Annette Cabelli got off the train and saw soldiers take twin children's arms and separate them from the rest of the group. "They are taken for experiments," they told him. Cabelli was 17 years old and had just arrived to the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz (Poland), in 1942. A few weeks earlier, in Thessaloniki, the Greek city where he was born, the SS took one of his brothers. "The Germans came to the ghetto with dogs and dressed in black for everyone. We did not know more about him, "narrates the nonagenarian, slowly in Ladino Spanish, his mother tongue. Now, about to turn 94, remember in the Sefarad-Israel Center of Madrid the barbarism of Auschwitz, the atrocities he endured in three concentration camps and the anti-Semitism that went through his whole life.
"When we lived in Greece, the Jews were like second class, we could not go to school with the rest of the children, but when the war broke out in 1940 against Italy, they called us to fight," she says. He grew up in a Sephardic community with his mother and two older brothers. Her father died when she was five years old. When Italy asked for help from Germany, Adolf Hitler's army occupied the country. "The SS came with dogs, they started hitting everyone and they asked us for the name," he says. Later, she was forcibly transferred with her mother to Poland.
Like so many thousands, they marked it when it arrived at the field: a tattoo on the forearm with the number 4065 with a triangle underneath. His mother was murdered shortly after arriving. "Do you see the smoke from that chimney? Well, there is your mother," she tells a guard who told her. Of his parents he only keeps a photograph, a medal that a neighbor gave him when he returned after the war and the promise to visit Spain one day. "We were Sephardic, for my family, it was the land from which we were expelled centuries ago," he explains.
At Auschwitz, his first job was to clean the excrement vats of the hospital for Polish political prisoners. "The Poles who were there gave me potatoes and they loved me very much. The greek, narrates. There she spent several months until she was infected with typhus and moved to a "block" for the sick. Remember to see how people were taken to gas chambers and ovens. According to him, the capo (a woman who worked for the Nazis as a guardian) confessed: "Since you're going to die of typhus, I'm not going to let you go so they can kill you." But he survived.
Josef Mengele, the doctor and SS officer known as eThe angel of death, also part of the memories of the protagonist. Mengele walked around, he relates, along with other doctors "without a diploma" and selected patients among the prisoners to experiment with them. "The girls were taken away and they took all the organs they could, then they sent them to work, but they could not and a week later they died," he says. The prisoners in the Nazi camps wore ragged-striped uniforms with which they could hardly fight the cold. They ate coffee with water and ate soup and bread. "They took us out of bed at 7 o'clock in the morning and at eight o'clock they came to tell us, that's death, when there are minus 13 degrees, you can not do it anymore."
The march of death
Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviet Army on January 27, 1945. However, days before and in fear of being captured, the Nazis forcibly moved some 60,000 prisoners to other concentration camps. To this flight, they are known as "the marches of death." Cabelli walked without rest until the German border. During the trip on foot he saw how thousands of companions perished at his side. She had to pass through two more camps: Ravensbrück and Malchow (90 and 70 kilometers from Berlin, Germany, respectively), before being released on May 2, 1945. "We walk through the snow, without bread, we cross the border without sleeping If you did not walk, the SS would come, throw you to the ground and shoot you ... More than 50% of deportees died, "he says.
Cabelli decided to move to Paris to start living the rest of a life that, a little over two years ago, he thought he had lost. Although the holocaust has marked him every day, he does not lose his smile. Now, he spends part of his time telling his story through the colleges and universities. Two years ago she received Spanish nationality, although for her it is still a symbolic recognition. "I am a Sephardi and, therefore, I was born Spanish before all of you," he laughs as he points his staff at the journalists.