Stories of the indomitable human spirit endure, and always encourage.
A note hidden in a bottle by Auschwitz prisoners 65
years ago in a desperate attempt to preserve a small piece of
themselves was added Wednesday to the archives of the Polish state-run
museum dedicated to the memory of the former Nazi death camp’s victims.
Museum Director Piotr Cywinski hailed the document — a list of the
names of seven camp inmates that was discovered last month — as a rare
discovery and a cause for celebration, given that at least three of the
prisoners are still living today.
“This is a very clear sign of hope,” Cywinski said. “These young
people put the message in a bottle to leave a sign. But not only the
bottle survived — some of them also survived. This is very moving.”
The note, written in pencil on a scrap from a cement bag, was
discovered by a construction crew renovating a cellar that was used by
Nazis during World War II as a bunker and place to store food. The
building is now on the grounds of a vocational school in Oswiecim, a
town the Nazis called Auschwitz, whose director handed the note over to
Cywinski in a ceremony.
Picture these young prisoners, scribbling the note on a scrap of a
cement bag, and rushing to bury it in the wall before their captors
detected it. That bunker is not a vocational school, and construction
workers found this precious link to seven human beings who faced
One of the survivors, Waclaw Sobczak, recalled that he
and his fellow inmates never expected to survive the camp and wanted to
leave behind a trace of their lives.
“We did it so a sign of us would remain after we died,” said
Sobczak, a diminutive 85 year old with thick white hair. “It was very
risky and we had to be very careful putting it in the wall. We wanted
at least our names and numbers to be left behind.”
Dated Sept. 20, 1944, the note bears the names, camp numbers and
hometowns of the seven prisoners — six Roman Catholics from Poland and
one Jewish inmate from France. It says that all were between the ages
of 18 and 20 and assigned to build an anti-aircraft bunker for camp
“We agreed that we may not survive and that we will make this
message in the bottle, and that we will put down our names and camp
numbers and we will leave it in the bunker wall,” Sobczak recalled in a
brief speech at the handover ceremony.
Like Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein and so terribly many others,
these individuals continue to inspire hope that, no matter what the
trial or persecution, human dignity is a force more powerful and enduring.