Their names were Simon, Samuel, Ginette, Sarah, Jacques, Addy, Yvette, Raphael and Charles and they all nine discovered the atrocities of one of the most horrific extermination camps in history: Auschwitz Birkenau. Using these nine direct witnesses and archival documents, Alain Vincenot traces the journey of these Auschwitz survivors.
Hell and its executioners
It is through a first very chronological part that Vincenot replaces the context of the start-up of the Extermination camps.
The establishment of a "Factory to be killed" constitutes an unprecedented event in the history of humanity since the killing had never reached such a degree of industrialization. Thought from April 27, 1940, the first deportees did not arrive at the camp until June 14. The installation of new means of extermination such as Zyklon B in the Gas Chambers plunges this camp even more into the heart of hell. The dead and the Selektions are part of the daily life of these deportees who will not be released until January 27, 1945 by the Red Army. In 1967, a monument will be inaugurated at the end of the Judenrampe, between the KII and KIII, at the foot of a mound of dark stones, on twenty-one plaques, this phrase engraved in all European languages including Yiddish: " May this place where the Nazis murdered a million and a half men, women and children, mostly Jews from various European countries, be forever a cry of despair and a warning ”.
For Raul Hilberg, the supreme architect of the operation was Adolf Hitler. Deeply anti-Semitic, the Fuhrer declared in January 1942 "This war will be the annihilation of the Jews". It is through numerous speeches and official documents that Alain Vincenot traces Hitler's anti-Semitic obsession which led to the creation of Auschwitz, the death factory where thousands of Jews disappeared daily in the gas chambers: the symbol of the Holocaust.
This Shoah is not only the act of a man or a nation, France also participated in it. In 1939, France had 300,000 Jews, including 110,000 French for several generations, 70,000 naturalized and 120,000 foreigners. The homeland of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen will nevertheless deliver to Germany nearly 76,000 Jews, including 12,000 children, the majority of whom will be exterminated at Auschwitz. This extermination is thought out and organized in the highest spheres of the state through numerous decrees or laws which are cited in the work.
Secondly, Alain Vincenot faithfully transcribes the testimony of certain survivors.
On their return, no one heard the survivors. Miraculous whose testimonies exceeded the most horrible nightmares and described an unattainable reality, too far from human society and therefore necessarily destined to be forgotten. So for a long time they were silent. Hence the need today to listen to them.
These nine testimonies constitute the most important part of the work. If similarities appear between each: fear, hunger, suffering, work, death; it is also and above all the plurality of backgrounds that is put forward since these survivors had only one thing in common: that of being Jewish. They were one of 76,000 Jews from France pushed in cattle cars to an unknown destination and they were part of the 2,500 who returned while the others were not entitled to any burial.
These journeys, as different as they are, highlight the daily life of these men and women before deportation, then their transport to the camp and the life inside it before their release and return. to "normal" life, even if no more life can be after the hell of the camps.
We feel through the pages their desire, their need to testify and most of them share their experiences in schools so that these atrocities never happen again. The suffering of not being heard at the liberation, the will of the authorities to initially promote the heroes of the resistance rather than the victims of barbarism means that today it is necessary to listen to the last survivors of Auschwitz, so that memories of the past are never forgotten. As Alain Vincenot underlines: “Time flies. They are advancing in age. Soon their voices will be gone. It's urgent. To forget these "disappeared", to turn away from the survivors, would open the risk of abandoning the future to the barbarians ".
Auschwitz survivors: they testify, by Alain Vincenot. L'Archipel, January 2015.