6. The Ballerina Who Led a World War II Death Camp Revolt
As SS guard Walter Quakernack clutched at his face, Franceska Mann seized his pistol, and opened fire on the other guards. She shot two of them, Josef Shillinger, and Wilhelm Emmerich. Shillinger died of his wounds a few hours later, while Emmerich was left with a permanent limp. As the stunned SS men tried to process what had just happened, a dam of mounting tensions in the undressing room broke. Mann’s feat of defiance triggered the remaining women into attacking the SS guards with whatever lay at hand, and with their bare hands and teeth if they could not get a hold of anything else.
One SS man was scalped, while another had his nose torn off before the guards fled the room. As the women barricaded themselves, SS reinforcements arrived to put down the uprising. Using grenades and submachine guns, the Germans eventually killed everybody in the undressing room, including Mann. Some accounts have it that some survived, to be taken out and executed. What is certain is that SS guard Josef Shillinger was killed, Wilhelm Emmerich was shot and lived, while Walter Quakernack and other SS men were wounded. After the war, Quakernack was tried for war crimes and executed.