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The Dentist of Auschwitz

The Dentist of Auschwitz: A Memoir

Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    The Dentist of Auschwitz
    Book Description:

    " In 1941 Berek Jakubowicz (now Benjamin Jacobs) was deported from his Polish village and remained a prisoner of the Reich until the final days of the war. His possession of a few dental tools and rudimentary skills saved his life. Jacobs helped assemble V1 and V2 rockets in Buchenwald and Dora-Mittelbau; spent a year and a half in Auschwitz, where he was forced to remove gold teeth from corpses; and survived the RAF attack on three ocean liners turned prison camps in the Bay of Lubeck. This is his story.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-2627-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Maps and Figures
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. 1 Deportation
    (pp. 1-3)

    On the morning of May 5, 1941,three ancient trucks labored along a Polish country road, carrying 167 Jews from Dobra, a village in the Warthegau region of Poland, to a destination known only to their captors. It was spring, but the fields, which were full of colorful budding flowers, seemed lifeless on that gloomy morning. The songbirds, whose melodies usually filled the country air in May, were strangely quiet.

    This was a dark day in our village. The Jewish Council, by decree of Herr Schweikert, the Nazi governor of the region, had delivered for deportation to a labor camp...

  6. 2 A Small Shtetl in Poland
    (pp. 4-10)

    I was launched into the sea of life in Dobra,a small village of western Poland, on a cold November day in 1919. According to tradition, I was named Berek, after my deceased maternal grandmother, Baila. In retrospect, I see that I was born at the wrong time, in the wrong place, and with the wrong religion to see my youthful dreams fulfilled.

    With my brother, Josek, and my sister, Pola, I grew to adulthood in Dobra, where my ancestors, as far as I can tell, had lived ever since Jews settled in Poland. Our family owned a house with...

  7. 3 The Blitzkrieg
    (pp. 11-17)

    Throughout the summer of 1939the threat that Germany would invade Poland intensified. Since Dobra was only about 160 kilometers east of Germany, we had good reason to be concerned. My parents, who remembered the First World War, feared war more than the threat from the Germans. Their war experiences hung over them like a bad dream. I was not quite twenty, though, and I was more intrigued by war than scared.

    Josek had served two years in the Yellow Cavalry of the Polish army. Consequently, as war hysteria began, he was recalled and moved with his unit to the...

  8. 4 German Occupation
    (pp. 18-24)

    We were homesick and tired of running. We looked forward to the day our flight would end. Kaziek, the farmer’s young son, became my daily companion, eager to show me around the village. On September 10, just before noon, we went for a walk. We had gone barely one kilometer when we heard the whine of a motorcycle. It soon became visible at the top of an incline, speeding toward us with a strange-looking soldier in the seat. Its sidecar was empty, and there was a trail of heavy smoke and dust. We were the only people on the road....

  9. 5 The Ghetto in Dobra
    (pp. 25-31)

    Greed for Jewish bootylured many followers to Hitler. Little by little, without pretense or restraint, the Nazis had taken our homes, our possessions, our hope, and our pride. And though each downward spiral seemed to take us to the lowest state imaginable, we were to learn that this abyss had no bottom.

    In the spring of 1940 we were ordered out of our house. We were the only Jewish family in the vicinity. Everything of ours—business, house, and land—was given to Anders, a Volksdeutscher who was a former worker of ours. His only credential was his heritage....

  10. 6 Steineck
    (pp. 32-51)

    The lead vehicle stopped at the entrance. Several SS men with German shepherds at their sides stood, awaiting us. Dr. Neumann handed one a list of our names. They spoke briefly, and one SS man grabbed a bullhorn. “You have been brought to Steineck labor camp, where you’ll learn how to work.” Then he lowered his bullhorn and scanned our faces on the trucks, as if to say. “Are there any questions to be asked?” If there were any, who would have dared? He moved and paused at every truck, repeating his decree, making sure no one missed it.


  11. 7 Zosia
    (pp. 52-60)

    Zosia and I met every day. She became more than an acquaintance to me. Our attraction was real, and we both knew it. One day she and her work clothes smelled of exotic flowers. She came close to me in her modest way, her thick brown hair rolling around her face in the warm breeze. Her satin skin glistened with light. Her delicate smile had a sensual expression. I drew her close. She put her hands around my waist. I embraced her and gently caressed her face. Our lips touched. The scent of her skin and the softness of her...

  12. 8 Krusche
    (pp. 61-74)

    By the end of Augustthe warm weather had come to an end. One day when we returned to camp, Chaim looked at me uneasily and said, “Krusche wants to see you, in the first aid room.”

    “Why?” I asked. “What does he want me for?”

    “He just wants to see you,” he repeated. His face showed concern, and I was sure that he was hiding something. No one was called to Krusche without a reason. I thought that Chaim knew more.

    “What does he want of me?” I asked again, frightened. He looked around and then whispered that Krusche...

  13. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  14. 9 Gutenbrunn
    (pp. 75-90)

    My heart beat heavilywhen we passed Krusche at the gate. I had hoped never to see him again, and my wish was being granted. Yet I equally regretted leaving the people from Dobra, among whom we had lived all our lives. I knew that that chapter of my life was closed forever.

    As the morning slowly brightened, I could see David Kot, Reb Moishe, Hershel Sztein, Josef Glicensztein, and a few others waiting to leave. Two of the SS men and some of the guards I knew, including Tadek, were at our side. Tadek told me we were going...

  15. 10 The Murder of My Family
    (pp. 91-111)

    When I finished reading the letterI closed my eyes and stood paralyzed. Zosia sensed that something terrible had happened in the ghetto. She asked me what it was. I could not answer her. When she asked me if it was my mother and sister, I nodded my head. She looked at me and saw that I was in no condition to talk. She left me quietly.

    I felt ill with stomach cramps. Walking back to the camp I read the letter again, hoping that it wasn’t so. But over and over the words spelled out worse than we had...

  16. 11 On Cattle Cars to Auschwitz
    (pp. 112-117)

    It was early morning. I had barely fallen asleep when I heard the police shouting, “Get up! We are moving out.” Our freedom was slipping further away. Instantly everyone was in motion. A half hour later the twenty-six hundred “good workers” stood in rows of fives. Papa was at my right, my instrument box was on my left, and the ubiquitous soup utensil, themenashka,dangled in front of me.

    As the main gates opened, I had hoped to see Tadek, but our guards were gone. In their place stood an echelon of tall, stern-faced Croats wearing Waffen SS uniforms....

  17. 12 Auschwitz
    (pp. 118-132)

    Traumatized, starved, and soaked with human waste,we looked to be the inhuman, useless creatures the Nazis had characterized us as being. It was dark when the train stopped. Dawn came a few minutes later, and light began breaking through the windows. We are not at a station. Why did they stop? we wondered. A few minutes later the wheels began to roll slowly; then they stopped and rolled and stopped again, screeching.

    It was light enough to see distant fences. We must be at a camp, and at least at the end of this misery. Perhaps the prophecy of...

  18. 13 Fürstengrube
    (pp. 133-140)

    Above the gate was a sign:“Fürstengrube.” Below it was a German miner’s salute, “Glückauf.” Fürstengrube was a subcamp of Buna, Auschwitz III. On one side the land was dotted with gnarled trees, brush, and partially dried weeds. The camp was rectangular with single-story barracks, which, unlike those in the main camp in Auschwitz, were newly constructed. The windows and doors faced the yard. In the farthest corner, squeezed between two barracks, stood two cement-slab buildings. The entire camp was surrounded by a brick wall and a mesh fence with barbed wire on top. Brick towers stood at the corners...

  19. 14 The Dentist of Auschwitz
    (pp. 141-165)

    I usually waited until just before curfewbefore going to wash up. Then I didn’t have to jockey to find a spout. One evening as I undressed, Richard Grimm came in, purely by chance. In Gutenbrunn we had been close: I was the dentist, and he had seen me every day. But it was different here. I was just an ordinary mine worker, and he was the Lagerältester.

    When I turned around to face him, he looked at me in a strange way. “I meant to find YOU,” he said. “The Hauptscharführer wants to install a dental station here.” He...

  20. 15 The Death March
    (pp. 166-171)

    At eight in the morning on January 11, 1945,we were each given half a kilo of bread, two squares of margarine, and a generous portion of marmalade. The guards searched each barracks and destroyed whatever they thought had any value.

    It was a dry and cold day. The snow blew around, and some of the roads were partly covered. We were arranged in fives, as usual, yet for some reason we were kept standing in one place. “We are waiting to meet up with Buna and the other camps around here,” Hermann said. Finally, near midnight, we were separated...

  21. 16 Dora-Mittelbau
    (pp. 172-179)

    Kommandant Schmidt was explicit. “Don’t be fooled by the absence of a fence around the barracks. Here the entire area is guarded,” he said. It was again evident to us that the Nazi tentacles were everywhere.

    Each of us found a bunk. I left my instruments on mine and quickly returned to the Appellplatz. The routine began. “Eins, zwei, drei,” and so on we counted. We numbered six hundred by then. We received the usual rations. It seemed as if all the marmalade in Germany was red. Or was it just ours?

    The barracks was new and temporary. The water...

  22. 17 Disaster on the Baltic Sea
    (pp. 180-187)

    On April 27, 1945, Max Schmidt called me asideand in front of the barn gave me a surprising message. “The director of the Swedish Red Cross, Count Folke Bernadotte, will be here tomorrow to take some of you to Sweden,” he confided. “But he only wants prisoners who are from the West. He won’t know where any of you are from. I won’t stand in your way if you tell him you are from somewhere in the West.”

    “What will happen if I stay?” I asked.

    “I don’t know. No one can predict what will happen. The Kommandant of...

  23. 18 Inferno
    (pp. 188-193)

    We were three and a half kilometers from the closest shore. Hundreds of prisoners filled the top deck. At the stern about fifty German civilians, including a few women, and at least that many German sailors were confronted with the same dilemma that we were. Nearby were two smaller ships, theThielbekand theDeutschland. The latter was tipped to one side and on fire. On one of its smokestacks, still visible, appeared a large red cross. A few hundred inmates were struggling in the sea, trying to swim to shore.

    However fortunate we were to come out of the...

  24. 19 Where Do We Go?
    (pp. 194-204)

    We asked the fishermanwhere we could go to find shelter. He thought a while, scratched his head, and mumbled, “Hmm.” Then he directed us to a bakery. “Follow the shore until you come to a house on a hill just off the beach. That’s the bakery. No one may be there, but you may find the oven still warm and even some bread.” We thanked him and asked him to help those still in the sea. He did not need to be motivated. He had his boat ready to leave. A veil of darkness covered what was left of...

  25. 20 Postwar Germany
    (pp. 205-213)

    Leaving with Hermannhelped me to ease the pain of the preceding five years and adapt to a new reality. When we left Lüdenscheid most roads were still impassable, especially in the larger cities in Germany. Hermann stopped in Giessen to see some of his prewar colleagues of the SPD, the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschland, in which he had once been active. In some cities the Americans wanted us to speak to the German functionaries about our ordeal. As if in a conspiracy of silence, they claimed to a man not to have known about any concentration camp or death camp....

  26. Postscript
    (pp. 214-217)

    Surviving as a prisoner of the Naziswas a hard and bitter struggle. In the face of the generous freedoms in America, our persecution was even more difficult to translate. I felt pain, lots of pain, but I had to suppress it. I envied everyone everywhere who had escaped this terrible ordeal. In America in 1949 people had already heard of Hitler and his deeds and were not eager to hear more. Only later generations wanted to know what had happened to the European Jewry. By this time a new term had arisen to identify the Nazis’ mass murder and...

  27. Appendix A: Sinking of the Cap Arcona
    (pp. 218-219)
  28. Appendix B: For the Record
    (pp. 220-222)
  29. Appendix C: The Record of Prisoner 141129
    (pp. 223-224)
  30. Index
    (pp. 225-231)
  31. Back Matter
    (pp. 232-232)