"Auschwitz was a one big macabre. It was something indescribable. People were screaming, they were afraid, they were anxious. People were praying, crying, reaching out to heavens asking: 'Lord, you sit up there and you don’t see what’s happening down here? You can’t save anyone?' Everyone prayed in their own way," said Bronisława (Niusia) Horowitz-Karakulska in conversation with Magda Łucyan, a reporter from "Fakty" TVN.
The series of conversations with former prisoners of KL Auschwitz-Birkenau has been conducted to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the camp’s liberation that falls on the 27th of January.
Born in 1932, Bronisława (Niusia) Horowitz-Karakulska was taken to KL Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944, together with her family. She was 12 years old at the time. Before that, she had been in the Kraków Ghetto and in the Płaszów camp. She and the members of her family were saved by Oskar Schindler.
"I was already a little bit immune to concentration camp, the so-called 'lagier'. That’s because I had been in the Ghetto first and then in the Płaszów camp before that. We didn’t really know what to expect, we were supposed to go to Oskar Schindler. However, by mistake, 300 women were transported to Auschwitz in so-called pig trains, as those were used for cattle transport," Ms Bronisława recollected her first impressions of Auschwitz.
"We didn’t know that Auschwitz smelled of burnt bodies. Nobody realized that yet. Obviously, there were many German soldiers with dogs - German Shepherds. Barking, commotion, fear, anxiety, screams. Many people didn’t survive this trip. People were fainting. These cars were stuffed with people. People were relieving themselves as they stood. People slept there and there was no food at all. Many suffered from lice and malnutrition. It’s impossible to imagine a worse situation to be in," she recalled.
She also told about the nightmare of going to "that calamitous sauna", where women were stripped. "They were bleeding between their legs, because it’s a normal thing. Young women were forced to take some sort of medicine to stop or block their menstruations. These women were putting on weight, they were bloated. Those strongly-built or more attractive were being selected for some sort of experiments. Unfortunately, the fear was overpowering,” she stressed.
The former prisoner underscored that during selections, it was enough to be pointed by an SS officer. "‘You, you and you – aus!’ Whoever looked weaker, skinnier, bonier - got eliminated, disposed of. I myself, was sent twice to the crematorium. Once I was saved, because my mother had swallowed a diamond which she then excreted and gave it to overseer Orłowska, who pulled me out of a group of women sent for cremation. During another selection, my aunt put me inside a copper furnace, that had been cleaned of ashes. And in this furnace, I spent three hours. Only after the whole business in the sauna had been done, I was taken out of there half-conscious," Ms Bronisława said.
"I saw those people going in there. We knew that Zyklon B was being let in through the shower heads (in gas chamber) up the ceiling and those people were being killed inside. And that terrible odour would follow, coming out from the crematorium chimneys. We were fully aware of that. This was a stench that was really hard to take," she recollected. "I lived in constant fear, constant hunger, covered with lice and lice eggs. Tormented by constant discomfort and stomach pains," she added.
Bronisława (Niusia) Horowitz-Karakulska survived the hell of the ghetto and three camps: Płaszów, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Brünnlitz. In the last one was a factory, to which 1200 people were transferred thanks to German entrepreneur Oskar Schindler, who was trying to save his Jewish employees from death.
"Each (camp) was different. Schindler’s factory was a sanatorium. We were given food, treated with hospitality. They were talking with us, asking about our condition or if we needed anything. Auschwitz was hell. In Płaszów, I worked in a Bürstenbinderei, brush factory. People from all over Europe were being brought there in big buses, or pick-ups of sorts or trucks. Those people were getting off these vehicles, dusting themselves off, picking up their briefcases and bags. And only a moment after, they were in those ditches, shoved in there by the Germans, and killed by them with one, two or three gunshots," Ms Bronisława remembered.
She calls Schindler a miracle worker. "Today, some 14 people from the Schindler’s list still walk on this earth. Seven of them in Israel, five in America and one in Poland. That one person is me," she stressed.
"He was wonderful, he was great, he was caring," she said and explained the way he was protecting her from his German superiors. "I worked (in Brünnlitz labour camp) with ammunition," said Ms Bronisława. "I worked in there because I had tiny hands. And he always protected me from his bosses claiming that only I have such hands, that only my little finger was small enough to fit inside and clean those bearings," she said.
The former prisoner of Auschwitz-Birkenau was asked by "Fakty" TVN reporter about the message she would like to pass on to younger generations. "Never again. Never again," she repeated. "God save them from experiencing even the smallest bit of what happened to me," said Bronisław (Niusia) Horowitz-Karakulska.