From Litzmannstadt Ghetto to the Auschwitz

The history of deportations of Jews from Litzmannstadt Ghetto to Auschwitz

The bridge that connected the two parts of the Litzmannstadt ghettoAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Litzmannstadt Ghetto 

The Łódź Ghetto or Litzmannstadt Ghetto (after the Nazi German name for Łódź) was established in February 1940 in Łódź by the German occupying authorities. It was the second largest ghetto on the territory of German-occupied Poland, over 200 thousand people in total inhabited the ghetto. Not only Jewish inhabitants of Łódź but also Jews resettled from Warthegau (part of western Poland annexed directly into the Third Reich), deported from Germany, Austria, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Luxemburg as well as the Roma people stayed there. Photo: Yad Vashem Photo Archive

The ghetto was located in the poorest district of the city and isolated from the outside. Its territory was surrounded by barriers, barbed-wire entanglements and watch-towers. A separate currency was implemented in order to prevent any kind of economic exchange and smuggling of food in both ways. Photo: Yad Vashem Photo Archive

Currency of the Litzmannstadt GhettoAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Note of 50 RM, the currency of the Litzmannstadt ghetto. Date of issue: 15 May 1940. Photo: Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Collections (A-BSM Collections)

Coin from the Litzmannstadt GhettoAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

10- Reich-Mark coin- the official currency in the Łódź ghetto.
On the front side: The Star of David and inscription: “GHETTO” and date “1943”.

Back of a coin from Litzmannstadt GhettoAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

On the back side: „10 MARK”, inscription on the border: „DER AELTESTE DER JUDEN IN LITZMANNSTADT” (Translation: Head of the Jewish Council in Litzmannstadt). Photo: A-BSM Collections

Hans Biebow, Head of the German Litzmannstadt ghetto administrationAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

The German governor of the ghetto was Hans Biebow, the Judenrat (Jewish Council). Photo: Yad Vashem Photo Archive

Chaim Rumkowski visiting a children's home in the Litzmannstadt ghettoAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Chaim Mordechaj Rumkowski (on the photograph) as chairman, was in charge of implementing of all rules imposed by the German authorities. Furthermore, the orders of the Judenrat were implemented by the Ghetto Jewish Police. Photo: Yad Vashem Photo Archive

Metal bread ration stampAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Due to diseases, hard work and famine the mortality rate among the inhabitants of the ghetto was very high. The food rations were drastically small. It is estimated, that ¼ of the ghetto inhabitants died, most of them from starvation. Photo: A-BSM Collections

Metal-made ration stamp for bread.
Inscription on the front side: „DER AELT. D. JUDEN/ IN LITZMANNSTADT/ VERPFLEGUNGSABT. /Brot Karte/ N 28000 /Gerszonowicz C. / Łagiewn. 33 / Laden N 16/ M. Rumk. “(Translation: Head of the Jewish Council in Litzmannstadt/ department for food supply/ ration stamp for bread /no. 28000/Gerszonowicz C/Łagiewn. 33/ shop no. 16/ M. Rumk.)

Back of the metal bread ration stampAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Inscription on the back side: “ON MOTHER’S DAY/ FOR MY MOMMY/FELA 1944” (The object was found in the area of the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz II- Birkenau). Photo: A-BSM Collections

Monogram with letters MWAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

A round monogram with the letters “MW” inside.

The inscription „Litzmannstadt-Getto März 1942” carved on the edge.

(The object was found in the area of the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz II- Birkenau near the crematorium III.) Photo: A-BSM Collections

Deportees from Litzmannstadt Ghetto walking toward the Radegast Station during deportationAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

In 1942 more than 70 thousand Jewsand c.a. 5 thousand Roma were deported from the ghetto and murdered in the Kulmhof extermination camp. Photo: Yad Vashem Photo Archive

Workers in a workshop in the Litzmannstadt ghettoAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Later on, the deportations were stopped, and the ghetto became the source of slave labour, with tens of thousands of people forced to work for the industry of the Nazi Germany. Photo: Yad Vashem Photo Archive

Cigarette holderAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Cigarette holder with the carving on the inferior part showing a part of a street with overpass.

Under the overpass outlines of a car and a street car are visible, there are also buildings on the left and on the right side of the street.

In the left upper corner silhouette of a church with two towers is visible. Over the overpass there is an inscription: “GHETTO” with the Star of David beneath it, on the right there are initials: “IJ”. Photo: A-BSM Collection

Six-pointed star with a circle cut insideAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Hexagram with the wheel cut out in the middle and fireman’s symbols inside it: helmet, ladder, hatchet and fire pump. In the corners of the star there are small round holes. Photo: A-BSM Collections

From 1942 to 1943 in the Łódź ghetto existed a group called Flur-Haus-und Feuerwache (field and domestic guard).

The group consisted on civilian guards watching out- as the name suggests- to prevent the farmland from theft and the wooden buildings from lawless demolishing and fire.

Deportees from Litzmannstadt Ghetto walking toward the Radegast Station during deportationAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

The German authorities started the final liquidation of the ghetto in June 1944. Within the first three weeks over 7 thousand people were murdered in Kulmhof. Photo: Yad Vashem Photo Archive

The main gate of the camp Auschwitz II-BirkenauAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Deportations to Auschwitz

From the beginning of August 1944 the deportations to Auschwitz began. In spite of the announcements urging the inhabitants to „an evacuation” a very few volunteers came to the assembly points. As a consequence, the authorities use the force organizing systematic and brutal round ups. The Germans were blocking the particular ghetto districts, the Jewish police was withdrawing all people from buildings. Photo: A-BSM Archive

A house in the Bahnhof Radegast fieldAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

The detained were led in convoy to the railway station Radegaorst near ghetto. From there they were transported in wagons directly to Auschwitz. The deportation action took approximately 3 weeks and during this time about 67 thousand of Jews were taken. Photo: Yad Vashem Photo Archive

Aerial photograph taken by the Allies in 1944 showing territory of KL Auschwitz I and KL Auschwitz II-Birkenau (1944)Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

The trains with Jews from the Łódź Ghetto were arriving to the Birkenau ramp, the SS-Mann ordered the newcomers to empty the wagons immediately and to leave the luggage inside. Photo: A-BSM Archive

Aerial image of the Auschwiz II-Birkenau campAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

The reconnaissance photo made by allied forces in 1944, on the photo the concentration camp Auschwitz-II Birkenau can be recognized. The ramp, where the transports arrived (among others also from the ghetto of Łódź) is highlighted with colour. Photo: A-BSM Archive

Ramp at Auschwitz-Birkenau MemorialAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

After leaving the train the families were divided: on the one side of the ramp women and children, on the other side of the ramp men were gathered. Photo: A-BSM

Then the selection began, in course of which individuals considered unable to work were destined to perish in the gas chambers.

Ramp at Auschwitz-Birkenau MemorialAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Usually the people had to approach in a column of five an SS-doctor, who was conducting selection, then they stand in the queue waiting for the decision. A simple hand gesture to the left or to the right signified immediate death in the gas chamber or assignment to the camp, which was a short life prolongation. At the same time took place hard to describe and tragically scenes among the separated families.

Auschwitz II-Birkenau - the rampAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Fragment of the testimony of Pola Hinenberg

After a few days in KL Auschwitz she was deported to the camp Freiburg near Flossenbürg: „(…) At the moment when the door of our wagon opened, some men approached it. They seemed to spend some time in the camp and to be aware of the camp’ «rules». They gave advice to the women with children: the children should be handed out immediately to the grandmothers or other elderly women...

They said: «Give your children to their grandmothers, it doesn’t have to be your own mother, but it must be an elderly woman… It will make you free, you can go to work.» They know that women with small children will be sent directly to die. Some women followed the advice, the other didn’t. I saw a woman, who after leaving the wagon put her child away. She realized the imminent danger, so that she decided to save her life.

The SS-Mann, that send her to the left in the direction of other women with children, approached her and said: «Take the child!» So, she took the child and marched the indicated direction (…)”. Source: A-BSM Archive, Testimonies, vol. 134a, p. 131-135. Photo: A-BSM

Personal card of Sara LewkovicsAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Prisoners’ personal file of Sara Lewkovics, born in Łódź, deported form the Łódź ghetto on 17 August 1944.

As a reason for the imprisonment in the camp the document stated: “Polish Jew”. Photo: A-BSM Archive

Rachela GrynglasAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Grynglas Rachela, born on 1925 in Łodź, deported to KL Auschwitz from the ghetto of Łódź in August 1944, subsequently transported to subcamp of the KL Gross-Rosen named Halbstadt, where she was liberated. Photo from 1945, A-BSM Archive

Fragment of the interview with Rachela Grynfeld, née Grynglas

„(...) We were
travelling a dozen hours in the cattle wagon dark inside. There was no toilet
inside. We had to indulge ourselves in a bucket. It was horrible. It was dark
as the train stopped, and we were told to get out. Then we were divided in
groups. Men had to stay separate from women. I went through the moments, I
will never forget, it is still before my eyes. Mommy took my hand; daddy took
my brothers’ hand, and we started to follow the others. Together with my
mommy we reached the place, where a German soldier or soldiers stood. The
German asked my mommy how old I was. (…) She must go in the other direction
as I had to. At the time I didn’t realize that my mothers’ side signified
death and my side- life. I didn’t want to leave my mommy. Holding her I repeated
that I will go to her side. I was screaming «Mommy, mommy!» and crying. The
German soldier pushed continuously and later he hit me; so that I landed on
one side and my mother on the other. This way I found myself among the crowd
of people, I didn’t know, without my family, without the loved ones (…)”.
Source: A-BSM Archive, Testimonies, vol. 134, p. 92-102.

Abram and Mariem Grynglas, Rachela's parentsAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Abram and Mariem Grynglas – the parents of Rachela, deported to KL Auschwitz from the ghetto of Łódź in August 1944, they perished in Auschwitz. Photo from the pre-war times. Photo: A-BSM Archive

Walizka należąca do Valeski MoskiewiczAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

The State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau stores more than 2 thousand suitcases of Jews from various European countries deported to Auschwitz. Roughly 1/3 of them bear the name of the owner. Photo: A-BSM Collections

Inscription made on a belt inside a suitcaseAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

More than 20 belonged to the Jews deported in August 1944 from the ghetto of Łódź.

Inside the suitcase on the strap holder name of its owner is written: „A. Góralnik Litzmanstadt”. Photo: A-BSM Collections

Suitcase with a card with inscription Klebep LitzmanstadtAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Suitcase with the piece of paper attached bearing the inscription: „KLEBEP/ Litzmanstadt/ HUANSTRASSE 18/8. Photo: A-BSM Collections

Suitcase nametagAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Luggage card with an inscription made with blue pencil: „H. Rubinstein LITZM. GETTO Hohensteinerstr 78. w. 19”. Photo: A-BSM Collections

Suitcase with inscription Wolken RudolfAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Suitcase with the inscription outside made of white letters: „WOLKEN Rudolf Isr. II ZIRKUS – 3”.
On the luggage card there is an inscription made with black paint: „WOLKEN Jetti Litzmanstadt”. Photo: A-BSM Collections

Jetti and Rudof Wolken were deported from Vienna to the Łódź ghetto, therefore on the suitcase the Vienna addressee is written. Rudolf perished in the ghetto.

The widow leaving Łódź attached the linen etiquette to it with the last place of residence in Litzmanstadt.

Auschwitz II-Birkenau plan with so-called Sauna marked in redAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Some of them were directly registered and received a tattooed number on their left forearm.

Those, who were sent to the camp, were subjects to the admission procedure in the so-called central sauna, where they were deprived of private clothing and underwear and their body was shaved.

The building of the so-called Central Sauna at the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau campAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Fragment of the
testimony of Pola Hinenberg:

Shortly afterwards we were taken to the bathhouse situated in a very large
building. We had to undress completely and hair from the whole body was shaved.
The whole time in the bathhouse as we were naked in the presence of passing
through male and female Germans was for me and for all of us very unpleasant
and humiliating experience. Each one of us would rather die, then to experience
such a shame. We all waned fiercely to «sink under the earth surface». As a
young teenage girl, I was very ashamed to undress in the presence of the other
persons, even it was my mother and sister...

Due to the coincidence I found myself in the bathroom next to the opened window. As I saw myself in the window with my head shaved, looking bad I burst into tears. Many other young women around me were also crying, as they were separated from their mothers. I realized then, that I will probably never find my mother (…)“. Source: A-BSM Archive, Testimonies, vol. 134a, p. 131-135. Photo: A-BSM Archive

Jehuda WidawskiAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Fragment of the testimony of Jehuda Widawski

After few days in the KL Auschwitz he was transported to subcamp of the KL Gross-Rosen named Friedland, where he was liberated: „(…) After the selection we were sent in order to take a bath to a big building situated next to crematorium. It was near the forest. In the building we saw hundreds of dresses. Among them I recognized the dress of my mother. Some of us were trying to find in those dresses personal items to commemorate the women they loved. Short afterwards as we entered the mentioned building we were told to undress completely and to throw our clothes on one heap. (…) Directly before entering the room with the shower prisoners-barbers shaved all the hair of our bodies. After the shower we received the camp clothing and hats (a kind of hat): shirts and trousers made of stripped material and other pieces of clothing made of different materials: underwear (shirts and long johns) and shoes: partially made of wood (so- called “Holland-clogs”). The received clothes oft didn’t correspond to our clothing size, so that we had to exchange it among us (…)”. Source: A-BSM Archive, Testimonies, vol. 131, p. 148-151. Photo: A-BSM

Map of deposit (temporary) camps within the KL Auschwitz II-BirkenauAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Some were sent to camp without personal registration and accommodated in the particular parts of it described as temporary or deposit camps.

The view of wooden barracks of the BII sector in Birkenau. The photograph was taken from the “Liberation Chronicles” realized after the liberation of the camp. In the background, family camp for the Jews from Theresienstadt is visible by Auschwitz-Birkenau State Muzeum ArchiveAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

After some time, they were registered in the camp and delegated to work in various work commandos or Auschwitz sub-camps, the remaining were transferred to the other concentration camps within the Third Reich. Photo: A-BSM Archive

Auschwitz II-BirkenauAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Life conditions of prisoners in the so-called deposit camps were regarding certain aspects worse than in the other parts of the camp. They were often spending nights in barracks without bunks lying directly on the floor or sitting in rows with their legs spread and between the legs of the others. Photo: A-BSM Archive

Map of deposit (temporary) camps within the KL Auschwitz II-BirkenauAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

There they were waiting couple of days or weeks for the further decision regarding their fate: an assignment to work camp or to gas chamber.

Interior of the prisoner living barrack at Auschwitz II-BirkenauAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Like the other prisoners they must attend to daily very long and physically and mentally devastating appeals. Often an appeal was combined with a selection, which ended up with sending those considered unable to work to gas chambers. Contact with the camp reality was a shock for many. Photo: A-BSM Archive

Wooden barrack at Auschwitz II-BirkenauAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Fragment of the testimony of Lala Cicogna (née Lubelska)

After a short stay in the KL Auschwitz she was deported to the subcamp Freiburg of the camp Flossenbürg: „(…) I was living in a wooden barrack with no beds. It was terribly overcrowded. We were sleeping on the floor one next to the other. I was there with my sisters Sara and Regina. In the barrack were a lot of Jewish girls from Hungary. We didn’t work and the food was terrible. We received a bowl of very watery and over salted soup, so that were very thirsty. There was no drinking water and it was a very hot August. I remember that we found in one place a piece of mud and the people were fighting to suck some humidity out of it. The female prisoners were suffering from dysentery, literally: they had terrible diarrhoea. They were staining each other with fluid excrements. It was really hard to reach the toilet. In the barrack there were just two reinforced holes for this purpose: one on the one side and the second on the other side of the barrack (…)”. Source: A-BSM Archive,Testimonies, vol. 144, p. 239-244. Photo: A-BSM Archive

Fragment of an illigally made copy of lists of newcoming Jewish prisonersAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Fragment of the excerpts of the list of the Jews deported to Auschwitz copied illegally by the prisoners- members of the camp resistance movement. The lists containing amongst others the Jews from the Łódź ghetto registered in the camp.

Under the date of 16.08.1944 there is a number section with the prisoner number of Marian Zelman - B-6839. Photo: A-BSM Archive

Fragment of the testimony of Majer Zelman

After a
short stay in the Birkenau he was deported to the subcamp Glewitz IV. „(…)
That morning the capo came and told us to hand out all of our valuable
assets. Somebody said shyly that we were all naked, so as he could see we
didn’t possess any valuable things. The capo responded, that we hid the
things for sure in the anus and furthermore we had golden teeth and dental
crones in our mouths. Afterwards began the terrible beating. I just remember
that the punches were very often. The huge mass of people began to seethe
really badly. In order to avoid hits of the clubs and whips trampled each
other; the stones were also thrown on us. I cannot remember how long it took,
I lost 2 of my teeth during the incident (…)”. Source: The Archive of the
State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau, section for testimonies, vol. 18, p. 51-53.

Zelwer familyAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

The Zelwer family together with their cousins. In the pre-war period they were living in Łódź, and after the outbreak of the war in the Łódź ghetto.

In 1944 during the liquidation of the ghetto, the eldest daughter Sara (standing first from the left) together with her mother Malka and four brothers were deported to the KL Auschwitz. Sara is the only survivor from the whole family. Photo: A-BSM Archive

Fragment of the testimony of the former prisoner Sara Urbach, née Zelwer

After a short stay
in the Birkenau she was deported to Mittelsteine, the subcamp of Gross-Rosen.
„ (…) Appeals were
conducted very often in the camp. During the appeal we were counted, from
time to time it was combined with a selection. Prior to the selection we had
to undress completely. We were rushed very hastily and hurriedly to the
appeals with the commands “schnell, schnell (faster! Faster!)”. As soon as we
stocked in the narrow door we got hit over the head. One day we were so
thirsty due to the very hot August temperatures, that we started to scream
“Water! Water!” So, we were allowed to use one water tap. All of us rushed in
its direction. Some SS-Mann standing nearby were laughing at us and telling
that we behaved like animals.
Source: A-BSM
Archive, Testimonies, vol. 134, p. 101-106.

Aerial photograph taken by the Allies in 1944 showing territory of KL Auschwitz I and KL Auschwitz II-Birkenau (1944)Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Among the Jews sent from the Łódź Ghetto to Auschwitz in August 1944 about 45 thousand were murdered in gas chambers, more than 3 thousand were registered in camp and probably approximately 19 thousand were allocated in the deposit – camp in Birkenau and subsequently sent to the other concentration camps. Photo: A-BSM Archive

Subcamps of KL AuschwitzAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

The registered ones from the Łódź Ghetto dispersed among the Jewish prisoners of the Auschwitz. They were mostly appointed to work in the industry companies, coal mines and camp farms. On the photograph: map of Auschwitz subcamps, where Jews from Litzmannstadt were appointed to work (marked on yellow)

Former Auschwitz I camp, Block 14Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

About 200 Jews from the Łódź Ghetto, especially the young ones, were accommodated in the main camp of Auschwitz as trainees in the camp own bricklayers’ school (Mauerschulle).

On the photograph: The former concentration camp Auschwitz I, block 14. Plaster samples made by the prisoners from the Maurerschule. the plasters are supposed to be used in the future projects in the KL Auschwitz. Photo: I. Bartosik, A-BSM

Personal card of Chaim PiorowskiAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Fragments of the interview
with the former prisoner Chaim Piotrkowski

He was born on 31.01.1927 in Łódź and received the camp number: B-8051: „ (…) Soon after that I was selected among 249 other boys to be trainee in the so -called Mauerschulle (bricklayers’ school) (…). After spending some time in a quarantine, we were accommodated in one room of the block 13a. The school was in the attic, were also bricks and concrete were stored. We were spending in this place whole days building up and pulling down the walls etc. (…)”.Source: A-BSM Archive, Testimonies, vol. 134, p. 195.

Personal card of Chaim Piorowski (page 2)Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

On 25. November 1944 he was transported to the KL Sachsenahusen and later on to the KL Mauthausen. Photo: A-BSM Archive

Secret report of Cracow organization for helping prisoners of concentration campsAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Secret report of the Cracow organization Help for Prisoners of the Concentration Camps. In spite of some irregularities due to the circumstances of their origin, the reports resulted to be very important testimony of the crimes committed in the camp. Photo: A-BSM Archive

Fragment of the testimony of the former prisoner Jadwiga Trębasiewicz (in the camp: Laskiewicz), camp number: 44 133
„ (…) During our morning march through the gate between the male camp and “the Mexico” (the colloquial description for the Sector BIII of the camp Auschwitz II- Birkenau) we saw transport of 10- or 12- years old boys from the ghetto of Łódź. The kids were located on the place in the front of the weaving plant behind the barbed wire and they were waiting. Probably the machine was broken again. The gathered children were standing in gloomy silence, it was clear, that their FATE reached them. Lala stopped and out of compassion wiped out his face...

The boy, still crying, was complaining: “I know, that they are going to send us to the chimney”. The girl tried to conform him saying that it was not true, and that all the boys after the bath would receive the stripped clothing and were going to work in the farm. The girls looked at each other and confirmed: “Yes, you are going to work just like us.” They were lying, because the fate of the boys was already sealed, but the hope could ease their last moments (…) “
Source: A-BSM Archive, Testimonies, vol. 103, p. 170.

Koplowicz familyAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

The family Koplowicz Yochet Gitel and Mendel Koplowicz with their only child Abramek

In the pre-war time they lived in Łódź. Abramek was attending the traditional Jewish school, but he absolved also two classes of the public Polish school. During the war, until the end of August 1944 they managed to survive in the Łódź ghetto. During the liquidation of the ghetto the family was deported with one of the last transports to the KL Auschwitz. Only the father survived. After the war he came back to Łódź and discovered in the attic of his house one manuscript with the title “My works” with the poems of his 13 years old son, the boy was writing during his time in the ghetto. Photo made in summer 1931. Photo: A-BSM Archive

The can where comment of a member of the Sonderkommando Zalmen Lewental were foundAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

In 1961 a small metal can was found buried near the ruins of the crematorium III in Birkenau, the can contained a roll of hand-written documents. It was a kind of diary in form of letters to a friend written continuously regarding exclusively the ghetto of Łódź. The name of the author remains unknown.

The diary was complemented with a comment of a member of the Sonderkommando Zalmen Lewental, who found it probably in the changing room of the crematory III in Birkenau on 15 August 1944 (on this day arrived a transport of approx. 2,000 Jews from Łódź). He hided the diary in order to inform the mankind in the future about the fate of the Jews from Łódź. Photo: A-BSM Archive

A silver, hand-made bracelet probably from the ghetto of ŁódźAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Together with the diary was also found a silver, hand-made bracelet probably from the ghetto of Łódź. Photo: A-BSM Collections

Fragment of an illigally made copy of lists of newcoming Jewish prisonersAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Fragment the list of the Jews deported to the subcamp of Auschwitz in Trzebinia from 15 September 1944. The lists containing the name and surname of Benjamin Pilicer B-10246. Photo: A-BSM Archive

Fragment of the testimony of Benjamin Pilicer

He was in the subcamp in Trzebinia, he was 15 years old as he arrived to Auschwitz. „(…) We were sleeping directly on the floor, bent and squeezed like fish in a can. We could lay only on the side. As soon one of us liked to turn, the whole row had to turn also. There was no single inch of the free floor, you had to walk over the people. Entering the barrack, we were literally struggling to get the sleeping place next to the wall and avoid the ones by the door. The people were walking all night long, so the ones by the entrance suffered the most. We received soup in various kinds of containers: in buckets, saucepans and bowls of different sizes. After receiving a portion, we were running away with the body bent over, otherwise we got hits over the head with the stock. Mornings the soup was distributed, evenings the bread. One loaf for five persons, it was difficult to divide it since we didn’t have the knives (…) From time to time the Germans visited our barrack. They were picking the candidates among the people lying on the floor in order to send them to the various “Arbeitslager” (work camps). I was between those destined to leave. (…) Early in the morning we came to Trzebinia. We were supposed to rebuild the oil refineries destroyed by bombing during the war. We came to Trzebinia in mid-January 1945. The front was approaching and the Russian came closer. One night we received food: bread and margarine. Additionally, we got also clothes, as it was frosting cold outside. We were allowed to take it with us. At 1 o’clock in the night we got the marching order, so we departed (…)” Source: A-BSM Archive, Testimonies, vol. 59, p. 70-74.

Wirtschaftshof Birkenau subcampAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Wirtschaftshof Subcamp. Photo of the SS. A-BSM Archive

Fragment of a list of prisoners of Wirtschaftshof Birkenau subcampAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Fragment of the list of the prisoners of the Wirtschaftshof subcamp from 27.09.1944 issued in relation to the medical examination of those prisoners in the Institute of Hygiene of the SS. The list includes Jews from Łódź indicated with the numbers B-7574 – B- 7689. Photo: A-BSM Archive

Near the number B-7640 there is name of Lewczyk, Moses, under this name Mojsze Rybkowski was registered in the camp. Source: A-BSM Archive, section for the Institute of Hygiene of the SS, folder 50, p. 225.

Fragments of the interview with the former prisoner Mojsze Rybowski (in the camp: Mozes Lewczyk) with the camp number: B-7640.
„(…) I was sent to the Wirtschaftshof subcamp. I remember well the horses from the stable. Around forty or even sixty Hungarian Jews were employed as coachmen for those horses. Me and my friends from the Łódź ghetto were appointed to maintain the horses and work as coachman assistants...

(…) On 3 January 1945 I was sent to the Auschwitz I hospital, where I was under observation till 12 January. That day I undergo finally an operation of my hernia. Two doctors-prisoners were conducting the operation: A Pole and a Frenchman. As on 18 January the massive evacuation of the prisoners began, I was still in the hospital (…)”.
Source: A-BSM Archive, Testimonies, vol. 134, p. 223-224.

Pafe from registry of former prisoners at Polish Red Cross hospitalAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

A page of the index of the former prisoners, which stayed in the camp after the liberation in the hospital of the Polish Red Cross according to the state of 7 March 1945. In the index names and surnames of prisoners are listed in the alphabetical order, sometimes including additional information.

On this page the name of Lewczyk, Moses can be seen, under this name Mojsze Rybkowski was registered in the camp. Photo: A-BSM Archive

The first page of the number index of the prisoners of the subcamp Tschechowitz-VacuumAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

The first page of the number index of the prisoners of the subcamp Tschechowitz-Vacuum from 9 November 1944. The list includes 281 Jews from the Łódź ghetto. Photo: A-BSM Archive

The fifth page of the number index of the prisoners of the subcamp Tschechowitz-VacuumAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

The fifth page of the number index of the prisoners of the subcamp Tschechowitz-Vacuum from 9 November 1944, under the number B – 9408 Marian Turski is indicated. Photo: A-BSM Archive

Zbigniew Otfinowski, Evacuation MarchAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Many of the Jews from the Łódź Ghetto perished during the evacuation action and liquidation of the KL Auschwitz, which took place in January 1945. Very few survived in the main camp Auschwitz and in the sub-camps until the liberation. Photo: Zbigniew Otwinowski, Evacuation, A-BSM Collections

Bernard Makowski with his fatherAuschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Bernard Makowski, a Polish Jew deported to the KL Auschwitz from the Łódź ghetto together with his parents and his younger brother. His mother and brother were murdered directly after the arrival in the gas chamber.

Bernard with his father were sent to the camp, after approximately 2 weeks they were transferred to Kaufering, the subcamp of the KL Dachau. On photograph: Bernard Makowski with his father in July 1945, two months after the liberation. Photo: A-BSM Archive

Marian Turski (2015)Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Fragment of the speech of Marian Turski from 27 January 2010 on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the KL Auschwitz

„(…) People,
especially the young ones, keep asking me: tell me, what was the worst thing
ever? They expect me to answer: hunger! They mostly right. The hunger is a kind
of obsession, that’s the obsession for eating, it is constantly thinking of
alimentation, it is a phantom of a potato, a spoon of soup, a bite of bread
that is not leaving you. The one eating normally would not understand it. It is
beyond the imagination. But the hunger wasn’t the worst! Perhaps the living conditions? Horrible! Thousand persons in one barrack. Five or six lying on straw on the one bunk. You are considering the bunk you should pick? It is better to avoid the lower ones because the people from the upper ones cannot hold the natural needs, their bladders couldn’t stand the pressure. But the upper ones are also not the best ones. 

Surpassingly the Germans are calling for an appeal; it takes a lot of time to get down so you are going to get beaten on your rips, your head, your back. So, the living conditions? No! It wasn’t the worse. Perhaps the chilling cold? 1944 was as cold as this year is, it was terrible and very cold winter. I remember, because I made me a vest out of a cement bag. The German watchman saw it and he beat me badly: „Du hast deutches Vermoegen gestohlen” (You have stolen the German property!) But I wouldn’t say it was the worst.

Perhaps the louses? Indeed, I must admit, I don’t remember any louse in Auschwitz itself or in Buchenwald. But as we were sent to working commandos, where the sanitary facilities were destroyed by bombing, there were plenty of louses. Particularly there were thousands of them during my last march in April 1945. Nevertheless, it wasn’t the worse. What was the worse, then? The worse was the HUMILIATION! The fact that you were not treated as a human being- especially if you were a Jew and because you were a Jew, you were not even treated like an animal, but as if you were an insect, a louse, a nit, a cockroach, a bedbug. And what are you supposed to do with a nit, a cockroach? It should be trampled, crushed, eliminated.

Therefore, if somebody, especially a young person, is asking me: What have you learned from your experience? What would you share with the todays’ generation? From all the words and sciences, if I could sum up it with just one word, I would say: EMPATHY! (…)”.

Credits: Story

Author: dr Maria Martyniak

Graphic composition: Agnieszka Juskowiak-Sawicka

Translation into English: Małgorzata Burek

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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