Murder & Intrigue
Understanding Auschwitz Today:
The Task of Justice & the Danger of Holocaust Deniers
March 1944 to December 1944
We woke up in the middle of the night with the sound of explosion. They were blowing up the gas chambers, the crematorium.
Eva Mozes Kor, Jewish Prisoner, Auschwitz
By January 1945 the SS knew that the Red Army was approaching Auschwitz. Several weeks earlier Himmler had ordered the dismantling of the camp. The crematoria and gas chambered were blown up. On January 18 the Germans evacuated more than 60,000 Auschwitz inmates. They were marched in subzero temperatures to railway junctions. Thousands died, many by shooting, on the way. Those who made it to the rail stations were put in open wagons and sent west to become slave laborers. Some prisoners, many of them too weak or ill to travel, were left behind.
One prisoner, Morris Venezia, remembered that journey.
The wagon was very packed, one guy was up.
He told us he was German. Who knows? Maybe a convict. And he wanted to sit down. So he told me, ‘I’ve got some cigarettes. Would you let me sit down? So he gave me two or three cigarettes.
I got up and he sit.
So the cigarettes in 5–10 minutes were gone.
I told him, ‘Get up. Stand up’. He wouldn’t stand up. So, me and a couple of my friends sit on him and about 30 minutes, one hour, he was suffocated and was thrown out of the wagon.
I was happy.
How did I feel?
They killed all my family—about 30, 40 people
of my family and I killed one German.
That was nothing.
[Interviewer: It was a murder wasn’t it, you did murder a fellow prisoner?]
I told you— because he was a German.
I wouldn’t do that to one of ours, but anyway I wanted to be seated, too, because I got tired. too. Why should he live, because he gave me two, three cigarettes?
Members of the SS who were complicit in the murder of Jews and others, such as Rudolf Höss, camp commandant at Auschwitz, knew that they risked retribution once the war ended. Most of them now tried to flee and go into hiding.