Published by Potomac Books on March 31st 2003
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This is one man’s harrowing account of his life before and after the Holocaust. He begins the book in 1939 as he is finishing up his one year internship and beginning his first year residency as a doctor. Another Doctor, Dr. Merkel, pointed out that “we are living in historical times, and this is our disaster.” Dr. Dix thought that it was exciting to live in historical times with some hint of disaster, believing his peer to be overly alarmed. Like others he believed that Hitler was bluffing. Sadly, he learned that was not the case and like his peer, he learned that living during historical times was indeed a disaster.
The book opens with a lot of historical information on Poland and on the political state of Europe. France had a long standing treaty with Poland stating that they would go to war to defend Poland. Many had the falsce hope that France would save them. This was not to be. Germany was making advances across Europe. In 1939 Russia and Germany signed the Molotov-Ribbenrop Pact and WW2 was around the corner. Still people believed that the war would be a short one, Germany would be defeated, and life would go back to normal. The pack between Russia and Germany had a secret clause – Poland would be partitioned between them.The Western part of Poland would go to Germany. The Easter part of Poland would go to the Soviet Union.
Dr. Dix discussed what it was like to be under Soviet occupation. One thing I found interesting was that during the Soviet occupation Antisemitism was against the law when in the past it was open and legal. Things quickly deteriorated for Dr. Dix, his wife and their young daughter. Rations were extremely low and they had to wear white armbands. Eventually they were place in the ghetto. Disease (typhoid fever and Typhus) were widespread and people were starving. In the Middle of March 1942, during the Passover holiday, German officials announced that the Jewish Ghettos were overpopulated and announded the unemployed, sick and undesirables would be “Relocated”.
On Monday, August 10, 1972 Dr. Dix entered Janowska Camp. Five days later he finds his brother there and in 7 days he finds his father in law. Upon meeting his father in law he learns that his Mother in law and his wife have been sent to another camp.
Life in the camp was horrific and atrocities were rampant and occurred on a daily basis. Roll Call was terrifying. Individuals were pulled out and shot at random. Hangings were frequent. Two guards would hide at night and attack those trying to use the latrines at night. Women survived at the camp for 8 months and then they were “exterminated”. One account told of how a Man named Heinen had 2 women strip and lie naked on the floor. He had one open her legs and shot her in the Vagina to see if he could kill her that way before shooting her in the head. This man bragged of killing over 400 Jews with his bare hands and was called “Jack the Ripper” at the camp. Heinen almost died of typhus but lilved on on June 24, 1943 escaped the camp.
The author also sprinkled in details of the war and what was happening during his time in a concentration camp and after his escape. He eventually learned that his 2 year old daughter he believed to be safe had been killed by the Nazis. He went on to become a doctor in Germany and then eventually in the United States. He remarried while still in Poland and had a son. In 1967 he testified in the German Court of Stuttgatt and in 1977 in the German Court of Saabrucken.
He eventually began to work for the German Consultant to help Holocaust survivors obtain their retribution from Germany. He wrote that he believed writing his memoir was his sacred duty.
This book is rich in detail and gives a detailed account of what life was like before and after the WW2. I find it hard to say I enjoyed this book (the extermination of people should never be an enjoyable read) but I will say that it was engrossing and insightful. Very well written and sheds light on a lesser known concentration camp.