Elzbieta Pawlowska

Photo Of The Day

Auschwitz 31. Women survivors huddled in a prisoner barracks shortly after Soviet forces liberated the Auschwitz camp. Auschwitz, Poland, 1945.

Auschwitz 31. Women survivors huddled in a prisoner barracks shortly after Soviet forces liberated the Auschwitz camp. Auschwitz, Poland, 1945.

How One Woman Delivered 3,000 Babies During The Holocaust

Auschwitz had all sorts of facilities, such as sleeping quarters, offices, kitchens and latrines. It also had a “sick ward” where, in atrocious conditions, sick prisoners were looked after by physicians who were prisoners themselves. Anyone who appeared unlikely to get well was killed. Thus the physicians were constantly concealing serious cases by falsifying records to permit a longer stay to those who otherwise would have been sent to the crematorium. Almost all survivors of Auschwitz suffered from typhoid, a disease that qualified inmates for liquidation, but was never reported thanks to the courage of the physicians. They were risking their lives since the punishment for breaking any rule in the concentration camp was death. Auschwitz also had a “maternity-ward.” Many of the women who arrived at the camp were pregnant. They were needed for work; their babies were not. One of the midwives working in the ward was Stanislawa Leszczynska.

When Stanislawa Leszczy?ska first became a midwife, she never could have imagined that she would one day be whisked away from her home in Poland, where she routinely walked miles to deliver babies, and into the real-life nightmare of Auschwitz. After the murder of her husband in Poland and the forced removal of her son to another work camp, Stanislawa and her daughter entered Auschwitz with only one hope: that they would survive.

Born Stanislawa Zambrzyska in 1896, she married Bronislaw Leszczynski in 1916 and together they had two sons and a daughter. In 1922, she graduated from a school for midwives and began working in the poorest districts of Lodz. In pre-war Poland, babies were normally delivered at home. Stanislawa made herself available at any time, walking many kilometers to the homes of the women she helped. Her children recall that she often worked nights but she never slept during the day.

After the war, she returned to her job in Lodz. Her husband had been killed in the Warsaw uprising of 1944, but all of her children survived and, inspired by their mother’s example, went on to become physicians. Stanislawa supported their education, earning the family livelihood through a devoted service to childbirth.

In March 1957, as her retirement neared, a reception was organized to commemorate her 35 years in the profession. Her son, Dr. Bronislaw Leszczynski, remarked to her before the reception that she might be asked about Auschwitz. Until that time, she had said nothing about her work in the concentration camp. Her son began taking notes and later, during the reception when all the speeches were over, he stood up and told his mother’s story.

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