Veteran Stories:
Stanley Nowakowski

  • Photo of the Mauthausen-Gusen Concentration Camp after it was liberated in 1945.

    Stanley Nowakowski
  • Identification Card issued by Germany after the War. This was proof that Mr. Nowakowski was liberated from a Concentration Camp, 1945.

    Stanley Nowakowski
  • Mr. Stanley Nowakowski in St. Catharines, Ontario, November 17, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"If anybody in a concentration camp say that - sorry, I’m not going to make it - that was the wrong thing to say. I never did. Never. Whatever situation it was, I said, I have to make it."

Transcript

In 1942, I was arrested by Germans and transferred to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, with a number: 76999. One day, we have a group of 20 prisoners working over there, was very close to the outside fence, one day, there was a storm coming like in the mountains; and the storm covered up the out fences, you couldn’t move anyplace. And one of our prisoners from our group go over the fence. Usually after that storm, there was lineup and count again, make sure everybody’s not missing. Then they find that the one guy was missing. They send us, everybody, all Polish people back to the camp and send German and Spanish people to search, because there was a big drop over the holes like in a quarry. They looked for in case he fall in and get killed, or something like that, because there was, completely, you couldn’t see nothing. The clouds cover up completely or they couldn’t see a couple of feet away from there. And then we get punishment for that. We walked to the camp, that Lagerführer [commandant of the concentration camp] whatever they call him, the first thing he said, "all the Polish people line up over there, you’re going to march, spend four days in the Appel square [Appelplatz: roll call area] on half ration meals and no report to the medical." And he called all the group of 20 to the side, that was a little bit scary that time. So what they going to do with us? And then I don’t know, something go through his head and he said, "go back in the line." I said, "oh." Then we spend a couple of days only because there was some complaining about what the prisoners did without sleep. They did some, because there was a quarry. There was some of us, stonemasons over there where they was doing some fancy work for whatever, for the Germans, whatever they needed. Only they did some little damage here, damage there; and then those engineers in charge of the job, sending the complaining. We stay only two night and the third night, they let us home, led us back to the barracks. It was over. And that kid went over the fence, they pick him up, they shot him and brought him over there. There was like a wagon beside the main gate. You go over there, then you make sure you have to look him. I have a bad experience, too. By gosh, I had, on the second day, I had a bleeded nose. I couldn’t stop it, imagine that. When I get it, I was walking over there, there was narrow road over there, beside it, like in a … there’s a lot of small creeks over there. I just lean out from the line. When I wet my towels to put on my nose, the SS [Schutzstaffel: German paramilitary organization] start shooting already. They didn’t shot me, just give me warning shot. I said, "oh my God." That night, we usually pick up the place and like a pasture or something like that, was a grass, a little creek, we could drink the water and thing like that, because how else could do we do without it? They give us some bread and that thing didn’t last too long anyway for that 12 days. And that night, I lay down and the night was like five minutes for me. It was time to get up. I said, oh my gosh, already get up? I was kind of weak because I lost quite a bit of blood. I made it, survived. If anybody in a concentration camp say that - sorry, I’m not going to make it - that was the wrong thing to say. I never did. Never. Whatever situation it was, I said, I have to make it. Because when you say you’re not going to make it; when you think about that, then you’re asking for trouble. We have to eyes open all the time, watch who is behind you.
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