“Never Forget Your Name: The Children of Auschwitz,” by Alwin Meyer; English version Polity Press (c) 2022; ISBN 13: 978-1-5095-4550-6; 496 pages.
By Sandra Scheller
CHULA VISTA, Calif. — In 1971, 21-year-old Alwin Meyer made his first trip to Auschwitz concentration camp, not as a relative of a survivor but as a German observer. He remembered hearing about Auschwitz at school, but until he visited the camp he had no understanding of its hellish history. The biggest shock for him was to learn that newborns and children were in the camp. These details were obviously eliminated from his education of German youth.
Meyer dedicated his life to documenting stories of children who placed their heads on an Auschwitz bed. His book, Never Forget Your Name: The Children of Auschwitz, has fortunately been translated into English from its original German. The book details the testimony of 27 child survivors of Auschwitz. Stories of pregnant women arriving at the camp and immediately murdered gave new meaning to these four births who survived with the help of inmates and even risking their lives for a new sense of hope.
Meyer’s extensive interviews not only with Jewish survivors, but also with Roma and political enemies of the Nazis lent weight to the search for truth. His personal interviews and extensive research in historical archives provide a more complete picture of camp life than was previously available.
Excerpt from the book, page 128: “On those days in particular, we were extremely afraid of our fate at roll call. The shrill voices of the SS penetrated deeply. Everyone wondered if they looked weak. We turned to our neighbours: “What do I look like? The weak and the sick were selected for the gas chambers. A small gesture from the SS officer or the doctor was enough: “To the left” meant death; ‘to the right’ meant survival.
Sandra Scheller is the curator of the RUTH – Remember Us the Holocaust exhibit at the Chula Vista Public Library, which tells the stories of Holocaust survivors who moved to the South Bay area of San Diego County. They included his late mother, Ruth Sax.