For today, Executed Today commemorates the shooting deaths of an unknown number of Jews and Poles shot by a Nazi Einsatzkommando, the event written about in all its gruesome detail in the diary of one of those Nazis, a young man by the name of Felix Landau.
I took a course on World War II a few years ago, in college. It was actually the professor’s specialty, but she knows far more about the Pacific Front than the European Front and, as for the Holocaust, she had nothing to teach me. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject, not having been formally taught about it or having read any of the sources in their original languages, but I have read 502 books related to it. Occasionally (in an email, not during class, so as not to embarrass her) I would correct this professor’s pronunciation of certain Nazi camp names: (for example, “Dr. G, hi, I just wanted to say that It’s May-dan-ek, not Maj-dan-ek, the Polish language pronounces their J’s like Y’s. Sincerely, Meaghan Good.”)
Anyway, we got to the business of gas chambers and she repeated the oft-used statement about good old German efficiency. I raised my hand and told her, essentially, what I wrote in today’s Executed Today entry: that the Germans switched to gas not because it was more efficient but because the soldiers assigned to do the shooting were literally being driven stark raving mad by the nature of their work.
“But gas chambers ARE more efficient,” she said, rather wearily. I suppose she didn’t like a student openly disagreeing with her in the middle of a class session and probably thought I was an arrogant twit for having done so. “At maximum capacity, Auschwitz killed X number of people a day.”
“Yes,” I said, “and have you ever heard of the massacre at Babi Yar?” She didn’t react, so I assumed she had not. “33,000 people in two days. With guns. Auschwitz’s gas chambers wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
“The gas chambers were more efficient,” she repeated.
“I know a lot of the books say that. But it is simply not true.”
“Yeah, well, we have to back to the lesson, so…”
I thought about emailing her with some sources to back up my argument but decided it was not worth trying. I did get an A in the course, something I consider quite an accomplishment, given that I was straight in the swing of the Great Headache Crisis at the time and attended every class either in either level 7 to 9 pain or in an opiate fog. In fact, half the reason I argued with her that day was to try to keep from nodding off, not because her lecture was boring or anything but because of the MS-Contin.
But that has nothing to do with anything. I hope you guys — well, I don’t think “enjoy” is the right word — but I hope you find some benefit from reading my entry about Felix Landau’s work.