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Schoolcraft Re-encacts the Holocaust

Jenn (Grade 06 / Schoolcraft) Originally published November 2003
The author dressed as a young Jewish woman for the Schoolcraft Learning Community's Auschwitz re-enactment
The author dressed as a young Jewish woman for the Schoolcraft Learning Community’s Auschwitz re-enactment

On Friday the 3rd of October [2003], Sara’s, Jim’s, and Marilyn’s crews got together for a re-enactment of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz. The reason for this re-enactment was to remember what happened to the Jews and to live and feel what they had to live through. The character I portrayed was that of a young Jewish woman. Here’s the experience:

All of the Jews were ordered to sit down. When everybody was sitting, we received a Star of David (which is a tag that all Jews had to wear stating their names and ages). After receiving our tags, we remained seated until the Nazi guards came. They called off the names of women, children, husbands and wives. All these innocent people were going to a labor camp to face their fate: slavery or death. As the Jews marched off to be transported on a train to Auschwitz (the labor camp), my name was called, so I also marched past the armed Nazi guards.

When I got in line for the transport train, all of the Jews had to be facing straight and there was no talking.

Someone in front of me had a terrible cough, so I bent over, slyly, and whispered “Try not to cough so much,” for if the Nazis found out you were sick and could possibly not labor, they would either shoot or gas you. After I warned the man not to cough, we ran to get in the transport train. The Nazi guards were pushing and shoving to get us in the train. When everyone was finally in, the Nazis slammed the big metal doors closed. We were squished. The train was so crowded that we could hardly breathe.

Suddenly, the train started to rock back and forth, side to side, very, very, roughly. We were screaming and moaning, and we all thought this was terrible. But really, this was just the beginning! Suddenly, the rocking stopped. The big metal doors opened, and we were in a new place. But, the new place was not pleasant; in fact it was worse. The Nazi guards were again pushing and shoving us, this time to get off the train. We had to line up again. Almost as soon as we got in line we were again marching into the unknown… Auschwitz.

Ah, but this place was not as bad as I thought. I heard beautiful music played by an orchestra and saw reassuring signs like “Work means Freedom ” and “Only the Righteous Shall Enter Through This Gate.” We hoped these signs told the truth, we wanted to believe this. Once again, we lined up. Except this time, the women were separated from the men. People had to be separate from their husbands, including me. Now, my hope faded away. Again, people’s names were read off and they had to walk past the doctor, who was calling names. People then had to go over to a Nazi. The Nazi was doing something, but I could not see what. I didn’t dare move to see, for Nazis were guarding us with guns. Finally, all the women had been called … except for me.

The Doctor walked over to me and looked me hard in the eye. He started circling me. Why was he doing this? He was studying me for some reason. Then he walked off, away from me. Was I in trouble? Was something wrong with me? As I was becoming more worried thinking about this, the Doctor yelled out my name, “Anne Dittman!” I was startled and jumped a little, but walked straight to the Nazi. He had a little tool in his had that looked sharp, very sharp. He took my arm and drew up my sleeve and right then, before I know what was happening, I felt a sharp surge in my arm. How could they be so cruel! Engraving your new name into your arm!

When he was done, I walked to where the other women were standing, and once again we got in line. We were right in front of the gate that said, “Only the Righteous Shall Enter Through This Gate.” But by now, I knew — I think we all knew — this was not true from what they did to us.

But, still, we wanted to believe it was something good because of everything that happened to us that was bad. Bad seemed to terribly overpower the good, lately. We walked through the gate and into a strange room where a Nazi (and Jews who helped the Nazis in order to get more food) stood next to another metal door. He said, “Please undress and put your clothes on a hook. Remember which hook is yours, for you will need to get your clothes after your shower. Also, after your shower, you will get some nice hot soup and bread. So please, undress, take off any jewelry, and you may enter the showers.”

We did as we were told. The Jews who helped the Nazis handed out bars of soap to each and every one of us. For some reason, they looked sad. Oh well. We were going to have a shower. Alleluia! As we entered the showers, the Nazi yelled something in a language we could not understand. When he yelled, all these pellets came into the shower. We didn’t know what to do, or what was happening, until we were choking and could not breathe. We started to scream. This was a trick! This was the gas chamber! As soon as I thought that, I was laying on the ground, motionless, as were my fellow Jewish friends.

What happened when we were dead? The same Nazi who told us the lie that we were taking a shower came in with a gun. He made sure we were dead by lifting up our arms. Then we were taken out of the showers with wheelbarrows to the crematory. We were brought to a stinky room and, one by one, were put into a crematory. When we came out we were nothing but ashes. We were never buried.

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