A Ballerina Who Stabbed an SS Guard With a Stiletto and Other Historic Rebels

Jews arriving in Auschwitz. Yad Vashem

39. Arriving in Auschwitz

On October 23rd, 1943, 1700 Jews were aboard passenger trains headed to what they believed was a transfer camp near Dresden. They were told that would get off the trains there, then go through bureaucratic formalities and health checks, preparatory to getting sent to Switzerland in exchange for German POWs. Instead, the trains stopped at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

Franceska Mann was one of the passengers who got off the trains. She and other women were told that Swiss authorities required that immigrants first be disinfected, before crossing the border into Switzerland. Instead of a disinfection station, they were taken to an undressing room next to the gas chambers, and told to undress. It was in that room, as other women disrobed, that Franceska suspected what was in store, and decided to become a one-woman resistance movement.