The most infamous of all the Nazi concentration camps was Auschwitz, where over one million people died. With the heavily guarded main gate, watchtowers, and rows of electrified fences, escape was virtually impossible.
Of the estimated 900 inmates who tried to flee the camp, the majority were captured and executed. And yet, a total of 144 people managed to escape from the death camp and survive. Here are 10 people who escaped from Auschwitz and lived to tell their stories.
10. Eugeniusz Bendera
When the famous Auschwitz escapee Kazimierz Piechowski fled the camp, he was accompanied by three other men who are far less known. Eugeniusz Bendera was one of these men. Although many details of his early life are unknown, he displayed as much bravery as Piechowski in coordinating the escape.
Bendera was a Ukrainian man who worked as a car mechanic in Auschwitz, where he and Piechowski became friends. When a resistance worker in the camp told Bendera that he was slated for execution, he went to his friend Piechowski, a former Boy Scout and another resistance member.
Together, the two men devised an escape plan.
On June 20, 1942, Piechowski and Bendera, along with two other men, pushed a cart brimming with garbage through the main camp and into a storage block. While three of the men stole officers’ uniforms, Bendera went to the garage with a duplicate key, got behind the wheel of the fastest car in the camp, and drove to where his friends were hiding.
As the car approached the main gate, Piechowski shouted at the SS guards to open the gate. When the guards complied, the four men drove out of the camp. They drove on country roads for hours. Then they abandoned the car and escaped into a Polish forest. Ultimately, Bendera settled in Warsaw, where he remained until he died in the 1980s.