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Members of the Sonderkommando (corpse handlers) who were facing their own annihilation in Auschwitz rose up against their captors on this date in 1944. They succeeded in killing the SS company commander and three guards and burning the crematoria. Six hundred internees escaped during the uprising, but all of them were hunted down and killed. Four young Jewish women — Rosa Robota, Ella Gartner, Esther Vichablum, and Regina Saperstein — had smuggled explosive materials from a camp factory (for artillery shells) to help fuel the rebellion. On October 10, after days of torture, the four were publicly hanged — the last executions carried out in Auschwitz, which was evacuated by the Nazis on January 18, 1945, as the Red Army approached.
“Be strong and brave.” —Rosa Robota’s last words before her execution
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.