here are so many incredible stories of Holocaust survivors and as I had the honor to meet some of these people who have gone through a struggle like no other, I feel like I have to share their stories with the world. Tadeusz Sobolewicz dreamed of being an actor since he was of a young age, it was his aspiration to be an artist that could portray his emotions through his work whilst doing it with a burning passion.
Tadeusz was born in Poznan, a city located in the North-West region of Poland. When war broke out, Tadeusz was only 14 years old. His father was a Polish army officer who forced Tadeusz and his mother to flee their home and head toward Warsaw. In 1941, he joined the Polish resistance movement, this decision was very much influenced by his years as a boy scout as well as his father’s military career.
Betrayed by his own people
Since he joined the Polish resistance movement, he was made to live underground, in a secret place, and also given a fake identity in order to protect himself as well as the resistance. Despite this, he was eventually betrayed by being sold to the Gestapo. The Gestapo arrested him and sent him to Zawodzie Gestapo prison in September of 1941. As Tadeusz describes in his book “But I survived,” he was brutally beaten by the Gestapo in order to give information about the Polish resistance.
Due to the respect, he had for his country (even if he was probably betrayed by his own people), he never said a word. Another reason why he hadn’t spoken a word was that he knew that his father would do the same if he was in his position. One surprising aspect was the prison cell which he thought at the time to be terrible, but after he saw the extreme conditions within concentration camps, his opinion changed, seeing Gestapo prison cells more like luxury hotels.
From one Concentration Camp to another
On the 20th of November 1941, all of the jews from Zawodzie were deported to Auschwitz. This was the first concentration camp that Tadeusz visited. As he was young and in good health to work, he was never taken to the “showers,” but given the task to build the shelters in Auschwitz. His prisoner number was 23053, accompanied by a red triangle on the badge which represented that he was a political prisoner.
Tadeusz endured most of his pain as well as spent most of his time in Auschwitz, for a period of almost two years. On the 10th of March 1943, he was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp, then to Leipzig, then to Mülsen, then to Flossenbürg, and lastly to Regensburg.
He was sent to Mülsen at the beginning of 1944. This was a concentration camp that held many prisoners of the Soviet army. In May of 1944, the Soviet prisoners planned a mass escape that would offer each prisoner within the concentration camp a chance to escape, similar to the ideology that went on with the escape from Sobibor. The plan was for everyone to burn their bunks in order to create lots of smoke that would hide their escape.
Sadly, this uprising did not go as planned and no one escaped that day. Most of the Soviet prisoners were shot and during the uprising, over 200 prisoners were injured. Many prisoners did not partake in this escape. Tadeusz didn’t either, however, due to the fire extending, he suffered some third-degree burns and almost lost his life.
Those who survived the incident were taken to Flossenbürg. In 1945, Tadeusz was once again transferred to Rosenburg which would be his last concentration camp. Here all the prisoners were forced to clear bomb debris and repair the railroad which was affected by Allied bombardment.
The 9-Day Death March
Around April 1945, the Allies were getting very close to Rosenburg, therefore the SS officers in charge decided to take all 500 prisoners onto what the Germans called a Todesmärsche (Death March). The death march is exactly as it sounds like, marching until you literally drop dead. In most cases, a prisoner sentenced to the death march would last around three days of marching, if he was in good shape.
By the 4th day, only half of the prisoners made it. The prisoners were only given a few hours to sleep, as they spent the whole day just marching with very little food or water. Those who could not keep up along the way were shot. By the 6th day, there were only 100 prisoners left. Tadeusz kept strong, but he knew that he could not keep it up like this for much longer. This is when he planned with some other prisoners which he called comrades a small escape during the 9th day of the march, to be more exact, on the 9th night.
Tadeusz and his comrades managed to escape and hide in a small village until the Allies came just two days later.
Tadeusz returned to Poland after he got word that his mother was still alive. He lived the rest of his life in Krakow, Poland, where he followed his passion and became an actor. Like most Holocaust survivors, he spent a good period of time going around the world, giving talks, and spreading awareness about the Holocaust. Sadly, he passed away on the 28th of October, 2015.