The Fifth Diamond: A Special Jewel in the Genre of Holocaust Horror Stories, part 3 (of 5)

Published: 2010-01-12

Irene Weisberg Zisblatt writes of swallowing the same diamonds over and over again for a year in order to save all she has left of her family. What else does she say—and why is it not believable?

Apophenia: the phenomenon of seeing things that aren't there. People will see, and believe, what they expect to see, what they want to see, or even what they are told they are seeing, as often as they will see, and believe, what they are actually seeing.

By Carolyn Yeager

Part Three

(ST=Shoah Testimony, FD=The Fifth Diamond, LD=The Last Days, RI=Radio Interview. See Part One for further explanation.)

Suicide-at-the-fence punishment changes from 5 to 100

(ST) Claims the SS threatened to torture to death 5 prisoners for every one who committed suicide by touching the electric fence. “Many people did go to the barbed wire … every time a transport came through, the barbed wires were electrified. When it was on, people would walk up to it just to die. […] so they (SS) said: For every person that’s going to take their lives, they’re gonna torture to death 5 of us. Of course, everybody ignored the barbed wire after that.”
(LD) Now she says the SS killed 100 inmates “in front of everybody” for each prisoner who electrocuted themselves at the fence. “When the electricity came on they ran up to it to electrocute themselves.”
(FD) She left this patently false story out of her book.

Tattooed right away or later?

(ST) She does not say she was tattooed on arrival, nor does she ever give her number. Later, when telling of the tattoo removal “experiment” she gives this bizarre explanation (@1hr31min): “I wasn’t tattooed right away. I was tattooed after they selected me for something. The reason we wasn’t tattooed right away is they didn’t want us to live. We were in that camp as reserves for the gas chamber, for the crematorium, because they were burning two men and one woman, because that was the best, efficient thing to have the crematorium work efficiently—because the woman has a little more flesh on her body because of her breasts, and the men don’t, so they were using two men and one woman for the crematorium. So we were reserve, is what we were told – every time we asked for some food or some ration [we were told], ‘You think you’re here to live? You’re here to be a reserve for that chimney!’ That’s when we found out what that chimney was.”
(FD) She receives a tattoo on her arm - number 61397 [16] - along with everyone else upon arrival, while she’s still holding the diamonds in her hand. (p. 35)
(LD) Another woman survivor testifies they were given a tattoo upon arrival.

When did she learn her family had been gassed?

(ST) “We didn’t find out for a couple of days.” (@1hr22min)
(FD) On the first night, she tries to sneak out of the barracks to find her mother. The woman in charge of the barracks stopped her at the door and pointed to smoke coming out of a chimney and yelled at her, “Your mother is just about now coming out of one of those chimneys.” Later that night: “I realized [it] was true. My mother was dead.”

With her cousins or all alone?

(ST) She shared the bunk in her first barracks with two of her father’s cousins – one of whom was around her mother’s age, 33. These cousins were not mentioned previous to this, but suddenly they are with her. This is strange because back in Munkacs she said they were expecting her father’s cousins, but they never showed up; they learned one had been murdered with his whole family, including two daughters.
(FD) She’s in her first barracks alone, no relatives ever. But of the other 9 women who shared her bunk(!), one worked in the kitchen and whispered that the SS were putting chemicals into the soup to destroy their reproductive organs. This rumor is the SOURCE of her claim that the “evil Nazis” tried to destroy her reproductive ability. Later in America, she had two children, yet she still tells school kids that she was given chemicals for this purpose.

Mengele no – Mengele yes

(ST) After a month in camp, she was selected for experiments by a “German doctor.” The whole barracks of 1000 had to undress outside and 15 women were chosen for their “smooth, unblemished skin.” When asked by the interviewer if she knew the name of the doctor, she said No. “It could have been Eichmann (not a doctor), it could have been Mengeler (sic), you know after a while they all looked the same. It wasn’t important to us what their names were. […] I for one was not interested what their names were.” (@1hr33min)
(FD) At her first morning roll call, she was selected for experiments. Two men approached them; she heard the Kapo speak their names: Mengele and Toub. (p.43) She swallowed her diamonds again. Mengele, the doctor, selected her and 99 other women to line up between two barracks and remove their clothing. She was in the final group of 15 that was selected, sent to the showers, given clean clothes, and put on a train to Majdanek.
(LD) Dr. Mengele is never mentioned in the entire film.
Remarks: It’s noteworthy that Zisblatt only mentions Dr. Mengele twice in her Shoah testimony, and both times with uncertainty, and with some prompting. But in her later book (and also in her talks), Mengele, along with the diamonds, becomes a major theme.

Eye-color experiment differs

(ST) The 15 who were selected walked to Auschwitz where drops were put into their eyes and they were led into a dungeon underneath a barracks, where each was put in a small cubicle. They stood in water up to their ankles in pitch darkness for an unknown period of time. “THEY TATTOOED US THEN! When they selected us, they took us to this little section and gave us our number; they tattooed us. And then we went into the dungeon. So we had the arm, we didn’t know why we were tattooed, we didn’t eat, we just drank that water.” Some were blinded by this experiment, but all 15 returned to their barracks; later they found out the experiment was supposed to change the color of their eyes … but it failed. (@1hr37min)
(FD) After they returned from Majdanek, Dr. Mengele selected 5 from the 15 to go to the Birkenau Infirmary where “he put painful chemical injections into our eyes.” This time they stood all together in one prison cell in water up to their ankles. Their eyes burned. One of the girls finally spoke to her – it was “Sabka,” who was to become her faithful friend. “For the next four days we remained (there).” After being let out, Dr. Mengele examined their eyes and “seemed disappointed.” The other three girls were blind, and were immediately taken to the gas chamber, crying “Shma Israel.” Chana and “Sabka’s” eye-color was unchanged. (pp. 46-48)
(LD) Only describes the eye-color experiment, but combines the 5 girls (FD) with the eye drops (ST). This time they were “tightly packed” in the dungeon. Afterward, “some of the people” (of five?) couldn’t see “for several days after that.” No Dr. Mengele – no “Sabka” – no permanent blinding – no one sent to the gas chamber. (@ 32 min)

Virus testing with and without Mengele

(ST) Next experiment was injecting a virus-containing serum under their fingernail. Only 5 of the original 15 were selected for this. That evening, she had a red-line going up her arm so she tore off a string from her clothing, tied it as a tourniquet on her arm and in the middle of the night went to the back door of the barracks, put her arm through the door crack and laid with her arm in the cool mud all night. In the morning, the line was down and they were examined again. She says that if the red line had still been there she would have been sent to the gas chamber.
(FD) Only she and “Sabka” are sent to the Infirmary for the under-the-fingernail injection. Dr. Mengele is there to do the torture. They are returned to their barracks for 3 days, then come back to the Infirmary for a blood test. Mengele comes in with sadistic hatred in his eyes and sticks the needle under her fingernail again. She writes: “Yes, that kind of hatred existed in the Twentieth Century in Nazi Germany.” That night she has the red-line reaction, but she sneaks all the way outside the barracks and lays outdoors all night with her hand buried in the mud. In the morning she is alright.
She dreams up an unbelievable punishment for the next day, given to her for trying to help “Sabka,” who was sick from the injection. She is made to stand very close to the electric fence, holding a brick in each hand with both arms straight out in front of her. If she moves even an inch, she will be electrocuted. She manages to do this for 12 hours after having a blood infection the night before!! Naturally, while she’s standing there all that time, she sees many evils taking place in the camp. This craziness is only in the book.
The injections continued every three days for the next two weeks, but with no more ill effects.

How she met Sabka

(ST) She first mentions “Sabka” during the 2nd experiment—the under-fingernail injection: “This one girl, her name was Sabka and she was Polish.” (@1hr42min30sec) She then describes how Sabka came to Auschwitz in 1943, saying “she was 19 years old when we met.”
Remark: “Chana” was still 13, awfully young to be the confidant of a 19 year old. This gives credence to the idea that Zisblatt was two years older than she says she was. Even though “Sabka” is a fictional person, Zisblatt is comfortable talking of her friendship with a 19 year old.
(FD) On the trip back from Majdanek, a beautiful girl sat next to her, the strong suggestion being this was “Sabka”(p. 46). Upon their return, she and the girl spoke to each other and exchanged names while standing in the watery dungeon during the eye-color “experiment.”

Reply to a letter written by Irene Zisblatt Lewin to the Red Cross Tracing Service in 1995 inquiring about the records for Irene Seigelstein. More proof that she was listed with some agencies as Irene Lewin. (credit:

Sabka’s nationality changes

(ST) “Sabka” was Polish.
(FD) “Sabka” was Lithuanian (p.7). Zisblatt invents an elaborate story about 16 year old Sabka’s parents death in a mass grave, Sabka’s escape from the grave and finding a cave to live in for two years.

How they escaped being made into lampshades

(ST) Five women, including Zisblatt, were taken to Majdanek, where the rumor was that Ilse Koch [17] was coming to select prisoners with “smooth skin” for her lampshades (@1hr46min). Koch didn’t show up at Majdanek, so the five women were sent back to Auschwitz the next day.
Remark: The charge that Koch made lampshades and gloves from the skin of prisoners has long been debunked, but Zisblatt does her best to keep it alive in schoolkid’s gullible minds. She also thought Koch was coming from Innsbruck; apparently unaware that she was from Buchenwald.
(FD) The trip of fifteen to Majdanek is the first “experiment” she mentions in her book. She describes the bunk she spent the night in with 9 other women as filled with blood and feces. This, after being specially showered and given clean clothes before they left Birkenau! After 48 hours of supposedly waiting around for Ilse Koch, who never arrived, they were returned to Birkenau. (p.44-45)

Tattoo removal with and without Dr. Mengele

(ST) She and friend “Sabka” are now the only two left of the five; are taken to the “revere” to have their tattoo removed, but can’t remember if it was in Birkenau or Auschwitz. She describes it thus: Doctors strapped them onto a rusty table, injected things into their arms; then they were pulling, then cutting, without anesthesia, and within a week to 10 days (!) they found a way to get rid of the number. The nurse told them the reason for the tattoo removal: The SS were tattooed under their arm with the same kind of ink and now wanted to hide their identity, so the doctors are experimenting to find a way to remove their tattoos.
(FD) She, “Sabka” and twenty other women are marched to Auschwitz to the hospital there. She describes what she saw along the way. Dr. Mengele has 6 young SS in training, showing them glass jars containing deformed body parts of Jews. Then, coming over to the two girls strapped on the tables, he looks at her number 61397 and says to his interns: “I must find a way to remove the tattoos from the SS … we will use the prisoners to test different methods for the deletion of their numbers.” She proceeds to write a lot about Dr. Mengele’s evilness, then describes the same removal process as above.
Remarks: This supposedly explains why Zisblatt doesn’t have an Auschwitz tattoo even though she was allegedly there. When asked by audiences where her tattoo had been, she points under her left upper arm. [18] But numbers were tattooed on the top left forearm, where they could be easily seen and checked.

To be continued

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[16] According to the USHMM website, the sequences of numbers introduced in mid-May 1944 were prefaced by the letter A for women and B for men, and began with “1” and ended at “20,000.” For an unknown reason, the “A” series for women did not stop at 20,000 and continued to 30,000. Thus, Irene’s number doesn’t match the numbers given to Hungarian Jews. For a look at an authentic tattoo, go here:

[17] Ilse Koch, dubbed by the press as “the bitch of Buchenwald” was married to the commandant of Buchenwald, Karl Otto Koch. She had the misfortune of being the target of evil rumors, such as using the skin of Jewish prisoners to make lampshades. However, the story went that it was tattooed skin that Koch wanted, but Zisblatt doesn’t seem to know that; she says Koch was looking for “smooth, unblemished skin,” like her own. Ilse Koch was put through two show trials after the war, and eventually died in prison. You can read about her trials (4 pages with photos) here:
[18] Here is a picture of Irene Zisblatt pointing to the spot where her tattoo was removed:

For the other parts of this article please click on the links below

Part One

Part Two

Part Four

Part Five

Additional information about this document
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Author(s): Carolyn Yeager
Title: The Fifth Diamond: A Special Jewel in the Genre of Holocaust Horror Stories, part 3 (of 5)
Published: 2010-01-12
First posted on CODOH: Jan. 12, 2010, 8:23 a.m.
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