+ Zofia Posmysz-Piasecka (23.08.1923 – 8.08.2022)

(Photo: Paweł Sawicki / Wikipedia)

We are saddened to announce that on Monday, August 8, 2022, in the morning, Zofia Posmysz-Piasecka, a writer and screenwriter, a former prisoner of the German Auschwitz, Ravensbrueck and Neustadt-Glewe camps, and a lady of the Order of the White Eagle, died in the Oświęcim hospice. She was strongly associated with the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Oświęcim.

Eternal rest grant her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in eternal peace. Amen.

Sermon at the funeral 08/18/2022, Fr. Manfred Deselaers

Dear Fans and Friends of Zofia Posmysz!

Zofia was born on August 23, 1923 in Krakow, she died on August 8, 2022 in the Oświęcim Hospice. She was almost 99 years old.

When the war broke out, she was a student at a trade school. She then participated in clandestine assemblies which was most likely the reason for her arrest on April 15, 1942. On May 30, she was sent to the German Auschwitz Birkenau camp. On May 2, 1945, she was liberated from the Neustadt-Glewe camp in Germany.

After the war, she returned to Poland and worked for Polish Radio. Over the years, she wrote several works on camp experiences. Until the last years of her life, she passed on her testimonies, and met, among others, with German youth.

So much for the biography …

I am very honoured that, as a German priest, I can say a few words today.

The readings we have heard ( Ezek 36: 23-28 and Mt 22: 1-14) are from today’s liturgy, as Providence has given us.

The most important sentence for me is from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove the heart of stone from you and I will give you a heart of flesh.

And Jesus tells us today about God’s invitation to the feast of love, as well as our hardened hearts where we supposedly have more important matters to deal with.

Zofia as a young woman, with a sensitive heart made of flesh, was thrown into the brutal world of the camp, built by people with stone hearts. She survived with a wounded but strong heart. You can have a heart of flesh, wounded, but strong.

When life returns to normal after liberation, the memory of Auschwitz remains in the subconscious mind, because it is burnt into the heart.

If I remember correctly, Zofia said one day, “I was at the Place de la Concorde in Paris and I heard a German voice that reminded me of the voice of my camp Warden [Aufseherin]. I turned around, but it was a different person.”

From that moment on, however, Zofia wondered what would have happened had she really met her.

That is why she wrote the script for the radio broadcast “The Passenger from Cabin 54” about their meeting on a cruise ship, from which you cannot escape. It was not only about the Warden’s escape, but also about her own. Zofia did not want to run away from the difficult, painful memory. She faced it. This is what it means to have a strong heart. Later, a film, a book and finally the opera “The Passenger” were created on this basis.

I was at the Polish premiere of the opera “The Passenger” in 2010 at the Grand Theatre in Warsaw. Probably some of those present also remember this premiere. There was an ingenious set design: a cruise ship on the stage – the height of the balustrade halfway up the stage, behind which was the life of the tourists, talks over coffee, dances … with time, during meetings and conversations, the memory of camp life returned from the subconsciousness.

The wall of the ship under the balustrade moved on the stage and we saw the Prisoners – we were in the camp. The cruise ship chimney was suddenly the chimney of the camp crematoria. Various situations from the life of the camp took place here, which were remembered by the protagonist.

At one point, she got a job as an accountant in the kitchen of the women’s camp. At that time, a prisoner from the men’s camp, who had a similar job in the kitchen, was sent to teach her accounting. At the third and last meeting, he secretly placed a medal in her hand, with the face of Christ on one side and the inscription “Oświęcim” surrounded by barbed wire on the other side. And he said that in difficult times she was to look at that face and think, “Let your will be done!”

These meetings, this “Christ of Auschwitz” were for her a light in the darkness. They changed her life internally, they strengthened her heart through the power of love, Tadeusz’s love and Christ’s love. With this strength and with this medal, she survived the camp. This memory of camp love and the medal of “Christ of Auschwitz” gave strength and accompanied Zofia until the end of her life.

However, despite the light in the dark, the reality of the camp remained terrible. Tadeusz Paolone Lisowski was shot on October 11, 1943.

When the opera ended, I remember, the applause began very slowly and timidly. How can the tragedy of Auschwitz be applauded? But still, the great actors had to be thanked for their enormous effort. Slowly there was more of this applause.

Then Zofia Posmysz went on stage. I will never forget it. I have never experienced anything like this before, to this day. Everyone stood up, and the applause did not end, I felt it lasted for 20 minutes.

She had defeated Auschwitz. “The Passenger” and, in a sense, her entire post-war life, is the victory of a heart of flesh over the hell of hearts of stone. How not to give thanks by an endless standing ovation?

10 days ago, on August 8, 2022, I received a text message from Helena Wisła from the Oświęcim Hospice:

Zosia has passed away this morning!”

After a while she added:

She flew silently like an Angel to Heaven!”

She was an angel among us.

Zofia, thank you! Zofia, pray for us!