The Living Dead of Auschwitz

The Living Dead of Auschwitz

The History Channel  |  August 24, 2016

For the first time on television, one of the last surviving members of the Auschwitz Sonderkommando, Henryk Mandelbaum, gives a comprehensive and detailed account of daily life and the unspeakable activities he was forced to carry out in the crematoria of Auschwitz - Birkenau. A Polish Jew, Mandelbaum saw his entire family killed at Auschwitz before being selected to work in the crematoria. Through sheer luck he survived the war. Shot among the snow-covered ruins of Auschwitz-Birkenau, this powerful film is backed up with both never and rarely-seen-before archive footage shot by the liberating Red Army. Mandelbaum died shortly after the interview was conducted but his harrowing and often moving testimony enables us to understand more fully the barbarity and workings of the whole extermination process. It also enables us to begin to understand the moral dilemma faced by the Sonderkommando, who were given the horrific choice of aiding the process or being themselves thrown into the gas chambers. The life span of the average Sonderkommando in Auschwitz was normally about 30 days, after which they were summarily executed by the SS and replaced with fresh labour from new transports. Only around 200 are thought to have survived the war as the Sonderkommando were always the first to be shot by the SS when the camps were liberated.

For the first time on television, one of the last surviving members of the Auschwitz Sonderkommando, Henryk Mandelbaum, gives a comprehensive and detailed account of daily life and the unspeakable activities he was forced to carry out in the crematoria of Auschwitz - Birkenau. A Polish Jew, Mandelbaum saw his entire family killed at Auschwitz before being selected to work in the crematoria. Through sheer luck he survived the war. Shot among the snow-covered ruins of Auschwitz-Birkenau, this powerful film is backed up with both never and rarely-seen-before archive footage shot by the liberating Red Army. Mandelbaum died shortly after the interview was conducted but his harrowing and often moving testimony enables us to understand more fully the barbarity and workings of the whole extermination process. It also enables us to begin to understand the moral dilemma faced by the Sonderkommando, who were given the horrific choice of aiding the process or being themselves thrown into the gas chambers. The life span of the average Sonderkommando in Auschwitz was normally about 30 days, after which they were summarily executed by the SS and replaced with fresh labour from new transports. Only around 200 are thought to have survived the war as the Sonderkommando were always the first to be shot by the SS when the camps were liberated.

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