10 Days Standing Punishment

Yurij Piskunov was born on December 22nd 1925 in Ukraine. 

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After the occupation of Ukraine by the Germans, Yurij got a job at a railway station. On April 3, 1943, he was arrested by the Gestapo (Secret State Police) for the sabotage of German trains. He was deported to the Mauthausen concentration camp near Salzburg, Austria, where he was forced to work in the quarry.  Here the conditions were severe and the death toll was high. His prisoner number was 36227. In November 1943 he was transferred to the Dachau concentration camp, where he received another prisoner number - 57588.

At Dachau he had to work outside of the camp repairing bombed out railway tracks.  One day he found a German newspaper amid the rubble which he quickly hid and tried to smuggle back into the camp.  News from the “outside world” was very valuable to the prisoners.  On his way back into the camp he was searched and the newspaper was found.  He was sent to the dreaded “Bunker”.

The “Bunker” or Camp Prison is on the right.

The “Bunker” or Camp Prison is on the right.

He was locked up in a “Standing Cell” which measured just 70cm x 70cm (2.5 x 2.5 feet).

"It was dark. Wherever I turned, I immediately came against a wall. I could only sit a little by leaning my back against one of walls and with my knees against the opposite wall. I was very frightened and did not know if I would come to live the next morning. It was damp and cold in the cell. This is how a day would pass. Then they began to mock me. When the food was brought, the SS officer forced me to bark or grunt like a dog on all fours and scolded me "a filthy Russian pig." He always had the whip ready. If something did not please him, he would whip me immediately. So all I could do was to turn to the All Mighty, so that he would take my soul and save it from these torments.” - Yurij Piskunov

The Standing Cells are located in three cells on the left. Each cell had four Standing Cells.

The Standing Cells are located in three cells on the left. Each cell had four Standing Cells.

Yurij survived 10 days and was released back into the regular barracks of Dachau.  The day after he spat blood.  He contracted tuberculosis.  The experience changed his life and would never be forgotten.  On the 29th of April 1945 US infantry liberated 32,000 people at Dachau including Yurij who was then in barrack number 13.

After the war he became a fashion designer and won many awards.  He spoke about his experience and warned people of the dangers of fascism.  He lived with his daughter Larysa and grandson Yurij until his death at the age of 81 in 2007.  He is buried in Kiev.

Identification Badges at Dachau

Dachau ID badges

Dachau ID badges

When Dachau was established in March 1933 the vast majority of the prisoners were German political opponents of the Nazi Party. All political parties, with the exception of the Nazi party, were banned within a year. After crushing the political opposition the Nazis spread the net of oppression by targeting other “undesirable” groups. These new groups of prisoners had to wear not only numbers but also a coloured identification badge.

A red triangle signified a person classified as a “political” prisoner.

Green meant “Professional Criminal”.

Blue meant “Emigrant”.

Purple had to be worn by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Pink was worn by men persecuted under the anti-homosexual laws.

Black meant “Asocial” which was vague enough to include Roma and Sinti people, sex workers, homeless people, and a whole range of other people who did not fit into what the Nazis would consider normal or correct.

A system of control and dehumanisation.

A system of control and dehumanisation.

Jewish prisoners were required to wear two triangles: for example a red triangle pointing down in front of a yellow triangle pointing upward - hence this prisoner is labelled as “Jewish political”. For Jews this amounted to what was in effect double persecution: for example persecuted as a Jew and as a political opponent.

Not only was the badge system a way to dehumanise and objectify the prisoners at Dachau, it was also a way to try to split the increasing numbers of prisoners into smaller factions which could be potentially turned against each other. This was one of the many tactics used by the SS to control prisoners in the concentration camps.

Names, not Numbers.

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Upon arrival at Dachau men, women and children were given a number which had to be displayed on their uniform at all times.  This number was their camp identity, their camp name.  It was part of a system of control used by the SS guards to dehumanise and humiliate those they incarcerated at Dachau.

A temporary exhibition at the Dachau Memorial Site focuses on the over two thousand Dutch prisoners who were imprisoned at Dachau between 1941 and 1945.  The exhibition was researched and created by school pupils starting in 2010 with guidance from the Dutch Resistance Museum in Amsterdam.

 

The exhibition is quite interactive with a large projection and touchscreen which can be used to search through individual stories and find out what may have happened to each prisoner.  Different stations focus on certain prisoners and display incredible items from camp life.  It is a powerful exhibition which goes a long way in the effort to remind visitors that behind every number was an individual human being.  It is of course doubly impressive when you consider the young age of the researchers!