June 20, 1942 – An escape from Auschwitz death camp

On this day in 1942 four prisoners of Auschwitz staged a daring escape utilizing a stolen SS member’s personal vehicle, a Steyr 220 sedan to essentially drive right out the front gate. The escapees, three Polish men named Kazimierz Piechowski, Stanislaw Gustaw Jaster and Józef Lempart along with an auto mechanic from Czortków, now Ukraine, named Eugeniusz Bendera, stole Nazi SS uniforms, weapons and the car in order to drive safely out of the concentration death camp. In order to pull off the escape the four men posed as a rollwagenkommando, German for haulage detail, which involved a group of men pulling a cart instead of horses. The walked through the main gate of Auschwitz, which reads Arbeit Macht Frei. Once outside Bendera, the mechanic, went to the motor pool while the others went to a warehouse where uniforms and weapons were stored. Piechowski, the leader of the group, had inside knowledge of the camp as a Leichenkommando, one who was supposed to deliver bodies to the crematorium. As those three men stole uniforms and weapons the mechanic went to the motor pool and took the Steyr 220 belonging to SS-Hauptsturmführer Paul Kreuzmann. He was not questioned about taking the car because as a mechanic he regularly test drove vehicles to ensure they were in good working order. He then took the car to the warehouse where he changed into a Nazi uniform with the others. The four men got into the car and drove toward the main gate, each armed with a machine gun and grenades. They also carried an intelligence report from a man who was purposely imprisoned at the camp to identify what was happening. That person would escape the next year. As the men approached the gate it did not open. They stopped at Piechowski leaned out of the vehicle so the gate attendant could see his rank on his uniform and ordered the soldier to open the gate. He did so and they drove off. PhotosA Steyr 220 similar to the one used in the escapeThe main gate at Auschwitz just outside of Krakow, Poland

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