Advanced Search

Learn About The Holocaust

Special Collections

My Saved Research




Skip to main content

Oral history interview with Yanina Cywinska

Oral History | Digitized | Accession Number: 1999.A.0122.190 | RG Number: RG-50.477.0190

Search this record's additional resources, such as finding aids, documents, or transcripts.

No results match this search term.
Check spelling and try again.

results are loading

0 results found for “keyward

    Oral history interview with Yanina Cywinska


    Interview Summary
    Yanina Cywinska, born on October 28, 1929, describes growing up with her Ukrainian family, including her parents, Wladyslaw and Ludwika, and her older brother, Theodor; traveling a lot as a child; living mostly in and around Warsaw, Poland; attending ballet classes; being raised Catholic; her father’s Jewish friends; being taught by her parents to not look down on Jews or ever make an antisemitic comment; her father, who was a doctor and was asked by the Nazis, once they had invaded Poland, to perform some medical experiments on Jewish twins; his refusal to conduct the experiments and his subsequent imprisonment in jail for a short period; the Warsaw Ghetto, which was constructed in 1939; her father’s realization that he had a moral obligation to help the Jews and his failed attempts to get the local priest to help; her family’s participation in the underground movement; making several trips a day through tunnels and sewer lines into and out of the ghetto; carrying ammunition, jewelry, furs, medicine, and poison for the black market; witnessing executions and other violence; the various tunnels that they used to get in and out of the ghetto; being arrested and sent to a detention center; being taken out in the middle of the night with other people into the forest, where they dug ditches and then were lined up and shot; surviving the massacre because she was behind another woman, and she fell into the pit and pretended to be dead; climbing out of the pit and hiding in a haystack, where a farmer found her; reuniting with her parents at the detention center; her aunt, Stasha, paying the Gestapo to get Yanina and her brother out of the detention center; returning to her aunt’s house; being beaten and abused by her aunt for being a “Jew-lover”; her brother, who ran away; working as a servant for her aunt; ending up homeless and wandering around the streets of Warsaw for a while; staying for a few weeks with a couple she met at the detention center; reuniting with her parents at the detention center; being sent with the other prisoners to Auschwitz in cattle cars; the journey; arriving at Auschwitz; surviving a gas chamber after being revived by another inmate; being given a uniform; the shaving of her hair; being tattooed with a number; working in various places, including a factory, a kitchen, in the labs, and at the crematorium (note that it is generally thought that only men worked in the Sonderkommando doing the jobs that Yanina said she did); her methods for survival; being forced on a death march to Dachau; being liberated by American soldiers; staying in a displaced persons camp for a while, where she was sexually assaulted and impregnated by a soldier; her two abusive marriages after the war; meeting her third husband; the effects of the war on her emotionally; giving up on God; and her long recovery from her traumatic experiences.
    Yanina Cywinska
    interview:  1993 February 01
    interview:  1993 February 08
    interview:  1993 March 08
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Jewish Family and Children's Services of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties

    Physical Details

    2 videocassettes (SVHS) : sound, color ; 1/2 in..

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Topical Term
    Catholics--Personal narratives. Concentration camp tattoos. Concentration camps--Psychological aspects. Death march survivors. Death marches. Faith (Judaism) Forced labor. Gas chambers. Head shaving--Poland--Oswiecim. Holocaust survivors--United States. Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Personal narratives. Homeless children--Poland--Warsaw. Jewish ghettos--Poland--Warsaw. Jews--Persecutions--Poland. Massacre survivors. Massacres--Poland. Rape victims. Refugee camps. Shooting (Execution) Smugglers--Poland--Warsaw. Smuggling--Poland--Warsaw. Ukrainians--Poland. Women prisoners of war--Poland. World War, 1939-1945--Children--Poland. World War, 1939-1945--Concentration camps--Liberation. World War, 1939-1945--Deportations from Poland. World War, 1939-1945--Psychological aspects. World War, 1939-1945--Underground movements--Personal narratives. World War, 1939-1945--Underground movements--Poland. Women--Personal narratives.
    Personal Name
    Cywinska, Yanina.

    Administrative Notes

    The Bay Area Holocaust Oral History Project conducted the interview with Yanina Cywinska on February 1, 1993, February 8, 1993, and March 8, 1993. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum received the tapes of the interview from the Bay Area Holocaust Oral History Project in March 2001.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this oral history interview has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2023-11-16 08:44:14
    This page:

    Additional Resources

    Download & Licensing

    In-Person Research

    Contact Us