August Kowalczyk

A well-known Polish film and theatre actor. He wanted to be a priest, but the war thwarted his plans. He ended up in Auschwitz, from which he managed to escape. After he retired, he created a one-man show with a meaningful title 6804, which told about the camp’s hell. Who was August Kowalczyk?

Kowalczyk came from a small village in the Świętokrzyskie Province. After graduating from high school, he wanted to continue his studies at the seminary. His education was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. As a young man in good health, he wanted to help his country, so he went to France, where the Polish army was. Unfortunately, he was caught crossing the border in Slovakia and then transported to the concentration camp in Auschwitz. The camp number assigned to him – 6804 – became a symbol for him. Kowalczyk was to do several labours: unloading building materials, building the Buna-Werke plant, or demolishing houses in Monowice, which later became the site of the Auschwitz III – Monowice sub-camp.

When Kowalczyk was in the camp, the Union of Armed Struggle operated in Oświęcim, which conspiratorially communicated with prisoners and delivered mail and medicines for them. Of course, there were severe punishments for those caught contacting people from outside the camp. Unfortunately, Kowalczyk was one of them. As a punishment, he was imprisoned in a penal company. In a way, it was a postponed death sentence, as few of the prisoners in the penal company survived. Additionally, August Kowalczyk was assigned to hand over another prisoner.

In this misfortune, however, he was lucky. During this time, 400 new prisoners were sent to the penal company. With a dozen prisoners, they created an escape plan. It was to take place after hearing the signal announcing the end of work. At that time, they were working on the construction of a drainage ditch. They were to attack the SS men guarding them and then escape to a nearby forest. The plan was uncertain from the start, as it was raining on the day they were to escape, and the work finished earlier. When the signal sounded, some of the inmates panicked and began to run away. Out of 50 people who took part in the escape, only nine managed to escape with Kowalczyk. The rest was either taken back or shot by Nazi soldiers.

Kowalczyk ran into the forest and then hid in the crops. He was found and recused by local women. With their help and two families from Bojszów, he managed to get to the Silesian Mountains and then to Krakow, where he joined the Miechów unit of the Home Army.
After the war, he became an actor and director in several theatres. After he decided to retire, he started touring Poland with a monodrama entitled „6804”, which told his story as a camp prisoner in KL Auschwitz-Birkenau. Kowalczyk took part in the organization of several anniversaries commemorating the liberation of the camp and the escape of the penal company. He also published a trilogy called „The Barbed Wire Chorus. True Story”, which tells about his life and a half in Auschwitz.

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