"I was in a concentration camp": Zbigniew Muszyński
Zbigniew, along with other soldiers from Powiśle, was taken to the camp’s so-called quarantine area. On the 12th of September 1944 he was given the number 104884. There he met for the first time a priest Gajkowski, who distributed to newcomers ‘Stripe clothing’, the infamous stripped uniform worn by concentration camp inmates.
On the 27th of September about 400 of prisoners were transported from Dachau to the concentration camp in Sandhofen in Mannheim. This camp was a sub-camp of the Natzweiler concentration camp. There they were forced into slave labour at the Daimler Benz car factory, manufacturing gearboxes. The prisoners were initially guarded inside and outside the factory hall and, in the camp, by armed SS men from the SS Commando. Then troops from the Luftwaffe took over.
One day the commander of the camp announced at the roll call that the prisoners had been registered as prisoners of war in Geneva and, that they would receive food packages from the Red Cross.
The prisoners were delighted, but they received nothing. They lived in a school, in classrooms which were filled with bunks. Zbigniew slept at the top. On the lower bunk slept a prisoner, Strasburger (he had a wife and children in Poland), who said he had someone in the family in the Government in Exile in London government.
As an inmate of the Natzweiler concentration camp, Zbigniew had the number 30082. One Sunday, Zbigniew did not go to work because he did not hear or recognize his number being called out. For a few hours, he was made to squat, with his hands held out front, in the square in front of the school. They threatened him that they would kill him for sabotage. At one point, he and his guard were approached by an officer of the camp (a Luftwaffe captain) who asked the sentry why Zbigniew was squatting. The sentry did not know. The captain went to guardhouse and ordered them to let him go. Polish chefs called him to the kitchen, where they gave him something to eat. He was lucky.
One day, when Zbigniew went to the toilet, he found it full of other prisoners. They were taking newspapers from the factory and going to the toilet to put them under their ‘Stripe clothing’ because it was so cold. The Germans from the office were watching them. Seeing the congregation in the toilet, they came and beat the prisoners. While fleeing from the blows, Zbigniew fell down the stairs and damaged his ribs. The old German civilian who supervised him in the factory, did his work for him when he could not move from the pain. Sometimes he put a sandwich for him on the production line when no one could see it. He felt sorry for him as his son was fighting in the German Army against Soviets.
The prisoners were mostly brought by train to the plants of Daimler Benz, but a few times they had to go on foot about 10 kilometres, after bombardments.
After the bombing of the camp in Sandhofen when they were at work, Zbigniew and others were transferred to the concentration camp at Buchenwald on the 26th of December 1944. Along the way, they sang Polish Christmas carols. At Buchenwald they changed his number to 46868. There he got sick and wanted to go to the hospital. The elderly, Polish prisoners told him to stay away from the hospital, or the German doctors would do experiments on him, especially as he was young.
Around the 23rd of January 1945, after a few weeks of quarantine in Block No. 25 at Buchenwald, they were transferred to a concentration camp at the Adlerwerke factory in Frankfurt, to do forced labour. They were kept in the same group. Twenty of them were selected and taught how to weld and, then put to work on the production line. He worked with a Dutchman making the chassis for transport vehicles.
He lived in nightmarish conditions for about two and a half months. They slept in rooms next to the factory halls, they were often bombarded and had to flee down to the shelters, all the time watched by SS guards. One day the Germans gave the prisoners blankets, because a delegation had come from the Red Cross. The following day, after the departure of the Red Cross Commission, the Germans took blankets away. One of the brothers Strasburger, Goliath, died in the camp at the Adlerwerke factory. He was one of the first to die from exhaustion. As a result of the lack of food, the cold winter and exhausting hard work, Zbigniew’s health began to decline.
The Germans separated the weak and sick prisoners and told them that they were to go to a rest camp. The prisoners were informed that they were going to a sanatorium. Zbigniew was put in a group with around 200 other prisoners and, this group was sent around the 13th of March 1945.
Far from a sanatorium, the very weakened Zbigniew was transported to the concentration camp at Bergen- Belsen. The Germans loaded them into three freight wagons, around 60 people in each one. They rode jammed, standing, for five days, without food or water. Some of them drank their urine. Zbigniew was lucky, he stood next to the window. Many of them died on the road. Wagons with prisoners were attached to a train transporting V1 and V2 rockets. American planes (Squadrons of 8 to 9 aircraft) attacked the train, initially they fired at the fleeing German guards, then, when they spotted the prisoners in their striped uniforms, they stopped shooting and flew off.