“I am addressing all nations of the world, all generations of these nations. No more war, no more fascism which brings death, genocide, crimes, slaughter and the loss of human dignity. The ideologies of that world are insidious, it was enough to believe in them and they happened, that’s how it was. Be vigilant and wise, don’t let them take over you.
Stefania Wernik born in Auschwitz-Birkenau, in the hell of the Nazi extermination.”
Stefania Wernik – I was born in Auschwitz-Birkenau at the beginning of November 1944, my camp number is 89136. My mother, Anna Piekarz, lived with her husband in Czubrowice. In May 1944, she went to her family home in Osiek to bring some food. She was in the second month of pregnancy. Osiek, like Olkusz, was then in the Third Reich, and Czubrowice in the General Government. My mother had to cross the border to visit her mother. She joined 15 women from her town who smuggled food at that time. She thought that if they got through, she would also succeed, because she was carrying nothing for trade. At the border they were stopped by the Germans with their dogs, who surrounded them and hurried them to Olkusz. They were arrested in Olkusz and the next day at dawn, they were taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.
On the ramp they were greeted by a German kapo who said there is no return from here, only through the chimney, this is a death camp. They were taken to the bathhouse and everything they were wearing was taken and their entire bodies were shaved. They were then given a tight striped uniform and clogs to wear. Home became barracks number 11 and my mother became number 79414. My mother did not admit that she was pregnant as she was afraid that the Germans might kill her with her unborn child. Mother worked hard and attended the roll calls which lasted for hours. In August 1944, my pregnant mother was put on a truck for Ravensbrück camp when her friend Hela who was taken with her to the camp, told the kapo that mother was pregnant. Mother was ordered to get off the truck and assigned to barracks number 15. After that, my mother even got a white soup and did not have to do hard work anymore.
I was born at the beginning of November 1944, and they bathed me in cold water under the tap. After giving birth, my mother was very weak and lay there for two weeks. At that time, she was looked after by a Russian woman who was also a prisoner. Of course, not for free, mother gave her food. Before the childbirth, my mother and her fellow prisoners sewed a pillow, baby clothes and a blanket, all out of striped uniforms. A few days after my birth, my left thigh was tattooed with camp number 89136. After my birth, Dr. Mengele, known as the angel of death, became interested in me. He took me and with his assistant did some pseudo-medical research. Mother said that when they brought me back, I cried a lot, she recalled that she could not silence me. She said that despite the poverty and great hunger, I survived thanks to God’s providence. I miraculously lived to see the liberation of Birkenau camp on January 27, 1945. The barracks were on fire, the Germans rushed to destroy the documents, and the camp gates were open.
My Mother grabbed me and wrapped me in some kind of blanket or coat, found some shoes for herself, turned a stool upside down and put me into it, tied string all round, and so walked the stool through the snow and frost. Weak and exhausted from hunger, she brought me to the town of Libiąż. There we were taken in by some good people. We were in Libiąż for about 2 weeks, my mother did not remember exactly. Then someone let my father know that we were alive and he took us to Czubrowice, where, as I mentioned, my mother and father lived. When we got home, everyone showed up as quickly as if a great miracle had happened, that we had survived the ordeal of the Nazi extermination. After some time, my father went to the registry office to report my birth, but he gave Czubrowice as the place of my birth because he was afraid that the Germans might take me away. It was only in 1977 that I corrected my birth certificate before the court in Krakow. I knew about my birth when I was a child from when I went to school. In childhood I was often sick. I was left with the stigma of a camp nightmare and fear for the rest of my life which I suckled from my mother’s milk.
Whoever has not survived this hell on earth will not understand. I am very much supported by my husband who survived the tragic history of the Ukrainian massacre in Volhynia. Our marriage is a story of life, we had 4 children, unfortunately our beloved daughter died 5 years ago. Earlier, our beloved daughter-in-law Agnieszka died in a car accident and our wonderful son-in-law, Karol, also died in a car accident. We have 9 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Now we are a happy family, it is thanks to God.