Abraham Wajnryb 2

Title: They Marched Us Three Nights
Author: Abraham Wajnryb
Publisher: Melbourne Holocaust Centre
Place of publication: Melbourne
Year of Publication: 1988
Location of Book: Makor Jewish Community Library, Melbourne
Cities/town/camps: Concentration Camps: Kivioli, Schomberg, Stutthof, Towns: Saulgau, Vilno, Countries: Poland, Germany, Estonia, Russia
Note: those cities/towns/camps underlined are those which are most central to the narrative

Dr Abraham Wajnryb gives his account of the escape of himself and four friends in the last days of the war, after being evacuated from the concentration camp in Schomberg, in the south-west of Germany. Wajnryb tells of his experiences of the Holocaust in a series of flashbacks that he had during the time that the prisoners were evacuated from Schomberg, and marched at night, towards Bodensee. It was on the third night of marching that the men escaped. Wajnryb’s detailed narrative is 138 pages in length, with 13 additional pages of introduction, acknowledgements, photographs and maps. Together they present an illuminating account of the author’s experiences. Originally published in Hebrew in 1984, by Beit Lohamei Hagethaot, Israel, They Marched Us Three Nights was then translated into English by the author and edited with the help of Patty Rizzo. It was first published in English in Melbourne in 1988 by The Jewish Holocaust Centre.

Abraham Wajnryb was born in Kielce, Poland in 1912, the second of three children, into a traditional Jewish home. He graduated in medicine at the Warsaw University in 1936, completed his internship in the municipal Jewish Hospital and stayed on as assistant in the division of internal diseases. In 1939, with the onset of war, Wajnryb’s life was irrevocably changed and the ensuing years saw him incarcerated in the Vilno ghetto, and the labour camps of Kivioli, Stutthof and Schomberg.

They Marched Us Three Nights has a prologue, six chapters and an epilogue. There is one chapter for each of the three nights that the prisoners marched, the fourth for the escape, the fifth for the first day of freedom, and the sixth for Wajnryb’s time in Saulgau. Each chapter is divided into small sections with their own headings, and it is in these sections that Wajnryb goes into flashbacks about his experiences before the final march. He begins his memoir with the last day in the camp at Schomberg, and then details the following three nights when they march, resting during the day, and the escape on the third night. Finally, he deals with his time in Saulgau, recovering in hospital, and then treating other survivors. The flashbacks throughout this period deal with his short time in the Polish Army, life in the Vilno Ghetto in Lithuania from 1941-1943, the concentration camp at Kivioli in Estonia where he worked in the coal mines, the journey by boat to the concentration camp at Stutthof in June 1943, the Stutthof camp, the journey from Stutthof to Schomberg in 1944, and his time spent there until April 1945 when he was able to escape.

Much of this memoir is reflective and contemplative, exploring the author’s thoughts and feelings and the conversations he had with his friends, rather than a linear narrative of events with Nazi atrocities. Items take on symbolic significance and act as metaphors. The smokestack of the furnace on the brick kiln at Schomberg comes to represent the true horrors of Nazi oppression. Prisoners were sent to work in the brick yards to die, which would occur within one or two months. Whilst barbed wire conveyed the same symbolic message, it was the smokestack that Wajnryb singles out as the most hated. Wajnryb creates character sketches of the four friends that escaped with him and their different responses to their predicament. For him though, it is the personal reflections that are most important and indeed which are the most poignant.