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Oral history interview with Jozef Szajna

Oral History | Accession Number: 1998.A.0114 | RG Number: RG-50.030.0391

Jozef Szajna, born on March 13, 1922, in Rzeszów, Poland, describes his childhood; leaving his Polish high school at seventeen and joining the Union of Armed Struggle, an underground organization; working in an airplane factory, where he replaced good parts with defective parts and made drawings of the factory's layout; being captured with a friend in January 1941 in Slovakia while trying to flee to Hungary; being turned over to the German border patrol in Muszyna, Poland and then going into prisons in five different towns; his transfer to Auschwitz in the summer of 1941; continuing his underground activities in Auschwitz by smuggling food and clothing to the women's camp; contracting typhus and going into the sick barracks; obtaining a position through friends cleaning the SS cafeteria; attempting to escape Auschwitz with two other people in August 1943 but getting caught and sentenced to hang; receiving a different sentence and instead working for the penal company; wearing a red dot, which signified that he was a dangerous prisoner; convincing a Nazi official to assign him to a Buchenwald transport, so he could attempt to escape; contracting a lung infection and remaining in the Buchenwald hospital; obtaining ink and drawing pictures in exchange for food; the evacuation of Buchenwald on April 6, 1945; escaping with another prisoner to a field after there was an explosion while on their march from Buchenwald; his liberation by American soldiers; remaining in Poland after the war and graduating from the Academy of Art in Kraków in 1947; and becoming well-known for his artwork and theater productions that depict imagery and themes from the Holocaust.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Józef Szajna
Mr. Jacek Nowakowski
interview:  1998 May 15
Oral histories.
4 videocasettes (Betacam SP) : sound, color ; 1/2 in..
Record last modified: 2020-03-26 09:31:00
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