Underneath the soldier's formidable helmets and judging by the look in their eyes the indoctrination machine had done its job very thoroughly! We were the absolute baddies for them and they were definitely the ultimate baddies for us. This is what total war had brought us to.
After having been inside various places for nine months it was a relief to me to be in open fields and at a higher elevation. We entered the trial camp where they sorted us out for unknown transportation, most certainly to be to Germany. We had a look at the situation and realized that we had lost our liberty, which was outside the barbed wire fence. There was lots of fresh air and water to wash, not too much to eat, even though we were given some work to do. Meeting old and new acquaintances, it was more like a prisoner of war camp.
At this point, we liked to believe that the allied landings were near to fruition but this was mostly wishful thinking. By now, we knew that the Germans were tied down on the Eastern Front and in retreat, allied planes flew over us daily on their way to Germany. The U.S.A. was also now involved in the war.
Some work was handed out regarding the rubble of some buildings that were being demolished. I noticed the bricks being loaded on the carts of two Polish farmers, pulled by horses, with only two old German guards. I thought maybe there was a possibility of getting into the cart and getting the inmates to cover me up with old bricks.
My plan was that once out of the gates, after a short span of time, to get out from the rear, when the guards or two drivers weren't looking - as they seemed to be more like two village elders. I volunteered for it but to my consternation found out that the Polish supervision could not be trusted or at least I thought so. Tunnelling out was also considered but nobody stayed long enough to start on it or form an escape committee. One day, a Belgian survivor from Blakenberghe came back with a tale of some escapees from the trains but he said it was sheer slaughter - most of them were killed.
We had arrived in Compiegne on the 1st of April and stayed for one month only, this had given us enough time to pick up and improve our health and clean our clothes. Once again, we were gathered for transportation, no respite. The Gestapo then sorted out our respective case numbers, which indicated to which destination we would be going and then marked our numbers on files. The numbers ranged from one to three next to our names.
We tried to make out the severity of the numbering but as we were all in the same transport we were painted with the same brush, or even worse than that we were branded like cattle.
One of the most famous nominations we came under was "N.N:" or the "Nacht und Nebel" - The Night of the Mist destination or those who had to disappear without a trace".
Some of the "N.N.", category prisoners, including my Dad, were believed to be in The Resistance and dangerous....
To be continued ...
On 7 December 1941, SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler issued the following instructions to the Gestapo:
“After lengthy consideration, it is the will of the Führer [Hitler] that the measures taken against those who are guilty of offenses against the Reich or against the occupation forces in occupied areas should be altered. The Führer is of the opinion that in such cases penal servitude or even a hard labor sentence for life will be regarded as a sign of weakness. An effective and lasting deterrent can be achieved only by the death penalty or by taking measures which will leave the family and the population uncertain as to the fate of the offender. Deportation to Germany serves this purpose.