Gross Rosen Concentration Camp Vs. Holocaust Uniqueness

Review of A Narrow Bridge to Life: Jewish Forced Labor and Survival in the Gross-Rosen Camp System, 1940-1945, by Bella Gutterman. 2008.
Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis
A Systematic Analysis of Not Only Gross Rosen But Also the Entire Nazi German Forced-Labor System
The Nazis started to use foreigners for forced labor in 1939 (p. 69), but especially from 1940. Goebbels stated that “Roma [Gypsies], Jews, and Poles will receive identical treatment” in this regard. (p. 13).
The concentration camp at Gross Rosen (now Rogoznica), like Auschwitz, was not originally built for Jews. (p. 78). As was the case with Auschwitz, Poles comprised most of its original WWII inmates. (p. 69). Later, Poles comprised 60-65% of inmates in 1942 and 45% of inmates in 1944. (p. 77). (My father, Kazimierz Peczkis, as well as my onetime dentist since I was a child, Charles Brachmanski, had been inmates of Gross Rosen.). After the fall of the Soviet-betrayed Warsaw Uprising, Poles again became a large majority of the inmates at Gross Rosen. According to Gutterman, the Poles, by their obvious spirit of defiance against the Nazis, raised the morale of the Jewish inmates. (p. 94).
By summer 1941, the allotment of food was only 500-800 calories per day, which was worse than Auschwitz. Around 1942, mortality rates were over 80% after several weeks, and close to 100% in a year or so. (p. 23). [My father told me how inmates fought and killed each other for food. He stayed out of those forays. A man who found a very moldy piece of bread heartily ate it, mocking the stench of the mold by making air puffs with his mouth.]
SS guards relieved their boredom by torturing prisoners. The direct killing of inmates occurred for any reason, or for sport. [My father reported how the German guards beat him and beat other inmates. The Germans publicly hanged a Russian inmate who had tried to escape, and forced my father and others to watch the hanging.]
The author wonders about the efficiency of forced labor done by starving inmates, and raises an interesting question: “Is it not possible that these camps, as well as thousands of other camps across the Reich and in occupied countries, functioned mainly as opportunities for SS men to evade service at the front?” (p. 5). Gutterman could have mentioned the fact that Oskar Schindler’s wife was quoted as saying that Oskar was solicitous in the saving of his Jewish forced laborers because their elimination would make his own position superfluous, and so the authorities likely would send him to the Russian front.
The best-known underground factories in Nazi Germany were the ones in the Harz Mountains where the V- rockets were built (Mittelbau Dora). The authors describe another system of tunnels, built by the Germans for unclear purposes (Code Riese), in the Silesian Eulengebirge (Gory Sowie, Owl Mountains, present-day Poland), notably at Mt. Wolfsberg (Wlodzarz). Thousands of forced laborers died in their construction.
Holocaust-uniqueness advocates would have us believe that the killing of as many Jews as possible was the main objective of Nazism, and that fulfillment of this blind obsession assumed priority over all other goals. The diversion of many Jews into forced labor, at Gross Rosen and elsewhere, contradicts this premise. What’s more, the Nazis continued sparing Jews. Gutterman comments: “Why did the Nazis continue to maintain a prisoner’ infirmary in the last months of the war, after construction work in the [Eulen] mountains had long since stopped and the treatment of the ill was no longer an economic and military necessity? There is no way for us to render an accurate answer.” (p. 130). Gutterman again raises the possibility of a raison d’etre of non-combat SS occupations. The Nazis may also have spared Jews in order to use them as bargaining chips or fig leaves in negotiations with the Allies. (p. 130). Whatever the reason, the Nazis did not murder all the Jews they could have, and did see some Jews as something other than objects for destruction.
Some 57,000–60,000 Jews passed through Gross Rosen and satellite camps (p. 2), out of a total of 160,000–180,000 prisoners. (pp. 251-252). As the Red Army neared, over 30,000 inmates were transferred to other concentration camps. [My father was sent to Dachau.] In the last months of the existence of the Third Reich, thousands of weak and sick inmates suffered (and often perished) in forced marches, during winter, before being set free by the Allies.

By piotrbein