Prior to the outbreak of World War II, over 1.3 million people lived in Warsaw (in addition to Poles, more than 300,000 Jews), constituting about 4% of the total Polish population. In September 1939, as a result of German air strikes and artillery bombings, 75 thousand residents of the capital either lost their lives or were injured. Moreover, a total of 6,000 soldiers died in defence of the city. At that time, 12% of buildings were totally destroyed, including hospitals, schools, libraries, museums and other institutions of culture. In the early days of the occupation, the German security police conducted numerous searches and arrests in Warsaw. Some of the detainees were murdered, the others after a few months of prison detention were sent to concentration camps. Over the years of the war the German terror in Warsaw, was expressed in various forms. The most common were mass round-ups, arrests and searches, mass public and secret executions, as well as deportations to concentration camps.
In October 1940, under the directive of the Governor of the District, Ludwig Fischer, the Warsaw Ghetto was created. Many of its more than 450 thousand Jewish inhabitants died in the subsequent months due to hunger, cold and diseases. From mid-1942, the others were regularly deported to the extermination camp in Treblinka, and then—after the uprising in April 1943—the last Jews were either murdered or deported to concentration camps while the Ghetto buildings were demolished. On 1 August 1944, an uprising broke out in occupied Warsaw. Its leaders (the executives of the Home Army Command with General Tadeusz Komorowski “Bór” and General Antoni Chruściel alias “Monter”) had planned that it would last for a few days, but in fact, the fight lasted for two months—until 2 October. About 16 thousand insurgents and about 150 thousand civilians died, and more than 500 thousand Germans were forced to leave the town.
The Warsaw Uprising was the largest military action of the Polish underground during the war. Besides the armed (mostly handguns) insurgents an important part was played by the residents of the city. They extinguished fires, built barricades, formed voluntary observation stations on rooftops and in the doorways of tenement houses, transported the wounded to the field hospitals, treated them, and fed the soldiers. Children also joined the fight carrying food, weapons and bottles with gasoline.
Memories of late Maria Kosk nee Brzęcka, who died in 2013:
"I close my eyes, but I do not sleep. I see Warsaw, my home and a rather happy life in this city. But at the same time a place where girls like myself, were overcome by fear. This feeling causes a terrible choking in the throat. Then you cannot utter a word and just want to cry [...].
There are four of us, Mom is 42 years old, my older sister is 18 years old, and Krystyna is 16. I am the youngest. My little family tries, to keep me away from this tragic situation, which surrounds us, but this situation is everywhere, it is all around us. It is visible and severe [...].
I constantly recollect this terrible picture of just a few days ago I want to think about something else, but it comes piercing with great force. On 1 August 1944, the Warsaw Uprising broke out. And on 4 August, SS men turned up at our anti-aircraft shelter on Spiskiej street, filled with plenty of people. Screaming, pounding and pushing they led us out into the backyard. They divided us into a group of women and men. The boys were dragged to the latter. I still hear screaming and crying of sons separated and the despair of mothers, whom the German soldiers did not want to give the children, most of them teenager, some too small to classify them as adults.
Holding the hand of my mother, I stare at the faces of the German perpetrators. Contorted in a grimace of anger with mouth open in constant screams; they are scary and threatening. Out! Women and children. Raus, raus, raus!
Before the gate of the house closed behind us, we heard the first shots. Dozens of men and boys were shot. I've never seen such human despair as those mothers who lost their sons. I cry along with them. Whatever happened to my childhood”.
Source: A fragment of the accounts of Maria Kosk who died in 2013, read during a meeting with young people in Auschwitz on March 4, 2014.
In the early days of the insurrection, the Germans treated the civilian population with violation of the basic norms of international law, strictly according to the orders of Hitler, issued on 1 August: “Every resident should be killed; you are not allowed to take any prisoners. Warsaw must be razed to the ground and this way a deterrent example is to be created for the whole of Europe...” (Source: Piotr M. Majewski, “Największa bitwa miejska II wojny światowej” [The Greatest Urban Battle of World War II] in Biuletyn Instytutu Pamięci Narodowej, 8‒9 [43‒44], August‒September 2004, p. 55).
In order to execute this order, additional police force was brought in from Poznań under the command of General Heinz Reinefarth, which included German criminals from the Oskar Dirlewanger SS-Oberführer unit who had been promised amnesty, and Russian collaborators from the “RONA” Brigade (Russkaya Osvoboditelnaya Narodnaya Armiya) of General Bronislav Kaminski. On the first days of the Uprising, these units murdered, mainly in the districts of Wola and Ochota, about 40‒50 thousand men, women and children. In early August, following the appointment of General SS-Obergruppenführer Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski as Commander-in-Chief of all German units fighting in Warsaw, Himmler’s extermination order was mitigated, thus forbidding the killing of women and children. Captured civilian residents were to be expelled from Warsaw and transferred to the concentration camps.
On August 15, 1944, the SS Central Economic and Administrative Office (SS-WVHA) planned the arrival in the near future of about 400 thousand people to the camps from Warsaw, submitting a request for such amount of prison clothing. On August 26, Heinrich Himmler issued an order in this regard, saying that: “Plenty of able-bodied men and women will be used to work in concentration camps, and as such only women with small children will be accepted as Polish labourers by the representative for the mobilisation of the workforce. [...]” (source: The Warsaw Exodus. People and the city after the 1944 uprising. Volume 2 - diaries, accounts, Warsaw 1993, s. 173-174).
A few days later, in the dispatches of September 9 addressed to von dem Bach, Himmler wrote in turn that, "only men who fought actively, or suspected to have done so should be referred to the concentration camps. Those who surrendered voluntarily, including women and children should be referred to work in Germany "(source: J. Kirchmayer, Warsaw Uprising, Warsaw 1984, page 532 [Appendix 25]).
However, despite these directives, after the fall of the Old Town on 2 September a significant proportion of injured and sick persons were murdered there (including insurgents approximately 25 thousand people). Similarly as in other districts: in Czerniaków or after the capitulation of Mokotów on September 27, the Germans killed off the wounded. These changing orders and directives of the German authorities, besides the random elements induced by the needs of the war economy, were the reasons for diverting certain transports with Warsaw civilians from the transitional camp in Pruszków to concentration camps, others to labour camps, yet others to designated cities of the General Government. The first groups of Warsaw inhabitants dispatched to the specially commissioned transit camp in pruszków were residents of Wola and Ochota.
The transit camp in pruszków, called Durchgangslager 121 (abbreviated Dulag 121) operated from August to October 1944. It was located on the site of the old rolling stock repair workshop on the north-eastern edge of Pruszków and suburb of Żbikowo (18 km from Warsaw). The average capacity of the camp was about 50 thousand persons. The process of displacement of the civilian population of the Warsaw uprising lasted without interruption from 4 August until the first weeks of October 1944.
The total number of Warsaw residents evacuated from the camp in Pruszków who ended up in August (12-13) and September (4, 13, 17) 1994 in Auschwitz, was nearly 13 thousand (at the least 12,868) men, women, and children. This number accounted for almost half the total number of Poles deported from all over the District of Warsaw in the period from August 1940 until September 1944.
They included people of all ages, from newborns to 88-year-old men of different social status, professors, teachers, government officials, people of art and culture, as well as the shopkeepers and labourers.
In very few cases, there were also people of other nationalities amongst the Poles; including several Polish Jews hiding among the inhabitants of Warsaw, (e.g. Julek Goldman under the name of Julek Staniszewski, in hiding since 1942 at his nanny’s Celina Ceglewska).
Personal card of the prisoner Tadeusz Jasiński brought to Auschwitz from the camp in Pruszków. At the top of the document (in the left corner), the prisoner category “Zivilpole” introduced in the camps for the civilian population deported from Warsaw after the Uprising in August 1944.
The SS documents show that a new category of prisoners “Zivilhäftlinge” was created for the civilian population from Warsaw in the concentration camps, which certainly did not entail their privileged treatment. The only difference in relation to the other inmates of Auschwitz was that numbers were not tattooed on their left forearm as was the case with other prisoners. The numbers were imprinted in ink on a piece of white cloth along with a red triangle, so-called Winkel (identification of political prisoners), with capital letter P painted in the middle in black paint. Rectangular patches from the camp striped uniform were sewn on the back of the civilian clothes they received after bathing and a red stripe in oil paint was also painted on the back.
After a few days of waiting for a bath, disinfection and pre-registration (which took place in the so-called Central Sauna in Birkenau) women with children, including young boys up to 14 years were led to the women’s camp (sector BIa), and the men and older boys to the male quarantine camp (sector BIIa). Initially, mothers with children were placed in barracks No. 17, but after a few days the children of both sexes were moved to a separate barracks No. 16a. Shortly, however, screening was conducted in the barracks, after which a group of more than 100 older boys (9‒10 years and older) were transferred to the quarantine sector of the men’s camp. A portion of pregnant women from the Pruszków transports included in the transports destined for concentration camps were also quartered in the children’s block. It is known from available documents that the first childbirth in this group occurred in the first half of September. Sick children were placed in barracks No. 10 of the camp’s hospital for women (the barracks was intended for German female prisoners, hence the conditions were slightly better than in other hospital barracks). They were looked after by the Polish female prisoner, Dr. Janina Kościuszko.
The biggest transports arrived in August, and amounted to approximately six thousand people (nearly four thousand women and girls (more than 600 of them under 18 years of age), as well as two thousand men and boys. They were mostly residents of the districts of Wola and Ochota. Amongst them were plenty of sick, injured, and disabled people, who were separated from the rest and sent to the camp hospital, known as the Revier.
Part of the population of Warsaw, both adults and youth, were transferred from the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp at the end of August 1944 to the concentration camps in the Reich such as Natzweiler (21 August—men) and Ravensbrück (29 August—women) and employed in the arms industry. At that time, the initial evacuation of prisoners, men as well as women began at Auschwitz. Many of those transferred there, especially men, died or were killed in October and November.
Fragments of memoirs of Eulalia Matusiak, former prisoner No. 84628, then a 12-year-old child, regarding the transport to Auschwitz:
“We were driven to the barracks, it was already night, I entered barracks 16 of the FKL [Frauenkonzentrationslager—women’s camp]. Apparently, it was the worst barracks. I entered the barracks, it was completely dark there, I did not know how to get about and then behind us came a scream to come in faster. There was no room in there, and finally somewhere at the top someone asks, “And who are you?” They call me Lilka, and besides, that was my nickname. “Well then, come here”. Someone gave me a hand and I climbed onto the top most bunk bed. The women there were saying to each other, “Look! It’s a kid! Where are you from? “, and I say, “from Warsaw”. And they continue, “And what’s going on in Warsaw?” I say, “Uprising”. “Uprising in Warsaw!?”. Then, I had to talk over and over again about the Uprising. They were delighted with the stories. Finally, I fell asleep. I think they gave me a piece of bread. When I woke up in the morning, the piece of bread was gone. Who that was, who were these women, Polish women, who they were, I have no idea. Then our life in that barracks started. There were about 500 children there.”
Source: Wypędzeni z Warszawy 1944 – losy dzieci [Banished from Warsaw 1944—the plight of children]. A research project. The publication of the accounts of children up to 15 years of age banished from Warsaw accompanying exhibition at the Historical Museum of the capital city of Warsaw, pp. 102‒103.
An excerpt from memoirs of Stefan Sot, born in 1931, a former Auschwitz prisoner No. 192705, brought to the camp in one of the August transports together with his mother Zuzanna and extended family:
“Later on, still not knowing the travel destination, at the next stop at a farm, a little girl stood next to our carriage and quietly kept saying, “Auschwitz, Auschwitz”. But what was Auschwitz? Then someone yelled, “It is Oświęcim!” Nevertheless, the adults still did not believe. To Oświęcim with children? For what? Yet that little girl was not lying. ...
During our unloading, the ramp was well lit. The SS men stood everywhere with yapping dogs screaming “Raus!” and “Schnella!”. Initially, we did not see too many SS men. In the background it appeared an extensive area divided into sections with the mesh with dimmed lights placed on clanging electrified wires.
However, after crossing the ramp a huge glow could be seen in the distance. What was being burnt, gave off a sickening odour. And from the darkness came the voices, “Where are you from?” We spent the night heavily crowded directly on the mud floor in two adjacent barracks of the Kanada warehouses camp.
In the morning, in front of the Sauna, money, documents and valuables were collected from the new arrivals for safe deposit. Then, already inside the Sauna building, after undressing, all items and clothes brought by adults were put into paper bags. Since our children’s clothes had to serve us in the camp, they were placed on hangers in quite large metal mesh carts, which were then taken into the disinfection chambers.
While leaving Warsaw, we took the dog and cat with us. Upon leaving the wagon, we didn’t quite know what to do with them. I gave the dog to a prisoner that helps with unloading. ... The cat, on th other hand, to an Aufseherin [female SS overseer], only saying “Bitte”. After parting with the pets, I was left with a deep feeling of regret”.
Source: A fragment of the account of Stefan Sot given during a meeting with young people in Oświęcim on 4 March 2014.
Memoirs of Henryk Duszyk, born 2 January 1935 in Warsaw, Auschwitz prisoner No. 192692. He was deported to the camp along with his father Marian, older sister Apolonia and stepmother Genowefa (the mom died when he was 2 years old) in a transport from Pruszków in August 1944.
“Although I was imprisoned in Auschwitz-Birkenau with the whole family, soon, at the age of 9, I was all by myself in the camp. I did not get to know my Mom. She died when I was 2 years old, so I cannot even imagine her closeness. My 14-year-old sister Pola and stepmother were initially placed in the parent FKL camp, and soon after were transferred from the camp. Several years after the war, I found out that they were taken to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp into the depths of Germany, where my sister died of typhoid. And my father? My father, I was so close to, was gone too. I was only left with a memory of him, which was deeply embedded in my mind forever. Here it is: Soon after moving me along with the other boys of the children’s block 16A of the women’s sector to the male quarantine camp BIIa, my father came to me. It was the only time we met at the camp. He sat down on the threshold of my block. He stared at me, as I ran and I threw my arms around his neck.
There was not enough time to talk, as my father had to hurry back to his block. The next day I looked everywhere for him among the prisoners, but to no avail. He was nowhere to be found. It was the last time in my life I saw my father! Long after, in October I learned that he had died. Then I felt all alone in the world. To this day I don’t know what exactly happened to him. To make matters worse, I realized that there was no one I could complain to and sob my heart out. The brutal block elder tortured us with exercises, making us do frog jumps around the block until we ran out of strength or beat us severely; ... I was mercilessly beaten twice: once, when I ran into an SS man between the blocks, who, after slapping me in the face, kicked me and I do not even know for what. The second time, in the winter, when I unknowingly slipped on a frozen fire pool, the prisoner functionary did not only beat me up, but also deprived me of lunch and dinner, which was an exceptionally harsh punishment as we were starved; ... and that we, a dozen or so boys had to pull and push a loaded giant cart often through the mud regardless of it being very heavy.
I also missed my compassionate father, whom I could unbosom my loneliness and fear for life at the sight of the crematorium chimney, which belched flames and a thick black cloud of smoke. He was not there when I was terrified by the words of some prisoner who said, ‘That is how people burn! Such fate awaits us!’”
Source: An excerpt from the account of Henry Duszyk given during a meeting with young people in Oświęcim on 4 March 2014.
Barbara Chełmińska, born 10 October 1933 in Warsaw, prisoner of Auschwitz No. 83157, who was deported to Auschwitz from Pruszków with her mother Franciszka, prisoner No. 83156. In the Birkenau camp, the girl was separated from her mother and placed in the children’s barracks No. 16 in the women’s camp. Since her mother was ill, the two remained in the camp until the liberation. Franciszka died in the Polish Red Cross hospital in Oświęcim on 9 April 1945. After the death of her mother, Barbara went to stay with her mother’s family since her father Zygmunt died after 1939, probably murdered in Katyn.
Zofia Kubecka was brought to Auschwitz with her parents: mother Rozalia, No. 84516, father Józef, No. 191571, and older sister Marta (born in 1924), prisoner No. 84515. Zofia was evacuated on 18 January 1945 in a “Death March” to Ravensbrück, the sister was deported in September or October 1944 to Flossenbürg, Plauen Kommando, while the father and mother remained in Auschwitz II-Birkenau. Her mother died in January 1945 in Birkenau. Immediately after the liberation of the camp, her father arrived in Warsaw on foot, but died in May 1945 before Zofia returned from the camps in Germany. Source: A-BSMA.
Aleksander and Jadwiga Bogdaszewski with the children, a photograph taken in 1944 in Warsaw. Besides the two-year-old Basia, who was in the hospital during the outbreak of the Uprising, the other members of the family after displacement from Warsaw were deported to Auschwitz on 12 August. Alexander died 1944 in Flossenbürg where he was transferred from Auschwitz, while Jadwiga was separated from the children: Zdzisława, aged 10, and Stanisław aged 6, and deported in a transport of women to a camp in Germany. The children were liberated at Auschwitz.
Janusz Gawłowski, born 3 July 1935 in Warsaw, prisoner No. 192884, his father Adam, No. 191262, and mother Zofia, No. 83843 were deported from Pruszków in the transport of 12‒13 August 1944 to Auschwitz and separated at the ramp. The boy’s father was sent to the Natzweiler camp, Dautmergen sub-camp on 21 August 1944. He died in Vaihingen sub-camp on 3 January 1945. Janusz and his mother were transferred on 11 January 1945 to Berlin-Blankenburg and survived there until the liberation.
Stanisław Bartnikowski died in Warsaw during the Uprising. His wife Helena and son Bogdan (born in 1932) were taken to the camp in Pruszków, and then in August 1944 to Auschwitz. At the time of the evacuation, they were both transferred to Berlin-Blankenburg, a sub-camp of Sachsenhausen, where they survived until the liberation. The photograph was taken in 1942 in Warsaw.
The Malikowski family was deported from Pruszków to Auschwitz in one of the August transports. Shortly after Marian’s, Marianna’s husband, arrival at the camp he was taken to one of the concentration camps in Germany, from where he returned home in 1946. His wife Marianna and daughter Maria (born 6 December 1936) were taken in January 1945 in a transport of mothers and their children to Berlin-Blankenburg (a branch of the Sachsenhausen camp), where they survived until the liberation.
Stanisława Brzęcka, along with her three daughters, was brought to Auschwitz in August 1944. On 18 September 1944, they were transferred to Ravensbrück, and after a month to Buchenwald, Meuselwitz Kommando. During one of the November raids, Stanisława and her daughter Krystyna, were found among the badly injured prisoners. They were transported to Ravensbrück concentration camp, and later, as part of the operation of the Swedish Red Cross, were evacuated in April 1945 to Denmark first, and then to Sweden. They returned to Warsaw in November 1945. Meanwhile, the youngest daughter Maria and older Halina remained at Meuselwitz until the evacuation of the camp. They were liberated by the Red Army in the Czech Sudety Mountains. They returned to Poland in the summer of 1945 and stayed with their relations in Kołobrzeg. Their mom found them there (photo taken in 1946 after returning to Warsaw). Below on the right is one of the many drawings made by 14-year-old Maria at the Meuselwitz camp. The drawing bears the date it was made— 12 February 1945. She drew on pieces of paper and with pencils that her sister Halina sneaked out from the factory where she worked. Source: A-BSMA.
Barbara Wojnarowska, born in 1941 in Warsaw, was sent to Auschwitz in August 1944, together with her parents: mother Irena Sobolt-Wojnarowska, a dancer and an actress (in the photo) and father Eugeniusz Wojnarowski, a dancer, actor, and theatre director. All were sent to Auschwitz from the insurgent Warsaw. Eugeniusz, prisoner No. 192375, was deported after a month with the new “Bauzug Kommando” to Germany (Karsruhe), while Barbara and her mother lived to see the liberation of Auschwitz.
Further transports of Warsaw citizens from the camp in Pruszków were received at the ramp in Birkenau on 4 September 1944 (over 3,000 women, men and children). Among the approximately 2,000 men were at least 143 boys under the age of 18. In the transports of 4 September there were mainly the inhabitants of the Old Town. Women from the September transports were placed for the quarantine period in two barracks of the men’s camp—5 and 6— separated from the rest of the sector with barbed wire.
The Ulatowski Family in a picture taken in Warsaw before the outbreak of the Uprising. They were deported to Auschwitz from Pruszków in August 1944. Prior to their expulsion from Warsaw, they lived on Filtrowa Street (district of Ochota). From left: Hanna (born in 1933), mother Zofia, and Jerzy (born in 1931). Zofia’s husband died in 1936. They remained in the camp until its evacuation in January 1945. A few days prior to liberation, they managed to escape from the camp and hide at the Baraniak’s in Brzeszcze (a few kilometres from the Birkenau camp), where they lived to see the liberation.
„We wrześniu 1944 r. byłem świadkiem selekcji na rewirze z udziałem doktora Mengele. Kiedy on przychodził na rewir, więźniowie stawali w szeregu. Wybierał tych, których jego zdaniem, nie opłacało się dłużej leczyć. Tych, których wskazał, czekała śmierć w komorze gazowej. Tego dnia Mengele szedł powoli, minął mnie. Zatrzymując się obok, wybrał dwóch dorosłych Żydów, moich towarzyszy z pryczy. Zostali wyselekcjonowani. Jeden z nich podszedł do mnie, mówiąc: »Żegnaj. Nazywam się Pański. Jeśli uda ci się stąd wydostać, opowiedz, co się ze mną stało. Masz tu moją szczoteczkę do zębów, mnie już nie będzie potrzebna. Najpóźniej za dwie godziny wyfrunę stąd do nieba przez komin«. Do końca życia będę pamiętał szczoteczkę Pańskiego”.
From the memoirs of Janina Rekłajtis, née Papiernik:
“During the quarantine period, we were forced to walk. The permanent route ran between our block and the mothers’ block all around the roll-call square, fenced with barbed wire from the side of the camp’s street. Walking along the street, I spotted a TREASURE. It was a hardly visible thick slice of bread crushed in dry clay mud!
This view made my throat dry from excitement. But I picked it up, spontaneously and very quickly. Without arousing anyone’s suspicion, I immediately hid it in my hand, knowing that the others would be jealous of such a highly desired item!
At the block, I surreptitiously cleaned the mud from the bread and ate it without hesitation, even though the sand creaked in my teeth.
Apparently, it did not satisfy my hunger, but I started wondering: Who could have lost this piece of bread ? ... I then imagined the despair of this person upon losing such a precious commodity. ...
Today, when the daily bread is in excess, when more often than not people do not appreciate it and throw it away, I always recollect this lucky bread incident.
I very much respect bread!”
Source: A fragment from the account of Janina Rekłajtis given during a meeting with young people in Oświęcim on 4 March 2014.
Among the Warsaw women fit to work, a group of young women and girls were selected and deported on 18 September to Ravensbrück. From there, in October, after another selection, they were sent to the Meuselwitz camp, a sub-camp of Buchenwald and employed in a German weapon factory, Hasag, producing grenades. At the end of September, another group of Warsaw women from the September transports were included in the transport to Ravensbrück and in October, a transport was organized to Flossenbürg—Mittweida sub-camp.
Similarly, the men from the September transports were deported beginning from 17 September to camps in Germany, among others to Flossenbürg—the Leitmeritz sub-camp, and Mauthausen—the Gusen, Melk and Ebensee sub-camps. Only a few survived these camps.
Another transport that arrived in the Birkenau camp on 13 September carried about 1,000 men and boys (mostly Warsaw inhabitants from the City Centre, Powiśle, Czerniaków, and Żoliborz). On the day of their arrival, while trapped in the carriages at the cargo rail station waiting for departure to the unloading ramp in Birkenau, they survived an air strike by nearly a hundred American Liberators, whose target was the German chemical plant—I.G. Farbenindustrie near Auschwitz. After the raid, the train headed for the unloading ramp in Birkenau, where the transport receipt procedure was overseen by the camp’s SS crew. For most men of that transport the stay at Auschwitz lasted only a few days, because on 19 and 20 September they were deported to the Mauthausen concentration camp, where many of them died during the murderous work in quarries and humid underground drifts in the camp and its sub-camps: Gusen and Ebensee. Many of them lost their lives from hunger and exhaustion in the last weeks before the liberation of these camps.
The transport that arrived to the Birkenau camp on 17 September, carried over 3,000 men and boys (from Czerniaków, Powiśle, Nowy Świat, and from Włochy near Warsaw, where a manhunt was organized on the hiding Warsaw residents), as well as three women from the Pruszków camp staff.
Both of the above transports immediately upon arrival to Birkenau were subjected to a brutal “welcome” from the SS men and the prisoner functionaries—they were beaten, tortured, robbed, and called names such as “Polnische Banditen” [Polish bandits]. On 17 September, the SS men, in retaliation for the Uprising, and in order to terrorize the inmates, organized a random shooting at the men’s quarantine sector, as a result of which ten new arrivals were seriously injured.
An excerpt from the account of the former Auschwitz prisoner Tadeusz Sieradzki:
“In the first days of my stay in the camp I forgot that I was no longer a boy, but a proscribed criminal. They thought it was enough to rid a man of his clothing, clothe him in stripes and deprive him of his name. From this moment I became number 196054. I stayed at camp ‘A’ in block 3, then 5, and finally I was included in the group of boys from Warsaw in block ...
The SS men and prominent prisoner functionaries invented various ‘sports’ and flogging. The food was meagre, the daily food ration, ‘a thick slice’ of slack-baked bread and a piece of margarine, one ‘ladle’ of watery mashed swede soup or other weeds and nettles. There was too much of it to die and too little to live.”
Source: A-BSMA, Collection of Statements, vol. 110, pp. 97‒99.
An excerpt from the memoirs of a 10-year-old boy, Bohdan Janiszowski, prisoner No. 192810, on the secretly organized Christmas Eve and a sketch on the camp life for children in one of the barracks by adult prisoners from the medical and nursing staff.
“It’s Christmas Eve. A Schreiber [female prisoner serving on the block as a writer—author’s note] brought a tiny Christmas tree to the block. It was placed on a stove, and covered with cotton wool. Someone received a few candles in a package, so the Christmas tree was lit up with little glimmers of light. A few hundred pairs of eyes starred at it. ... The kids in the block received presents, which the barracks’ orderlies had spent hours working on. These included dogs, cats, elephants, rabbits made from pieces of blanket and stuffed with rags. There weren’t many children in the block, because not many of them remained alive. But I was neither happy with the Christmas tree nor the presents. I missed my mother, who could have hugged and comforted me. I missed that word, which every child yearns for. The mother, whom they took from me, the Nazis... My favourite carol “Silent night” sung by a few hundred voices further increased my despair. I nestled my head in the straw mattress and cried out my pain and loneliness. The candles on the Christmas tree were almost burnt out.
Source: Bohdan Janiszowski, “Oczyma dziecka. Wigilia w Oświęcimiu (opowiadanie prawdziwe)” [Through the eyes of a child. Christmas Eve in Auschwitz (true story)], in Wolni Ludzie 24, 1948, p. 11.
Those amongst the Warsaw inhabitants (men and women) who were not deported in 1944 to the concentration camps in Germany, were led out of the camp on 18 January 1945, in the so-called Death March in the direction of Wodzisław (Silesia) and Gliwice, from where they were further transported by train to camps in the depths of the Reich (the women and girls to Ravensbrück and Bergen-Belsen; the men and boys to Mauthausen and its sub-camps).
In the period from 10 to 17 January 1945, about 100 young boys together with their mothers or guardians, and more than 500 women and girls, among them mothers with children born in the camp, were deported from Birkenau to the camp located on the outskirts of Berlin (a sub-camp of Sachsenhausen).
About 400 people from the Pruszków transports (over 160 women), including at least 125 children and teenagers, among them 15 born in the camp, lived so see the liberation at Auschwitz.
These girls aged from 9 to 15 had earlier participated in the “Death March” from Birkenau to Ravensbrück on 18 January 1945. Photograph taken in 1945 in Częstochowa, on the way back home, after three months of travelling. Source: A-BSMA.
An excerpt from the account of Henryk Duszyk, Auschwitz prisoner No. 192692, on the return after the liberation of the camp and the further fate of the 10-year-old orphan:
“I left Auschwitz with the first transport in March. We were transported on a lorry covered with a tarpaulin to Krakow. I recall that the Red Cross was close to Wawel Castle. ... An old lady sat next to me, and hugged me during the journey, so I wouldn’t freeze. ... Upon arrival, we were given dumplings with poppy seed and honey. It was fantastic. I guess I stayed in Krakow for only two days. I urgently wanted to get to Warsaw. I was hoping to meet someone from the family. I went to the train station with a few of the boys and found out that a train would be leaving the next morning in the direction of Warsaw. It was to go via Tunel. We were assigned a guardian, but we didn’t say a word to anyone. The next day, they boys opted out of the trip, I however, went to the station. When I got there, it turned out that the train had already gone. I was afraid to go back, so I stayed at the train station. A railway employee, who worked in railway workshop took care of me. He gave me food and allowed me to stay the night. In the morning, he woke me up and showed me where the train was standing. I went there and sat on the roof. This was how I got to Tunel. I was terribly frozen. At Tunel, I was dragged into the wagon. A man in a greatcoat offered me tea from a thermos flask. That was how I got to Warsaw. I got off at the West Station and headed to my street. Przemyska Street is close to the railway station. Everything was burnt, there was nothing but rubble. There were only three houses left, standing to this day. ... I knew that [Warsaw—author’s note] was destroyed, but I did not expect it was to such extent. I went to Grójecka Street and then headed in the direction of Aleje Jerozolimskie. I walked on and didn’t think about anything. I got to Marszałkowska Street, where the military directed traffic. A soldier was standing there. I had a certificate, in which it was written, that persons returning from the camp should be provided with assistance. I showed him this certificate. He read it, told me to wait, and went to the other side of the street. He walked up to me after a while and led me to Poznańska Street, where the immigration office was located. There I was given a piece of bread and a cup of tea and told to wait. I waited for a long time. In the afternoon, a car arrived already carrying several boys and took us to the Old Town, to the priests who took care of us. We were about a dozen boys. We got a place to sleep, a bath prepared, and a doctor examined us, who later stated that in my case hospitalization was necessary. I was there for several days. Afterwards, I was transferred to another home, also to priests on Długa Street. There were plenty of us and we felt great there. We had good food and care. Soon after, school was arranged for us. Shortly after, I was transferred to Grochowska Street in Warsaw. It was state-owned centre, but run by Albertine Brothers. I was there perhaps for two years, and then transferred to the state childcare centre on Puławska Street. There were 150 boys from different backgrounds. We also felt very well here.
Source: A-BSMA, Collection of Statements, vol. 162, pp. 134‒137.
Autor/Author — Helena Kubica, Centrum Badań PMA-B
Tłumacz/Translator — Piotr Krasnowolski