Death Factory: Majdanek - Poem by Paul Hartal
Holding a Shpagin machine gun,
the Red Army soldier walked through a warehouse
filled with women's hair and children's shoes.
And then, totally unexpectedly, he saw
a human figure: A small, grey-haired woman,
her eyes tired with dark circles,
her skin faded and wrinkled.
She looked very old.
She was sitting alone and crying.
"Grandmother", the soldier said, "Why are you crying?
We just liberated you.It is all over."
She raised her head slowly,
looked at him with sad, worn out eyes and said:
"I am twenty years old."
History did not record her name.
But the soldier was Matvey Gershman.
He was still a teenager when he joined the army.
And now he was about twenty one years old
and one of the Soviet liberators of Majdanek,
a dreadful death factory of the Nazi gangster empire.
Situated in the outskirts of the City of Lublin
In German occupied Poland, Majdanek was
a concentration and extermination camp,
equipped with seven gas chambers,
gallows, execution walls and torture cells.
This death factory operated from October 1,1941,
until July 22,1944.
Initially, Majdanek was a concentration camp
for Soviet prisoners of war.
Later, however, the Nazis began to murder here
civilians of different nationalities as well,
innocent men, women and children,
who were deported to the camp
from a host of countries occupied by the Third Reich.
The exact number of people who perished
In Majdanek is unknown.
Historians estimate that between 80,000 and 300,000
people died here.Fifty six thousand
of the Jewish victims are known by name.
Matvey Gershman joined the Red Army Air Force
in 1941. Later he was assigned to the 5th Shock Army
that fought in the Ukraine.
From there he was transferred to the 8th Guard Army,
and took part in the Battle of Berlin, where he also
participated in the street fights for the Reichstag.
A Red Army hero of the Second World War,
decorated several times for bravery,
Matvey Gersham was born into a Jewish family.
In 1990, at the age of seventy four,
he left Belorussia and immigrated to Israel.
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