Accounting for more than numbers

Ebenezer Scrooge at his ledger – more important to him than his nephew’s Christmas greetings. Victorian Web.

The new year brings annual habits. Some of my friends are already eating crow about their promises to eat less, workout more and save somewhere in between. Others are still writing cheques (remember them?) with 2017 in the date box. Me? Well, I ran into my annual problem, especially at the franchise stationery shop.

“Do you have any ledgers?” I asked the clerk.

“You mean like lined-paper ledgers?” she said as if I had just asked her to fix my typewriter, give me a roll of pennies or fill ’er up. Then, she shook her head unsympathetically and I realized this was a no-go.

What makes Canada, Canada

Aerial photo of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp where the storage buildings of valuables stolen from Jewish prisoners were called "Canada" warehouses.
Aerial photo of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp where the storage buildings of valuables stolen from Jewish prisoners were called "Canada" warehouses.

Seventy years ago, Hitler and his henchmen murdered civilian populations across occupied Europe: Jews, Roma, homosexuals, communists and thousands of other so-called enemies of the Third Reich. But before they did, they stripped them of every single personal possession – from heirlooms to clothing to gold fillings – and stockpiled them for exploitation by the Nazi regime. In an ironic twist of fate, I learned recently, the warehouses at Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp had an odd nickname.

“The Polish prisoners called the warehouses ‘Canada,’” our guide at the concentration camp museum told us, “after the faraway place they’d once heard contained riches and freedom.”

To condemn or save

The railway tracks into the Nazis' Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp proved to be a one-way trip to extermination.
The railway tracks into the Nazis' Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp proved to be a one-way trip to extermination.

I met a couple of teachers this week. At least, I came to know a little of their stories. There’s not much I can relate. They were both Polish. One was named Ciechanowski Jan, born in March 1882. And Brem Jerzy was born in September 1914, as the Great War began. They both came to the area of Poland, around Krakow, in 1941. Or, more correctly, they were brought there, to the small town of Oswiecim, which German armies then occupied. Only the Nazis renamed the place Auschwitz. And here’s the way their records summed up those two teachers:

“Jan, number 11193, executed Oct. 29, 1941” and “Jerzy, number 10190, executed August 19, 1942.”