Bartoszewski – an extraordinary prisoner from KL Auschwitz

Władysław Bartoszewski was a very famous Pole. He was The Knight of the Order of the White Eagle, Righteous Among the Nations, and representative of the „Columbus” generation. He also was a prisoner of KL Auschwitz for 199 days, inmate number 4427. He was one of the few who did not come out „through the chimney”*, but he was released from the camp.

Bartoszewski recalls that only young men were taken on the day of the round-up. Originally, he thought he would end up doing forced labor in the Third Reich. However, when after the stop and checking of the documents of the prisoners, they were divided into two parts, there was still hope that they might end up in the mine somewhere because Bartoszewski’s train was headed for Upper Silesia. Soon after, this hope faded when they faced the world-famous inscription „Arbeit macht frei”. As he admitted, he was afraid. He was also afraid when he arrived at the camp and when one of the prisoners was trampled in front of his eyes.

One could say he was lucky. He ended up in a block for adolescents, which was modeled on the camps already existing in the Reich. As he said: “At the beginning, the young people did not go to work, for example, and this gave additional hours – how valuable hours, if not days – for adaptation, for finding out about the organization of the arts, block, and camp. It was possible to wonder how to live here at all – how to speak, how to walk, how to look, how and where to sleep, how to wash. ” He did not have a tattooed number, which made his functioning much easier after the end of hell in KL Auschwitz for him. Released after nearly 7th months in the camp, he didn’t want to be called a hero.

One of the most debatable topics about Bartoszewski is his release from the camp. There are many incomprehensible and sometimes harmful myths surrounding this story. One of them said, for example, that Bartoszewski left because his sister married a German. This story is not true, however, because our hero did not have any siblings. Release from Auschwitz was possible, especially in the initial period of the camp’s operation. Often, luck was enough to be released, because historical sources indicate that both people from round-ups and political prisoners were released.

Two factors probably contributed to the exit from the Bartoszewski camp. The first is that before the war, „Righteous Among the Nations” had worked for the Polish Red Cross and it was most likely that this organization contributed to Bartoszewski being released from Auschwitz.

The second issue was the health condition of the future minister. After he fainted from exhaustion during one of the camp assemblies, he was sent to the hospital. There, after regaining some of his strength and with the help of Polish doctors, he appeared on the camp medical commission, and only after its successful passage was released. Thus, another theory about Bartoszewski’s release from Auschwitz due to his poor health turns out to be untrue. Bartoszewski himself does not know why he was released. There were indications that his parents were actively working to free their son, and the released ones will remain unknown forever.

Władysław Bartoszewski, based on his passages during his 199-day stay in KL Auschwitz, wrote a book entitled: „My Auschwitz”. He died in 2015 at the age of 93.

* Paraphrase of the words of an SS man who was to point to the crematorium and tell Bartoszewski that it was only possible to leave Auschwitz through the chimney.
** The quotation comes from the book „My Auschwitz” by W. Bartoszewski pp. 23-24. Wydawnictwo Znak

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