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October 3, 2012

the death of Shlomo Venezia, a former Jewish Sonderkommando at Auschwitz

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 10:45 am

A regular reader of my blog alerted me to an article about the recent death of Shlomo Venezia which you can read in full here.

This quote is from the article about the death of Shlomo Venezia:

October 2, 2012

ROME (JTA) – Shlomo Venezia, a Holocaust survivor who wrote about his experiences in an Auschwitz Sonderkommando unit and spent years bearing personal testimony to the Shoah, has died.

Venezia, who was born in Salonika (Thessaloniki), Greece, died Sept. 30 [2012] in Rome at the age of 88.

Deported to Auschwitz [on April 11] 1944, he was one of the few survivors of the notorious Sonderkommando units – teams of prisoners forced to move and cremate the bodies of those killed in the gas chambers. His mother and two sisters were killed in Auschwitz. He wrote about his experiences in a memoir, “Sonderkommando Auschwitz,” published in 2007.

Venezia was very active speaking about the Holocaust at schools, public events and in the media, and he accompanied Italian student groups on study trips to Auschwitz.

What was not mentioned in the article about his death is that he was in the last group of Sonderkommandos who worked at Auschwitz-Birkenau, removing the bodies from the gas chambers and putting them into the crematoria where the bodies were burned.  Unlike all the previous Sonderkommando Jews, the Jews in last group were allowed to live.

The Nazis had tried to keep it a secret that the Jews were being gassed, so the previous Sonderkommando Jews, who had worked in the gas chambers, had been killed periodically and replaced by a new group of Jews that had newly arrived.  For some strange, unexplained reason, the last 100 Sonderkommando Jews were allowed to live and they joined the “death march” out of Auschwitz-Birkenau on January 18, 1945.  Some Holocaust historians believe that the purpose of the “death march” out of Auschwitz-Birkenau was to kill the Jews by marching them to death.

In one of the books that he wrote, Shlomo explained that he “managed to slip into the columns of deportees being led away to other camps…”  So that’s what happened.  Shlomo didn’t believe that the Auschwitz prisoners were being marched to death, so he sneaked into a column of marching prisoners. The fact that he believed that the purpose of the march was NOT to kill the prisoners makes him a “Holocaust denier.”

This quote is from page 187 of Inside the Gas Chambers: Eight Months in the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz, written by Shlomo Venezia:

On January 18, when the general evacuation of the Auschwitz complex took place, most of the Sonderkommando men who were still alive (including twenty-five Greeks) managed to slip into the columns of deportees being led away to the other camps within the Reich.  By do doing, they managed to avoid certain death.  Some of them, generally Polish Jews, succeeded in escaping when what was later called “the death march” set off.

In May 1945, at the end of the war, slightly more than ninety men of the Sonderkommando of Birkeanau were still alive.

Another Sonderkommando Jew, who survived Auschwitz-Birkenau, was Dario Gabbai; he is one of the Holocaust survivors who is featured in Steven Spielberg’s documentary “The Last Days.”

This quote (the words of Gabbai) is from the book entitled “The Last Days” which tells the stories of the survivors who are featured in the documentary film with the same name:

When the Red Army was approaching, the Germans marched us to Austria; of the thousands who were on the march, only a few hundred survived, including ninety-six Sonderkommando.  There was one good morning when we woke up to an unexpected silence — all the Germans had gone and the Americans came a few hours later.  That was on May 6, 1945 and I weighed just sixty-seven pounds.

According to Holocaust historians, it was the custom to kill the Jews in the Sonderkommando squads periodically and replace them with new workers. This was done so as to eliminate any witnesses to the gas chambers.  But for some unknown reason, the Nazis allowed the last 100 Sonderkommando Jews to live.  According to Gabbai, the plan of the Nazis had been to take the Auschwitz survivors to a cave in Austria and blow them up. (Ernst Kaltenbrunner denied this during his testimony at the Nuremberg IMT.)  This plan was foiled when the Americans liberated the Mauthausen camp on May 5, 1945. General Eisenhower ordered that the liberation should be re-enacted on May 6, 1945 so that photos could be taken.