I’ve been away most of today running around trying to get my second radio fixed. I seemed to be jinxed with radios now – after having had such good luck with my first one which lasted for 2 years and which took a good deal of punishment. The present one is of course second hand and it’s starting to break down. I’ve had several parts replaced already and it should play, but damn it to hell – a fellow worked on it all day today and the blanged thing just wouldn’t manufacture any music. Well tomorrow is another day and I’ll try another signal outfit.
I came back, darling, to find no mail again. I guess mail will be slow from here in – what with Christmas packages coming through soon. I hope my mail to you is beginning to come through better, dear.
Tonight – if they can get the movie projector working – we may have a show – Spencer Tracy in “A Guy Named Joe”. I remember reading something about it some time ago, but I can’t recall whether it had a good reports or not.
I finally won part of a baseball pool when the Cards scored one run in the 1stto the 8th – day before yesterday. I won 90 marks – $9.00 which gave me a net profit of $3.00 – since it cost us $1.00 per game. So you see, dear, I can win sometimes!
In one of your recent letters you mentioned Nat Stone’s sister. Gosh – she really had it tough all her life. I guess she’s better off, but it does seem as if some people get it and others don’t. That’s why we must be very thankful and not complain too much. It’s very easy to be thankful, too, over here – when you see people maimed – and not very far from you. I’m speaking now in terms of yards, dear, without trying to alarm you. The fact is I do believe in a God and I can’t help but feel that He has a good deal to do with who gets hurt and who doesn’t. Needless to say, I’m looking out for myself, too, darling – so don’t worry. I want to come back home – well – just as much as you want me to.
Well – if you want a dog we’ll have one – but not because you’ll be afraid to stay at home, dear. I’d like one too – I think they’re nice around a house. Incidentally – that clock has been carefully boxed and could be shipped around the world, I believe. Now I have only to wait for the opportune time. At present – it wouldn’t pass the first censor. Oh – and before I forget – the package I have ready to send – will go out in a day or two. It will get by O.K. – but I must tell you one thing. I’ve heard from one source that the US Customs occasionally opens a package in N.Y. and notifies the recipient they can have the package if they’ll pay the duty. If this occurs – you’re stuck, darling – but it doesn’t happen often.
Sweetheart – I’d better stop now and get over to battalion if I expect to see that picture. It should be going on very shortly and I need a little relaxation after tearing around today. I do hope dear that I hear from you tomorrow because I end up just as blue and frustrated as you do, I believe. Oh happy day when we no longer have to resort to letters to express our love for each other! That will really be Utopia for us, dear. Solong for now, then, love to the folks – and
Auschwitz – Birkenau
burning corpses at Birkenau
The Sonderkommando or ("Special Command Units') were Jewish prisoners who were forced to work in the death camps at the grisly task of burning of the corpses of those already murdered by the Nazi's. For periods lasting from two to four months these units worked under hellish conditions until they themselves were liquidated by the Germans. The first task of their replacements was to dispose of the bodies of the previous group. Since a Sonderkommando usually comprised men from incoming transports, their second task often consisted of disposing of the bodies of their own families. At Birkenau their duties included guiding the new arrivals into the gas chambers, removing the bodies afterwards, shaving hair, removing teeth, sorting through possessions, cremating the bodies, in the crematoria or open air pits and disposing of the ashes.
At the end of June 1944 the Sonderkommandos were moved from barracks to live in the attics of Crematoria Nos II, III and IV. Among them were nineteen Soviet Prisoners of War who incited members of the Sonderkommando to revolt. A group of leaders was formed. One of the Sonderkommando leaders kept a written record in a small notebook which was buried in a jar under the earth and found after the war.
The resistance leaders made contact with some Jewish girls who worked in the munitions factory located near the Auschwitz main camp, and two of them began to receive small quantities of explosives, hidden in a false bottom of a food tray. On the 7 October 1944 the camp underground military leaders sent an urgent warning to the resistance cadre at the crematoria that they had learned the SS were going to liquidate the Sonderkommando shortly. On that fateful morning the Senior Sonderkommando man at Crematorium IV was ordered to draw up lists for evacuation of 300 men on the same day, out of the total complement of 874 men.
Filip Muller, a member of the Sonderkommando, described what happened next:
Towards mid-day Scharfuhrer Busch, Unterscharfuhrer Gorges and several other SS men and guards arrived in the yard in front of crematorium IV. All prisoners were ordered to line up, with the exception of fourteen who were away on their various jobs and who, in any case, were not affected by the selection. Then Busch began calling out the first few numbers on the list, starting with the highest and working his way down to the lowest. Those selected for transfer were made to stand on the opposite side of the yard, those not concerned, once they had been called, were allowed to return to Crematorium V. Then a member of the Sonderkommando since 1942 approached SS Staff Sergeant Busch and after a brief exchange, yelled the password “Hurrah” and struck the SS man with a hammer.Salmen Lewental recalled their courage:
They showed an immense courage refusing to budge from the spot. They set up a loud shout, hurled themselves upon the guards with hammers and axes, wounded some of them, the rest they beat with what they could get at, they pelted them with stones without further ado. It is easy to imagine what was the upshot of this. Few moments had passed when a whole detachment of SS men drove in, armed with machine guns and grenades. There were so many of them that each had two machine guns for one prisoner. Even such an army was mobilized against them.Members of the Sonderkommando at Crematorium IV attacked the SS and several SS men were wounded, whilst other SS sought cover behind the barbed-wire fence, shooting at the prisoners with their machine pistols. The men in Kommando 59-B using the explosives in hand-made grenades blew up the crematorium, which burst into flames. After cutting the barbed-wire fence, the prisoners got away into the nearby wood. At the sound of explosions and fighting the members of Kommando 57-B at Crematorium Number II started to revolt. The Reichsdeutsche Oberkapo and one SS-man were thrown into the burning furnace alive, another SS–man was beaten to death. After hastily grabbing some weapons they cut the barbed-wire fence, but instead of turning north-east in the direction of the Vistula River, they turned south-west in the direction of the sub-camp at Rajsko. The prisoners of squads 58B in Crematorium III and 60B in Crematorium V did not revolt as they were not informed of the plan to take up arms and SS reinforcements quickly stifle any further resistance. But they did manage to pour the explosives down the latrine, before the SS discovered them.
In Rajsko the SS blocked the escape routes of the Sonderkommando members, and the escapees sought refuge in a barn and prepared to defend themselves. The SS set fire to the barn and the prisoners were shot to death as they fled the burning barn. Within minutes of the break-out from Crematorium II, the alarm sounded and almost immediately SS men drove up in trucks and surrounded the whole area of the revolt. Most of the escapees were shot down mercilessly. Two hundred and fifty prisoners died in this exchange, among them the organizers of the uprising.
A fire-fighting squad was sent from Auschwitz main camp to put out the fire in Crematorium IV and witness the shooting to death of the members of Squad 59B. The fire-fighting squad is then sent to Rajsko to put out the burning barn. An air-raid prevented the SS men from pursuing the other escapees. In the evening, all the prisoners who were killed were brought to the grounds of Crematorium IV and the remaining members of the Sonderkommando were also brought to Crematorium IV. Another two hundred prisoners from the Sonderkommando who took part in the revolt were shot and killed. Following a short speech by the SS full of threats, the ghastly work resumed as normal in Crematoriums II, IIII and V.
Also in the evening when the all clear had sounded, SS patrols with dogs set off in search of the 12 members of the Sonderkommando at Crematorium II who were still missing. These twelve men had managed to cross the Vistula River, but exhausted they had hidden in an empty building. The SS tracked them down, killed them and brought their bodies back to the camp.
On 10 October 1944 three female Jewish prisoners employed in the Weichsel-Union – Metallwerke were arrested in the women’s camp of Auschwitz 1. They were charged with stealing explosives from the depot of the plant and giving them to the prisoners of the Sonderkommando, who had fashioned primitive grenades which they used during the uprising. On the same day fourteen prisoners of the Sonderkommando were arrested and locked in the bunker of Block 11 in the Auschwitz main camp. Two more female prisoners were arrested in the women’s camp of Auschwitz II on the charge of having contact with the Sonderkommando and transporting explosives there.
On the 6 January 1945 in the evening four female prisoners were hanged in the women’s camp of Auschwitz. The execution took place in two stages, two female prisoners are hanged during the evening roll call, in the presence of the male and female prisoners who worked the night shift at the Weichsel–Union munitions plant. The other two female prisoners were hanged after the return of the squad that worked the day shift. SS- Obersturmfuhrer Hossler read out the sentence, and screamed that all traitors would be destroyed in this manner.