Thursday, March 01, 2018


Since I published this piece I learned some more about the Nazi concentration camp Sachsenhausen, where my grandfather, Taeke van Popta, died of dysentry. I learned it from this web page, which is actually about my paternal grandmother, Sara Regina van Popta (nee Bruinsma), the wife of Taeke van Popta. What follows is my translation of a paragraph about the camp.
Sachsenhausen was a notorious concentration camp where between 30- and 50,000 people died of exhaustion, illness and ill-treatment. In mid-January 1945 [at the time my grandfather died there--gvp], 35,000 prisoners were crammed together in the bunk houses. A survivor later wrote that "hitting, berating and kicking" by guards was a daily occurrence. The prisoners suffered constant hunger. Harsh penalties were meted out for the slightest reason. Twenty-five or fifty strokes as punishment was not unusual. Or a time of sports would be declared, which meant that hundreds of men had to trot, jump, roll, or skip in the rain, snow, and mud for hours on the inspection field after a tiring day of work, in the wind and without food. Sometimes prisoners would be made to stand on the inspection field, for a few hours, or until midnight, even through the night and, on occasion, for two or three days. [I don't have the stomach to translate beyond this. Man's capacity for cruelty is fathomless--gvp]