Upon arrival at the camps, the masses of Jews were immediately sorted for death or slave labor.

Those who survived the transport went to the famous "sorting" platforms. As soon as they disembarked the trains, they were divided up – women to one side, men to the other. One by one. every person passed by a medical doctor.

Arrival in Auschwitz: women and children seperated for selection (1944)

The doctor made a split-second decision: Can we wring a bit of work out of this wretched body?

There were over 100 of these medical monsters, including some of the finest doctors from the finest German hospitals. One was a professor of medicine from Harvard.

All had sworn a medical oath to uphold medical ethics and to assist humanity.

The doctor would decide: Life or death. If the decision was "death," then within two or three hours the person’s ashes went up the chimney.

The alternative – "life" – was actually "slow death."

Slave Labor Camps

Those Jews who were strong enough did not go to their immediate death, but instead to labor camps to serve as slaves for the German "masters."

Always it was under the most inhumane conditions. They were made to work, morning till night, in back-breaking labor – hauling rocks in a quarry, chopping logs in a forest, or for the “lucky” ones, working in a factory for the German war effort.

The Jews "lived" on starvation rations. A daily ration was one piece of black bread, a small slab of margarine, and a small cup of something that was supposed to be soup. Every once in a while there was something floating in it – a drop of horse meat. That was all the nourishment one received for 24 hours.

The Nazis liked to have "fun with the Jews." One quarry had a straight, sheer wall, called the "paratrooper's wall." Every once in a while, a guard would push someone off.

The "smaller" labor camps did not receive the notoriety of the death camps, but could be just as deadly. Out of 16,000 slave laborers in the Kamionka labor camp, only 36 survived the war. Read a personal account of the liquidation of the Kamionka camp.

Eyewitness Testimony: At the Work Site

During the long hike to the "work site," two-legged beasts in handsome human skins struck their charges left and right at random, just for fun. Their dogs, enormous, well-trained German shepherds, trotted after their masters, eagerly awaiting a command. At the slightest hint they leapt at the victim and tore him limb from limb; just as senselessly and randomly as their masters did; just for fun…

We plunged the rakes into the mud, wincing at their weight when we tried to lift them. Then, as we approached the wheelbarrow, the mud leaked away between the prongs until little was left. Again we bent, aiming for the thickest mud. Even so, little of it reached the wheelbarrow. Again and again we strained our emaciated bodies.

I observed my friends at this hopeless, disgusting, senseless work, whose only purpose was to torment, and another tragic scene from long ago came to mind: a picture from a history book, masses of broken Jewish slaves in Egypt building cities for Pharaoh. The caption was: "And straw for brick-making they did not supply."

from: "To Vanquish The Dragon," by Pearl Benisch, Feldheim Publishers