Aleksandra Wójcik, Maciej Zdziarski
Goodnight, Auschwitz

Touching, original stories of five concentration camp survivors

The deepest place in memory

How did he end up in a concentration camp? he is asked at every meeting. “Through stupidity!”

He escaped from Germany, escaped from Wrocław, even scarpered off from his father’s house when the Germans tracked him down. But he had no chance of escaping from the shop on Tomasz Street when he went to visit a friend.

The Gestapo visit the shop.

“Is Karol Tendera here?” asks a man in a coat. “No,” answers Stanisław, the shop assistant.

And at that moment Karol enters. He opens the door and holds the door open for the man who wants to know. Stasiu, his mate from the shop, seemed not to understand what was happening. He says aloud: “Karol, this gentleman’s looking for you.”

That was enough. It was all over. “Gestapo, please follow me.”

The car sets off for the prison on Montelupich Street.


After a month of interrogation, they transport him from Krakow to the camp in a pickup truck. February, fifteen degrees below zero. In the cab: three Germans, the driver and two SS-men. And two at the back as well. In the back: fifteen prisoners kneeling down. Hungry, freezing. They keep each other warm. They don’t know what’s in store for them.

They finally drive up to the gate with the inscription Arbeit macht frei. By means of a welcome the guards hit the newcomers with rubber hoses full of sand. Karol tries to avoid the beating – he hides behind the backs of older, taller men.

Chased into the camp bathhouse they receive a lump of grey soap with the inscription RIF. His friends deci- pher the abbreviation. Reines Jüdische Fett, or ‘pure Jewish fat’, but Karol isn’t certain if it really stood for something so horrifying. The kapos responsible for the procedure of washing the prisoners run streams of hot water. First, they shout: “Raus! Raus! Raus!”, then in Polish:

“Get out! Get out.”

They don’t receive towels after washing. They go straight into the yard from the bathhouse. They stand up to their knees in the snow, shaking from the cold. Half of them die of pneumonia in the first few weeks. The strongest, the most hardened survive, ruthlessly fighting for their lives.

“An enslaved person,” Karol will say years later, “is like plasticine in a child’s hands. You can do what you like with them.”


Karol is sent to work building railway lines. Eight to ten prisoners transport rails attached to slings. They screw the sections onto wooden sleepers. Undernourished, young, weak. Rivers of sweat pour off them. Some of them faint.

After a few days, one of his companions – his name is Michał, he’s taciturn, introverted – cracks. He says to Karol:

“I have to have a drink or at least splash myself down.”

Excerpt translated by David French

Aleksandra Wójcik, Maciej Zdziarski
Goodnight, Auschwitz

Touching, original stories of five concentration camp survivors

Publisher: Znak Publishers, Kraków 2017
Translation rights: Znak Publishers,

Here one lives three months at most”, is what the characters of Goodnight, Auschwitz hear when they cross the gate with the Arbeit macht frei inscription. The gate leads to hell, and as the book by Aleksandra Wójcik and Maciej Zdziarski shows, stretches to its very bottom, to Auschwitz, the Nazi German concentration and extermination camp in occupied Poland during the Second World War.

Children who cry are risking their lives. Hunger and diseases transform prisoners such that even their family or friends do not recognise them. Here death is not a disaster but the norm. The crematorium smokes. The heroes of the reportage are five prisoners who survived the Nazi German Auschwitz camp. Józef Paczyński, Marceli Godlewski, Lidia Maksymowicz, Karol Tendera and Stefan Lipniak. They differ in age, length of stay in the camp and forms of terror they experienced. But they have one thing in common – they were at the bottom of a terrible hell. In the pages of the book, they create a picture of an unimaginable world. Lydia was three years old. She mastered the practice of hiding from Dr. Mengele, who carried out medical experiments on children. The book contains plenty of such harrowing stories, but they do not overdo the brutality. Drastic descriptions are presented very neutrally. Coldly. Without emotions. As a result, they are even more moving. “About two thousand people can be killed in a gas chamber in a dozen or so minutes”; “People are enslaved like plasticine. You can do anything with them”. But experiences from the Nazi German camp are one thing, and life after liberation is another. The heroes live to old age. They live the need to bear witness. They rave in illnesses, returning to their camp memories. A few of them die before the book appears in bookstores. Their stories, however, live and are a warning to us.

We must read this book so that we never forget what the effects of human hatred are.

Sylwia Krasnodębska, translated by Katarzyna Popowicz

Selected samples

歐菈·沃丹斯卡-波欽斯卡(Ola Woldańska-Płocińska)
作者:沃伊切赫·維德瓦克(Wojciech Widłak), 插圖:亞歷珊德拉·克珊諾夫斯卡(Aleksandra Krzanowska)
文字:莫妮卡·烏特尼-斯特魯加瓦(Monika Utnik-Strugała), 概念和插圖:皮歐特·索哈(Piotr Socha)
作者:亞格涅絲卡·斯特爾馬什克(Agnieszka Stelmaszyk)
尤安娜·日斯卡(Joanna Rzyska)、阿嘉妲·杜德克(Agata Dudek)、瑪格熱妲·諾瓦克(Małgorzata Nowak) Druganoga出版社,華沙2021
艾麗莎·皮歐特夫斯卡(Eliza Piotrowska)
米科瓦伊·帕辛斯基(Mikołaj Pasiński)、瑪格熱妲·赫爾巴(Gosia Herba)
歐菈·沃丹斯卡-波欽斯卡(Ola Woldańska-Płocińska)
瑪麗安娜·奧克雷亞克(Marianna Oklejak)
拉法爾·科希克(Rafał Kosik)
亞歷珊德拉·沃丹斯卡-波欽斯卡(Aleksandra Woldańska-Płocińska)
巴托米耶·伊格納邱克(Bartłomiej Ignaciuk), 阿嘉塔·洛特-伊格納邱克(Agata Loth-Ignaciuk)
文字和插圖:皮歐特·卡爾斯基(Piotr Karski)
文字和插圖:皮歐特·卡爾斯基(Piotr Karski)
羅珊娜·延澤耶夫斯卡-弗魯貝爾 (Roksana Jędrzejewska-Wróbel)
作者:普舎米斯瓦夫·維赫特洛維奇(Przemysław Wechterowicz) 插圖:艾米莉·吉烏巴克(Emilia Dziubak)
尤斯提娜·貝納雷(Justyna Bednarek) 插圖:丹尼爾·德拉圖爾(Daniel De Latour)
尤安娜·巴托西克(Joanna Bartosik)
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Jan Kochanowski
Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz
Olga Tokarczuk
Władysław Stanisław Reymont
An Ancient Tale
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Elżbieta Cherezińska
Henryk Sienkiewicz
Maria Dąbrowska
Stefan Żeromski
Bronisław Wildstein
Zbigniew Herbert / Wisława Szymborska
Karol Wojtyła
Wiesław Myśliwski
Czesław Miłosz
Anna Świrszczyńska / Melchior Wańkowicz
Tadeusz Borowski / Gustaw Herling-Grudziński
Wiesław Helak
Góra Tabor
Adriana Szymańska
Paweł Rzewuski
Mariusz Staniszewski
Radek Rak
Urszula Honek
Kazimierz Orłoś
Rafał Wojasiński
Antonina Grzegorzewska
Józef Mackiewicz
Tobiasz Piątkowski, Marek Oleksicki
Daniel Odija
Bronisław Wildstein
Józef Mackiewicz
Józef Mackiewicz
Witold Szabłowski
Andrzej Muszyński
Wiesław Helak
Bartosz Jastrzębski
Dariusz Sośnicki
Łukasz Orbitowski
Jakub Małecki
אנדז'יי ספקובסקי
Elżbieta Cherezińska
Wiesław Myśliwski
Jakub Małecki
Aleksandra Lipczak
Jacek Dukaj
Wit Szostak
Bartosz Biedrzycki
Zyta Rudzka
Maciej Płaza
Wojciech Chmielewski
Paweł Huelle
Przemysław "Trust" Truściński
Angelika Kuźniak
Wojciech Kudyba
Michał Protasiuk
Stanisław Rembek
Krzysztof Karasek
Elżbieta Isakiewicz
Artur Daniel Liskowacki
Jarosław Jakubowski
Zbigniew Stawrowski
Szczepan Twardoch
Wojciech Chmielarz
Robert Małecki
Zygmunt Miłoszewski
Anna Piwkowska
Dominika Słowik
Wojciech Chmielewski
Barbara Banaś
Rafał Mikołajczyk
Jerzy Szymik
Waldemar Bawołek
Julia Fiedorczuk
Jakub Szamałek
Witold Szabłowski
Jacek Dukaj
Grzegorz Górny, Janusz Rosikoń
Paweł Piechnik
Andrzej Strumiłło


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Piotr Mitzner
Paweł Sołtys
Wacław Holewiński
Anna Potyra
Wiesław Helak
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marek Stokowski
Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki
Jakub Małecki
Łukasz Orbitowski
Małgorzata Rejmer
Rafał Wojasiński
Wojciech Kudyba
Włodzimierz Bolecki
Jerzy Liebert
Wojciech Zembaty
Wojciech Chmielarz
Bogdan Musiał
Joanna Siedlecka
Krzysztof Tyszka-Drozdowski
Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz
Marek Bieńczyk
Leszek Elektorowicz
Adrian Sinkowski
Szymon Babuchowski
Lech Majewski
Weronika Murek
Agnieszka Świętek
Stanisław Szukalski
Barbara Klicka
Anna Kamińska

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Szczepan Twardoch
Wiesław Helak
Maria Wilczek-Krupa
Anna Kańtoch
Rafał Kosik
Paweł Sołtys
Dorota Masłowska
Wiesław Myśliwski
Martyna Bunda
Olga Tokarczuk
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Mariola Kruszewska
Waldemar Bawołek
Marek Oleksicki, Tobiasz Piątkowski
Wojciech Tomczyk
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar
Ks. Robert Skrzypczak
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Anna Bikont
Magdalena Grzebałkowska
Wojciech Orliński
Klementyna Suchanow
Andrzej Franaszek
Natalia Budzyńska
Marian Sworzeń
Aleksandra Wójcik, Maciej Zdziarski
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The work of Józef Łobodowski (1909-1988) – a remarkable poet, prose writer, and translator, who spent most of his life in exile – is slowly being revived in Poland. Łobodowski’s brilliant three- volume novel, composed on an epic scale, concerns the fate of families and orphans unmoored by the Bolshevik Revolution and civil war and … Continue reading “Ukrainian Trilogy: Thickets, The Settlement, The Way Back”

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