The Uprising at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Young Jewish women, like Ester Wajcblum, Ella Gärtner, and Regina Safirsztain, had obtained small amounts of gunpowder from the Weichsel-Union-Metallwerke, a munitions factory within the Auschwitz complex. This gunpowder was smuggled to the camp’s resistance movement. Róza Robota, a young Jewish woman who worked in the clothing detail at Birkenau was one of the smugglers.

 Under constant guard, the women in the factory stole small amounts of gunpowder, wrapped it in bits of cloth or paper, and then hid it on their bodies. They then passed it along the smuggling chain. Once she received the gunpowder, Róza Robota passed it to the Sonderkommando. The Sonderkommando were a special squad of prisoners who were forced to work in the camp’s crematoria. Using this gunpowder, the leaders of the Sonderkommando planned to destroy the gas chambers and crematoria and then launch the uprising.

On October 7, 1944, prisoners assigned to Crematorium IV at the Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center, the members of the Sonderkommando at Crematorium IV rose in revolt. The Germans crushed the revolt. Nearly 250 prisoners died during the fighting and guards shot another 200 after the mutiny was suppressed. Several days later, the SS identified four Jewish female prisoners who had been involved in supplying explosives to blow up the crematorium. All four women were executed.

But once again, the German war machine had to pause to deal with a Jewish uprising.