MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

News

Camp letters and striped garment gifted to the Auschwitz Memorial Site

14-11-2012

Zofia Banaszczyk, former prisoner of the German Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz, Ravensbrück and Helmbrechts, donated a set of camp letters to the Auschwitz Memorial Site. “This is definitely the best and most worthy place for such memorabilia. This correspondence, which I have decided to give in its entirety, is my greatest treasure. Of course I hesitated, because I have children and grandchildren, but a lot of young people come here, and it certainly is a place where these items will be respected in the way in which they should be respected,” she pointed out when providing these precious documents to the head of the Archives, Wojciech Płosa.

The former prisoner added a bookmark to the letters, personally made in a prison in Łódź, where she was sent at the age of 20. “It is a bookmark made in the prison in Łódź at st. Gdańska just after being arrested by the Germans and even before Auschwitz. Its history is very interesting, because, after all, we didn’t even have a needle there. But I managed to smuggle it in in some undergarments, which were changed once in a while. Each thread belonged to someone else. The tassels, for example, are from my scarf; while on the other side there is the lining, which a colleague cut off from the bottom of his cloak. I lined everything and embroidered it. Each thread and each cross has its own history, and this is why I wondered for a long time if I would pass it on to the Museum,” said the former prisoner, putting the item so precious to her in the hands of Elżbieta Cajzer, head of the Collections Department.

Through Zofia Banaszczyk, the Auschwitz Memorial Site also received the gift of a striped prison dress, belonging to the late inmate Bronisław Filipczyńska-Głębecka, as well as notes with various entries, including poems recited by prisoners in the camp, belonging to another prisoner, Jadwiga Piotrowska.

The meeting was also attended by Małgorzata Kunce, the daughter of Irena Podlasin-Wesołowska, a former prisoner of Auschwitz, Ravensbrück and Helmbrechts. She donated to the Museum items which used to belong to her mother and which evoked associations about the camp for many years in her, as well as in her sister Barbara and mother Janina, also prisoners of the camp. Among the tokens donated by her, there is a blanket which Irena Podlasin-Wesołowska took from the camp when setting off on the evacuation route, along with small items made in the camp by other female prisoners: a small cat made of plastic mass and an opening egg with a squirrel.

On the other hand, Barbara Osińska from Łódź donated one of the post-camp tokens, which used to belong to her mother, Kamila Cieślak, who was also a former prisoner of Auschwitz, Ravensbrück and Helmbrechts — a white linen handkerchief with the signatures of fellow prisoners and which was made on the day of the march from Helmbrechts on 13 April 1945.

The friendship among the prisoners, which began in the Łódź prison and grew stronger during the wandering from one camp to another, survived the years of German occupation. For many years after the war, on the anniversary of the liberation, the friends met together in Auschwitz with a group of loved ones to remember the years of misery.

Camp items given to the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau. Photo: Paweł Sawicki
Camp items given to...
Mrs. Zofia Banaszczak giving the camp letters to the head of the Museum Archives, Mr. Wojciech Płosa.
Mrs. Zofia...
Striped garment gifted to the care of Museum Auschwitz
Striped garment...