Soviet prisoners in the SS Auschwitz

Document translation

To the Director of State Museum of Auschwitz

K. Shmolen
№ 1У-2/1354/62 dated 2.05.1962

Got your letter and I am glad to answer your questions:

1. Mass collective escape of Russian prisoners was made in the evening on the 6th of November in 1942 at Birkenau. In the book "Soldiers of the small war"/ notes of the Auschwitz prisoner, written by the former prisoner of Auschwitz — Lebedev A.F., which was published in Moscow by “Gospolitizdat” in the page number 61 is written: — “Up to now only Russians managed to escape from Auschwitz. It happened at Birkenau in 1942. In the evening after roll call SS man made soviet war prisoners find one prisoner. As soon as our guys came to the watchtower they overthrow it together with the patrol SS man. Taking advantage of the turmoil they made the passage in the wire and left — there were more than 60 people”.

This escape was not accidental or spontaneous. It was preceded by a long preparation, managed by clandestine headquarter.

I was its member from the moment of its creation.

The escape was made not in October, but on the 6th of November, because it was 
coincide with anniversary of Great October.

There was a reason that there was not one prisoner during the common evening roll call that day. It was done by the order of the headquarter. That day there was made a signal in the agreed place. Everybody, who participated in the escape knew that disorder would surely be in the evening. Of course we did not overthrow any watchtowers.

2. As I have mentioned above the escape was made at Birkenau. For clarity I attach to my letter the map* of camp Birkenau of that time. I made it from memory.

The escape was made not by separate group, but by big amount of people — about 100 ones.

That time SS man established such order: if during the evening roll call the camp group lacked one or two prisoners — the whole camp was still standing, and the searching group was sent to the place where the missed prisoners had worked.

That time for searching were usually sent: overseers from the list of prisoners (capo), Jewish masons school and Russians.

Our escape was conceived, prepared and realized specifically from the searching territory.

3. The numbers of my friends I did not remember. But I remember some their names and surmanes: Victor Kuznecov, Andrey Zaycev, Nikolay Govorov, Ivan Zimin, Nikolay Pisarev.

I remember many other names and nick names, but of course they are not helpful without surnames.

Till the moment of escape from the camp at Birkenau there were only about 140 Russian prisoners. It is the remaining from 20000 people, the first echelon of them (where I also was) came on the 6th of October 1941 from the Stammlag №308 in Swietoszow/Neuhammer.

At the middle of March 1942 666 people (I was among them) from Auschwitz were sent to the constant stay at Birkenau. They were the first prisoners of that terrible camp. In two-three days to the neighboring barracks were sent sick Polacks from Auschwitz.

4. The escape was organized and realized only by Russians. Many Polacks knew about the escape. Escape headquarter engaged Polacks, because they would guaranteed success in the escape at the territories which we did not know well. Particularly I negotiated with Polack Henik, who worked at electrical substation. At first we wanted to escape from the camp territory and discuss with Henik to turn off the high voltage in the wire fence. Henik and many others knew about the escape at the last moment but they could join us even if they wanted.

5. After the escape and break through the cordon on the territory of escape my friend Viktor kyznecov and I went to the West, doubling on trace.

Autumn weather — rain, clouds, lack of stars — the only our guidance prevented us from choosing the right way. More than two weeks we roamed not knowing where and finally affected by cold and sick we were cached by gendarmes near Ribinsk, under the Katovici.

We saved because during the period of preparation for the escape we used different types of tattoos in order to hide the camp numbers on the bosom.

Under false colour we devise the version of escape from transport, which allegedly was going to Katovici and that was how we got to camp Lamsdorf.

After the War I was at Birkenau on August and September 1945, but unfortunately I did not find nobody of my friends.

I asked International Auschwitz committee to find Polack Gyrecky Alexander, who worked in Block’s №22 Hospital. He and other doctors done a lot in order to cure me and save from death.

I am writing my memories about terrible months in Auschwitz and Birkenau, about preparing and realization of the escape.

If you are interested in any additional details, I am glad to provide them to you upon your earliest request.

Your respectfully /Signature/ Pogojev

My address: Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, Doneck city, 30
Mirovaya st, 39
To Pogojev Andrey Alexandrovich

17th of May 1962

* Map lettering:
Camp Birkenau map during the end of 1942
Place of gassing and burning where Sonder commands were working
Security watchtowers
Food economy
Man camp
Woman camp
Building camp
Searching place


In English

Andrey Pogozhev (prisoner 1418) and his wife Maria in 1940. He was one of the prisoners who escaped during the mass breakout of the Soviet prisoners of war on 6 November 1942.

Andrei Pogozhev (prisoner 1418), one of the participants of the mass escape of the Soviet prisoners of war on 6 November 1942, remembers,

«The desire to escape was enormous… Escape was a constant haunting dream. During discussions and debates an idea of mass escape was born and grew stronger. It was the only way for a large group of people determined to escape to get outside of the camp borders.».

A. Pogozhev, P. Stenkin ‘Oswiecim Break-out. To Stay Alive. Memoirs’ M, 2005
Tatoo on the chest of Andrei Pogozhev made before the escape to cover his identification number.
(Photo. A. Pogozhev, P. Stenkin ‘Oswiecim Break-out. To Stay Alive. Memoirs’ M, 2005)
Petr Mishin (prisoner 1844), one of the leaders of the mass escape attempt of the Soviet prisoners of war on 6 November 1942.
(Photo. The Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War)

Petr Mishin (prisoner 1844), one of the leaders of the mass escape of the Soviet prisoners of war on 6 November 1942, remembers:

«“…At one part of the Birkenau camp, which was under construction, the Germans removed part of the barbed wire fence because they brought building materials through that opening. We decided to take advantage of this fact. At the end of the day, before the work details returned to the camp, the prisoners usually went around the building site collecting the bodies of their dead comrades, because at the evening call the guards counted both the living and the dead. On the day of escape the body of one of them was to be left not far from the opening in the barbed wire fence. After work a group of prisoners of war accompanied by the guards went to search for the dead prisoner, whose body had been hidden…».

Document. The Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War
(Photo. (From the Book of Memories.  A. Pogozhev, P. Stenkin ‘Oswiecim Break-out. To Stay Alive. Memoirs’ M, 2005)

Pavel Stenkin (prisoner 563), one of the prisoners who escaped during the mass breakout of the Soviet prisoners of war on 6 November 1942.