Pre-war portrait of Ala Gertner. Gertner was one of the participants in the Sonderkommando uprising in Auschwitz-Birkenau. She was born about the year 1912 in Bedzin and lived there with her husband, Bernard Holtz, until they were deported in the final transports of Jews from Upper Silesia to Auschwitz.
Gertner was assigned to the Union Munitions factory. She became acquainted with Roza Robota, who may have been the one who first told her about the resistance movement within Auschwitz. Ala then recruited Estusia and Hanka Wajcblum and Regina Safirsztajn since they had direct access to gunpowder. They passed whatever they could steal to Ala, who transferred it to Roza, who, in turn, gave it to members of the Sonderkommando. The plan was to blow up one of the crematoria which would lead to a general uprising in the camp. The resistance succeeded in destroying Crematorium IV on October 7, 1944. During the exhaustive investigation that followed the short-lived uprising, four women were directly implicated in the theft of the explosives: Ala Gertner, Roza Robota, Regina Safirsztajn and Ester Wajcblum. All four were arrested and tortured. On January 5, 1945, all four women were publicly hanged.
Photo credit: Anna and Joshua Heilman Collection, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives.
A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
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