The Holocaust Odyssey of Daniel Bennahmias, Sonderkommando

The Holocaust Odyssey of Daniel Bennahmias, Sonderkommando

The Holocaust Odyssey of Daniel Bennahmias, Sonderkommando

The Holocaust Odyssey of Daniel Bennahmias, Sonderkommando


Daniel Bennahmias was hardly more than a boy when he and his family were herded onto the death train that would transport them from their home in Greece to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, Birkenau. His parents were exterminated immediately upon arrival, but Danny managed to survive. Because of his strength, the youthful prisoner was recruited by the Germans to become a member of a Sonderkommando unit, its horrendous job being to disentangle the bodies of the Jews put to death in the gas chambers in preparation for their subsequent cremation. Rebecca Fromer traces the plight of her friend through every inconceivable, unspeakable ordeal: the bewildering roundup of Greek Jews; the non-familiar, but no more understandable, atrocities of their German captors; Danny's numbed acceptance of his gruesome assignment as a trade-off for life itself, if only as a temporary measure; an abortive prison rebellion and the resulting punishment; one final freezing march from Auschwitz to Ebensee, as Allied troops approached; and, at last, rescue by the American soldiers and the tentative readmittance to civilization, changed forever. Daniel Bennahmias is one of the few persons in the Sonderkommando at Auschwitz-Birkenau to have survived the war, and the recounting of his experiences reveals details heretofore unknown about the "inner life" of the Nazi factories of death. Bennahmias supplies missing elements in the story of the revolt of the Sonderkommando in Birkenau, the dismantling of the crematoria, the death march and its aftermath, including the miraculous experience of liberation by the Allies. This is the tragic story of Daniel Bennahmias, a Greek Jew of Italian citizenship, a young manof science and intellect, music and art, who had a family, a culture, and a life that was all but obliterated. He is not a number, but he has become a statistic; he is not a thing, even though he became an object beneath sco


Steven Bowman

In The Holocaust Odyssey, Rebecca Fromer leads us through the experiences of Danny Bennahmias, a Greek Jew of Italian citizenship whose forced labor as a Sonderkommando at Auschwitz included the disentangling of hundreds of thousands of gassed men, women, and children. the book is the result of a diligent collaboration. As it unfolds, it becomes a poignant reminder of the manner in which enslaved Jews and others were forced to destroy their families and fellow prisoners. It is a story of human decency, the spark of which remains against all odds.

Who were the Greek Jews? What was their fate? How did they contribute to the Auschwitz/Birkenau story, and what are the ramifications of the Sonderkommando revolt? As we proceed, we shall attempt to assay these and other questions.

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Greek Jews constituted a rich mosaic of Balkan and Aegean traditions and could recall historically several mil-

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