Holocaust Teacher Resource Center

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Pages 57 – 60

  1. a. Study the pictures and the text and describe the Jewish child and his family in the “transport”. (Their history, their feelings, their thoughts, etc.)
  2. b. Describe, using Primo Levy’s testimony! the first stages after alighting from the train.

Reading material for Poster (13) Worksheet

“Feverish packing of lifetimes into knapsacks to be carried into cattle cars. No more cribs, washbowls, baby carriages, everything had to be reduced into a small parcel per family. All life’s needs were capsulated into a compact bundle. Nothing else is permitted…

…Backpacks must be sewn, preparations made. What to cram into a sack small enough to be carried for a long distance? Food? Clothing? Valuables? Where are they taking us? A cold climate? Then warm clothes are important. Will they feed us on the journey? If not, food is the most important. How about gold or silver, or even china? Converted into cash, these may prove the most important. Who knows? I wish Daddy were here…”

Livia (age 13)

Tatelbaum, p.91

“A little girl of four cuddled in the arms of her father in a packed train whispers into his ear: ‘Is this the train to Treblinka, Daddy?’… Indeed it was the train to Treblinka that brought an end to her fears.”

The greatest piece of luck that could come to one in such a car was to get a place at the so-called window. If one had a child, one raised the child on his shoulder to give him a little air. Hut those impossible Jewish children, what did they have on their minds? They saw unfamiliar things and they asked questions. ‘What is that, daddy?’ ‘A tree, my child.’ ‘And daddy, what is this?’ ‘It’s grass, my child.’ ‘And daddy, what is this?’ ‘This is a flower, my child.’

David W.

Tatelbaum, p.95

“Eventually the door was pulled open and it was the first time in over twelve hours that we had some fresh air, something we really appreciated, as the smell in this small confined area from the people and the non-existent toilet facilities had become unbearable. The sun was shining, but not for us. Our welcoming committee of German soldiers with machine guns and bloodhounds was waiting for us.” The soldiers barked at us: ‘Out, out, fast, fast!’ My father, who knew German, went over to one of the guards and told him that several people had died on the trip. The guard ordered several prisoners to pick up the dead bodies and carry them on their shoulders to the camp. There was nothing to do but follow orders.”


Tatelbaum p.95

“As SS noncommissioned officer came to meet us, a truncheon in his hand. He gave the order : ‘Men to the left! women to the right!’ Eight words spoken quietly, indifferently, without emotion. Eight short, simple words. Yet that was the moment when I parted from my mother. I had not had time to think, but already I felt pressure of my father’s hand. We were alone. For a part of a second I glimpsed my mother and my sisters moving away to the right. Tzipora held mother’s hand. I saw them disappear into the distance; My mother was stroking my sister s fair hair, as though to protect her, while I walked on with my father and other men, and did not know that in that place, at that moment, I was parting from my mother and Tzipora forever.”

Elie (age 15)

Tatelbaum, p.101


The climax came suddenly. The door opened with a crash, and the dark echoed with outlandish orders in that curt, barbaric barking of Germans in command which seems to give vent to a millennial anger. A vast platform appeared before us, lit up by reflectors. A little beyond it, a row of lorries. Then everything was silent again. Someone translated: we had to climb down with our luggage and deposit it alongside the train. In a moment the platform was swarming with shadows. But we were afraid to break that silence: everyone busied himself with his luggage, searched for someone else, called to somebody, but timidly, in a whisper.

A dozen SS men stood around, legs akimbo, with an indifferent air. At a certain moment they moved among us, and in a subdued tone of voice, with faces of stone, began to interrogate us rapidly, one by one, in bad Italian. They did not interrogate everybody, only a few: “How old? Healthy or ill?” And on the basis of the reply they pointed in two different directions.

In less than ten minutes, all the fit men had been collected together in a group. What happened to the others, to the women, to the children, to the old men, we could establish neither then nor later: the night swallowed them up, purely and simply. Today, however, we know that in that rapid and summary choice each one of us had been judged capable or not of working usefully for the Reich; we know that of our convoy no more than ninety-six men and twenty-nine women entered the respective camps of Monowitz- Buna and Birkenau, and that of all the others, more than five hundred in number, not one was living two days later.

This is the reason why three-year old Emilia died: the historical necessity of killing the children of Jews was self-demonstrative to the Germans. Emilia, daughter of Aldo Levi of Milan, was a curious, ambitious, cheerful, intelligent child; her parents had succeeded in washing her during the journey in the packed car in tub with tepid water which the degenerate German engineer had allowed them to draw from the engine that was dragging us all to death.

Then, in an instant, our women, our parents, our children disappeared. We saw them for a short while as an obscure mass at the other end of the platform; then we saw nothing more.
In: Levi, Primo Survival in Auschwitz. Trans. by Stuart Woolf, New York, Collier Books, 1987, p. 15-16