Stane Šinkovec

stane sinkovecFrom 'Dachau' a book written by Stane Šinkovec, edited and translated by Anže Šinkovec..

We exited Begunje prisons. It was 1942. 30th May, on the day before the transport they gathered 23 of us in offices, ordered us to pack our personal things, that we had to put in special bags when we arrived in Begunje, and write our family's address on the packages. We were allowed to keep only a toothbrush and a soap. In time, based on what they could keep when leaving, prisoners would know pretty accurately their destiny. So to the killing zone... Not to Draga, but to the unknown in the Third Reich, where we will be secretly killed, without our family ever to find out where our final home lies.
Infamous Javor, deputy of Begunje prisons approached me, cynically asking: "Well Zinkovic, do you have any idea where you are going?" I looked at him in quiet. "You are going to Dachau... Why did you become so pale?" I'm not sure I really become pale, since at that time I didn't imagine anything special under name Dachau. More than anything else, I suppose his words gave me hope, that not all is lost yet and that the solution is still possible. Only that we are leaving these damned latticed cells in the second floor of Begunje prisons and something will be possible to achieve. A bit later Guck, otherwise SS member, secretly gave me 50 German Marks, which my family sent to me, implying that maybe I could still use them. The Gestapo later executed him for cooperating with Partisans, but we, the prisoners, respected him, for being human.
...
We arrived to the enormous iron door with a forged sign that said: "Arbeit machts frei." (The work sets free.). I read it in half-voice and immediately got a reply: "Ja, aber nur durch Rauchgang." (Yes but only through the chimney.). Back then, I felt for the first time the boot of Dachau executioners. When the door shut behind us, none of us has a slightest idea that it will be few years, before they will open again and that for some of us they will stay closed forever.
...
On 21st July 1942 they finally summoned me to the (medical) sector. For the station where they performed the malaria experiments, they assigned first two rooms of barrack 1 and 3 at the east side of the prison camp. Laboratory and offices of professor dr. Schilling, the head of malaria station, were in part of barrack B... For treatment they used only quinine and sometimes digitalis for strengthening of the heart. One of the groups, to which also I was assigned, was a sort of comparison group, that didn't get any medications, so during first experiment I only received 1 quinine pill, which Franc Kern from Kranj gave me, one of ours, that was at the time also subjected to the experiment.
After few days of feeding the mosquitos, I got fever. It all began around 4 a.m. with severe shiver that they called "Schuttelfrost". It didn't help at all regardless how many blankets over me, the bed was shaking as it would collapse at any time. In few hours, I got extreme fever and in the afternoon, I started to sweat so hard that sometimes the sweat came trough the straw cushion. My head hurt and my body wanted to vomit. My eyelids were swollen in the morning and so was my legs, since water couldn't normally drain from my body... However, the illness was not only accompanied by severe headaches, frequently I was also delirious. As from far away, the singing voices of comrades were coming to my ears, when returning to the barracks from evening assembly.
It constantly echoed in my ears: "So far away is the homeland." and "You only live one time, and never again.". My head was about to explode and the constant echoing: "Far, far, far... never return..." Will I ever join with my friends again?
...
The heavy iron door with the sign "Arbeit machts frei" opened wide, and among the crowd of rampageous SS officers and their dogs, among the sound of prison camp orchestra, two escaped prisoners appeared all covered in blood. As to all others, the signs were hanged around their necks: "Ich bin weider da." (I'm here again). The ceremony was on for some time but I heard all this screaming and beating as form long distance. It seemed as if I was drowning and that the barracks will collapse on me. Two friends dragged me to the sector, where they diagnosed me as capable: 41,9°C the medical attendant measured, but I was, as they told me later already unconscious. I woke up 2 days later. Malaria drained my strengths further and my body weight fell under 40 kg, nevertheless I was 180 cm tall.
...
Additional, and more importantly, more nutritious food from the packages sent form home saved many of our lives. It also helped me, a convalescent, substantially to get strongly back on my feet, since in May that year (1943) I got back to full 52 kg... Many have recovered in these times of consolidation and relative calm and many started to hope that maybe they will survive anyway. Nobody suspected, however, that the real hell and torment were only starting in Dachau. This was 2nd typhus epidemic... It started in last months of 1944 and together with dysentery it took over 15.000 lives in only 5 months (in 1944 there were 26.000 prisoners in Dachau).
...
The prison camp office was looking for a volunteer to accompany doctor to the infected barracks... I volunteered... My friends opposed but I didn't let them talk me out of it... Doctor and I went in order form barrack to barrack. There was a lot to be done, but more importantly, it was dangerous. Already during first day, I rushed to barrack 30, to see what was going on with the disabled. I heard many horrific things when I was still in working barrack, so I wanted to see it in my own eyes... I showed the pass to the guard and entered – into a hell... My step was coming to a halt. Something was holding me back. Finally, I entered a barrack and stepped into a room 2. What I have seen! The pen is too weak and refuses to write. Yes, Dante didn't see the hell... I got chills. I got sick and I thought I would vomit. It only lasted for a second. I overcame the sickness. There was no way back...


This is a story of my grandfather, Stane Šinkovec, a prisoner of Dachau "death" camp. He survived. He never wanted to talk about his experience to us, his family. I suppose it was too hard for him to speak about the things that happened. Instead he wrote 2 books, "Dachau" and "Begunje" which will tell the story for generations to come. Through them, he reminds us all about horrific things that took place only 70 years ago. What is amazing to me is that in spite of everything he never lost his optimism and faith in humanity. This is his legacy. This is his lesson for us to remember.
Anže Šinkovec