Alberto Errera

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Alberto Errera
Alberto Errera.jpg
Photograph of Alberto Errera from the collection of the Jewish Museum of Greece
Born(1913-01-15)January 15, 1913
Thessaloniki, Greece
DiedAugust 1944(1944-08-00) (aged 31)
Allegiance Greece
Service/branchHellenic Army, anti-Nazi resistance

Alberto Israel Errera[1] (Greek: Αλβέρτος Ερρέρα, 15 January 1913 in Thessaloniki, Greece – August 1944 in Auschwitz-Birkenau) was a Greek-Jewish officer and a member of the anti-Nazi resistance. He was a member of the Sonderkommando in Auschwitz-Birkenau from May to August 1944.

He took part in the preparation of the Sonderkommando Uprising of 1944. He is one of the possible authors of the Sonderkommando photographs.


Sonderkommando in Auschwitz-Birkenau, August 1944 (clandestine photo)
Sonderkommando in Auschwitz-Birkenau, August 1944 (clandestine photo)
Sonderkommando in Auschwitz-Birkenau, August 1944 (clandestine photo)
Sonderkommando in Auschwitz-Birkenau, August 1944 (clandestine photo)

Before the war, Alberto Errera was a soldier in the Hellenic Army, promoted to officer and achieving the rank of captain.[2] He married a woman called Matthildi,[3] from Larissa, and settled in Larissa, where he had a Supermarket. He joined the partisans, the Greek People's Liberation Army, during the German occupation of Greece, as a food supplier. He took the Christian name Alex (Alekos) Michaelides, or, according to his nephew, Alexandros Alexandris.[4] On the night of 24 March 1944, he was arrested by the Germans in Larissa, part of a group of 225 Jews,[5] and then jailed in the Haidari camp.[6] But, according to his nephew, he was captured, not as a Jew, but as a leftist.[7] He was deported from Athens on 2 April and arrived at Auschwitz on 11 April, at which point he was one of the 320 Greek (assigned serial numbers from 182,440 to 182,759) selected for labor. His number was 182,552. After spending two days in the Zentral Sauna in Birkenau, he and the other Greek men lived in the Block 12 of the Männerquarantäne Lager from April 13 to May 11. Then he was selected, along with 100 Greeks, to be part of the Sonderkommando.[8] He was assigned the job of a Heizer ("stoker"), a member of the Sonderkommando assigned to the crematorium furnace, in Birkenau Krematorium V. Alter Fajnzylberg talks about his athletic build[9] and Leon Cohen describes his unusual strength.[10] According to Filip Müller,[11] Leon Cohen[10] and the historian and fellow prisoner Hermann Langbein,[12] who actively participated in the preparations for the Sonderkommando Uprising, alongside Yaacov Kaminski, Jankiel Handelsmann, Jukl Wrobel, Josef Warszawski, a man named Władek, Giuseppe Baruch and Zalman Gradowski,[13] among others.

According to Izack Cohen, who worked in the Kanada Kommando, Errera was the leader of the Greek resistance group in Krematorium V. He tried to recruit Izack Cohen in the resistance group.[14]

Through the testimony of Alter Fajnzylberg,[9][15] we know that it was Errera who took the famous "Sonderkommando photographs" in the beginning of August 1944,[16][17][18] with the help of Dawid Szmulewski,[19] a member of the resistance, and three other members of the Sonderkommando, Szlama Dragon, his brother and Alter Fajnzylberg, who kept watch.[20] After taking the photographs, Errera buried the camera in the soil at the camp, for retrieval/discovery later.

On 9 August 1944,[21] during the transport from the crematoria of ash that was to be discharged into the Vistula, Errera tried to convince his three co-detainees (including Hugo Baruch Venezia and Henri Nechama Capon) to escape, but they refused. Once on site, Errera stunned the accompanying two Schupos with a shovel and plunged into the Vistula. He was caught during the next two or three days, tortured and killed. As was usual, when a fugitive was caught, his body was exposed at the men's camp entrance (BIId[22]) as an example to the other inmates.

Errera was awarded by the Greek government in the 1980s for his contribution in the Greek resistance during World War II.[23]

The Sonderkommando photographs[edit]

For many years, the author of the Sonderkommando pictures was not identified. They were credited as anonymous or, by default, assigned to Dawid Szmulewski, even if he mentioned a Greek Jew named Alex. The story of these photos was recorded by Alter Fajnzylberg in his writings in which he evokes the figure of the Greek Jew named Alex (although he forgot the surname). In May 1978, Fajnzylberg answered a letter from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, about the photographs. He wrote:

It was Alex from Greece, but I do not remember his name, who took the photographs. He died during an escape during the transport of ash from incinerated people. These ashes were regularly dumped in the Sola or in the Vistula. Alex disarmed both SS escort[s] and threw their rifles into the Vistula. He died during the pursuit. I do not remember where the camera and other documents were buried because it [was] Alex who performed this work.[24]

However, in his diaries, written immediately after the war, Fajnzylberg mentions the attempted escape of a Greek Jew named Aleko Errera. His escape struck their minds and was told by several surviving witnesses: Errikos Sevillias,[25] Shlomo Venezia,[26] Leon Cohen,[10] Marcel Nadjary,[27] Dr. Miklos Nyiszli,[28] Alter Fajnzylberg,[29] Henryk Mandelbaum,[30] Albert Menasche,[31] Daniel Bennahmias[32]and Eddy de Wind.[33]


  1. ^ "Εβραϊκό Μουσείο Ελλάδος". Archived from the original on 2014-11-06. Retrieved 2014-11-08.
  2. ^ "«Ερευνητικά Προγράμματα•Βιογραφικά σημειώματα, Ερρέρα, Αλβέρτος» ("Research Programs: Biographical Notes, Errera, Alberto")", Hellenic Literary and Historical Archive (in Greek), Athens and Thessaloniki: National Bank of Greece Cultural Foundation, archived from the original on 2015-04-19, retrieved 2017-03-09
  3. ^ She died in 1980 in Larissa.
  4. ^ See interview of his nephew : Alberto Errera photograph 280 Sonderkommando Auschwitz. Alexandros Alexandridis was the code name of the brother of Alberto Errera, Samuel Errera, who died as a resistance fighter in Thebes, Greece, in an airstrike.
  5. ^ Gideon Greif, We wept without tears, Yale University Press, 2005, p. 375.
  6. ^ Marcel Nadjary, Χρονικό 1941–1945 [Chronicle], Ιδρυμα Ετσ - Αχα'ι'μ, Thessaloniki, 1991, p. 36.
  7. ^ See interview of his nephew : Alberto Errera photograph 280 Sonderkommando Auschwitz.
  8. ^ See Auschwitz by Tal Bruttmann : as early as 16 May 1944, four convoys, each carrying 3,000 Jews from Hungary in 45 wagons, had to leave Hungary daily for Auschwitz. After being removed from Auschwitz in November 1943 by order of Himmler, Rudolf Höss was called back to the camp commandment to prepare the site for the scheduled mass arrival (Aktion Höss). On 9 May, orders were given to increase the number of prisoners of the Sonderkommando and Kanada Kommando (see Auschwitz Chronicle by Danuta Czech). In mid-April, the number of Sonderkommando prisoners stood at 207. On May 15, a contingent of 100 men was taken from the quarantine camp among the Greek Jews selected on April 11.
  9. ^ a b Alter Fajnzylberg, Les cahiers d'Alter Fajnzylberg : ce que j'ai vu à Auschwitz, Éditions Rosiers, 2014.
  10. ^ a b c Leon Cohen, From Greece to Birkenau : the crematoria workers'uprising, Salonika Jewry Research Center, 1996.
  11. ^ See Filip Müller, Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers, Stein and Day, 1979.
  12. ^ Hermann Langbein, People in Auschwitz, p. 217 : Kaminski and two Greeks who had participated in an earlier discussion of these plans with Porebski decided to organize a rebellion of the Sonderkommando, which had nothing to lose. The name of one of the two Greeks has been passed along; Eduard de Wind writes about Errera from Larissa and Albert Menasche mentions Alexander Hereirra. While Paisikovic does not remember the name, he does recall that a very intelligent Greek who was known on the detail for his beautiful singing took part in the preparatory work. The second Greek is probably Giuseppe Baruch, aka Pepo.
  13. ^ (in French) Zalmen Gradowski, Au cœur de l’enfer, Tallandier, 2009.
  14. ^ From Erich Kulka's notes. See the testimony in Auschwitz Sonderkommando channel's video
  15. ^ "Écrire la destruction du monde judéo-polonais (3/7) : Ecrits au coeur de la catastrophe (2/2), actualité Écrire la destruction du monde judéo-polonais (1945-1960)".
  16. ^ About these photographs, see Georges Didi-Huberman, Images in Spite of All: Four Photographs from Auschwitz, University of Chicago Press, 2008, first published as Images malgré tout Les Éditions de Minuit, 2003.
  17. ^ Spicer, Gary P. "THE SONDERKOMMANDO PHOTOGRAPHS". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  18. ^ Steven Bowman, The Agony of Greek Jews, 1940–1945, Stanford University Press, 2009, p. 95
  19. ^ See the testimony of Szmulewski in Jean-Claude Pressac, Technique and operation of the gas chambers, Beate Klarfeld Foundation, 1989. Online
  20. ^ Hermann Langbein, People in Auschwitz , The University of North Carolina Press, 2004.
  21. ^ Fondation Auschwitz (31 October 2013). "I. Bartosik - Évasions du Sonderkommando d'Auschwitz - 2013-05" – via YouTube.
  22. ^ according to Professor Kabeli, a Greek detainee of the Sonderkommando, in (in French) Eddy de Wind, Terminus Auschwitz, Michel Lafon, 2020.
  23. ^ Sonderkommando Auschwitz (19 August 2018). "Sonderkommando Auschwitz Alberto Errera Part 3" – via YouTube.
  24. ^ Alban Perrin, Écrits au cœur de la catastrophe
  25. ^ Errikos Sevillias, Athens-Auschwitz, Lycabettus Press, 1983.
  26. ^ Shlomo Venezia & Béatrice Prasquier, Inside the Gas Chambers: Eight Months in the Sonderkommando of Auschwitz , Polity, 2011.
  27. ^ (in Greek) Marcel Nadjary, Χρονικό 1941–1945 [Chronicle], Ιδρυμα Ετσ - Αχα'ι'μ, Thessaloniki, 1991.
  28. ^ Miklos Nyiszli, Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account ', Arcade Publishing, 2011.
  29. ^ (in French) Alter Fajnzylberg, Les cahiers d'Alter Fajnzylberg : ce que j'ai vu à Auschwitz, Éditions Rosiers, 2014.
  30. ^ (in French) Igor Bartosik et Adam Willma, Dans les crématoires d'Auschwitz – Entretien avec Henryk Mandelbaum, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, 2012.
  31. ^ Albert Menasche, Birkenau (Auschwitz II): Memories of an eyewitness : how 72,000 Greek Jews perished, Isaac Saltiel, New York, 1947
  32. ^ Rebecca Camhi-Frome, The Holocaust odyssey of Daniel Bennahmias, Sonderkommando, University of Alabama Press, 1993.
  33. ^ (in French) Eddy de Wind, Terminus Auschwitz, Michel Lafon, 2020. (in Dutch) Eddy de Wind, Eindstation Auschwitz, Republiek der Letteren, 1946.

External links[edit]

Media related to Alberto Errera at Wikimedia Commons