MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

Haeftlings-Krankenbau Auschwitz I - block 28 - memories

My work, from the moment of taking over the room in the internal medicine ward in block 28, except for carrying pots with food, was limited strictly to medical duties. The maintenance work was done by sztubowy (Stubendienst) Olejniczak with assistants, selected from among the sick. All the writing duties, connected with filling the patients’s chart, done at my bidding, as well as preparing current count of the sick and all reports, were at first performed by my assistant, dr Tadeusz Jandy. After his death, the duties were passed to specifically assigned Pfleger, who could speak German well. (...) The sick were a diverse lot, that is some of them were suffering from bronchitis, pneumonia, nephritis, gastritis and fever which most frequently turned out to be typhus. (...)

            One day we found out in the hospital that the Germans were going to perform a major disinfection of the whole camp - by gassing all the blocks. For that reason, the sick from our hospital would be transferred to hospital in Brzezinka. After two or three days, the block leader came running and ordered me to prepare the sick to be inspected by the Lagerarzt, that is to lay the charts out on the beds. After a while it was not a Lagerarzt, but another physician in an SS officer uniform who came in accompanied by two SS men and ordered to present him the sick one by one. I was to report the diagnosis of the patient and to say if he could be transported. During the inspection, he took charts of all the convalescents, and handed them one  by one to an SS man, saying whether a given prisoner was capable of marching or could be transported. The charts of the seriously sick, however, were left on their beds.

After few minutes, the block leader came running and announced that all those whose charts were taken by that German doctor, were qualified by him “to the gas”, not to be located in Brzezinka’s hospital. The block leader promised to save them by providing on the selected “to the gas” list an appropriate number of seriously sick patients from my room. He could do this because the German physician did not write down the prisoners’ numbers, only a general amount and he, as the block leader, had to compile the list. After two days they left to Birkenau, “to the gas”.

Czesław Jaworski (no. 31070)

 

After a while, Kwoka took me on his back and carried upstairs, to room 15 on the first floor of block 28. (...)Only patients in severe condition due to starvation were put in that room. (...) There was no treatment at all, because giving a few charcoal pills a day with no serious nourishment cannot be called starvation treatment. (...) Although there was no casual treatment, relative peacefulness, warmth and lying down quickly improved the health of the younger ones. All the elderly, however, died. During my monthly stay in the room, about 150 patients died. (...)

            The seriously sick laid on the lower storeys (on the ground level), the stronger ones on the first and second storeys. Those who could move on their own, many times a day climbed down from their bunks and, leaking a little on the calves and on the way, ran to the bogs, which were put between the beds. They were made of old, metal cans of German fruit jams.

            As the disease developed, which was a general rule in their case, the older ones were given the right to lie on the lowest storey. Those on the lowest bunks didn’t have to get up and sit on the chipped bogs. They were allowed to soil themselves. Of course no one lifted them up and cleaned. The honour of laying on the ground level served as the preparation for the last stage of human’s way. And that stage was a ride on a rack wagon into the chimney.

            The caretaker, adviser, male nurse, and orderly was an old bloke from somewhere around Sanok, Stanisław Ryniak. Ryniak scrubbed the constantly fouled floor. Ryniak took out the bogs, Ryniak handed out the food, Ryniak, fulfilling his Christian duty, saw off every corpse to the room’s door. (...)

            The physician of the room was Edward Nowakk, a bloke whose good character equalled his helplessness. He would always sit at his table and note in the record books the shape of the faeces, their consistency, frequency of defecation and whether there was mucus or not. According to the SS physician’s regulation, he also had to describe the state of mind of the patient who constantly, day and night, was trudged from the bed to the bog and back. The stories he wrote down ended with the most important entry of day, hour and cause of death. Germans ordered him to write “Durchfall” (diarrhoea), instead of the simple and honest “Hungertod” (death of starvation). When he was free of his chronicle duties, he visited the sick one by one and kindly asked about their complaints. He was always told the same. Everyone was hungry and wanted to eat. Everyone’s rump hurt because of diarrhoea and chipped bog.

Władysław Fejkiel (no. 5647)

 

Patients suffering from internal diseases, in the true sense of these words, were really few, because if someone suffered from circulatory diseases, he or she was usually finished off at work or in the block, whereas other internal diseases with no fever were not diagnosed by the SS physician as a disease. So the patients of the ward were mainly those exhausted from starvation, with diarrhoea and oedemas.

Generally, the sick were not treated. There were no means or no time for it. The attention of doctors and nurses was focused on running the register, keeping everything in order and keeping disease documentation which was unusually thorough, given the conditions. The history of the disease had to be kept systematically, every few days the physicians’ remarks as to the course of the disease had to be written down together with the  results of laboratory tests, which, due to technical issues, were not always carried out. Every pill of medicine given or prescribed had to be recorded.

Keeping order, constant airing, washing the floors with chloride (...) and compiling bothersome documentation of the sick were one of many harassments used by the SS authorities on the medical and nursing staff.

Władysław Fejkiel (no. 5647)

 

In the night, I had to stand a 2-3 hour watch (Nachtwache) in the typhoid room. Many times a patient jumped out of the bed screaming and running straight ahead between the bunks, hurting his head. Another wanted to go out through the window, to throw himself onto the wires. You had to run after him, catch him and take him back to his bunk. Sometimes a febrile patient reported to his commanders and said his name or pseudonym from the resistance. Another raved aloud about his love to his wife, and yet another cried, because he had cheated on his wife and now was confessing his sins in typhoid delirium. Some were praying aloud. Sometimes someone screamed shrilly, raised himself and... passed away. (...) Those suffering from typhus were really thirsty, you had to give them water or camp tea substitute. Those who could not walk had to be given bedpans, which later had to be taken away. Sometimes you had to hold a dying prisoner's hand, because he was groaning and asking for it. (...) I handed the Nachtwache over to the another convalescent with a relief.

Tadeusz Sobolewicz (no. 23053)