David Lea: unknown Auschwitz sonderkommando

David Boder’s interview with Auschwitz sonderkommando David Lea has been ignored in the holocaust literature, although an Auschwitz sonderkommando who told his story relatively early (1946) ought to be given due consideration.

Lea explains that he was from Saloniki. He was arrested on April 2 and deported to Auschwitz on May 9, 1943. He states that the rest of his large family was killed. Oddly enough, while they were selected for death directly on arrival, they went “to the crematorium” only a month later. Lea then explains his experience as an Auschwitz sonderkommando:

David Lea: Yes, 44 Novembre,14 I was in Auschwitz, in the camp of Auschwitz. Have burned, six, eh, a moment. . . .
David Boder: [In English] He’s writing down the number. All right. [Pause]
David Boder: [In German] Six hundred thousand.
David Lea: In Novembre.
David Boder: In one month?
David Lea: Wait, in Novembre.
David Boder: Yes.
David Lea: The German have burned, made nonsense. The commando, special commando, working special commando crematorium. In seven . . . .15
David Boder: Did you work in the crematorium? [Interrupting]
David Lea: Yes in c. In 27 days, they have burnt six, sixty, hundred thousand Jewish Hungarian.16
David Boder: 60.000 Hungarian Jews.
David Lea: Yes . . .
David Boder: Did you work in the crematorium? [Interrupting]
David Lea: That’s right. [simultaneously] That’s right, I work crematorium.17 I self have burnt. Six and thousand, eh, sixty, eh . . .
David Boder: Six hundred thousand.
David Lea: Six hundred thousand Jewish have burnt until, two, two, eh until twenty-seven days. After days, every day burnt the crematorium of, eh, Auschwitz.
David Boder: Yes.
David Lea: After, the Russians come. April 18. June 18 from Radom to the camp of Auschwitz, the Russian come June 28.18 After, I travel to Buchenwald. Special . . . [Noises in the background]19
David Boder: When were you in Buchenwald?
David Lea: In Buchenwald I have done three months, two were in Dachau, one week in Fürth, after, April 29, American troop come to Dachau on order.20
David Boder: Aha, yes. And liberated you.
David Lea: That’s right.
David Boder: Well, you are saying, that you worked in the crematorium of Auschwitz?
David Lea: Yes, Yes, that’s right
David Boder: Eh . . .
David Lea: Special commando.
David Boder: In the special commando. Well, tell me, how . . . what happened in the crematorium? What was the crematorium? [Pause] Oh. [Pause]
David Boder: [In English] He’s lighting a cigarette. He wanted to roll one, but I offered him an American cigarette and light my own.
David Boder: [In German] Well, tell me, you worked in the crematorium. Would you tell me, how did you work in the crematorium and what did the crematorium look like?
David Lea: In, well, how one has worked . . . ? [hesitates]
David Boder: Yes, well, so how did you, what did the crematorium look like?
David Lea: That’s right, Yes. Come transport from every . . . . Come transport from all of Europe Jewish . . .
David Boder: Come a little closer. [Interrupting]
David Lea: Come transport from all of Europe, Jewish. Boy of two months, of five years, of seven years, of ten years, of eighteen years. Person of 80 years, of 90 years stays there. Comes to, eh crematorium. Is a big hall. Write French, eh, German. My, eh—say, an “Affiche”21 in Crematorium say, all undress. Make bath. People make bath. I, the, eh, I healthy, when I . . . when I bath, I healthy. Things, I cannot understand, what spoken correct, all undress, together, men with the Fräulein together, the women of 80 years and the girls of 20 years, all together. Eh, when all together, they get soap and the—what is that . . . .22
David Boder: Towel.
David Lea: Towel, soap. An SS from the other room look, all already, all already . . . done, all already finished. All is out. Has opened up the Luminette and the gas. In two minutes, one to two minutes, finished two- three thousand men.23
David Boder: Did they all really die?
David Lea: Really died. After, the little boys, two, eh four years, three years. Only they get . . . eh . . . eh here . . . [seems to be pointing to his nose] blood, eh, blood, bleeding.
David Boder: A bleeding nose.
David Lea: Nose, . . . a bleeding nose from the poison. Only the little one cried, Mummy, Mummy, Mummy. But the mother after, after one, eh, two minutes the mother was finished, the entire family. Then come nonsense. I Ventilateur,24 Ventilateur.
David Boder: Yes.
David Lea: Has also done nonsense, the same, the special commando, the Ventilateur.25
David Boder: Yes.
David Lea: The gas off . . . out
David Boder: Out, yes.
David Lea: (unclear)
David Boder: Yes, Yes.
David Lea: Get noisy
David Boder: Yes.
David Lea: Throw the dead in the wagonnet26 . . .
David Boder: Yes.
David Lea: . . . and after into the crematorium.
David Boder: Well, yes. What was the crematorium? An oven? [Pause] What was it? An oven, eh, a . . . ?
David Lea: Co-, Co-, Coal.
David Boder: Yes.
David Lea: Coal, Coal . . .
David Boder: Eh, yes. Was it an oven or . . . ?
David Lea: No. Eh, crematorium, crematorium . . . [Interrupting] and the . . .
David Boder: Yes, yes. How many people could you burn in there at one time? [Interrupting]
David Lea: When I, eh, with transport come every day ten transports of 20 to 40 thousand people. Eight people in one crematorium, twenty minutes burn. After the days, every day made burn in crematorium. Every day, after Sabbath, every day burning in crematorium. In crematorium there was work, about five, eh, 1500 men. 500 men every hour, every eight hours work. After change, other 500 men work. And those who work special commando eat good.27
David Boder: They gave you good food?
David Lea: Yes, that’s right. After, the 1500 men only work for three months. Because after, the SS has finished them, with, eh, the, 1500 men.
David Boder: How did they finish them?
David Lea: Why—Not want them to speak about what they are doing in crematorium.
David Boder: But how did they finish them. Also in the crematorium?
David Lea: Also in crematorium. And the SS finished in crematorium the same, the, the, eh special commando. After three months with it, then crematorium.
David Boder: Yes.
David Lea: Burned the same. I did not burn, then come the Russian.
David Boder: Aha.
David Lea: When my commando, the special commando, 1.500 men did not burn, then come the Russian. And the Germans, no time, no time. When I have time, hundreds have burned.
David Boder: Yes.
David Lea: In, eh, 43 . . . the crematorium four, four . . . [noise in the background] number crematorium four, the Greek from Saloniki, Athens, has made a bomb. Bomb destroys.28
David Boder: Who has done that?
David Lea: The Greek from Athens. In, eh, 34.
David Boder: In eh, eh 44.
David Lea: 44.
David Boder: Were these Jewish Greeks?
David Lea: Jewish Greeks together with the Polacks.
David Boder: Together with the Polacks they did such a thing.
David Lea: Yes. Had . . .
David Boder: Torn.
David Lea: Torn, yes, had munitions in crematorium four. Greek from Athens and Polack, Jewish, from the Ghetto of Warsaw.29
David Boder: Yes.
David Lea: Have destroyed crematorium four.
David Boder: Where, in, eh Auschwitz?
David Lea: No, in Birkenau.
David Boder: In Birkenau. Exactly, Auschwitz and Birkenau. Eh, how did they destroy the crematorium?
David Lea: The Jewish—eh, Greek and Jewish Polack.
David Boder: Aha, and what did they do to them? [Pause] Eh, did they survive, the people?
David Lea: All destroyed in Crematorium.
David Boder: The people that were in it?
David Lea: . . . they too. The people that were in it. [Interrupting] When the, the, eh, person went out [unintelligible] it was with machine gun. The SS said, that when I make nonsense in the crematorium, we is finished. Everything destroyed, inside, with the people, the Jewish Polack and the Jewish from Greece. After two minutes . . . finished.
David Boder: Did you see that for yourself?
David Lea: I have seen it not, when I am in Revier [noise in the background]
David Boder: What?
David Lea: I am sick.
David Boder: Oh, you were sick and you were in the Revier.
David Lea: [unintelligible, as simultaneously with Interviewer] . . . was in Revier, did not see, but bum.
David Boder: You have heard it, when it happened.
David Lea: Everything, yes. [Interrupting]
David Boder: And after they had destroyed the crematoria, were there still people being burnt in there?
David Lea: Not.
David Boder: No, they did not . . .
David Lea: No. [simultaneously]
David Boder: None.
David Lea: Eh, for two days they evacuated the camp of Birkenau. SS has destroyed all crematoria.30
David Boder: They destroyed it all themselves.
David Lea: For two days evacuated the camp of Birkenau. April 18, they evacuated with us camp. 16 no 18, eh 18 . . .
David Boder: No, no, no, take the hand down. [Interrupting] Yes.
David Lea: June 18,31 in April, June 18, 45 they evacuated the camp of Auschwitz. June 16, 45 the German destroyed all the crematoria. Six crematoria did destroy the German.
David Boder: They themselves? And how many did the Greek destroy?
David Lea: The Greek destroyed and also the Polack destroyed.
David Boder: Yes, but how many of the crematoria did the Greek . . .
David Lea: One crematorium. [Interrupting] One crematorium. One crematorium number four. The same, the Jewish Polack has destroyed crematorium four.
David Boder: Aha, and the rest was destroyed by the SS.
David Lea: destroyed by SS.
David Boder: Now, but, where did you go to after, eh, who has liberated you, the Russians or the Americans?
David Lea: American. April 29, 45.
David Boder: From which camp?
David Lea: From Dachau.
David Boder: From Dachau. Eh, was there a crematorium in Dachau as well?
David Lea: In Dachau crematorium, 44 they made only one crematorium. Why—has done. In Dachau, it is forbidden for the Jewish.
David Boder: What?
David Lea: In Dachau it is forbidden . . .
David Boder: In Dachau it was forbidden for Jewish rank. There were no Jews in Dachau.
David Lea: Yes. No Jews, non crematorium.

Lea explains that the 600,000 Hungarian Jews were in fact burned alive in pits in 27 days. According to his story (and as a sonderkommando he ought to know) there was a gas chamber, but there was not time to send the Hungarian Jews to it. Nor was there time to burn them in the crematory ovens. Therefore they were burned alive in pits in November or September, 1944.

David Lea: The tragedy that occurred in ’44, in Birkenau camp, more or less, I could not speak because my German isn’t good . . . I don’t speak well, but now, I will speak in Spanish. In 1944, by the end of 1944, in November, in Birkenau camp . . . in September, October, or November, 600,000 Jewish Hungarians came in Birkenau. When the crematories were not enough to burn the Jews, the SS ordered 3,000 men to dig holes.
David Boder: To make what?
David Lea: Holes, pits. [The interviewer says something in another language to make himself clear].
David Boder: Ah . . . whole . . .
David Lea: Yes. Pits.
David Boder: Pits.
David Lea: Yes. And, in 27 days, they burned 600,000 Jews alive. We saw them because I worked [unintelligible] commando to the crematory, and I saw them by the front side, they burnt them alive, with wood and benzene. The transportations coming, sometimes . . .50
David Boder: They burned them in pits, not in the . . .
David Lea: They did not burn them . . . they did not burn them in furnaces because they didn’t have time.
David Boder: Yes. They did not send them to the chambre . . . gas chamber.
David Lea: No. They didn’t put them in the gas chamber because the Germans didn’t have time.
David Boder: And then . . . ?
David Lea: They burned them in the pits we had made, with wood and with essence.
David Boder: With what?
David Lea: With essence, benzene.
David Boder: Benzene.
David Lea: Benzene.
David Boder: Right. did they kill them before, or what?
David Lea: They burned them alive. They didn’t kill them, they burned them alive.
David Boder: They burned them alive?
David Lea: Alive. Six hundred thousand Jewish Hungarians, in November or in September. I don’t remember exactly the date and the day, but I remember that I witnessed this, as [unintelligible].
David Boder: Pardon me.
David Lea: [unintelligible] I saw this as if the [unintelligible] were mine.
David Boder: Right.
David Lea: The transportations coming there were guarded by thousands of SS and, in the whole convoy, there were about 20 to 25 or 50 [unintelligible]. And in the last one I saw, there was a German Jeep -they said it was from the Croix Rouge. And the Jews, when they were put in the convoy, they said they would take them to hospital, and the Jews believed it because they saw they were accompanied by the [unintelligible] of the Croix Rouge.51
David Boder: What did the [unintelligible] have? A red cross?
David Lea: The [unintelligible] had the Croix Rouge and it had . . .
David Boder: What is Croix Rouge?
David Lea: The Red Cross.
David Boder: The Red Cross?
David Lea: Yes. It had in the [unintelligible], it had a white flag with the Red Cross, and he said we are taking you to the hospital to examine you, and we are taking [unintelligible]. And then, inside, he opened the gases.
David Boder: I see . . .
David Lea: But [unintelligible] knew that, the transportation [unintelligible]. Even us . . . we ourselves when we first arrived at the camp. But after one month, two months, three months that I worked in the crematory, we knew what it contained. The gas was brought with the Red Cross. With the [unintelligible], with the Red Cross car.
David Boder: From the Red Cross. Yes.
David Lea: From the Red Cross. As I am explaining . . . I am explaining that [unintelligible] caros brothers [unintelligible] you will not to be able to feel. This is the greatest tragedy, the greatest ever in the crematory. [unintelligible] our brothers and sisters. Six million Jews died in the camps, some battered, some of starvation, some [unintelligible] to be put in the gas chamber, children and parents. They could no longer stand the suffering and the starvation, and lice, and the forced labor any more, and they went voluntarily to the gas chamber.

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One Response to David Lea: unknown Auschwitz sonderkommando

  1. Manuel Garcia says:

    I’m currently married to his granddaughter and she was crying reading the atrocities committed by the Nazis… My wife’s name is Nathaly Velazquez Lea

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