Polish-Catholic Survivor/Camps, Member of Polish Underground
Zwolen (Poland), Auschwitz, Lamsdorf, Menningen
Marian Szczepanski is the son of Josef and Maria Szczepanski and was born and baptized a Roman Catholic in Zwolen, Poland. He has a younger sister, Janina, now living in Sao Paolo, Brazil. During his early life he lived in Warsaw, north of Zwolen, while attending schools there. Due to the large number of Jews living in Poland at that time, he claims to have had some exposure to Jews and to have had good relations with them. Now he has many Jewish acquaintances and stated that his best friend is Jewish.
Since his high school instructions included some military training, he volunteered for the Polish Army immediately after the outbreak of World War II. He left following its defeat and entered the university in Warsaw. On a trip into the Soviet- occupied zone of Poland in October, 1939, to look for an acquaintance, he was arrested and jailed. He escaped and managed to return to Warsaw.
During a round-up of Polish men by the Germans in September, 1940, he was arrested and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp in a cattle car. This occurred shortly after the arrival of the first prisoners in Auschwitz on June 14, 1940. He describes the treatment the inmates received as brutal with beatings, torture, executions, starvation, humiliation, and exposure to adverse weather conditions. He stated that as badly as Poles were treated in Auschwitz, Jews and Russian prisoners of war were treated even worse, especially Soviet prisoners of Jewish origin. He personally observed the premeditated extermination of some in gravel pits.
For reasons still unknown, Mr. Szczepanski was released from Auschwitz on March 19, 1942, and was given a Certificate of Release signed by Rudolf Hoess, Camp Commander. It was shown during the interview.
Upon his release from Auschwitz, Mr. Szczepanski immediately joined the underground Polish Home Army where he used the pseudonym Marian Sbik. He continued his education in Warsaw under the extremely dangerous and difficult conditions of German oppression. While engaged in his studies, he also participated in underground military activities as a partisan. He participated in the Warsaw Uprising of August, 1944, as part of the Polish Home Army’s “Gozdawa” battalion which he described as 63 days of continuous fighting against the German SS troops. To stop the fighting, the Germans agreed to treat the Polish fighters as prisoners of war (POW) under the terms of the Geneva Convention. As a result, Mr. Szczepanski was sent to POW camps – first Lamsdorf in Poland, and then Menningen in Bavaria. While at the latter, he was required to work in both ULM and Augsburg. He described the conditions in the POW camps as “paradise” in comparison to Auschwitz.
He was liberated on April 23, 1945 by the 36th Infantry Division of the US 7th Army, and subsequently aided the US Army in various efforts against the Germans, especially the SS and Gestapo, by being a translator having already acquired knowledge of English as a student. He then became a member of the First Polish Armored Division which was attached to the British Army of the Rhine and participated in the military occupation of northwest Germany. He also found his sister who had participated with him in the Warsaw Uprising and who also was in a German POW camp.
In September 1946, Mr. Szczepanski continued his university education in London, England, attaining degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Metallurgy and a Master of Science degree from the University of London. He then attained responsible positions in British industry. He married an English woman and had one son, Victor.
Mr. Szczepanski emigrated to the United States in 1957 and became a citizen in 1962. After holding a number of positions, he formed several very successful companies using diamonds in cutting tools. He is the author of “Brittleness of Steel,” published by John Wiley & Sons giving him recognition throughout the scientific world. He also has various inventions to his credit.
He plans to publish a book in the near future based on his experiences and would like it to become a film in the hope that his story will tell the world about the horrors and incredible crimes committed by every segment of German society. These were committed not only by members of the Nazi party; not only in Auschwitz; and not only against Jews during World War II. He also hopes the book and film will bridge existing antagonism between Jews and Poles.
Date of Interview: January 30, 2001
Length of Interview: 3 hours 21 minutes
Interview and Synopsis by: Hans Weinmann
Format: Video Recording