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  • debrabarnes

Turning 50

March 14, 2014. Today I turn 50. There are so many different emotions running through me right now - disbelief that I am half a century old when I still feel 21, despair at not being able to stop time from moving so quickly, joy at the thought of a whole weekend of celebrations with friends and family, and excitement for the future and in particular for finishing to write my book and to have others read it.

After all my research this past year I cannot help but think too about the members of my family who never got to celebrate their 50th birthdays. Thanks to the meticulous records kept by the Nazis we already knew that my grandfather Traitel arrived to Auschwitz on convoy no. 8 on July 23, 1942 when he was just 39 years old. We assumed that he had been sent straight to the gas chambers on arrival, but I was amazed to find out just a few weeks ago from the Auschwitz database that he survived for one month at this horrendous death camp and his date of death is recorded as August 26, 1942. The International Tracing Service confirmed the cause of Traitel's death was documented as nephritis, inflammation of the kidney. This then opened up a whole new path of research which has led me to two possible options: the Auschwitz website contains information which explains that "causes of death were written in Latin or German; the most frequent ones were heart attack, circulatory failure, enteritis, hyperasthenia, nephritis, pneumonia, collapse, phlegmon, heart defect, and bronchial pneumonia. These fictional causes of death were chosen from a list prepared for the purpose." The other possibility is that my grandfather was one of the many prisoners used for medical experiments at Auschwitz. There is documentation about Nazi experiments which caused nephritis, such as the study of the efficacy of various vaccines and drugs against typhus. I have purposely chosen one of the less horrific experiments as an example here, but if you are strong enough to know the truth there is plenty of information on the internet like this 'Nazi Medical Experimentation: The Ethics Of Using Medical Data From Nazi Experiments' but it makes difficult reading.

Can you see now how my research takes me from one thing to another, making me forget what I was looking for in the first place as I immerse myself in the fascinating history of the Holocaust and my quest to find out more about the fate of my family. So - let me stop now for today as I need to go and celebrate my birthday! What I intended to say was that I wanted to dedicate my birthday to my grandfather Traitel who died aged 39, my grandmother Cecile who died aged 41, my mother's brother Nathan who died aged 12, and her twin sister Annette who died aged 6. They all met their fate at Auschwitz between 1942 and 1944. Let them never be forgotten.

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