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Jewish Resistance: Killing Center Revolts

The Warsaw ghetto uprising inspired revolts in other ghettos and in killing centers. Although many resisters knew they were bound to lose against overwhelmingly superior German forces, they chose to die fighting.

After the last Jews deported to Treblinka were gassed in May 1943, about 1,000 Jewish prisoners remained in the camp. Aware that they were soon to be killed, the prisoners decided to revolt. On August 2, armed with shovels, picks, and a few weapons stolen from the arms warehouse, they set fire to part of the camp and broke through its barbed-wire fence. About 200 prisoners managed to escape, and about half of them survived German efforts to recapture them.

Two inmates of Sobibor, Aleksandr Pechersky and Leon Feldhendler, planned a similar revolt in 1943. On October 14, prisoners killed eleven camp guards and set the camp on fire. About 300 prisoners escaped, but many were killed during the manhunt that followed. Fifty were alive at the war's end.

At Auschwitz-Birkenau, prisoners of the Sonderkommando -- the special squad whose job it was to burn the corpses of the murdered victims -- learned of the plans to kill them. On October 7, 1944, a group of them rebelled, killing three guards and blowing up the crematorium. Several hundred prisoners escaped, but most were later recaptured and killed. Four young women accused of supplying the dynamite were hanged in front of the remaining inmates. One of them, 23-year-old Roza Robota, shouted "Be strong, have courage," as the trap door opened.

Sources: Ghetto Fighters House