Memoria [EN] Memoria [EN] Nr 45 (06/2021) | Page 23

earlier attack on the SS garrison was not attempted since such an action stood no chance of success given the overwhelming advantage of German forces.

Dr Henryk Świebocki wrote on this subject and proved it, among others, in the IV volume of an extensive monograph on the Oświęcim camp, entitled "Auschwitz 1940-1945. Crucial issues from the history of the camp" (Oświęcim 1995) but Michał Wójcik did not familiarise himself with this work because he does not refer to its findings either in the text of his book or in the footnotes included therein. He also did not refer to the other four volumes of this monograph when writing about the Sonderkommando rebellion at KL Auschwitz-Birkenau on 7 October 1944, nor did he make use of Danuta Czech's findings on this subject in her published "Calendar of Events in KL Auschwitz" (Oświęcim 1992).

The history of the tragic rebellion of the Sondekommando Jews, to which Michał Wójcik devoted a great deal of space in nearly ten further chapters of his book, is presented objectively by the author in the light of numerous memoirs and accounts of former KL Auschwitz prisoners, both Jews and Poles, especially members of the Sonderkommando. The reader cannot be indifferent to the content of these chapters and the magnitude of the crimes described in them, including the tragic situation of the Sonderkommando prisoners forced to incinerate the corpses of victims murdered in the gas chambers of KL Auschwitz II-Birkenau, which is downright horrifying.

Michał Wójcik is primarily concerned with the sensational description of the events presented, without paying much attention to the reliability of the narrative in terms of detail. Several factual errors can be noted here. For example, the director of the Auschwitz Museum in the 1960s was a long-time Auschwitz prisoner, Kazimierz Smoleń, and never Janusz Gumkowski, the director of the Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland. Prisoner Olszyński (no. 39230), who was shot at the Death Wall on 28 October 1942, was not called Bruno, but Bolesław. Mieczysław Morawa, who participated in the test run of the crematorium ovens in Birkenau in March 1943, was not nineteen years old at the time, but twenty-three (he was born on 19.03.1920). The execution of the four Jewish female prisoners hanged on 6 January 1945 did not take place between blocks 1 and 2 in KL Auschwitz I but on the site of a complex of 20 buildings erected on the grounds adjacent to the main camp as part of its expansion plan, which envisaged the construction of over 50 new buildings.

Once again, it is essential to point out what Michał Wójcik fails to explain so precisely: the Jews of the Sonderkommando were convinced that as direct witnesses to the genocide, they would soon be murdered by the SS, and so made an attempt to revolt and flee the camp. Unfortunately, several hundred of them died. The tragic story of the revolt clearly shows what the consequences of a general uprising in the camp would have been without armed support from outside. The prisoners could not count on such support due to the weakness of the Silesian Area of the Home Army and not because of any ideological prejudice, anti-Semitism or passivity. Furthermore, one has to admit that the commander of the Silesian Area, Zygmunt Janke alias "Walter", whom Michał Wójcik cites (mistakenly referring to him as the commander of the Silesian District of the Home Army), is right that: "the prisoners actually had a greater chance of survival without carrying out such an attack".

Michał Wójcik's book should be classified as non-fiction. Although it presents authentic figures and events, its description is sometimes based on randomly collected historical material, very freely interpreted, particularly the section of the publication on the history of KL Auschwitz.

The author partially adopted the narrative technique and fictionalisation of events from scientific texts, and links the story with footnotes, which are often selectively chosen, and do not allow the reader to thoroughly check the veracity of the presented facts that Michał Wójcik additionally interprets rather subjectively - as is particularly visible in relation to the figure of Cavalry Capt. Witold Pilecki and one of his closest associates, Dr Władysław Dering.