Leszczyńska before World War II
May 8, 1896|
|Died||March 11, 1974(aged 77)|
|Known for||Prisoner at Auschwitz|
Stanisława Leszczyńska (May 8, 1896 – March 11, 1974) was a Polish midwife who was incarcerated at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, where she delivered over 3,000 children. She is an official candidate for canonization (sainthood) by the Catholic Church. A few hospitals and organizations in Poland are named after Stanisława; the main road at Auschwitz concentration camp museum is named after her; and so is a street in the city of Łódź.
Stanisława Leszczyńska was born to a Polish Catholic family of carpenter Jan Zambrzycki and his wife Henryka, in the Bałuty neighborhood of Łódź in the Vistula Land under the Tsarist rule. Her father was drafted into the imperial army when she was a child, and sent to Turkestan. To make ends meet, her mother worked 12-hour shifts at the Poznański factory; her earnings allowed Stanisława to go to a private school where Polish was the medium of instruction. Upon her father's return to Poland, the family left for Brazil in 1908 seeking greater economic opportunity, and stayed in Rio de Janeiro. They returned after two years. Stanisława completed high-school in 1914, just as the First World War broke out. Her father was drafted again. She stayed with her mother and two younger brothers. On October 17, 1916 Stanisława married printer Bronisław Leszczyński.
She gave birth to son Bronisław in 1917, and two years later, daughter Sylwia. In 1920 the family relocated to Warsaw. Stanisława enrolled at the midwife college and completed her studies with an Alumnae Achievement Award in 1922. They moved back to Łódź. She got a job as a midwife, and in the same year gave birth to her second son Stanisław. In 1923 her third son, Henryk, was born.
After the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany at the onset of World War II, the Leszczyński family was forced to relocate to Wspólna 3 Street when the Łódź Ghetto was created for the Jews by the Nazi occupation administration. Żurawia Street, where they used to live, became part of the ghetto area. The Leszczyńskis began helping ghettoized Jews by delivering food items and false documents. However, Stanisława was caught red-handed, and brought to the Gestapo on February 18, 1943. Her younger children, Sylwia, Stanisław, and Henryk were also arrested. Her husband and son Bronisław managed to avoid capture and fled the city. The Nazis sent the two boys as slave labour to the stone quarries of Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. Leszczyńska never saw her husband again; he died in the Warsaw Uprising.
Auschwitz concentration camp
After interrogation by the Gestapo, Stanisława Leszczyńska and her 24-year-old daughter Sylwia were transported to Auschwitz concentration camp on April 17, 1943, and tattooed with the camp numbers 41335 and 41336 respectively. Stanisława was relegated to women's camp infirmary along with her daughter, who had been a medical student before the war broke out. Stanisława met Dr Mengele, and was advised to write reports about birth problems and diseases in the childbed.
Years later, she described how she put her life at risk to save newborns in a work called Raport położnej z Oświęcimia (The Report of a Midwife from Auschwitz). In this record she mentions the meeting with Mengele who requested from her a report about childbed fever cases and cases of death during the accouchements. And exactly this report did she deny with the justification that neither happened in her work! What Mengele noticed with astonishment and answered that such good work is new to him as in the most modern German university clinics they can´t report about such unproblematic births. So obviously the claim that Dr. Mengele ordered her to euthanize the newborns as stated in source nr.3 is a hoax! Leszczynska does not mention such request in the whole work. She also described how the newborns were snatched away, taken to another room, and drowned in a barrel by Schwester Klara, who was imprisoned at Auschwitz for infanticide, and her assistant, Schwester Pfani. Of the 3,000 she delivered, some 2,500 newborns perished; a few hundred others with blue eyes were sent away to be Germanized. Only about 30 infants survived in the care of their mothers. Expectant mothers did not realize what was going to happen to their babies and many traded their meager rations for fabric to be used for diapers after the birth. Stanisława remained the camp's midwife until it was liberated on January 26, 1945.
Leszczyńska returned to Łódź, and her children also arrived there from the forced labour camps. She settled in an apartment at 99 Zgierska Street and continued working as a midwife locally. Remembering Auschwitz, she prayed over every child she delivered. On January 27, 1970 Stanisława attended an official celebration in Warsaw, where she met the women prisoners of Auschwitz and their grown-up children who had been born in the camp. She died four years later. In 1983 the School of Obstetricians in Kraków was named in her honor.
- Stanisława Leszczyńska, Raport położnej z Oświęcimia (The Report of a Midwife from Auschwitz), Przegląd Lekarski, Nr 1, 1965.
- Matthew M. Anger (2005-01-04). "Midwife at Auschwitz: The Story of Stanislawa Leszczynska". Seattle Catholic. Retrieved 2015-06-21.
- Simon Caldwell (2015). "The Polish midwife, Stanisława Leszczyńska. Cause for canonisation introduced in the Diocese of Łódź". Ten Catholic heroes of the Holocaust (8). CatholicHerald.co.uk. As International Holocaust Remembrance Day approaches, Simon Caldwell tells the remarkable stories of 10 lesser-known heroes. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
- Paweł Kłys. "Stanisława Leszczyńska (1896–1974)". Sługa Boża. Archidiecezja Łódzka.pl. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
- Aleksandra Murzańska (May 2012). "Stanisława Leszczyńska – "Położna z Auschwitz"" [Stanisława Leszczyńska – The Midwife of Auschwitz]. Interpolonika.com.
- Aleksander Lasik (2000). Auschwitz 1940–1945: central issues in the history of the camp. The establishment and organization of the camp. 1. Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
- Maria Żmijewska, Stanisława Leszczyńska, 1896–1974. Wirtualne Muzeum Pielegniarstwa Polskiego. Source: IMPULS, Nr 6/1994.
- Michael Berkowitz (2007). The Crime of My Very Existence: Nazism and the Myth of Jewish Criminality. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-94068-7. Retrieved 2015-06-21.
- Kazimierz Gabryel (2003). Stanisława Leszczyńska: 1896–1974 (in Polish).