MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

News

“People of Good Will” Exhibition at the Book Gallery

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25-03-2014

The Auschwitz Museum exhibition “People of Good Will” is presented in front of the Library in Oświęcim. It shows portraits of some of the citizens of Oświęcim and other towns nearby who helped prisoners of the Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz.

The attitude of people living in the area of Oświęcim towards what happened in the Auschwitz concentration camp during the occupation was invariable form the beginning to the end. They were helping on their own or by forming spontaneous groups which sometimes included entire families. They were helping, risking their own lives. Many of them were arrested and executed because they dared to help the Auschwitz prisoners.

So far the historians of the Auschwitz Museum have managed to identify the names of more than 1200 Poles from Oświęcim and its premises, who helped prisoners of the Auschwitz camp. Their stories were collected and published in the book „People of good will”, edited by Henryk Świebocki. The publication contains short biographic notes, as well as a description of help that was carried. The exhibition will be open till 14 of April.

People of good will.

Aid to Auschwitz prisoners took various forms. It consisted above all in furnishing them with food, but also with medicine and bandages. In the winter, people attempted to get warm clothing and underwear to the prisoners. However, the help was not confined to the material sphere. It was equally important to make it easier for the prisoners to stay in touch with their families, usually by helping to deliver illicit correspondence, but there were also cases in which arrangements were made for prisoners to have face-to-face meetings with their loved once. People helped prisoners who had escaped from the camp, and even played a role in organizing the escapes. Local residents organisations also received documents from the prisoners that revealed the crimes being committed by the SS, and forwarded this evidence to the headquarters of the Polish underground movement.

After liberation of the camp, Oświęcim citizens got involved in helping prisoners who were in such bad condition that they could not leave Auschwitz. More than 4,5 thousands ex-prisoners from more than 20 countries, mostly Jews, were taken to hospitals. There were over 200 children under 15 among the patients. A lot of the sick found help in small hospitals prepared by the citizens of Oświęcim, Brzeszcze and their premises. The sick also found hospitality in private houses. The citizens also took care of children from the camp. A lot of them not only received help, but were later adopted by their caregivers.