I was surprised to see that Nuremberg testimony about gas chambers at Auschwitz was provided by a French woman! Why would that be, when there must be many witnesses much closer to home than France?
The story she tells is the story we have all heard: separation upon arrival, the weak sent directly to cyanide ‘showers,’ their remains cremated. The story is compelling; reading her testimony, I am horrified all over again. The story is so compelling, a lawyer asks her if she has a background as a writer.
Cross-examination by Dr. Hanns Marx, attorney for Julius Streicher:
MARX: Another question: Which position did you occupy? I mean what kind of post did you ever hold? Have you ever held a post?
(He is referring to France, pre-arrest)
MARX: For example, as a teacher?
VAILLANT-COUTURIER: Before the war? I don’t quite see what this question has to do with the matter. I was a journalist.
MARX: Yes. The fact of the matter is that you, in your statement, showed great skill in style and expression; and I should like to know whether you held any position such, for example, as teacher or lecturer.
VAILLANT-COUTURIER: No. I was a newspaper photographer.
Here our heroine deceives. In fact, she was born into a publishing family and was a long-time, loyal member of the communist party, writing anti-German propaganda during the war; the act for which she was arrested in Nazi-occupied France and sent to Auschwitz. She was, in fact, a very skilled story-teller and a bitter enemy of Nazi Germany, which harbored an equal and opposite hatred for communists.
Does this mean that she lied about what happened at Auschwitz? Not necessarily, though it should raise questions.
But the big question that I cannot answer is: If the idea is to kill off the undesirables, and particularly the weak-why on earth did camps expend precious resources treating desperately sick typhus and cholera patients?
Our Auschwitz heroine lived for about half her prison term in an infirmary. She spent:
“10 months in quarantine for typhus and I had the great luck not to die of exanthematic typhus, although I had it and was ill for 31/2 months.”
Typhus and cholera are spread by lice and filth in war conditions and every camp I’ve read about had an infirmary, with ever-dwindling stocks of medicine as the war dragged on. But why have an infirmary at all? Why would you treat people you intended to kill anyway?
If you have an answer for that question, please tell me.