History Book: A prisoner revolt in Poland


MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Monday, October 7th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Megan Basham.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: The World Radio History Book.

Fifty years ago this week, a violent four-day protest in Chicago. Plus, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees breaks two NFL records.

BASHAM: But first, during World War II, a Jewish uprising at a notorious concentration camp. Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: We begin in Poland—75 years ago today. A prisoner revolt at the Birkenau concentration camp. 

HABERFELD: And all of a sudden we heard shooting, and shooting, and shooting, and a terrible explosion.

That’s Birkenau survivor Lusia Haberfeld. 

On October 7th, 1944, three groups of prisoners simultaneously begin an attack. While some set off improvised explosives and begin firing on guards, others cut through the wires and escape. Most of the prisoners belong to the Sonderkommando—those forced to dispose of the gas chamber victims before becoming casualties themselves. 

Crematorium number 4 is damaged beyond repair. But the revolt is quickly put down. All of the escaped prisoners are recaptured. Some are immediately executed while others are interrogated for the names of conspirators. The Nazis were successful in learning the identity of a few:

HABERFELD: Roza Robota with three other girls were taking the dynamite from Jewish women working in an ammunition factory and it took them 12 months, little by little, they smuggled the powder…it took them a long time to smuggle it in the hems of their frocks.

Over the next three months prison guards beat and torture the women. When they are unsuccessful in getting additional information, the Nazi’s hang them. 

Recent research suggests the revolt was more than an escape attempt. At least some of the sonderkommando were attempting to get documentary proof of the atrocities occurring within the camp to forces outside it.  

AIRS: In Chicago, we will lead massive demonstrations against the war…

Next, October 8th, 1969. The Weatherman, a splinter group from the socialist Students for Democratic Society begins a four day violent protest in Chicago. Organizers hope to build on the momentum of the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests—but on the first night of “The Days of Rage,” only a few hundred show up. 

At about 10:30 that night, The Weatherman run through Chicagos’ Gold Coast neighborhood, smashing cars and shop windows as they go. They are dressed in football helmets and carrying homemade weapons.

The destruction stretches about four blocks before the rioters run into police barricades. The violence lasts about a half-hour before police restrain the crowd. Twenty-eight policemen are injured in the scuffle. Officers shoot six Weathermen, none fatally. They arrest 68 rioters in all.

Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley addresses the press the following day:

MAYOR DALEY: Those who were arrested and charged for taking part in the attacks and destruction last night, and again this morning, were between the ages of 18 and 25. And I’d like to emphasize this. They are not kids…

“The Days of Rage” lasts four days. But due to low turnout and the large police presence, the protest accomplishes little. In fact, the demonstrations divide the protest groups and further sour public perceptions of the anti-war movement.

And finally, October 8th, 2012. 

AUDIO: [Sound of crowd cheering]

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees throws a touchdown pass to Devery Henderson.

For Brees, it’s the 48th consecutive game with a touchdown—breaking a more than 50-year record set by Johnny Unitas. Drew Brees’ streak eventually extends to 52 games, the current NFL record.

BREES: It was an exciting moment on Sunday to be a part of that and obviously to win the game on Sunday night football in the Superdome. And if we continue to build the record so be it, but just to be a part of this run and eclipse the record like we did on Sunday was an incredible feeling.

ESPN: The family is on the field, in anticipation of celebrations. Will we get it here before half-time? 

Exactly six years later, Brees sets another passing record. This time on Monday Night Football. Audio here, courtesy of ESPN:

ESPN: Brees. Oh, wide open. Wide open! And Smith. What a way to do it!!!

The 39-year-old Brees becomes the NFL record holder for the most yards passing with a 62-yard touchdown toss. As of last week, he’s added nearly 3,000 yards to the record.

That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book, I’m Paul Butler.


(Photo/Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team) Crematorium IV at Birkenau in 1943

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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