Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Slovenia Journal IV: Risiera Di San Sabba

Who choses the design for a concentration camp camp? Trieste’s Risiera di San Sabba was small by standards of Auschwitz, Treblinka and Birkenau. Only 3000-5000 Slovenes, Croats and Jews perished, but it still had its own on premises crematorium and when you visit today you follow a floor plan with names like Cella dell Morte which leads you to the original chambers which do not provide six degrees of separation. The actual prisoners' cells, holding up to six inmates, were tiny closets with stone floors and simple wood slats; the first two cells which lacked the key holes, that accompanied the others, were used for torture and interrogation. In answer to the question of design the Risiera, which took over the premises of a former rice factory, was the brain child of one Erwin Lambert, a former mason, who had had previous success in building extermination facilities at Sobibor and Treblinka. Here he had made the brilliant decision of taking over a factory and simply changing the function from rice production to what industrious Nazis probably termed waste management, though extermination is the rightful term. The Risiera was officially called a Polizeihaftlager or police internment camp and after the war from l949-65 it was used to as a holding camp for refugees who would not be accepted by other countries. There is a drawing by an artist named Bruno Pengov, an inmate at the Ristera, in the Ristera’s exhibit room. Pengov, who died at Auschwitz, wrote under his drawing of two emaciated corpses in a coffin, “We cannot come with you, do not forget us.”

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