"I was prepared to die, what choice did I have? Each night I had nightmares in which I saw my mother and father, all of us walking along and them selecting us. Once I dreamt that an SS officer, my nerves were getting the better of me, he just stood there killing me with gas. I was all alone in the chamber. But the gas wasn’t coming out from above but was just flowing right at me," Łucja Janosz said 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.
Łucja Janosz was taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau together with her mother and brother in September 1943. She was sent straight to Block 11, known as the death block. She was 17 years old at the time. Her prisoner number was: 79875.
The death block was the first place she was taken to in the camp. "Right there was the Death Wall where people were being shot. They were shooting people there only until 1943, later they started to kill people with gas. I was still there… when they were using gas, I was still there. I was 17 years old when they imprisoned me. Indeed, I went through a lot," she recalled.
"They arrested me, my brother Józek and my mother. They took us to a prison in Pszczyna. Three men approached me there and said: 'You didn’t want to give up your brother, you will all be hanged upside down'. I started to cry. After the interrogations, they transported us all to Auschwitz. I was sure that I would be sent to die. All the more that my brother had shot this German, this Gestapo officer," Ms Łucja said.
She was sure that she would die because she was a member of the resistance movement. "That’s why I was sure they would want to kill me and my whole family," she added.
The former prisoner of the Birkenau camp recollected the drastic images that stuck in her memory. She said that she remembered a pile of dead bodies lying next to one of the barracks and how they were chucked onto a truck, one after another. "Those were practically only bones, as the rats ate the rest. And two children, maybe a 7- and a 9-year-old, stood right next to it, desperately crying. They were boys. I can still see those children standing there and crying. Because they saw their mother. That’s why they were crying," said Łucja Janosz, deeply moved by this memory.
"Anyone could die at any moment," she added. "From exhaustion, women were dying from exhaustion. No one ever sent me a single package, nothing. People were hungry all the time. The hunger was terrible," she stressed.
"Even worse hunger than in Birkenau, was in the Eberswalde sub-camp. It was horrible. Such hunger was there, even worse than in Auschwitz. In Birkenau, there was this thickened soup, half a litre. And in there… there was just nothing," she explained.
"When they would give us some bread on Saturdays at noon, they wouldn’t give us anything on Sundays. Only on Mondays, we got maybe a slice of bread. We weren’t eating for the whole day on Sundays," she recalled.
"I was so hungry… Cross my heart, I swear that I’m telling the truth. I tore out some grass from underneath the fence, regular grass. And I asked my friend to pour some hot water on it and I ate that grass. I can’t remember how it tasted. But I ate that grass. The hunger there was terrible," she said with tears in her eyes.
"I was so weak that I couldn’t walk, so they had to help me move. I was so exhausted," Ms Łucja said, remembering the last days of her ordeal. "A week, maybe two, more and I would have died," she added.
The former prisoner of Auschwitz-Birkenau was asked about the message she would like to pass on to younger generations. She appealed to them "to be helpful to one another". "That people wouldn’t be mean to each other, but rather wished one another all the best," she added. "Because we have only one life. Everyone wants to live in this world," Łucja Janosz underscored.