On this day, October 2, 1944, after 63 days of fighting, the Warsaw Uprising was defeated by German forces. It remains the largest single operation by any resistance army against Nazi occupation and aggression. The Uprising failed because Stalin tactically ordered a stop to the Soviet advance to the eastern edge of Warsaw. This allowed the Germans to destroy 85% of the city and kill approximately 200,000 civilians as well as approximately 16,000 resistance fighters and capture approximately 15,000 prisoners-of-war.
On this date, January 30, 1945, 1945 – approximately 3000-5000 prisoners from the Stutthof concentration camp ended their forced march into the Baltic Sea and were then machined gunned to death.
The death march began on January 25, ended on the 30th, then survivors were marched in the direction of Lauenburg in eastern Germany away from the Soviets. When this column of prisoners and their German guards were then cut off by advancing Soviets, the Germans forced the surviving prisoners back to Stutthof. Marching in severe winter conditions and brutal treatment by SS guards led to thousands of more deaths.
Evidence also exists of small-scale soap production of soap made from human corpses in the Stutthof concentration camp.
On this day, September 18, 1943, Jewish prisoners from Minsk were massacred at Sobibór. This massacre, combined with rumors that the camp would be shut down, led Polish-Jewish prisoners to organize an underground committee aimed at escape from the camp.
On October 14, 1943 under the cover of night, members of the Sobibór underground, led by Polish-Jewish prisoner Leon Feldhendler (Lajbl) and Soviet-Jewish POW Alexander Pechersky from Minsk, covertly killed eleven German SS officers, overpowered the camp guards, and seized the armory. Although their plan was to kill all the SS and walk out of the main gate of the camp, the killings were discovered and the inmates ran for their lives under fire. About 300 out of the 600 Sonderkommando prisoners in the camp escaped into the forests. Most of them were recaptured by the search squads.
Sobibór was the site of one of two successful uprisings by Jewish Sonderkommando prisoners during Operation Reinhard. The revolt at Treblinka extermination camp on 2 August 1943 resulted in up to 100 lucky escapes.
In 1987, CBS aired a British made film titled, "Escape from Sobibor," a fictional account of the uprising.
On this day, June 14, 1940, twenty Polish Jews from a group of 728 Polish prisoners from Tarnów become the first Jewish prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp (30 German criminals had been assigned to Auschwitz earlier in May). In this photo, the first prisoners are seen boarding the train from Tarnów to Auschwitz on June 14, 1940. The prisoners were political prisoners and members of the Polish resistance. The remaining 708 prisoners were Catholic, since the mass deportation of Jews had not yet begun. Miraculously, 200 members of the first transport survived Auschwitz.
Thomas E. Keefe
Assistant Professor of Humanities,