3 Incredible stories of prisoners from Auschwitz Birkenau

Everyone has heard the story of the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Many have also heard that it is the largest death factory in the world. Most people who arrived to Auschwitz-Birkenau by train immediately went to die in the gas chambers. Others faced backbreaking work in extremely poor living conditions. The prisoners suffered from extreme hunger and various diseases. Sadness, anxiety, anger and pain are the feelings that accompany us when we dare think about it. When reading about Auschwitz or watching documentaries, we often hear numbers, numbers that show the scale and enormity of the Nazi crime. Auschwitz-Birkenau has hundreds of thousands of stories, all of them tragic, but is there a place for positive emotions in the enormity of this suffering? For love? For art? This time we would like to focus on portraying exactly that, the fate of a few people, and tell some (of the countless) amazing and breathtaking stories of Auschwitz prisoners.

The Lovers Escape

One of the most touching stories is the escape of Jerzy Bielecki and Polish Jew Cyla Cybulska. Bielecki got to Auschwitz in the first mass transport on 13th June 1940. He was caught during an attempt to get to Hungary to join the Polish army in France. Cyla was transferred with her family from the ghetto in Łomża to Auschwitz on 21h January 1943. She began work in the same mill as Bielecki. Although contacts between male and female prisoners were forbidden, they managed to talk, and later sneak for meetings. Around this time, the Nazis started to murder more and more Jewish prisoners. The lovers decided to escape from Auschwitz. In their plan, they received great help from their friend, Tadeusz Srogi, who worked in a warehouse. On the 21th of July 1944 Bielecki, dressed as an SS man, took Cyla for an invented interrogation. With the help of local people, they managed to get near Krakow, where Cyla was hidden and Jerzy joined the Polish army. After a few months, she found out about Jerzy’s death and emigrated to the USA after the war. He came back and discovered that she had died in Sweden. Because of this misinformation, they learned about each other after 39 years. Cyla accidentally found out about an incredible story of a combatant and recognized him as Jerzy. They met in 1983; Bielecki was waiting for her at the airport with a bouquet of 39 roses.

Jerzy Bielecki and Cyla Cybulska

Stanisława Leszczyńska – Auschwitz Midwife

Stanisława Leszczyńska de domo Zembrzycka (1896-1974) was a Polish midwife active from 1922 to 1957. During II World War she was involved with the National Armed Forces. On February 20, 1943 she was arrested with her family and sent to Auschwitz. Because she managed to take her license with her, the camp authorities allowed her to work as a midwife. Since 1943, the babies born in the camp weren’t killed; the decision was probably motivated by disbelief that they would survive in such horrible conditions. She started to work as soon as she got to the camp. The babies were delivered on the chimney duct located along the barrack, which was the only chance to get a bit of heat during winter (although it didn’t work most of the time). During the 2 years of imprisonment, she managed to deliver around 3000 babies who, along with their mothers, survived the delivery despite horrible conditions, lack of water, medications, and attacks of rats and insects. It means that she had much better results than the best German clinics at the time. After her death, Stanisława was named God’s Handmaid and is one of the patrons of midwives.

Stanisława Leszczyńska

Dita Kraus – The Librarian Of Auschwitz And Her Smallest Library In The World

This story remained hidden from the world for more than 60 years, but then a Spanish writer Antonio Iturbe started to talk with Dita Kraus (nee Polach), a 90-year-old Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen survivor. When Dita was 14, in 1942, she and her parents were sent to Auschwitz, to the family block. The sanitary conditions were just as awful as everywhere else in the camp, but the Nazis let mothers and children be together; till this day we don’t know what was the purpose of such an exception. In this horrible, dehumanizing place, prisoners tried to not only survive, but also to give their kids a bit of normality. Fredy Hirsch, German Jewish athlete, was a leader of the block. He provided 10 books that Dita and an unknown boy were taking care of. They were supposed to hide them every night in a different place and share them in daytime. The books were smuggled from the prisoners’ luggage. The titles included positions like a dissertation on geometry and a short history of the world. As Dita recalls, “they were not funny; but they were very cared for”. Tiny library existed for only 6 months, after which the family block was defunct; most of its inhabitants died in gas chambers. Dita and her mother were sent to the Bergen-Belsen camp. Although most of the readers met a cruel fate, but the tiny library surely has helped many people survive the nightmare.

Dita Kraus

These are merely three out of thousands of stories from the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. Each person who passed through the gates of the camp had their own. We therefore encourage you to visit this place, not only to see tangible evidence of the Nazi crime, but also to listen and learn more from the museum guide and, of course, to discover the places associated with the heroes of these stories.