Krasnopol (Poland), Stutthof, Bisingen, Dachau
Lucien Ambrosiewicz is the son of Dominic and Victoria Ambrosiewicz who owned a farm in Krasnopol, Poland, a small town of about 1,200 inhabitants in the northeast corner of Poland, near the much larger city Suwalki. He was born in 1927. He had four brothers, two older and two younger. All practiced the Roman Catholic faith. Lucien attended public school until the outbreak of World War II and until then had a very satisfactory childhood with caring and considerate parents. There were about 12 Jewish families in Krasnopol, with whom his family and he had very good relations.
After the start of World War II in September 1939, Krasnopol was occupied for about two weeks by forces of the Soviet Union, after which German troops occupied the area. Significant administrative positions in the town, including policemen, were controlled by Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans). The schools were closed and many people were assigned to forced labor. The Jewish population was expelled and moved to a ghetto in the nearby city Suwalki, from where they eventually disappeared. Mr. Ambrosiewicz does not know specifically where they went or what happened to them. He was assigned to work with a saddle maker repairing harnesses, as best as he can remember, without pay.
Both of Mr. Ambrosiewicz’s older brothers were active in the underground partisan movement, operating out of the forest, as were many of the local citizens. They were affiliated with the Armia Ludowa, the military wing of the Polish Communist Party, somewhat supported by the Soviet Union. Mr. Ambrosiewicz, although only a teenager, was used as a messenger for the underground. Important messages were written on cigarette paper which could be swallowed without ill effects in case of capture.
In June 1944, Mr. Ambrosiewicz was arrested together with a number of others. He believes that the Germans were tipped off by about his activities as a partisan by an informer. After detention in local jails for a few weeks, possibly as a hostage for other partisans, he was sent by train to the concentration camp Stutthof, located near Gdansk (Danzig) on the shores of the Baltic Sea. This camp had both non-Jewish and Jewish inmates, but they were separated by being housed in different barracks. He claims the treatment, brutal for all, was about the same for non-Jewish and Jewish inmates, but he was in a much better barrack than the others, having running water and showers. A strip was shaved on the top of the head of each inmate and the category of each inmate, i.e. Jewish, political, criminal, gay, etc., was identified by the color of a triangle sewn on their uniform. He worked breaking up stones into smaller pieces.
When Mr. Ambrosiewicz was directed to a shower room upon arrival, after being submersed in a disinfectant chemical, he became very apprehensive since it was known by that time to the Polish population that shower rooms were used as gas chambers by the Germans. Stutthof had gas chambers and crematoriums. He witnessed bodies being transported by carts, but does not know to where. It was rumored in the camp that soap was being made from dead bodies, and he believes that the soap used in the camp came from that source.
After about two months he was transported by boxcar to the labor camp Bisingen, a sub-camp of the concentration camp Natzweiler in the southeast corner of Germany, about 800 miles from Stutthof. The trip took about three days with very little food, and only a hole in the boxcar floor for bodily eliminations. At Bisingen a facility was under construction for obtaining oil from shale. The work for the inmates was in laying of pipes and on other involved structures. Mr. Ambrosiewicz describes Bisingen as much worse than Stutthof. Worse barracks, no running water, only outside toilet facilities, worse food, and no medical facilities. However, conditions improved following a visit by the Red Cross. The inmates, Poles, Jews and Russians, were kept separately, but combined on work assignments. As Allied forces neared the camp, it was liquidated. The Jews were rounded up and marched out – he doesn’t know to where. He was sent in a “half-car”, i.e. an open top boxcar, to the concentration camp Dachau, near Munich, Germany, arriving there at the beginning of March 1945. He describes the camp as an annex to the main camp, relatively clean, with barracks, containing no Jewish inmates. No work was required, which was good for him since by that time he was in very poor physical condition.
Due to his weakened condition, he does not recall many details about liberation by American troops. From Dachau he was sent briefly to a former German army base and then into a regular hospital. He was near death – he believes from tuberculosis – but was treated and recovered, and then sent to the sanitarium Gross Saxenheim, near Stuttgart, where he recovered fully. He then was offered and accepted a job at the sanitarium working in the kitchen. A Vatican mission arranged for his immigration into the United States in 1947 to join relatives.
In 1952 Mr. Ambrosiewicz was drafted by the U. S. Army and he served in Korea for 16 months receiving his U. S. citizenship while there. After working for Chrysler Corporation on the line, he received training to become a mechanic and then worked in that profession until 1989. He married in 1969, has four children and many grandchildren.
Of his immediate family, one brother died, but his other three brothers and his parents survived World War II. He attributes his survival primarily to the grace of God.
Interview and Synopsis by: Hans Weinmann
Date of Interview: May 23, 2006
Length of Interview: 2 hours