A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the National Socialist People’s Welfare organization (Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt), referred to as the NSV. It was the official welfare organization of the Third Reich, authorized when Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933. The NSV was responsible for providing the social and charitable services to the German Aryan population.
In writing about the NSV, I used a quote from a book written by renown German historian Gotz Aly, titled HITLER’S BENEFICIARIES Plunder, Racial War, and The Nazi Welfare State, translated by Jefferson Chase. I also found that Aly had been awarded a prize by the German Holocaust Remembrance Foundation in 2003.
The Remembrance Foundation is dedicated to researching the crimes of the Nazi era and commemorating its victims. The Marion Samuel Prize is an annual award given for significant contributions to the Holocaust cause, and is named after a randomly chosen eleven-year-old girl killed at Auschwitz, about whom nothing was known except her name, her age, and the date of her deportation.
Aly was pleased to receive the Foundation’s award, but had no idea who Marion Samuel was.
In preparing for the ceremony at which he would receive the Prize, Gotz Aly decided to use his acceptance speech to provide a biographical sketch of Marion. Afterwards, he wrote a small book titled INTO THE TUNNEL The Brief Life of Marion Samuel, 1931-1943.
I’ve read the story and it is fascinating. She, like thousands of others was an ordinary and unremarkable child, but Aly’s meticulous research revealed details that made her and the others into tangible people; it increased the appreciation for all the Jewish children who died at the hands of Hitler. I also found it remarkable how much information the Nazi government kept and how much of it still exists.
In the book, Aly recounts his patient and painstaking search through the relevant archives, describes how he took out newspaper advertisements seeking relatives in Germany and America, and how he investigated the Samuel family’s financial circumstances as well as their systematic impoverishment by the Nazi state.
Here are some highlights:
Here’s what Marion Samuel’s last day, March 4, 1943, was like:
“The statistics kept by the Auschwitz camp commander show that Transport 33 from Berlin arrived [at 10:48 am] with 1,886 people on board…..Those deportees who were not needed for work—usually the majority—were immediately and without any unnecessary effort sent straight to the gas chambers to be murdered. Those who were selected for work had their heads shaved, were tattooed with a number, and were clad in prisoner uniforms.”
“Marion Samuel, however, was only a child and a female child at that. The SS would not have considered her in any way fit for labor. On the morning of March 4, 1943, Marion Samuel was taken from her father and led to one of Auschwitz-Birkenau’s two older gas chambers [and murdered]….The first test of Auschwitz’s new large crematoria, during which the corpses of forty-five men were incinerated in the presence of engineers from the Erfurt firm of Topf & Sohne, was carried out the day after Marion Samuel was murdered. Therefore, the bodies of the more than two thousand Jews murdered on March 4, 1943, were burned instead in broad, somewhat secluded pits by the members of a special commando. Later, the graves were covered with soil. To this day, that area of Auschwitz-Birkenau remains, as a rule, free of bone fragments.”
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Don Willerton has been a reader all his life and yearns to write words like the authors he has read. He's working hard at it and invites others to share their experiences.