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Testimony of Krystyna Zbyszewska


     For the first time we were allowed to leave the train in Bremen and then we walked to the first camp - Sandbostel. We saw the camp from the distance and some men in uniforms, and we were pleased because it meant that we would be the prisoners-of war. We didn't know what would happen to us.
     When I saw they were wearing the uniforms I though that we came not to the concentration camp but to the prisoner-of-war camp. Men went to the separate barracks. We had two barracks for women and I was in the first one and my friends in another. At first I slept on the ground but when they have realized I was only fourteen I was sent to the second barrack. There were sort of rooms in this barrack and there the younger girls were kept.
     The men who looked at us through the wires were surprised that there were women in the camp at all and, furthermore, so young like us. I was only 158 cm tall so I was quite short. The other girls were of my age and of my height. There was a terrible climate there, plenty clay and mud all around and because this was autumn it rained every on and off.
     The food was  as follows: in the morning "wonderful" coffee that actually was some water of an earthy color, one loaf of bread for every six person and piece of margarine and also a bit of beetroot marmalade. For the dinner there was a soup, "delicious", made of kale or of rutabaga, or sometimes of peas. Each pea had a little hole and usually a tiny worm was sticking out and such tiny worms were floating on the surface of soup forming something like a thick skin. In the evening we would get only coffee. The bread, which we would get in the morning, had to be divided on two parts; for the morning and for the evening. Once or twice everybody was so happy because we would get two potatoes per person. The Germans didn't force us to work. I knew this has happened in other camps but not in our, or at least I am not aware of that.
     There were between 150 and 200 women in our camp. Just before the Christmas we were told that they would be taking us to the woman's camp. We were not sure to be happy or to worry. We had packed up our belongings, all was already done. We were to leave in the morning but during the night my face became as red as a beetroot, I had a of 40 degrees temperature.. My scout leader reported to Germans that I had a fever .The doctor came with three or four Polish soldiers and with the stretcher and they took me to the hospital. The hospital was outside the wired fence of camp. This was hospital for everybody because not only Poles were in the camp but there were also Italians, French and, as I was told also two Englishmen. It was an international PoW camp. There were mainly Polish doctors who worked in the hospital. . It turned out I've had diphtheria. Behind the hospital were two barracks for those infected by diphtheria. There were already my five colleagues in there. This was really great We were given dumplings, soups with grits. After what I came through during the Uprising the camp meals seemed to be as great to me as those, served  in the Ritz Hotel. I stayed in the hospital until March.
     Then came two big bellied Wehrmacht soldiers, , both pretty old, and took us to the train station and then we went to Oberlangen, to the POW camp for women. I ended up in the last barrack, since it was last transport, that has been brought there. I  have joined my colleagues after a few months. We have had a really nice time there. For example we have organized the camp's  "Olympic games" - races, long jump, I  have participated in it but did not win. The camp commander had organized a variety of task for us to keep us from boring and stopping us from sitting  and looking through the window. There were English lessons. During the church holidays we have learned to sing the church songs. The Italian chaplain used to come to us.
     In April the whole sky was full of bombers. I felt happy that it was to be the end of the war. I thought the Germans did not have enough strength to shoot them down. The sound of artillery was getting closer and closer each day. One day we saw a tank coming. Our colleagues who could speak English went there with the Polish flag to welcome them. The soldiers came  out and the girls talked to them  in English and then they started to shout: "Women! You are Polish  and we are Polish too!" We asked them where they were from and they told us that they were from general Maczek army. They told us the  we were already free. We were so happy! The guards who were sitting in the  turrets ran away. We were told  that the commander of the camp has been caught. Everybody thought that this would be Englishmen to come first, but tactually he camp was liberated by Poles and these soldiers took us under their protection.. I didn't know where they did they get so many chickens and tinned food from. I can remember myself even now when I am sitting on the small stool, the plank in front me and the tinned herring (which I hated), tinned powdered milk and a sweet tinned beef on it. Horrible! But I ate it. The soldiers were visiting us, looking for their families  and friends. They have organized entertainment for us.. After three weeks somebody came to me. At first I wrote a letter to the "aunt", a friend of my Mum, who was an officer. I knew in which camp she has been kept. I asked her in my letter if she knew something about my Mum and told her that I was in Oberlangen waiting for some news. At that time my Mum has been liberated from Ravensbruck  concentration camp by Americans, but she was badly sick and was taken to the hospital in Murnau. There was a big officers' camp there  since 1939. She has been well-fed and got some medicines. My Mum also wrote a letter to her friend, to the so called "aunt", who's  real name was Maria Gutry .Before the war and also during the occupation she worked in the library. She has received both letters, mine and my Mum's, at the same time so she sent my address to my Mum. My Mum knew all generals, majors and the other captains who were kept in Murnau. There was one general, who's daughter was in Oberlangen too and he sent the car with the driver to pick her up. My Mum asked him if he could took me as well and bring to Murnau.A soldier came to me and said that one of the generals was asking me to come to Murnau, because my Mum has been there. I was very happy, I have packed my belongings at once I went with this soldier to the camp commander. The soldier had to give the general's name, because one could not simply leave the camp, since I was a soldier a not a private person. The commander agreed for me to leave. We were traveling through Germany for two days and  then I came to Murnau in the Alps.


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  The project is implemented by the Museum of Warsaw in cooperation with the State Archives of City of Warsaw, and the Niedersachsische Gedenkstatten Foundation