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RANDOM TERROR AND STARVATION
Written by Alexander Kimel - Holocaust Survivor.
Immediately after conquering Poland the Nazis started and the first stage of their Final Solution: the spreading of random terror, random abuse of victims. The Jews were declared an open prey for the German soldiers and civilians. Jews were beaten, humiliated, sometimes killed for the amusement of the perpetrators. Sometimes the victim was killed outright, sometimes he was only abused and subjected to the cat and mouse play- his life being at stake. The Germans developed classic entertainment procedures like cutting off the beards and earlocks of Jews, be pulled about in a cart drawn a by a Jew, having Jewesses clean the barracks with their panties, etc.
The terror, overcrowding and starvation, tore down the fabric of community life. On January 4, 1942 Kaplan lamented in his Diary:
"Gone is the spirit of Jewish broderhood. The words compassionate, modest, charitable' no longer apply to us. The ghetto beggars who stretch out their hands to us with the plea: "Jewish hearts, have pity!" realize that the once tender heart have become like rocks. The senselessness of it all. .. Our oppressors herded us into the ghetto, hoping to subdue us into obedient animals. Instead, however, we are splitting and crumbling into hostile, quarrelsome groups. " We live broken and shattered lives; lives of shame and dishonor; lives of suffering and grief. But the power of adaptability within us is miraculous. ..From historical experience we have learned that there is no permanence in life; that everything changes; that all is transitory."
It is impossible to understand and judge the behavior of a human being demoralized, hungry and in constant danger of life, not having experienced terror.
"Human beings spend all their energies and talents in the pursuit of bread. Man has become an animal, concerned only with the brute existence and fear of starvation." "Life in the ghetto has been turned upside down. Panic is in its streets, fear on every face, wails and cries everywhere you turn."
"The line of demarcation between life and death has grown very thin. Traditionally the Jew was always bound to life with strong bonds, but not so now! ...At every turn one sees living skeletons with the skin stretched taut over their bones. The road from life to death is short one these days."
Death became part of everyday life, and caused demoralization and passivity. Kaplan notes in his Diary:
"Perhaps it is good to die. Anticipating death is worse than death itself, since death brings release from consciousness, and an end to one's suffering. . . Habit becomes second nature even in matters of life and death. We are so used to the idea of being shot to death that this entire horrible matter no longer frightens us."
Kaplan paints a heart-breaking picture about his life with hunger:
"Never in my life had I known the pangs of hunger. Even after I was pushed into the ghetto I ate. But now I too know hunger. I sustain myself for a whole day on a quarter kilo of bread and unsweetened tea. My strength is diminishing from such meager fare. At times I can't even stand up. I fall on my bed, but rest eludes me. I am in a states of sleep and not asleep, of wakefulness and yet am not awake. I am plagued with nightmares. Fear and worry preoccupy me, fear lest I be seized and deported; worry about where to find my bread."