Zerky at the Gas Chamber, Dachau, Germany

Zerky in Dachau

Zerky at the Gas Chamber in Dachau World War II Concentration Camp

June, 15, 1967

Yesterday, quite by chance, we bumped into the small town of Dachau after we had spotted a tall smokestack that had drawn our attention from a long ways away. Could this be the notorious Nazi death camp where millions of Jews perished during World War II, we wondered. It turned out it was. Driving closer, we soon saw the watchtowers on top of the big concrete wall surrounding the compound, and then a sign directing us toward a museum housing display boards covered with old photographs, posters and newspaper clippings documenting the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany before and during the war years. After looking through and pondering most of the exhibits, we felt a need to go outside into the sun and fresh air.

Following the directional signs outside the museum, we soon came to the crematorium where countless Jews, Gypsies and other so-called undesirables perished during the years preceding and all the way up to the end of the war. Inside the gas chambers, a guide pointed out to us, were visible scrapings on the walls made by the fingernails of millions of dyeing people. Then we visited the ovens where countless dead bodies had been burned into ashes to be shoveled into trucks and used as fertilizer. We beat a quick retreat. Somehow, Zerky, I hope you don’t remember any of this.

—Excerpted from Letters to Zerky

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