Τρίτη, 7 Οκτωβρίου 2014

The Revolt.


...But he who has seen the slain
Writhing in final pain
Under the blood-drenched sword.
He knows of better realms...



Saturday, 7th October 1944, Auschwitz camp was upset. The silence of the sunny autumn day was interrupted by sudden gunshots and the siren's howling, which this time was not a warning for another air raid, as usual. A column of fire and smoke was coming out from the building of crematorium no. 4. Terrific news were spreading across the whole camp: The Sonderkommando prisoners mutinied! They rebelled with guns in their arms and they fight against the SS.

Cremation of bodies by the Sonderkommando,
Auschwitz - Birkenau, August 1944.
 (Photo taken secretly by the camp's resistance network) 
The revolt was preparing for a long time before October 7th. Already since summer of 1944 member of Sonderkommando were gathering tools, ammunition, grenades and light weapons for a possible future assault against the SS. The leader of this first attempt for organizing, a Lithuanian prisoner (who was serving as a Kapo) called Kaminsky, had been betrayed and executed by the Nazis. The operation had been postponed for a few weeks but it continued after a while when the circumstances allowed it. As the Soviet Army was advancing towards Krakow the, almost 800, prisoners working in Sonderkommando were a serious threat for the administration of the camp. These prisoners were the only (not Nazi) eyewitnesses of the extermination process which was taking place in Auschwitz - Birkenau. They couldn't work anywhere else inside the camp and no one should be stay alive. The SS were saying ironically that they have secured a ticket to paradise! 

The underground resistance movement which was active in the Auschwitz complex was planning a general uprising involving every part of the camp. The Sonderkommando prisoners, as they had nothing to loose, were the chosen ones to light the fire of this uprising, but they had to wait few more days before all the necessary preparations were completed. 

The exterminate fury of the Nazis changed the plan of the resistance's organisation. Sonderkommando had to act immediately as it was facing its total extinction! Already 300 prisoners had been secretly exterminated on September 29th and the same fate was waiting the rest of them few days later... The morning of 7.10.1944 the resistance group had a secret meeting about the last details of the revolt. A Kapo wearing a green armband (stands for native Germans, common criminals) comes accidentally into the room. That was! Some prisoners threw him alive into the oven as others took out the hidden weapons and got defensive positions in the small forest behind the building. Crematorium no.4 had already been in flames! 

The revolt had begun! Prisoners from Crematorium no.2 got into the fight too. For the rest hours few hundred prisoners were facing heroically almost 3000 SS units. 200 hundreds prisoners will fall in that battle for freedom and only few will manage to escape the camp...


The next days a true witch-hunt will take place in Auschwitz. The SS wanted to find out any possible information related with the organisation of the revolt. They failed completely... Noteworthy was the attitude of four female prisoners working in the nearby "Union" factory (owned by the Krupp family). They were accused for smuggling gunpowder to the resistance members. Despite months of beatings and rape and electric shocks to their genitals, the only names given up by the women are those of already dead Sonderkommando. On January 5, 1945, the four brave women are hanged in front of the assembled women’s camp. One of them, Roza Robota shouts “Be strong and be brave” as the trapdoor drops.

Women being taken to the gas chamber,
Auschwitz - Birkenau, August 1944.
(Photo taken secretly by the camp's resistance network) 
The revolt in the Birkenau crematoriums was the only armed conflict took place in Auschwitz and one of the few known acts of resistance that happened in the huge network of the Nazis concentration camps. The political and moral impact of this action was enormous. It raised the spirit of the inmates and made them to trust their own powers. Their belief to victory became stronger. The revolt showed that even a small group of prisoners, despite their condition, can face thousands fully armed SS. As the Nazis couldn't reinforce the SS guard of the camp, they forced to abandoned their primary plan for the massive extermination of the prisoners and they evacuated the camp instead.We can claim, even if it can not been proved, that the revolt of Sonderkommando put a premature end to the extermination process of this death factory, saving thousands of lives.  


... And yet i 'd rather die,
Your spittle in my eye,
Rather die as a coward,
Than have blood on my hands...

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