60 Minutes - November 24, 1993
© 1993 by CBS News
tape: Steinberg] Elan Steinberg is
Executive Director of the World Jewish
Congress. He and his organization have
been extremely critical of Sack's
reporting, citing a lack of documentary
evidence and questioning the memories and
motives of former
STEINBERG: The problem is, when you
investigate something as serious as this,
you can not rely on eyewitnesses who, even
with the best of intentions, with the best
of intentions, can give you misleading
STEVE KROFT: It's the stuff of fiction: a Polish
Jew who loses his entire family to the Nazis during
the Holocaust finds himself, at the end of World
War II, running a prison camp for Germans and Nazi
collaborators, and with an opportunity to exact a
terrible and very personal revenge.
While it may sound like a novel or a made-for-TV
movie, in fact that much of the story is true. But
did Solomon Morel actually exact that
revenge, brutalizing German prisoners under his
command? Or did he and others fantasize it? That's
the subject of an emotional historical debate and
an ongoing investigation by the Polish
[On tape: Solomon Morel in Israel]
Solomon Morel is an old man now and in poor health,
living in Israel alongside thousands of Holocaust
survivors. As a young man, he saw his parents
arrested and led off to be executed. He lost
brothers, aunts and uncles, and more than thirty
cousins to the Nazis. During the war, he fought the
Germans alongside the Russians on the eastern
[On film: a battle in World War II] But
he won't talk about what happened after Soviet
tanks finally drove the German army out of Poland.
[On film: Russians with German prisoners]
One of the first orders that went out was to round
up all remaining Germans, Nazi sympathizers and
collaborators, and put them into some of the same
prison camps the Germans used during the war.
[On tape: Kroft at the former concentration
camp at Swietochlowice] This is all that's left
of one of them, Swietochlowice. It was built by the
Germans as part of the Auschwitz
complex, where more than two
million Jews died during World War II.
But by February of 1945, the tables had turned.
The prisoners at Swietochlowice were Germans.
[Photograph: Morel in 1945, in uniform] And
their commandant, their jailer, was Solomon Morel,
a Polish Jew.
How did a Jew end up in the Polish secret
police, running a prison camp for Germans? [On
tape: Auschwitz] Most Polish Jews, more than
three million of them, were dead at the end of
World War II, killed at places like Auschwitz and
And many of those who survived fled as soon as the
war was over.
[On tape: Kroft and John Sack in
Swietochlowice city] But according to
journalist and author John Sack, who's been working
on the story for more than seven years, some Polish
Jews, like Morel, were drafted into important
positions in Stalin's secret police.
[On tape: Kroft interviewing John Sack]
Why did Stalin want Jews running the secret
police in Poland?
JOHN SACK: He didn't trust the Poles. He thought
the Poles were going to be loyal to Poland, not to
Russia, not to the Soviet Union. He thought the
Jews had no loyalty to Poland. And that was
KROFT: Why would they have loyalty to
SACK: I don't know if they had loyalty to
Stalin. They just wanted revenge. They wanted
vengeance. That's why they did it.
[On tape: Sack at Swietochlowice] This
would be the main gate.
KROFT: And according to Sack -- a respected
journalist, the author of seven books, and himself
a Jew -- Solomon Morel took his revenge.
[Photographs: Swietochlowice in 1945]
During the ten months that Morel ran the prison
camp at Swietochlowice, more than 1,500 people died
there. Not just German soldiers but Polish
civilians, women, teen-agers, people from families
of German origin or under suspicion of Nazi
sympathies. Most died from neglect and disease and,
according to Sack, many from brutal and sadistic
beatings, [Photograph: Morel in 1945, in
uniform] administered by Solomon Morel and his
SACK: He wanted to do to the Germans what they
did to him. That's what he said.
On the first night at Swietochlowice, when the
first contingent of Germans arrived, at about ten
o'clock at night he walked into one of the barracks
and he said to the Germans, "My name is Morel. I am
a Jew. My mother and father, my family, I think
they're all dead, and I swore that if I got out
alive, I was going to get back at you Nazis. And
now you're going to pay for what you did."
KROFT: How do you know he said this?
SACK: One man who was there told me the story,
and he remembered it very, very specifically.
KROFT: Describe the rest of that night, and tell
me about Solomon Morel at Swietochlowice.
SACK: I suppose he thought that these people --
he could picture these people possibly being the
ones who killed his mother and father. At that
point, he picked up a stool, a four-legged stool,
and he just started smashing the Germans with the
stool. Just went around beating them on the head,
beating them on the chest.
KROFT: [On tape: Sack, writing] Sack's
reporting was based on face-to-face interviews with
survivors, and on twenty-one affidavits from former
prisoners at Swietochlowice [On tape:
affidavits in the German Federal Archives] that
have been on file collecting dust in the German
After the war, the rest of the world didn't want
to hear about the suffering of Germans. So it was
left to the German government to investigate what
happened to more than two million of its people who
died in Poland, Czechoslovakia and other Eastern
European countries immediately after the surrender.
Sack came across the affidavits while researching a
book on Jews in Poland after the war.
KROFT: [On tape: Alojz Richter]
But we went to Poland to conduct our own interviews
with former prisoners at Swietochlowice, sixteen in
all, including eight we found independently of John
Sack or the German Federal Archives. And we heard
the same stories over and over again.
[On tape: Richter walking with Kroft]
Alojz Richter was a teen-ager when the war ended.
He says he was taken to Swietochlowice when his
mother and brother were arrested. He claims they
were just farmers, not Nazi collaborators, and he
says he remembers Solomon Morel.
ALOJZ RICHTER [Through interpreter]: We
had to lie down, and the commandant, Morel, would
trample on us with his boots and kick us in the
KROFT: Did people die from the beatings?
RICHTER [Through interpreter]: Many of
them, many of them.
KROFT: [On tape: Gerhard
Gruschka] Gerhard Gruschka, a former
schoolmaster, now retired in Germany, says he was
only fourteen when he was taken to Swietochlowice.
[Photograph: Gruschka, age fourteen] He
told us he had been forced into Hitler Youth, and
expelled for failure to attend meetings. He, too,
GERHARD GRUSHKA [Through interpreter]: I
can clearly remember Morel, definitely Morel,
beating people to death. I can confirm this even
after fifty years. He took stools by the legs and
used them to beat people over the head. He would do
that until skulls were so badly smashed that people
were left dying.
KROFT: [On tape: Kroft and Dorota
Boreczek at Swietochlowice] Dorota Boreczek
told us it wasn't just beatings that prisoners at
Swietochlowice died from. When we brought her back
to what's left of the camp, she talked about
deplorable conditions, about malnutrition and near
DOROTA BORECZEK: The grass, it was no grass
because we had so a big hunger that the prisoners
were eating the grass. It was not a little bit of
KROFT: [On tape: Kroft and Boreczek]
Dorota was a girl of fourteen, the daughter of a
wealthy Polish family, when she was brought to
Swietochlowice with her mother. What she remembered
and feared the most was a dark concrete hole called
What was the bunker?
BORECZEK: For prisoners. I suppose who did
something wrong. And they went there and nobody
left it. Not alive.
KROFT: [On tape: Boreczek laying flowers on
the bunker's site] The bunker, Dorota says, was
filled with rats and near-freezing water. Some
prisoners were forced to spend the night there
holding onto a metal bar.
Many people died there?
BORECZEK: Many people.
ELAN STEINBERG: The
problem is, when you investigate something as
serious as this, you can not rely on
eyewitnesses who, even with the best of
intentions, with the best of intentions, can
give you misleading information.
KROFT: [On tape: Steinberg] Elan
Steinberg is Executive Director of the World
Jewish Congress. He and his organization have been
extremely critical of Sack's reporting, citing a
lack of documentary evidence and questioning the
memories and motives of former prisoners.
STEINBERG: You better be damn sure you have your
evidence there. Because if you don't, you're not
simply blackening his name, you're blackening
history and you're insulting the memory of six
KROFT: You're obviously very sensitive about the
STEINBERG: Yes, of course.
KROFT: You prefer to see
60 Minutes not
STEINBERG: I'd prefer to see 60 Minutes do it
right. And if the story isn't there, you don't do
KROFT: [On tape: the gate at
Swietochlowice] In fact, there's evidence the
story is there, [Photograph: report of the
British Foreign Office] beginning with this
report of the British Foreign Office, written in
1945, which says, "Prisoners at Swietochlowice who
do not die of starvation or aren't beaten to death
are made to stand up to their necks, night after
night until they die, in cold water."
[On tape: U.S. Congressional Record] A
similar report can be found in the U.S.
Congressional Record from 1946.
[On tape: death certificates] In the
attic of the town hall of Swietochlowice, we found
1,580 death certificates for prisoners at the camp,
[On tape: Morel's signature] many of them
signed by Commandant Solomon Morel.
[On tape: Polish prosecutor, writing]
And a Polish prosecutor, with a special commission
investigating what went on at the camp, told us
he's gathered enough information to charge Morel
with beatings, physical and moral persecution, and
driving prisoners to commit suicide. His superiors
in Warsaw have told him to keep investigating.
[On tape: Kroft walking to Morel's front
door] And we also went to Tel Aviv to try and
talk to Morel about the allegations. But after
agreeing to an interview, he changed his mind.
[On tape: Morel's daughter opens door]
We're from 60 Minutes.
When we went to his apartment, his daughter said
he no longer wanted to talk to us about
[On tape: Morel walking in Tel Aviv] We
found out later that Morel did talk to someone
about what happened at Swietochlowice. He talked to
the former Director of Archives at Yad Vashem, the
pre-eminent Holocaust archive in Israel. According
to Dr. Shmuel Krakowski, Morel called and
wanted to be interviewed by Yad Vashem, saying that
he was the commandant of a prison camp after the
war and that he killed Nazis for revenge. Dr.
Krakowski told us Morel made himself out to be some
sort of a hero, [Photograph: Morel, wearing
uniform] and he dismissed Morel's story as a
KROFT: [On tape: Steinberg and Kroft]
You find it implausible that a Polish Jew who lost
his entire family during the war and the Holocaust,
who suddenly finds himself at the end of the war in
charge of a prison camp with Nazi prisoners, would
STEINBERG: I'll say something I shouldn't. I
find it hard to believe he wouldn't.
KROFT: I think many people share your view.
STEINBERG: Who of us cannot feel for somebody
that has lost their family? Who of us does not feel
that they would seek revenge? On the other hand,
what has been remarkable is that we, as a civilized
society, have refrained from that kind of revenge.
And that has been the rule.
KROFT: [On tape: Sack and Kroft] Why are
you so sure that Solomon Morel did this for revenge
and did it as a Jew? [Sack shakes his head,
no] Isn't it just as easy to believe that he
had lost his family during the war, and that he
SACK: Yes, yes. I can believe that. Absolutely.
If I were his defense attorney, I would plead
temporary insanity; if I were his jury, I would buy
that argument, I would acquit him. It doesn't have
anything to do with his being Jewish; it's the
opposite of his being Jewish. Everything Jewish in
him cried out against that and said, "Don't do
this, this is wrong."
STEINBERG: [On tape: Steinberg and
Kroft] Here you have a situation where the
Holocaust is placed on its head. Here you had a
Jew, representing all Jews, if you will, running a
concentration camp, wreaking his revenge upon the
Nazis. And you've built up a very nice symmetry
here. Nazis killed Jews, then Jews killed Nazis.
Fine, things are a wash.
Well, first of all, it didn't happen that way.
And secondly, what you have is a kind of relativism
which not only distorts history, but is in itself a
crime against history. And I think that's really
the issue hire.
KROFT: [On tape: Kroft and Sack walking in
Swietochlowice city] As John Sack found out, no
one was interested in printing it. It was rejected
by virtually every magazine and publishing house in
New York as too controversial, sensational or
inappropriate. And that was only one of the
problems Sack encountered reporting the story.
SACK: People would not talk to me. People told
other people, "Don't talk to John Sack." People
talked to me, and they lied to me. One person
talked to me for two-and-a-half years and then
said, "I don't want you to write this. If you write
this, I will stop you, I will stop you!" People
said they would sue me. People said they would kill
me. Solomon said he would kill me.
KROFT: Why have you pursued it?
SACK: It's my job as a reporter and as a Jew to
tell this story. And if I know about it and I don't
report it, then I am guilty too.
KROFT: [Photograph: "The Wrath of Solomon"
in the Village Voice] Sack finally got
his story published last spring in New York's
Village Voice, and it's part of a new book called
An Eye for An
Your critics say the
danger of this story is that when it's told, it
plays right into the hands of the Holocaust
revisionists, the people who say the Holocaust
didn't happen, that the Holocaust wasn't that
SACK: The Holocaust was worse than people
thought. We've all known that the Germans killed
six million Jews. [On tape: Auschwitz] Now
we know that also the Germans brutalized a couple
of hundred Jews, brutalized them so badly that they
became like the Germans themselves. What happened
in these camps, what happened to Solomon Morel, is
another effect of the Holocaust. It would not have
happened if it weren't for the Holocaust.
KROFT: [On camera: Kroft] Regardless of
what Solomon Morel told Yad Vashem, the Holocaust
archive in Israel, he's told the special commission
investigating what went on at Swietochlowice that
he's innocent of any wrongdoing, dismissing the
allegations as an anti-semitic plot.
John Sack, author of Eye for an Eye, deliver
the keynote speech at Cincinnati 2000, Real
History, September 22-24, 2000