He witnessed the exterminations and gassings of a million Jews and lived to write one of the key documents of the Holocaust; his 1979 book Eyewitness Auschwitz - Three Years in the Gas Chambers was his first-hand account of the events behind the walls in the Auschwitz camps.
In April 1942, Müller, who was only twenty years old, came with one of the earliest transports to Auschwitz and was given "Prisoner Number 29236". Assigned to work in the construction of crematoria and installation of gas chambers, he witnessed "the families, the townships and the cities of Jewish people come", and was ordered to burn the dead bodies in crematoria. His extraordinary situation of cremating corpses was the only reason the Nazis kept him alive.
The arrivals of innocent men, women and children who entered Auschwitz each day was something that Müller could not have avoided, and yet he continued to pretend to them that they were somewhere safe as he worked around them before and in the gas chambers. After the Jews had removed their clothes in a side room, his role after the mass gassings was to enter the gas chambers with other workers and to search and sort the bodies by size and fat content − to further maximize how many bodies could be burned per hour − then move and load the bodies into the crematorium chamber and to "stoke" the bodies as they burned so they burned efficiently. Their clothes were also collected and disinfected and any valuables found in them were either taken by SS officials or used by prisoners who had "organized" (stolen) them to barter with the SS officials for food or other supplies.
Müller describes once eating cheese and cake he found in the gas chamber after a gassing.
After realizing what he was doing to the thousands of Jews each and every day for nearly three years, Müller admitted in his book that he did try to commit suicide by trying to enter the gas chambers himself. In his book, he recounted a story of how he saw a group of countrymen singing the Hatikvah and the Czech national anthem before they entered the gas chamber. He decided to join the group but a few minutes after he entered the gas chamber, a girl came up and said to him:
"We understand that you have chosen to die with us of your own free will, and we have come to tell you that we think your decision is pointless: for it helps no one." She went on: "We must die, but you still have a chance to save your life. You have to return to the camp and tell everybody about our last hours," she commanded. "You have to explain to them that they must free themselves from any illusions. They ought to fight, that's better than dying here helplessly. It'll be easier for them, since they have no children. As for you, perhaps you'll survive this terrible tragedy and then you must tell everybody what happened to you." (Müller, 1979, p. 113)
Despite the horrific actions that he had no alternative but to participate in, Müller realized that he had to stay alive because he and other workers would possibly be the only survivors that had to live and tell the real story behind the Holocaust.
Until January 1945, Müller worked as a prisoner in the Sonderkommando and he was evacuated from Auschwitz, and freed in May 1945 in the subcamp, Gunskirchen, of the concentration camp Mauthausen.
After the war
Müller first testified during his recovery in a post liberation hospital. This was published in an obscure Czech collection. It would be this testimony that would be reprinted in the 1966 'The Death Factory'. Müller then testified at the Second Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials in 1964.
Since 1969, Müller lived in Western Europe.
Filip Müller died at the age of 91 on November 9, 2013, 75 years to the day after Kristallnacht.
- Müller, Filip (1999) . 'Eyewitness Auschwitz - Three Years in the Gas Chambers. trans. Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. and Susanne Flatauer. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee & in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. p. 180. ISBN 1-56663-271-4.
- Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers (1999 edition) Filip Müller. Page 13.
- Hata, George (8 December 1985). In a brilliant documentary on the Holocaust, survivors' memories purge the ultimate evil, Reading Eagle
- Account - Filip Müller, survivor of Auschwitz
- Auschwitz Survivor Filip Muller's Testimony
- A french site about Auschwitz Sonderkommando and dedicated to Filip Müller. Introductions in English