Commemorating the end of World War II
On April 29, 1945, the concentration of camp of Dachau was liberated by the Allies. Alfred de Grazia, as an intelligence officer, was on the spot the following day (see picture). In memory of the camps that were liberated between January and April 1945, we are bringing a translation of Joseph Bialot's telling of the liberation of the death camp at Auschwitz. I read many pages of that book to Alfred, sometimes translating de viva voce as I went along.
Joseph Bialot (or: Bialobroda) was born in Warsaw in 1923. At age 7, he emigrated to Paris with his parents. In 1944, he found himself in a round-up and was sent to Auschwitz. He stayed there from the latter part of August 1944 to the liberation of the camp, on January 27th, 1945. After the war, he returned to Paris and worked with his parents in the garments' business. Age 55, he started writing crime novels, which were very successful. He waited to be 79 to publish his memories of Auschwitz: C'est en hiver que les jours rallongent (It's in winter that the days get longer...), in 2002. He died in Paris in 2012.
To my knowledge, this significant text has not been published in English. I am quoting and translating here a few pages, on my own, in order to bring them to the English-speaking public. (And hoping that some publisher may get the hint...)
Joseph Bialot: It's in winter that the days get longer...
Saturday, January 27th, 1945.
Weather cold and dry. The winter sun lights up the camp.
That’s the day when I get the bright idea of burying crates of pasta in front of block 1. Yes, I got the idea into my head that, if the situation prolonged itself, we would be running out of food. For a stretch of time the length of which I am unable to remember, armed with a pickaxe, I fought against the frozen soil. The iron end bounced and bounced, made the bones in my hands quiver, and I, doggedly as if I had a kapo breathing down my neck, went on digging. In the end, getting to bury only one crate. The Poles, when came the time for the big loot, must have thought that there was a treasure buried there.
Block 19. The stench endures with its old accomplices, filth and death. At every level, they are dying. Whiningly. Praying. Silently. But all alone, all.
A man crashes in from the outside, with mad eyes.
- The Russians! The Russians! The Russians are here!
It’s a roar echoing from bed to bed, from moribund to moribund, from cripple to cripple: “The Russians are here. Die Russen sind hier! “ (.../...)
While young Joseph Bialot was hurtling from France in the direction of Auschwitz, in mid-August 1944, Alfred de Grazia was landing in Provence, near Saint Tropez. A few days later, while the inhabitants of the Lodz ghetto (Poland's second largest city) where being methodically annihilated during nine days non-stop in the death ovens, Southern France was being liberated. Alfred de Grazia gives this account in A Taste of War: