Defiance of the doomed

The SS tried to deceive its victims to the end. Few prisoners knew what awaited them when they approached the gas chambers. They had no chance of resistance anyway, starved, confused and frightened as they were. And yet, some prisoners fought back. Others sang defiant songs, as we learn from secret notes written in Auschwitz-Birkenau by a member of the Special Squad.

090 – Secret prisoner notes on defiance at the Auschwitz-Birkenau gas chambers

[The following] incident took place more or less late in the year 1943. 164 Poles from the vicinity were brought with 12 young women among them – all of the members of a secret [resistance] organisation. […] Several hundred Dutch Jews, camp prisoners, were brought at the same time to be gassed.

we went to meet our death with pride

A certain young Polish woman made a very short but fiery speech in the gas chamber, addressing all who were present, stripped to their skins. She condemned the Nazi crimes and oppression and ended with the words, “We shall not die now, the history of our nation shall immortalise us, our initiative and our spirit are alive and flourishing, the German nation shall as dearly pay for our blood as we possibly can imagine, down with savagery in the guise of Hitler’s Germany! Long live Poland!”. Then she turned to the Jews from the Sonderkommando, “Remember that it is incumbent on you to follow your sacred duty of revenging us, the guiltless. Tell our brothers, our nation, that we went to meet our death in full consciousness and with pride.”

Then the Poles knelt on the ground and solemnly said a certain prayer, in a posture that made an immense impression, then they arose and altogether in chorus sang the Polish anthem, the Jews sang the Hatikva [Jewish anthem]. The cruel common fate in this accursed spot merged the lyric tones of these diverse anthems into one whole. They expressed in this way their last feelings with a deeply moving warmth and their hope for, and belief in, the future of the nation. Then they sang the Internationale [socialist anthem]. During the singing the Red Cross van [carrying Zyklon B] arrived, gas was thrown into the chamber and all breathed their last amidst singing and ecstasy, dreaming of uniting the world with bonds of brotherhood and of its betterment.

Source: Amidst a Nightmare of Crime (Oświęcim, 1973), pp. 114–15