About the Series Learning Resources
auschwitz: inside the nazi state
Learning Resources IntroductionTeaching GuideSurprising BeginningsOrders & InitiativesFactories of DeathCorruptionMurder & Intrigue Liberation & RevengeCommunity Guide Timeline Biographies Glossary Web ResourcesOrganizationsBibliography


Vera Alexander

Jewish prisoner at Auschwitz who describes the sadistic personality and actions of Irma Grese, one of 170 female SS agents at Auschwitz. She also describes how Dr. Josef Mengele treated prisoners to toys and sweets when he wanted to experiment on them.

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Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski

SS general who commanded the Einsatzgruppen and other units that killed Jews during the Russian invasion. He told Heinrich Himmler that he felt his men were going to exhibit long-term psychological problems as a result of having killed so many people so directly.

Albert Battel

High-ranking SS officer stationed near the Przemysl ghetto. In 1942, when the SS moved in to deport the ghetto inhabitants to the camps, Battel ordered his troops to prevent the action. He used German army trucks to rescue more than 100 Jewish families. For his actions, he was vigorously investigated by the SS, who were shocked to learn that Battel had good relations with Jews, including having loaned money to one before the war. Battel was discharged from the army for heart disease, but he was later redrafted and captured by Russian troops. He returned to West Germany after the war.

Werner Best

Deputy of Reinhard Heydrich who helped deport French Jews to the camps. In 1943 he was Adolf Hitler's representative to Denmark, where he met with the German diplomat Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, a known Danish sympathizer, and informed him of the pending Nazi roundups of Jews. The Danes spirited away 95 percent of Danish Jews to safety. After the war, Best was sentenced to death, but was released in 1951 when word of his aid to the Jews surfaced.

Jerzy Bielecki

Polish prisoner at Auschwitz from 1940 to 1944 who describes how the Nazis sentenced him to hanging torture during the first transport because they thought he was part of the resistance. He also discusses how the Kapos treated Soviet prisoners. Bielecki escaped from Auschwitz in the summer of 1944.

Rudy Bier

Jewish escapee from Denmark who explains that the Danish considered the Jews a part of the Danish population and felt it was only fair and just to try to save them

Karl Bischoff

Chief of the Auschwitz construction office.

Thomas Blatt

Jewish prisoner who worked at the tailor shop at Sobibor. He compares the ease of working at Auschwitz with the hardship of fighting in Russia and describes how he and his comrades lured SS guards into the shop for goods and then killed them, triggering a revolt in which half of the prisoners at Sobibor escaped. After the war, he returned to his hometown to find other people living in his house. His visit prompts them to think he has returned for valuables that he had hidden before the war, and they proceed to wreck the house in an attempt to find the nonexistent valuables.

Paul Blobel

SS colonel who describes his efficient methods of body disposal at Chelmno.

Fritz Bracht

Governor of Upper Silesia, in which Auschwitz was located.

Joel Brandt and Hansi Brandt

Joel Brandt, one of the most politically active members of the Jewish community in Hungary, whom Adolf Eichmann met with in April 1944 to offer him exchange of trucks for one million Hungarian Jews. Brandt went to Turkey to meet with Jewish leaders from Palestine, who dragged their feet. At a subsequent meeting in Syria, Brandt was told he could not return to Budapest. Hansi Brandt, his wife, pleaded with Eichmann to spare the children.

Libusa Breder

Jewish prisoner at Auschwitz who describes how working in the "Canada" section of the camp, where prisoners' belongings were sorted, saved her life, although she witnessed lots of stealing. She also describes how women who worked at Canada were generally better fed and looked healthier, which sometimes resulted in their being raped. In later programs, she tells how she hoped the Allies would bomb Auschwitz, and finally, upon returning home, how she found her house occupied by Russians.

Walter Burmeister

SS officer who drove his boss, Herbert Lange, across Poland to create a special death camp at Chelmno.

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Alice Lok Cahana

Hungarian Jewish prisoner at Auschwitz who describes her deportation there by cattle train when she was 15 years sold, and the separation of mothers and children from others when she arrived. Although she at first stayed with the mothers and children group, thinking she would be safer there, a German soldier moved her to another group because she was tall for her age and would make a good worker, thereby saving her life. She also describes what life was like at the Gypsy camp, near the barracks in which she lived.

Helena Citronova

Slovakian Jewish prisoner sent to Auschwitz in 1942 who describes how a German soldier fell in love with her when she was working in the "Canada" section of the camp (where prisoners' belongings were sorted) and helped save her sister from an incoming transport. She also describes how Red Army soldiers raped many female refugees trying to return home after the war.

Winston Churchill

British stateman, soldier, and author. Churchill warned about the Nazi threat from 1929 to 1939. From 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955, he served as the British prime minister. Before the United States entered World War II, he met with U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at sea and attended a series of international conferences.

William Cross

Commanding officer of the 92nd Field Security Section of the British Intelligence Corps, who recorded the interrogation of Hedwig Höss, the wife of Rudolph Höss, when British authorities were looking for him after the war.

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Ryszard Dacko

Polish political prisoner at Auschwitz who describes which prisoners got vouchers to visit the Nazi-sponsored camp brothel.

Odette Daltroff-Baticle

Jewish prisoner at Drancy concentration camp who describes how she tried to care for the young children there who were separated from their parents.

Wendy Potts Davenport

Describes how her nanny was taken away during a visit to the British Channel Islands in 1940.

Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz

German naval attaché who alerted Danish leaders that the Nazis were preparing to round up and deport Danish Jews. His warning led to a massive effort by Danes to help Jews escape to neutral Sweden. Some 95 percent of Danish Jews escaped deportation. He was recognized as a Righteous Gentile by the State of Israel in 1971 for what he did to help save Jews.

Knut Dyby

Danish policeman who sought out fishermen to take Jews to Sweden to avoid a Nazi roundup.

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Irmfried Eberl

Briefly commandant of the Treblinka extermination camp. A doctor, his career began in the T4 Euthanasia Program, for which he directed a killing center.

Lucille Eichengreen

Describes being deported from Hamburg, Germany, in 1941, when her family received a letter directing them to report to the train station in 24 hours. She describes her first impressions of the Lódz ghetto, and what it was like to live there, unable to trust anyone, being raped by those in charge, and surviving through connections and barters. She was later sent to Auschwitz, from which she survived.

Adolf Eichmann

SS officer who had responsibilities for dealing with Jewish issues as early as 1933. In 1938 he was assigned first to organize emigration of Jews from Austria and then emigration and expulsions of Jews from Germany and Poland. In 1941, after participating in the Wannsee Conference, he became responsible for coordinating the transport of Jews from across German-controlled Europe to extermination and labor camps in Poland. After the war, Eichmann escaped to Argentina. In 1960 Israeli agents captured him. He was tried in Jerusalem in televised trials, and executed in 1962.

Eliezer Einsenschmidt

Jewish prisoner at Auschwitz who recalls that all the SS people were typically furious looking, he felt to show they were important people.

Fritz Ertl

SS architect who planned Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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Hans Frank

Governor of the General Government, the Nazi-installed government of eastern Poland during World War II, who spoke to senior Nazi officials in December 1941 about exterminating the Jews.

Hans Friedrich

Member of the 1st SS Infantry Brigade.

Karl Fritzsch

First camp officer at Auschwitz described by Höss in his memoirs. Fritzsch was responsible for the liquidation of the Soviets and the fumigation of the camp. He conducted the first mass execution with Zyklon B.

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Dario Gabbai

Jewish Sonderkommandos at Auschwitz from 1944 to 1945 who describes the selection process and how the sondercommandos were sometimes directed to shoot prisoners.

Odilo Globocnik

Named by Himmler as SS general and police leader of Lublin, Poland, Globocnik ran Operation Reinhard, establishing the Belzec, Sobibor, Majdanek, and Treblinka death camps. He committed suicide in 1945 after capture by the British.

Irma Grese

One of 170 female SS staff at Auschwitz. She is described as a sadistic guard of women prisoners at Auschwitz and other camps, who beat and tortured prisoners. She was hanged by the British in 1945.

Oskar Gröning

SS corporal whom we hear from throughout the series. He supervised the luggage collection at Auschwitz when the children arrived from Drancy in 1941 and later was put in charge of the currency collection and its delivery to Berlin. Gröning states that "Stealing things for yourself was absolutely common practice at Auschwitz," where the discipline was very lax. He also talks about his life after the war.

Vasily Gromadsky

Red Army officer who participated in the liberation of Auschwitz and describes what he witnessed.

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Stanislaw Hantz

Polish political prisoner at Auschwitz who describes the aroma of burning bodies at Birkenau that could be sensed continuously for miles. Witness to Höss's hanging, he also describes Höss's behavior and final words.

Whitney Harris

Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials.

Reinhard Heydrich

After Heinrich Himmler, the second most powerful man in the SS, who was responsible for Germany's plans to exterminate its racial enemies. He helped Himmler consolidate all German police authority under the SS, and in 1938, he took control of SS actions against the Jews. He directed the Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing squads), which forced Jews into ghettos and killed Jews during the Russian invasion. His plans for the Final Solution were a key factor in the January 1942 Wannsee Conference, which he chaired. He was assassinated in Prague by two Czechoslovak exiles who parachuted into German-occupied Czechoslovakia from Britain in May 1942.

Heinrich Himmler

Named head of the SS by Adolf Hitler in 1929. In 1934 Hitler had Himmler purge the SA (the Nazi Storm Troopers), which had previously overseen the SS, and kill many of its leaders. By 1936 Himmler was head of both the SS and the German police. During the war he had authority over the camp system and oversaw implementation of the Final Solution. Near the end of the war, Himmler made overtures to the Allies, and Hitler stripped him of his powers. He committed suicide after his capture by the British, shortly after the war's end.

Adolf Hitler

Born in Austria, Hitler was originally interested in art and tried unsuccessfully to attend the Vienna Art Academy. In Vienna, he became interested in right-wing politics and German nationalism. In 1913 he moved to Germany and volunteered for duty during World War I, in which he was wounded. After the war, Hitler went to Munich and came to lead the Nazi Party. He aimed to overthrow the Weimar Republic, which governed Germany after the war, and was arrested during an attempted coup in 1923. During his brief imprisonment, he wrote Mein Kampf (My Struggle), which detailed his nationalist, fascist, and racist ideology. After prison, he worked to build the Nazi party. He was appointed chancellor of Germany in 1933 and soon assumed dictatorial powers with the acquiescence of the German parliament. He aimed to expand German territory, repudiate the terms of the Versailles Treaty, and eliminate those people he deemed racially undesirable. His aggressive actions toward Germany's neighbors, culminating in the invasion of Poland, led to World War II. Hitler was supreme commander of all of Germany during the war, and when the country was on the verge of defeat in April 1945, he committed suicide.

Nicholas Horthy

Hungarian admiral who tried to make peace with the Soviet Union during World War II but was forced to resign by the Germans.

Rudolph Höss and Hedwig Höss

Rudolf Höss planned, built, and commanded the Auschwitz camps. A World War I veteran, Höss became a Nazi in 1922 and joined the SS after Hitler came to power. First stationed at the Dachau concentration camp where he learned camp administration, he was later promoted to establish the camp at Auschwitz. He introduced gassing at the camp and oversaw Auschwitz's expansion. Höss was removed from Auschwitz in November 1943 because of corruption there, but he returned in March 1944. After the war, Hedwig, his wife, was imprisoned by the British until she revealed Rudolph's whereabouts. Höss was arrested and tried. Before his execution on the gallows at Auschwitz, he wrote his memoirs.

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Martin Igel

Polish Jew living in Przemysl when the Germans tried to clean out the ghetto.

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Michal Kabác

Slovakian Hlinka Guard from 1940 to 1945, who tells how the guards became rich looting Jewish property, and why he participated in the deportation of Slovakian Jews to Auschwitz.

Rudolph Kasztner

Hungarian Jewish activist who met with Adolf Eichmann to plead the case of the Jews and who was part of a committee to select the 1,684 Jews who were allowed the leave Budapest by train for a safe location. The train was compared to "Noah's Ark" but it was not nearly as representative a population.

Karl Kaufman

Nazi leader of Hamburg, Germany, who asked Hitler to be allowed to evacuate the Jews of Hamburg to the East.

Eva Mozes Kor

Prisoner at Auschwitz who describes how Dr. Josef Mengele experimented on her by restricting the blood flow in her arms and simultaneously injecting her with a lethal substance. Had she died, he would have immediately killed her twin sister to conduct comparative autopsies. She also tells how the SS evacuated the camp as the Allies were closing in and how she felt upon liberation.

August Kowalczyk

Polish political prisoner of Auschwitz between 1940 and 1942 who observed the preparation of Block 11 for gassing.

Ernst Krankemann

Kapo at Auschwitz.

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Herbert Lange

Member of the SS who headed a special squad involved with the T4 Euthanasia Program that picked up disabled people from asylums, loaded them into a van, and gassed them with carbon monoxide. Lange and his men also created a special killing center at Chelmno to help reduce the population of the Lódz ghetto.

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Henryk Mandelbaum

Jewish Sonderkommando at Auschwitz who describes how the Nazis killed one third of the Sonderkommandos after a revolt in which some Sonderkommandos had set fire to a crematorium and attacked SS guards.

Ibi Mann

Jewish prisoner at Auschwitz who describes how prisoners were marched west in subfreezing temperatures as the Nazis started to evacuate Auschwitz.

John McCloy

United States assistant secretary of state during 1944 who rejected requests to bomb the railway lines to Auschwitz and the camp's gas chambers on the basis that it was "impractical" and would divert resources from other war needs.

Bent Melchoir

Son of the rabbi of the Danish central synagogue who told his congregants to be away from home on a particular evening to avoid Nazi roundups.

Josef Mengele

Auschwitz physician who became synonymous with brutal SS medical experimentation on camp prisoners. Previously a member of the medical corps of the Waffen SS, Mengele was injured and transferred to Auschwitz in May 1943, where he was actively involved in selecting prisoners for work, experimentation, or immediate execution. Most of his experiments focused on aspects of race, including infecting prisoners with contagious diseases to compare how different races reacted to the disease. He conducted research on Jewish and Gypsy twins to learn how to induce multiple births among Germans, thereby increasing the Aryan population. Mengele was also fascinated by people with physical abnormalities, whom he often killed for quick dissection. In 1945 he disguised himself and escaped to Argentina. When West Germany sought his extradition in 1960, he escaped again. He drowned in Brazil in 1979.

Jozef Mikusz

Polish political prisoner in Auschwitz from 1940 to 1945, who describes the constant aura of death in the camp.

Kurt Mobius

Nazi who worked at Chelmno, who discusses how government orders and propaganda caused him to view Jews as criminals and subhumans and, therefore, worthy of death.

Konrad Morgen

SS lieutenant who conducted investigations of embezzlement, theft, and corruption at Auschwitz and other camps. Some 700 SS men were arrested or removed from the camps as a result.

Annette Muller and Michael Muller

Describe how as Polish children living in Paris in 1942, the French police came and told the family to pack up immediately to travel. They were taken to Beaune-La Rolande, a transit camp outside Paris, where they were separated from their mother, whom they never saw again.

Benito Mussolini

Italian Fascist dictator from 1922 to 1945 who aligned Italy with Nazi Germany.

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Artur Nebe

SS general and Einsatzgruppen commander whose own experience with passing out in his garage because of carbon monoxide poisoning led to the large-scale use of carbon monoxide in the T4 Euthanasia Program.

Barbara Newman

Resident of Guernsey in the British Channel Islands, who describes how she helped a resident alien get to the deportation spot.

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Josef Oberhauser

SS officer at Treblinka, who witnessed an inspection of Treblinka by Christian Worth and Otto Globocnik.

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Jozef Paczynski

Polish prisoner at Auschwitz from 1941 to 1945, who describes how he was taken weekly to cut Rudolf Höss's hair and prepare Block 11, a punishment block, for gassing. He also testifies to the politeness shown to the first transport of Polish Jews to Auschwitz as they were led into a gas chamber and the screaming of the prisoners because the method did not work exactly as planned. He also describes how he had to move out of a barracks in 1943 to make room for a brothel.

Gerhard Palitsch

SS roll call leader at Auschwitz described by Rudolf Höss in his memoirs as "the most cunning and slippery creature."

Kazimierz Piechowski

Polish political prisoner from 1940 to 1942 who talks about how he tried to survive his imprisonment and describes how he and two friends escaped from Auschwitz.

Ernest Plevin

British sergeant in the Channel Islands who ordered Therese Steiner to appear at a specific time for deportation.

Otto Pohl

SS general who oversaw the economics of the Final Solution. As head of the Economic Administration Main Office, he supervised construction of the camps, slave labor, industrial work at the camps, and the shipment of the personal possessions of camp inmates back to Germany. Postwar trials convicted him of war crimes, and he was executed in 1951.

Otto Pressburger

Jewish prisoner and Sonderkommando at Auschwitz from 1942 to 1945, who describes loading dead bodies onto trucks, wheeling them down a railway line, and burying them in pits.

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Peretz Revesz

Member of The Committee for Help and Rescue in Hungary, who describes trying to understand why Germany was suddenly negotiating with Hungary.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

The 32nd president of the United States, serving from 1933 to 1945, he is the only president to have been elected four times. Born in 1882 into a wealthy family, Roosevelt began his political career in the New York state senate. A reformist in the Democratic Party, he supported the presidential candidacy of Woodrow Wilson in 1912, for whom he served as assistant secretary of the Navy, a post that earned him the vice presidential nomination on the unsuccessful 1920 Democratic ticket. The next year, Roosevelt contracted polio, which paralyzed him from the waist down. Nevertheless, he was urged by many to run for governor of New York in 1928, which he won. In 1932 he was nominated for president and defeated Herbert Hoover, under whose tenure the country had entered the Great Depression. Roosevelt's administration enacted numerous government programs designed to regulate the financial industry, which had collapsed and cost millions of Americans their savings. Other programs provided jobs for the unemployed, developed natural resources, and provided protection in cases of unemployment, disability, and old age. After reelection in 1936, Roosevelt's reforms drew more opposition, but events in Europe and Asia drew his attention. He actively opposed the antidemocratic Axis nations and supported Great Britain. Bucking tradition, he ran for and won an unprecedented third term as president. In 1941, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States entered the war. During the war, Roosevelt met several times with other Allied leaders to plan for both wartime strategy and postwar peace. In 1944, running for a fourth term with Harry Truman as his running mate, he won again as the Allies were winning the war. On April 12, 1945, Roosevelt died from a cerebral hemorrhage, just short of the end of the war.

Franz Rosenbach

Gypsy prisoner at Auschwitz who described how the Gypsies were treated there.

Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski

Chair of the Council of Elders of the Lódz ghetto, Rumkowski sought to cooperate with the Germans because he believed that approach offered the best chance to save Jewish lives. Rumkowski ruled as a dictator. With the Soviet army advancing, the Germans liquidated the ghetto in 1944 and deported its inhabitants to Auschwitz. Rumkowski and his family were killed there in 1944.

Tadeusz Rybacki

Polish political prisoner and a waiter at the Auschwitz canteen, who describes how much liquor was available to the SS.

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Eugenia Samuel

Villager in Treblinka who describes what she saw there.

Moshe Shertok

(known as Moshe Sharett in Israel): Zionist leader, and the first foreign minister and second prime minister of the State of Israel.

Johann Siegruth

Kapo at Auschwitz.

Kazimierz Smolen

Polish political prisoner in Auschwitz from 1940 to 1945 who describes how sick people were told they were being taken away for treatment, only to be transported to gas chambers in Germany. He also describes the arrival of Soviet prisoners at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Eva Speter

Hungarian Jewish passenger on a special train out of Budapest that was created to save some of Hungary's Jews.

Josef Stalin

Soviet premier from 1941 to 1953 who ruled as a brutal dictator.

Franz Stangl

Commandant of the Sobibor and Treblinka extermination camps in 1942 and 1943. Between the two camps, he oversaw the killing of more than 900,000 Jews. Transferred to Trieste in 1943, Stangl was captured by the Allies in 1945, but escaped before his trial. Ultimately ending up in Brazil, he was located and extradited to West Germany in 1967, where he was convicted of war crimes and died in prison in 1971.

Therese Steiner

Austrian woman who went to England to serve as a nanny and traveled with her employers to the British Channel Islands in 1940. She was not allowed to leave with them because she was classified as an "enemy alien." She was eventually transported to Auschwitz, where she died.

Pavel Stenkin

Russian prisoner of war at Auschwitz, who describes the constant feeling that he could be killed at any moment. He also tells how he was exiled by Stalin after the war because Stalin suspected Auschwitz POWS of being German spies.

Zofia Szalek

Resident of Chelmno who describes what people in the town saw and heard.

Wladyslaw Szmyt

Describes how he reacted when he saw Germans hurting Gypsy children.

Dome Sztojay

Hungarian prime minister in 1944.

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Moshe Tavor

Member of the Jewish Brigade unit created by the British Army in 1944 who hunted and killed German perpetrators after the war ended.

Kalman Teigman

Jewish prisoner who survived Treblinka and describes the lengths to which the commandant of Treblinka went to hide its true purpose from those arriving there.

Jozef Tiso

Slovak nationalist, Roman Catholic priest, and German ally who was president of Slovakia after it became independent in 1938 and ruled until 1945.

Vojtech Tuka

Prime minister of Slovakia.

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Arkadiy Vajspapir

Discusses the Sobibor revolt and the need for prisoners to band together.

Vasyl Valdeman

Holocaust survivor who relates how he witnessed the Nazi roundup of Jews in the town of Ostrog in Ukraine in August 1941, when he was 11 years old.

Edmund Veesenmayer

Adolf Hitler's representative in Hungary during 1944.

Morris Venezia

A Jewish Sonderkommando at Auschwitz who describes the sorting process upon arrival and the sounds coming from the crematoria. He also tells about suffocating a German on a train heading west when Auschwitz was being evacuated.

Silvia Vesela

Slovakian Jewish deportee to Auschwitz in 1942, who relates how Slovakians were treated at the camp.

Eva Votavova

Slovakian Jewish deportee in 1942, who describes the selection process that separated her from loved ones when they arrived at Auschwitz.

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Chaim Weizmann

One of the founders and the first president of the State of Israel.

Albert Widmann

SS lieutenant and chemist at the Technical Institute of the Criminal Police who was involved in experiments that led to the killing of victims with bottled carbon monoxide and who coordinated the gassing of disabled victims in the Nazi Euthanasia Program.

Christian Wirth

First an administrator at the T4 euthanasia center, Wirth became commandant of the Belzec extermination camp and inspector of the three Operation Reinhard extermination camps (Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka). Nicknamed "Christian the Terrible," his operation of the camps was brutal. He was killed by Yugoslav partisans in 1944.

Dieter Wisliceny

SS captain who coordinated deportation of Slovakian Jews to Poland in 1942.

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Jacob Zylberstein

Polish Jew confined to the Lódz Ghetto from 1940 to 1944 who describes how German Jews, who had always considered themselves culturally and educationally superior to Polish Jews, learned that both groups were faced with the same living conditions. He also corroborates that Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski took advantage of the young women in the ghetto.