4. Message in Sobibor

I decided, of course, to make the monogram for Gustav Wagner, with the utmost priority. The man was Commander of Camp Number 1, he had been the first to ask, and above all, I feared his disappointment because he looked ferocious. As to the others, I did not know who to serve first. The requests were many and I was still confused. In the afternoon, when I was already starting on the task, a Scharfuhrer came to our workshops. His name was Bolender and brought very good company. It was a huge St. Bernard dog, which answered to the name of Barry. At first I thought it was tame. It did not bark at me, but stood quietly by its master. I was absolutely mistaken, I later learned it was a fierce watchdog.
 
Bolender was an officer with the SS, he was tall, stout and of elegant bearing. He was characterised by his manifest austerity and the constant use of a goatee  which gave him an imposing aspect. He was one of the leaders in Camp Number 3 and one of the most important figures in Sobibor. He approached me, threw a quick glance at the piece I had started to chase and then addressed me. It was soon evident that I was facing a very brutish man because he ordered me in a very rude way to make a gold inlay in the handle of his whip. He also ordered me to fix a coin to the upper end of the handle. He had hardly finished talking when he threw on the table a handful of gold. It seemed to me that the Nazi did not know what he was doing for the quantity of bullion he had brought was excessive. Before he left he ordered me to send my nephew, early next morning, to Camp Number 2 to fetch the coin, because he would be there then, although he worked in Camp Number 3. I put away the material Bolender had brought and went on with my task for the rest of the afternoon and evening to be able to finish Wagner’s monogram, as soon as possible.
 
As the lights had been turned out, I worked by the light of an oil lamp. During the day another levy of prisoners had come to Sobibor, much larger than ours, as I later learned. However, as I supposed I was in a labour camp, I did not pay any attention to the fact, assuming that the Germans needed a larger number of men for the activities in the camp.
 
Soon after daybreak my ingenious nephew headed for the place Bolender had told him to go, without any suspicion. In order to get there he had to cross the yard where the rows of men who had come in the latest levy were waiting. By then the women had already left towards the mysterious gate and had disappeared behind it.
 
He passed by the rows of Jews and went to the same gate through which he would reach the assigned place. He opened it and entered a long corridor which led to Camp Number 2. When he got to the end of the corridor he found himself inside a place which could very easily be taken for a giant corral, surrounded by boards so well juxtaposed that it would be impossible to see from the outside what was going on inside it.
The side of the corral nearest to the end of the corridor had a door which was guarded by a Ukrainian soldier. My nephew went up to him and said he was to meet Bolender, who had ordered him to be there at that hour. The brutal sentry did not pay any attention to him but opened the door and pushed him inside. Next he made the boy undress to the skin without giving him the opportunity of explaining anything, heedless of his protests. Perhaps he acted like that because he thought the boy was part of the levy.
 
In the meanwhile I had finished Wagner’s monogram and was starting to work on Bolender’s whip. I was engrossed in my work and was already starting to worry about my nephew’s delay when the door was suddenly opened. It was the boy coming back seized by indescribable panic. He was trembling  and his face was ashen with terror.  He was not able to say a word and he was obviously out of his mind. He sank into deep depression and he did not make even a simple gesture to justify his attitude. He was obviously deranged.
His nervous attack lasted for the rest of the day and during the night the others and I did all we could to make him tell us what had happened and what had shocked him in that way. All was in vain for he would not tell us anything. Only at daybreak were we able to see him relax and come to himself again. He then started his unbelievable report. 
 
He told us that as soon as he had undressed inside what was known as Camp Number 2 ,he had found himself face to face with a tragic scene, never before seen or imagined. He saw a multitude of women, some of them naked and others in the process of undressing. Among the latter, the most reluctant to do so, had their clothes torn off their bodies by the brutal guards, while the others were forced to undress with whiplashes, rifle butts and blows of every sort, not to mention the shots which were fired at them. At the same time, the loud noise made the place even more terrifying. There were shouts, weeping, and laments mixed with begging for the Germans not to continue their nameless cruelty. The Nazis and their Ukrainian sectarians answered with shouts, curses, orders and blows. 
 
He continued his petrifying description and told us he had witnessed right there something which would only be compatible with the times when Barbarian tribes roamed over Europe. Children of all ages were torn out of their mothers arms and held by the legs were twirled and violently thrown with their heads against the walls falling dead to the floor. It was mass infanticide, impossible to conceive of in our modern age.
Amid the savage scene he had witnessed he had been able to see very clearly that one of the chiefs there was Bolender. This man, apparently perfect for the task which he performed with the utmost pleasure, looked more like a jackal than a human being. His activity was feverish and he was resolute not only in emitting orders but also in taking active part in the practice of vandalism.    
 
To finish his report my nephew added that, by mere chance, he had been seen and recognised by the criminal who then called him. Bolender had next, amidst curses and rude words, taken out of his pocket a gold coin for twenty American dollars. He had next handed the coin to the boy and ordered a guard to lead him out of that place. Before he did that, though, he severely warned the boy not to go any place whenever a new levy came and to tell his companions to do the same. He also told him not to mention to anyone, under any circumstances, what he had seen there.
Although this final prohibition had also meant us, my poor nephew had not been able to control himself. He told us everything he had seen with his own eyes and we could hardly believe him. At first I myself thought it was somewhat unbelievable and the scenes I found stronger I attributed to his morbid mood. Little by little, however, I could notice that his emotional balance was gradually returning and the details were unchanged. I finally understood the whole tragedy and all of us then came to accept it without reservations.
 
We had cherished the hope that we were safe in a labour camp and we now melancholically saw our expectations crumble. Out of our frail belief we tried to get some power which would deceive us and so help us to keep our spirits high and trust in our survival. We had to go on fooling ourselves because our wish to live was superior to all the rest. To do that we extracted from the entrails of pessimism a little optimism. We tried to find an ephemeral comfort in the words Stangl had said a few days earlier when he told us that all newcomers had a bath, changed their clothes and then went to work on farms. Although they beat and maltreated the women to force them to undress and bathe, why did they kill the little children – I wondered in horror. The impact caused by the news was tremendous. The painful impression we had had on the day of our arrival and which had been fading in our minds was born again, this time more terrible than ever. Terror seized us once more because we realised we had been caught, in an enormous devilish trap. The concept we had begun to form about these Germans underwent a radical transformation, and their sheep’s clothing fell off and was replaced by the coat of wolves they actually were.
 
In short, nothing was left to us but to wait for the future and we went back to work. Soon afterwards, the calm which was slowly coming back was ruffled once more when suddenly the giant Wagner broke into the makeshift goldsmith workshop. He immediately asked about his monogram. I told him it was ready to which he asked what I was doing at the moment. I told him I was finishing the task Bolender had assigned me.
The huge officer’s face changed. He furrowed his brow and his appearance became heavy with hatred and indignation, although he did his best to look calm, maybe because his order was ready. He took the jewel in his hands and without praising it, warned me that, from that moment on, I should never manufacture anything without asking for his permission, no matter who ordered me to. I should never receive a single gram of gold from anyone and I would not make as much as a tie-pin. While I shyly stared at him the corpulent Scharfuhrer went on shouting, I am the Commander of Camp 1, and without my explicit orders nothing can be done here!. Learn that I and nobody else is in command here, you will regret it bitterly, if you do not obey my orders. Completely frightened I put in – and if the others beat me if I do not do as they tell me? The Nazi barked – Tell them to talk to me.
 
He left the place in a hurry and I was left absolutely aghast at the nerve-racking situation, as I found myself in a dead alley. A few minutes later in comes Bolender to see whether the whip had been made the way he wanted it. As I had already finished it I handed it to the German. He could not hide his admiration at the beautiful engraving and at the large twenty- dollar coin. He was very proud of it and deemed the work magnificent and worthy of his position as an executioner. He did not save any praise which would label my work as being worthy of being shown at an art exhibition and presented me with a bottle of vodka.
 
I thought the Nazi was ridiculing me and I refused the offer which I thought was permeated with hypocrisy. I told him I had never tasted liquor to which he angrily replied – Drink. I had no choice but to obey the order so I immediately took a swallow since a mere wish of the Nazis was to us an unquestionable command. I grimaced when the strong liquor went down my throat and the scoundrel was smiling sardonically when he left the room ,doubly happy, for his valuable whip and for the cruel act he had just performed.
 
I was doubtlessly in a very embarrassing, perilous situation. If I manufactured any piece of jewellery without the consent of Gustav Wagner, I would be severely punished or even killed by him. On the other hand, if I refused to manufacture anything for the other innumerable officers, I might be beaten or even murdered. I was afraid of both possibilities and I did not have the slightest idea about how I should act. It would be much better if they did not come to me for anything, but how  could I avoid it?
 
If I did do it I would find myself in a most wretched condition. Whatever the circumstances I would never win since none of the bandits would be the least lenient. This threat obviously went for my companions too. Ours was a cruel quandary and the question insoluble. The only thing we could do was to trust our luck.
And our good luck did not abandon us. Next day, Wagner came in and told me – I have talked to Stangl and decided to have a ring made for each SS Scharfuhrer. He then sat down and explained what he wanted the rings to be like. They must be made in silver, with a gold badge. This badge would be in relief and consist of two letters Y. The YY would be placed in such a way that one of them would be in the normal position, representing life. The other would be engraved right beneath it, in the inverted position meaning death. It would then be the symbol of life and death, which incidentally suited the functions of their future owners.
 
All of us already knew that the life of the Jews who entered that cursed camp was in the hands of those malefactors and hung from a slender thread that they would cut whenever they so decided. When Wagner finished his explanation he urged me to work diligently and affirmed that the necessary material would come to me very soon, and then he left. That massive order spelled relief to all of us. It released me from the very serious plight I would be thrown in, if I ever had to refuse any requests from the other officers, unless some extra work appeared, which would really complicate things for me. Besides, this also meant we would go on living. For me to learn more about each of the SS officers, I cut a small board into which I hammered as many nails as the number of rings I was to make. As the officers came in I would measure their fingers and hang the string with their names attached to it on each of the nails. The board hung on one of the walls and thanks to it I was able to not only make all the artefacts so as to please their owners, but also learn the names of nearly all the torturers in Sobibor.
 
They began to come a few at a time, and the number of nails with their names on gradually increased. Among the first gangs to appear I remember perfectly well, to this day, in an indelible way the following felons- Franz Stangl, Gustav Wagner, Bolender and his bosom friend, nicknamed ‘The Red Cake’, who will appear in the following lines, in a sadly spectacular manner. Next to these prominent elements there came the others whose perilous-ness and iniquity were no less remarkable, such as – Karl Frenzel, Steubel, Bauer, Gomerski,Weiss,Poul, Vallester, and Michel. Besides those, I also remember other scoundrels whom I came to know later, as Grinman, Graetschus, Richter, Beckmann, Groth, Getzinger, Bredow and another one who was called “The Baker”.           
 
I received the silver and the gold sent by Wagner and started to make the sinister jewels. Once in a while a latecomer whose measure I had not yet taken yet and whose name I had not copied would show up. The ones who most frequently visited our workshop were Stangl and Wagner. They went there to watch our work. Every time I would ask about the rest of my family and I always got the same answer – I should not worry because very soon we would be sent to the place where my parents were, it was only a matter of time.
However, I never learned which place that was and my worries had grown a hundred times worse since my nephew’s report of what he had witnessed in Camp 2. Atrocious suspicions filled my spirits and my imagination never tired of thinking of the possibility of their having gone through all the horrors I had been told about. The days went by and the work on the rings went on without ceasing. The only ones who never came in to watch us work were the Ukrainian guards.
 
They were the worst kind of canaille, capable of all kinds of wickedness against the Jews only to please their masters. They were on the same level as the Germans, and they might even be worse were they given any commanding positions. They had actively taken part in the tragedy my nephew had witnessed and they were even worse than the Germans in the art of brutality. Fortunately we had not had any contact with them and we hoped we never did.
 
The same did not happen though with the German officers, whose constant visits to our workshop made us interrupt our work quite frequently. They did not go there only to fetch the rings. It even seemed that these were not enough for them. They also wanted us to make them other jewels since they had so much gold at their disposal that they did not know what to do with it.
 
I had a lot of work ahead and I could not serve them even if I had wanted to, since my companions did not how to make anything and I could not take all that load on my shoulders. The only thing I could do was to tell the presumptions Nazis that I could not do anything besides the rings without the consent of Gustav Wagner or Stangl. They became visibly irate at my refusal and went away muttering curses. However, we were led to believe they had no intention of beating us. I even came to think that they must surely have been scolded by the bully and the commander, since everything seemed to indicate that they respected both of them. Some of the most daring ones came to the point of threatening us with beatings, but I did not pay any attention to them. Alarmed though I was I accepted the circumstances because if I gave in to their whims I would be punished by Wagner, and this latter possibility seemed definitely much worse.
 
One day, when I immersed in my work, I saw something  which left me astounded. The monstrous commander of Camp 1 suddenly came in and rudely shouted to the painters who were working on the other side of the room. Their names were Herszel and Moniek. Angrily foaming at the mouth, he immediately asked for the plates he had ordered. The poor young men, trembling in terror before the truculent German, tried hard to articulate an acceptable excuse for the fact of the plates not being ready.
 
When Wagner had ordered them to make the plates he had said they had to be well made, no mention being then made to a time limit. As a matter of fact, both painters had been working rather slowly although continuously. The job was coming out beautifully and they did not know that the sadistic Scharfuhrer did not value his own words very highly. They were mistaken when they thought, in good faith, that there was no need to finish the plates in a very great hurry.  On finding out they were not ready yet , Wagner slapped Herszel’s face with all his might, and the young man fell to the ground, blood oozing from his mouth. With the violent slap he lost two teeth. Because he was not yet satisfied with his fierce deed, while the boy still lay on the floor, the Germans wild instincts changed his face into a violent mask and his blood-thirsty personality showed through. He started then to bludgeon Moniek.
 
Wagner was a Hercules. His physical strength was such that his hard slap would knock his victim down. The two painters were lying on the floor, nearly unconscious, when they were grabbed by their collars and taken away. Then an unforgettably savage scene started. The bestial German started to hit and kick them pitilessly and careless of where he hit them, in an indiscriminate frenzy, as if he were making up for the hypocrisy he usually showed towards his victims. He only stopped when he noticed that both young men had fainted and their faces were swollen and covered with blood.
 
We witnessed everything in astonished and mute stupor at Wagner’s fury. We did not dare make a single gesture to help the unfortunate boys until their torturer had left. As soon as he went away, though we ran to them and took them one at time, inside our workshop, we had to carry them bodily because they were still unconscious. As no medical resources were available, we decided to put cold bandages on their faces. They thus came slowly to their senses although their conditions were still deplorable. We spent the rest of the day at this task, doing our best to help them at least regain their ability to speak and see. Finally, late in the night, they were able to move with a lot of effort and to open their eyes, muttering their first words. We could then see they did not have any broken bones and soon they fell asleep, and rested for a few hours.
 
In spite of all the bruises they had all over their bodies, when daylight came they felt better and they decided to finish the plates as soon as possible. On seeing them act like that we could not be sure whether their unusual ardour was due to the immense power of recovery that adolescents have or to the panic which would seize them at the mere thought of being once more the target of Wagner’s anger and sadism. It even seemed their energies had increased. Such was the eagerness they showed in finishing the unpleasant task.
 
Life in Sobibor went on in the usual routine – New levies would come daily and the orders were methodically repeated – men to one side, women to the other. The women were always the first to disappear behind the fateful gate, in the direction of Camp 2. Then the men’s turn would come. Some were set apart due to their professions. The others inexorably marched towards the unknown, following their mates in rows of four. Then, the cleaning people would come, clean the vestiges left on the admission yard and go away as unobtrusively as they had come. The machine assembled by the Germans worked to perfection, with no faults, no wear, no pause.
 
The camp was always seen as clean and empty, but the levies never ceased to arrive. Then I started wondering – where did all those immense crowds go? What giant task demanded so many thousands of workers? What farms were those from which no crops were ever seen?
I even came to the point of musing but I was never able to come up with an answer that could explain such an absurdity. Stangl’s and Wagner’s visits to our workshop became increasingly more frequent and constantly I asked them to let me see my parents. The same contemptuous answer would always be given – that we were much better off where we were, we did not lack anything and in time we would all be together.
Our horror grew day by day after we had seen what Wagner had done to the painters. What else could we expect after that? Our scepticism got stronger in direct proportion to the series of strange and even unconceivable events. While we proceeded with our work more transports came and they were larger each time. From the window of our room we watched long columns of men, women and children head towards Camp 2, never to be heard of again.
 
We had already been informed of what happened in that cursed place, and our thoughts were monolithic, with new doubts and new questions – How could the Germans have so many clothes to give the Jews after they had had their bath? What would this bath be like? Why did they mistreat them first and even kill them? Why were there only Jews? But our questions became more numerous and yet we could not understand why all of them disappeared leaving no trace behind. We could not understand why so many Jews were concentrated in Sobibor, if the Nazis were the absolute and unquestionable rulers of all Poland. We could not understand why they would not let us see our parents.
 
There was no satisfactory or even acceptable answer to anything. We tried , through hard work, to forget the turmoil of uncertainty which would drive us crazy. We were eager for survival and with that aim we never refused submissiveness or devotion. Under the circumstances, we did not think of anything else but to please the Germans, the only straw we could hold on to try an almost impossible salvation. It was Friday when Stangl came. Under the hide of cynicism he gave me a piece of salami and with the face of an angel and a tender voice said “Eat”. He remarked that our holiday was getting near and that next day, Saturday, we would rest.
 
These words were uttered with a touch of derision throwing on me his unrestrained irony. In planning his jibe,the devilish Commandant had remembered that Saturday was the day of rest for all Jews. From that moment onwards I realised that the wickedness of these scoundrels would not spare even the core of our religious feelings. They did not care about anything and they ignored the most elementary rules of respect towards other people’s beliefs. 
 
We had been in Sobibor for only approximately fifteen days when a Ukrainian guard came into our poor workshop. As I was deep in thought I was taken by surprise because up to that moment I had not had any contact with those elements who, incidentally, were isolated from us. The guard was a youth about twenty and he looked uneasy. He did not look like a criminal as most of those servants did. He could even be one but he looked different from the others. He also seemed to be a learned man because he spoke very good German. Actually he was a Volksdeutsche, born in the Ukraine.
 
The young man seemed a little hesitant and I noticed he wanted to talk to me. Very unobtrusively he came near me and whispered that he had something to give me. He added he was a sentry in Camp 3 and had been sent by a young Jew who said he was a close friend of mine, and whose name was Abraham.
 
As the reader may remember Abraham was the old friend I had had in Opole and whom I had seen and waved to, some days before, when he was one of the fifty or sixty Jews in charge of cleaning the yard where our shack was. When I saw him they had been removing the vestiges left by the transport in which I had come. After we had gestured to one another from a distance, all the group had left, having finished their work, and I did not hear from him again.
 
When the Ukrainian told me about his mission I was astonished and did not know whether I should believe what I had just heard. I did not know whether I should accept the message he had brought. All these uncomfortable suppositions clouded my mind and I could not make myself say anything. At last the youth gave me the note and said he wanted some gold in exchange. I was even more perplexed and did not answer. Now I was more afraid than ever. As he insisted, I agreed, because by then I was very curious, but with one reservation. I informed him that I would only give him the gold next day. He agreed to that and told me his name - Klatt.  Before he left he added that Abraham had already given him a large quantity of that material. Not only for the military who managed the camp but also for me there was plenty of gold. The surplus and parings, which I kept in the workshop alone, would total some dozen grams.
 
I would not dare read the content of the message before it got dark, so I put it carefully away. It was only when everything was calm and the darkness enveloped the camp that I decided to open it. I could then see only four words written on a little slip of paper: “Nobody alive….. Say Kaddish”. I was totally stunned and a shiver ran over my whole body. I did not know what to think because the words were very laconic, although their meaning was enormously ample. However, I did not have any details and I could not know whether I should pray the kaddish, for all, or only for my unfortunate parents and my sister. Because I was still very young I did not know the Jewish prayer in honour of the dead and none of us had a bible to guide me. The only thing which came to my mind were the few words Nojech had heard in his childhood and which referred to a passage of the respectful prayer. Those words I still remembered for his sake although I did not know what they meant. And so I prayed HISKADA WE HISKADAL SZMAI RABU.
 
A horrible depression took hold of us all and we felt at a loss with the fatal news. Would all be dead or only my parents? I tried to brace up my spirits to resist the unexpected impact. I held my sobs back and the tears which threatened to burst and give vent to the feelings which swayed me in that dramatic moment. My brother and my nephew spent the night sobbing and moaning. They were younger and more sensitive and they could not resist the violent trauma. My cousin and the painters kept quiet, maybe pondering over the words in the message as if they wanted to alter the essence of their transparent content. Even against my will I had to be strong so that the Germans would not find me strange the next day and suspect something. Besides, I had to prepare the gold I had promised the bearer of the message, the Ukrainian Klatt. Circumstances forced me to hide my pain and to pretend an ease which was incompatible with my mood. However, a hatred, which I had never felt before, started to bite into me, little by little and from the depths of my wounded heart was born a terrible wish for vengeance and survival which I cannot explain to this day. Thus night came to an end, each one of us nursing his own bitterness.
 
The following morning the guard came at the set time. He came to receive his pay in gold as a reward for the most hateful news we had ever received in our lives. I wrote a short note for him to take to Abraham. In the message I asked whether I should pray the “Kaddish” only for my parents or for all the Jews. I asked him what fate awaited the immense quantity of people destined to Camp 3 and also that he send me a report of what actually happened in that camp. I finally mentioned my strangeness at the fact that Sobibor being a labour camp needed so many Jews, since the transports continued to come without a stop. I also questioned why we were not permitted to walk in Camps 2 and 3. Klatt picked up his portion of gold and left in a hurry.
 
While I anxiously waited for the answer to my message I continued to work on the silver rings with the gold symbol of life and death. The visits of Stangl and of the SS officers were as insistent as ever and the transports still came to Sobibor with the same frequency, always bringing larger and larger numbers of unfortunate Jews. I decided then I would ask less questions about my parents and the need I felt to see them, as I already knew what happened – in Camp 3, where they supposedly were. However, I did not want to raise any suspicions so I avoided talking about the subject.
 
When Klatt came for his gold and for my message to Abraham, he was very nervous and extremely intimidated. As the Ukrainians were strictly forbidden to enter the place where we worked, he had broken three very serious regulations. Besides violating that rule he had brought us some news and had been paid for that. Obviously, he could not keep calm under the risk which could be fatal to him.
When he was already leaving for the camp where he worked, with the gold I had give him and my message to Abraham, I had the impression that he had been seen by the Nazi Poul, who was then coming to our workshop.  In fact, less than a minute after Klatt had left, the criminal entered the room with his usual drunken countenance and the classic staggering gait of alcoholics.
 
My face grew white with terror at the unexpected and symptomatic presence, I even thought I was lost. His first attitude was to thrust his hands into his pockets and drew out an infinity of used rings, not to mention jewels in an identical state. Then he ordered in an overbearing manner “I want you to make me a ring”.  Although I had not recovered from the fright I had experienced at his sudden appearance, I replied I could only do that with the consent of Stangl or Wagner because I had not finished the jewels  I had been ordered to manufacture for the officers of the camp and thus I was not able to do what he wanted.  
 
The German Poul ignored my argument and shouted rudely: I don’t want to hear anything about that and I should have the ring ready in three days”. I repeated what I had already said and argued that, without the indispensable order I would run a serious risk, and for that reason I would not dare disobey the instructions I had received from Wagner and be punished. I added that up to that day all the officers had understood the orders I had and that he was the first to make such a preposterous demand. Foaming with rage, the brute retorted – “I don’t want to know anything. I am not interested in Wagner or Stangl. I want my ring in three days”. At that he violently slapped me. While I stumbled he hit me again in the mouth and knocked me down. When he saw one of my eyes already swollen and my wounded mouth bleeding his wild anger was placated. Maybe this was caused by the fact that he realised that if he went on beating me or if he killed me he would have no ring made. He went away cursing and banging the door. In spite of the excruciating pain I felt in my wounds I did not shed a single tear. Only hatred filled my whole body. I sat down and started to think, my head held in my shaking hands.
 
In the afternoon Gustav Wagner came. He noticed the large haematoma on my eye and my wounded mouth and he asked me who had done that to me. As I was afraid of Poul’s retaliation I did not answer. But the man kept insisting and I finally had to tell him the name of my aggressor. As soon as he got the information he wanted, the brute burst out laughing. He laughed in such a strange way that I came to the conclusion that I was facing a lunatic. I could never have expected him to react in that way. His attitude was totally incompatible with the orders he had issued, only a few days ago. I had disobeyed another officer’s orders just to avoid being punished by Wagner and now he was delighted with the beating I had taken.
 
I had always been afraid of being punished by the others in case I did not do what they told me to. However, Wagner had said that nothing would ever happen to me because he would give me his full protection. Based on this guarantee I had refused to satisfy Poul’s whim and had faced the consequences. Now the Nazi saw me beaten and was overjoyed at my misery and the wretched appearance of my face. I realised he was a sadist and I could hardly be saved because I was in a snake pit. When he stopped laughing I told him I felt unprotected. I poured out all my thoughts and asked him resolutely what I should do? The German answered on leaving – “Make the rings with the emblems and leave the rest to me”. I went back to the rings to finish them as soon as possible. I would work night and day , since they had become a real nightmare to me. As a consequence, the Nazis never stopped coming to our workshop and sometimes asked for something impossible to be done. On the day following the beating, in walked Wagner and Poul smiling as if nothing had happened. I even came to believe that it had been the former,  who approved the beating, so impudent was his smile. As I already knew him very well I did not doubt that it had actually been so. In fact everything indicated that he had at least enjoyed what the other bandit had done.
 
The two Germans watched our work for sometime and whispered some things to one another. Then Wagner turned to me and said: - “ When you finish the rings you may start working on my friend Poul’s order”. As I had not mentioned my parents for some days, I reminded him that I wanted to see them. The Scharfuhrer still smiling and with an air of sarcasm, gave me the usual answer – “Take it easy, you will go there soon”.
He had no idea I already knew, almost for sure, that my parents had been murdered by the devilish device assembled by the Germans. I had to act like that and ask the same question again and again, for them not to guess I was suspicious of my parents death as well as other things which took place in Sobibor. Soon after they had left , the Ukrainian Klatt came in. This time he brought me a long message from my friend Abraham. He left it on the table and said, as he had done before, that he would be back next day to collect his gold.
I took the slip of paper, quite larger than the first one, and hid it, because I was afraid someone might have seen the guard enter. I expected to read it only in the evening, but my curiosity was such that before twilight I decided to learn what was in it. From this day on, the last and smallest hopes I still nourished that all I had been told might not be the stark truth vanished completely. The mask, which disguised the wickedness of the Germans, was finally shattered. I still had some doubts as to fate of the Jews who were sent to Camp 3. However Abraham’s letter erased them all in a clear, undeniable way. As of that day I would not have to conjecture or try to deceive myself.  
 
This was the message :
 
“Dear Brother. 
I asked you to pray the kaddish not only for your parents but for all. I want you to know that from the multitude of Jews which passes through Camp 1 and goes to Camp 2, only a few are still alive. Of all those who have been transported up to now, only a handful was spared for general services, and I miraculously belong to this group”.
“When the thousands of Jews pass through the gate you mentioned, they go down a long corridor and enter Camp 2. There they are stripped of their last belongings, and made to stand there, naked, until they are led into a large shack where they are allegedly going to have a bath. Hundreds of people enter that shack at a time”.
“When the shack is chock full, the door is locked and hermetically sealed. Then a large Diesel motor is set to work, and its exhaust pipe is passed through a hole in the wall, so that the gases of combustion are blown inside, until everyone is asphyxiated”. 
“Before this operation, giant ditches are dug. After the mass extermination, we, the survivors of the same transport you came in begin to pick up the bodies and throw them into the ditches. Not seldom, the ground has shaken under the weight of that human mass to be buried. Then the monsters came and shot them to make sure that they were dead”.  
“I am telling you all this because, should you ever escape, you will be able to tell the world everything that happened here, because, you must not expect to see me again. Whoever comes to Camp 3 will never leave it. This place is the end for each and every Jew in the power of the Nazis”. 
“ I cannot describe all the scenes because you would never believe what happens in this horrible place. All of it is thoroughly inconceivable to the human mind. I wish you could see how the sadists like Bolender, Gomerski, and one called Red Cake acted. While the slaughter was in progress, these monsters were delirious with happiness, as if they were at the opera. They seemed to take delight in looking at so many dead bodies, naked and inert." 
 
The end of the message was tragic. Abraham told how the work of his group was arduous and endless. It seemed impossible to endure much longer the macabre task of getting rid of the larger and larger human levies, which kept coming. In spite of the rations they received no one was able to swallow any kind of food after watching these hideous recurring facts. 
To the Germans it did not make any difference whether some member of the group was strong and healthy or not. The routine was always the same. All of them were replaced , from time to time, by only Jews selected among the new levies. Whoever, was replaced was killed the same day along with those previously scheduled to be exterminated. It was like a rotation of death.
 
 To finish the message he added : 
 
"I have written you this message for you to be aware of everything, since I no longer have any kind of fear. My end is coming and I already know what it will be like. It will be the same as the others. I have one foot in the grave where I shall meet our brothers who are gone forever. I am not afraid of anything , in writing to you because it does not make any difference to me whether they catch me or not.
I am in the power of these scoundrels and I do not expect any good from them. You would be in trouble should they ever find out I wrote to you, but even so I decided to try. I have done this to warn you because if you ever have any chance, try to escape.  
Unfortunately I am not that lucky, since CAMP 3 OF SOBIBOR IS THE END OF ANY JEW UNDER THE GERMAN YOKE.  If you can, escape and avenge us" 
 
Signed:
Your friend Abraham