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Camp, 1944

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The Ohio State University Libraries
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JO ANNE FITZGERALD Camp, 1944 I remember the cold. Cold so hard it would drip under the seven fingernails left growing on my hands and stab shards of pain under them. My hands were bony and aged looking, far too scarred for a fifteen-year-old girl to be carrying around. One fingernail had been snatched my first day in camp, minutes after departing the railcar, when my grandmother's emerald ring was yanked, pulled from my finger with such vengeance and greed by a uniformed Nazi that my knuckle skin and my soft fingernail went with it. I had no time to dwell on my losses—the childhood spent scurrying among the back alleys of Berlin, hiding, losing my family one by one. In camp there was no time to spend on anything but pursuing what knowledge I could about the rules and expectations of this camp. I stowed it away in my mind and trained my responses so I could survive, not forever, not for years, but for the next period of the day, the next eighty minutes. Survival was clocked in minutes and success was a two-hour period when no one noticed me, looked at me, made mental notes about me, touched me. Untouched, I made the journey from back-street life to this camp Heinderwitz, the camp of old Jewish men and young Jewish women. One other type of female did roam here, Nazi matrons, many of them lesbians, more feared by the young gas-camp girls than the Nazi men. The men would rape, dole out a treat—a cookie or cracker—and leave. The females fondled your belly, rummaged your private parts with their full finger-nailed hands. The Nazis hated homosexuals almost as much as Jews, patching them with pink triangles. These women avoided detection, never accosting in public areas, only in hallways or behind trees where you were yanked and violated and shoved aside. The most hated woman in my section of the camp was Marguerite, a squat, black-haired Nazi who looked more Jewish than I did. She took great joy in her job of shoving filthy pieces of cloth at me, as long as I still had

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