Taubnenschlag , To be a Jew in Occupied Poland,
Cracow-Auschwitz-Buchenwald, Oświęcim 1998, ss 166, 64 photographs,
Stanisław Taubnenschlag, (Stanley Townsend) was born on January 30, 1920, in Cracow, into a Jewish family possessing numerous contacts with Polish intellectual circles, and with many Polish friends and acquaintances. His father, Raphael Taubenschlag, was already recognised before the war as an eminent authority in the field of Roman Law and Antiquities, as well being a professor and Dean of the Jagellonian University in Cracow. Stanisław Taubenschlag was arrested in June 1942 and deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp, from where, one year later, he was transferred to the Buchenwald camp. The title of Doctor Honoris Causa was conferred on Stanisław Taubenschlag by President of Tel Aviv University Professor Y. Dinstein. Now he lives in Paris.
Review Gazeta Krakowska 22-23 March 1997
“The question to be asked is to know whether, fifty years after the war, with the hundreds of books devoted to the Holocaust and the concentration camps, it is justified to publish yet another one. Now, were such a book to resemble that written by Taubenschlag, the answer would have to be in the affirmative. The image of the camp as presented by the author is quite the opposite of a black and white rendering of this phenomenon."
Excerpts from the memoires.
“On June 17, 1942 I went out at 2 p.m. to have coffee at the Noworolski Cafe in Długa Street. I was in the company of two acquaintances, Jabłkowski who wa s much older than me (he must have been about 45), and Dalewski, who was a few years younger. According to my forged papers I was 27 years old. We were playing chess when two plainclothes men entered the cafe and began to inspect documents. The cafe was almost empty. Jabłkowski and I showed our papers which were returned without comment. Dalewski, after nervously searching in his pockets, declared that he had left his papers at home. At this the Gestapo agent stared at us and said that we were all being held as hostages because of the acts of sabotage that had been perpetrated.
Revolver in hand he made us go into the street where a Gestapo convertible was already waiting. We were ordered to climb in (...).
On June 19, 1942, the prisoners in our cell and some other cells were awakened a little earlier than usual. It was around 4 a. m. After we had dressed, we were ushered into the corridor where our papers were taken and we were pronounced politically suspect."Then we were led into the courtyard", without breakfast, and made to climb into two lorries. We had to sit on the floor, side by side. Each of us had some personal effects with him in addition to his clothing. Some time later the lorries moved off. We sought to fathom the purpose of this journey: to execution, to another prison, or to the Auschwitz concentration camp where, since 1940, the inhabitants of Cracow had regularly been deported (...)..
I was straight away put to work in one of the worst sections, "Industriehof," where the warehouses with building materials were located. With four bricks in our hands we had to run between rows of kapos who, with the aid of sticks, spurred on those who were running. I kept it up for about an hour, from the wagon to the camp and back. At a certain moment I received a blow on the head which practically rendered me unconscious. I then came to the conclusion that the situation had become dangerous.
I therefore took advantage of a moment of inattention by the SS who were supervising us, and I climbed into a wagon with prisoners who had to put bricks under the gateway. At first, these prisoners, zealously defending their work, tried to chase me away, but I had no intention of giving in easily and quitting the wagon.(...).
Quite often, after the evening roll-call, the SS would allow us to sit on the grass, beside the block. One evening, Zenek Różański decided to prove to me that I had really had led a charmed life. He invented a joke. Surrounded by my pals he asked me:
"Staszek, listen. If I prove to you that here you are the one in the best situation, will you let me dislocate your leg?"
"You can even kiss my behind, but if you succeed, I shall eventually agree that you are right," I replied.
And so Zenek continued:
"Here there are 40,000 "goys", with the heads of "goys," is it not so? And out of the 40,000 with heads of "goys" there is one with a Jewish head, is it not so?"
Without waiting for the end of the joke, I tried to run away, but he caught me by the leg and I fell. Then we all burst out laughing because Zenek's joke was really first-class.
In August 1943, the news spread among the Polish prisoners that the political section of the camp would shortly require inmates bearing Polish names to give the date and place of their baptism. The head of the Gestapo in Berlin had given this order after learning from informers that, among the Polish detainees at Buchenwald, there were many of Jewish origin who had presented falsified baptismal documents. Many other Poles had done so in order to conceal their real names. Consequently, the political section now had to contact the offices of the parish churches to obtain the original birth certificates. This measure, naturally, affected me personally. (...)I spent a sleepless night thinking of ways to get out of my predicament. (...). By dawn an idea entered my head, and as soon as I got up I set about putting it into practice”.