Posted on August 23rd, 2017
In a small corner of the Marais in Paris there is a memorial to the Zajdner Family. Fifteen year-old twins Bernard and Simon Zajdner were deported to Auschwitz in May 1944, along with their father, mother, brother and sister Micheline. The twins were victims of the experiments of Josef Mengele. Only Micheline and her mother survived.
“My name is Simon Zajdner. I am fifteen. I am five foot six inches tall.” That’s what I had to write, as soon as I came to the zoo. Currently I am lying on the bed of my bunk, shared with two other Jewish children. One of them is my twin, Bernard. I came here with him, on the trains. I was being held closely by my mother- I remember the smell of her coat vividly- the scent of old newspapers and second-hand shops. When they opened the door to our cattle car, our mother became very frightened, “Stay with me, children,” she told us, refusing to let go of our hands. But then some prisoners told her in Yiddish, “Tell them you have twins. There is a Dr. Mengele here who wants twins…”
When I first met him he seemed such a neat, sane man: with his green tunic well pressed; scarcely a hair out of place and his face well scrubbed, he walked up and down the ramp, looking for us, all the while whistling a cheerful tune. He seemed so pleased with himself, so pleased with the work he was doing
Our life here at the zoo is not as bad as some of the conditions we hear of in other barracks. We keep our hair and our shoes. In exchange, the numbers are called. Our bargain.
Onkel Mengele is our new family. He tells us that our parents are alive and well, and brings us chocolate. He is a kind man, I can tell. Some people don’t understand, but he hates this place as much as we do, and in saying he needs us for ‘experiments’ he is saving us from what others must endure. He is not an enemy. He is not ‘experimenting’ on us- he is protecting us.