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Filip Mueller - Auschwitz Sonderkommando

Film | Accession Number: 1996.166 | RG Number: RG-60.5012 | Film ID: 3206, 3207, 3208, 3209, 3210, 3211, 3212, 3213, 3214, 3215

As a member of a Sonderkommando unit in Auschwitz Filip Müller worked in the crematorium. He describes the gassing and cremation process in precise detail and with great pathos.

FILM ID 3206 -- Camera Rolls #1-4 -- 01:00:13 to 01:28:59
Müller recounts the first time he saw the gas chamber of the crematorium. Müller was a member of the Sonderkommando at Auschwitz. He was assigned to the Sonderkommando in May 1942, when he was 20, and worked as a Heizer, or someone who undressed the corpses (when they were clothed), put them into the crematorium, and stirred the fire while they burned.

FILM ID 3207 -- Camera Rolls #5-7 -- 02:00:16 to 02:28:46
Müller talks about what he witnessed when he worked in the crematorium. He describes how the SS men lied to the prisoners in order to keep them calm. The SS told the prisoners that everyone would be assigned a job, that there was plenty of work, but that they needed to be deloused first. Lanzmann asks Müller whether people went into the gas chambers willingly. Müller says that force was always used on the prisoners. He tells of a woman who tried to warn the other prisoners about what would happen to them. Müller says that most people did not want to listen to what the woman was telling them. Müller speaks briefly about the crematoriums he worked in at Birkenau.

FILM ID 3208 -- Camera Rolls #8-11 -- 03:00:16 to 03:34:16
Lanzmann asks Müller to talk about Crematorium II and the Auskleidungszimmer (changing room) at Auschwitz. Müller also talks about Crematorium V where he worked most often. Lanzmann and Müller look at a book of photos and drawings together. Lanzmann asks Müller about the geography of Auschwitz, the selection ramp in relation to the gas chambers, and the living situations of the Sonderkommando members, who were isolated from the rest of the camp inmates.

FILM ID 3209 -- Camera Rolls #12-14 -- 04:00:19 to 04:28:42
Lanzmann and Müller continue to look at the book of photos and drawings and Müller talks more about the crematoriums at Auschwitz. Lanzmann asks Müller about whether suicide was common among the Sonderkommando. Müller talks about whether prisoners at Auschwitz knew what was about to happen to them.

FILM ID 3210 -- Camera Rolls #15-17 -- 05:00:11 to 05:26:56
At one point, seeing a group of his Czech countrymen go into the gas chamber while singing the Hatikvah and the Czech national anthem, Müller decided to die with them because he felt that there is no reason for him to live any longer. He had also learned a few days previously that the resistance had decided to postpone the uprising yet again. However, a girl named Jana saw him and pushed him out of the chamber, telling him he needed to live to tell the story of what happened to the Jews. Jana also told Müller that he must take a gold chain that she had hidden and give it to her boyfriend Sascha, a Soviet POW, as a last greeting from her. Lanzmann asks Müller to tell him the story of the 600 Jewish boys whose story was recorded by a man named Zalman (?) Loewenthal. Müller reads the story from a manuscript, almost breaking down at one point. Many of the 600 boys were savagely beaten to death by SS men.

FILM ID 3211 -- Camera Rolls #18-21 -- 06:00:12 to 06:31:57
Müller finishes the story of the 600 boys. He says that the members of the Sonderkommando slept in the crematoriums. Lanzmann asks Müller how it was possible to survive in an atmosphere where death was so pervasive. Müller says that he does not think that the desire to survive was necessarily a Jewish characteristic, but rather a human characteristic.

FILM ID 3212 -- Camera Rolls #22-25 -- 07:00:19 to 07:28:58
Lanzmann asks Müller to talk about surviving the selection process of the Sonderkommando. Müller says that at the time, the effects of his work felt more physical than psychological.

FILM ID 3213 -- Camera Rolls #26-28 -- 08:00:17 to 08:33:38
Müller talks about the resistance movement in the camp and some of their plans, but says that the leaders of the resistance never thought the time was right to stage an uprising. He describes the October 1944 uprising and how it happened somewhat by chance.

FILM ID 3214 -- Camera Rolls #29-31 -- 09:00:10 to 09:31:29
Almost all of those who revolted were killed after the suppression of the uprising. He says that the members of the Sonderkommando were nervous when they heard of Himmler's 1944 order to stop mass exterminations at Auschwitz because they didn't know what would become of them. Luckily, the SS men who controlled their fate were equally confused. In January 1945 the prisoners could hear the Soviets fighting the Germans only a few kilometers from Auschwitz. Müller was evacuated and marched west. He ended up at Mauthausen and was liberated by the Americans on 4 May 1945 in Gunskirchen, a sub-camp of Mauthausen. Lanzmann asks Müller about the Kapos who worked in the Sonderkommando. Müller responds that they were for the most part good people, many of whom participated in the resistance. He says that the legend of the evil Kapos did not really apply to those Kapos in the Sonderkommando. He talks about how the prisoners of Auschwitz stopped being afraid of death, because death was inevitable, but that they still cared about the kind of death they were going to suffer. For example, a woman might chose willingly to go into the gas chamber rather than have to witness the shooting of her child. He describes the stages of death in one who dies by breathing Zyklon B gas. He speaks about his own father's death and the lives of the religious Jews in Birkenau and that they attempted to maintain some semblance of religious life. The end of this tape contains short, mute clips of Lanzmann and Müller.

FILM ID 3215 -- Coupes #1A,1B,23A,32-37 -- 10:00:15 to 10:11:25
Close ups of two photographs. A close up of the tattoo on Müller's arm. Shots of Lanzmann listening and taking notes on a pad of paper. An over the shoulder shot of Müller and Lanzmann talking.

Event:  Spring 1979
Production:  1985
Created by Claude Lanzmann during the filming of "Shoah," used by permission of USHMM and Yad Vashem
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 22:02:32
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