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My grandfather’s WWII experience

By Admin User on November 25, 2019

My father is a Polish immigrant and both of his parents had their own experiences in World War II. When I was 13 years old, I had the opportunity to visit Poland with my parents and see part of the story first-hand.

When the Germans invaded Poland, they arrested my grandfather’s brother for possessing a weapon in his home. He put the blame on my grandfather but ultimately was sent to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp where he was ultimately shot at the firing wall.

Disobedient prisoners were lined up at this wall and shot to death by guards. Visitors lay flowers and light candles in memory of those killed at this wall.

After months of imprisonment and torture, my grandfather was moved to Auschwitz where he spent time working in hard labour. He was forced to help build the neighbouring Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. He also spent three months working in the camp’s crematorium. While he was there, he lived in block 18.

Visiting the camps was incredibly humbling. Seeing the space he lived in for so long and walking around the enormous camp that was Auschwitz-Birkenau brought a whole new perspective.

Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away before I was born.

Years after my family’s Europe trip, my father showed me a letter that had been written to the German government when they allowed Holocaust survivors to be financially compensated for their time in prisons and camps. The letter outlines my grandfather’s experiences in his own words.

“…The working conditions in Auschwitz were [strenuous]. They took advantage of us which ever way they could. We worked 7 days a week, ate very little and we had no sufficient clothing to protect ourselves from the cold. We used potato sacks to keep our bodies warm as much as we could. They use to throw us out in barefeet in freezing weather for roll calls. They also beat me from time to time, but I try to forget those time of torment. I also developed malaria. The time I spent during those years suffering is difficult to comprehend. The work was hard labour and clearing fish ponds in freezing temperature was a definite health risk. I now suffer from arthritis and diabetes. Much of my good health was destroyed during these years…”

His story is one that I look to pass on to future generations in my family and to others to keep his memory alive.



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