Zdzisława Włodarczyk. "We knew that those who were told to leave their luggage, went straight to gas chamber"
"This loneliness, struggle for survival, such detention is extremely hard. There’s no way to describe it," said Zdzisława Włodarczyk in conversation with Magda Łucyan, a reporter from "Fakty" TVN.
The series of conversations with former prisoners of KL Auschwitz-Birkenau has been conducted to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the camp’s liberation that falls on the 27th of January.
Born in 1933, Zdzisława Włodarczyk was taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau in August 1944, together with her parents and brother. Those were the first days of the Warsaw Uprising. She was 11 years old at the time. Her prisoner number was: 85282.
Ms Włodarczyk said she remembers the arrival to the camp. "When we entered the facility and passed the sign 'Auschwitz', my father grabbed his head, he was hitting the wall of the wagon asking: 'God, where have they taken us?'" she recalled.
"Rushing out of the wagon, people were screaming and dogs barking. They immediately separated men from women and children. Next, they led people along the barbed wire towards the sauna, without men. There stood a wooden barrack. Nothing was inside except for ground covered with chloride and we waited. This was the last time I saw my father, in that area next to the sauna," Ms Włodarczyk said.
"First was the shower room. We had to strip naked, give away even the smallest our belongings, even hair clips. Once they noticed you were holding something in your hand, anything, a toy, a crucifix, a medallion, all of these things were immediately confiscated. We were standing in line waiting for them to cut our hair and to be sheared – literally. Next, we were led to this chamber, a bathroom. Someone said they would let the gas in. But the water started to flow. Hot and cold, interchangeably. It was never good enough for us to wash ourselves. After we left that room, it was impossible to distinguish between the women. It was a moving mass of naked bodies. Sort of a moving wall. One couldn’t recognize one another. I even didn’t recognize my mom. We were each given a piece of cloth, with a number on it and from there on we were supposed to stop using our names to identify ourselves and use those numbers instead. My prisoner number was: 85282. That’s how the camp life started," she said, as she explained the registration process in the camp.
Zdzisława Włodarczyk recalled the first night in the camp, that was accompanied by crying and her mother calling. "My brother would run over to me when someone older, stronger would take his portion of bread. So, I took him onto my bunk, even though the overseer would scream at me and hit me for it. But she allowed him to stay with me on my bunk," she said.
"The worst time was when the kids were ill. Durchfall (dysentery), a stomach disease which was extremely exhausting," she added.
Ms Włodarczyk underscored that children were being beaten when they were disobedient, "or when they made a mess or something", often they would get whipped on their legs. She added that disobedience was, for example, when the kids "wouldn’t line up for a roll call on time". "There was one blanket there and just one pallet, but they needed to be folded correctly," she recalled.
"We saw when the fresh transports arrived at the ramp and some passengers were walking along with their luggage and some without. We knew that those who were told to leave their luggage, went straight to be gassed. We would smell that smoke; the sky had this reddish colour. We tried to pray under our breath," she recalled.
The former prisoner of Auschwitz-Birkenau was asked about the message she would like to pass on to younger generations. "Not to succumb to political slogans. Never to think of themselves as superhuman, something more important and most perfect. Let them beware of slogans, because slogans may lead them to believe they are greater than anything else. War takes your home and family, it destroys family. Let us hope younger generations won’t ever experience this," Zdzisława Włodarczyk highlighted.