Posted by: distributorcap | May 30, 2009

Rebel With A Cause

With the word racism being bandied about today so loosely by such people as Tom Tancredo, Rush Limpballs and Newt Gingrich, I thought I would take a look at what racism really is…..and how people had to really overcome.

The most famous example of Jewish resistance during the Nazi reign over Europe was the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in April 1943. There are other examples of prisoners fighting back that worth noting – some of which were in very unlikely places that were literally unimaginable hells on earth.

Sobibor Rebellion

Sobibor was one of the six extermination camps set up by the Nazis deep inside Poland. It is estimated the 250,000 Jews and Gypsies were murdered in the gas chambers of Sobibor. This camp did not use the famous Zyklon B gas pellets to kill its victims, but rather the exhaust of combustion engines – poisoning with carbon monoxide. The path to the gas chamber was called the “Road to Heaven” and the entrance was decorated (to prod the victims with one final moment of hope) with flowers and a Star of David. The Jews who were not gassed immediately upon arrival were put to work – sorting through the clothing, jewelry, shoes and valuables of those who had just perished. Sobibor had no forced labor – it was built to kill.

On October 14, 1943, the prisoners, led by Leon Feldhendler and Sasha Pechersky stabbed 11 German SS offices and guards by luring them into workshops. As the other guards caught sight of what was happening – in the confusion, prisoners ran out of the camp and into the nearby woods. Approximately 300 prisoners escaped. Many were killed by the land mines surrounding the camp, about 70 were killed by SS guards that chased them down. Around 150 were recaptured and then executed back at Sobibor. The 300 or so prisoners who did not escape were also put to death.

About 60 Jews fled the guards and survived to the end of the war. Feldhendler was murdered by right-wing Polish nationals in April 1945. Perchersky, a member of the Soviet Army and a Jew who had spent two years in Nazi camps became a partisan. The Soviet government would not permit Perchersky to testify at Nuremberg. . He died in 1990.

Within days of the uprising, the camp was closed, torn down and trees planted over the grounds. John Demjanjuk, 89, the Ukranian who may have been know as Ivan the Terrible at Sobibor was deported to Germany in May 2009 after 25+ years of legal battles.

Treblinka Revolt

Treblinka was the second largest Nazi extermination camp, located 62 miles northeast of Warsaw. It is estimated 850,000 (99% who were Jews – mostly from the Warsaw Ghetto) were exterminated in the 16 months the camp was operational. Treblinka was built solely as a killing center – NOT as a concentration camp where prisoners would perform forced labor. Treblinka was designed to “rapidly eliminate” the Jews crowded into the ghettos of Polish cities. 310,000 Jews were transported from Warsaw in 70 days from July 22, 1942. The gas chambers were capable of murdering 3,000 people in a few hours.

With so many being killed in such a short period of time, the bodies could not be burned fast enough. The victims were buried in mass graves inside the camp. The stench of the dead bodies was so overwhelming at Treblinka, the Jews arriving often could guess what fate awaited them when they got off the railcars.

On August 2, 1943, the prisoners rebelled. Prisoners quietly seized weapons from the camp armory, but were discovered before they could take over the camp. Kerosene was sprayed on buildings and then set on fire. Hundreds of prisoners stormed the main gate in an attempt to escape. Many were killed by machine-gun fire. More than 300 did escape — though two thirds of those who escaped were eventually tracked down and killed by German SS and police as well as military units. Of the approximately 1,500 prisoners in the camp – around 40 escaped during the revolt. These are the only know survivors of Treblinka.

The camp was leveled and trees planted on the ground in the days that follwed the rebellion. By then the ghettos in Poland had largely been emptied.

The commandant of the camp – Franz Stangl (an Austrian) escaped to Brazil in 1951. There he worked for Volkswagen under his own name. A warrant for his arrest was finally issued in 1961, but it wasn’t until Simon Wiesenthal tracked him down in 1965 that he was extradited to West Germany. At his trial, Stangl claimed his conscious was clear and that he was “simply following orders.” He was sentenced to life and died in 1971.

Auschwitz Uprising

The largest and most famous of all the Nazi extermination camps – Auschwitz was located in the town of Oswiecim (the Polish name) not far from Krakow. Auschwitz was a collection of camps that all served different purposes but had one common goal – the murder of Jews and other people the Nazis deemed as sub-human. Figures vary wildly on the number of people murdered and gassed at the camp – but the most accepted number is about 1.1 million (a figure of 4,000,000 was used on memorial plaques). Most victims were killed in the gas chambers, but thousands of others died from starvation, labor, disease, executions and medical experimentation. While Jews probably made up 90% of the victims, a large number of Poles, Soviet POWs, resistance and Gypsies were also killed. Between May and July of 1944 (3 months) – over 400,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered in Auschwitz.

The entrance to Auschwitz is marked with the sign Arbeit Macht Frei – which means works makes one free.

Auschwitz was not designed as a death factory like Treblinka or Sobibor – but rather as a concentration camp where prisoners would do forced labor. By June 1943, all the gas chambers and crematorium had been built in Auschwitz II or Birkenau. It was then that the mass killings under the Final Solution of the Jewish Question began. Zyklon B – a form a rodenticide that became cyanide gas when released into the air was used to gas the victims. The patent for Zyklon B was held by I.G. Farben. I.G. Farben was at one time the 4th largest company in the world and had extensive ties to Standard Oil. (Today Agfa, BASF and Bayer are remnants of the Farben empire).

There had been several escapes from Auschwitz in 1943 and 1944. Around 300 people are know to have made it out of the camp. When someone was discovered to have escaped, the SS would randomly pick prisoners to be hung, shot or starved.

On October 7, 1944 the Sonderkommandos (the Jewish prisoners who removed the bodies from the gas chambers and burned them in the crematoria) attacked the SS Guards. Creamtorium IV was blown up. The SS suppressed the revolt and kill whomever is still working at the crematoria. Hundreds escaped from the camp, but were all soon captured and executed. The last group to mass executed was in November 1944. With the Red Army approaching, the Nazis began to dismantle and destroy the evidence.

Most of Auschwitz I remains and has been turned into a museum and memorial. Birkenau was largely leveled by the Nazis but is also a museum and memorial.

This is the true meaning of racism – in its ugliest most lethal form. To toss about that word in 2009 in a manner to just smear someone shows that we truly have not learned as a society.

And to finally add horror to tastelessness – Newt Gingrich has the cajones to call Sonia Sotomayor a racist via twittering, while he is visiting Auschwitz.


  1. What all those who died in these places suffered not only racism but bigotry, also. It was not only the Jews and gypsies who suffered, but homosexuals, cultists, and Polish Catholics who suffered along with them.I am not trying to minimize the effect these camps had on the Jewish population of Europe. I’m just trying to point out that others suffered, too.A friend of mine, whom I went to school with and whose parents I knew, had ancestors who were killed in both Auschwitz and Birkenau., They were Polish Catholics. Both my friend’s mother and father saw family members shot, starved, or crushed under the wheels of Nazi vehicles.Having said that, I believe that the ones who are the true racists and/or bigots in this country are those who are screaming the loudest right now about one sentence spoken by a Hispanic lady that was taken out of context.I apologize for rambling on like this D-Cap.

  2. Then of course Newt was the one who complained bitterly about Bill Clinton lying about blowjobs when he himself was known to have once been getting one in his limo, while his protection had to keep his family away from the car so Newt wouldn’t get caught.Newt Gingrich is a king of double-standards. Heaven help America should he ever become president or even regain the power he had in the 90’s.Good research as always! Sad, sad stuff but it is fascinating nonetheless to study examples of our inhumanities against fellow humans. One would hope we can learn lessons from it.

  3. Hi Cap;I discovered a year ago or so the only religious group targeted by Nazis for extermination was the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I don’t know why that is.It is coincidental that my mother was talking to me a few days ago, about the time she lived in Holland during the occupation.She said the Germans were a very disciplined people. She had the impression if the Wehrmacht raped or abused a person in prison that the German perpetrator of the rape or abuse would be disciplined.She also said the SS and Gestapo were another matter altogether, basically a law to themselves, like the CIA.Many Germans tried to get along in the occupied countries and dated the women etc. She remembers them marching and always singing when they marched.She says she can’t help it, but there is still something in her that is repulsed by a German, even though she acknowledges there were good ones.I can’t blame her, she and so many went through a time in history that should not have happened, but did and it could happen again and probably will.

  4. Another fascinating post, DCap. Thanks for writing this. I’ve learned more from you than you will know.

  5. Thanks for this.(The Jehovah’s Witnesses were targeted by the Nazis because they refused to acknowledge any government and were considered a threat to their authority.)

  6. newt’s twittering a day after he stood in the middle of auschwitz was as disgusting as deadeye dick going there and wearing a parka, ski cap, and hiking boots. the rethugs have no fucking respect for anyone who isn’t rich, white, and christian.

  7. My comment was eaten by Blogger last night…lol The R(ush) N(ewt) C(heney) party has shown itself proudly this week, to be racist, homophobic, scaredy cats who will say or do anything and take advantage of any situation or place to try to color someone else as worse than they are. I heard from my dad how bad these camps were, he was one of the first people who were through the gates of another of these, one called Dachau, he lived with those nightmares till he died. Thanks for telling these stories D’Cap. You really do a good service. You keep history alive.

  8. Hey Teach! glad I stopped by! Another great post! This tells it like it REALLY is! Those thugs-Newt and Rush will do anything to further their cause-including lying and smearing!Thanks-this is one to send around!!*hmmmm the captcha is “blamist” sounds like Newt and Rush!

  9. Well I'm thinking of the blacks in the south and what they went through the last 200+ years. There was the hangings the tar and featherings and other things they went through.But you know Sotomayor will be confirmed even after all the republican blathering.

  10. I would like to agree with the first commenter Grandpa Eddie. Not just Jews and Gypsies were targeted. I was in DC the weekend the Holocaust Memorial opened, it was a tranformational experience for me. I had traveled to DC to participate in a March on DC along with about a million other Gays and Lesbians. I made a point to go to the Holocaust Memorial and was incredibly moved by the place. It was the first time in my life I saw a Pink Triangle, which Gays and Lesbians were forced to wear in the camps. If you ever get a chance to see it, Bent is a play about a Gay man sent to a Concentration camp. I think it was Richard Gere who played the lead when it was on Broadway.

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