Notes from Hell: Auschwitz Inmate’s Hidden Testimony Finally Revealed in Messages Left Behind

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Significant Evidence of the Holocaust

Nadjari’s letter is highly significant to the history of the holocaust. It is the last of only five buried accounts by former Auschwitz Sonderkommando to be unearthed. Zalman Gradowski, who was killed in the revolt of October 1944, was the author of the oldest letter while the others, penned by Zalman Lewental, Leib Langfus, and Chaim Herman were written in early 1945. These accounts, written while their authors were in the camp rather than retrospectively, provide “the most central documents of the Holocaust” in Mr. Polian’s opinion.

However, besides providing details of events in the camp, the letter tells us a great deal about the workings of Nadjari’s mind and his mental state as he attempted to survive his hell-like existence. Nadjaris’ accounts reveal guilt. “If you read about the things we did, you’ll say, ‘How could anyone do that, burn their fellow Jews?’” he wrote. The experience took its toll on him as he contemplated ending his life: “Many times I thought of coming in with them [to the gas chambers],” he wrote.

What kept Nadjari from death was something that the other letters lack according to Polian: a driving need for revenge. By the time he penned his testimony, Nadjari knew that his family was dead. Enquiries amongst other Greek Jews within Auschwitz had confirmed that his mother, father and sister Nelli had all perished in 1943, the year they arrived in the camp. “I wanted to live to avenge the death of Papa and Mama, and that of my beloved little sister, Nelli,” stated Nadjari. He believed his letter was the closest he would get to that vengeance. “I am not sad that I will die,”Nadjari wrote, “but I am sad that I won’t be able to take revenge like I would like to.”

Marcel Nadjari expected the Nazi’s to kill him because of what he had witnessed “We have to leave the earth because we know so much,” he explained, writing of himself and his fellow Sonderkommando. However, against his expectations, Nadjari did live. When the allies drove the Third Reich back 1945, the Nazis deported Nadjari to Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. After its liberation, he returned to Greece.

With his family dead and only 2000 of the Jewish community of Thessaloniki still alive, Nadjari emigrated to America, settling with his wife Rosa in New York where he worked as a tailor. The couple had two children, one a little girl, born in 1951, who was named after Nadjari’s beloved sister. However, in 1947 before he left Greece, Nadjari wrote another account of his time in Auschwitz and published it, such was his determination to tell his story to the world. He must have believed his letters were lost. Indeed they were for him. In 1971, Marcel Nadjari died, aged just 53- nine years before his compelling and rare testimony resurfaced.

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