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View of the bone crushing machine used by Sonderkommando 1005 in the Janowska concentration camp to grind the bones of victims after their bodies were burned.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 69978

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    View of the bone crushing machine used by Sonderkommando 1005 in the Janowska concentration camp to grind the bones of victims after their bodies were burned.
    View of the bone crushing machine used by Sonderkommando 1005 in the Janowska concentration camp to grind the bones of victims after their bodies were burned.  

The photo was taken by members of a Soviet war crimes commission soon after the liberation.

Original caption reads, "To illustrate the communique of the Extraordinary State Committee on the crimes committed by the Germans on the territory of the Lvov region.  In the camps of the Lvov Region the Germans exterminated hundreds of thousands of Soviet citizens, war-prisoners and nationals of foreign states.  A German machine for crushing the bones of their burned victims."

    Overview

    Caption
    View of the bone crushing machine used by Sonderkommando 1005 in the Janowska concentration camp to grind the bones of victims after their bodies were burned.

    The photo was taken by members of a Soviet war crimes commission soon after the liberation.

    Original caption reads, "To illustrate the communique of the Extraordinary State Committee on the crimes committed by the Germans on the territory of the Lvov region. In the camps of the Lvov Region the Germans exterminated hundreds of thousands of Soviet citizens, war-prisoners and nationals of foreign states. A German machine for crushing the bones of their burned victims."
    Photographer
    N. Gerasimov
    Date
    August 1944
    Locale
    Janowska, [Lvov] Poland
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Herman Lewinter
    Event History
    The Sonderkommandos 1005 were the special units created to implement the large-scale action to obliterate the traces of the mass killings committed by Nazis in occupied Eastern Europe. The decision to commence the action was made in Berlin after the news of the mass murders began to spread in the Allied countries, and when hastily buried corpses began to pose a health hazard in occupied Poland. The operation was headed by SS-Standartenfuehrer Paul Blobel, who created a small staff in Lodz. An architect and engineer by training, Blobel developed methods for burning the bodies on pyres, crushing the remaining bones and scattering the ashes. The first phase, which lasted from June 1942 to June 1943, saw the burning of bodies in the Action Reinhard death camps of Belzec, Treblinka and Sobibor, and at Chelmno and Auschwitz. A second phase commenced in June 1943 when mass graves in Poland and the Eastern Territories began to be liquidated. The first site may have been the Janowska camp near Lvov. In August of that year Sonderkommando 1005 units burned the bodies of Jews massacred at Babi Yar and subsequently, those killed in Kamenets-Podolski. Later, units were sent to Yugoslavia, Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus. As the Soviet army advanced in mid 1944, the activity of the Sonderkommandos 1005 focused on the General Government. Each Sonderkommando 1005 unit consisted of several SD (Security Service) and SIPO (Security police) officers, who supervised the work, and several dozen Ordnungspolizei (Order Police), who served as guards. The labor was carried out by prisoners, mainly Jews, who were organized in three groupings: one to open the graves and exhume the bodies, a second to erect the pyres, transport the bodies and arrange them on the pyres, and the third to sift through the human remains for valuables, crush the bones and scatter the ashes. Certain prisoners were assigned the task of keeping the fire going and counting the corpses burned, while others were responsible for leveling the terrain, plowing and replanting the site after the graves were destroyed. Most of the prisoners were killed on the completion of their assignment.

    According to Leon Wells, one survivor forced to serve in the Janowska Sonderkommando who testified at the Eichmann Trial, the Janowska Sonderkommando 1005 was formed on June 15, 1943, when forty people were taken out of the camp, ostensibly for a road building detail. For the next several months up to 120 prisoners were assigned to the death brigade, which incinerated tens of thousands of bodies. Among their grisly tasks was to grind the bones that remained after the burning process in a special machine that used steel balls to pulverize the bones. The prisoners worked 8-10 hours a day. While they marched to and from work in the ravine they were forced to sing, often accompanied by the camp orchestra. On November 19, 1943 after the final liquidation of the Janowska camp, a group of the surviving Sonderkommando members revolted. They succeeded in killing a few guards, and a number of their members, including Wells, escaped.

    [Sources; "Aktion 1005" in Guttman, Israel (ed.). Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. MacMillan, 1990, 1:11-14; The Nizkor Project. The Trial of Adolf Eichmann, Session 23. www.nizkor.org/hweb/people/e/eichmann-adolf/ transcripts/Sessions/Session-023-02.html (1 July 2004).]

    https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007273.

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Herman Lewinter
    Source Record ID: Collections: 1990.135.6
    National Archives and Records Administration, College Park
    Copyright: Public Domain
    TASS Photochronica
    Copyright: Exclusively with source
    Source Record ID: X-118I74
    Deutsche Fotothek der -Saechsische Landesbibliothek
    Copyright: Exclusively with source
    Source Record ID: 36310
    Sovfoto/Eastfoto
    Copyright: Exclusively with source
    Provenance: Press Photo Agency

    Keywords & Subjects

    Record last modified:
    2015-11-05 00:00:00
    This page:
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