10 Lesser-Known Yet Interesting Stories from the Holocaust

by Shivam Khandelwal2 years ago

6 Janusz Korczak accompanied 192 orphans to a concentration camp without caring about his life so that he could cheer and entertain the children. He boarded the trains with the orphans from Dom Sierot and was never heard of again after that.

Korczak Orphanage
Group portrait of children from the Korczak orphanage. Image credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Shlomo Nadel via aboutholocaust

Korczak was a Polish Jew and worked professionally as a writer, pediatrician, and advocate for children’s rights. He was a fairly popular author and broadcaster who was forced into the Warsaw Ghetto where he spent time taking care of orphans.

Korczak maintained his affection for children even in the direst circumstances when he marched to his death along with the 192 orphans in his care to the Treblinka Death Camp in August 1942.

Warsaw was a place where considerable Jews were forced to live in ghettos. Korczak, too, was forced to relocate his orphanage to the ghetto along with the other 350,000 Jews. In his diary, he mentions the number of orphans admitted grew consistently, and by the summer of 1942, the number was up to around 200.

He also noted that he didn’t care about the background of the orphans that approached him. He said he was simply good to them. (Source)


7 Kazimierz Piechowski was an Auschwitz prisoner who learned that his friend was about to be executed. Piechowski, along with his friend and two other inmates disguised as SS soldiers, stole an SS car, fooled the gate guards by impersonating SS guards, shouted at the gate guards to open the gate, and simply drove off.

Kazimierz Piechowski
Piechowski enacted the unlikely escape in 1942, two years to the day after he arrived at Auschwitz. Image credit: YouTube/IPN TV via independent.co.uk

Piechowski was assigned duties at the warehouse of the prison, and so he knew all the whereabouts of uniforms and weapons. His friend, Eugeniusz Bendera, being a mechanic, had the access to the vehicle.

While planning the escape, Piechowski, Bendera, and two other inmates came to terms with the fact that if they failed at this, they would just shoot themselves.

On a very quiet morning in 1942, four of them put on the uniforms, gathered up machine guns, eight grenades, and the fastest car available at the base.

When the escapees encountered the guard gates, Piechowski yelled at them to wake up and open the gates for them, which they did. Then the mates just drove away. (1, 2)


8 Stanisława Leszczynska was a Polish Catholic midwife who delivered 3,000 babies at the Auschwitz concentration camp despite instructions to murder them. Moreover, she smuggled false documents and food supplies to Jews imprisoned at the ghetto as a part of developing Polish resistance.

Stanisława Leszczynska
Image credit: The Archdiocese of Lodz/Public Domain via history

The story of Leszczynska is largely unheard of except in Poland. During her two-year term in the Auschwitz camp, Leszczynska, with her small circle of women and a German doctor, helped fellow inmates by delivering babies. They helped with births in unimaginably filthy conditions of “maternity wards” at barracks.

Most of the babies that she delivered were drowned in buckets in front of their mothers or starved to death, yet she strived to save as many as babies she possibly could.

Along with other midwives, Leszczynska too was instructed to kill the newborn, but she outrightly refused to. For her actions, she even suffered beatings from other midwives but continued to do what she was doing.

It wasn’t just a coincidence that Leszczynska landed in the camp. It was her endless desire to serve others that made her do so. She even married and studied to get her midwife’s certificate.

Leszczynska belonged to a town in Poland, named Lodz. Nazis invaded the town in 1939 after which she was imprisoned. She retired in 1957. (Source)


9 Captives of a Nazi labor camp in northern Germany’s marshes were proscribed from singing political songs, so they wrote a “soldier” hymn named Peat Bog Soldiers. The SS soldiers made them perform the anti-Nazi song at the “concentration camp circus,” and it was so catchy that SS sang along.

Peat Bog Soldiers or Die Moorsoldaten in German was first written at one of the Moor concentration camps. These were a chain of 15 camps in northern Germany, collectively known as Emslandlager. The precise origin of the composition is unsure, but it is commonly believed that it was drafted in the summer of 1933 at the Borgermoor Camp.

It is also said that the soldiers’ brutality led the inmates to produce the soldier hymn. The soldiers at the Borgermoor refused to allow the laborers to sing Die Moorsoldaten because of its last line. However, the song spread to the other camps and later achieved international recognition. The song, created in 1933, continued to be sung by the inmates at multiple camps even after 1939.

The nature of the song was socialist and communist for which it also became one of the best songs for the political resistance movement against National Socialism. (Source)


10 Eta Wrobel was one of the many Jews who fought back against the Nazis. She escaped transport to a concentration camp and helped in organizing a resistance group. Eta refused the orders to cook and clean, she carried a weapon on patrols and set up mines to destroy German vehicles.

Eta Wrobel
Portrait of Eta Wrobel 1945 (Image to the left), Photographed by Mitch Braff in December of 2001. Image credit: jewishpartisans

Born and raised in Lokov, Poland, Eta, along with other Jews, was forced into a camp in October 1942. Eta and her father escaped the camp and found themselves in the woods surrounding Lokov. Here she helped create an all-Jewish partisan unit comprising of 80 individuals.

This unit used to steal supplies from the camps, cut off supply routes, and set mines to restrict Nazis’ movements.

Eta stood out from the other seven other women in her unit. She had a dynamic personality and military skills which she made use of on missions with men. She also made crucial strategic decisions.

Eta once had an extremely painful instance when she got shot in the leg. Her unit’s doctor was busy treating others, so he just handed Eta a knife and vodka as a sterilizer. Eta dug out the bullet using the knife and sterilized it using a shot of vodka.

Germans vacated Lokov in 1944. Soon in December the same year, Eta married, and in 1947, both she and her husband moved to the US to live a peaceful life. (Source)

Also Read:
10 of the Noteworthy Firsts Throughout History

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