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One night in late December I dream that I’ve been gassed at Auschwitz. In the dream, as I be-come aware of myself inside the gas chamber, the gassing itself is already over. I see myself sitting naked in the center of the floor; the room around me choked with naked cadavers heaped to the ceiling. The dead are filthy with feces, urine, vomit and menstrual blood. The scene is faintly illuminated in an ugly green light.
I’m not dead and I’m not suffering. Before I have time to evaluate my situation two large doors at the rear of the chamber are thrown open and there, revealed against a somber gray sky, is the gang of work-Jews, the Sonderkommando as they are called in the literature. They are ready to begin their filthy labor of dragging out the dead, searching the mouths and rectums and even the vaginas of their murdered families and friends for diamonds and gold. Soon they will be using iron tools to pry open the mouths of their slaughtered children to search for contraband. It is these same work-Jews who will drag the violated cadavers to the crematory ovens. Then, as this sordid story has it, they will grind the very bones of their wives and children until their gravel can be disposed of in the Vistula. They will do this contemptible work to gain another week, another day, another hour of life for them-selves.
There are about a dozen workers in the Sonderkommando. They’re on the short side, stocky in build, dressed in shabby clothes and billed caps. They looked like men you have seen in photographs of Jewish immigrants in the streets of the Lower East Side in New York City after the turn of the century. The workers appear to be posing there in the doorway, turning this way and that as if modeling themselves for me. They give off an air of self-satisfaction, of self-importance even. Some are smoking cigarettes and I notice that they are all barehanded. None is wearing a gas mask.
When I wake from the dream I feel stunned. I can still see the individual faces of the work gang as they pose before the open gas chamber doors. They have the faces of ordinary working-class Jews. In my mind’s eye I can still see the piles of corpses heaped up in their own filth. I think about what it is the work-Jews are going to do next, according to the story. I don’t just think about it. I see it. And it’s at this moment of seeing when I know, once again, I am going to do something about the Holocaust story.
I’m lying on my pad on the floor in the front room of Mother’s apartment. The first light of day is edging the drawn window blinds. I go on seeing the faces of the work-Jews posing in the open gas chamber doorway. I know in my heart, without reservation, that those men would not have done what it is claimed they did. I’ve worked and lived among such men and their children for twenty-five years. They would not have done it.
The dream I write about above took place in 1979, thirty-four years ago. I published it as Chapter 18 in Break His Bones. That was in 2002, twelve years ago. I don’t recall reading it again until about a month ago. On that day I was thumbing through the book kind of absent-mindedly, for reasons I cannot recall, when I came across that first line of that chapter: “One night in late December I dream that I’ve been gassed at Auschwitz.”
I recognized the incident immediately but had forgotten that I had written and published a story about it. I was struck by the stark simplicity of that opening line and, sitting there, read through the rest of the chapter. The text focused on the responsibilities of the artist when addressing issues of belief vs. free expression. At that time I was still paying attention to “the life itself.”
I decided to add a link to the chapter in my email signature reading “I Dreamed I was Gassed at Auschwitz.” The reader, clicking on the link, would find Chapter 18 of Bones, and there would be led to the entire manuscript. It’s all there, online.
A couple weeks passed when it occurred to me to place a text link to Chapter 18 of Bones in campus newspapers. The link would read simply: “I Dreamed I was Gassed at Auschwitz.” I was certain that nothing like it had ever run in any online newspaper either on or off campus. That was in the middle of December which was in the middle of the Thanksgiving, Christmas/New Year holidays. At the same time my computer had begun an agonizingly slow death. Agonizing for me I suppose, not for the computer, which is an animal without feelings. New Year’s evening we had a fogata (a camp fire) here in our inside patio with some family friends. A cold night with a warm bright fire.
I couldn’t stay up as late as some of the others and turned in about two in the morning. As I was getting ready for bed the brain spoke to me about Auschwitz and the Sonderkommando in a way that I had never before heard it spoken of. There I was, getting into my jammies, when the brain offered up a concept that was simple, clear and unique. American academics as a class, who refuse to question the unbelievable, filthy, and certainly false tales about the behavior of work-Jews at Auschwitz are acquiescing in an effectively anti-Semitic agenda that can only create divisions between Jews and ourselves that are dangerous for all.
*** It was now decided. I would begin submitting the text link. A week later, with classes once again in session, it was done.
January 8, 2014, at 12:06 PM
The Daily Trojan
We would like to run a text link on your online version of the Daily Trojan. We attached the unformatted version of our ad as PDF hyperlink. We can pay with Visa. Looking forward to hearing from you soonest. Thank you,
PO Box 439016
San Ysidro, CA 92143
Telephone: 209 682 5327
January 8, 2014 5:23 PM
Thank you for your inquiry regarding Daily Trojan online advertising. Unfortunately we have determined that we cannot accept your text link.
Jeffrey Tylicki [email protected]
Office of Student Publications
University of Southern California
Office (213) 740-2707
January 8, 2014, at 7:01 PM
Jeffrey: I know you guys have the last word on what you run on your newspaper but can I ask you why is my ad being rejected? Thank you for your time. RH
January 9, 2014 1:27 PM
Hello Roberto – Attached are the Daily Trojan advertising policies.
Jeffrey S. Tylicki, Advertising Manager.
The Trojan advertising policies include hundreds of words and a jumble of every imaginable cir-cumstance for not running an ad, any ad. But nothing specific with regard to any text I have written. The letter that follows was our re-sponse to Professor Tylicki. The letter was copied widely across the USC campus to academics and students.
TO THE ADVERTISING MANAGER, DAILY TROJAN
Professor Jeffrey Tylicki,
The Daily Trojan
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, California
January 16, 2014
Re our text link that we submitted to The Trojan and you have refused to insert:
The link reads: “I Dreamed I was Gassed at Auschwitz.” The link would have led to Chapter 18 of my book, Break His Bones. Chapter 18 addresses a dream I had about the Jewish Sonderkommando working for the Germans in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
In the dream I see the faces of the work Jews who are accused of helping the Germans murder and dispose of thousands and tens of thousands of other Jews. The work Jews are accused of committing the filthiest acts imaginable with corpses that might include members of their own families. I woke from the dream to understand for the first time that Jews did not do what they are charged with having done in the gas chambers. They simply would not do it.
Intentionally or otherwise your stance defends the accepted academic position that the work Jews at Auschwitz would thrust their filthy hands into the vaginas and rectums of the murdered Jews to search for contraband. These Jews would do such work for weeks, months on end. I no longer believe it, but it would appear that you do and you do not want the readers of The Daily Trojan to read any viewpoint that questions what you believe.
You appear to believe, in your refusal to allow it to be questioned, that the traditional anti-Semitic storyline used to define and defame the Auschwitz Sonderkommando is true. I question those stories that picture those hapless men as grubby, soulless ghouls. Why you and academics nationwide would want to acquiesce in such charges is difficult to understand as anything more than blind reflex. Why do you? Really?
I encourage you to allow a link to a humane perspective on the Auschwitz Sonderkommando to appear in the pages of The Daily Trojan. It would be what is called an opening to a free exchange of ideas. While I understand that you are rather trapped in a culture of academic group-think, I would urge you to be guided by principle. It’s the very least that USC students de-serve.
–Bradley R. Smith
Professor Tylicki did not respond to our letter. I did not expect him to. But if he thought this was a one-shot business and it would soon be forgotten, he was mistaken.
As you will see below, we have taken a second step in this effort to introduce a few questions regarding the H. story to students and faculty alike on the USC campus. This letter too has been copied widely to academics and students on the USC campus.
TO THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, DAILY TROJAN
Sheridan Watson: Editor-in-Chief
The Daily Trojan
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, California
24 January 2014
Re the text link we submitted to The Daily Trojan that reads “I Dreamed I was Gassed at Auschwitz.” The link leads to Chapter 18 of my book, Break His Bones. There I wrote:
“In the dream I see the faces of the work Jews who are accused of helping the Germans murder and dispose of thousands and tens of thousands of other Jews. The work Jews are accused of committing the filthiest acts imaginable with corpses that might include members of their own families. I woke from the dream to understand for the first time that Jews did not do what they are charged with having done in the gas chambers. They simply would not do it.”
I suspect that, privately, you may doubt what I doubt, that Jews working as Sonderkommando at Auschwitz would devote their lives in those camps to partnering with Germans in the mass murder of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of other, innocent Jews—men, women and (unbelievably) children. I am going to assume that you and I are on the same page here.
It appears that your Faculty Advisor, Professor Tylicki, disagrees. Perhaps he has told you that opening up such a question would incite controversy, including inter-group animosities. That is, as the Faculty Advisor to the Daily Trojan, he is forwarding the proposition that it is wrong, that it is somehow unprofessional, for journalists to question accusations of the mass-murder of Jews by other Jews. What kind of journalism is that, and in your opinion what kind of newspaper should be edited from that perspective?
There is every likelihood that, privately, Professor Tylicki does not believe that hundreds and even thousands of Jews at Auschwitz would collaborate with Germans in the mass murder of their own people, but has acquiesced in this perverse expression of academic group-think to protect his own career. In short, if you were to allow a free exchange of ideas on this matter in the Trojan, Professor Tylicki’s academic career could be threatened. And he fears that.
If you were to encourage a free exchange of ideas to appear in the Trojan about the guilt of Jewish Sonderkommando at Auschwitz, which I believe is a “professional” obligation, it would indeed invite a number of controversies. Among which will be the bogus accusation that such a discussion will arouse intergroup hatred. The main hatred it will arouse, however, will be on the part of those individuals and organizations that profit from the story as it is. The story as it is is that at Auschwitz Jews collaborated with Germans in the mass-murder of the Jewish people. I don’t believe it, and I do not believe the accusation can be demonstrated to be true.
And there’s the rub. If academics like Professor Tylicki could prove that the accusation of mass-murder by Jews of Jews at Auschwitz is indeed true, they would have no reservations in having it questioned. They cannot demonstrate that the accusation is true, so they will not allow it to be questioned. In the end, the responsibility for making the right moral and professional decision on this matter might have to be left to students at USC—your readers—not their professors.
If you and your staff at the Trojan are serious about journalism, and about open, honest debate, this is a story, an accusation, that should be treated even-handedly and with respect. Why should it not be?
I would be glad to talk it over with you, and I am perfectly willing to be shown where I am wrong about any of it.
Email: [email protected]
PS: It would be interesting if Professor Tylicki would explain in your pages why he supports the anti-Semitic argument that Jewish Sonderkommando cooperated fully with Germans to murder millions of Jews at Auschwitz and other camps.
(This note to Spielberg, being distributed at USC and nation-wide, introduces a new angle into this project. More next month.)
USC Shoah Foundation
650 W. 35th Street, Suite 114
Los Angeles, CA 90089-2571
January 30 2014
At USC your Shoah Foundation — The Institute for Visual History and Education, boasts some 52,000 video testimonies in 32 languages from 56 countries.
My question is this: Is there one (one) video testimony among the 52,000 that challenges the charge that at Auschwitz Jewish Sonderkommando cooperated fully with Germans in the murder of hundreds of thousands and maybe millions of innocent Jews in gas chambers?
The charge is that the work-Jews, the Sonderkommando, stuffed live Jews into the chambers and once they were dead pulled them out again, searched their corpses for gold teeth and contraband, and then got them to the crematoria where their remains were burned. I, for one, do not believe that the Jewish Sonderkommando cooperated with Germans in those disgusting acts for weeks, months on end. I believe you and I would be on the same page there.
There must be one video testimony (if not many) in the 52,000 available through your Institute, that challenges the orthodox accusation that Sonderkommando participated fully in the mass-murder of Jews and others at Auschwitz.
Will you please have one of your own workers identify these videos and make them available, not just to me, but to the public at large?
If there is not one such testimony available among the 52,000 you have collected, could you please have someone at the Institute explain why that is?
*** Until next month.
Additional information about this document
|Author(s):||Bradley R. Smith|
|Title:||The Night I Dreamed I Was Gassed at Auschwitz|
|Sources:||Smith's Report, No. 202, February 2014, pp. 3-5, 12; most of these pieces appeared on the CODOH Founder Blog in January 2014: http://codohfounder.com/2014/01/|
|First posted on CODOH:||Feb. 12, 2014, 6 p.m.|