Letters and camp items donated by the daughter of a former Auschwitz prisoner


Personal items from the German Nazi Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp as well as original camp letters from the former prisoner Kazimiera Gruszczyńska were donated to the Museum Archives and Collection. The items were donated by her daughter - Lucyna Gruszczyńska-Jeleńska.

It is, among other things, a red-felt heart with two shoes attached. Two letters - "Z" and "K" are embroidered on the heart. Basing on the information passed by Mrs Lucyna, it was a symbol of a friendship between her mother and one of fellow prisoners - Zenobia Piorunek.

‘Except the heart the Museum received also an elephant made of black felt, trimmed with red wool. Both objects were made in the second half of 1944 in Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp's sewing room and their author was no one else but the friend of Mrs Kazimiera, Zenobia,’ said Agnieszka Sieradzka from Museum's Collections.

As the head of the Museum’s Collections, Elżbieta Cajzer, stressed, both donated memorabilia are very small and fragile. ‘In some places one can notice breakages and missing parts. That's why those unique objects, which are a token of friendship between two female prisoners will first undergo conservation, so that they could survive and tell their story for many years to come,’ stated Cajzer.

Kazimiera Gruszczyńska's daughter also gave the Museum items connected with her mother's return home after the liberation on April 22, 1945 in Chemnitz, sub-camp of KL Flossenburg. It is a scrap of a dress which already liberated prisoner received at Red Cross Chapter in Prague. The scrap has a meaningful inscription "return from the camp". One dollar note and a five koruna note from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia survived up to this date. They were also donated to the Museum's Collection.

Museum’s Archives were the destination of donated camp letters – not only those written by Kazimiera Gruszczyńska and sent from the camp, but also correspondence from her family addressed to Auschwitz.

‘Donation of the personal memorabilia connected to the history of Auschwitz to the Museum allows us to know better and to preserve the stories of particular individuals. We are aware that often decision to separate with such objects was tough, and very often great personal emotions are connected with those objects. That's why we can always scan or copy documents in the high quality and provide them to the donors,’ said dr Piotr M.A. Cywiński, Museum director.

‘One shall remember that here in the Museum we are able to take proper and professional conservation protection of the documents, letters or items, which - even with having the best intentions from further generations - would lack such care in private houses, photo albums or drawers,’ director Cywiński added.

Kazimiera Gruszczyńska was taken to the camp at the beginning of February 1943 as an inmate of a prison in Mysłowice. Barely after several weeks stay in block 2a of the Auschwitz I camp she was registered, received no. 37558 and was moved to Auschwitz II-Birkenau to the Bla section. Her husband, Czesław Gruszczyński, was executed in Auschwitz, probably at the beginning of March 1943.

Zenobia Piorunek was transported to Auschwitz on August 13, 1943, as prisoner no. 54574, from the same prison as Mrs Kazimiera. She worked in the camp's sewing room. In October 1944, together with Kazimiera Gruszczyńska, she was transferred to Chemnitz (concentration sub-camp in Flossenburg), where they were liberated.