Jan. 27 was Holocaust Remembrance Day. We remember the mass genocide of over 6 million Jews, and more than a million communists, Romani, LGBTQ2S and disabled people. We remember Ester Wajcblum, Ella Gärtner, Regina Safirsztain and Róza Robota, four Jewish women prisoners of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp who were hanged by Nazi SS officials in January 1945 for helping to organize the Oct. 7, 1944 revolt.
In 1944, the prisoners’ resistance movement of Auschwitz concentration camp informed members of a Sonderkommando, one of the work units responsible for disposal of the corpses of gas chamber victims, that Nazi prison guards planned to murder the whole unit on October 7, 1944. Nazi prison guards regularly murdered and replaced entire Sonderkommando units because the prisoners knew so much about the camp’s murdering practices.
The morning of Oct. 7, 1944, hundreds of of Auschwitz prisoners in the Sonderkommando rose up and revolted against the Nazi SS. The prisoners hoped to destroy the gas chambers of Auschwitz and initiate an uprising. Leading up to the revolt, Jewish women smuggled gunpowder and explosives into the camp from a nearby munitions factory where they were forced to labor. Nineteen of the prisoners were Soviet prisoners of war from the Majdanek concentration camp who helped organize members of the Sonderkommando to revolt.
Nazis crushed the revolt and brutally murdered 451 prisoners who participated, but not before the prisoners killed three guards and destroyed the crematorium and a gas chamber. In January 1945, Nazis publicly hanged the Jewish women prisoners who had helped smuggle the explosives into the camp. Their names were Ester Wajcblum, Ella Gärtner, Regina Safirsztain and Róza Robota. These women refused to give up the names of their comrades despite being violently tortured by SS guards.