Music composed by Besides: Piotr Świąder-Kruszyński, Janusz Binkowski, Artur Łebecki, Bartłomiej Urbańczyk, except “Simon’s Ohel” third part – Daria Pacuda.
String arrangement – Daria Pacuda.
String Quartet – Daria Pacuda (first violin), Zuzana Lipka (second violin), Weronika Pisarek (viola), Julia Rzazonka (viola).
Piano- Bartosz Słatyński.
Music by Besides, except Simon’s Ohel third part
We live in a place where the APOCALYPSE of the 20th century happened.
In our everyday lives we see its traces.
Eight tracks are eight people’s stories.
These are our very personal emotions
that we faced fully aware that
took place on our land.
Our place on Earth is Oświęcim and its neighborhood.
World War II marked the local population with a stigma of closeness of the German Nazi death camp, KL Auschwitz-Birkenau. Many of them were the first victims of ethnic cleansing, evictions and repressions. Their fields and meadows became the zone of the camp’s interests, and the bricks from their demolished houses were used to build prisoners’ barracks. As a result, they not only lost their inheritance, but often also freedom, and even their lives. Those who were allowed to stay here became witnesses of the collapse of the civilized world, brutality and murder of thousands of innocent people from all over the Europe.
Many of them refused to be passive witnesses. From the very beginning, at first a little chaotic, individually, then in more organized way, they tried to help the prisoners behind the wires. Getting food or medicine was close to a miracle and often meant reducing own, modest and regulated by the Germans, food rations. Without their help, prisoners would not be able to escape. Risk taken resulted in repressions, imprisonment or death, sometimes of the entire families. Some became Auschwitz prisoners and died in the camp, just a few kilometers from their own homes. After the liberation, they immediately took care of the exhausted prisoners, helping to organize the necessary help, often taking them to their homes.
Generations are passing away, but we still live here with the heritage of the place and the traces of tragic human stories, left here in the form of victims’ ashes, their testimonies and artifacts.
We chose eight stories describing the specific events and the fates of people and we made an attempt to share via our music all the emotions inspired by them. We want to show this place from our perspective; us – the inhabitants of this land. The land, which became a symbolic cemetery of the modern world, where people were buried together with fundamental human values. It is also our attempt to face own emotions, horror, misunderstanding, powerlessness in front of mass and anonymous death. It is also a reflection about condition of the human being in a universal dimension, his capacity for acts of unbelievable cruelty and gestures of real sacrifice.
This is an expression of our disagreement to “tame” memory. Our disagreement with indifference, silence, omnipresent hate.
Ich bin wieder da!
June 14, 1940 at 10:13, a train carrying 728 people departed from Tarnów. The same day that train arrived at Auschwitz and people became numbers. Since that moment, thousands of trains started bringing victims to Auschwitz.
The APOCALYPSE of 20th century happened here.
They are gone, or leaving…
Tracks, testimonies, ashes remain…
There is no escaping history.
It is rooted in memories of
Ich bin wieder da!
“Ich bin wieder da!” Means “I am here again”, “I came back here” – the title refers to the inscription on the board with which prisoners, caught escaping from Auschwitz-Birkenau, had to walk around the camp on the day of their own execution. They were forced to put on a clown hat, they were given a drum with which they had to march through the camp, hitting it loudly and rhythmically. Then followed the execution …
The song is inspired by the story of two prisoners of the first transport to Auschwitz – Kazimierz Albin (number 118) and Marian Kołodziej (number 432).
The first of them escaped from Auschwitz from the SS canteen (the same canteen was the scenery of our music video for the single “Ich bin wieder da!”).
Although Marian Kołodziej survived his stay in Auschwitz and subsequent camps, he never managed to free himself from traumatic memories. It wasn’t until the end of his life, after fifty years of silence about those experiences, that he decided to tell about a hell he had experienced in a series of shocking graphics. A series of his drawings, entitled “Labyrinths. Plates of Memory” can be seen at the exhibition in Harmęże: http://harmeze.franciszkanie.pl/wystawa/.
All there is to know about Hannah:
Date of birth: October 16, 1921
Place of birth: Oświęcim
Eyes: likely brown
Hair: likely red
Weight: likely normal
Height: likely average
Past: likely childhood
Future: likely whole life
Distinguishing features: human being
Date of death: February 8, 1945
Place of burial: Municipal Cemetery in Brzeszcze
What did you expect?
Face contorted with suffering?
Halo around her head?
From the very beginning of Auschwitz camp existence, the entire Krotosz family, including the siblings – Hanna and Władysław, helped prisoners by delivering food. After the liberation of the camp, Hanna volunteered to work in a hospital created for prisoners by the local community. Some of the former prisoners were suffering from tuberculosis. Hanna became infected and the disease developed very quickly. She died at the age of twenty-three..
Was she a victim of Auschwitz?
For many, unfortunately, not.
We do not know who she wanted to become … She did not manage to fulfill her desires and implement her plans.
There is only a grave that some people still remember about.
She should stay in our memory for longer.
That’s why “For Hanna”.
Sometimes it was just a barely noticeable gesture of sympathy and solidarity, sometimes a slice of bread, piece of sausage or a wig, helpful when organizing an escape.
Auschwitz prisoners worked together with civil miners in many of nearby coal mines, including Jawischowitz. The prisoners lived in the sub-camp established here, and we face the remains of this place every day. All of them had the same strict mining standards, forcing strenuous work on both prisoners and civilian employees. Miners took huge risks by helping prisoners: feeding them, smuggling secret messages, helping them escape.
An example of such activity was the escape of Kazimierz Szwemberg, who escaped from the mine on the night of 11/12 September 1944, with the help of miners and local people involved in resistance movement. After his escape, he stayed hidden in homes of the Nikel family in the little village Skidziń, and then moved to Cracow. For the rest of the wartime he was involved in Polish resistant movement and conspiracy.
Touch Of Red Widow
“Ich übergebe Sie dem Scharfrichter!”
She had to fall two meters before her touch became the execution of the sentence.
For patriotism, refusal to accept the occupation, resistance movement, forging food rationing cards…
Or like him:
Just a normal post office worker, for making a list of the victims murdered in the camp.
Red Widow is the name of the guillotine that operated from October 1940 to January 1945 in the Katowice prison and on which over 550 Poles involved in anti-German activities were executed. Corpses of guillotined people were taken to Auschwitz camp and burned in the crematoriums. After the war the guillotine was kept in the Auschwitz Museum for a while and then moved to the Silesian Museum in Katowice where it forms a part of the main exhibition currently.
One of the people executed by this guillotine and burned at Auschwitz was Stanisław Saternus, born in 1907 in the village of Chybie. His whole family moved to Oświęcim and during the war became involved in the underground resistance movement. Stanisław worked at the post office in Oświęcim. His activity involved checking and forwarding accounts of people murdered in the camp and reviewing correspondence of the German authorities. As a consequence, he was arrested in October 1942 and guillotined in Katowice on the 4th of March 1943.
His brother Władysław, working on the railway, was arrested in 1944 for supplying food and medications to prisoners and for documenting Nazi crimes. He died in Auschwitz camp.
Too clever to become numbers.
Too young to be able to work.
Too ordinary to be experimented on.
But what if they survived?
What did that time and that place tattoo in their memory?
Staś Krcz, wanting to help his desperate mother return to “normality” after his little sister’s death, asked prisoners of the just liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau camp for a girl, who would replace to his mother her passed away daughter. The prisoners brought him a little girl, whom the Krcz family adopted, giving her the name Ewa. As a souvenir from prisoners, Ewa was given drawings painted in the camp, depicting Roma victims.
Children in Auschwitz suffered from the camp atrocities… perished. Children from cities nearby lived with the awareness of being next to the camp. Together with parents, they were often involved in helping prisoners.
Staś lost his little sister, Ewa lost her loved ones in the camp and was left alone. A small girl in a foreign country, after terrible experiences, exhausted and cold. Survived from extermination, by coincidence. Many “useless” children left with the smoke of crematory chimneys and their prams were to be used by children of a better race …
What if our children were born at another time?
How would their fate go?
Like many others, she helped prisoners.
Like many others, she was punished for it.
She passed away as a number 65492, in agony of typhus fever on a bunk bed in Birkenau.
She wasn’t given a chance to sing to her kids the last lullaby.
This is the story of Helena – an exceptional woman born in the village of Strzemieszyce, who at the age of 19 got married to the coal miner, Kazimierz Płotnicki. In 1932 the couple moved with their four children to a newly built home in Przecieszyn, where two more children were born. Watching the misery of the Auschwitz camp prisoners, she almost immediately began to supply, in conspiracy, food to their workplaces. Regardless of the risks and difficulties it caused (i.e. food was rationed by the German authorities), she continued her activities, involving also her own children and friends, among them her neighbor and best friend, Władysława Kożusznik. Over time, her activity received support from the underground resistance organizations, and Hela expanded her operations to smuggling medicines and illegal correspondence next to food.
After two years, she was caught and arrested together with her daughter Wanda, who was finally released. Imprisoned in the death block in Auschwitz, Helena was subjected to a cruel investigation, then sent to Birkenau as a prisoner number 65492. She died there of typhus on March 17 1944, just a few kilometers from her home, where she left her orphaned children.
There were many Poles living in Oświęcim.
They lived their everyday lives.
They raised their churches and synagogues.
And then there was Auschwitz.
There are many Poles living in Oświęcim.
They live their everyday lives.
There is only one synagogue left, open to visitors.
In the Jewish cemetery, there are matzevas, gathered from sidewalks and roads, stuck in the sorrowful ground.An Ohel is raised over the grave of the last Oświęcim Jew.
Oświęcim is a city with almost eight-century of historical tradition, but only few know that the majority of the population in pre-war Oświęcim were Jews. From the entire Jewish community of Oświęcim, only a few hundred people survived the war, and almost all of those who survived decided to emigrate. With one exception!
Szymon Kluger was a resident of pre-war Oświęcim who survived the Holocaust, experiencing the nightmare of Auschwitz and other camps. In the sixties of the last century, after the post-war wandering, he finally decided to return to his family home, adjacent to the pre-war synagogue of Chewra Lomdei Misznajot. He lived modestly, but every week he lit a Sabbath candle at the former synagogue, turned into a carpet storage. His wish was to live to the moment when the former function of the synagogue would be restored. In 1998, the synagogue building was returned to the Jewish community, and its official re-opening took place in September 2000.
Szymon died on May 26, 2000.
Although the Jewish cemetery in Oświęcim was devastated during the war and the matzevot were used to pave the city streets, it was cleaned up after the war. Remaining matzevot returned to the cemetery, but unfortunately their location is often random and different from the actual burial places of the people mentioned on them.
The last Auschwitz Jew, Szymon Kluger, was buried here and ohel was placed over his grave, as a silent testimony of Shoah.
First Christmas Eve in Auschwitz.
There was a Christmas tree.
There were also presents.
Six thousands food packages prepared by local people for prisoners behind the wires, in a gesture of solidarity and caring.
Under the lit up Christmas tree – several corpses of murdered inmates – a gift from the Auschwitz camp authorities.
At the end of 1940, few thousands of Polish political prisoners were already imprisoned in Auschwitz camp and they were to spend their first Christmas behind the barbed wires.
Polish catholic bishop, Adam Sapieha, sent a letter to the commandant of Auschwitz – Rudolf Hoss, asking for permission to organize mass for prisoners and supply them with food parcels. The commandant didn’t agree for a mass, but accepted to have 6,000 1-kg food parcels delivered for the prisoners. They were prepared with great sacrifice, thanks to the mobilization of ordinary people, residents of the surrounding areas and with financial support from Cracow. The parcels were delivered to the prisoners between Christmas and New Year. They allowed a modest celebration of the Christmas time, but were also an important sign that Poland remembers deportees.
Prisoner commandos, returning from work on Christmas Eve, on their way to the barrack square had to pass by the Christmas tree, standing in front of block 14. Colorful lights hung on the tree and under it lay, in the form of a “gift” from the camp authorities, the bodies of the co-prisoners, who lost their lives that day.