Roger Ebert and Adrian Lyne and Olive

I went to this Diane Lane tribute thing and Robert Osbourne was supposed to be the host but they got Roger Ebert instead. I like Diane Lane enough but I didn’t feel I needed to go. When I heard Roger Ebert would be there, I wanted to go.

Adrian Lyne ended up being there because he directed Lane in his last movie. He was great! He was really cool and he said he’s into submitting something for Jack Stevenson’s new book on Dogme. I wish I talked to him a bit more. He’s really cool.

I went to the bathroom and Ebert was leaving when I got out. I was leaving also, just wanted to say hi, mention Jack’s book, and he acted like he was Princess Diana and didn’t want to talk to anyone.

Now, you would almost think this happens all the time. But it doesn’t. 98% of the creative people I meet are really really cool. Ebert just wanted to get away. Maybe he was just plain tired, maybe he got accosted a lot in the theatre, but he wasn’t very cool about being talked to.

Heck, maybe I’ll meet him again later, but for a guy who wrote four Russ Meyer films (Who Killed Bambi never got made)… I dunno. I thought he’d be a lot cooler.

And on Olive, she’s been sick for almost a week. Totally sucks. Brought her to the vet and it looks like she’s getting better. It’s been pretty stressful wondering what the heck is up with her though. Man, I’m so glad I’ll never have children. It would make me crazy.

Steven Spielberg

I was sorta surprised when I bought the ticket to this event, An Evening with Steven Spielberg. He’s just so pop! But I never thought I’d see Madonna three times on one tour either, so whatever.

Spielberg was really cool. He’s obviously a major film fan, loves this stuff. Surprise of surprise he addressed the ‘who wrote what’ issue in A.I. for the first time in public and said that Kubrick actually wrote the 1st 3rd and the 3rd 3rd, at least in notes and treatment form, and Spielberg only did the middle bit from scratch. Spielberg even used the term ‘schmaltzy’ to describe what fans thought of the end. But that was Kubrick. It’s what he wanted. It’s how he wrote it. And Kubrick even asked Spielberg to make the film much earlier, with Kubrick as producer. Crazy.

There were a few crazy retards in the audience, as usual, and a couple people asking retarded questions, as usual. I’m so happy Woody Allen made ‘Stardust Memories.’ It’s all there.

Afterwards I didn’t hang out for the 14 minutes of ‘Catch Me if You Can’ and left. There were only a few people over by the exit door so I walked over and the man came out moments later. I didn’t think ‘Funeral Party’ was appropriate for Mr. Spielberg (but who knows, really, what he’s into) and only had my copy of Bruno Schulz’ Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass, which Mr. Spielberg signed for me. Kinda fun. I thanked him for the evening, he looked up realizing I wasn’t just an autograph hound, and smiled. I tried to ask him about his King Arthur movie but the security guys shoved him in the SUV.

I never thought I’d ever meet Steven Spielberg. It’s not something I’ve really pursued. But it was nice to meet him. He’s much cooler than I ever thought I would find him to be.

Steven Spielberg

I was sorta surprised when I bought the ticket to this event, An Evening with Steven Spielberg. He’s just so pop! But I never thought I’d see Madonna three times on one tour either, so whatever.

Spielberg was really cool. He’s obviously a major film fan, loves this stuff. Surprise of surprise he addressed the ‘who wrote what’ issue in A.I. for the first time in public and said that Kubrick actually wrote the 1st 3rd and the 3rd 3rd, at least in notes and treatment form, and Spielberg only did the middle bit from scratch. Spielberg even used the term ‘schmaltzy’ to describe what fans thought of the end. But that was Kubrick. It’s what he wanted. It’s how he wrote it. And Kubrick even asked Spielberg to make the film much earlier, with Kubrick as producer. Crazy.

There were a few crazy retards in the audience, as usual, and a couple people asking retarded questions, as usual. I’m so happy Woody Allen made ‘Stardust Memories.’ It’s all there.

Afterwards I didn’t hang out for the 14 minutes of ‘Catch Me if You Can’ and left. There were only a few people over by the exit door so I walked over and the man came out moments later. I didn’t think ‘Funeral Party’ was appropriate for Mr. Spielberg (but who knows, really, what he’s into) and only had my copy of Bruno Schulz’ Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass, which Mr. Spielberg signed for me. Kinda fun. I thanked him for the evening, he looked up realizing I wasn’t just an autograph hound, and smiled. I tried to ask him about his King Arthur movie but the security guys shoved him in the SUV.

I never thought I’d ever meet Steven Spielberg. It’s not something I’ve really pursued. But it was nice to meet him. He’s much cooler than I ever thought I would find him to be.

New Workshop Play from Polly Frost

YOU AND YOUR CELL PHONE ARE INVITED TO AN EVENING OF

DRINKS, DESSERTS AND A WORKSHOP OF POLLY FROST’S PLAY

“CELL MATES”

A story about one woman’s obsessive love affair with her cell phone….

January 16, 17, 18, 19 at 8:00 pm at

The Producer’s Club

358 West 44th Street, New York (near 9th Avenue)

Please feel free to bring a friend! However, seating is limited so

please RSVP by replying to this email as soon as possible.

Include your first choice of date and, if possible, an

alternative date, as well as your street address. You will receive a

confirmation in the mail in December. (And this is a workshop, not a production to be reviewed!)

Directed by Matthew Graham Smith

Produced by Scorpio Visions and Will Evans

Performed by Matt Chapman, Tim Cunningham, Dawn Falato, Sarah

Kozinn, Bex Schwartz, Kristin Slaysman, and Liz Turkel

www.thevelvetcrypt.com

New Workshop Play from Polly Frost

YOU AND YOUR CELL PHONE ARE INVITED TO AN EVENING OF

DRINKS, DESSERTS AND A WORKSHOP OF POLLY FROST’S PLAY

“CELL MATES”

A story about one woman’s obsessive love affair with her cell phone….

January 16, 17, 18, 19 at 8:00 pm at

The Producer’s Club

358 West 44th Street, New York (near 9th Avenue)

Please feel free to bring a friend! However, seating is limited so

please RSVP by replying to this email as soon as possible.

Include your first choice of date and, if possible, an

alternative date, as well as your street address. You will receive a

confirmation in the mail in December. (And this is a workshop, not a production to be reviewed!)

Directed by Matthew Graham Smith

Produced by Scorpio Visions and Will Evans

Performed by Matt Chapman, Tim Cunningham, Dawn Falato, Sarah

Kozinn, Bex Schwartz, Kristin Slaysman, and Liz Turkel

www.thevelvetcrypt.com

New Pics

Since I’m usually holding the camera there’s not many pics of me. So it’s cool that Ellen Datlow was snapping away at a recent Doug Clegg / P.D. Cacek reading in the East Village at KGB Bar.

Pics from KGB Bar, Oct. 16, 2002

New Pics

Since I’m usually holding the camera there’s not many pics of me. So it’s cool that Ellen Datlow was snapping away at a recent Doug Clegg / P.D. Cacek reading in the East Village at KGB Bar.

Pics from KGB Bar, Oct. 16, 2002

9/21/02

Auschwitz – Disneyland of Death

We woke up to a horrible discovery: In my excitement of touring Krakow at night, I totally forgot to charge my camera batteries. Totally unlike me, but it’s what happened. I left one battery behind to recharge for coming back (bad decision because it had a little juice on it) and Jacek and I ran to the bus station.

Krakow station is just a mess. Nothing made any sense. We saw the sign, 9 am departure, but the bus wasn’t where it was supposed to be! We ran around, clock said 8:59 am, and then we found the bus. We jumped on and it was truly quite full. An old rickety, wobbly machine it felt like we were on one of those buses you see Hollywood stars travel on when they’re investigating lost treasure in the Amazon. We had to stand and people had placed their bags in the walkway as the overhead ‘bins’ were merely nets. Dear sweet lovely Jacek declared that it was wrong to leave bags on the floor. With the bus rattling along in full motion and with little room to stand, Jacek asked first in a soft voice, whose bag is this? (in Polish of course). Then louder, Does this bag belong to anyone? Then he leaned over two people, opened the window, and loudly stated, Well, since no one wants this bag…, and yanked it off the floor and started shoving it out the window of the moving bus! Too fun! The owner’s ears suddenly started working and he turned around and put it in his lap. We stood for quite a ways as no one was pulling the string to ring the bell for a stop.

Finally two people got off and I collapsed in a seat. The bag’s owner quickly dropped his prized possessions back to the floor in the place I was standing, and Jacek chose to use his bag as a stepping stone to grab the seat near me.

We arrive at the Auschwitz Museum and I’m amazed at how popularized this attraction has become. There were at least 8 tour buses, and way way way too many Americans. The scene really resembled Disneyland. There were fat ugly Americans with their cameras, Japanese with their mini video cameras, and all other flavors of the world’s spectrum. There are several booths where you can buy an assortment of postcards, books and videos, snack bars, and a restaurant. It’s the Polish version of Disneyland.

We decide to empty our hour-long-held urine and trot down to the toaletas (toilets) and toss our coins in the attendants’ dish. This is one of the fun things about Poland. The public toilets cost money and have female attendants. You toss whatever amount is posted into a small dish and enter. If you use the pissoir it’s less than if you use the closet. Crazy fun!

We enjoy some food from the cafeteria, me finally having real Polish bigos (a stew of sauerkraut and kielbasa) and potato pancakes. Then we set off for the camp.

I must say that Auschwitz resembles a retirement home. A very nice one. The grounds are exceedingly clean, the architecture pleasant, and very nicely and compactly designed. Even I, knowing full well the history of this camp, would sign off high marks if I were a Red Cross inspector. This one also has the nicest, and most famous, Arbecht Macht Frei sign, though the wily Jew who forged it purposely rotated the letter ‘B’ in the sign, rendering the letter top-heavy. I liked this clever bit of fuckery with Nazi precision myself, actually.

Passing under the sign we spotted the area directly to our right where the camp orchestra would greet new prisoners to the camp. Further down on our right is the reconstructed mass gallows used by the Nazis to deter prisoner escapes. We sort of breezed through Auschwitz as we knew we’d be spending time at Birkenau, and had only allotted ourselves six hours total between the two camps.

We walked down the main path here and got to a sort of central road. Each direction down each ‘street’ directed our eyes to yet another watchtower. There was basically nowhere you could be in the camp without someone watching. To our left we saw a gallows and walked in that direction. This turned out to be Rudolf Hoss’ last stand. The commandant of Auschwitz was tried after the war and hung here on this very gallows. There was a small barrier around the steps, I guess to ward off fun-seeking tourists who wanted their pictures taken in the same place.

Directly to the right of this monument is the first gas chamber and crematorium of the camp. The Nazis had built this up on the sides with earth so that the SS-Men could merely walk up the grassy hills on the side and drop in the Zyklon B through the hatches above. I’m not sure what planet the deniers are from because the hatches are quite seriously here, and have handles for easy lifting so the Zyklon pellets can be dropped in. Every time I read something from the deniers, they choose one thing to focus on, and ignore all other evidence. Me being me, I just had to go up to the rooftop myself, amazingly not being stopped by any camp workers, and I lifted a hatch and had a peek myself. I can’t see any other reason to have these hatches unless they were to air the place out after gassing.

Touring around the front part of the gas chamber/crematorium we walked into a big concrete chamber. A few hundred people could fit in here at once. I was quickly followed in by a tour group with a German-accented speaker. In tow were a couple priests, one kinda cute and chubby. Think he gave me an eye or two while he was learning about how the Sonderkommando would drag the corpses from the chamber to the adjacent ovens.

That part was kinda wild, seeing the metal wheelbarrow type cars on rails so they could haul the bodies from oven to oven and keep the whole machine moving. The tour guide mentioned that they had rebuilt the ovens partially as part has been taken apart during wartime. It seemed really old and mostly there to me.

I rejoined Jacek outside and we looked up a couple buildings on a map. Whenever I’m videotaping time goes a lot faster. It was already 1pm and we had to be on a bus back to Krakow at 6pm. We followed the map lines to where we thought they kept the main exhibits but that actually turned out to be the former storehouse for prisoners’ belongings, on the other side of the barbed-wire fence. We asked a kiosk clerk where we should be going and we turned to find ourselves at the notorious Block 11. This is where the first experiments with Zyklon B were performed, and also the location of the oft-mentioned Black Wall where prisoners were shot.

Block 11 has some exhibits on the main floor, like sealed-door recreated setups of the various Nazi officer offices, and holding cells for prisoners. Changing rooms and some prisoner art on display, depicting ‘life’ in the camp and Nazi cruelty. Downstairs is where all the torture cells are and there were just too many people down there to really have much fun. The Americans were the WORST! Pushing and shoving and whining and taking pictures and I dunno. I think I was just bummed that people were speaking English at all. Spoiled my illusions and all.

The original cells where the first Zyklon B tests were sealed but you can look through the peepholes. At the end of one row of cells are the teeny tiny little brick cells inside a room themselves. There were three of these cells, really only big enough for one person but they would be 3-4 people in at once, and they would have to crawl in on their knees through a little small teeny door near the floor, then stand once inside. There were no toilets in this little cells, just 3-4 men crowded together in a 4’ x 4’ space. Really horrible. This just looked so not fun.

We quickly got out of this rat trap tourist-filled cellar and made our way to the next building over with the Evidence of the Crime exhibits. These are too wild. The rooms filled with shoes, hair, baggage, crutches and prosthetic limbs. If someone wanted to ‘fake’ all this, they sure spent a hell of a lot of money, and got a lot of people to give up some very personal and valuable items to do it. There’s really just no way. The hair… wow. I know that’s what gets a lot of people but seeing it for real is wild. They also had the original model of the crematorium made by Polish artist Mieczyslaw Stobierski of which a recreation is on display at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I kinda like the one at USHMM more because at least you can see the back of it. The one at Auschwitz is enclosed on three sides so you can’t see the other figures behind the crematorium of SS-Men and their victims. It’s like eclipsing part of the history.

These rooms are just too much. The shoe room has two sides of shoes. All the prosthetic limbs are crazy. If they were going to fake this they would have to order used prosthetic limbs for about 200 different-sized humans and import them from over several countries. Too much. They also had some haircloth on display which apparently was spun from human hair.

We left this building and made our way to the front entrance to catch the bus to Birkenau. Auschwitz was okay. I’m looking forward to going back and checking out some of the other buildings which are filled with various historical exhibits, especially to learn about the various countries who had people deported to the camps. Each building represents a different country. But that’s for another day. I do wish we spent a little more time researching Birkenau before we got there.

Birkenau is no Disneyland. There’s a lot less there. And a lot more.

9/21/02

Auschwitz – Disneyland of Death

We woke up to a horrible discovery: In my excitement of touring Krakow at night, I totally forgot to charge my camera batteries. Totally unlike me, but it’s what happened. I left one battery behind to recharge for coming back (bad decision because it had a little juice on it) and Jacek and I ran to the bus station.

Krakow station is just a mess. Nothing made any sense. We saw the sign, 9 am departure, but the bus wasn’t where it was supposed to be! We ran around, clock said 8:59 am, and then we found the bus. We jumped on and it was truly quite full. An old rickety, wobbly machine it felt like we were on one of those buses you see Hollywood stars travel on when they’re investigating lost treasure in the Amazon. We had to stand and people had placed their bags in the walkway as the overhead ‘bins’ were merely nets. Dear sweet lovely Jacek declared that it was wrong to leave bags on the floor. With the bus rattling along in full motion and with little room to stand, Jacek asked first in a soft voice, whose bag is this? (in Polish of course). Then louder, Does this bag belong to anyone? Then he leaned over two people, opened the window, and loudly stated, Well, since no one wants this bag…, and yanked it off the floor and started shoving it out the window of the moving bus! Too fun! The owner’s ears suddenly started working and he turned around and put it in his lap. We stood for quite a ways as no one was pulling the string to ring the bell for a stop.

Finally two people got off and I collapsed in a seat. The bag’s owner quickly dropped his prized possessions back to the floor in the place I was standing, and Jacek chose to use his bag as a stepping stone to grab the seat near me.

We arrive at the Auschwitz Museum and I’m amazed at how popularized this attraction has become. There were at least 8 tour buses, and way way way too many Americans. The scene really resembled Disneyland. There were fat ugly Americans with their cameras, Japanese with their mini video cameras, and all other flavors of the world’s spectrum. There are several booths where you can buy an assortment of postcards, books and videos, snack bars, and a restaurant. It’s the Polish version of Disneyland.

We decide to empty our hour-long-held urine and trot down to the toaletas (toilets) and toss our coins in the attendants’ dish. This is one of the fun things about Poland. The public toilets cost money and have female attendants. You toss whatever amount is posted into a small dish and enter. If you use the pissoir it’s less than if you use the closet. Crazy fun!

We enjoy some food from the cafeteria, me finally having real Polish bigos (a stew of sauerkraut and kielbasa) and potato pancakes. Then we set off for the camp.

I must say that Auschwitz resembles a retirement home. A very nice one. The grounds are exceedingly clean, the architecture pleasant, and very nicely and compactly designed. Even I, knowing full well the history of this camp, would sign off high marks if I were a Red Cross inspector. This one also has the nicest, and most famous, Arbecht Macht Frei sign, though the wily Jew who forged it purposely rotated the letter ‘B’ in the sign, rendering the letter top-heavy. I liked this clever bit of fuckery with Nazi precision myself, actually.

Passing under the sign we spotted the area directly to our right where the camp orchestra would greet new prisoners to the camp. Further down on our right is the reconstructed mass gallows used by the Nazis to deter prisoner escapes. We sort of breezed through Auschwitz as we knew we’d be spending time at Birkenau, and had only allotted ourselves six hours total between the two camps.

We walked down the main path here and got to a sort of central road. Each direction down each ‘street’ directed our eyes to yet another watchtower. There was basically nowhere you could be in the camp without someone watching. To our left we saw a gallows and walked in that direction. This turned out to be Rudolf Hoss’ last stand. The commandant of Auschwitz was tried after the war and hung here on this very gallows. There was a small barrier around the steps, I guess to ward off fun-seeking tourists who wanted their pictures taken in the same place.

Directly to the right of this monument is the first gas chamber and crematorium of the camp. The Nazis had built this up on the sides with earth so that the SS-Men could merely walk up the grassy hills on the side and drop in the Zyklon B through the hatches above. I’m not sure what planet the deniers are from because the hatches are quite seriously here, and have handles for easy lifting so the Zyklon pellets can be dropped in. Every time I read something from the deniers, they choose one thing to focus on, and ignore all other evidence. Me being me, I just had to go up to the rooftop myself, amazingly not being stopped by any camp workers, and I lifted a hatch and had a peek myself. I can’t see any other reason to have these hatches unless they were to air the place out after gassing.

Touring around the front part of the gas chamber/crematorium we walked into a big concrete chamber. A few hundred people could fit in here at once. I was quickly followed in by a tour group with a German-accented speaker. In tow were a couple priests, one kinda cute and chubby. Think he gave me an eye or two while he was learning about how the Sonderkommando would drag the corpses from the chamber to the adjacent ovens.

That part was kinda wild, seeing the metal wheelbarrow type cars on rails so they could haul the bodies from oven to oven and keep the whole machine moving. The tour guide mentioned that they had rebuilt the ovens partially as part has been taken apart during wartime. It seemed really old and mostly there to me.

I rejoined Jacek outside and we looked up a couple buildings on a map. Whenever I’m videotaping time goes a lot faster. It was already 1pm and we had to be on a bus back to Krakow at 6pm. We followed the map lines to where we thought they kept the main exhibits but that actually turned out to be the former storehouse for prisoners’ belongings, on the other side of the barbed-wire fence. We asked a kiosk clerk where we should be going and we turned to find ourselves at the notorious Block 11. This is where the first experiments with Zyklon B were performed, and also the location of the oft-mentioned Black Wall where prisoners were shot.

Block 11 has some exhibits on the main floor, like sealed-door recreated setups of the various Nazi officer offices, and holding cells for prisoners. Changing rooms and some prisoner art on display, depicting ‘life’ in the camp and Nazi cruelty. Downstairs is where all the torture cells are and there were just too many people down there to really have much fun. The Americans were the WORST! Pushing and shoving and whining and taking pictures and I dunno. I think I was just bummed that people were speaking English at all. Spoiled my illusions and all.

The original cells where the first Zyklon B tests were sealed but you can look through the peepholes. At the end of one row of cells are the teeny tiny little brick cells inside a room themselves. There were three of these cells, really only big enough for one person but they would be 3-4 people in at once, and they would have to crawl in on their knees through a little small teeny door near the floor, then stand once inside. There were no toilets in this little cells, just 3-4 men crowded together in a 4’ x 4’ space. Really horrible. This just looked so not fun.

We quickly got out of this rat trap tourist-filled cellar and made our way to the next building over with the Evidence of the Crime exhibits. These are too wild. The rooms filled with shoes, hair, baggage, crutches and prosthetic limbs. If someone wanted to ‘fake’ all this, they sure spent a hell of a lot of money, and got a lot of people to give up some very personal and valuable items to do it. There’s really just no way. The hair… wow. I know that’s what gets a lot of people but seeing it for real is wild. They also had the original model of the crematorium made by Polish artist Mieczyslaw Stobierski of which a recreation is on display at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I kinda like the one at USHMM more because at least you can see the back of it. The one at Auschwitz is enclosed on three sides so you can’t see the other figures behind the crematorium of SS-Men and their victims. It’s like eclipsing part of the history.

These rooms are just too much. The shoe room has two sides of shoes. All the prosthetic limbs are crazy. If they were going to fake this they would have to order used prosthetic limbs for about 200 different-sized humans and import them from over several countries. Too much. They also had some haircloth on display which apparently was spun from human hair.

We left this building and made our way to the front entrance to catch the bus to Birkenau. Auschwitz was okay. I’m looking forward to going back and checking out some of the other buildings which are filled with various historical exhibits, especially to learn about the various countries who had people deported to the camps. Each building represents a different country. But that’s for another day. I do wish we spent a little more time researching Birkenau before we got there.

Birkenau is no Disneyland. There’s a lot less there. And a lot more.

9/19/02 – Part 2

Belzec

On the way from Sobibor to Belzec, we stop at a roadside pub for refreshments. God I love Poland! We each got huge portions of good real food for like $3-4 each. And of coures more beer. I rarely drink in the States. Just last night (Oct. 16) I had one glass of wine and had a headache and was tired. But in Europe… maybe it’s just different alcohol, or maybe it’s the climate, but alcohol tastes great, doesn’t fuck me up, and just seems to work.

I’ve been psyched about visiting Belzec (pronounced Behw-zhets; the l has a line through it and the z has a dot over it and the c is a ‘ts’ sound in Polish) for awhile. When I first started reading about the camps it most spiked my interest as it’s the most forgotten of the four solely-extermination centers. I had read of one visit by a rabbi who said he saw pieces of bones lying around. Then I read a few more and all reported the same findings. That you could just drag a rake over the topsoil and uncover historical records of the Nazi’s crimes in this area. I had also read a bit about Christian Wirth (pronounced Veert) who ran this camp, and others in the Aktion Reinhard program. He had a really bad reputation, even among other top SS-Men. Franz Suchomel spoke of Wirth with distate in ‘Shoah.’

Wirth’s first venture was the Chelmno camp near Lodz, Poland. (Boy do I wish I could type out how Lodz really looks. It’s actually pronounced between ‘woodge’ and ‘wooch.’) This camp operated in two segments and used 3 mobile gas vans for the killing. The operations began the same day that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941 (although some sources say the official operations opening date was December 8). Nowhere else in print or on the web is any significance attributed to the Japanese attack and the first mass gassings. So far it appears I’m the only one drawing any connection here. Maybe there is none. Just interesting is all.

Chelmno’s operations began before the Wannsee Conference (which occurred January 20, 1942) where the Final Solution to the Jewish Problem was delivered to the heads of the Nazi machine. After orchestrating Chelmno, Wirth moved on to Belzec near the Ukraine border and set up the first camp with gas chambers, and becoming the first commandant of Belzec.

Belzec was just total hell. The deportees would arrive at the Belzec station where the cars would be broken into groups of 20, and then shunted into the camp via a rail spur. The doors would open and the Ukrainians would scream at the Jews to get out of the cars. The dead were pulled out by the Sonderkommando, worker Jews.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that these trains were moving very slowly. The trains would sometimes take days to arrive at a death camp. First the Jews were forced into ghettos, deprived of outside food or supplies, and were already weakened. When the ‘promise’ of work and food was offered by the Germans, it was normal for the Jews to accept this belief. Word of ‘death camps’ came very late. And it was hard for anyone to actually believe that the Germans would be exterminating people en masse.

Let me ask you: If I told you that at 69th and Broadway there is a factory and people are going in and not coming out, would you believe me? Even today, after the Germans, after September 11th, it’s just such a bizarre concept to take in.

As the trains were very full with so many people, packed 100 or more to a car, they moved slower than usual. This also assisted in killing the ‘cargo’ off as they had no food or water on the journey, nor a toilet. They were crammed into smelly dirty cars. Sometimes the Nazis would place quicklime in the cars and just let the cars sit, hoping the Jews would die in the cars alone, without the need for gas chambers.

After departing the cars the Jews were lined up, told they would have a shower, and were sent to an undressing area, the women to a haircutting area, and were told to head into the Hackenholt Foundation for disinfection. Lorenz Hackenholt was in charge of the gas chambers. The Germans loved their irony during this period. The gas chambers also had a large Jewish star above the entrance to further deceive their victims.

Well, by the time we got to Belzec this day, there was just plain nothing left at all. This was the first camp dismantled, and there were little traces of its existence even in 1943. The Poles, under Communist rule, erected a simple monument that said nothing of the Jews, just ‘Hitler’s Victims.’ I had seen pictures of this camp. A gate with the dates of its operation, the monument, some large gray slabs covering mass grave sites, and some urns on the edge of the original camp. All gone and hurled at the bottom edge of the camp in one big crumbled mountain of concrete. We saw a sign saying that the Polish government and the United States Holocaust Museum were putting in a new memorial.

Slawek was surprised. He didn’t know this had happened. Only this week (Oct. 13-20) did I learn on the internet that the whole place was gone over in May to prepare for the new monument. We walk up to where the old monument was, and there’s still some foundation there. People had left candles and flowers there. Slawek had a new map of the camp prepared by British historian Mike Tregenza showing the locations of the mass graves, of which they have now found 33. Basically the whole area of land is one mass grave. Belzec was just so far away from everything, and the first gas chamber death camp, that apparently Wirth and his men felt they didn’t need to go too far in covering up their traces. Basically every bit of ground under our feet contained the remains of over 600,000 Jewish, and 1,500 Poles who had assisted Jews. Incredible.

We walked up to where the old slabs were and where the urns were, and threw the woods. All the trees had been planted by Jewish hands upon orders from the Nazis, to cover the traces. The woods are fairly sparse. We retraced the path of the original train spur that came into the camp, then walked over to where some of the excavations had occurred, unearthing the foundations of the original SS barracks and a garage. The original SS living quarters is across the way, now occupied by a family, but we didn’t meet them. This white house can be seen in this photo of the SS-Men of Belzec standing at attention in full uniform and smiling at the camera. Further away from the camp, down the train line, is a large empty brick building that the SS used to store all the belongings of the Jews, taken from them as they disembarked the train. Here they would be sorted by other work Jews and sent back to Germany.

I remember reading about the hair removal and how the hair would be sewn into cloth and sock and used as insulation on submarines and as stuffing for pillows. I thought it strange that a government that declared the Jews to be so inhuman would bother to recycle their hair to put in their pillows to dream on at night, but they did. The German government was so full of lies. Theivery appears to have been as strong an influence as hatred. Ripping out the gold teeth and melting them down into ingots, attempts to create fertilizer, and even fuel from the corpses, show that the Jews were mined for everything they had. The apartments they departed were robbed, their belongs sorted through immediately, and their clothing gone through for hidden valuables. The Jews were told to bring only their most important possession which helped the Nazis to recover them, as the jewels and money and gold would be on them when they arrived.

We wandered over to the new Belzec station. I was somewhat surprised to see that a brand-new building was here, instead of the dilapidated one I had seen briefly in Shoah, and for that matter all over Poland. The stops on my train adventures to pick up other passengers disclosed ‘stations’ there were merely rotting wooded shacks, or just concrete covers. Belzec is right on the edge of the Poland-Ukraine border now, as Poland’s borders were shifted West after the war. I don’t know enough about the area to understand why they would replace this station in particular when so many are in ruins. Maybe this information will come out one day.

So we left Belzec and made our way back to Lublin. As it was my curiousity had disenabled me from catching the last train to Warsaw, so I spent the night at Slawek’s and his mother’s flat, flipping through the hundreds of books Slawek’s father had collected on the destructions of the Jews, and through a small notebook of his father’s, with details I had not read in any of the 30 or so books I had managed to read before my trip. Slawek pulled the couch out into a bed, I stayed up as long as I could ingesting new information, and slept.