Many Methods of Murder

The Holocaust was not just about gas chambers

Frank Parker

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This is my review of Peter Bradley’s “The Last Train: A Family History of the Final Solution”

Bradley’s parents were born in Bavaria. His father served in the British army in India during the later stages of World War II. Bradley was a Labour member of the British Parliament between 1997 and 2005. More recently he has undertaken extensive research into the fate of both sets of grandparents as well as that of their siblings, cousins and neighbours. He was able to access records which enabled him to trace in considerable detail the lives of Bavarian Jews from the rise of Nazism in the early 1930s until the implementation of the ‘Final Solution’ a decade later.

To me, references to the holocaust conjure visions of gas chambers and concentration camps. Auschwitz, Treblinka, Buchenwald are among the most frequently referenced places where the mass murder of Jews, Gypsies and others was implemented on an industrial scale. I was also aware of instances when the victims of Nazism were shot and buried in mass graves. I confess I was less cognisant of the extent of this practice or the forced labour camps from which it was organised in Latvia. I now know that I must add Bikernieki, Rumbula and Daugavgriva to the gazetteer of place names associated with mass murder.

I also need to redefine the word ‘Ghetto’. I had supposed that it referred to an enclave where Jews traditionally made their homes. I now know that it was an area where Gentiles were evicted to make room for Jews who had been dispossessed of their traditional homes. Surrounded by barbed wire these over-crowded places provided short-term homes for able-bodied individuals who were daily herded to places where they were put to work on heavy labouring tasks in the bitter cold of a Baltic winter. Some, told they were going to work in a cannery, discovered too late that their real destination was a pit in the forest where they were summarily shot and buried, the authorities no longer having a use for them.

Others were forced to dig the very pits into which their bodies were to be deposited. One survivor of such an event records a conversation in which a fellow worker remarks ‘What a big air-raid shelter this is going to be’. (Despite the Nazis well documented…

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Frank Parker

Frank is a retired Engineer from England now living in Ireland. He is trying to learn and share the lessons of history.