their selfless acts, get some charge out of it, don’t they?

Dr. Oliner: You asked two different questions. One question that you asked, Roger, is man inherently evil? I think that man , if you’re saying inherently—biologically or genetically evil, I don’t think there enough evidence to make a tentative…..

Roger: Well, pick a religion, Sam! We’re all born to sin! If you’re a Christian, God had to give laws to Moses. Aren’t we born evil, Sam?

Dr. Oliner:  No! Because, you see, the institutions of the religions; some institutions, some religions, some books, some ideologies, some parents, some groups are able to inculcate hate in us.   I know that you know there’s been some work done on twins. Take one twin and bring him up and he can become a killer, gangster, hater, racist, anti-Semite, homophobe. Take the other twin of this pair and he can become a priest, and get involved in the well-being of humanity. So, I wouldn’t say we are born evil, I would say that we have acquired it in on the road of life.

Roger:   Sam, I’ve got to take a break here. If you would be so kind as to relax for a few minutes, we’ve got to get through these advertisements and we’ll be right back. Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Samuel P. Oliner is our guest. He is the author of, “The Altruistic Personality.” He’s a professor at Humboldt State College in Eureka, California. I think you’re all finding him as fascinating as I do!

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger:  Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen! Dr. Samuel P. Oliner is our guest this evening. His book is, “The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe,” a book about “goodness” in man, the good, good, good people who exist in our world, or existed during the holocaust!

Sam, welcome back! I want to go back to something you said earlier. Here you are, a graduate of Berkeley, hanging out in Humboldt, deciding that because you’ve run into these crackpots who really believe the holocaust is a hoax and a Jewish conspiracy, you decided to take this cause on and teach The Holocaust. Was that an act of altruism?

Dr. Oliner: It was an act of education and information.

Roger: What was your motivation?

Dr. Oliner:  My motivation was…..

Roger: I’m going to show you bastards the truth! Wasn’t that really it?

Dr. Oliner: I guess you could put it that way. Ha, ha!

Roger:   No! I mean really! It didn’t really come from the “goodness” of Sam Oliner.

Dr. Oliner: It came from the rage….

Roger: The hate!

Dr. Oliner: The anger, the hate… yes.

Roger: So, you formed this class based on something evil, didn’t you really?

Dr. Oliner: No, (ha, ha) I think that I formed this class in order to deal with evil.

Roger:  Samuel Oliner, PhD, UC-Berkeley…. what in the hell do you people mean who think the holocaust didn’t happen? I’ll show you! Right?

Dr. Oliner:  Well, by correcting the information, I guess you could say, “I’ll show you!” It was based upon my frustration that people in the late 1960s, early 1970s could be getting away with this sort of stuff. Even currently, by the way! Take a look at the websites and you’ll find 600 to 700 hate groups viciously racist and anti-semitic!

Roger: Are they? Or are they just misinformed? I mean, has the propaganda survived the holocaust?

Dr. Oliner:  I think it’s perhaps a combination of both; misinformed-yes. I think in the human psyche, that is to say; if as you are growing up you are beaten and abused….

Roger: Come on, Samuel. Jesus was a Jew and the Jews killed Jesus, so Christianity through their crusades and all the things…. those evil Jews killed Jesus, they killed our Savior, our Christ…. the Jews did that! Right? Isn’t religion the essence of goodness, your foundation? Yet, there is the evil right there….

Dr. Oliner:  Sure, I agree with you 100% when you talk about the source of evil. The source of evil is–a child is not born evil; but, a child internalizes the teachings and the preachings about who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.

For instance, in the case of Jesus, and I’m sure there are various interpretations, I know that Jesus existed. I know that Jesus was crucified. I also know, at least from scholarship, that it was not the Jews who killed Jesus, it was the Romans. But, the Jews were delighted and happy enough because he was a rebel who showed they were corrupt, they were not caring enough, they were highly stratified….

Roger:   They were evil.

Dr. Oliner: They were evil in the sense of practicing injustice and inequality.

Roger: They were evil. Right? Isn’t that what Christ was trying to point out? So, I want to make a point here. I believe, personally, that man is inherently evil, born to sin! I also believe that the people who don’t believe that the holocaust happened only do so because they don’t comprehend how evil man is because we gloss it over! We keep telling ourselves there are good people out there! Sam, are there really good people out there?

Dr. Oliner: Yes!

Roger: Really? Can you tell me about some good people?

Dr. Oliner: Yes, I can tell you about good people and I will believe for the rest of my life that humanity is basically good….

Roger:  I want to believe that! I want you to convince me….

Dr. Oliner:  Humanity is basically good. It is institutions, parents, role models, misguided Hitlers and leaders, it is perversion of truth that leads people along the path of hatred — also economic troubles and frustration and scapegoating. There is goodness.

Roger: Introduce me, Sam, to some people who are truly altruistic because I’m finding it hard, as I look across the landscape of my community, I’m finding it hard to find true altruism.

Dr. Oliner:  Okay! Again, I would have to disagree with you. Even in your own community there are lots of people who are caring and compassionate and take care of needy, etc.

But, let me get back for a moment to the slightly larger picture. If you’re talking about goodness and altruism, I’ll start with the big ones and go on to some very exciting small ones, small heroes; you have Mother Theresa, you already know; you have Gandhi, you already know; you have Jesus, you already know, and a number of super-super altruists who lived for humanity’s sake.

Now, in the case of our research, I can tell you, first of all, there is a profound difference between rescuers and bystanders. If we have the time I’ll go into some of them. But, you want some stories.

Roger: I want you to convince there are really altruistic people out there! I don’t know that I’ve ever met one. Maybe I did and just didn’t notice!

Dr. Oliner: Well, I’m surprised that you haven’t noticed because I am sure in your daily life, in your daily relationships with people in your community, there must be individuals who have done acts of kindness for you. In turn, I’m almost sure that you’ve reciprocated in kind. So, I’m not sure that….

Roger: But, that’s socialization! I mean, we socialize…. you send me a Christmas card so I send you a Christmas card. I’ll meet you downtown at a meeting, I’ll shake your hand… that kind of thing. 

Dr. Oliner:  Sure! But, altruism comes from moral socialization, moral role models, moral exemplars, the parents’ instilled values into you — your mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, priests and ministers.

Roger: Sam, 6 million Jews died in Europe —13 million or so, estimated totals of gypsies, homosexuals and whoever else they didn’t like! Lot of dead people over there, Sam! Now, there couldn’t have been too many rescuers over there could there? Not too many altruistic people!

I’ve heard stories on this program, Sam, of people selling out Jews for a buck!

Dr. Oliner:  Right. But, you see, it’s a question of…. Yes, I agree with you…and that’s what we did in our research. Under the Nazi occupation….there were 300 million people living in Nazi-occupied Europe; Poland and all the other occupied countries including Germany itself. Yes, in our book, we sadly take the best educated guess and there were less than 1% of those 300 million people who acted heroically and altruistically. So, yes, I agree with you that, unfortunately, there are not enough people….

Roger: So you agree that 99% of people are inherently evil?

Dr. Oliner:  No, 99% of the people were bystanders, my friend. That’s not the same thing as being evil. A “bystander” is a person who is afraid, a person who feels –these people are not my people –the Nazis are going to kill me if I help somebody. Only a few times in human history was there a situation where if you, Roger, save me, and it was discovered, you’d be shot and your entire family would be exterminated, along with me! So, when you have such stringent laws that were carried out— in Poland alone there were 2,000 Catholics (and that is a fact!) who were executed along with the people they were hiding, once they were betrayed by their fellow Poles who were making a living by getting payment from the Gestapo.

So, yes, I agree with you that not enough people are altruistic. Yes, I agree that not enough people are involved with humanity. But, I’m also saying to you there is hope for the future because it is not a gene. We do not have a gene for evil. If we are socialized and treat well, taught well and our parents role model kindness and compassion, more of us can leave the status of a bystander or even a perpetrator and become a rescuer/helper. So, there is hope in this! That’s why I cannot agree that we are basically evil and doomed to remain like this because if we entertain an image like this, think of all our children and the kind of image we leave them with–that humanity is nothing be evil–and we can predict and foretell the world is alienated and separate from each other.

Goodness and altruism, in my opinion and I don’t mean to sound preachy, is the antidote to a divided world. We need more of it. We need more of it in our leaders. In the second book that we wrote, “Toward a Caring Society,” we suggest that caring and compassion can be cultivated; in the workplace, in the church place of religious institutions, in educational institutions, family and other major institutions where caring and compassion can be taught and inculcated. It doesn’t cost you anything! When you treat a group of employees with kindness, and there are lots of examples…..

Roger: I’ve got to take this break, Sam! When we come back, give me your best shot! Tell me about the most altruistic person that you’ve found in your studies. Will you do that?

Dr. Oliner: I don’t know if I can tell you “THE MOST”, but I’ll try!

Roger: We’ll be right back, ladies and gentlemen! Our guest is Dr. Sam Oliner. His book is “The Altruistic Personality.”

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger:  Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen! We’re talking with our guest, Dr. Samuel P. Oliner, about altruism and whether it’s really real. My feeling, of course, is that the vast majority of people, I think ALL MEN, are born evil. I do! I think it takes a lot of work to be good. I do!

But, if you read Dr. Oliner’s book, it’s filled with stories of good people; the kind of goodness that is almost as difficult to describe as the evilness of the holocaust! Sam, give me your best shot here, buddy!

Dr. Oliner: Okay, you want the best shot as far as….

Roger: I want to believe in altruism, Sam! I’ve been reading your book! I want to believe that there is goodness in man! I really do! But, I think it’s the same kind of denial that I see elsewhere, that you’re trying to find goodness where there isn’t any.

Dr. Oliner:   Ha, ha! We could go on for hours…

Roger: No! Because I read your book and I see goodness there, Sam.

Dr. Oliner: Okay, just to convince you a little bit more….

Roger: First of all, before we move on any further, how can people who really want to know about the goodness of man get your book?

Dr. Oliner: That’s an easy one! It’s out in paperback. It’s “The Altruistic Personality” and is published by the Free Press. Any bookstore will have it or can order it for you.

Roger:  You get into all the psychology of altruism and evil in your book. Unfortunately, we don’t have time to get into all of that tonight. What I’m trying to discover, the real essence of this battle between good and evil that mankind has faced since Year 1— Cain and Abel, great story, right?

We ‘ve faced this battle of good and evil forever; but, the holocaust is like this paramount, the climax of evil in modern society! It’s this incredible story that’s real, that’s so difficult to understand, that I don’t think you can understand it unless you were there! Even then, I don’t think you could really, truly grasp the evil that was underlying this incredible event. So, when you talk about altruism, these wonderful people selflessly giving to those in need, regardless of the consequences…

I mean, sure there were a few people who probably snapped and lost and their minds and did good things; but, did really sane people?

Dr. Oliner: Ha, ha! Absolutely! They were sane people. They were rational people. They were compassionate people! Let me give you a few quick examples! I don’t know how time is going? 

Roger:  I might have to keep you over, Sam! This is not a subject I want to let die!

Dr. Oliner: Whatever you …

Roger: You just tell me, and we feel like we’ve sufficiently covered the subject, we’ll quit.

Dr. Oliner: Fine. I am sure the many listeners that you have must have heard of Oskar Schindler, must have heard of Wallenberg. I’m not going to be speaking about them. I’m going to give you some more close-to-home figures.

Raoul Wallenberg, in Hungary, rescued between 30,000-50,000 Jews, just one man, one man in the face of Nazi persecution of these people.

Oskar Schindler, rescued about 1,200 people.

Sempo Sugihara, a Japanese, by himself saved 15,000-30,000 people when he was a diplomat in Lithuania, issuing passes to these people.

Gergio Perlasca, an Italian rescuer who took over the Spanish Embassy while the Spanish Diplomats fled when Russian armies were advancing towards Budapest. He was able to issue Spanish passports to Jews in order to save them.

The Village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, in France. A friend of mine studied it very deeply and carefully. They saved about 5,000 people. A group of protestants hid these Jews in cafe’s, in churches, in basements and shed, in forests and under bridges and saved their lives!

So, I agree with you —- before I go into a few stories that I know personally, and we’ve interviewed these people—- I agree with you, Roger, that there wasn’t enough done! There were too many bystanders. There’s still too many bystanders! But, I’m saying that education and socialization away from evil and towards facts, truth and the teaching of justice can really take more millions of people away from the role of bystanders or sceptics or even bigots and turn them to people who are at least neutral, and at best empathic to other people’s pain.

Let me get to a story which I think shows you it is not random, it is not planned or anything like this! They were marching a group of people in a very famous city called Krakow, the oldest city in Poland.

Roger: You know, Sam, here’s what’s going to happen to you and me. We’re going to come up to a break here where I normally go on to other subjects. We haven’t explored this yet.

It think we have too much ground to cover and I need to ask you to stay at least another half hour or even beyond. It depends how it goes. Would that be alright with you?

Dr. Oliner: I’ll be very happy to! You sound like a very important person because by doing what you’re doing, you are inculcating goodness and I appreciate you!

Roger: Now, don’t tag me with this label of altruism. I am a man who has tried desperately to fight against evil in my own life for many years and I am trying to become what you might call a “good” person. I think I’ve come pretty close; but, I know in a heartbeat that called to answer the challenge of my own survival or basic and important, maybe political or social concepts, I could be driven to kill people in a heartbeat. I know that the warrior spirit is alive, in me and in all men! Our president is about to go and blow up Iraq because we don’t like them denying us the inspections of their facilities. We are warriors, we are murders, we are takers, we are conquerors….

Dr. Oliner: …. And we are compassionate people as well!

Roger:  Yes, well, after the bloodletting we’re always compassionate when we come down from our festive high. We’ll be back to continue this discussion with Dr. Sam Oliner! He’s a fantastic guy and the book is fantastic! It you read the book you will believe in goodness! “The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe”. Get it at your bookstore! We’ll be right back!

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger: Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen! Our guest this evening is Dr. Sam Oliner. He’s a professor at Humbolt State in California. The book we’re talking about relates to the holocaust, an incredible book he and his wife wrote called, “The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe” — what led ordinary men and women to risk their lives on behalf of others?

Sam and I have been having a little discourse. I believe that all men are born inherently evil; yet, I have evidence before me in Sam’s book that is not exactly true. I’m suffering now in personal crisis trying to overcome it, ladies and gentlemen, but I will before this program is over. Ha, ha! I suppose there are some good people out there; but, I think there are damn few of them! We’ll take some calls from listeners in a bit.

Sam, welcome back! 

Dr. Oliner: Thank you.

Roger: Alright, the altruistic personality we’ve been talking about, how do we know…. you and I were talking about some of these great names from history…how do we know they didn’t do these things just for history’s sake?

Dr. Oliner: Well, you asked a very good question. You know that I like to talk to you because you ask very good questions! First of all, altruism… I defined it for you and I said that altruism does not mean that you’re selfless, that you are always altruistic, that you never do anything bad or unjust or unfair. It means that most of the time you do something kind and compassionate. What I’m trying to say is that the fact that Wallenberg or one of the people who I’m going to talk about, I have 100s of case here, they helped other people without expecting external reward; but, internal reward–definitely! Internal reward is the feeling good about yourself, feeling you did something right, feeling you might get some praise from your loved ones and approval. So, Wallenberg did this because he was a diplomat saving 30,000-50,000 Jews. But, he also probably felt very good about this.

If you call it selfish — I’m going to do something kind for Roger so I will feel good about it— that’s fine! There’s nothing wrong when a corporation does something for people, for their employees, and they get harder-working, more loyal workers in return, there’s nothing wrong with that. The thing is internal reward is what counts. They achieve exactly the opposite of what PG&E or some other corporation that does something for the people; but, something for himself as well. Namely, he feels good about this; but, at the same time, in the world of work, you may get better workers. Internal reward could be called selfish if it’s done for selfish reasons, I don’t know. It could be said that way; but, that doesn’t deny the existence of altruism just because you did it for internal reward.

Roger: Isn’t ego a sin? Isn’t pride a sin?

Dr. Oliner:  No, absolutely not! Ego is not a sin! If you have a healthy ego it makes you a healthy person. Pride may be a sin if it’s avarice and greed and violence and destroying someone else. That’s a sin! Not pride, unless you have too much pride that leads to arrogance. Pride and a healthy ego— there’s nothing wrong with that! As as matter of fact, a guy like Wallenberg who tragically died in a Soviet prison…the irony of history, a man who did so much to save lives, the Soviets arrested him and he rotted in prison.

Roger: But, Sam, nobody would come to the aid of the Jews.

Dr. Oliner: That’s not true….

Roger: You know the president of the United States. He knew what was going on in Germany, in Europe! You know, Sam, that if the America people had known, IF THEY HAD KNOWN they wouldn’t have done anything! The American people were upset because Pearl Harbor got bombed and they were going to get those Japanese! But, they didn’t care that Jews and others were being slaughtered by the millions in Europe! Come on!

Dr. Oliner: That is true…

Roger: They didn’t care! Where’s the altruism there?

Dr. Oliner: Altruism is right away an individual thing….

Roger: Sam, 24 million African citizens have died in the last decade!

Dr. Oliner: 24 million? … African?…. citizens?

Roger: Yes, from war, aids, whatever. It’s terrible! Nobody cares! There’s not a lot of people rushing off to Africa to help, are there?

Dr. Oliner:  You’re right! It’s a tragic situation. Too many of us are bystanders. Our government is a bystander frequently, politics are bystanders, powers are bystanders. All of this is geo-politics and all that.

In the case of countries during the holocaust, it is true that some individuals in the State Department couldn’t care less because they were anti-Semitic. On the other hand, even when you look at other cultures….. for instance, Denmark. I’m sure you’ve heard of the situation in Denmark during the war. The notion that when the Nazis finally decided that the Danish people had better give up their 8,000-9,000 Jews to extermination in Auschwitz, the people refused! The people refused! King Christian X refused. The government refused and hid them and transported them across the water to neutral Sweden. Bulgaria, for instance, did something! In Greece, the City of Salonika saved most of their Jews, so everybody was not a bystander. But, I have to agree with you, too many people were bystanders then….

Roger:  Are they bystanders or is it really, at its root, guttural level cowardice?

Dr. Oliner: I don’t like the word cowardice.

Roger: Why?

Dr. Oliner: Because coward would imply that you had an opportunity and your leaders, ministers and churches told you to do something and you were too afraid. I think a better explanation is a bystander is a person who see a tragedy and finds a reason for not doing something for no one has defined for them that they ought to do something about it. He is not informed enough, involved enough. So, I think a bystander is a better term than just a coward. A coward is someone who runs away and hides.

Roger: Let’s explore that because you get into the psychology pretty heavy! Let’s explore that! I walk up to some Polish woman and I am some anti-semitic Polish officer serving in the SS and I ask her what she thinks of Jews, like Peter in the Bible. What does she say? “They’re not even people, those Jews! They’re animals!”

Dr. Oliner: There are some people like that.

Roger: Isn’t that cowardice when deep down inside this Polish woman may have no animosity at all towards Jews?

Dr. Oliner: Cowardice, in that sense, is saying you don’t want to rock the boat and you don’t want to get involved. You don’t want the policeman or the Nazi to call you a Jew-lover. In this country the word would be Nigger-lover, if you’re pro-African American.

Since you mention this woman, let me give you a story that’s just the opposite and see if you agree with me.

Roger: You tell me the story, then we’ll take a couple of calls and you can give me another story!

Dr. Oliner: Okay! Well, as I started saying before about this beautiful city, Krakow, Poland that has the most ancient university in the world. They were marching a group of a thousand Jews to the railroad station to the cattle cars. A Jewish woman has a small little infant and she knows, somehow deep in her heart she knows that the end is coming. So she sees some people on the sidewalk of Krakow, sees a blond woman standing there. She sneaks away from this column and runs over to the Polish woman and says, “Please, I beg you ma’am, to save my child! They’re going to kill her! I beg you to save my child!”

This blond woman takes this 5 month old child, takes it home. She lives on the 3rd floor of an apartment. She was neither pregnant or married and the neighbors begin to suspect that it may be a Jewish child. As evil would have it, someone reported her to the police, namely the Polish police in the service of the Nazis. (They were not exactly popular after the war.) Anyway, the Polish police come and arrest this woman with the child and she’s brought to the police station, to a big room with 6 to 10 police officers sitting around their desks. They sat her down to a desk to wait for the captain to arrive. The Polish captain arrived and he looks at her and barks, “This is not your child, lady! This is a Jewish child, isn’t it!”

By divine intervention, this woman breaks into Academy Award tears, pounds the desk and says, “You should be ashamed of yourself! Are you men? Are you Poles? You call yourselves human beings? One man in this room has fathered this child,” and she looks around the room at the men sitting there, “ and he called it a Jew so it would be exterminated and he wouldn’t have to take responsibility for it!”

Now, you tell me, why did she do that? What kind of evil is that? For the rest of the war, she was able to save this child! There are people like that! Their stories ought to be known! They ought to be in history books! The Schindler’s and the Wallenbergs ought to be in the history books because they’re more important than Hitler, Himmler and Eichmann.

The point I’m trying to make here is that’s the social science interpretation; that altruistic and compassionate people are made— they’re brought up! Here’s an example of compassion, social responsibility.   And by the way, as a P.S., the child grew up and is a scientist now. He’s no longer a child— ha, ha! — the woman is still alive and we had the privilege of interviewing both of them!

The State of Israel has an institution called Yad Vashem where they recognize from 15,000 to 18,000 of what they call Righteous Gentiles. I know this is a tiny little percentage; but, it is something to be put in history books and it helps us to straighten out a little bit of the distorted image of the cynicism that everything is evil, nobody cares and man is nasty and brutish!

I think we’ve got to fight that kind of image! Teachers are trying to do something about it, little by little, by teaching courage, character development, prosocial behavior. I think there’s hope! I think there’s hope because the alternative is nothing but despair. I’ve got thousands of stories I don’t have time to go into….

Roger: Let’s take a call or two and see what our listeners are thinking about our discussion. We’re going to Brian in Springfield. Brian, welcome!

Caller-Brian: I want to sorry because I’m going to have to stand behind Sam on this one!

Dr. Oliner: Thank you!

Caller-Brian: I believe there are altruistic people out there and it’s not human to be “born evil”. It’s just ignorant!

Roger: Well, were our founding fathers of America ignorant when they slaughtered the Native American Indians?

Caller-Brian: Of course!

Roger: Were the Spanish conquistadors ignorant when they slaughtered the Mexican peasants and the Incas and the Mayans?

Caller-Brian: Of course!

Roger: Was Alexander the Great ignorant when he conquered Persia?

Caller-Brian: I can’t answer that one.

Dr. Oliner: I think the question…. can I get into this, too?

Roger: Yes, absolutely! That’s why you’re here!

Dr. Oliner: I didn’t know how that works. The question that you’re asking about our founding fathers and slavery…. it is obviously within a tradition, with the teachings, within the arrogance of our culture. It is born out of our misinformation about other human beings, thinking that Blacks and Native Americans were savages without a soul, beasts of burden! So, I agree with Brian that it is a form of ignorance! It’s mis-education, under-education!

Roger: So, was God ignorant when he brought the rains and flooded the planet and only Noah and his family survived?

Caller-Brian: He brought the winter on to actually stop the Nazis as they marched into Russia! He helped us out there!

Roger: Alright, Brian! I appreciate that! Thank you very much!

Samuel, I am trying to grasp this. I know from going through your book there are some wonderful people in your book! I know there are some wonderful people; but, I don’t know if it’s our nature to be good. You seem to lead to that conclusion in your book. That it is our nature…

Dr. Oliner: Probably not our nature. When a child is born and you see your child for the first time, you don’t know what it’s nature will be. But, you can probably take a very, very good educated guess that if your child is loved and nurtured, taught the right values and tolerance, if I was a betting man I’d say there’s a 95% chance he or she will grow up to be a decent, caring person because you would be the role model.

Roger: Alright! Let’s take that decent, caring person and piss them off, fill them with hate, fill them with rage! Give them a reason, then where do they go?

Dr. Oliner: The decent, caring, compassionate person will probably buy less of the propaganda, will internalize less hate, will probably see two sides of the coin rather than only one side of the coin.

If you look at the people who joined the Nazi movement, these were decent people who I’m not defining out of the human race. These people who voted for Hitler were less educated, more unemployed, less informed, less experience with Jews and more susceptible to the systematic, vicious propaganda. Remember, Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Education and Propaganda said it so well that it’s used in college textbooks today, “ The bigger the lie, the more frequently repeated, the more likely uneducated people will believe it.”

So, I would say that, yes, economic frustration, misinformation, under-education, political frustration, humiliation will absolutely make you a recruitable person to a hate group or to a movement which was nationalistic and chauvinistic. Hitler said two or three important things to his people which were right on. He said we are in trouble in Germany because of the Treaty of Versailles, unemployment, horrendous unrest. We are in trouble! Do you agree with me? Vote for me and I’ll solve all your problems. The problems are the Jews, the Bolsheviks, the Communists, the Americans. Vote for me and I’ll solve your problems.

Roger:   Sam, Germany was the most cultured, the highest form of civilization on the planet!The people that supported Hitler, that moved Hitler into a position of power, that gave him money and cut deals with him for their business operations, these were not ignorant people! These were not uneducated people! These were the crème de la crème of the world!

Dr. Oliner: There were very rich industrialists, very wealthy people who had businesses and corporations who saw…..

Roger: But, haven’t you just countered your own argument?

Dr. Oliner: No, I have not! What I’m trying to say is that people made mistakes, including…

Roger:  Listen, collect yourself here. We’re going to take a short break. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll be back to continue with our wonderful guest, Dr. Sam Oliner, about his fascinating book, “The Altruistic Personality” that’s just filled with stories of goodness. Goodness! You’ll feel really good after you read the book and you can get it any bookstore.

We’ll be right back.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger:  Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen! Dr. Sam Oliner is our guest. His book, “The Altruistic Personality” is just filled with a lot of interesting psychoanalysis and wonderful stories, tales of good people who put everything at risk to help the Jews during the holocaust. It goes into great depth about the whole psyche of these individuals, what they were really about deep down in their core. Fascinating reading! I hope you’ll get the book!

Sam, I want to get through this before we take the next call. You make this assessment, and I think it’s a dangerous, maybe even arrogant, assessment that people who are uneducated, I mean in the classic sense, are somehow easier to manipulate than people who are educated. I don’t think that I believe that! Can you make that argument, really?

Dr. Oliner: Let me put it another way. People who are less educated are more likely to be involved in stereotypes, more likely to buy distorted images of another group. They’re more likely to buy into the official line of propaganda.

Roger: Okay, back that up!

Dr. Oliner: I can back that up by……

Roger: Wait! Now, listen! That’s a profound statement! I think that we’re driven by our spirit and by common sense, by instinct and things that are innate within us!

Dr. Oliner: Let me back up for a second and say that I do not mean to imply that people who are less educated are therefore evil or that they are not capable of great compassion and helping. For example, in our sampling of 800, we found that uneducated people were just as compassionate as educated people.

What I’m trying to say and I hope I can make this statement clear is that less educated people are more likely to “buy the line”. They don’t have the educational background to look at the other side of the coin. Is it really true that Jews in Germany dominated the economy? Total absolute nonsense! There were only half a million Jews in Germany and 80 million Germans! Now, Jews did very well; but, they were not dominating the economy of Germany. An informed person would know the economy; the history, the details, the facts and figures and would probably not buy this unless it suited his purpose. Propaganda is to inflame people. A misinformed person might say, yes, these people are dominating my country, they’re evil, etc.

Roger:  Now, I want to agree with you. Here’s what I want to say, harkening back to the beginning of the program when you talked about initially beginning your class on the Holocaust at Humboldt State because you were surprised at the number of people who didn’t believe that the holocaust even happened–they thought it was a hoax! I want to tell you something, Sam. I have met a lot of those people! A lot more than I care to remember!

I was deeply involved in certain studies that led me to the Lector Report and the really egregious things that exist out there; The Protocols of the Elders of Zion! Let me tell you what I found that I think is rather interesting. Most of the people who fall for it are low-class white trash, the bottom of the spit! I’m just telling you from being out there and doing research on my own. There are hundreds of them, Sam! Not a few, but hundreds of them!

Most of them are right down, rock bottom at the lowest echelon of the class structure.

Dr. Oliner: Economic structure as well.

Roger: So, Sam, I hate to tell you; but, I think you’re right! Stupid people are dangerous!

Dr. Oliner: They are more susceptible to buying the line. Especially if they’re not reachable by some method to inform. Inform the people and I think they’re more likely to make a just judgment, given both sides of the coin. Thank God for the United States and the free press! We can counteract bigotry, not that we have licked it all. We’re trying!

Roger: Sam, I like to play the devil’s advocate occasionally and I’ve been doing it with you this evening somewhat. It’s more fun for me! In all honesty, I’ve now been through 12 or 15 of these interviews, read so many books and done so much research on this subject, I still cannot comprehend the kind of evil that was so compensatory throughout the holocaust.

Yet, when I read you book, I cannot in all my wildest dreams imagine that there aren’t really a lot more good people than what has been discovered. If my neighbor really was in trouble, I would be there.

Dr. Oliner: I know you would.

Roger: I really would! I would die for principle and I know a lot of my good friends would do the same! At least, I think we would.

But, then faced with this ominous evil authority that came with the Hitler regime and the SS and the hit squads, maybe not! I don’t know now because I can’t comprehend it! I cannot, in my mind’s eye, see loading human beings onto cattle cars and dragging them off to their death! I cannot visualize it, even though I know it happened!

So, I go back to the opening paragraph of your book where a man is resting in his sleep, or not resting but having nightmares, and his friend not wanting to awaken him to the worse nightmare of his reality. That is so powerful!

Dr. Oliner: Yes, it’s by a famous guy, Frankl, who I’m sure you know is a psychologist. His famous book is “Men Search for Meaning.” To survive a horror like this is to try to live in you mind, try to suppress the evil around you, try to think of poetry and beauty and flowers, what might have been or what once was….

Roger: Before I take calls here in just a minute, I just want to ask you this. Did we learn anything from this horrible atrocity, this terrible, terrible, terrible war on mankind? Did we learn anything from it?

Dr. Oliner: I think that we have learned something although not enough! Let me talk about “not enough” because since then we’ve had Bangladesh, Biafra, the Tutsis and the Hutus. So, we’ve had other genocides. We haven’t learned enough because our leaders still remain as, I don’t know, moral dwarfs or something — people who did not stand up and intervene in evil. We have the capability of stopping the slaughter in Bosnia, the Europeans had the capability. So, we haven’t learned enough!

But, we’ve learned something! For one thing, the school systems in a number of states are now teaching about genocide, the massacre of indians, the holocaust and other genocides in 13 other places. There’s more sensitivity to the idea of …we’ve got to teach prosocial behavior and we’ve got to talk more about moral leaders, moral people.

Roger: Sam, I know you’re living in Eureka, the pot capital of America and all the people are like peaceful and high and everything. But, do you know what they call it when young Black men in inner-city America are running up and down the streets at night and during the daytime hours, shooting each other and killing each other? Do you know what they call it?

Dr. Oliner: Go ahead, tell me.

Roger:  It’s the “good riddance factor”. I mean we don’t even deal with these situations in their microcosms in America today, let alone go to Rwanda or Burundi. We don’t even have the capability of dealing with this horrible evil that exists right here at home!

Dr. Oliner: We have the capability, Roger; but, we are indifferent to it. We are indifferent…

Roger: Then let me ask you before we go to the break and we’ll take calls immediately after the break— did we really learn anything?

Dr. Oliner: Yes! We learned that there was evil and some people stood up against evil. We must be vigilant and we must teach about it. Some people in this country call it the Holocaust Industry. No, it’s not! What it is, we are building libraries and memorials so that people can learn for the future what might happen if we are bystanders, indifferent to the past.

Roger: We’ve got to take a break. Dr. Sam Oliner is our guest. His book is “The Altruistic Personality”. If you want to get a good feel for goodness, get the book! We’ll be right back to take your calls. Please stay tuned.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger:    Welcome back! Dr. Sam Oliner is with us. We’ll go right to the phones, okay? Jimmy in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Hello!

Caller-Jimmy: Hello to you and hello to that eminent gentleman we’re talking with. Can you hear me?

Dr. Oliner: Hello! Yes, I can.

Caller-Jimmy: I’ve enjoyed listening to your comments, especially when the Jews were being ignored by the United States and many others. How true those words are, Roger!   Roosevelt ignored everything and could have done a lot more than he did! I have never liked the man because of his actions towards the Jews. I’m a Catholic; but, I was always taught to be nice to people.

53 years ago I saw the Bergen-Belsen, Hannau (sp?) and Dachau camps. I still find it appalling! I was fortunate enough to have been spared after I had seen the signs of “Arbeit macht frei”(Work Will Set You Free) that I didn’t go to one camp. But, the sights that I saw were stomach-turning! It was anything but pretty! George Patton said he wanted every soldier in his Third Army area —- the American soldier didn’t always know what they were fighting for —- He said, “I want you to come and take a damn good look at what you’re fighting against! This filth!!!” He hit it right! That’s just what there were! To see those human skeletons, I remember it well! I’m looking forward to your book, Sam!

Dr. Oliner: Thank you very much!

Roger:   Thank you, Jimmy.

Caller-Jimmy: Goodnight. Roger: Dave, in Central Point, Oregon. Hello, Dave!

Caller-Dave: Good evening to you Roger and to your very distinguished guest there. God bless him for living through such a hell! Listen, Roger, I’ve got tell you, it’s not inherited evil, it’s inherited sin, you know? And, a lot of what Sam says is true. It’s ignorance! The way they tell the lie over and over and over again until people believe. Look at America! Look at our own propaganda machine! You can see it happening at work.

Roger: The media can demonize anyone they want, that’s true.

Caller-Dave: Well, look at the polls. The sheep believe it! There you have it. There’s your proof. But, it’s inherited sin. It’s Adamic sin! Then add to that our corrupt culture and there you go! I’m scared about the rest of the world, like China and Africa and all these other places where it continues. God help us all! I hope he comes back soon.

Roger: Dave, I really appreciate your call. God bless!   Carol in Madison, Wisconsin, hello!

Caller-Carol: Yes, I have an article from the British Medical Journal here headlined, “Half of German Doctors Were Nazis” and it quotes a professor of Medical Ethics, Dr. Michael Grodin and a professor of History of Science, Dr. Robert Proctor.

Dr. Oliner: Yes, I know him.

Caller-Carol:  They talk about a meshing of medical ideology and Nazi ideology, namely a homeopathic paranoia, a desire to cleanse the German volk of all impurities and health threats including contamination by undesirable elements in society. So, those doctors can hardly be called ignorant! They were the most active of any segment in the population, according to Dr. Proctor’s book.

Roger: Imagine being a scientist….

Caller-Carol: And their ideology is still alive and well today in the anti-smoking movement.

Roger:  Carol, thank you. Hitler did give carte blanche to Mengele and his vast cadre of followers and….

Dr. Oliner:  In the name of science, they committed the horrors and atrocities. The caller is right! And, by the way, not only ignorant people can do evil, educated people can do evil, to–especially when they have bought into the ideology that they’re doing it in the name of science.

Roger:  I think that you can make a case that some people should know better and other you might not expect to be as readily knowledgeable. Don, in Roseburg, Oregon, hello!

Caller-Don: Hi Roger, howya doin? I just wondered if the Doctor knew, or if he can sense any of the same things happening in this society now with the liberals as has happened all across…..

Roger: You can’t ask Sam that question!. He’s a U.C. Berkeley grad! Ha, ha, ha!

Dr. Oliner:   Ha, ha, ha!

Caller-Don: Ha, ha, ha! Can he sense that type of thing happening, the ignorance of a lot of people?

Roger: Do you see the tentacles of fascism in America today, Sam?

Dr. Oliner: No. I hope to God not! I’ve lived in a very fascistic society. With all our troubles, problems and corruption we have, we still have a belief in democracy. We still have a belief in freedom of religion and freedom of the press. When this goes, then we’ve got a problem and we’ve got fascism coming; but, I don’t think that is going to go because there a lot of people sensitive and bright enough not to permit this to happen. People must have freedom — must have freedom of worship — must have freedom of the press! So, I feel more safe here.

Roger: Well, the warning signs will obvious, I suppose. I’ve seen little pieces; but, I do think the people in this country would be hard-pressed to fall into the same trap, let’s hope!

Sam, I really appreciate having me you. You seem like a wonderful guy!

The book, “The Altruistic Personality,” by Samuel P. Oliner and Pearl M. Oliner is available at your bookstores. Sam, the pleasure was all mine!

Dr. Oliner: It was my pleasure!   Thank you very much and I thank all your listeners. They’re wonderful! Appreciate it! And Good night!

Roger: God bless! Ladies and gentlemen, that’s that for this week’s Holocaust special. We were only going to go for an hour but it turned out to be so fascinating – at least, it was for me and I hope it was for you. We’ll be back tomorrow night. God bless America!

Transcription is from MP3 file converted from original cassette with minimal editing by Chey Simonton.

Errors, if any, may be due to unintelligible sections of original 1997 audio technology. Unknown/unintelligible words are spelled phonetically.)

The Holocaust – We Must Remember – Rachel Hager “When They Came to Take My Father”

THE HOLOCAUST: WE MUST REMEMBER 

30-Hour Series of Interviews broadcast on the Roger Fredinburg Radio Program

1-7-1998 Seventh Program in Series

Guests: Heather Macadam and Rena Kornreich Gelissen

RENA’S PROMISE: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz

ISBN-10: 0807070718 and ISBN-13: 978-0807070710

Rena

In this show, Roger Fredinburg interviews Heather Macadam and Rena Kornreich Gellissen about the book: Rena’s Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz. This is a very moving story about survival from an Auschwitz survivor.

Roger:    Good evening, everyone! Thank you very much for continuing to tune into our continuing saga here. We’ve got several more weeks of The Holocaust series upcoming and we’re getting into a phase of talking with a number of survivors. This is a most difficult task for a talk show host and for the people being interviewed.

Our guest this evening has quite a story to tell, indeed. Not that all survivors don’t; but, this is a rather interesting and intriguing story this evening. I want to read the prologue to the book to start out and then I’ll introduce our guest.

“I touched the scar on the left forearm just below the elbow. I had the tattoo surgically removed.   There were so many people who didn’t know and so many questions: “What do those numbers mean?” “Is that your address?” “Is that your phone number?”

What was I supposed to say?   “That was my name for three years and forty-one days?”

One day a kind doctor offered to remove it for me. “This is not charity,” he assured me. “It’s the least I can do as an American Jew. You were there, I was not.”

So I chose to have the questions excised from my arm; but, not my mind –that can never be erased. This piece of skin the doctor surgically removed rests in a jar of formaldehyde which has turned the flesh to an eerie green. The tattoo has probably faded by now, I haven’t checked. I need no reminders. I know who I am. I know what I was.

I was on the first Jewish transport to Auschwitz. I was number 1716.”

With that, I’d like to welcome Rena Kornreich Gelissen to the program. Rena, welcome to the show!

Rena G: Thank you.

Roger: It’s a pleasure to have you here.

Rena G:  I’m happy to be here. I’m just sorry my voice is a little bit hoarse.

Roger:  We’ll put up with it! Ha, ha, ha!     I also want to introduce Heather Dune Macadam who is the author of the book. Heather, you wrote the book for Rena, is that right?

Heather M:   Yes. I worked with Rena for about nine months, interviewing her. The confusion tends to come from the choice I made to tell her story in first person, present tense. It’s confusing for some people reading it because they feel she wrote the book. I call it “method writing”. We became extremely close and I listened to her with my heart and with my soul and my mind. There were moments when she definitely came through my fingers as I was writing her story. Anybody who speaks several languages knows their spoken word is always different than the written word. Rena speaks fluently in about four or five languages; but, writing in English was much more difficult that speaking in English for her. So, she used me as her instrument.

Roger:   That’s wonderful! Rena, the book is titled, “Rena’s Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz”. What I would like you to do is talk a little bit about your childhood, where you grew up and your family, please.

Rena G:   I come from an Orthodox Jewish family in a little town in Poland called Tylicz. We had a small farm. There were two older sisters before us; one was already in the United States – she left when I was a baby, the other one was in Poland living near us. The youngest one was my sister, Danka, two years younger than I was. We sort of grew up as just two sisters because the other ones were a lot older.   My oldest sister was sixteen years older and the other sister was fourteen years older than I was.

So, I was together with Danka at home when the war started, September 1, 1939, when Hitler’s army marched into my hometown, Tylicz. My hometown was only about 2-1/2 miles from the Czechoslovakian border. Because of the annexation, Hitler’s army was already in Czechoslovakia. They came in the middle of the night and attacked Poland and the suffering started.

Roger:   Now, how old were you when this happened?

Rena G:  When the Germans marched in I was nineteen and my sister, Danka, was seventeen. We escaped to Czechoslovakia, both of us. My mother heard rumors they were taking Jewish girls to the military compound and raping them and she said she didn’t want to risk this happening to her daughters. I didn’t want to leave them alone because they were elderly people and they were helpless. I was young and strong and I wanted to stay with them; but, Mama’s wishes had to be fulfilled because she said, “If you don’t go, then I will go away and you will never see me again.”

So we had no choice.

A guide came with a sled in December and brought us both to Czechoslovakia. I don’t know how much you want me to tell about Czechoslovakia?

Roger: Just tell your story, Rena.

Rena G: I was staying with a family in Bratislava and my sister was staying with another family in Bratislava. She was nanny to a little boy with a Jewish family. I was with another Jewish family who took me in because they knew what was going on in Poland and they thought what was going in Czechoslovakia was a lot better because of the annexation, Hitler’s army, the Nazis treated the Jews in Czechoslovakia a lot better. That’s what Mama thought; it was going to be better that we escape. We had relatives there in a small town; but, we went to a big city because it was easier to hide us, being foreigners. The first time we escaped to Czechoslovakia I stayed six months and learned the Czechoslovakian language, so I knew already Slovakian, and my sister, Danka, too. We both escaped one time.

This was our second escape. She was in the big city there and I was, too. The people who I stayed with, the Jewish family, heard some rumors they were going to pick up young Jewish girls and bring them to a work camp for forced labor. They decided to contact a family in a small town in Czechoslovakia, the town is called Hummene. They decided there was a family who may take me in there. Maybe in a small town it may be easier to hide, or something like this.

Ironically, when I came to the small town about a year later, by that time it was 1941, it was the first town the Nazi SS decided to take to Auschwitz. There they took 999 young women from Czechoslovakia and I was one of them. They were picking up Jewish girls from their homes if they were between 17-19 and 21-22 years. That’s where it started. I gave myself up because I was with a young family – I was mostly a nanny to their little five-year old daughter. They were very nice and kind to me. Then they took (unintelligible) from Hitler’s army, from the Nazis. If anybody had a foreigner, it was martial law from now on. There were big signs everywhere in the building. Martial law means if you’re hiding a foreigner, then the person that you are hiding will be killed on the spot, there will be no arresting, no punishment or anything, you’re just going to be dead! And any family keeping a foreigner is just going to be killed!

By that time I was 21 years old and I certainly understood what it meant — a young family with a five-year old girl that I loved very much—and she loved me, too.   They didn’t want me to go, to give myself up. We foreigners were supposed to give ourselves up to a military compound. They didn’t want me to go. When they left to go shopping with their little girl, I sneaked out after I quickly wrote a letter to my little sister. I had a fiance there since my first trip and I wrote him a letter telling him I had to go because there was no choice.

I went to the military compound and gave myself up thinking I’m going to a working camp. They kept us there the whole night—quite a few other people like me, foreigners. The next morning we were escorted by two SS men to the train. No, first they took me back to the family I stayed with and told me I could pack as much stuff as I wanted to take with me. So, I did. I packed my suitcase, I didn’t have so much; but, I did have some belongings to take with me. They took me to the train station. I didn’t see a train, all I could see was cattle cars. All the young girls and we discovered we were the ones to go in the cattle cars. That was the first beginning of being taken to Auschwitz.

I arrived at Auschwitz six days later. It was March 26, 1941.

1389.4 Holocaust B

Roger:   Describe your first day at Auschwitz to me, if you could, please? What was the routine?

Rena G:  From the beginning when we arrived?

Roger: Yes.

Heather M: If I may interject here, it was 1942.

Rena G:   Sorry, sorry, I’m a little bit nervous!

Heather M: That’s okay! It does get confusing.

Rena G: She knows the dates very well.

Heather M: She has an amazing memory!

Roger: Yes, the first day, Rena.

Rena G:  We arrived there first on the cattle cars there was standing room only because there are no seats in a cattle car. So we stood the whole time, six days, no food, no drink–nothing at all! We had our suitcases with us; but we couldn’t even sit on our suitcases because there was no room, that’s how packed it was—between 80-100 people in one cattle car.

On the way there somebody asked, “Is somebody here from Poland?” At first I was very absent-minded and miserable seeing what was going on in that cattle car. It didn’t register right away, I didn’t hear it. Then I said, “I am Polish.” The man said, “We are going to take you off and see where you are going to.” We didn’t know which country were in. “Could you read the station names, maybe?” So I saw the signs were in the Polish language-I was reading the Polish name for Auschwitz.

When we arrived there in Auschwitz, the doors opened up and we had to jump down about five feet with the suitcase in our hands. After spending six days standing, our knees almost broke when we did that!   We were standing there with the suitcases and we were told to put the suitcases in one pile by six SS men standing there in beautiful shiny boots with rifles and guns. We were supposed to line up. There were some elderly people there with us, too. The young people, all of us young girls, the 999 they took from Hummene were supposed to line up in rows of five.

I studied the German language when I went to Hebrew school and I thought I could speak German. I walked up to one of the officers and said, “How are we going to find our suitcases if we have to throw them in that pile?”   He told me, “Shut up and get in line!” So, I had a pretty good idea when I looked at them, I said, “Oh boy! This is not going to be a work camp!” It’s horrible to say that the people that you’re taking for work — not giving them food the whole time, nothing to drink — if you’re want somebody to work, you feed them if they have to work, even if it’s forced labor. Anyway, I put the suitcase down and then they marched us into camp.

Over the gate in the camp next to us was the mens’ camp. They made a temporary station, a wall separating the men’s camp (from the women’s side ?). They had buildings called blocks, numbered from 1 to 24, with 12 on one side of the wall with the electrical high-power wire and the rest on the other side. We marched in there and we had to stand in rows of eighteen. One row was going into the first building, block 2, and we had to go in from the back. I wasn’t in that first row. Other girls were going in there and then coming out the front door to line up again to stand up for roll call.

When we were standing there, some of the girls went in. Then we saw people coming out. We thought that these people looked crazy; they had shaved heads and junky uniforms, just a piece of wood on the foot with leather straps that was supposed to be a shoe. It was March and it was snowing and raining a little bit at the same time.   Then I heard one of those girls shouting to her sister, “They took away everything from us! It’s me, it’s me!”she said to her sister.

We got terrified! We thought at first it looked like mentally retarded people! I said, “Why would take mentally retarded people to a concentration camp?”   They were our girls; but, that’s what they looked like, with shaved heads, wood strapped on for shoes, wearing uniforms with no buttons on it, they were holding onto the pants and the jacket at the same time!

They took away our jewelry, too. I had earrings. One of the girls was shouting, “Get rid of it, just shove it into the mud or something, don’t give it to them.” So, I took off my watch, I forgot I was wearing earrings; but, I took off my watch and shoved it into the dirt.”

When we went in they registered us. When they asked me where I was from, I said, “Poland.” So they put down “Polish” and they understood that I was Gentile so they gave me a Red Triangle because the Yellow Star was for the Jewish people and they thought I was Polish. I was the only Polish girl there on the transport because it had come from Czechoslovakia, not Poland. So they put down just the nationality.

They told us to take off our clothes and fold them neatly in bundles and to tie the shoes together if they had shoelaces. Then they started processing us; shaving our heads and all bodily hair and dumping us in disinfecting wash tubs, old-fashioned wooden ones. After this we were supposed to march in another room where there were piles and piles of uniforms. We had no idea what kind of uniforms they were because we didn’t see the insignia on them anymore, some of them were without buttons. We were supposed to be putting on these uniforms. We were all naked, no underwear, nothing at all, just the uniform on the naked body – and a piece of wood with a leather strap for the feet! We started with each other; some of us were taller, some short, and the pants were too long, so it was really chaos! We were terrified, and still without food and without drinking! Then they marched us outside for roll call.

After this they, with the group that I was in, put us in Block 5. When they came into the room on the 2nd floor – there were two floors in the building— they came into the room and locked the door on the outside. We were still without food or anything. Then we saw straw lying on the floor, a whole pile of straw. Some of the girls were exhausted and laid down. Then we discovered it was full of bedbugs. Everybody was covered with the bedbugs, faces covered with bedbugs! This was our first introduction to Auschwitz!

We pounded on the door, “Let us out! What did we do?” We were naive. We didn’t have any idea that we (unintelligible).   I already had experience with them in my hometown, when they came in they made us do slave labor already, scrubbing their floors and polishing their boots and doing their laundry; but, I didn’t experience anything like this, being shaved and things. I was wearing my own clothes in my hometown.

In the morning we went on roll call. On the third day they put in another building, Block 10. All the brick buildings were called Blocks and were moved to Block 10 because new transports were coming in every single day. We didn’t go out to work, we just went for roll call in the morning. After roll call we each got a little piece of bread, like 3” x 3”, and a bowl of so-called tea which was a kind of black water they called tea.

In Block 10 the bare straw was not there. There was burlap for cover, stuffed with straw and we were sleeping there on those beds every one of them in three tiers— bunk beds.

Roger: When did you get the tattoo, 1716?

Rena G:   The 2nd day when we came for roll call, we didn’t march out to work yet, so we didn’t know what we were waiting for. We just marched out for roll call. The SS came in and counted us–back into the building–then we had to march again to the mens’ camp. There in the mens’ camp the men were sitting there with needles for tattooing and on the left arm they put the tattoo. Then a couple of days later they gave us material to sew our number on the sleeve of the uniform. 1716 was the number I had to sew on the dress.

Heather M:   A note here, they started numbering the Jewish women at 1000 because on the same day, March 26, 1942 — this footnote comes out of the “Auschwitz Chronicle” which was compiled by Danuta Czech. It is a day-by-day accounting of everything that happened at Auschwitz from 1939-1945. One of the footnotes that is in the book states that 999 German women classified as A-Social, Criminal and a few political prisoners received the numbers 1 to 999. Those women are Capos, who were over the Jewish women…

Rena G: Excuse me for interrupting. They just had the numbers on their clothes.

Heather M: Right.

Rena G: Only Jewish people were tattooed.

Heather M: Right, they were not tattooed. The capos were German prisoners who were put in charge of the Jewish prisoners.

Roger: So, you have your number, you’ve sewed it on your uniform. How large were the blocks?

Rena G: They were pretty large buildings. There was just a big room downstairs and a big room upstairs, maybe 15 ft x 20 ft with all the bunk beds in one row along the side.

Roger: How many girls in one Block?

Rena G: In one Block the first time we came in, all of us on the first transport were divided into four Blocks. One Block was for the newcomers to come in. The groups on the first transport I came with, the 999, we were in two Blocks. We were taken out of Block 5 where they put us on the first day because they needed it for the newcomers, we were staying there on the lower floor and on the second floor.

Roger:   I have to take a commercial break. If you could please hold and be patient, we’ll be right back, ladies and gentlemen, and continue after the break.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back! Our guests this evening are Heather Macadam who wrote the book for Rena Cornreich Gelissen. The book is “Rena’s Promise: The Story of Two Sisters in Auschwitz.”

Rena, I want to go back to those first days in Auschwitz with you. You got a tattoo. Now,you said that you were not identified, at first, as Jewish; but only as Polish.

Rena G: Yes. Later on there were no Polish girls in this camp. Later on they let me have the same number I kept when I had the Red Triangle. But, they still treated me just the same as the other Jews. because the Gentiles, the Polish people, when they came in later, they did not treat in the same way and they did not sleep in the same barracks, in the same buildings. They had separate barracks with a little bit better beds, mattresses and blankets. So, I stayed there but it didn’t change the Triangle.

Roger:  So, it was kind of a class system there in the camp? 

Rena G: Yes.

Roger:   People who were Gentiles got more food and better housing and all that?

Rena G:  Not exactly more food, maybe a little bit more food; but, better treatment and different kind of work. They did not work with us when we marched out to work. This was later when we went to another camp. In the meantime…..

… I neglected to tell you, I should have explained probably, that the title, “Rena’s Promise,” the publisher decided on this title. The reason for it is that when my Mama and Papa decided to have a guide, when he came with a sled, they got dressed and they put us into the sled and covered us with blankets because it was snowing, it was December and it was pretty cold. Mama whispered in my ear, “Take care of your little sister,” because she was two years younger. Mama always said “Take care of your little sister,” when we went out to play. I said, “Yes, Mama.”

I didn’t know that there was very little that I could do for her. I did whatever I could; but, Auschwitz wasn’t a place that I could take care of my sister or give her comfort, or protect her from beatings, or give her more food, or anything.   But, I was doing for my sister, whatever I could.

Roger: Trying to keep that promise to your mother.

Rena G: Yes! And, the publisher decided the title of the book should be “Rena’s Promise”.

Roger:  I think the publisher made a good choice. Rena, how long were you at Auschwitz before your sister came?

Rena G: Only three days. On the third day after we went for the tattoo– and it was very painful, too– I shouldn’t have gone anywhere, but, the transports were coming in and I sneaked away looking for air because I was afraid if more people were going to come there’s going to be a big crowd and I wouldn’t recognize her, especially with a shaved head and everything. I might not know who she is, so how could I get her? I wanted to keep her with me, close to me, so I sneaked away instead of going into the Block. The other ones one standing there with the shaved heads, I looked the same as they did because we wore the same uniforms.

On the same day as I had the tattoo, there she was! I recognized her. She had red hair and beautiful brown eyes! So, I recognized my sister! I grabbed her by the hand and said, “Pretend we are important her and we are going into Block 10. We’ll see what happens.” She was shaking and looked at me. At first, she didn’t recognize me. She went into Block 10 and I asked the Block Elder who was dealing out the bread — my sister came from Bratislava, for more than three days without food — I told the Block Elder she was very hungry. She said, “Okay. You help me deal out the bread today, give the portions to everybody and you get an extra portion for your sister.” So, two portions plus an extra portion. I did help with the bread dealing out to everybody and got the extra portion.

Then she started telling me how she was in Czechoslovakia with the Jewish family, how they came to the house picked her up and just took her Auschwitz. She didn’t know where she was. She was for many days on that cattle car, just as we were. They took away everything, too!

I forgot to tell you, I also had earrings in my ears and my sister had, too, Danka. My grandfather, my mother’s father, was giving to all his granddaughters when they were six years old, entering school, giving gold earrings and a little ring with a turquoise stone. When the woman took away the clothes from us and told us to fold the clothes neatly and tie the shoes, I walked away. I forgot I threw the watch outside so I stepped on it and forgot I was wearing these earrings since I was a little girl, since I was six years old. She said, “Get those earrings here or I’m going to tear them off your ears!” So, I took them off and threw them in that bowl they had for all the jewelry. My sister had to do the same thing. When she came out I asked her, “Did you have to take off the earrings yet?”

She said, “Yes, she shouted at me because I didn’t know I had to them off.”

Heather M: Danka’s number was 2779.

Rena G: Yes. I forgot to tell you, when we went for the tattoos — the German woman, the one who came from prison to be our superior, did the shaving, the disinfecting and also the registration, not of our names but just which countries we came from. The same woman was in charge of everything else, the uniforms and what we put on.

While I was in line for my uniform, I forgot to tell you, there was a table on the other side— like, I’m standing in the middle of the room and to the right is going for the uniforms, all stark naked we go and stand for the uniforms! To the left is the so-called doctor standing at a long table. Every girl had to go naked on that table! Naked! He had rubber gloves and he was examining the girls. I was naïve, I had no idea what he was doing! I found out later he was looking in all the crevices of the body for jewelry. There was screaming and crying! It was painful! Instead of going to the left to that table, I decided quickly to go with the naked girls who were already processed from the table, to go with them to the uniforms. So, I cheated them out of that experience! I cheated Hitler out of the first horrible experience, that I wasn’t examined and I didn’t suffer the pain!

When Danka came, I told her to do the same thing. But, they stopped doing it the third day. I don’t know what they were doing later; but, she said she wasn’t exposed to it at all. They didn’t make them go there.

Roger:   What was going through your mind after you settled in there for a few days? Did it begin to seem hopeless immediately or …?

Rena G: Yes, it did! I looked at them and I decided, these are not human beings, these are monsters! They were already pretty bad; they almost shot my father to death while I was still at home, doing all the work for them and the way they treated us! I decided that they’re the enemy; they are the bad people and we are the good people! I’m going to make sure we survive! If I can’t save my sister, I don’t need to live; but, I have to keep the promise to my Mama so I’ll see to it that we stay alive! I tried very hard, both of us tried very hard to stay alive.

One night, we were only there for four days, I heard some shots outside. Danka was already asleep, she was exhausted. We still didn’t go out for detail, for working. We still were in Block 10 and there were windows on the second floor. Through the windows on the second floor we could see over the wall, the wall was shorter than our windows, we could see the Polish men (we found out later that they were Polish) on the other side, from their windows looking out. When Danka came I stood by one of the windows there, opened up, I heard shots at night and I was intrigued by it. I was wondering, did those shots mean that every night or every morning, they were going to shoot us, a couple of us at a time?

The man shouted from the window on the other side, “Anybody from Poland?”   I said, “Yes, I am, my sister and I.” because the rest were all Slovakian Jewish girls. They asked, “What can I do for you?”   I said, “Well, she’s very hungry, with so many days on the train.” We didn’t get much bread here either.   I said, “I have something very important to ask you. I hear shots every night and I’d like to know what it is?   Does that mean they’re shooting so many of us every night, so many of us?”

He said, “No. I’m going to write you a note. Listen, you have one toilet in that building there.   When you get a note from me with the bread I’m going to send for your sister, when you get the note, it will explain to you what the uniforms you are wearing, what the shooting means. You’ll have to flush it down the toilet or if you can’t get rid of the note any other way, just eat it, swallow it.”

Roger:    Rena, I’ve got to take a break here. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking about the book, “Rena’s Promise: The Story of Sisters in Auschwitz”.   We’ll be right back.

COMMERCIAL BREAK

Roger:   Welcome back! We’ve got Rena Gelissen and Heather Macadam on with us tonight. Rena, you were talking about the note. Did you get this note? 

Rena G: Yes, I got the note! He told me to destroy it and I gave the bread to my sister because she was very hungry. The note I read. The note explained to me what the shootings were about. There were 12, 000 Russian prisoners of war. The straw I saw in Block 5, the Russian prisoners used to sleep there and that’s why it was full of bedbugs and lice. It said we probably now had it in the uniforms, too. That was true! He said the of the 12, 000 there were about 500 left. Everyday they shoot more of them! The uniforms you are wearing are from the dead Russian prisoners! 

Roger:  Could you see out and around Auschwitz much? Could you see what was going on in the surrounding areas? 

Rena G:   I didn’t see anything but the buildings across from us, the mens’ buildings. When they came back from work in the evening, I saw them from the windows where we looked out. They told me that every day there were shots. When I heard the shots later on, I looked out the window. They bolted up the windows from this side. It was between Block 11 and Block 10. We were in Block 10, the building was Block 10. Block 11 was the Block of Death. It’s still called the Block of Death. 

When I looked out the window, I sneaked out after Danka fell asleep because I didn’t want to scare her, I sneaked out to the window. Between the boards at the top I could see against the wall of Block 11, a soldier standing –in the same uniform I was wearing— with hands up against the wall and under my window I didn’t see anybody; but, I heard the shot and the soldier fell down. I heard the shot and another one fell down,…l and on, and on, it went for the rest…. 

Heather M:  I’d like to add to that. Anybody who visits Auschwitz today, there is a memorial in that spot where Rena witnessed the Russian POWs being murdered. It is right between Block 10, where she was imprisoned when she first came to Auschwitz through August 1942, and Block 11 which is called the Block of Death. There is actually a courtyard between those two blocks and there is a memorial in that area where she witnessed the POWs being executed. 

Roger:  Rena, how long were you in Auschwitz? 

Rena G:   Altogether, when the Russians were coming close in 1945 the Nazis took us as hostages on a Death March.   They were fleeing and they took us on a Death March. The whole thing together; first Auschwitz One which I’m telling you now. Later on they changed I and put us in the fall to Birkenau, where the crematoriums and gas chambers were. Then they took us on the Death March, then they took us to Ravensbruck in Germany, then another camp, Neustadt-Glewe in Germany. On May 2, 1945—by that time it was three years and forty-one days, we were liberated by the 82nd Airborne of the American army. They’re stationed right here in North Carolina where I live. 

Roger:   What kind of work did you do all those years? 

Rena G: Oh, my God! It was digging for planting, somebody else was planting. We were digging the ground and turning it over. Then it was sifting sand, like you do for buildings. They were building more buildings because there were more Jews coming in and some of the younger they were keeping in these buildings. Then we were going out to sift that sand and put it in lorries. I don’t know if you know what a lorry is. 

Heather M:   A wagon. 

Rena G: Yes. Usually they’re put on railroad tracks; but, they made us…four on one side, four on the other side… load us the lorries with sifted sand and bring them to the buildings where the Polish men were building the buildings. They were there as political prisoners and for religious reasons. There were priests ….

Roger:  How big were the gas chambers? 

Rena G: Well, I wasn’t in them, thank God! It was a big building. One time my friend that came from my hometown was assigned where they were sorting the clothes from the gas chamber. Jewish people were supposed–the young kids and the elderly, everyone over 32 or 33 years and under 17 or 18 were all going to the gas chambers.   Their clothes were put in another building where my friend from my hometown was working. They were helping fold and ship them to Germany, all the clothes. 

While I was there that one day, I tried to get into another detail, not working outside. I thought it was kind of hard-working outside and she was under a roof and sometimes she could find some chocolate in the pockets of the Jewish people who were brought into the camp, and sometimes pieces of bread. She suggested that we come in. So Danka and I went in. While I was there I found a coat of my uncle in Czechoslovakia. His name was Yacov and he was a tailor. My aunt had a black persian coat. One of the things I was folding was my aunt’s coat. 

Roger: Oh, boy!   Ladies, we’ve run out of time for this hour. I want to thank you very, very much, Rena. You’ve given us some insight on what it was like that first day. 

Rena G:   I want to thank you because I want people to know because I promised myself in camp, two things; that I’m going to take care of my sister and when I come out alive I’m going to tell the story and world is never going to have a war anymore. But, that didn’t come out exactly, did it? 

Roger: Well, keep working at it! You’ve got a lot of insight and a lot of wisdom. Maybe someone will listen to you! How do people get the book, Heather? 

Heather M: We are being published by Beacon Press in America. It’s available in local bookstores. 

Roger:   Thank you ladies, for sharing your wonderful story.

(Transcription is from MP3 file converted from original cassette with minimal editing by Chey Simonton.

Errors, if any, may be due to unintelligible sections of original 1997 audio technology. Unknown/unintelligible words are spelled phonetically.)

 

 

The Holocaust – We Must Remember – Rachel Hager "When They Came to Take My Father"

THE HOLOCAUST: WE MUST REMEMBER 

30-Hour Series of Interviews broadcast on the Roger Fredinburg Radio Program
1-7-1998 Seventh Program in Series
Guests: Heather Macadam and Rena Kornreich Gelissen
RENA’S PROMISE: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz
ISBN-10: 0807070718 and ISBN-13: 978-0807070710
Rena
In this show, Roger Fredinburg interviews Heather Macadam and Rena Kornreich Gellissen about the book: Rena’s Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz. This is a very moving story about survival from an Auschwitz survivor.
Roger:    Good evening, everyone! Thank you very much for continuing to tune into our continuing saga here. We’ve got several more weeks of The Holocaust series upcoming and we’re getting into a phase of talking with a number of survivors. This is a most difficult task for a talk show host and for the people being interviewed.
Our guest this evening has quite a story to tell, indeed. Not that all survivors don’t; but, this is a rather interesting and intriguing story this evening. I want to read the prologue to the book to start out and then I’ll introduce our guest.
“I touched the scar on the left forearm just below the elbow. I had the tattoo surgically removed.   There were so many people who didn’t know and so many questions: “What do those numbers mean?” “Is that your address?” “Is that your phone number?”
What was I supposed to say?   “That was my name for three years and forty-one days?”
One day a kind doctor offered to remove it for me. “This is not charity,” he assured me. “It’s the least I can do as an American Jew. You were there, I was not.”
So I chose to have the questions excised from my arm; but, not my mind –that can never be erased. This piece of skin the doctor surgically removed rests in a jar of formaldehyde which has turned the flesh to an eerie green. The tattoo has probably faded by now, I haven’t checked. I need no reminders. I know who I am. I know what I was.
I was on the first Jewish transport to Auschwitz. I was number 1716.”
With that, I’d like to welcome Rena Kornreich Gelissen to the program. Rena, welcome to the show!
Rena G: Thank you.
Roger: It’s a pleasure to have you here.
Rena G:  I’m happy to be here. I’m just sorry my voice is a little bit hoarse.
Roger:  We’ll put up with it! Ha, ha, ha!     I also want to introduce Heather Dune Macadam who is the author of the book. Heather, you wrote the book for Rena, is that right?
Heather M:   Yes. I worked with Rena for about nine months, interviewing her. The confusion tends to come from the choice I made to tell her story in first person, present tense. It’s confusing for some people reading it because they feel she wrote the book. I call it “method writing”. We became extremely close and I listened to her with my heart and with my soul and my mind. There were moments when she definitely came through my fingers as I was writing her story. Anybody who speaks several languages knows their spoken word is always different than the written word. Rena speaks fluently in about four or five languages; but, writing in English was much more difficult that speaking in English for her. So, she used me as her instrument.
Roger:   That’s wonderful! Rena, the book is titled, “Rena’s Promise: A Story of Sisters in Auschwitz”. What I would like you to do is talk a little bit about your childhood, where you grew up and your family, please.
Rena G:   I come from an Orthodox Jewish family in a little town in Poland called Tylicz. We had a small farm. There were two older sisters before us; one was already in the United States – she left when I was a baby, the other one was in Poland living near us. The youngest one was my sister, Danka, two years younger than I was. We sort of grew up as just two sisters because the other ones were a lot older.   My oldest sister was sixteen years older and the other sister was fourteen years older than I was.
So, I was together with Danka at home when the war started, September 1, 1939, when Hitler’s army marched into my hometown, Tylicz. My hometown was only about 2-1/2 miles from the Czechoslovakian border. Because of the annexation, Hitler’s army was already in Czechoslovakia. They came in the middle of the night and attacked Poland and the suffering started.
Roger:   Now, how old were you when this happened?
Rena G:  When the Germans marched in I was nineteen and my sister, Danka, was seventeen. We escaped to Czechoslovakia, both of us. My mother heard rumors they were taking Jewish girls to the military compound and raping them and she said she didn’t want to risk this happening to her daughters. I didn’t want to leave them alone because they were elderly people and they were helpless. I was young and strong and I wanted to stay with them; but, Mama’s wishes had to be fulfilled because she said, “If you don’t go, then I will go away and you will never see me again.”
So we had no choice.
A guide came with a sled in December and brought us both to Czechoslovakia. I don’t know how much you want me to tell about Czechoslovakia?
Roger: Just tell your story, Rena.
Rena G: I was staying with a family in Bratislava and my sister was staying with another family in Bratislava. She was nanny to a little boy with a Jewish family. I was with another Jewish family who took me in because they knew what was going on in Poland and they thought what was going in Czechoslovakia was a lot better because of the annexation, Hitler’s army, the Nazis treated the Jews in Czechoslovakia a lot better. That’s what Mama thought; it was going to be better that we escape. We had relatives there in a small town; but, we went to a big city because it was easier to hide us, being foreigners. The first time we escaped to Czechoslovakia I stayed six months and learned the Czechoslovakian language, so I knew already Slovakian, and my sister, Danka, too. We both escaped one time.
This was our second escape. She was in the big city there and I was, too. The people who I stayed with, the Jewish family, heard some rumors they were going to pick up young Jewish girls and bring them to a work camp for forced labor. They decided to contact a family in a small town in Czechoslovakia, the town is called Hummene. They decided there was a family who may take me in there. Maybe in a small town it may be easier to hide, or something like this.
Ironically, when I came to the small town about a year later, by that time it was 1941, it was the first town the Nazi SS decided to take to Auschwitz. There they took 999 young women from Czechoslovakia and I was one of them. They were picking up Jewish girls from their homes if they were between 17-19 and 21-22 years. That’s where it started. I gave myself up because I was with a young family – I was mostly a nanny to their little five-year old daughter. They were very nice and kind to me. Then they took (unintelligible) from Hitler’s army, from the Nazis. If anybody had a foreigner, it was martial law from now on. There were big signs everywhere in the building. Martial law means if you’re hiding a foreigner, then the person that you are hiding will be killed on the spot, there will be no arresting, no punishment or anything, you’re just going to be dead! And any family keeping a foreigner is just going to be killed!
By that time I was 21 years old and I certainly understood what it meant — a young family with a five-year old girl that I loved very much—and she loved me, too.   They didn’t want me to go, to give myself up. We foreigners were supposed to give ourselves up to a military compound. They didn’t want me to go. When they left to go shopping with their little girl, I sneaked out after I quickly wrote a letter to my little sister. I had a fiance there since my first trip and I wrote him a letter telling him I had to go because there was no choice.
I went to the military compound and gave myself up thinking I’m going to a working camp. They kept us there the whole night—quite a few other people like me, foreigners. The next morning we were escorted by two SS men to the train. No, first they took me back to the family I stayed with and told me I could pack as much stuff as I wanted to take with me. So, I did. I packed my suitcase, I didn’t have so much; but, I did have some belongings to take with me. They took me to the train station. I didn’t see a train, all I could see was cattle cars. All the young girls and we discovered we were the ones to go in the cattle cars. That was the first beginning of being taken to Auschwitz.
I arrived at Auschwitz six days later. It was March 26, 1941.
1389.4 Holocaust B
Roger:   Describe your first day at Auschwitz to me, if you could, please? What was the routine?
Rena G:  From the beginning when we arrived?
Roger: Yes.
Heather M: If I may interject here, it was 1942.
Rena G:   Sorry, sorry, I’m a little bit nervous!
Heather M: That’s okay! It does get confusing.
Rena G: She knows the dates very well.
Heather M: She has an amazing memory!
Roger: Yes, the first day, Rena.
Rena G:  We arrived there first on the cattle cars there was standing room only because there are no seats in a cattle car. So we stood the whole time, six days, no food, no drink–nothing at all! We had our suitcases with us; but we couldn’t even sit on our suitcases because there was no room, that’s how packed it was—between 80-100 people in one cattle car.
On the way there somebody asked, “Is somebody here from Poland?” At first I was very absent-minded and miserable seeing what was going on in that cattle car. It didn’t register right away, I didn’t hear it. Then I said, “I am Polish.” The man said, “We are going to take you off and see where you are going to.” We didn’t know which country were in. “Could you read the station names, maybe?” So I saw the signs were in the Polish language-I was reading the Polish name for Auschwitz.
When we arrived there in Auschwitz, the doors opened up and we had to jump down about five feet with the suitcase in our hands. After spending six days standing, our knees almost broke when we did that!   We were standing there with the suitcases and we were told to put the suitcases in one pile by six SS men standing there in beautiful shiny boots with rifles and guns. We were supposed to line up. There were some elderly people there with us, too. The young people, all of us young girls, the 999 they took from Hummene were supposed to line up in rows of five.
I studied the German language when I went to Hebrew school and I thought I could speak German. I walked up to one of the officers and said, “How are we going to find our suitcases if we have to throw them in that pile?”   He told me, “Shut up and get in line!” So, I had a pretty good idea when I looked at them, I said, “Oh boy! This is not going to be a work camp!” It’s horrible to say that the people that you’re taking for work — not giving them food the whole time, nothing to drink — if you’re want somebody to work, you feed them if they have to work, even if it’s forced labor. Anyway, I put the suitcase down and then they marched us into camp.
Over the gate in the camp next to us was the mens’ camp. They made a temporary station, a wall separating the men’s camp (from the women’s side ?). They had buildings called blocks, numbered from 1 to 24, with 12 on one side of the wall with the electrical high-power wire and the rest on the other side. We marched in there and we had to stand in rows of eighteen. One row was going into the first building, block 2, and we had to go in from the back. I wasn’t in that first row. Other girls were going in there and then coming out the front door to line up again to stand up for roll call.
When we were standing there, some of the girls went in. Then we saw people coming out. We thought that these people looked crazy; they had shaved heads and junky uniforms, just a piece of wood on the foot with leather straps that was supposed to be a shoe. It was March and it was snowing and raining a little bit at the same time.   Then I heard one of those girls shouting to her sister, “They took away everything from us! It’s me, it’s me!”she said to her sister.
We got terrified! We thought at first it looked like mentally retarded people! I said, “Why would take mentally retarded people to a concentration camp?”   They were our girls; but, that’s what they looked like, with shaved heads, wood strapped on for shoes, wearing uniforms with no buttons on it, they were holding onto the pants and the jacket at the same time!
They took away our jewelry, too. I had earrings. One of the girls was shouting, “Get rid of it, just shove it into the mud or something, don’t give it to them.” So, I took off my watch, I forgot I was wearing earrings; but, I took off my watch and shoved it into the dirt.”
When we went in they registered us. When they asked me where I was from, I said, “Poland.” So they put down “Polish” and they understood that I was Gentile so they gave me a Red Triangle because the Yellow Star was for the Jewish people and they thought I was Polish. I was the only Polish girl there on the transport because it had come from Czechoslovakia, not Poland. So they put down just the nationality.
They told us to take off our clothes and fold them neatly in bundles and to tie the shoes together if they had shoelaces. Then they started processing us; shaving our heads and all bodily hair and dumping us in disinfecting wash tubs, old-fashioned wooden ones. After this we were supposed to march in another room where there were piles and piles of uniforms. We had no idea what kind of uniforms they were because we didn’t see the insignia on them anymore, some of them were without buttons. We were supposed to be putting on these uniforms. We were all naked, no underwear, nothing at all, just the uniform on the naked body – and a piece of wood with a leather strap for the feet! We started with each other; some of us were taller, some short, and the pants were too long, so it was really chaos! We were terrified, and still without food and without drinking! Then they marched us outside for roll call.
After this they, with the group that I was in, put us in Block 5. When they came into the room on the 2nd floor – there were two floors in the building— they came into the room and locked the door on the outside. We were still without food or anything. Then we saw straw lying on the floor, a whole pile of straw. Some of the girls were exhausted and laid down. Then we discovered it was full of bedbugs. Everybody was covered with the bedbugs, faces covered with bedbugs! This was our first introduction to Auschwitz!
We pounded on the door, “Let us out! What did we do?” We were naive. We didn’t have any idea that we (unintelligible).   I already had experience with them in my hometown, when they came in they made us do slave labor already, scrubbing their floors and polishing their boots and doing their laundry; but, I didn’t experience anything like this, being shaved and things. I was wearing my own clothes in my hometown.
In the morning we went on roll call. On the third day they put in another building, Block 10. All the brick buildings were called Blocks and were moved to Block 10 because new transports were coming in every single day. We didn’t go out to work, we just went for roll call in the morning. After roll call we each got a little piece of bread, like 3” x 3”, and a bowl of so-called tea which was a kind of black water they called tea.
In Block 10 the bare straw was not there. There was burlap for cover, stuffed with straw and we were sleeping there on those beds every one of them in three tiers— bunk beds.
Roger: When did you get the tattoo, 1716?
Rena G:   The 2nd day when we came for roll call, we didn’t march out to work yet, so we didn’t know what we were waiting for. We just marched out for roll call. The SS came in and counted us–back into the building–then we had to march again to the mens’ camp. There in the mens’ camp the men were sitting there with needles for tattooing and on the left arm they put the tattoo. Then a couple of days later they gave us material to sew our number on the sleeve of the uniform. 1716 was the number I had to sew on the dress.
Heather M:   A note here, they started numbering the Jewish women at 1000 because on the same day, March 26, 1942 — this footnote comes out of the “Auschwitz Chronicle” which was compiled by Danuta Czech. It is a day-by-day accounting of everything that happened at Auschwitz from 1939-1945. One of the footnotes that is in the book states that 999 German women classified as A-Social, Criminal and a few political prisoners received the numbers 1 to 999. Those women are Capos, who were over the Jewish women…
Rena G: Excuse me for interrupting. They just had the numbers on their clothes.
Heather M: Right.
Rena G: Only Jewish people were tattooed.
Heather M: Right, they were not tattooed. The capos were German prisoners who were put in charge of the Jewish prisoners.
Roger: So, you have your number, you’ve sewed it on your uniform. How large were the blocks?
Rena G: They were pretty large buildings. There was just a big room downstairs and a big room upstairs, maybe 15 ft x 20 ft with all the bunk beds in one row along the side.
Roger: How many girls in one Block?
Rena G: In one Block the first time we came in, all of us on the first transport were divided into four Blocks. One Block was for the newcomers to come in. The groups on the first transport I came with, the 999, we were in two Blocks. We were taken out of Block 5 where they put us on the first day because they needed it for the newcomers, we were staying there on the lower floor and on the second floor.
Roger:   I have to take a commercial break. If you could please hold and be patient, we’ll be right back, ladies and gentlemen, and continue after the break.
COMMERCIAL BREAK
Roger: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back! Our guests this evening are Heather Macadam who wrote the book for Rena Cornreich Gelissen. The book is “Rena’s Promise: The Story of Two Sisters in Auschwitz.”
Rena, I want to go back to those first days in Auschwitz with you. You got a tattoo. Now,you said that you were not identified, at first, as Jewish; but only as Polish.
Rena G: Yes. Later on there were no Polish girls in this camp. Later on they let me have the same number I kept when I had the Red Triangle. But, they still treated me just the same as the other Jews. because the Gentiles, the Polish people, when they came in later, they did not treat in the same way and they did not sleep in the same barracks, in the same buildings. They had separate barracks with a little bit better beds, mattresses and blankets. So, I stayed there but it didn’t change the Triangle.
Roger:  So, it was kind of a class system there in the camp? 
Rena G: Yes.
Roger:   People who were Gentiles got more food and better housing and all that?
Rena G:  Not exactly more food, maybe a little bit more food; but, better treatment and different kind of work. They did not work with us when we marched out to work. This was later when we went to another camp. In the meantime…..
… I neglected to tell you, I should have explained probably, that the title, “Rena’s Promise,” the publisher decided on this title. The reason for it is that when my Mama and Papa decided to have a guide, when he came with a sled, they got dressed and they put us into the sled and covered us with blankets because it was snowing, it was December and it was pretty cold. Mama whispered in my ear, “Take care of your little sister,” because she was two years younger. Mama always said “Take care of your little sister,” when we went out to play. I said, “Yes, Mama.”
I didn’t know that there was very little that I could do for her. I did whatever I could; but, Auschwitz wasn’t a place that I could take care of my sister or give her comfort, or protect her from beatings, or give her more food, or anything.   But, I was doing for my sister, whatever I could.
Roger: Trying to keep that promise to your mother.
Rena G: Yes! And, the publisher decided the title of the book should be “Rena’s Promise”.
Roger:  I think the publisher made a good choice. Rena, how long were you at Auschwitz before your sister came?
Rena G: Only three days. On the third day after we went for the tattoo– and it was very painful, too– I shouldn’t have gone anywhere, but, the transports were coming in and I sneaked away looking for air because I was afraid if more people were going to come there’s going to be a big crowd and I wouldn’t recognize her, especially with a shaved head and everything. I might not know who she is, so how could I get her? I wanted to keep her with me, close to me, so I sneaked away instead of going into the Block. The other ones one standing there with the shaved heads, I looked the same as they did because we wore the same uniforms.
On the same day as I had the tattoo, there she was! I recognized her. She had red hair and beautiful brown eyes! So, I recognized my sister! I grabbed her by the hand and said, “Pretend we are important her and we are going into Block 10. We’ll see what happens.” She was shaking and looked at me. At first, she didn’t recognize me. She went into Block 10 and I asked the Block Elder who was dealing out the bread — my sister came from Bratislava, for more than three days without food — I told the Block Elder she was very hungry. She said, “Okay. You help me deal out the bread today, give the portions to everybody and you get an extra portion for your sister.” So, two portions plus an extra portion. I did help with the bread dealing out to everybody and got the extra portion.
Then she started telling me how she was in Czechoslovakia with the Jewish family, how they came to the house picked her up and just took her Auschwitz. She didn’t know where she was. She was for many days on that cattle car, just as we were. They took away everything, too!
I forgot to tell you, I also had earrings in my ears and my sister had, too, Danka. My grandfather, my mother’s father, was giving to all his granddaughters when they were six years old, entering school, giving gold earrings and a little ring with a turquoise stone. When the woman took away the clothes from us and told us to fold the clothes neatly and tie the shoes, I walked away. I forgot I threw the watch outside so I stepped on it and forgot I was wearing these earrings since I was a little girl, since I was six years old. She said, “Get those earrings here or I’m going to tear them off your ears!” So, I took them off and threw them in that bowl they had for all the jewelry. My sister had to do the same thing. When she came out I asked her, “Did you have to take off the earrings yet?”
She said, “Yes, she shouted at me because I didn’t know I had to them off.”
Heather M: Danka’s number was 2779.
Rena G: Yes. I forgot to tell you, when we went for the tattoos — the German woman, the one who came from prison to be our superior, did the shaving, the disinfecting and also the registration, not of our names but just which countries we came from. The same woman was in charge of everything else, the uniforms and what we put on.
While I was in line for my uniform, I forgot to tell you, there was a table on the other side— like, I’m standing in the middle of the room and to the right is going for the uniforms, all stark naked we go and stand for the uniforms! To the left is the so-called doctor standing at a long table. Every girl had to go naked on that table! Naked! He had rubber gloves and he was examining the girls. I was naïve, I had no idea what he was doing! I found out later he was looking in all the crevices of the body for jewelry. There was screaming and crying! It was painful! Instead of going to the left to that table, I decided quickly to go with the naked girls who were already processed from the table, to go with them to the uniforms. So, I cheated them out of that experience! I cheated Hitler out of the first horrible experience, that I wasn’t examined and I didn’t suffer the pain!
When Danka came, I told her to do the same thing. But, they stopped doing it the third day. I don’t know what they were doing later; but, she said she wasn’t exposed to it at all. They didn’t make them go there.
Roger:   What was going through your mind after you settled in there for a few days? Did it begin to seem hopeless immediately or …?
Rena G: Yes, it did! I looked at them and I decided, these are not human beings, these are monsters! They were already pretty bad; they almost shot my father to death while I was still at home, doing all the work for them and the way they treated us! I decided that they’re the enemy; they are the bad people and we are the good people! I’m going to make sure we survive! If I can’t save my sister, I don’t need to live; but, I have to keep the promise to my Mama so I’ll see to it that we stay alive! I tried very hard, both of us tried very hard to stay alive.
One night, we were only there for four days, I heard some shots outside. Danka was already asleep, she was exhausted. We still didn’t go out for detail, for working. We still were in Block 10 and there were windows on the second floor. Through the windows on the second floor we could see over the wall, the wall was shorter than our windows, we could see the Polish men (we found out later that they were Polish) on the other side, from their windows looking out. When Danka came I stood by one of the windows there, opened up, I heard shots at night and I was intrigued by it. I was wondering, did those shots mean that every night or every morning, they were going to shoot us, a couple of us at a time?
The man shouted from the window on the other side, “Anybody from Poland?”   I said, “Yes, I am, my sister and I.” because the rest were all Slovakian Jewish girls. They asked, “What can I do for you?”   I said, “Well, she’s very hungry, with so many days on the train.” We didn’t get much bread here either.   I said, “I have something very important to ask you. I hear shots every night and I’d like to know what it is?   Does that mean they’re shooting so many of us every night, so many of us?”
He said, “No. I’m going to write you a note. Listen, you have one toilet in that building there.   When you get a note from me with the bread I’m going to send for your sister, when you get the note, it will explain to you what the uniforms you are wearing, what the shooting means. You’ll have to flush it down the toilet or if you can’t get rid of the note any other way, just eat it, swallow it.”
Roger:    Rena, I’ve got to take a break here. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking about the book, “Rena’s Promise: The Story of Sisters in Auschwitz”.   We’ll be right back.
COMMERCIAL BREAK
Roger:   Welcome back! We’ve got Rena Gelissen and Heather Macadam on with us tonight. Rena, you were talking about the note. Did you get this note? 
Rena G: Yes, I got the note! He told me to destroy it and I gave the bread to my sister because she was very hungry. The note I read. The note explained to me what the shootings were about. There were 12, 000 Russian prisoners of war. The straw I saw in Block 5, the Russian prisoners used to sleep there and that’s why it was full of bedbugs and lice. It said we probably now had it in the uniforms, too. That was true! He said the of the 12, 000 there were about 500 left. Everyday they shoot more of them! The uniforms you are wearing are from the dead Russian prisoners! 
Roger:  Could you see out and around Auschwitz much? Could you see what was going on in the surrounding areas? 
Rena G:   I didn’t see anything but the buildings across from us, the mens’ buildings. When they came back from work in the evening, I saw them from the windows where we looked out. They told me that every day there were shots. When I heard the shots later on, I looked out the window. They bolted up the windows from this side. It was between Block 11 and Block 10. We were in Block 10, the building was Block 10. Block 11 was the Block of Death. It’s still called the Block of Death. 
When I looked out the window, I sneaked out after Danka fell asleep because I didn’t want to scare her, I sneaked out to the window. Between the boards at the top I could see against the wall of Block 11, a soldier standing –in the same uniform I was wearing— with hands up against the wall and under my window I didn’t see anybody; but, I heard the shot and the soldier fell down. I heard the shot and another one fell down,…l and on, and on, it went for the rest…. 
Heather M:  I’d like to add to that. Anybody who visits Auschwitz today, there is a memorial in that spot where Rena witnessed the Russian POWs being murdered. It is right between Block 10, where she was imprisoned when she first came to Auschwitz through August 1942, and Block 11 which is called the Block of Death. There is actually a courtyard between those two blocks and there is a memorial in that area where she witnessed the POWs being executed. 
Roger:  Rena, how long were you in Auschwitz? 
Rena G:   Altogether, when the Russians were coming close in 1945 the Nazis took us as hostages on a Death March.   They were fleeing and they took us on a Death March. The whole thing together; first Auschwitz One which I’m telling you now. Later on they changed I and put us in the fall to Birkenau, where the crematoriums and gas chambers were. Then they took us on the Death March, then they took us to Ravensbruck in Germany, then another camp, Neustadt-Glewe in Germany. On May 2, 1945—by that time it was three years and forty-one days, we were liberated by the 82nd Airborne of the American army. They’re stationed right here in North Carolina where I live. 
Roger:   What kind of work did you do all those years? 
Rena G: Oh, my God! It was digging for planting, somebody else was planting. We were digging the ground and turning it over. Then it was sifting sand, like you do for buildings. They were building more buildings because there were more Jews coming in and some of the younger they were keeping in these buildings. Then we were going out to sift that sand and put it in lorries. I don’t know if you know what a lorry is. 
Heather M:   A wagon. 
Rena G: Yes. Usually they’re put on railroad tracks; but, they made us…four on one side, four on the other side… load us the lorries with sifted sand and bring them to the buildings where the Polish men were building the buildings. They were there as political prisoners and for religious reasons. There were priests ….
Roger:  How big were the gas chambers? 
Rena G: Well, I wasn’t in them, thank God! It was a big building. One time my friend that came from my hometown was assigned where they were sorting the clothes from the gas chamber. Jewish people were supposed–the young kids and the elderly, everyone over 32 or 33 years and under 17 or 18 were all going to the gas chambers.   Their clothes were put in another building where my friend from my hometown was working. They were helping fold and ship them to Germany, all the clothes. 
While I was there that one day, I tried to get into another detail, not working outside. I thought it was kind of hard-working outside and she was under a roof and sometimes she could find some chocolate in the pockets of the Jewish people who were brought into the camp, and sometimes pieces of bread. She suggested that we come in. So Danka and I went in. While I was there I found a coat of my uncle in Czechoslovakia. His name was Yacov and he was a tailor. My aunt had a black persian coat. One of the things I was folding was my aunt’s coat. 
Roger: Oh, boy!   Ladies, we’ve run out of time for this hour. I want to thank you very, very much, Rena. You’ve given us some insight on what it was like that first day. 
Rena G:   I want to thank you because I want people to know because I promised myself in camp, two things; that I’m going to take care of my sister and when I come out alive I’m going to tell the story and world is never going to have a war anymore. But, that didn’t come out exactly, did it? 
Roger: Well, keep working at it! You’ve got a lot of insight and a lot of wisdom. Maybe someone will listen to you! How do people get the book, Heather? 
Heather M: We are being published by Beacon Press in America. It’s available in local bookstores. 
Roger:   Thank you ladies, for sharing your wonderful story.
(Transcription is from MP3 file converted from original cassette with minimal editing by Chey Simonton.
Errors, if any, may be due to unintelligible sections of original 1997 audio technology. Unknown/unintelligible words are spelled phonetically.)
 
 

The Holocaust – We Must Remember – Jack and Rochelle, a Holocaust Story of Love and Resistance

Holocaust -Jack & Rochelle

THE HOLOCAUST: WE MUST REMEMBER

30-Hour Series of Interviews broadcast on the Roger Fredinburg Radio Program

12-10-1997 Sixth Program in Series

Guests:   Author, Larry Sutin with Parents, Jack & Rochelle Sutin

JACK and ROCHELLE: A Holocaust Story of Love and Resistance

ISBN-10: 1555975038 and ISBN-13: 978-1555975036

In this show Roger Fredinburg interviews Larry Sutin, author of “Jack and Rochelle” along with his parents, holocaust survivors Jack and Rochelle Sutin.  Here is a clip of this dynamic interview:

Roger:    Ladies and gentlemen, welcome!   I am Roger Fredinburg, radio’s regular guy! This evening we’re continuing with Part 6 of our ongoing series, The Holocaust: We Must Remember. Fascinating stories, just some wonderful history! I’ve learned so much the last several weeks and have been brought, literally, to tears so many times. It’s a difficult subject, I know; but, that’s the whole purpose, ladies and gentlemen, to ensure the kinds of tragedies and horrible inhuman acts that were perpetrated upon mankind during World War Two never happen again.

Today I’ve been reading a book that has brought me to laughter and tears a number of times, written by a son about his mother and father who were Jewish resistors in Poland during the time of the war. Fascinating story! I’d like to bring these folks forward and introduce them. First, the son, Larry Sutin, who wrote the book, “Jack and Rochelle: A Holocaust Story of Love and Resistance.”   Larry, welcome to the show!

Larry Sutin:  Hi, thank you! Thanks for having us!

Roger:  It’s really a pleasure to have you here, sir! And welcome to Jack and Rochelle Sutin who are the subjects of the book! Jack, Rochelle, hello!

Rochelle and Jack Sutin: Hello, hello!

Roger: It’s a pleasure to have you folks aboard!   Larry, first of all, you wrote the book because of the compelling stories you heard throughout your life as a child, is that right?

Larry Sutin:   Right! I had grown up hearing the stories of my parents’ childhoods and their work as partisans during the war, their struggle, I should say.   There were some stories that were very happy; but, also stories of tragedy. It all added up to what I thought was not only a touching story; but, important history. The fact that there was Jewish resistance during the war is something people are still relatively unaware of. My parents had the good fortune to find themselves in a situation where they could resist. Many Jews did not have that good fortune. They did find themselves in that situation after a great deal of misery and they resisted! They also fell in love during the war so there was that aspect, too. There’s a genuine love story of what I thought was depth, not just because they’re my parents. While I think readers of the book confirm that, I think there is something about the nature of their love story that is quite unique as well.

Roger:   I found it rather fascinating, Larry, that a lot sons of WW II heroes have gone on to write books about the historical events. I think you’ve done a wonderful job with the book! I’d like to meet your folks in the same vein the book is written in.   I’d like to talk to your mother first. Continue reading