Follow Me Into Auschwitz
Death was cheap at Auschwitz. It was ever-present, stinking its way into your very brain, blackening the sky with its smoke, looking at you from the barrels of guns and from the eyes of the condemned. Death was with you during the dreaded roll calls, where at dawn and dusk you stood for endless hours in ankle-deep mud, with only rags between you and the biting chill of the wind.
It was easy to die at Auschwitz; one did not have to be a hero to die. There were many ways you could have saved the SS the work; all you had to do was give up. Give up willingly the spark of life still flickering in you—that last thing you had, which they were so determined to take.
You could have risked your own life and tried to attack an SS guard, as has been suggested by Dr. Bruno Bettelheim in his book, The Informed Heart. This, even if it were possible, would have been not only a foolish way to commit suicide, but it would have been murder as well, for, by your so-called heroism, you would have exposed your next of kin, your loved ones, and the rest of your fellow inmates to the uncontrollable fury of SS revenge.
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It was easier to just touch the electrified wires crisscrossing the camp site and end it all. The temptation was always there. It was hardest to resist at night. The wires stretched as far as you could see—with the lights strung on them, and the wind playing a weird invitation to death: “Touch me…Come close…Touch me.”
It took great strength to resist, but we resisted; I resisted the temptation. Dying makes sense if one has a cause to die for. We had no such cause. We had a great cause to live. By my own death, I could not possibly have saved anybody, nor accomplished anything. It would have been a futile gesture and an easy way out, and it would have proved that deep in my heart I believed that Auschwitz is forever. It would have meant admitting to myself that this screaming insane world around me represented the universe.
I chose to live...