Vittnesmål 230; Aniela Lasota

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Aniela Lasota ankom till Sverige sannolikt med en UNRRA transport från Bergen-Belsen den 4 augusti 1945.  För närvarande har vi få uppgifter om henne förutom det nya vittnesmålet nedan. Sannolikt avreste hon med båt till Polen tidig höst 1946.


Polska källinstitutet, Lund                                                                                                                            Frostavallen, 16 mars 1946

Vittnesmål 230; Aniela Lasota (född 18960119)


”I was interned at a concentration camp after the evacuation of Warsaw. During the insurrectionary fighting, I was holed up in a shelter. A bomb fell there, killing eight people. I myself was left stunned by the blast; it felt as if I had an enormous head. I tried to lift myself up, but couldn’t and collapsed. I felt paralysed. When I regained consciousness, and began to glance around looking for my son, I saw him lying on the ground, already stiff. Apart from my son, there were other fatalities. Eight people died altogether; among them was a young lady who had been taking care of us, the priest’s servant woman, and several other people. Within a few hours, the priest died as well; I cared for him right up until the end. Two people lost the use of their legs because of that bomb. Immediately after I was arrested, I spent a night and a day in plac Piłsudskiego [lit. ‘Piłsudski Square’]. Then we were taken to St Wojciech’s Church. Along the way, one of the soldiers pulled the wedding ring off my finger. I remember that once the soldiers had led us out of the cellar, they went in by themselves and plundered our belongings for gold, valuables, or anything else that might be worth something. From St Wojciech’s Church, we were led over to Warszawa Wschodnia railway station and from there to Pruszków. After spending two days in Pruszków, I was transported to Stutthof.

The camp in Stutthof was for women and men and was set in woodland. The men were placed in separate quarters. The camp was surrounded by a wire fence. I cannot say much about the camp. My time there, after the horrible ordeal in Warsaw, was very hard for me. I hardly went outside; I spent almost the entire time indoors crying.

I arrived at the camp on an enormous transport of women and men. The train that carried me was said to have seventy wagons and in each wagon, were approximately fifty people, so the transport might have numbered some 3,000 people. The train took us to a siding, where we disembarked and boarded a narrow-gauge train that took us the rest of the way to the camp after a half-hour ride. The men and women were separated on arrival. All of the men were taken to the right, while the women went to the left. Then we were led over to an unfinished barrack block.

It was built of brick, but had no doors nor any furnishings inside. Strewn over the floor were wood shavings which served as bedding. There was no washing room, but outside was a standpipe and we could wash ourselves there. A dozen or so steps from the block, some pits had been dug with railings along them; these were our latrines. The pits were surrounded by low-lying wooden boards, perhaps a metre high at most. We were held in that [note written above text] block [/note] for two weeks. During that time, our daily ration consisted of half a litre of coffee and a piece of bread in the morning and evening, and at noon one litre of boiled vegetables, which were usually carrots.

After fifteen days in that block, we were taken for bathing. All of our belongings were taken from us apart from toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, and shoes. Next, we were made to change into camp-issue underwear and clothing. The underwear was navy blue with white stripes, while the dress was grey and had short sleeves. Upon leaving the baths, we received mismatched stockings and sweaters that had been marked with red paint. We were also fed. During the baths, each of us was given a number imprinted on a rag and a red triangle with the letter ‘P’. We were told to sew these numbers and triangles onto our left shoulder. Then we were led over to a new barrack block. There were a range of nationalities there: Gypsies, Lithuanians, Latvians, Russians, and Poles. It was a single-storey wooden building fitted with electricity and plumbing; it had a washing room with water. The block was divided into rooms. The small rooms had beds, but I was in [a/the] large room, where there were 300 people. There were two mattresses for Roughly speaking, there was one straw-stuffed mattress for every two people, but I was in a group of seven people and we had two mattresses between us. In our group, mattresses had to be fought for. Once we had arrived at the block, we had Appells [roll call assemblies, Ger.] twice a day, but we didn’t go to work.

After two weeks there, I was compulsorily transported in a group of 500 people to a factory near Hanover. We weren’t informed that it was a munitions factory; and when the bolder women among us enquired about our destination, they were told that it was a cannery.  I arrived at the camp near Hanover on the evening of 1 October 1944, a Sunday. We spent the entire night aboard the railway wa-gons on a siding, and on Monday morning we were led to the camp barracks. The camp lay between factories in the suburbs of Hanover. It was surrounded by electrified wire. The camp wasn’t very large. It had three residential blocks, one Revier [infirmary, Ger.] block, one kitchen block, and one with washing rooms. The latrines were standard but were kept very clean; they were located away from the washing rooms. Not far from the grounds of the camp was the aufseherkas’ [female guards, from Ger. Aufseherin] block. The SS men had their office in the kitchen block. The individual residential blocks were divided into rooms. In the rooms were beds stacked two high; each bed had a mattress and two blankets. Additionally, each room had a single large table and stools to sit on. There were stoves in the rooms. When we first arrived, we were allowed to light the stoves rather often because the masonry work in the barracks was still fresh and needed to be dried. But later fuel was harder to come by – the Germans were no longer getting shipments of coal – so we took to stealing fuel at the factory. We spent three days resting at the factory after our arrival, and then we were sorted and assigned various jobs. We used to get up early in the morning, perhaps at 4.30 a.m. A Polish prisoner who worked in the kitchen used to wake us up. We would get up, wash ourselves, and have breakfast. The sztubowas [chief prisoners of each block section, from Ger. Stubenälteste] would bring us the coffee; next we went outside for roll call, which was taken by the [male] commandant and lady commandant; and then we went to the factory. We didn’t stand long at Appell. At the factory, we worked twelve-hour shifts from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. with an hourlong break for lunch, which we would eat in the camp. For lunch, we would receive a litre of vegetable soup. It was cooked cleanly, because there were Polish women working in the kitchen who made sure of it. In the morning and evening, we would usually receive coffee and a chunk of bread with some margarine and a slice of sausage or blood pudding. Sometimes, instead of cold meats we would receive a spoonful of cottage cheese, molasses, artificial honey, or marmalade. Occasionally, we would receive soup in the evenings, but this was very rare.

The camp was headed by an SS-man commandant and an SS-woman commandant. They were strict and unyielding, but weren’t particularly cruel towards the prisoners. The first two commandants were even rather kind, but they were soon taken away to the war. The third commandant was old. He upheld camp discipline and ensured that prisoners were properly clothed and shod; he made sure that every last button was in its place. First, he ordered us to wash our shoes with water, and later he managed to get us some polish. When the weather turned cold, he also managed to get us warm winter dresses (striped camp uniform ones), a change of underwear, wooden shoes – he was generally good in this respect and did take care of us. He might have done a great deal more, but was negatively influenced by the blokowa [chief prisoner of the block, from Ger. Blockälteste], a woman who was Jewish by birth and French by marriage. She was very bad and had a heavy influence on the commandant. The aufseherkas varied: some treated us humanely, but there were also others who were nasty and would beat us. Among them, I recall one young aufseherka from Hamburg. During air raids, she used to reassure us; she was even capable of coming up to a prisoner and giving her a hug. Oftentimes, she would slice up her tea-time apple and share it out among the prisoners.

In the camp, medical care was provided by a Revier, which was headed by a Russian woman; whether or not she was a doctor, I don’t know. The Revier provided medical care only to people running a temperature over 39°C. All prisoners who reported in need of dressings were given them.

Illnesses didn’t spread through the camp; there were no epidemics. The most common ailment people had was colds. I know of only two fatalities in the camp. They [note written above text] The prisoners concerned [/note] died of wounds sustained during bombing. What was done with the bodies of the dead, I don’t know. We were told that they were buried, but no further details were provided.

We had no spiritual or religious care; neither priests nor the Red Cross had access to the camp. Praying was officially prohibited.

We were prohibited from maintaining any form of contact with the outside world; we didn’t even write official letters.

Up until the bombing, there were no escape attempts, but during the bombing two Russian women allegedly escaped.

Camaraderie was not highly developed in the camp.

The factory I worked at produced aeroplane parts. It was quite large. It was bombed and then repaired. We worked in production halls. During the first three weeks, we were taught how to do the work. We mainly worked at tables. My job involved putting aeroplane parts together on a form; after they had been put together, I would remove them from the form and pass them on for riveting. The work itself wasn’t that hard, but certain actions required great physical exertion. The work wasn’t particularly dangerous; we simply had to be careful while drilling so as not to puncture a finger. My fingers got drilled through on two occasions, but this was due to the carelessness of others. Cases of drilled-through fingers were generally quite rare. The factory was well ventilated, but the air was heavy because of the iron filings. The foremen used to caution us not to inhale the filings, because the metal sheets were toxic and harmful for the lungs. By and large, the foremen were good and I cannot complain about them. I remember one of the forewomen, during the three-week training period, bringing us a needle and thread at our request and giving it to us in secret. When, at times, we were unable to complete some job or other, a foreman would come and do it himself.

In the riveting and assembly sections, the factory worked in two shifts: days and nights. I worked one week in the daytime, then the next at night. Night work was more exhausting, because daytime sleep was insufficient and frequently interrupted.

On 5 January 1945, the aeroplane part factory was completely destroyed in a bombing raid, and the camp burned to the ground. At that point, we were transferred to the Limmer camp [note written above text] in the suburbs of Hanover [/note]. This was a smallish camp of 500 people, most of them Frenchwomen. When we arrived, all of the pre-existing prisoners were transferred to a single barrack block, while we were billeted in the other block that was thereby vacated. The entire camp had only two residential blocks.

They were large and divided into rooms; a single room accommodated fifty women. The rooms had beds stacked three high; women slept two to a bed. The barracks were fitted with electricity but not plumbing. Washing rooms and latrines were located outside the block. The camp was clean.

The first prisoners who were in the camp worked at a rubber factory. When we arrived at the camp, the younger and healthy women were selected for work. Some were employed at the rubber factory; others at the former aeroplane factory; and fifty were selected to clear rubble. The older women were given jobs on site or stood in for younger women who were off sick.

The camp was run by the same people as before.

 During an air raid alert on 6 April 1945, our camp was evacuated. Initially, we went to Celle, but they wouldn’t accept us because the camp was already overcrowded. The march was exhausting. Our group consisted of 1,500 men and 900 women. We spent the first night in a large barn. Conditions were so cramped it was unbearable. We walked all of the next day. Just before nightfall, we halted in a village and a telephone call was made to the camp in Celle, requesting that they admit us. They refused owing to the overcrowding at that camp. Then we were herded up into some sandy mountains where we spent the night. In the morning, we set out again for Bergen-Belsen, marching right until evening. When we arrived at the camp, we were led to a block and quartered 500 to a single room. Inside, there were no beds, mattresses, or even wood shavings, just a bare brickpaved floor. Tired and hungry, we all sat down. A moment later, the blokowa came and told us not to settle in because another 200 people were coming. Indeed, they did come. I slept one night in the block; then I slept outdoors by the wall, because the lice and lack of air made staying indoors unbearable. Anyone who wanted to suffocate slept in the block. The next day, I got up and went to a small shed that stood by the block, thinking that it was the latrine. In actual fact, it was a shed full of women’s corpses. Facing the building was a canvas shelter the size of a barrack block. I peered in and saw a multitude of women’s corpses laid out side by side. They lay there for several days. I know that women later dragged the corpses from the tent and placed them in pits, where they were then buried. Altogether, Bergen-Belsen made a horrible impression on me. I saw men dragging corpses in the men’s camp for an entire week, and they were burying them throughout my internment there. Then when the English entered the camp, they were still dragging out corpses and burying them for a long time afterwards. All of this was really quite impossible to watch. In our block, we had a Jewish blokowa who was very bad. She used to rob us of our food; she withheld our rations, sharing them out among her acquaintances instead.

The entire time, we had no water at all; the entire time, only once did we get a portion of bread. Many people were still sick and dying long after the English came.

I arrived in Sweden on 3 July 1945. An examination revealed me to be sick. I had an operation and to this day I am still unwell.

Notes added: ‘block’ on page 3, ‘the prisoners concerned’ on page 5, and ‘in the suburbs of Hanover’ on page 6.”

Bildkälla:  Konstnär okänd.