Author’s Note: I am basing this account of the uprising of the ‘Twelth’ SonderKommando on the biography of Miklos Nyiszli (1901-1954) – the Doctor (and surgeon) from Romania whose life was spared shortly after arriving at Auschwitz by the Nazi German psychopath – Dr Mengele. Mengele would promote Nyiszli to ‘Head Doctor – and then ‘Chief Surgeon’ who even served the equally insane SS as their ‘Coroner’! He would be entrusted with carrying-out autopsies on dead SS Personnel murdered by their colleagues, or had died from illness or jury, etc. He was also asked by the lunatic Mengele to dissect the body of twin children who had been murdered by an injection to the heart (often killed by Mengele himself – but never in the presence of Nyiszli). Some historians have asked why only one Sonderkommando rose-up? I think the answer is simple. The material conditions were different in October, 1944 as the approach of the Red Army gave hundreds of thousands of ordinary people (persecuted by the Nazi Germans because of their ethnicity or religion) a tangible type of ‘hope’ that was not present in the earlier years. But of course, it was not only ‘hope’ that the Red Army gave – but also actual material assistance in the form of human-to-human contact, weaponry, ammunition, explosives and ‘friendship’ at the wire. Being treated as a ‘Comrade’ by Polish and Soviet Partisans at the wire was probably worth more than gold in a place where all hope had been stripped along with personal identity, clothing and even hair many years ago! In a world where Zionists play-down the Soviet contribution to the ‘liberation’ and ‘rescue’ of the Jews – and Hollywood falsifies history by equating the Soviet Red Army (that rescued, fed and medically treated the Concentration Camp victims) with the Nazi Germans who murdered 11 million in the Death Camps, and between 27-40 million in the USSR – it is important to remember the ‘true’ facts of the matter! Al this anti-intellectual treatment of the USSR originates within the USA. A recent academic article states that the US military has killed between 20-30 million around the world since 1945 – and we know today who the true Nazis are! I salute the bravery of the Polish and Soviet Partisans – and the men of the ‘Twelth’ Sonderkommando who took their own destiny back from the hands of the brutal SS and went-out in a blaze of glory! It is interesting ‘why’ the International Red Cross a) still exists and b) ‘why’ none of its Members have never faced prosecution for ‘War Crimes’ and ‘Crimes Against Humanity’. ACW (3.11.2020)
The German-language term ‘Sonderkommando’ translates into English as ‘Special Command Unit’. In England we are more used to the term ‘Commando’ being used to refer to a special group of highly-trained soldiers used for dangerous, complex or unusual operations of a highly hazardous nature. These small groups of highly trained men risk their lives carrying-out important military missions that are often deemed ‘suicidal’ (as well as ‘crucial’) for the war-effort. The unusual standard of physical fitness, intellectual dexterity and over-all toughness is believed to enhance the chances of achieving all the objectives of the mission and to improve the probability of the individual ‘Commandos’ surviving and returning to base. As with everything Nazi German, there is a certain ‘perverting’ of a common term into something grotesque, macabre and horrific. The ‘Sonderkommando’ Unit was usually comprised of between 800-900 men chosen from the endless extermination ‘Transports’ (or ‘Death Trains’) arriving around the clock in the Concentration Camp known as ‘Auschwitz’ (situated in Poland). The Nazi Germans needed around 850 men to work in the administration of the Death Camp – escorting the new arrivals into the gas chambers without telling anyone what was about to happen to them. Amongst the condemned were the elderly and the disabled, and certain members of the Sonderkommando were tasked with (gently) helping these people undress in the changing rooms just prior to moving them into the gas chamber proper. Where the changing room possessed wooden benches to sit-on, the gas chamber was a large, bare concrete room with large metal pipes running from ceiling to floor at regular interval throughout the chamber. The disabled and elderly would be carried-in and placed on the floor. In a short time, all the able-bodied would be standing naked and shivering from the cold and uncertainty. At this point, the SS Officers and Sonderkommando were ordered to ‘leave’ as the doors were shut and the lights turned-off. Most still thought they were going to have showers as the International Red Cross vans arrived carrying the ‘Gassing Crew’ of SS Officers. The vents at the top of the metal pipes were opened and a crystalline powder (Zyklon-B) was dropped-in.
Twenty-minutes later the gas chamber doors were opened and the naked bodies would all be piled-up with the strongest at the top (who had fought their way-up to breath the last of the air – and the weakest at the bottom (usually women and their children, as well as the elderly and the disabled). The Sonderkommando would then clear all the dead bodies out of the gas chambers after using hose-pipes to ‘clean’ the bodies of blood, vomit, urine and faeces. In the last seconds of their life, these people had kicked, punched and scratched one another trying to live a few a seconds longer. The Sonderkommando would then shave the heads and pull the gold-teeth out of the mouths of the dead. Although the faces were often swollen (due to the gassing process), occasionally a member of the Sonderkommando would recognise his wife, mother, daughter, niece or aunt, etc, as well as his male relatives. Anyone who showed any emotion of any sort was immediately shot-dead by the SS Guards. The Nazi German Authorities would wash and clean all the ‘stolen’ clothing and redistribute it to all the survivors of Allied-bombing throughout the various German cities. It seems that no German recipients (who had often been moved into stolen Jewish houses) asked where this clothing had come from. The duties of the Sonderkommando can be summed-up as:
Meet the prisoners arriving by trains near the ramp and escort those selected for destruction to the gas chamber, where they convince them to undress and go to a cell disguised as a shower.
After the murder, remove the corpses from the cell and search them in search of valuables (for example, pulling out gold teeth)
Destroy the corpses. At first, the corpses were buried, then burned in crematoria and in pits in the open air.
The Nazi German Authorities decided that around 850 men were required to fulfil these duties around the camp (but the numbers varied). Each arriving victim spent around 8 minutes alive (on average) as they walked from the train to the gas chamber and had no way of communicating what they saw or what happened to them. It was important for the Nazi German Authorities that the Jewish populations (and their other intended victims) did not know or suspect what lay in store for them as they boarded the trains. The point of this deception was to ensure a docile population that remained cooperative at every stage of the termination process. The Sonderkommando, however, were Jews chosen to live ‘four months’ longer if they obediently assisted in the extermination process of people of their own ethnicity, religion or political persuasion. In return for this cooperation, the Sonderkommando lived in a luxurious part of the camp (Block 13) – sleeping on silk, drinking wine and eating the best food. They had access to the SS Hospital and the SS Brothel and were allowed to wear their own clothing.
During an average twelve-hour shift, these men could ‘process’ around three to four thousand bodies per day – seven days a week. Understandably, a number of these men committed suicide. As the Nazi German Authorities did not want any details of the reality (and the process) of the mass murdering escaping – each Sonderkommando was allowed to live for four months exactly. They would then be asked to gather in on the Parade Ground for a ‘special talk’ thanking them for all their hard work. Once all the men were gathered and lined-up according to nationality, (Greek, French, Polish and Romania, etc), machine guns were uncovered and immediately opened fire – spraying the straight lines with bullets and tracer rounds until all were dead. SS Officer then worked through the bodies placing a pistol round in each head. The first task of the ‘new’ Sonderkommando was to ‘process’ the bodies of the men they had replaced.
Auschwitz – during its history as a Death Camp – recruited fourteen Sonderkommandos. Each ‘new’ Sonderkommando would learn the names of the men they replaced, and tell stories of bravery and defiance, as each ‘Unit’ took on the feel of a military regiment with its own history and traditions. Of the fourteen Units – only one dared to fight-back and that was the ‘Twelth’. (A list of these men – together with their signatures – were written on a secret document and ‘buried’ in the courtyard in a waterproof, metal container. This important document was recovered after WWII). Certain members had risked their lives importing recent newspapers into the camp (through the wire), with up-to-date news talking about the advance of the Red Army toward Poland (from the East), and the Allied advance toward Germany (from the West). Nazi Germany was losing on all fronts! Another issue often ignored by historians (antagonistic toward Soviet history), is that Soviet Special Forces had been operating the area of Auschwitz Concentration Camp – assisting the Polish Partisans and supplying weaponry, ammunition and explosives through the wire (often at night). This ‘Soviet’ help came at a time when the Allies refused to ‘bomb’ the camps because Winston Churchill believed the Soviet stories of Nazi German mass extermination centres were Communist propaganda.
On October 7th, 1944, the day had arrived for the extermination of the ‘Twelth’ Sonderkommando – but as some they were forming-up on the Parade Ground – around 200 men took-over the four Crematoria, threw Molotov Cocktails and opened-fire with their Soviet-supplied pistols and machines guns! SS Unterscharfuehrer Rudolf Erler, SS Unterscharfuehrer Willie Frize and SS Unterscharfuehrer Josef Purke were killed outright and twelve other SS Guards were wounded! The roof blew-off of Crematorium Three (killing more Nazi Germans) and as the ammunition started to run-out – the Sonderkommando ‘attacked’ the parameter wire with a ‘high morale’ with some disappearing into the countryside. Around twenty made it to a house in the Polish countryside – and were betrayed to the Nazi Germans by the Polish owners. Of the 860 men who comprised the ‘Twelth’ Sonderkommando, 853 were killed (with the many who never took part were pulled from their beds – where they were hiding – and ‘shot’), whilst the SS lost ‘70’ Officers and Guards! The seven men who survived worked in the SS Hospital and included the Jewish Doctor – Miklos Nyiszli (Миклош Нисли) – whose biography I have accessed to provide the above details. He worked as a Coroner for Dr Mengele who used his authority to keep the seven-medical staff ‘alive’ on the grounds that they had not took part in the uprising. In fact, Miklos Nyiszli states that the escape attempt was supposed to take place that night – but the SS brought forward the extermination day by 24-hours and there was no time to tell everyone. If it had gone ahead as planned, then the entire 860 men (including himself) would have brought their numbers to bear and probably caused many more deaths amongst the SS! After this uprising, the Auschwitz SS Guards tightened the already ‘strict’ rules so as to make another uprising highly unlikely. On the 27th of January, 1945, the Soviet Red Army entered Auschwitz and brought a halt to the Nazi German Holocaust. Battle-hardened Soviet soldiers were ‘shocked’ by what they found.
Russian Language References:
English Language Reference:
Miklos Nyiszli: Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account, Penguin, (2012)