Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it ...  
 Filip Müller


SS officer Blobel
SS officer Hafner
SS officer Hoess
SS officer Gerstein
The Stroop Report
Dr. Miklos Nyiszli
Hermann Graebe
Kalmen Wewryk
Filip Müller
The Victims


  Account - Filip Müller, survivor of Auschwitz  

One of the few prisoners who saw the Jewish people die and lived to tell about it, Filip Müller has written one of the key documents of the Holocaust: Eyewitness Auschwitz, or Auschwitz inferno : the testimony of a Sonderkommando. Filip Müller, a twenty years old Jew, came to Auschwitz with one of the earliest transports from Slovakia in April 1942. A month later, he found himself inside Crematorium II of Auschwitz, ordered to undress the bodies of the dead, and load them into the ovens.

Very few of the hundreds of thousands people who entered the crematorium survived. One of them was Filip Müller. The following are his firsthand account of three years in the gas chambers of Auschwitz:

"Every day we saw thousands and thousands of innocent people disappear up the chimney. With our own eyes, we could truly fathom what it means to be a human being. There they came, men, women, children, all innocent. They suddenly vanished, and the world said nothing ..

Auschwitz Inferno

At the entrance was a signboard, and written on it in several languages the direction: To the baths and disinfecting rooms.The ceiling of the changing room was supported by concrete pillars to which many more notices were fixed, once again with the aim of making the unsuspecting people believe that the imminent process of disinfection was of vital importance to their health. Slogans like Cleanliness brings freedom or One louse may kill you were intended to hoodwink, as were numbered clothes hooks fixed at a height of 1.50 meters.

Down the length of the room concrete pillars supported the ceiling. However, not all the pillars served this purpose: for there were others, too. The Zyklon-B gas crystals were inserted through openings into hollow pillars made of sheet metal. They were perforated at regular intervals and inside them a spiral ran from top to bottom in order to ensure as even a distribution of the granular crystals as possible. Mounted on the ceiling was a large number of dummy showers made of metal. These were intended to delude the suspicious on entering the gas chamber into believing that they were in a shower-room.

The gas chamber

.. we had not been waiting long when a large number of people began to stream through the open gate, the majority of them dressed in dark clothes. On the right side at chest height they all wore the yellow Star of David. By and by the entire yard became crowded with these people who were talking to each other in Polish or Yiddish. Most were middle-aged, but there was a sprinkling of old men and women and also of children among them. They were rather out of breath as if they had been made to run all the way. Last to arrive was a group of aged women who had been unable to keep up with the younger people and who came staggering in on the point of complete exhaustion. 

Once the stragglers were inside the gate was shut. The uniformed executioners now stepped in front of the waiting apprehensive crowd of several hundred. As though at a signal they began to harangue them, waving their truncheons about and ordering them to take their clothes off at once. The people were dazed with fear. Clearly they suspected something dreadful was to befall them, but they could see no reason why they ought to undress out here in the yard, women in front of men and vice versa.

Piles of the victims' glasses

However, the SS men, anxious to give them no time to think, kept shouting: 'Come on, come on! Get undressed! Get a move on! Come on! Come on! Get undressed!' At last I tumbled to what was going on. One of SS men must have had the bright idea that it was more expedient to send these people to their doom naked. For then the irksome task of undressing them after their death would be avoided. Besides, if they undressed while still alive, their clothes would not be torn because they would think that they would need them again. 

Today this new procedure was to be tried out for the first time. However, it did not quite work out according to plan. In the frightened and embarrassed faces of the men and women assembled in the yard there was fear and mistrust. Although unaware of what awaited them, they sensed the seriousness and danger of their situation. Most of the men reacted to the threats and shouts by slowly beginning to undo the collars of their shirts, while the women bent down and, greatly embarrassed, undid their shoe-laces. All this took a very long time: it was not at all the efficient operation the SS men had envisaged. 

Piles of the victims' shoes

In a corner next to the gate I noticed a young woman and her child. Her lips tightly pressed together looked like a scar. She gazed at her small daughter then, stroking her, she slowly undressed her. Older children, as alarmed as their parents, began slowly to take off their clothes. Meanwhile the representatives of the SS hierarchy stood on the earthworks which had been thrown up on the roof of the crematorium. From there they had a bird's eye view of what was going on. At first they did not intervene, leaving everything to their minions. But the alarm and disquiet of the people grew apace as did their fear of the danger they could sense: they were taking off their clothes with great deliberation in order to gain time.

The brutal conduct of the SS surpassed their worst fears. They felt instinctively that they were in great danger and began to talk among themselves. In the yard there was a humming as in a beehive. Once it dawned on the SS men that their brilliant plan of deception was in jeopardy they flung themselves wildly into the crowd, wielding their truncheons indiscriminately and yelling: 'Come on, come on! Get undressed! Faster, faster!' 

The effect was startling. The brutal action of the SS men had completely unnerved the people. They were confused, frightened, unable to communicate with each other and incapable of thinking. As the SS men persisted in their rampaging, the crowd was seized by panic. Even their passive resistance was now broken and they did what was being beaten into them again and again: 'Come on! Get undressed! Come on! Faster! Get a move on! 

Holocaust victims

Men, women and children were now tearing their clothes off, helping each other to dodge the blows, and in no time at all they were all standing there naked, each with a small heap of clothes piled in front of them. Once again I watched the young mother in the corner by the gate. Carrying her child on her arm she, too, was now undressed. She was not ashamed of her nakedness, but the premonition that perhaps she had undressed her child and herself for the last time put her into a state of helpless submission to God's will. 

Two of the SS men took up positions on either side of the entrance door. Shouting and wielding their truncheons like beaters at a hunt, the remaining SS chased the naked men women and children into the large room inside the crematorium. All that was left in the yard were the pathetic heaps of clothing which we had to gather together to clear the yard for the second half of the transport. We removed suit-cases, rucksacks, clothes and shoes and piled them higgledy-piggledy in a great heap in a corner. Then we covered everything with a large tarpaulin ..

.. two disinfecting operators climbed on the roof, carrying sealed tins manufactured by the Degesch Company. They chatted leisurely, smoking a cigarette.Then, on signal, each of them walked to a one foot high concrete shaft, donned a gas mask, took off the lid, opened the tin, and poured the pea-sized contents into the shaft. They closed the lids, took off their masks, and drove off.

After a while I heard the sound of piercing screams, banging against the door and also moaning and wailing. People began to cough. Their coughing grew worse from minute to minute, a sign that the gas had started to act. Then the clamor began to subside and to change to a many-voiced dull rattle, drowned now and then by coughing. Ten minutes later all was quiet.

.. As the doors opened, the top layer of corpses tumbled out like the contents of an overloaded truck when the tail-board is let down. They were the strongest who, in their mortal terror, had instinctively fought their way to the door, the one and only way out, had there been even the remotest possibility of getting out ... the bottom layer of corpses always consisted of children as well as the old and the weak, while the tallest and strongest lay on top.

No doubt the ones on top had climbed up there over the bodies already lying on the floor because they still had the strength to do so and perhaps also because they had realized that the deadly gas was spreading from the bottom upwards ... many had their mouths wide open, on their lips traces of whitish dried-up spittle. Many had turned blue, and many faces were disfigured almost recognition from blows.

Almost all of them were wet with sweat and urine, filthy with blood and excrement, while the legs of many women were streaked with menstruel blood. 

Among them lay the bodies of pregnant women, some of whom had expressed the head of their baby just before they died ..."

Auschwitz became the killing centre where the largest numbers of European Jews were killed. After an experimental gassing there in September 1941 of 850 malnourished and ill prisoners, mass murder became a daily routine. By mid 1942, mass gassing of Jews using Zyklon-B began at Auschwitz, where extermination was conducted on an industrial scale with some estimates running as high as three million persons eventually killed through gassing, starvation, disease, shooting, and burning ...

Near the end of the war, in order to cut expenses and save gas, cost- accountant considerations led to an order to place living children directly into the ovens of Auschwitz or throw them into open burning pits.

In Claude Lanzmann's Shoah, Filip Müller recalls the moment in Crematorium II when the prisoners from the Czech Family Camp were to be killed and he chose to join them in the gas-chamber:

"As soon as they left the vans, the beatings began. When they entered the undressing room, I was standing near the rear door, and from there I witnessed the frightful scene. The people were bloodied. They knew where they were ... They were in despair. Children clung to each other. Their mothers, their parents, the old people all cried, overcome with misery ...

Yes, the violence climaxed when they tried to force the people to undress. A few obeyed, only a handful. Most of them refused to follow the order. Suddenly, like a chorus, they all began to sing. The whole undressing room rang with the Czech national anthem, and the Haiikvah. That moved me terribly, that ... was happening to my countrymen, and I realized that my life had become meaningless. Why go on living? For what? 

So I went into the gas chamber with them, resolved to die with them. Suddenly, some who recognized me ... They looked at me and said, right there in the gas chamber ... 'So you want to die! But that is senseless. Your death won't give us back our lives. That's no way. You must get out of here alive, you must bear witness to our suffering, and to the injustice done to us."

Filip Müller miraculously survived to become a source-one of the few victims who saw the Jewish people die and lived to tell about it - a detailed description of life in Hell’s inmost circle ..



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