French version here

Janina's story

The Survivor of Auschwitz

Dr. Janina Parafjanowicz died at her home in Kenilworth, England, in February 1995. During the previous year she had willingly and patiently answered questions from students about her life in the Auschwitz Camp. Email messages came to her from many countries; her answers provided young people with a direct source of information about life in the death-camps.

In 1942 she was taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp. She was one of 3,000 survivors and probably endured that horrific experience longer than any other.

The following letters are chosen as typical of her straight-forward and spirited answers to painful questions.

Dear Dr. Janina Parafjanowicz:

My name is Rebecca Leonard, I am 10 years old , and I am interested in the Holocaust. I am interested because I am Jewish and I wanted to learn more about them. So,I would like to know why were non-Jewish people put in concentration camps? Did you know any? And how old ere you when this was going on?


From Rebecca
The Nueva School
Hillsborough, CA


On March 25th 1994 Janina Parafjanowicz replied...

"You can tell Rebecca that the German nation at that time believed that they were superior and that meant that others must be inferior - only to be used for their hands to work for Germany.

"Gypsies and people who were crippled especially were sent to be killed, but Slavonic peoples and Hungarians who disagreed with the fascist government were also sent to the chimneys.

"Remember this. Many millions of Polish people died in the camps. Anyone who was not German could be used as hands to work until they could work no longer, and then to be burned.

"I was 22 years old when I was sent to Auschwitz with all my family except my youngest son. In the 4 years of my captivity I lost them all. Many died in prison in Warsaw, by shooting or starvation.

"And many Poles were killed by the Russians who also wanted to destroy us or make us work for them. So many Polish people died. All should learn that it was not only jews who suffered - all nations."

(An estimated 6,000,000 Polish civilians died during the war, of which 2,900,000 were Jewish. Tom Holloway).

Kris Van Ness asked....

1. What year did you arrive at Auschwitz?

1942

2. What impact did Auschwitz have on your life?

Ha! What can you say to that!

3. What happened to your family and friends at Auschwitz?

Beating. Starving. Work. Death.

4. What treatment was put upon you at Auschwitz?

What does he want me to say?

5. What occupation did you serve?

First I cleaned the river. Then I nearly died but recovered when the Germans were worried about disease and said I could be a Doctor again. Then I could eat.

6. Did you help anyone who was in danger?

Yes.

7. Did you see many deaths occur?

Yes.

8.Were there any other races or religious groups there?

Many. Many.

9. If so, was there any special treatment towards them?

No. I had some special treatment because they were afraid of typhus and cholera and so I could eat. Many priests were tortured. Most people just starved and worked and died.

10. Was the treatment better or worse?

Better? Worse? I don't understand this.

11. Do you remember the ride to Auschwitz?

Yes. My husband was in the government and he had already gone to the cells. The Gestapo took me to the camp in a car.

12. What was it like?

I don't remember.

13. Were you allowed to bathe?

When I was Doctor yes. I could have a shower once every month. I also had soap.

14. Were you given a change of clothes?

We wore the camp clothes.

15. What were the conditions like at Auschwitz?

(This answer I cannot repeat).

Ryan Cari asked...

1. Do you have reoccurring nightmares?

No. I sleep very little. I wait for the next day.

2. Were you split up from your family?

Yes. My small son was hidden, but the others I never saw again.

3. What was it like not knowing if you were going to make it through the day?

I never thought about it.

4. How many years were you there?

Four years.

5. Would you do anything different if you could do it all over again.

If I could do it again? What does he mean? No I could do nothing different.

Dr. Janina Parafjanowicz


Stories Map Food ELDERS