When I discuss Stanislaw I’m always asked, “Why are you so interested in him? What did he do that’s so special?” I’d asked myself similar questions a million times and, even though I may never know why I feel so drawn to Stanislaw, what I have concluded is that compassion does not need a “why” and acknowledgement of their suffering is the least of what we owe each and every person who was persecuted.
Marta would send me pictures of a young Stanislaw wearing his bow tie in a college portrait and in his room surrounded by his art. He was dressed in his military uniform in cadet school and later laughing at parties with his future wife. I would see him playfully mugging for the camera, with his family at his home in Kraków, and of him reverently holding his daughter.
What Marta was able to tell me about Stanislaw’s arrest and time at Auschwitz was,
During a meeting of the members of the Association of Polish Artists and Designers all men were arrested. The Germans had a list of members present at the meeting. My father was a member of the Association but was not at this meeting. A German officer came to our home on April 16th, 1942 between 11 and 12 o’clock at night to arrest him. The next day a German officer would come to our home with an order that my mother and I must leave Kraków immediately. From there we travelled to Zassow, to live at her parent’s estate.
While at Auschwitz he was in block 18A. This is known from an envelope addressed by Edward Kubalski to Stanislaw. The letter was written in German by Stanislaw’s mother for his birthday on the 2nd of June.”
Though there were many rules applied to the process, Auschwitz prisoners were allowed to send and receive two letters a month. Sadly, the letter written by Edward Kubalski would never reach Stanislaw because he had already been executed on May 27th, 1942. Three days before his 33rd birthday.
To be continued…
Born in 1907 to an affluent family, Stanislaw lived in Poland until the outbreak of World War One in 1914. He was then sent to live with Edward Kubalski’s mother in Saratov, Russia and attended a Polish Language School for those displaced by the war. Once the war ended he returned to Krakow where he continued his studies, graduated from secondary school in 1926, went to military cadet school, and then studied Architecture at the Prestigious Polytechnic in Lvov. Upon receiving his degree in Architecture he returned to Kraków and began work at the Magistry of Construction.
It was three in the morning when my cell phone vibrated against my nightstand, alerting me to an incoming email. The noise pulled me from a sound sleep and I groggily reached over and glanced at my phone. The name flashing across the screen had me sitting straight up in bed. It was Stanislaw’s daughter, Marta. It had been so long since Professor Grabowski had emailed her that I’d given up hope she would respond.
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.
While I have always been fascinated with World War Two, prior to this my professional writing experience had been music related. I did not go to Poland looking for a story and I’d certainly never pieced together a persons life in such a way. Now, I found myself consumed by the process. Each new piece of information was vital, no matter how small, but many false leads, dead ends, and disappointments would precede each one. And, it seemed like each time one question was answered there would be ten more to replace it. What was abundantly clear to me was, while the death toll from the Holocaust was an overwhelmingly large number it wasn’t until I delved deeper into that number and individualized it that I felt the full weight of the tragedy.
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.
After the raid the prisoners were sent to Krakow’s Montelupich Prison. Named for the street on which it sits, Montelupich Prison to this day is recognized as one of the most terrible Nazi prisons in all of occupied Poland.
From 1940 – 1942 Edward Kubalski does not mention Stanislaw but based on the photographs that accompanied the journal, and were credited to Stanislaw, while Edward Kubalski kept track of events in his journal, Stanislaw was also documenting the Nazi occupation of Krakow with his camera. He took pictures of Polish food lines, Nazi propaganda, of structural damage from the war, and the destruction of Polish monuments. His father stated in his journal that,
“It is important for the world to know what the Nazi’s did in Poland. They did not just murder Poles; they sought to erase our entire history and culture.”