«We were loaded onto a truck with kicks and punches and taken to Milan Central Station. The city was deserted. The Milanese felt no pity for us like they feel no pity for the prisoners of San Vittore: they remained silent behind their windows. (…) Then the truck crossed the city, until it took the underpass of via Ferrante Aporti, and we found ourselves in the basement of the station, track 21. »..
This is Liliana Segre’s testimony, of the beginning of one of the so-called journeys of death, one of the thousands of journeys that were made to transfer prisoners to the destination camp.
«Arriving at the Central Station … The passage was extremely fast. The SS and the Republicans wasted no time: in a hurry, with kicks, punches, and sticks, they loaded us onto the cattle wagons… amid screams, barking, whistles, and terrifying violence. It was dark in the wagon, there was a bit of straw on the ground and a bucket for our needs. “
All these trips had been planned by a scientific organization that had managed to set up an almost perfect extermination machine, and had identified as the best way to systematically and reliably get deportees to camps (extermination, concentration, marshalling yards or work) the use of the railway system throughout the European continent
And it is evident that the intent of deporting millions of Jews, Romanies, homosexuals, disabled people, and prisoners of war in a short time required the full involvement and active collaboration of the Nazi-occupied nations and their allies.
«The train moved… Everyone was crying… it was a chorus of sobs that drowned out the noise of the wheels.
The wagon was fetid and cold, the smell of urine, grey faces, stiff legs… The tears quieted down in absolute desperation.»
“Before the Black Forest began, the train stopped … to get some water and empty the unclean bucket.
My Dad and I also got out and saw … written in chalk on the wagon: “Auschwitz bei Katowice” … It was our destination. The train left … There was silence … Everyone was silent … It was the essential silence of the decisive moments in everyone’s life. Then, upon arrival it was Auschwitz and the deafening and obscene noise of the killers around us.»
- Auschwitz survivor, Liliana Segre, Pauline editions