From April 24th to May 27th, 1942 Stanislaw was imprisoned at Auschwitz but no one knows exactly what occurred during this time and we probably never will. In their hurry to hide the atrocities they committed, the Nazi’s destroyed the majority of the documents from the death camp. According to my guide at Auschwitz only 5% of the documents kept by the Nazi’s still exist.
Knowing this I was surprised when six weeks after contacting Auschwitz I received an email that included the paperwork they had in reference to Stanislaw. Attached in the email was his intake picture, a mention of him in the daily roll call book, and his death certificate. The certificate was dated May 30th, 1942 three days after his execution. Listed on the form was the basic information I already had; name, date and location of birth, occupation, date of death.
While the document provided information I already knew it also provided information I did not know; his last known address and his cause of death. The reason listed for his death was Plotzlicher Herztod which in German means, ‘Sudden drop from cardiac arrest’. This was highly questionable as the Nazis were notorious for falsifying the cause of a prisoner’s death, another attempt to hide their cruelty. The most common reasons given were cardiac arrest and pneumonia when in reality it was gassing, shooting, and starvation.
Death certificate in hand, I sat down at my computer and typed the Kraków address listed on the document into Google Maps but I hesitated before clicking the ‘enter’ button on my keyboard. To be honest, I was unsure. One side of me said this was the process; this was how forgotten stories were told. The other side of me felt like a complete stalker. It felt as though I was on the outside, peering in through the cracked and broken blinds that were Stanislaw’s life. The view I had thus far was harrowing and I repeatedly asked myself why? Why was I doing this? Why did I care so much? The answer to these questions would be the hardest won of all that I would pose.
To be continued…
Documents courtesy of the Auschwitz Museum and Memorial.