Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Oswiecim

It was with great interest that I read the publication sent to me entitled “We want to remember what happened.”  Retaining the memory of what caused the unutterable tragedy of millions of people is, for us- former prisoners of Nazi concentration camps – an important aim in our lives. It is not easy for us to recall these terrible experiences, but we feel obliged to do so for those who did not make it to liberation and because we would like to prevent a repeat of the crime against humanity.

I have taken part in many meetings with young people from Poland and Germany. I am full of respect for the young people, who with great involvement, do not only simply take part in these gatherings, but also often pass on the information they have heard further. They write articles to the local press, speak about this in history or religious education lessons or write about them for articles on the noticeboard.

Our group from Walbrych has, at the initiative of the Kolbe – Werk been on contact with teachers and middle school pupils from the Jack Steinberg Gymnasium in Bad Kissingen for 13 years. In one of the many articles written in their press, they described their meeting us as a “live history lesson.” A group of teachers and students comes to visit us every year. They are accommodated with former female and male prisoners, they visit the terminally ill with us, they take part in meetings with former prisoners and pupils from the II Liceum (High School) in Walbrzych. Our representatives take part in meetings with teachers and pupils in Bad Kissingen.

Frauke Brunning, Mirjam Laux Hadamar in Germany write; “we are fully aware that it was the Germans that caused your suffering.” Yes, young friends, but I want to assure you that we do not blame you or all Germans for the terrible crimes committed for we do not recognise collective responsibility. We entirely accept what Viktor E. Frankl, Professor of Neurology and Psychology wrote in his work published in German entitled “…trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen. Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager” when he claimed, “on the whole of planet earth there are only two races of people, only two and no others – a race of good and a race of bad (unanstaendig) people. Both races are spread out everywhere.  Both races are intermingled in every social group. No society is made up of entirely one or the other race.”

In hope and faith, we give you a chance and believe that you will take advantage of it and will do everything to ensure “Never again.”

I answer the question from Jelena Bublov, Astrid Prokop, Manuel Mayer from Hollabrun with the words of Abraham Lincoln; “Hate towards nobody but mercy (compassion) for all.” Do not allow hate a place in your young hearts. Love people irrespective of the colour of their skin, their race, beliefs or political views. Look after places of national martyrology, for they will replace us in the passing on of the truth of what black or red dictators are capable of.  Not only Oswiecim was a factory of death. There were other places such as Sachsenhausen, Dachau, Stutthof, Buchenwald, Majdanek, Treblinka and many many more. In my opinion, care for these places – silent witnesses of the crimes committed by fascist thugs is an important task for the young generation. But it is not enough to maintain these places. It is vital that these places are visited, so that the young generation can learn of the inconceivable criminal ideology of “Herrenvolk.” I believe that in every place of slaughter there ought to be a presentation of the history of the establishment of concentration camps. Many people would realise that the first concentration camps, such as Esterwegen, Sachsenhausen, Dachau, Ravensbrueck and Buchenwald were built in Germany, immediately after Hitler came to power. The first victims in these camps were German women, children, men. Many of us – male and female former prisoners – have written our experiences and sent them to the camps in which we were imprisoned. So visitors to any given camp can get to know the terrible truth – or at least a part – for it is impossible for anyone to tell the whole truth of what took place in those camps.

Stand against every form of rising fascism.

We believe that you will learn lessons from the experiences of our older generation. We believe you will be wiser than us – and this I wish you from the bottom of my heart.

May you always be cheerful and sincere.

Józef Krzepina

The Gestapo prison in Kielce

Majdanek nr 152

Sachsenhausen nr 8329

Participant in the “death march”


Translated by Karen Forth