by Solly Ganor a Holocaust
survivor. - Israel, March 18, 2005
They arrived from Auschwitz in several groups. Each group counted
about twenty people. Of course, they didn’t look like people.
They looked more like walking skeletons. They had triangular faces
with pointed chins, and sunken cheeks. Even the lips had shrunken
to thin blue lines. The only prominent feature were their eyes;
they were unusually large and with a strange sheen, almost luminous.
They were known in concentration camp slang, as ‘Muselman’.
That was usually the last stage before death.
They spoke Yiddish with an accent, which to us Lithuanian Jews,
They told us that they came from the ghetto of Lodz through Auschwitz,
before they were sent to our camp. Our camp was known as the ‘Outer
camp of Dachau, number 10’ and it was situated near the picturesque
town of Utting, by lake Amersee.
Our camp was sitting in the middle of a small forest with surrounding
green meadows and beautiful landscapes.
I remember the day when we were brought there, I thought to myself,
‘How can anything bad happen to us among all this beauty’?.
I soon found out that the beauty was in the landscape only. the
Germans in charge of us were sadists and murderers.
The Lodz people fell into the same deceptive trap. They thought
that after Auschwitz, our camp looked like paradise. Most of them
died soon after their arrival, from hard labour, beatings and starvation,
still they preferred to die here than in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
It was from them that we heard the incredible stories of gas chambers,
and crematoriums, where thousands of our people were murdered every
Some of them told us that they were standing naked before the gas
chambers when they were suddenly ordered to get dressed and were
sent to us .
the end of February 1945, there were only a few of them left alive.
One of them was known as the ‘Chaim the Rabbi’. We never
found out whether he was actually a rabbi, but he always washed
his hands and made a bracha before eating. He knew the dates of
the Jewish calendar,
and also knew all the prayers by heart. From time to time when the
Germans were not looking, he would invite us to participate in the
Our Jewish camp commander, Burgin, heard about him and tried to
get him easier jobs. Most people died when they had to carry a hundred
pounds of cement sacks on their backs, or other chores of heavy
labour. He wouldn’t have lasted a day on a job like this.
He once told me that if he would survive he would get married and
have at least a dozen children.
the end of February, we were given a day off. It was a Sunday.
The camp was covered with snow, but here and there the first signs
of spring was in the air. We heard vague rumours of the American
break through into Germany and a glimmer of hope was kindled in
After breakfast, consisting of a slice of mouldy bread, a tiny piece
of margarine, and brown water, known as ‘Ersatz Coffee’,
we returned to our barrack to get some extra sleep.
Suddenly we noticed ‘Chaim the Rabbi’ standing in the
snow and shouting " Haman to the gallows! Haman to the gallows!"
On his head he had a paper crown made of a cement sack, and he was
draped in a blanket which had cut out stars from the same paper
attached to it.
We stood like petrified before this strange apparition, barely able
to trust our eyes, while he performed a dance in the snow, singing:
"I am Achashwerosch, Achashwerosh, the king of the Persians."
Then he stood still straightened himself out, chin pointed to the
sky, his right arm extended in an imperial gesture and shouted:
"Haman to the gallows! Haman to the gallows! And when I say
Hamann to the gallows, we all know which Hamman we are talking about!"
We were sure that he has lost his wits, as so many did in these
By now there was about fifty of us standing gaping at the "Rabbi",
"Yiddn wos iz mit ajch! Haint is Purim, lomir shpilen a purim
shpil!" "Fellow Jews, what is the matter with you?! today
is Purim, let us play a Purim Shpil!"
Then it dawned on us that back home, a million years ago, this was
the time of the year when we children were dressing up fro Purim,
playing draidlach, and eating ‘Hommen Taschen’.
It took the ‘Rabbi’ to remember the exact date by the
Jewish calendar when Purim was.
He then divided the roles of Ester Hamalka, Mordechai, Vashti and
Hamman among the onlookers..
I was honoured to receive the role of Mordechai, and we all ended
up dancing in the snow. And so we had our Purim Shpil in Dachau.
But that was not the end of the story. The "Rabbi" promised
us that we will get today our ‘Shalach Manot’, and we
thought that it was hardly likely to happen.
But, miracle of miracles, the same afternoon, a delegation of the
International Red Cross, came to the camp. It was the first time
that they bothered about us. Still, we welcomed them with open arms,
because they brought us the
"Shalach Manot" the ‘Rabbi’ promised. Each
one of us received a parcel, containing, a tin of sweet condensed
milk, a small bar of chocolate, a box of sugar cubes, and a pack
of cigarettes. It is impossible to describe our joy! Here we were
starving to death as suddenly on Purim, we received these heavenly
gifts. Since then we never doubted the ‘Rabbi’ anymore.
His prediction also came true. Two months later ‘Hamman-Hitler’
went to the gallows, and shot himself in Berlin, while we, those
of us who were still alive, were rescued by the American army, on
May 2, 1945.
I lost track of the ‘Rabbi’ on our ‘Death March’,
from Dachau to Tyrol,
but I hope that he survived and had many children as he always wanted.
I always remember him when Purim comes around, for the unforgettable
‘Purim Shpil’ in Dachau.
Herzelia, Israel March 18, 2005