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Dachau Death March
A JOURNEY TO THE PAST; DACHAU-BERLIN FOR THE LOVE OF ISRAEL
KADISH FOR ZELIG
by Solly Ganor a Holocaust survivor. - Israel, June 12, 2005
If I needed a reminder why we live in Israel and cling to it with heart and soul, despite the endless wars and the suicide bombings, this recent journey supplied us with the answer.

The flight from Tel Aviv to Munich lasts less than four hours, but my memory takes me back fifty seven years, when I was a teenage slave laborer for the Nazis in one of the outer camps of Dachau. Towards the end of the war, they were so desperately in need of labor that the Nazis reluctantly gave up the idea of gassing all Jews, irrespective of their gender or age.

They continued to gas women with children and old people, but those whom they considered still capable of work, were temporarily spared. They even coined a phrase for those of us: "Vernichtung durch Arbeit" "Annihilation through Work" In fact, they starved us and made us work twelve hours a day at hard labor, condemning us to a slow agonizing death.

There were in all eleven outer camps of Dachau, where in nine months fifteen thousand Jewish slaves out of a total of thirty thousand, died of starvation, hard labor and beatings by the German supervisors and the SS guards. I was in an outer camp of Dachau, known as Lager X, by Utting, a picturesque little town by the Amersee. Before the war writers and artists used to live there. I was told that the famous Kurt Weil lived there before Hitler came to power.

In July 1944, with the Soviet troops approaching Kaunas ghetto where I was incarcerated for three years, the Nazis transported us half across Europe to Bavaria. There, near the medieval town of Landsberg and surround-ings, Hitler decided in the last phases of the war to build gigantic underground factories where the jet fighter Messerschmit M62 was to be built. This was Hitler's promised secret weapon that would sweep the American and British planes out of the German skies.

We, the half starved Jews of Lithuania, Poland, and Hungary were to build these gigantic factories, and perish while building it. The construction sight was called Moll, named after the owner of the building company, Leonard Moll.

I will never forget the day when I first laid eyes on it. We were driving from Utting in a truck, to deliver a load of potatoes . In our camp it was known that the Germans were building some kind of underground facto-ry, and we heard terrible stories about it. We traveled for what seemed like an hour along a tree lined dirt road. Darkness had fallen, and in the distance we could hear the low grinding roar of heavy machinery. The din increased just before we emerged into a huge clearing lit by the glare of floodlights. The road dropped into a vast excavation, and from it rose an enormous concrete vault, bristling with vertical reinforcing rods so that it looked like some monstrous hedge-hog. Narrow railroad tracks curved towards the opening.

The installation was a half -cylinder of concrete, 1,300 feet long and spanning more than 275 feet at the base. It rose some 95 feet into the air at the top of the arch. Under the glaring lights, cranes and bulldozers moved into and around its mouth. Scores of tractors, trucks, and other heavy equipment created an ear-shattering roar. Along the sides, scores of prisoners stood on platforms handling huge flexible hoses that spewed wet cement into the spiked grid work, while others moved about with shovels and buckets. Everywhere we looked we saw what looked like thousands of men in striped uniforms moving about the compound, carrying lumber, iron rods and sacks of cement.

It was like an enormous, evil hive. Even as we watched we heard inhuman screams coming from above. The men who were maneuvering the huge hose had lost their grip, and the pipe began writhing about , spewing concrete in all directions. The men desperately tried to seize it, but it whipped and flailed and knocked several men off their feet. One after another they fell screaming onto the spikes, while the hose poured hundreds of pounds of concrete on top of them. The scene I described took place towards the end of 1944. The men I saw fall into the concrete are still entombed in its massive construction to this day. Among the men who slaved on this project was my childhood friends Uri Chanoch and Chaim Konwitz, Avraham Fein, Monchik Levin and many others. Fifty eight years later we had returned to"Moll" to say Kadish for these men.

One of the man entombed I knew personally. His name was Zelig. I never found out his last name, but I knew he was from a small town in Lithuania. He was one of the "human horses" who were engaged in pulling a food cart from the village of Utting to a German worker's kitchen. I too was a horse, and in all we were four teen agers who were given that job. The German kitchen was near the site where we were slaving at hard labor, a place known as Dyckerhof and Wydman. (Dyckerhof and Wydman, by the way, is one of the largest construction companies in Germany today). At that stage of the war, gasoline became a very precious commodity, and we the Jewish slaves, were used as 'horses'. Make no mistake, being a "horse" was a coveted job in the camp, the alternative was to carry hundred pounds of cement on your back, or iron rails to build tracks for the trolleys. There was another advantage in being a"horse" the cart we were pulling was filled with food for the kitchen, and we always managed to scrounge a crust of bread or a bowl of soup in Utting.

Zelig was an ardent Zionist and always talked about how he would work the land of Israel if he ever survived the war. "If I will ever survive this hell and get to the land of Israel, I will kiss every grain of sand, and work twenty four hour a day to build it up" He would say, and he would say it with so much longing in his voice that it had an effect on all of us.

But his wish never came true. He fell into the roof of "Moll" and became entombed with the others, by sheer mistake, and I was there to see him fall. I will never forget his screams as he fell to his horrible death. Fifty eight years later we stood quietly reciting kadish for the dead and I spoke to Zelig of the land of Israel that he loved so much, and like Moses, never got to see it. Yes, Zelig, I want to tell you of the true miracle of Israel, that puts to shame the miracles of the bible.

Yes, Zelig, I survived and saw your beloved land. I still remember the mountains of Carmel rising from the morning mist, as our ship approached Haifa.

We were a ship full of penniless Holocaust survivors, and we all sang (what was later to become our National Anthemn) the Hatikvah (the Hope) with tears in our eyes. No sooner had we landed on its shore, as we were called to defend the newly proclaimed land of Israel. Five Arab armies descended on us trying to strangle us at our birth. I will never forget the moment when I was given a rifle and was told by my commanding officer: "This is your land now, defend it with all you have got, for you will never have another chance to have your own country." And defend it we did, Zelig. Many of us died, some of them the last sons of once glorious Jewish families of Europe, but they died for the only cause worth while fighting for. I was only sorry, Zelig, that you couldn't be there by my side fighting for the land you loved so much. With the onslaught of the combined Arab armies, the world gave us a week to survive and what is more, no one lifted a finger to help us. The Arabs were to finish what Hitler had started. So what else is new? But the world didn't reckon with one small thing, Zelig. We were not the defenseless Jews anymore. We were now back in our homeland fighting for the resurrected State of Israel. Against all odds we won the war, and set out to prepare the ground for another million penniless refugees. Jews, who escaped with their lives from the Arabic countries, where they were robbed of their properties, possessions and money. And soon another million arrived from all over the world, and another million, from Poland and the Baltics. From six hundred thousands in 1948, we grew into a population of two and half million within a few years of the creation of the State. Ironically, when the Jewish Agency asked for seventy five thousands certificates to save some Jews from Hitler's gas chambers, the British claimed that the country couldn't absorb such a vast number of Jews. That was the infamous White Paper.

The fledgling state, soon ran out of money to buy the basic needs for the swelling population. We lived in tents and ate what the small agricultural settlements could provide us with. It wasn't enough, but we weren't starving. Very soon we began to build a healthy democratic society, creating ealth by our brains and hard work, as the country had no natural resources. Soon Jews from over fifty countries full of enthusiasm came to help build the State of Israel. Our population grew even more, and despite the predictions of international experts, that no country can absorb so many millions without an economical collapse, Israel continued to develop in every field. The Jews, who hadn't tilled the land for two thousands years became experts in agriculture, achieving internationally unprecedented results. Ironically, the stereotyped Jew, the merchant, the money lender, the usurer, went all over the world to teach agriculture and knowhow in many fields, and what is even more ironic, we became experts in warfare. "The people of the book" as we were known for two thousand years, soft and cowardly, as proclaimed by the anti-Semites, soon learned to become xperts in that field as well. The fact is, that in 1967, we stunned the world by defeating the combined Arab armies in six days.

The Arab countries unwilling to accept their defeat in the battle field, and unwilling to accept us in their midst, launched war after war, trying to eliminate the State of Israel. Every time they suffered crushing defeats, despite their superior numbers and new technology weapons the Soviets supplied them with. Today we are a modern society of six million people. The country that once was a mosquito infested swamp land, or dry desert land, blossomed into a modern society of six million people. From nothing we created a land that not only boasts of the highest standards in every field of achievement, but also developed one of the highest high tech industries in the world. We export per capita in dollars more than any other country in the world. And we did it all with hard work, brains, and guts. Yes, Zelig, I always admired you for you love of that distant land called Eretz Israel. I never believed that I could have such emotions for any land. Today, after having fought for it in four bloody wars, and after spending a life time in helping rebuild it, I canfinally say that I do share your feelings for the land of Israel. Yes, Zelig, you can be proud of us. We, the survivors of the Holocaust, have risen from the ashes of Europe and helped create the miracle of Israel. Never again will they line us up defenseless before the gas chambers of Europe!

Rest In Peace, my friend Zelig, Rest in Peace.


Herzelia, Israel June 12, 2002