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Death camp crematorium

Marcel Nadjari, a Greek Jew who was imprisoned in Auschwitz-Birkenau and worked on the Sonderkommando, removing the bodies of Jews from the gas chambers, in late 1944 wrote a secret letter, which he stuck in a thermos which he wrapped in a leather pouch and buried near Crematorium III, before the camp was liberated.

He wrote in his letter the following message from hell: “Often I thought of going in with the others, to put an end to this. But always revenge prevented me doing so. I wanted and want to live, to avenge the death of Dad, Mom and my dear little sister.”


Nadjari’s letter, which is being published for the first time ever in German this month, by the Munich Institute of Contemporary History (IfZ), is one of nine documents by five inmates which were found buried at Auschwitz, according to Russian-born historian Pavel Polian, who spoke to German public media Deutsche Welle. Polian believes these documents may be the most authentic and most central testimony about the Holocaust.

“We all suffer things here that the human mind can not imagine,” Nadjari wrote in his letter. “Underneath a garden, there are two endless basement rooms: one is meant for undressing, the other is a death chamber. People enter naked and when it is filled with about 3,000 people, it is closed and they are gassed.”

He reports how the Jewish inmates were packed “like sardines” by guards who used whips to push them tightly together before sealing the doors and letting in the gas.

“After half an hour, we would open the doors, and our work began,” Nadjari wrote, describing his task of carrying the corpses to the ovens, where “a human being ends up as about 640 grams of ashes.”

According to DW, in 1980, a student doing excavation work in the forest near the ruins of Auschwitz-Birkenau’s crematory III dug up the notes wrapped in the thermos. According to Polian, who published his research in a book titled, “Scrolls from the ashes,” only about 10 to 15 percent of Nadjari’s Greek text was legible, having been buried in the moist soil for 35 years.

In 2013, a Russian IT specialist worked for a year on deciphering the text, using multispectral image analysis, following which, says Polian, who initiated the project, “we can now read 85 to 90 percent” of the letter.

“I am not sad that I will die,” Nadjari wrote, “but I am sad that I won’t be able to take revenge like I would like to.”

But Nadjari survived the Holocaust. He went back to Greece, and in 1951, with his wife and son, emigrated to the US, where he worked as a tailor. He died in New York in 1971, at 54. He never told anyone about the notes he buried near the Auschwitz crematory.