Friday, 17 April 2015

Surviving several death camps and the gas chamber 
(Level: intermediate / B1 to B2 / **)

Mrs Turgel whose horrific experiences
during WWII should never be forgotten. 

You are going to read an article focusing on the gruesome experiences Mrs Gena Turgel went through as she was an inmate in the extermination camps of Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen. 

You can also watch the BBC report (previous blog entry) focusing on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen camp by the British troops. Click HERE  

Before reading

The following words and notes could be useful:
to round up: to gather          ramasser / réunir
an inmate: a captive / a prisoner     un(e) détenu(e)
to starve to death: to die from lack of food       mourir de faim
unburied: not buried      non enseveli
makeshift: made with whatever was available  / temporary       de fortune
hospital wards: hospital rooms or facilities where patients receive treatment      salles d’hôpital
engagement: mutual promise to get married / period of that promise      fiançailles
stubborn: obstinate   têtu
to make up one’s mind: to make a decision (about something)     se décider
to let oneself in for…: to become involved in a (difficult or unpleasant) situation without intending to       se mettre dans… (une situation...)
a suitor:  a man trying to gain a woman's love     un prétendant / soupirant
eventually: in the end        finalement
to blossom: to develop      se développer
siblings:  brothers and sisters        frères et soeurs
cramped: uncomfortably small and restricted     exigu
squalid: dirty / deteriorated / sordid        sordide / ignoble
to haunt: continually come to the mind / obsess       hanter
the sewers: (underground) conduit for carrying sewage      les égouts
a chill: a sensation of coldness     un frisson
She was awarded…: She was given (e.g. an award...)        On lui a décerné…

The British Intelligence Corps: one of the corps of the British Army. It is responsible for gathering, analysing and disseminating military intelligence (= renseignements) and also for counter-intelligence (= contre-espionnage) and security.

The Imperial War Museum: a British national museum organisation with branches at five locations in England, three of which are in London. The museum was founded during the First World War in 1917 and intended as a record of the war effort and sacrifice of Britain and her Empire. Today the museum gives its mission as 'to enable people to have an informed understanding of modern war and its impact on individuals and society'.

MBE = Member of the British Empire

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order includes five classes in civil and military divisions. 
In decreasing order of seniority, these are:
- Knight Grand Cross (GBE) or Dame Grand Cross (GBE)
- Knight Commander (KBE) or Dame Commander (DBE)
- Commander (CBE)
- Officer (OBE)
- Member (MBE)

Only the highest two ranks admit an individual into knighthood or damehood automatically, an honour allowing the recipient to use the title "Sir" (male) or "Dame" (female) before his or her first name (though men can be knighted separately from the Orders of Chivalry).

Holocaust Memorial Day (or the International Holocaust Remembrance Day) occurs on 27 January and is the first universal commemoration in memory of the victims of The Holocaust. It was designated by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 60/7 on 1 November 2005
On 24 January 2005, during a special session, the United Nations General Assembly had previously marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and the end of the Holocaust which resulted in the annihilation of 6 million European Jews and millions of others by the Nazi German regime.
January 27 is the date in 1945 when the largest Nazi death camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau (Poland) was liberated by the Soviet troops. Since 2001, 27 January has been Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK.

Click HERE to find the article (*)

(*) "Amazing escape from Auschwitz gas chamber" in Daily Mail, 25 January 2005. 

While reading

Answer the following questions:

  1. Gena escaped death several times: explain!
  2. What happened to her siblings?
  3. She found love in the camps: explain! 

When you are finished, you can check your answers:


  1. Gena escaped death several times: explain!

Durant l’hiver 1944, elle a survécu miraculeusement à la chambre à gaz à Auschwitz : au lieu du gaz mortel, c’est de l’eau qui a jailli…

Elle a survécu aux exécutions des Juifs dans le ghetto où elle s’est retrouvée avec sa famille dès 1941.

Elle a survécu à une marche de la mort (du ghetto vers Auschwitz) qui a duré trois semaines par des températures glaciales (- 20 degrés).

Elle a survécu dans deux autres camps (Buchenwald et Bergen-Belsen)

  1. What happened to her siblings?

Son frère aîné: exécuté après avoir tenté de fuir le ghetto par les égouts

Une autre frère : abattu dans le ghetto

Sa sœur de 17 ans : assassinée après que les nazis l’aient surprise à ramener de la nourriture dans le ghetto

Une autre sœur qu’elle a été forcée d’abandonner  lors d’un de ses transferts vers un autre camp…

  1. She found love in the camps: explain!

Norman Turgel faisait partie des services de renseignements britanniques, l’un des premiers contingents à libérer le camp de Bergen-Belsen où Gena était internée… Et il était tombé amoureux d’elle dès qu’il l’eût aperçue. Six mois plus tard, ils étaient mariés…

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