Memoria [EN] No. 14 (11/2018) - Page 12

Nothing is known about transports sent to the “camp for boys” (since numbers were not tattooed there). It is also surprising that a prisoner condemned to death, with their name written manually on the transport list, could leave the camp without drawing the attention of the SS men.

The description of the tattooists’ return to the parent camp is inconsistent with reality. In the scene, Baretzki (who is supposed to escort them) suggests that the prisoners return to Birkenau by themselves after work. It is highly unlikely that prisoners would be allowed to stay outside the camp area and the surrounding line of posts without an SS escort; such neglect could have resulted in severe consequences for Baretzki.

This is just one of several examples of the questionable conduct of the SS men presented in the book. Other questionable behaviours include walking around the camp at night upon noticing movements between the barracks in the twilight; the guards on duty at the towers could interpret it as an escape attempt by a prisoner and open fire. Furthermore, it is doubtful that SS men would shoot random prisoners without cause, e.g. using the latrine, or into the air, as they would have to justify the use of the weapon in their duty report. It is also impossible that they would leave the bodies of dead prisoners drowned in the sewage ditch where they were killed. The prisoners' count during roll-call had to tally up, so before dead prisoners' bodies were sent to the crematoria, they had to be identified and their numbers crossed out of the register.

The issue that has raised the major point of concern is the sexual relationship described in the book between the head of the camp SS-Obersturmführer Johann Schwarzhuber and the Jewish female prisoner Cilka (the author does not provide any detailed personal data). In practice, the possibility of maintaining such a long relationship (from March 1943 almost until the end of the camp) and, according to the book, a semi-explicit relationship between a Jewish female prisoner and a high-ranking member of the SS hierarchy was non-existent. The disclosure of such a relationship would have involved an accusation of race dishonour (Rassenschande) and severe punishment for the SS man. The story of Rapportführer Gerhard Palitzsh - who, among others, was detained, degraded, sent to the penal camp in Gdańsk (Danzig-Matzkau) and finally referred to the front for keeping intimate contacts with a Jewish prisoner - proves that such offences were treated seriously.

The existence of the room supposedly used for these sexual contacts raises several objections. The novel also claims that two SS men dragged Cilka from the office where she worked and led her to Schwarzhuber's room, located in the administrative building. According to the description, this room had a 'huge four-poster bed, a bedside table with a lamp and chair' – of which the furnishing and purpose could not raise any doubts. In further sections of the book, we learn that Schwarzhuber spent nights with the prisoner in that bed. A map of Birkenau was placed in the appendix to Morris’ book, indicating the location of the administrative building (the headquarters), where Gisela Furman allegedly worked with Cilka and other female prisoners from the winter of 1943, and in which Schwarzhuber’s rendezvous spot was located, in a part of the building unknown to the prisoners. Documents show, however, that the construction of the indicated building only began in the second half of 1943 and it was not completed until January 1945, as a result of which the building was never put into use.

More irregularities can be found on the same map. The distance between the Auschwitz Stammlager and Birkenau camps was incorrectly determined (it is not four but less than three km). It is also incorrect to mark a 'recreational area' in the vicinity of the 'Kanada' section - this place housed purifiers, construction of which had already commenced in 1942, and of course no 'recreational areas' were sectioned off in the camp at all. Perhaps the author had in mind the area where an ad-hoc pitch was created, on which the football game described in the book was played between the SS men and a team made up of prisoners. Assuming that such an event occurred, then it is most likely that the game in question would have taken place on the undeveloped space in the southern part of the BIIf section. We learn in the book that the 1930 World Cup brought by one of the SS men was the stake in this match, whereas the award of this statuette only began in 1974. In June 1930, FIFA organised the first World Championship in football (so-called the World Cup), but the trophy in this competition - the Nike Golden statuette, was a challenge trophy. The winner was the tournament host Uruguay (France mentioned in the novel as the competition winner did not even make it to the semi-finals). The Italians won the next championship in 1934, and so the Golden Nike statuette remained in Italy for the next 16 years, until 1950. It is therefore impossible that the trophy was in Auschwitz in 1944.

A number tattooed on a prisoner's forearm (a screenshot from 'The Chronicle of Liberation of Auschwitz')