Detail of book cover for latest book by Carol Matas (Scholastic Canada)
The train started again and chugged slowly up a hill. About
a half-hour later we stopped and the doors were opened. We were herded out of the
train, thousands of us, it seemed. We stood together just outside the main gate
to -- where?
In front of us was a high barbed-wire fence. Guards were screaming orders and dogs on leashes were snarling at us. Inside the gates I saw more prisoners in striped pyjamas, so emaciated they were little more than skeletons. What was even more disturbing was that they didn't seem to notice or care that a new group had arrived. They hardly glanced at us, and when they did their eyes looked dull and devoid of any curiosity at all.
There were guard towers spaced about a hundred yards apart, and behind us I saw woods filled with SS and their dogs, leading men in pyjamas -- perhaps work parties? How would we ever escape from here? It looked impossible.
The steel gates were opened then and we were shouted at and screamed at to move inside. We had to walk a gauntlet down the tracks, between two lines of SS, their guard dogs snarling and growling at us. We immediately found ourselves in a large open area and the first thing I noticed was that there were few SS once we were inside. That could only mean one thing -- the security was so tight that they didn't need to waste manpower on us once we were there.
We were marched past a huge building with a chimney that
billowed smoke and gave out a sickly sweet stench. I wondered if the kitchen
was situated there, and hoped that at least it meant we'd eat now, although the
smell was really vile. There was a grapevine of news that started up right
away, and before long I heard that we were in a place called Buchenwald. Then
as we were walking, a guard came up beside me and said, "The only way out of
here is through that chimney." When he saw the look on my face he laughed. I
thought I might be sick, even though I had no food in my stomach to throw up.
Was that smell human flesh?
What kind of nightmare was this?
Excerpt from I Am Canada: Behind Enemy Lines: World War II, Sam Frederiksen, Nazi-Occupied Europe, 1944.
(Copyright © 2012 by Carol Matas. Published by Scholastic Canada)