THE "CANADA" COMMANDO AS A FORCE FOR RESISTANCE IN AUSCHWITZ: REDEFINING HEROISM
1. Lenka Berkovic Berlin, Olga Berkovic Blank, and Esther Berkovic came from Verbovec, a small town in the foothills of the Carpathian mountains. Originally part of Czechoslovakia, the town passed into Hungarian hands in November 1938 and is currently a part of the former Soviet Union. The family was taken to Auschwitz in May 1944 where they remained for six months in C lager (BIIc) until they were selected as slave labor for a munitions plant in Altenburg, a satellite camp of Buchenwald. They were liberated by American troops in May 1945. My knowledge of my family's experiences in the camps is derived from extensive talks with my mother during the past thirty-five years.
2. "Canada" was the name used for the section of Auschwitz devoted to collecting and sorting the goods which the Germans plundered from the murdered Jews of Europe and then sent home to Germany. The workers there were Jewish slave laborers.
3. My search has not been exhaustive. It centers primarily on works found on the Holocaust Center library of Pittsburgh where I examined more than thirty volumes containing survivor accounts.
4. Hungary acquired Northern Transylvania from Rumania in August 1940. Jews from this section of Rumania thus met the same fate as the Hungarian Jews.
5. Clearly not all members of the "Canada" commando were inclined to be helpful. Sara Selver-Urbach of Lodz, Poland, reports that upon her arrival in Auschwitz (August 1944) "a number of tall, robust men dressed in strange striped uniforms virtually pounced on us and grabbed the loaves of bread we had saved. Then they rushed into the wagons and began tossing out everything left inside: baggage, people, even babies. See: Eibeshitz and Eibeshitz, "A Different Planet," p. 199.
6. Livia E. Bitton Jackson, a Hungarian survivor of Auschwitz, was told by Mengele himself tosay that she was sixteen although she was only thirteen at thetime. Apparently moved by her golden hair and good German diction, he overlooked her age. See Yaffa Eliach, Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust, pp.95-96. Also see Livia Bitton Jackson, Ellie: Coming of age in the Holocaust, p.56.
7. FOR EXAMPLE OF A "CANADIAN" WHO CHOSE TO USE HIS MOMENT OF CONTACT TO VENT HIS FRUSTRATION CONCERNING THE FATE OF THE JEWS, SEE WIESEL, NIGHT, P. 28.