children burned alive at site of Auschwitz
31) - Jewish children were burned alive at
the very spot where Polish Catholics are
now setting up crosses at Auschwitz,
according to Naphtali Lavie, the
former Israeli consul in New York. Lavie,
a Holocaust survivor, who now serves as
vice-chairman of the World Jewish
Restitution Organization, was reacting to
a report in The Jerusalem Post this
week about the erection of some 50 new
crosses close to the fence of the
MK Shevah Weiss (Labor), another
Holocaust survivor, sent a letter to the
Polish president asking him to immediately
intervene and ensure the removal the
The Catholic organization that put up
the crosses reportedly said it would
continue to raise them along the length of
the fence around the camp.
The new crosses were placed near the
large, 8-meter-high crucifix erected there
several years ago, to commemorate a 1979
Lavie said that the burning of the
Jewish children was unparalleled among all
terrible outrages committed against the
Jews throughout their history.
"We know of cases of children being
burned alive during the crusades, but not
in such numbers," he said.
The documentation for the crime has
come in the form of testimony by a Polish
Christian, Krystyn Olszewski, of
Warsaw, who himself had been imprisoned in
Auschwitz for trying to transport arms to
a Polish resistance unit.
He related the incident to Lavie and
his testimony was later recorded in
"We were both weeping as he told it to
me," Lavie recalled this week.
According to his testimony, in February
or March of 1944, Olszewski was part of a
work crew that had been sent to dismantle
makeshift barriers which the guards had
constructed to protect their platforms
from the freezing winds and blizzards.
At one point, he had been sent up to
the tower to take down the barrier
materials, while the other workers waited
below. It was there that he first heard
the children wailing.
"While tearing down the plate that was
nailed to the barrier and the roof beam, a
gust of wind brought a strange, distant
cry of high-pitched children's voices," he
said in his testimony, which has been
translated to English.
Olszewski related how, as he
deliberately prolonged his struggle to
dismantle the plate, he saw a truck filled
with naked children waving their arms. The
truck was slowly rolling toward "the pit,"
a place where the Germans burned corpses
of those who had been gassed, but whose
bodies could not be accommodated by the
As he covertly watched, the kapo urged
him to finish the job.
"I saw that the truck, which meanwhile
had turned around, turned out to be a
dump-truck. At this very moment the
screaming throng of children was sliding
down the raised truck-bed to the flaming
pit. This was the last thing I saw.
"After I climbed down, nothing could be
seen or heard. Gusts of wind brought the
smell of smoke but no one thought it
strange," Olszewski said.
With his testimony, Olszewski enclosed
a drawing of the lay-out of the camp.
"I am willing to participate in the
investigation aimed at determining the
exact site of the crime, which in my view,
was the climax of the Holocaust," he
Lavie said this week that he had
received confirmation that the Germans
burned Jewish children alive at Auschwitz
from two other survivors, Polish Chief
Rabbi Pinhas Menahem Joskowicz and
Rabbi Menashe Klein, rabbi of the
Ungvar community in the Jerusalem suburb
of Ramot. Both said they had personally
seen Jewish children being thrown into
Prof. Yisrael Guttman, the
historian of Yad Vashem, had also heard of
such instances, Lavie said. He said that
even survivors found it difficult to
believe and said such a thing could not
"If I had not heard this additional
testimony, I myself would not have
believed it," Lavie said.
Lavie said that the period in question
had been one when, according to the
testimony of the Eichmann trial, the
Auschwitz commander, Rudolph Hoess,
had asked to slow down the transports,
complaining that he could not dispose of
the bodies quickly enough. In response,
Eichmann had pressed him to work
faster and faster.
He described the selection, where the
men were sent to work and children three
to seven were immediately sent to be
"I was at Auschwitz in 1941, when it
wasn't yet that bad," Lavie said.
Lavie is convinced that the site of
this outrage was where the crosses are now
being erected. The pits in question, he
said, were those where the bodies of
Russian prisoners of war, who had been
gassed, were burned.
"This is not a place for an Auschwitz
museum, but for a Jewish memorial, where
Jews can come and say kaddish," Lavie
reprinted unedited except for
government stays out of Auschwitz cross
Poland (AP) -
New crosses erected outside Auschwitz have
deepened the dispute over religious
symbols at the infamous Nazi death camp,
but Poland's government said Monday it has
no intention of getting caught up in the
In the past week,
Roman Catholics, many linked to a
conservative radio station, have erected
50 smaller crosses around a 26-foot-tall
cross put up a decade ago. And over the
weekend, a nationalist movement in Silesia
erected another cross, this one 10 feet
The crosses have
angered Jewish organizations, who want
them removed. But Foreign Minister
Bronislaw Geremek said Monday the
government would leave the matter to
proper authorities, meaning the Roman
Catholic church in Poland.
government hopes that the cross in Poland
will always be a uniting symbol and will
not be used for political manifestations,"
Damian Zimon said placing more
crosses at Auschwitz was "unnecessary
manipulation." But he didn't say if the
church would remove them.
Church officials say
they have no plans to make any decision on
the matter in the near future.
Israel's Yad Vashem
Holocaust memorial on Sunday called the
crosses a provocation that should be
removed, warning they "may prevent further
dialogue between the sides about the
future of the site."
The dispute over
crosses near the camp began in 1988, when
the largest one was erected to commemorate
a 1979 Mass in the area celebrated by
Pope John Paul II, who is Polish.
It is outside Auschwitz, on neighboring
land that used to be a Carmelite
complain that the cross, which is visible
from the former death camp, violates the
memory of Jews who died at
Many Poles consider
the large cross - located where 152 Nazi
resisters were murdered in 1941 - a symbol
of the nation's martyrdom under German
The government took
over the grounds of the former Carmelite
cloister in March, but the land continues
to be rented to a war victims'
1998 Associated Press.