I, Marian Majerowicz, former prisoner of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, of camp number 167715 tattooed on my left forearm, will, as far as my strength and health allows, speak of the criminal death machine unleashed in the Second World War.

Sixty years have passed since those tragic events and the world still knows too little, still remembers too little. That is why, we, former prisoners of concentration camps and ghettos should bring alive the memory of those tragic days as we were witnesses of the destruction of the Jewish people.

I am a first-hand witness of the sad and tragic history. It is my responsibility to share my experience.

My family comprising 5 people (parents and 3 children – boys, the youngest being a 3 year old child), were, in the month of June 1943 after the liquidation of the ghetto in Zawiercie, transported in inhumane conditions to the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Selection took place on the ramp at Oswiecim. Mother does not want to give up her child and that same day were killed and burned in the crematorium. After the liquidation of the ghetto, I along with a group of people, remain in Zawiercie, accommodated in a disused factory where we work segregating equipment and used army uniform, which was brought in from the western front. Two months later, my comrades and I were loaded into wagons and transported to Oswiecim. Here we meet our father, whom we barely recognised. On the 18th January 1944, my father’s number is listed during one of the selections. After saying goodbye on the 21st January 1944, my father dies, gassed and then burnt in the crematorium. At the end of January 1944, along with a group of 150 prisoners, I am taken to a sub camp of Auschwitz, Guntengrube- Jaworzno, which is about 30km from Oswiecim. There we met 150 Czech Jews. Part of the prisoners worked in very hard conditions – in a coal mine, and the other part on the construction of a second camp.

On the 18th January 1945, the camp is liquidated. The remaining prisoners and I were loaded into open topped coal wagons, and in terrible freezing temperatures, were transported to Oswiecim. Here a transport was organized of ca. 1200 people and so began the so called “death march.”

It is difficult to describe in just what tragic conditions my fellow prisoners were killed, hurried along the tracks, without food and water, beaten and abused, then shot and thrown into ditches.

I was liberated on exactly the 9th May 1945 from Czech territory.  Of those in the transport, there remained only 160 people.

The memories I have described above, are only a tiny fragment of my experiences. For the average person, it is difficult to grasp the circumstances in which people died. It is impossible to explain, describe or film.

For the Jewish people, Auschwitz is, alongside Majdanek and Treblinka and other smaller camps, the largest cemetery, where it is difficult to find the ashes of loved ones.

People died in gas chambers and in shootings and from beatings simply because they were Jews. “Doctor” Joseph Mengele, with the point of his finger, decided who could live and who had to die.

Auschwitz has become the symbol of the Holocaust and the world must not forget this. We must, loudly and clearly, tell young people, for whom the camp in Oswiecim is just a museum. We must make them aware that it was man who caused such a fate for others. It was the fruit of hate and intolerance, and so all that German fascism represented.

Marian Majerowicz

The association of Jewish War Veterans

Warsaw section

Translated by Karen Forth