Reese Askins Survival Letter

Virginia Holocaust Museum

2000 East Cary Street

Richmond, VA 23223

Dear Lucille E.:

Hello, my name is Reese Askins. I am a curator at the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond, Virginia. The museum is currently working on an exhibit about the Holocaust. While doing research on the photos we will be displaying, I came across one showing an aerial view of the Birkenau Extermination Camp in Auschwitz. I also found your survival story ( and noticed that you, your family, and your friend Ellie all experienced living and working at the Birkenau Extermination Camp in Auschwitz. The use of your story would be greatly appreciated and would help explain the picture.

The aerial picture of the Birkenau Camp simply shows the barracks where the prisoners were kept, and shows a separation of women’s and men’s camps. During your interview, you told of the separation that occurred when you first got off the train, and how people were shoved into different groups. The picture also shows a section in the middle of the barracks that was used for transportation. Similarly, you said that after receiving new clothes you had to march through into Birkenau. You said that the barracks had squares on them, and every five people were given a square to sleep and stand on.

Because your story of survival greatly explains the picture of the Birkenau Camp and what it was like on the inside, would you be willing to let the Virginia Holocaust Museum use your story in our upcoming exhibit? If you don’t mind, I also have a few questions to ask you. While reading your story, I noticed an odd detail about the barracks. You said that during your walk to the barracks, you and the rest of the people passed an orchestra playing Beethoven. Why do you think that there would be an orchestra playing during this? Also, during another selection of how healthy each person was, were you aware that the sick people would be taken to the gas chambers instead of an infirmary? Last, you said you saw dark, black smoke that smelled very bad. Did you know that was coming from the crematory after the prisoners were forced into the gas chambers, and that the gas chambers themselves were right next to the camp?

Thank you so much for your time and cooperation. Your story will help further explain the horrific events that went on in Auschwitz, and will help educate people on what it was really like to experience it.


Reese Askins


Link to photograph 

Leave a Reply