On January 2nd 73 years ago the Germans sentenced over 100 Poles to death at Auschwitz

Jacek Bednarczyk

Over 100 Poles were sentenced to death by a summary police court of the Katowice (southern Poland) Gestapo, which held a session at the Auschwitz Nazi German death camp on January 5, 1945.

The court was presided over by Johannes Thuemmler, who avoided punishment after the war and died in 2002. The sitting of the Katowice Gestapo summary court 73 years ago was the last time it sat. The Poles sentenced to death were shot the following day at crematorium number 5 at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp. 

The exact number who perished is not known, but is thought to be 116 men and women. Adam Cyra, a historian from the Auschwitz Museum, said that almost all the court's documentation was destroyed on Thuemmler's orders in January 1945. The only trace of the victims, who before the hearing were imprisoned in block 11 of Auschwitz, were writings in the cells. The last bears the date January 5, 1945. 

Among those shot was Armia Krajowa (Home Army, AK) courier Zbigniew Kunz, from Orlowa in Zaolzie (southern Poland), whose AK pseudonym was 'Adler'. Adam Cyra said he was arrested on April 6, 1943, and sentenced to prison in Cieszyn (southern Poland) and later in Myslowice (southern Poland). On February 17, 1944, he was transferred to Auschwitz. His mother, Gabriela Kuntzowa, in an attempt to save him, bribed a Katowice Gestapo officer named Hess. As a result, in subsequent court hearings, Hess would put the young man's files to the bottom of the pile, thereby prolonging his life. In the final days of December 1944, Hess went on holiday so the file was not postponed. "The head of the Katowice Gestapo Johannes Thuemmler, a desk-top torturer, sentenced him to death," said Cyra. 

In all, the summary court sentenced about 3,000 Poles. Almost all were shot. The executions were conducted at the Auschwitz camp's notorious Death Wall in the courtyard of block 11 and from March 1944 at crematorium number 5 at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp. Historians have established the dates of 36 hearings. Thuemmler, who personally sentenced over 1,000 Poles to death, avoided punishment after the war. He was interned by the American authorities, who turned down a Polish request for his extradition. In 1949 he went free. He died in 2002 at the age of 95.