Ala Gertner

Ala Gertner (March 12, 1912 – January 5, 1945), mentioned in other sources as Alla, Alina, Ella, and Ela Gertner, was one of four women executed by hanging in the Auschwitz extermination camp for his Participation in the revolt of the Sonderkommandos the 7 of October of 1944.


Gertner was born in Będzin , Poland , in a prosperous family Jewish . Before the German invasion of Poland in 1939 he attended a secondary school in Będzin. The city is located in an industrial area southwest of Poland near the border with Germany . 1

Field of work of Geppersdorf

The German military took Będzin on the first day of the invasion, set fire to the Great Synagogue a week, and began relocating the premises. On October 28, 1940 Gertner was ordered to appear at the train station Sosnowiec , where he was taken to the labor camp of Geppersdorf (currently Rzedziwojowice ), where hundreds of Jewish men were forced to work on the construction of the Reichsautobahn ( Motorway of the Reich ) and where the women cooked and washed the clothes. Gertner, who spoke German, was assigned to the field offices, where she met the prisoner Bernhard Holtz with whom he would marry the following year in the ghetto of Sosnowiec . 2

Geppersdorf was part of the Organisation Schmelt , a network of 177 forced labor camps under the administration of Albrecht Schmelt , a veteran of the First World War he joined the Nazis in 1930 and quickly rose to the position of Oberführer of the SS . Because of his knowledge of politics and society of the region annexed western Poland, Schmelt was appointed by Heinrich Himmler as “Special Representative of the Reichsführer-SS for Employment of Foreign Labour in Upper Silesia .” After his appointment, Schmelt established his headquarters in Sosnowiec and created a system of fields of work that would be known as Organization Schmelt .

Schmelt built a trade in slaves very lucrative. More than 50,000 Jews from western Poland were forced to work for the Germans, mainly in construction, ammunition manufacture and the textile industry. Schmelt shared a fraction of the profits with Moses Merin , the region’s Jewish governor. Practically none of the benefits went to the workers. The conditions were diverse, but they were much better than in the concentration camps . For example, in some of Schmelt’s fields of work it was permissible to receive correspondence until 1943, when these fields became part of Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen . ( Oskar Schindler’s camp originally belonged to the Schmelt Organization .)

In 1941, Gertner was able to return home. He worked for several companies and offices led by Moses Merin. He married Bernhard Holtz in the Sosnowiec ghetto at Srodula on 22 May 1943. They lived in the Będzin ghetto until an uncertain date after July 16, 1943 (the date of Gertner’s last known letter) and were Deported to Auschwitz along with Jews remaining in Sosnowiec and Będzin, probably in early August 1943.

In Auschwitz

At Auschwitz, Gertner worked in the warehouses at first, selecting the assets of the Jews who had died in the gas chambers. She befriended Roza Robota , who was a member of the clandestine resistance. Gertner was assigned to the munitions factory office, where along with Roza they joined a conspiracy to smuggle gunpowder for the Sonderkommando , who were building bombs and planning a flight. Gertner recruited other women, who handed the stolen gunpowder to Roza.

On October 7, 1944 the Sonderkommando flew the Crematorium IV, but the revolt was quickly suppressed by the SS guards. A long investigation led the Nazis to Gertner and Roza, then to Estusia Wajcblum and Regina Safirsztajn, who were also involved in the conspiracy. They were interrogated and tortured for weeks. On January 5, 1945, the four women were hanged in public. 3 Other sources indicate that the execution took place on 6 January. 4 5 This was the last public execution in Auschwitz: 4 two weeks later, the camp was evacuated.


No direct relative of Gertner survived, but her 28 letters to a friend in the field called the Kirschner Hall (maiden name Garncarz) are part of the 350-war wartime collection of the Garncarz Kirschner Room Collection of the Dorot Jewish Division The New York Public Library . 2 The heroism of the four women was recognized in 1991 with a monument in Yad Vashem .


  1. Back to top↑ Carrie-Anne (22 November 2006), Ala Gertner (March 12, 1912, Poland – January 5, 1945). Find A Grave Memorial # 16748307.
  2. ↑ Jump to:a b The New York Public Library Dorot Jewish Division , Letters from Ward Gertner to Ward. Introduction.
  3. Back to top↑ Heilman, p. 143
  4. ↑ Jump to:a b Garber, Zev (2004). “The Practice of Judaism During the Shoah 1933-1945 .” In Garber, Zev; Zuckerman, Bruce. Double Takes: Thinking and Rethinking Issues of Modern Judaism in Ancient Contexts . Lanham, Boulder CO, New York, Toronto, Oxford: University Press of America. Pp. 52-. ISBN  0-7618-2894-X .
  5. Back to top↑ Biggs, Mary (1996). Women’s Words: The Columbia Book of Quotations by Women . Columbia University Press. P. 163. ISBN  0-231-07986-9 .