Imagine you are Jewish, a Homosexual, a Gypsy, a Prisoner Of War or even imagine that you are Polish, perhaps even German having spoken up against the Nazis. Maybe denounced by a jealous neighbour. It doesn't matter! You’re on a train, approaching the most terrifying place ever conceived. You’ve just spent twenty, thirty, forty hours in cramped unsanitary conditions. There are dead bodies in the carriage. You're frightened out of your wits; you’ve heard of brutality and murder. They must be rumour! You needn’t believe everything they say. The train slows and in the distance you hear barking. Is this real?
It is! Seventy per cent of this carriage will be dead within an hour, the rest will be punched, bitten by dogs and mishandled, subjected to arbitrary selection, Doktor Mengele's handsome face smiling kindly, impeccably tailored uniform, whistling a Wagner opera, his eyes betraying nothing but cursory interest. To the right, you’re dead! To the left you’re in the camp. Amongst those lucky to get in, you’ll be shaved and reduced to a nothing, clothed in lice infested pyjamas and assigned to work groups where a Kapo will beat you without mercy.Within two weeks, likely as not, you’ll be joining the selection queue, having given up, too exhausted to resist.
Is there room here for compassion? Could love blossom on such barren ground?
Imagine the woman in your neighbouring bunk is sick with typhus. She works in a place where you will be well fed and where the guards are less brutal. You swap identities, her knowing that she will be selected tomorrow. Imagine taking up her offer, only to be discovered. Certain death now faces you. A homosexual Kapo has taken your fancy and offers you a way out, allowing you to sing at a concert that evening.
A concert in Auschwitz? It actually happened. The song she sang was 'Mein Herz hat Heimweh'. A watching guard was so moved that he fell in love, a love so profound to cast a shadow over the rest of his life.
The Book Cover
Behind a coppice of Birch tree, the Nazis hid the Krematorium buildings of Auschwitz. When visiting the site, these same trees blow in the wind, the noise of countless souls whispering their stories.