Now, I knew the man was dead obviously but even now the day I discovered the details behind Stanislaw’s death is clearly etched in my brain. It was a sunny Saturday morning in Southern California and, in my desperation to find any new piece of information regarding him, I sat on my couch once again scrolling through old posts on the Auschwitz Facebook page. Suddenly, there was the one detail that had eluded me and it had been hiding in plain sight the entire time.
Dated May 27th 2012, four years before I would enter Auschwitz, it read,
“On this day, May 27th 1942, a group of 168 prisoners were shot at the execution wall in the courtyard of Block 11 at Auschwitz one. They belonged to the group of painters, artists, and actors who had been arrested on April 16th, 1942. They were registered with the numbers 32489 – 32586 and 33091 – 33190. The prisoners were taken to the courtyard four at a time and shot. The block-master uttered the following sentence to each person, ‘For the murder of the head of the Luftwaffe in Kraków, you are condemned to death’ they were then killed with individual shots from a small caliber weapon.”
Stanislaw’s number was 32527 and fell in sequence of those executed. His death certificate from Auschwitz had the time listed at 3:40 PM. It was a Wednesday afternoon.
When I finally found out what the last moments of Stanislaw’s life were like I was consumed with grief and found myself choking on sobs that were coming to quick to contain. It had been over 70 years since his execution but, to me, it was as though it had just taken place. Stanislaw had become personal to me in a way I never expected. What began as a story-less picture on a wall had slowly become a fully fleshed out man who was important to me. I was mourning. I was angry and I felt helpless because there was nothing I could do to change it, nothing I could do to right the injustice, nothing I could do for him— but this.
To be continued…