Stella Muller-Madej

 

„... There were two things thanks to which I survived. When we were taken from the ghetto to the camp, they set up the so-called Kinderheim and promised I don’t know what. Mummy absolutely refused to send me there and claimed that I was three years older than I was. I had to work with the adults. She wouldn’t let them take me to the Kinderheim. As is well known, in ’44 they transported all the children from Płaszów away to Auschwitz where their lives came to an end. Only a few children, more or less of my age, managed to hide in the latrine. 

The second thing, quite accidental, marvellous and unusual was that quite by chance we were put on Schindler’s
list. Chance had it that my uncle - a prisoner in the camp - who was the senior architect reporting to commandant Amon Goeth and who was mercilessly tormented by him, was put on the list. Being afraid that if Amon Goeth found out about it, he would hang my uncle’s wife and daughter (because he had already kept them in custody for some alleged irregularities on the part of my uncle during the expansion of the camp) my uncle managed to talk his colleague into signing up his relatives. These were mummy, me, daddy and my brother. What I’ll say is nothing poetic, but I will repeat till the end of my days that the first time I was given life by my parents and the second time by Oskar Schindler. 

In ‘44 there were around 700 women transported from Płaszów, 300 of wh
om were on his list, and he fought for us like a lion, because they didn’t want to let us out of Auschwitz. He was offered better and healthier ‘material’ from new transports, unlike us, who had spent several years in the camp. But he got us out... 

When I was in Auschwitz I fell very ill. And this was another unbelievable thing - by some miracle they got me out of the epidemic block. Some friend of a friend of ours forged my file and wrote that I had got there by mistake. This way, about an hour before the departure for the railway siding I joined the transport. And it was known that in that epidemic infirmary if somebody didn’t die naturally, the gas chamber awaited him. I ended up there because after arriving at Auschwitz we were driven to the so-called sauna. Having stripped us they put us in this sauna. The lights went out, the metal door was locked and the three hundred women went mad, because they thought they could smell gas. One of them scratched me in a frenzy. From this I got erysipelas, lice got into the wound - infection. And I found myself in the epidemic block. There was a doctor there - a Jewish woman who had lost a daughter my age and she took care of me. After some time I started to get better. From there I was taken to doctor Mengele. All naked. It was December. Freezing cold. I had only a sackcloth blanket on my back. The doctor told me ‘Just remember, keep the blanket by your legs so that they don’t see your unhealed wound.’ And Mengele gave his approval and let me go in the transport. 

Then there was Brunnlitz, Schindler’s camp. He kept us alive heroically. For nearly two months he didn’t get any food rations for us. He managed to get some bran, some flour and other things. And I don’t think that we were any hungrier there than in Auschwitz, o
r in Płaszów towards the end. Although people would suffer from hunger dropsy and their teeth came out like wood chips from pastry, but he saved us...”

 

 

Stella Muller-Madej - was born on the 5th of February 1930 in an affluent Jewish family in Kraków. On the outbreak of the war she was nine years old. In 1941 all her family was confined in the ghetto and from there, in 1942, sent to the Płaszów camp.

In October 1944 r. at the age of 14, Stella was sent to Auschwitz (number 76372). Thanks to the efforts of her uncle, she and her family were included in ‘Schindler’s list’ and, together with other prisoners from the list, sent to the Brunnlitz factory where she worked as a turner. The camp was liberated by Soviet troops on 8 May 1945.

For a long time after her return from the camp, she had learning problems and difficulties adjusting to normal life. At the age of 17 she started secondary school and despite difficulties, eventually managed to pass her final exams. For many years she has had treatment for her backbone, broken in Auschwitz; she has undergone four operations and is waiting for the fifth one. She was married in 1954 and a second time in 1968. She spent a few years in the United States but later decided to come back to Poland to be with her parents. She has recounted her memories in her book, entitled A Girl from Schindler’s List, which has been translated into 9 languages. She is currently working on her second book. Together with her husband she runs a small hotel in Podhale. She loves animals, particularly dogs.

  
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