It’s easy to get a morbid fascination with this. One is tempted to turn time and time again to accounts of what happened and ask oneself why and how it could ever happen, and just how terrible was it.
I’m still searching databases for any record on Clara Lehrs and forget continuously that by the time she came to a death camp, probably Treblinka, she was Klara Sarah Lehrs. We actually have in our possession death certificates issued to distant relations of my mother-in-law. They both had a Jewish star-of-David stamp on them. One died in a Jewish community, the other in a ghetto. It seems that German paperwork was meticulous. However, by the time C(K)lara Lehrs was exterminated, they were probably more likely to be wanting to cover their tracks.
Clara Lehrs is in the book but the story of her death will only appear in an appendix, if at all. She is so fascinating that she’s worth a project all on her own.
Treblinka was brutal. They used carbon monoxide – which led to a very painful death - then Zyklon B, and later resorted to hitting prisoners on the head and then piling them alive into furnaces. It seems beyond what we could imagine. But – have you watched Torchwood recently? Or read my own Babel?
I’m often side-tracked as well if I stumble across something about Bergen Belsen as my father was involved in the clear up of this. Belsen was not a death camp, though was probably the most horrific to encounter at the end of the war as thousands died when the Nazis abandoned it when they realised they were losing the war. They cut off the water supply when they left and left the inmates locked in. Already weak and emaciated people were starved further. Disease spread even more rapidly because there was no way of disposing of the deceased and there was an outbreak of typhoid. It took a long time to put all of that straight. The status of the camp changed as soon as the British arrived – it became a DP camp. The inmates were at first extremely grateful but then frustrated as it took months to move them into a more normal environment.
Click here for information about the death camps.