Charles Reznikoff



The commander of a camp, among his amusements, as in other camps
had a large dog
and at the cry of "Jude,", that is, "Jew,"
the dog would attack the man and tear off pieces of flesh.
In another camp, the Jews who had just come
kept seeing a dog–
the dog belonged to the S.S. man in charge of "the showers," that is, the gas chambers;
the S.S. man would call the dog "Mensch," that is, "man":
and whenever he set the dog on a Jew would say, "Man, get that dog!"


In one camp the officers, for their amusement,
if they saw a group of Jews at a distance,
would draw their revolvers and shoot in that direction;
but they must have shot into the air
because no one was ever hit.
Throwing stones at the group was another matter:
some would be hurt–in the face, hands or legs.
But, in another camp, the two commanders began a game:
they would stand at their windows
and, while those carrying stones were passing,
the two would shoot at them, aiming at the tip of a nose or a finger;
and in the evening would pick out those who had been hit
and were no longer any good for work
and have them shot.
And in still another camp the officers played "the spinning top":
they would place a stick in the ground–stand it up quite low–
and the man to be tortured would have to keep touching it with his right hand,
his left hand behind his back,
and as he ran around he was beaten
and those beating him would shout, "Quicker! Quicker!"
He would have to go around at least ten times,
but after three or four times some would faint.


Once the commander of a camp had eight of the strongest among the Jews
placed in a large barrel of water,
saying that they did not look clean,
and they had to stand in this barrel naked for twenty-four hours.
In the morning, other Jews had to cut away the ice:
the men were frozen to death.
In this camp–and in others also–
they had an orchestra of Jews
who had to play every morning and evening
and whenever Jews were taken to be shot.
In one such camp,
the orchestra had all of sixty men.


Once a group of Jews who came on a truck
were ordered off when they reached a camp at night
and a powerful light was suddenly focused upon them.
They were told to keep looking towards it.
When they tried to look aside
an S.S. man stabbed them to death.

The Germans in another camp, too, had their games.
A young man would be sent to close an umbrella open on a roof
and had to climb to do it;
if he fell he was beaten to death.
One after another had to climb to the roof
to close the umbrella
and almost all fell down,
and each who fell was beaten to death;
and a dog would bite the man at each stroke.
Then there were times when the inmates had to run
and were shot at.
And once five had the bottoms of their trousers bound with rope
and mice put into the trousers;
the men had to stand at attention
and those who could not because of the mice
were beaten.

On Sundays there was no work and Jews would be placed in a row:
each had a bottle on his head
and the S.S. men amused themselves by shooting at the bottles.
If a bottle was hit,
the man lived;
but if the bullet landed below,
well, the man had it.

                                                                           --from Holocaust, IX

Charles Reznikoff, Holocaust, Black Sparrow Press, 1975.