You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.

September 6: The Sonderkommando’s Diary

September 5, 2015

img028Auschwitz Sonderkommando (corpse-handler) Salmen Gradowski buried a diary and a letter in Yiddish, dated September 6th, in an aluminum can beneath the ashes of corpses on this date in 1944. The can and its contents were dug up, mostly intact, after the liberation of the camp. Gradowski’s 81-page diary told the story of his deportation to Auschwitz and the suffering there, most notably the liquidation of the Czechoslovakian Jewish family camp on March 8, 1944 and the murder of 200 Sonderkommandos in September. There are also passages about the sealed train transports and the steady dehumanization of all inmates, but details of the gassings and the duties of the corpse-handlers were not included. In his letter, Gradowski wrote, “I have buried this under the ashes deeming it the safest place, where people will certainly dig to find the traces of millions of men who were exterminated.... Dear finder, search everywhere, in every inch of soil. Tens of documents are buried under it, mine and those of other persons, which will throw light on everything that was happening here. Great quantities of teeth are also buried here. It was we, the Kommando workers, who expressly have strewn them all over the terrain, as many as we could, so that the world should find material traces of the millions of murdered people.” Gradowski participated in the October uprising in Auschwitz, led by the Sonderkommandos, in which he was captured, tortured, and murdered.

“We ourselves have lost hope of being able to live to see the moment of liberation. In spite of good news that reaches us, we see that the world gives the barbarians the opportunity of destruction on an immense scale and of tearing out with roots the last remainder of the Jewish nation” —Salmen Gradowski