Gaston Charlet

  • ”To hold on” was the most conjugated verb in the concentration camp.
  • ”To hold on” meant not starving to death in spite of the meager rations…
  • ”To hold on”meant not freezing to death at the worksites, in the quarries or in the tunnels swept by chilling breezes, blizzards, gusts of winds and downpours of rain…
  • ”To hold on” meant not being shot to death at point-blank range or having your skull cracked open by the blow from a kapo…
  • ”To hold on”meant not losing your guts in a corner of the latrines because dysentery has struck you down…
  • ”To hold on”meant above all not getting so low that you lost the will to live, not letting defeatism penetrate your heart and doubt invade your soul.
  • ”To hold on”meant thinking, 'When I get out of here' even though you knew the odds were 100 to one.
    It meant telling yourself, 'They’ll pay for this one day' even though you knew they never would.
    It meant telling yourself 'I’m not hungry' even though you were starving, 'I’m not cold' even though your teeth were chattering, 'It doesn’t hurt' even though the schlague has left your arms and back black and blue.
  • ”To hold on”meant stubbornly wanting to resist against all odds, whatever happened, clinging to your faith and morale as much as to your bones and the skin that covered them; remaining faithful to the ideal whose twin brother you by now had realised was risk.
    Risk that could even bring you beyond deportation and kept up the hallucinatory fear of death.
  • ”To hold on”meant “wanting to last”.
    Everybody, or almost everybody, wanted to.
    Some could, others couldn’t.
    For those who couldn’t, fate disagreed.”

Gaston Charlet in Camp de concentration de Natzweiler-Struthof, Comité national pour l'érection et la conservation d'un mémorial de la déportation au Struthof