The stench never left me. A few years after the war I went into a cosmetology school. I was invited, along with a dozen other students, to take part in practical training with one of Cracow’s dermatologists. He was showing us how to burn warts off using a new device. I smelled burnt flesh, just like in the crematorium. And I immediately remembered ashen smoke, grayish towards the end; a hideous, reeking odor. Everything in the camp was drenched in this stench. I ran out of the surgery and fainted.
A number of years later I fell out of a moving streetcar. When I was taken to hospital it turned out that I had completely lost my sense of smell. Me, a beautician! I was told I would never regain my sense of taste or my sense of smell. From that day on I could not smell a thing: not burning, not coal smoke, not perfume, nothing at all. I can only distinguish between the sour, the bitter, the sweet and the salty.
Something in me was cut off. Today, even if you put seven crematoriums under my nose, I wouldn’t smell a thing. But somewhere in my head I still have this stench. Do you know what a burning body smells like? You don’t, lucky for you. It is something indescribable, something you feel there in your brain, somewhere there inside, something irreversible.