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1944: Desperate Acts
 pg. 568 
Ala Gertner, one of the heroines of the 1944 Sonderkommando uprising in Auschwitz-Birkenau, strikes a stylish pose in this photograph from happier days in prewar Bedzin, Poland. Deported with her husband to Auschwitz, she was assigned to work in the Union Munitions factory. There she and two of her fellow workers managed to steal and hide the explosives the Sonderkommando used to blow up the crematorium on October 7. Arrested, held in a bunker, and tortured, she died without betraying her accomplices.
Photo: Anna and Joshua Heilman/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive
Roza Robota

In the annals of Holocaust heroism, Roza Robota holds a special place. An activist in the Zionist underground of Poland, she was deported to Auschwitz in 1942. Her strong spirit was not broken by the horrors of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and she became a link between the women's camp and the resistance that was forming within the men's camp. Detailed to a factory manufacturing bombs, she and several other brave women began to smuggle out small quantities of gunpowder with which the underground planned to blow up a Birkenau crematorium in October 1944. Caught and questioned, along with three other women working in the factory, Roza refused to divulge any information, even under prolonged torture.

Her execution by hanging before the camp population was intended to extinguish any fires of resistance. Roza left her comrades with a different memory, as she yelled "Nekama!" ("Revenge!") just before her death.
Photo: Yad Vashem / United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive

Admiral Miklós Horthy led Hungary's authoritarian government during much of the war. Although he was an antisemite, the Germans considered Horthy soft on Jewish issues. For example, he opposed the ghettoization of Hungary's Jews. Finally, when he began armistice overtures to the Soviets in the fall of 1944, the German-backed Arrow Cross movement overthrew his government, establishing a Fascist and viciously antisemitic dictatorship.
Photo: Yad Vashem/United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive
 October 21, 1944: Aachen, Germany, is captured by U.S. troops. This is the first German city to fall to an Allied army.
 October 23, 1944: In Budapest, Swedish consul Raoul Wallenberg and Swiss consul Carl Lutz continue to issue protective documents to Jews, partly in response to a decree that Jews in Hungary who are of foreign nationalities or those holding foreign passports will be exempt from forced labor.
1944: Desperate Acts
 pg. 568 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.