The harrowing notes from an Auschwitz inmate who was forced to help the Nazi regime gas and burn millions of victims has finally been deciphered.
The notes, written by Marcel Nadjari, a Greek Jew, describe the horrors he went through as he herded thousands of Jews into the gas chambers every single day.
Back in 1944, Marcel was 26-years-old, and desired revenge for the deaths of his mother, father and sister, according to the BBC.
Often I thought of going in with the others, to put an end to this. But always revenge prevented me doing so. I wanted and want to live, to avenge the death of Dad, Mum and my dear little sister.
He was a member of the ‘Sonderkommando’, which were the Jewish slaves who were forced to help the SS escort their fellow inmates to the gas chambers and later burn the bodies.
Marcel thought it was only a matter of time before he too became a victim, and so he stuffed his memoirs into a thermos flask and put the flask in a leather pouch before burying it near Crematorium III.
The crematorium is a big building with a wide chimney and 15 ovens. Under a garden there are two enormous cellars.
One is where people undress and the other is the death chamber. People enter it naked and once about 3,000 are inside it is locked and they are gassed.
After six or seven minutes of suffering they die…
The gas canisters were always delivered in a German Red Cross vehicle with two SS men. They then dropped the gas through openings – and half an hour later our work began.
We dragged the bodies of those innocent women and children to the lift, which took them to the ovens.
It took 36 years for the manuscripts to be discovered by a Polish forestry student, some 40 centimetres below the ground.
Miraculously, Marcel survived the horrors of Auschwitz and moved to New York in 1951. He had two daughters and made a living as a tailor.
He died in 1971, nine years before his message to the future was discovered. But the condition of his notes was not good, only a mere 10 per cent could be deciphered originally.
A Russian historian named Pavel Polian took it upon himself to restore the note and tease out its insights into the horrors of the time.
To do so, he started working on the scan of the manuscript and used Adobe Photoshop to help bring out the faded text.
The text was then translated from Greek into English by a Greek-British scholar living in Germany.
Mr Polian told the BBC he was struck by Nadjari’s incredibly accurate estimate of the number of victims at Auschwitz: 1.4 million.
It’s accepted the Nazis killed in excess of 1.1 million Jewish people in Auschwitz alone, and 300,000 others.
Mr Polian said:
The inmates obviously discussed how many trains had arrived. Nadjari’s desire for revenge stands out – that’s different from the other accounts.
And he pays much attention to his family. For example, he specifies who he wants to receive his dead sister’s piano.
Such testimonies as this one are absolutely crucial to properly remembering what happened in the camps, and it is thanks to these resilient people during some of the darkest times in human history that we can properly remember what they went through.