We Wept With­out Tears: Tes­ti­monies of the Jew­ish Son­derkom­man­do From Auschwitz

Gideon Greif
  • Review
By – October 17, 2011
How many peo­ple have heard about the Jew­ish pris­on­ers forced by the Ger­mans to help them in their dia­bol­i­cal work of dis­pos­ing of the bod­ies of their mur­dered brethren and pry­ing from them what­ev­er could be of val­ue to their Ger­man war­lords — their hair, their teeth, etc., itself? Here, eight for­mer Son­der­com­man­do tes­ti­fy (and their pho­tos are includ­ed). Orig­i­nal­ly, this book was in Hebrew. Over the years, Greif inter­viewed all Son­der­com­man­do sur­vivors liv­ing in Israel. They described not only the spe­cif­ic tech­ni­cal details of the Ger­man-Nazi killing pro­gram, but also the moral and human chal­lenges they faced while car­ry­ing on this hor­ri­ble work. In time they grew inured and dis­pas­sion­ate, if they didn’t go mad. They even kept some of the ill-got­ten gain them­selves to barter for self preser­va­tion. To stay alive, that was the goal. Son­der­com­man­do were inevitably killed after a cer­tain peri­od. One account describes how after an influ­en­tial Kapo was killed by the Nazis, the Son­der­com­man­do blew up the cre­ma­to­ri­um in revolt. When one for­mer­ly reli­gious Jew ques­tioned a dayan about how he, a Cohen, could work as a Son­der­com­man­do, this rab­bi told him not to wor­ry, that they were there to do God’s mis­sion! That God want­ed it this way…and when the dayan was asked what about the lit­tle chil­dren, they didn’t do any­thing, the dayan replied that, even new­borns are taint­ed from their mother’s milk.” That was the end of the man’s reli­gios­i­ty, but it enabled him to con­tin­ue. Their expe­ri­ences con­tin­ue to haunt them. One man with seem­ing­ly bright nor­mal chil­dren and grand­chil­dren describes him­self as a dead man.” The book is a unique doc­u­ment on the bound­less cru­el­ty and deceit prac­ticed by the Ger­mans on their vic­tims. Adeeply dis­turb­ing book, it belongs in all Holo­caust and Jew­ish libraries as an impor­tant, essen­tial part of the his­to­ry of the Shoah. Exten­sive notes.
Mar­cia W. Pos­ner, Ph.D., of the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty, is the library and pro­gram direc­tor. An author and play­wright her­self, she loves review­ing for JBW and read­ing all the oth­er reviews and arti­cles in this mar­velous periodical.

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