Marc Klein (1905 – 1975) was a professor of biology at the University of Strasbourg. In May 1944, he was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the Auschwitz Camp, then later to Buchenwald. After the war, he wrote in his memoirs under the headline “Auschwitz I Main Camp” (Faculté… 1954, p. 453; similar in Klein 1946; see also Faurisson 2001):
“During Sun- and holidays, when most commandos had the day off, working hours were different. The roll call took place at noon; during the evening one relaxed or dedicated his time to a selection of athletic or cultural activities. Soccer, basketball, and water ball games (in the outdoor pool that had been built by inmates within the camp) attracted the spectator masses. It should be noted that only the fit and well-nourished inmates, who were spared from hard labor, could get engaged in such games that attracted the vivid applause of the masses of the other inmates.”
Of course, as with all such swimming pools, its water could also be used to help extinguishing fires in case of emergency. In fact, Marc Klein writes in his article that at the Auschwitz Camp “there were firemen with very modern equipment.” Among those things he had not expected to find when he arrived in June 1944, “at a camp whose bad reputation was known to the whole world thanks to Allied radio broadcasts,” were:
- “a hospital with specialist wards together with the most modern hospital practices” for the inmates,
- “a spacious and well-equipped washhouse together with communal toilets built according to modern hygiene principles,”
- “a microwave delousing plant that had just been erected,”
- “a mechanical bakery,”
- legal aid for prisoners,
- the existence of a “diet kitchen” for some of the sick with “special soups and even special bread,”
- “a library where a rich reference literature, classical books and periodicals could be found,”
- the daily passing, just past the camp, of the “Krakow-Berlin express train,” making any claim that anything could be kept a secret at Auschwitz a farce,
- a cinema,
- a cabaret,
- an orchestra.
Marc Klein also reports on the horrible aspects of camp life and on all the rumors, including the “terrible stories” about gassings, but in this connection, he mentions that his knowledge comes largely due to testimonies during the “various war crimes trials,” hence this is postwar knowledge.
Anyone who ever has been in any kind of prison or internment camp knows that usually only the very first period of such imprisonment is truly horrible. As an inmate settles in, he learns how to arrange life, get little privileges, make friends, and how to meet basic needs. Each time an inmate gets transferred elsewhere, all this has to start over, and this is very unpleasant. Hence, transfers are usually considered bad news.
On the other hand, anyone who has ever been in a situation where one’s life is constantly threatened and hangs on a thread, the choices look very different: It is either fight or flight. One constantly looks for possibilities to either escape, no matter the cost, or, if caught, to fight until death. If Auschwitz had been a place where death by wanton murder and wholesale mass slaughter was a common occurrence, the reaction of the vast majority of individuals exposed to this would have been clear: fight or flight, no matter what.
Here is how Prof. Dr. Marc Klein described his reaction when he had a chance to “get the hell out of” the place commonly described as Hell on Earth:
“It was always an unpleasant menace to be transported [away from Auschwitz], because one instantly lost all material advantages, the big ones and the little ones, which one had gained in a camp in the long run. It was a departure to the unknown, paired with the burden of the travel and the difficulties of the new environment in a different camp. Despite all, at least for the Jews, who were always threatened by massive Jewish gassings, a transport could sometimes be a path of rescue. […] One day a transport left for Natzweiler/Struthof. I was intensely tempted to be a part of it, because that would get me home to the Alsace. But from a safe source [giving false information] I had learned that this would be a certain death assignment, so that I renounced.”
Evidently Auschwitz was not quite the “hell on Earth” that has been portrayed. All it takes is one honest witness to show.