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Heroic Act of Resistance at Auschwitz-Birkenau

COLLEGE PARK, MD. — It was one of the most celebrated acts of resistance by a Jewish woman at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp: an actress stripped naked and about to be gassed pulled a gun from a notoriously brutal guard and shot him dead.

A 33-year-old Polish timber merchant who was in charge of a filing system in his barracks told British intelligence about the woman’s act in a May 31, 1945 secret report, four months after the camp was liberated.

To mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27, we are posting here a copy of a rarely viewed 10-page report found in a U.S. Army intelligence file.

The report was declassified in 2010. We obtained it during a visit to the U.S. National Archives in College Park, Md., as part of our ongoing effort at The Associated Press to mine the eight million secret records that have been declassified under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act of 1998.

The guard was identified in the document as SS Sergeant Josef Schillinger, who was named in a U.N. War Crimes Commission report. The basic facts in the story have been validated by other scholars. The Jewish woman has not been unequivocally identified, but different accounts have said she was Franceska Mann. However, it may never be known who she was since she was killed after the shooting.

Click the image above to view the full report.

— Randy Herschaft and Cristian Salazar, Jan. 21, 2012