Auschwitz: A Personal Account
These memoirs of a German soldier, stationed at Auschwitz from January to December 1944, caused a sensation when they were first published in 1973—because the author dared to point out that all the time he had been at the camp—including Auschwitz-Birkenau—he had never seen gas chambers or any evidence of mass-killings.
Thies Christophersen was badly wounded in the early stages of the war, and was declared medically unfit for combat after 1940. Because of his background as a farmer, he was then sent on a specialized agricultural training course and assigned to a research center in German-occupied Ukraine that experimentally cultivated a variety of dandelion (kok saghyz) as an alternative source of natural rubber derived from the plant’s latex.
In the face of Soviet military advances, the center was transferred to the labor camp of Raisko, a satellite of Auschwitz. During the period he lived and worked there, Christophersen was responsible for the daily work of inmate laborers.
The young second lieutenant supervised about 300 workers, many of them Jewish, of whom 200 were women from the Raisko camp, and 100 were men from the nearby Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.
As he relates in his memoirs, he saw nothing of gas chambers or mass killings, and in fact remarked on how lax the security at the camp was. His memoirs provide an insight into life at the camp on a day-to-day basis, stripped of the post-war propaganda and lies.
Without having access to the camp—a luxury afforded the present-day historian but denied to others until the fall of the Iron Curtain—Christophersen was one of the first to point out that the “gas chamber” at Auschwitz had been built after the war—something which the official camp museum curators now also acknowledge as fact:
“I never made a secret of my having been at Auschwitz. When asked about the destruction of Jews, I answered that I knew nothing about that. . . After the war I saw a TV film about Auschwitz that showed a building with huge smoke stacks. I am very sorry, but when I left the camp at Auschwitz in December 1944, I did not see this building. I cannot imagine that these smoke stacks were built in the cold winter of 1944/45, but I suspect that these structures were erected after the war.”
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