On March 5, 1933, Adolf Hitler won the parliamentary elections in Germany with 44% of the votes (around 20 million people), which finished consolidating the power of the Nazi Party.
This March 5 marks the 90th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s victory in the 1933 German parliamentary elections that would finish consolidating the power of the Nazi Party. Although the German politician, soldier and dictator had already taken over as Chancellor in January of that year by President Paul von Hindenburg, the German National Socialist Workers’ Party continued to represent a minority in the government, in which it only had three of the eleven ministries.
As the Nazis still needed their state legitimacy, Hitler decided to advance the elections, which would be the last in which the system of proportional representation by lists was used, as well as the last to be held in a united Germany until 1990. Although they allowed participation opposition forces (also for the last time), the Nazi Party abused state resources to finance its campaign, resorted to direct intimidation and profited from fears of communist-caused civil war.
“Now it will be easy to carry out the fight, because we can resort to all the resources of the State. The press and the radio are at our disposal, ”Joseph Goebbels, one of Hitler’s closest collaborators who would end up holding the position of Minister of Propaganda, wrote in his personal diary days before the elections. Thus, about 20 million Germans showed their support for the Nazi Party, which won with 44 percent of the vote.
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Today, what came next is known to all. But it was not always like this. As the Italian Primo Levi explains in his monumental If This Is a Man, one of the biggest concerns of concentration camp prisoners was that they thought that, in the unlikely event of survival, no one would believe the atrocities committed by the Nazis. Many, however, lived to tell about it, and they did so through books that are currently essential for understanding one of the darkest periods in the history of Europe.
Below, we share three books whose testimonies bring to the present a past that, however distant it may seem, should never be forgotten.
[”Si esto es un hombre” puede comprarse en formato digital en Bajalibros clickeando acá]
If it’s about the Holocaust, you can’t miss Si esto es un hombre, the first volume of the Auschwitz Trilogy by Italian Primo Levi. Published in 1947, just two years after the author was released from the largest Nazi death camp, this book inaugurated what would later be known as concentration camp literature.
As Levi explains in this dramatic testimonial book, what kept the concentration camps sheltered and “hidden” for so long were not so much the barbed wire fences and the guards, but their own monstrosity, which made them inconceivable. Thus, the need to narrate these atrocities and show them to the world became urgent.
To this harrowing story -which not only includes the sufferings suffered by the prisoners in the camp but also the dynamics that occurred within them, the micro-economies that were formed, the different “jobs” to which they were forced and even the liberation thanks to the Russian army – was followed, decades later, by two more volumes that complete the trilogy, The Truce and The Drowned and the Saved.
Häftling: I have found out that I am a Häftling. My name is 174517; we have been baptized, we will carry this scourge tattooed on our left arm as long as we live.
The operation has been slightly painful and extraordinarily fast: they have lined us all up and, one by one, following the alphabetical order of our names, we have passed in front of a skilful official equipped with a kind of awl with a very short needle . It seems that this has been the real and true initiation: only “if you show the number” do they give you bread and soup. We have needed several days and not a few slaps and punches for us to get used to teaching the number diligently, so as not to hinder the daily supply operations; we have needed weeks and months to learn to understand it in German. And for many days, when the habit of my days of freedom has made me look at the time on my wristwatch, ironically I have seen my new name, the number dotted in bluish signs under the epidermis.
For decades, when it came to telling what happened inside the extermination centers during Nazism, there was a great absence in the lists of its victims: homosexuals. The men of the pink triangle, by the Viennese Heins Heger, is the book that, almost half a century after the end of the Second World War, came to make up for that lack.
The story that the author tells, from a perspective that has never been told yet, is devastating. He was first arrested in 1937 after his relationship with the son of a high-ranking Nazi military officer was discovered. They released him after ten months of torture, only to be arrested again. This time, the Nazi authorities forced him to choose between castration or imprisonment in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Heger opted for castration.
But her nightmare was far from over. In 1943, the author was arrested for the third time and then transferred to the Neuengamme camp, where he was held until the end of the war. This book narrates the atrocities and hardships experienced there, not only by him but by all kinds of victims.
The highlight of The Men in the Pink Triangle is that it sheds light on the particular treatment that gay and LGBT+ people received in the death camps, marked with a fearsome piece of pink cloth that Heger claims earned them even mistreatment. worse than the rest of the victims. However, thanks to the unusual resilience of the author, added to an affair he had with a Nazi soldier inside the camp, they allowed him to survive until, until the end of the 20th century, to be able to tell a section of the story that had been stuck between the silence and oblivion
During the torture, the henchmen drank liquor from bottles that were passed from one to another. They were already completely intoxicated when a new torment occurred to them, something that could only come from the brain of an evil pervert.
“He’s an asshole, isn’t he?” Well, let’s give him what he likes,” one of the soldiers muttered.
He took a broom that was in a corner and inserted a good part of the handle into the unhappy man’s anus. He couldn’t scream anymore, his vocal cords didn’t respond due to the pain, but his body tensed violently once more, struggling with his bonds; the poor boy must have been hiding a great life force. The SS roared with laughter, while the lips of the “dirty fagot” parted as if to utter a scream without a single sound coming from them.
[”Las costureras de Auschwitz” puede comprarse en formato digital en Bajalibros clickeando acá]
In 2017, Lucy Adlington, a British historian and novelist with over twenty years of experience in historical research, published her book The Red Ribbon, a novel set in the Auschwitz sewing workshops. Adlington had stumbled upon reading a brief article about this little-known part of the Nazi concentration camp complex on Polish soil, but the lack of information led him to turn his interest to fiction: he imagined a story, and with it, he wrote a book. for teenagers that would become a world best-seller.
What the author did not expect was that, as a result of her novel, messages would begin to reach her from all over the world: “My mother was a seamstress in Auschwitz”, “my grandmother was there”, “my aunt lived through all that”. At that moment, her novel became a reality.
This is how the idea of The Seamstresses of Auschwitz arose, a book that, like The Red Ribbon, revolves around the existence of a haute couture workshop inside the deadliest concentration camp of Nazism, but without fictionalizing or fictionalizing anything. This time, thanks to the testimony of one of the seamstresses, it was not necessary.
In 2019, Adlington traveled from England to San Francisco, United States, to interview Bracha Berkovic, who was by then the last living seamstress of the two dozen forced to work in Auschwitz for nearly five years. Berkovic told the author the story of the thousand days she spent in Auschwitz, her sewing workshop and the women with whom, between stitches, hems and mending, she planned her escape. “I was in Auschwitz for a thousand days. Every day he could have died a thousand times,” says Berkovic.
The Auschwitz garment workshop was created by none other than Hedwig Höss, wife of the camp commander-in-chief. And as if this combination of fashion salon and place of extermination were not already grotesque enough, the identity of the women who worked in it is already the last straw: most of the seamstresses in the workshop were Jews who had been dispossessed of everything and deported by the Nazis, and whose ultimate destination was annihilation as part of the final solution. They were joined by some non-Jewish communists from occupied France whom they had imprisoned and intended to eliminate for their resistance to the Nazis.
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