Auschwitz survivor Mary Natan (Jew from Lodz), and her cousin-once-removed Genrikh Yagoda (Jew from Lodz), who was the head of the NKVD and "the greatest Jewish murderer of the 20th Century." Mary's wealthy mother (Yadoga's cousin) use to receive beautiful jewels from her family in Moscow, her uncle (Yagoda's father) was a jeweller, and Yagoda, chief of the Gulags, was convicted in 1938 of diamond dealing.
Tuesday, 15 January 2013
Genrikh Yagoda's cousin was sent to Auschwitz
Whilst I was researching for something else, I chanced across Auschwitz survivor Mary Natan who published her memoirs Nightmares and Smiles in 2007, which I haven't read in full, but there is a free preview on Google books, and all the claims in the two paragraphs below, appear on just 4 adjoining pages:
Mary claims that the train on which she arrived in Auschwitz II (Birkenau) "passed through a gate on which was a sign declaring, 'Work will set you free' " (a mishmash of the two famous entrances, which in reality are 1.12 miles apart at separate Auschwitz camps). After alighting the train, during the notorious selection process, Mary (aged 14) was wearing her mother's high heels, and the additional height meant she was mistaken for an adult so she was not sent for immediate gassing.
The next day the Germans announced over the loud speaker that there was milk, butter and possibly eggs for all children under 18, if they reported themselves to the authorities. She and another 200 children who had fallen for the trick, were led into the "children's barracks", but Mary was suspicious that there were no bunks in these barracks. Suddenly a girl handed her a bucket of human excrement and led her past a guard who assumed they were just working, and once they were outside they ran. The girl told Mary that she'd been in the crematorium and the children were next to be processed. Mary looked back and saw flames coming from the chimney.
What is strange about Mary Natan's memoirs (at least the part I've read on the free preview on Google books), is that many of the tales told in it (but not the ones about the Arbeit macht frei train gate and high heels) appear in exactly the same order and almost verbatim to the testimony she gave to Steven Spielberg's USC Shoah Foundation on August 10, 1994. The idea suggests itself that whoever wrote her memoirs (published in 2007 when Mary Natan would have been 77), did it whilst watching her USC Shoah Foundation footage. If anyone is interested in confirming this for themselves, please read from here to the end of chapter 14 (just 4 pages in total), and then watch a couple of minutes of her 1994 testimony from this point (you'll first hear a tale she's plagiarised from Schinder's List).
During her interview for the USC Shoah Foundation, Natan was clearly led by the interviewer, who asked: "Do you remembering anything about the Red Cross visiting?", and "Did you ever see Mengele?" to which Natan answered "I didn't see Mengele in Auschwitz, I saw him in Bergen-Belsen." Mengele was never posted to Bergen-Belsen. She also claimed she saw Adolf Eichmann at Auschwitz, although she couldn't remember his name, but the cameraman knew who she meant.
"Yagoda, who was a cousin to my mother"
In the USC Shoah Foundation interview, Mary Natan gives details of her family; her father, a wealthy nightclub owner, her mother a housewife, and five children living in the city of Lodz in central Poland. She provides some very interesting information about her mother, who was originally from Riga in Latvia, but her family moved to Moscow whilst her mother was just a child. Natan states her grandfather owned a shoe factory in Moscow, and one of her uncles was a doctor there. When her mother was nineteen or twenty, she and her younger sister left Moscow for Lodz, to live with an uncle who owned a restaurant. The family in Moscow often sent letters and expensive gifts, jewellery etc. to her mother in Lodz, but in 1938 the letters and the gifts stopped coming.
Natan states it was only after the war that she found out that her family in Russia (who she never even meet) "was exterminated. There was a connection between them and a fella named Yagoda, who was a cousin to my mother, and he was also the right hand of Trotsky, and when the killed Trotsky, they killed Yagoda, and then the wiped out the whole family."
Genrikh Yagoda, was the son of a Jewish jeweller, brother-in-law of Yakov Sverdlov (the Jewish Prime Minister of Bolshevik Russia), and according to Stalin biographer Simon Sebag-Montifore, Stalin's "favourite secret policeman" (a Chekist), although his popularity with Stalin's didn't last. Yagoda, as head of the NKVD, was responsible for vastly increasing the slave labour system in Soviet concentration camps, the Gulag. Israeli journalist Sever Plocker wrote: "Yagoda diligently implemented Stalin's collectivization orders and is responsible for the deaths of at least 10 million people. His Jewish deputies established and managed the Gulag system."
Yagoda had been responsible for arranging the 1936 Moscow show trial of Jewish-Bolsheviks Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev, he even kept the bullets which had killed them, but just two years later he was himself in the dock at a show trial. He was convicted of numerous offences, some of them false: counter-revolutionary activity, spying for Germany, and the attempted poisoning of Nikolai Yezhov (his successor as NKVD chief). An offence which he was convicted of which was unquestionably true, was corruption, including diamond dealing; his father was a jeweller, and Auschwitz survivor Mary Natan spoke of "the most beautiful jewellery" her mother received from her family in Moscow.
Following Yagoda's arrest in 1937, and show trial and execution in 1938, hundreds if not thousands of his supporters and protégés within the NKVD were executed. His family were also purged:
His wife Ida, two sisters, Esfir and Liliya, plus his brother-in-law and father-in-law, were all shot within months of Yagoda's execution. His mother, father, three further sisters, Rozaliya, Frida, and Taisiya, plus his mother-in-law, and his son Genrikh, were all sent to the Gulags, and only his sisters Frida and Taisiya, and his son survived the camps.
I've not been able to find anything on more distant relatives of Yagoda (uncles, aunts, cousins etc.) but, considering what happened to his immediate family, I'm quite prepared to accept that's there more than a grain of truth to Mary Natan's claim that "that the whole family was exterminated."
Posted by The Black Rabbit of Inlé at 19:05