Sunday, March 10, 2013


Mala and Edek
 In the early afternoon, on the 24th of June 1944, an SS officer exited Birkenau Concentration Camp escorting a prisoner who was carrying a bathroom sink.
The guard at the gate, who did not even glance at the pass, opened the gate and allowed the escort to leave. Several hours later, the sound of a siren announcing an escape filled the Camp.
Edek Galinski, prisoner number 531 was missing from the Men's Camp, while from the Women's Camp the same was true of Mala Zimetbaum, prisoner number 19880. This escape became legendary within the Camp...

A telegram informing the escape of a female prisoner Mala Zimetbaum

"The love of Edek Galinski and Mala Zimetbaum became camp legend in Auschwitz; a symbol of the victory of good over evil, of what is human over what is bestial. They gave us hope".  (Statement: Camp Survivor Rene Raindorf of Brussels)
Mala Zimetbaum was a Jewish woman born in the Polish city of Brzesko on 26 January 1918. In 1928, her father Pinkus, a merchant, emigrated to Antwerp with her whole family. Mala attended elementary school in Belgium, where she became fluent in Flemish, French, German, English, as well as Polish and some Russian. Because of the difficult financial situation due to her father's blindness, she was not able to attend high school and began working as a seamstress. Mala was arrested on 11 September 1942, during a round-up of Jews at the main railway station in Antwerp and was in a convoy of 1,048 Jews sent to Auschwitz. On 17 September 1942, the convoy reached the camp; 717 people were sent to the gas chambers from the ramp. Mala was among those judged fit for work and was given number 19880.

'Fragment of a list of transports sent to Auschwitz with prisoner numbers September 19, 1942 a transport from Malines. The female prisoners were given the numbers 19821-19921 (underlined in red)'.
Edward Galinski was born in Jaroslaw on October 5th, 1923 and was a student at the maritime school in Pinsk when war broke out. In the spring of 1940,  he was arrested and several weeks later, on 14 June 1940, he was brought in the first transport of political prisoners from Tarnów to the Auschwitz concentration camp. He became prisoner 531 out of the 728 transported. He survived the next four years of camp life, until, thanks to help from fellow prisoners and chance, he got into a "better" commando and began to work in the camp locksmith workshop. He served under chief Kommandoführer (Corporal)  Edward Lubusch. Lubusch was an SS-man, who rather than  tormenting the prisoners, helped them.

Photo was taken in the camp metal workshop. In the foregrround SS-man Edward Lubusch who provided Galinski with SS uniform before the planned escape and next to him is Edward Galinski'.
'A blonde, she was liked by Maria Mandel (Commander of the Women's Camp). Mala... was one of those who worked in transferring female prisoners, who had been released from the infirmary to the housing barracks. When one of our prisoners, a Communist, was returning from the infirmary, it was then that we would ask Mala to take the weakened prisoner to a barrack, from which she would not be sent to do heavy labour. Mala was not a member of our organisation, however she helped us and knew about its existence. We were aware that Mala was helping many other prisoners.

Portrait of Mala Zimetbaum. It was made in the camp by fellow prisoner Zofia Stepien-Bator
"I knew Edek, he was a sympathetic prisoner with a cheerful disposition; he often came to the Women's Camp and was friendly to the female prisoners... Mala and Edek loved each other very much. A few days before their escape, I knew what they were planning. When we heard the sound of the siren, we were aware of its meaning. You could hear the whispers: "That's Mala, That's Mala!". Mala had escaped from the Camp with Edek.' (Statement: Ewa Feldenkreis, former Auschwitz prisoner, Camp number 29682)

A document from the file of prisoners working in the camp metal workshop. Galinski Edward, prisoner 531, trained profession: high school student, employed in the camp as metalwork apprentice'.

At the end of 1943, Edek began to make efforts to be transferred from the camp locksmith workshop in Auschwitz to the fitters` commando in Birkenau, because he hoped that from there it would be easier to arrange an escape with his good friend and colleague from Jaroslaw, Wieslaw Kielar. Edek and Wieslaw Kielar had persuaded Antoni Szymlak, a tiler by trade, who had entry to the camp zone as a civilian worker, to provide shelter for them once they had escaped before they went further to Zakopane, to Wieslaw Kielar's sister. When everything was ready, Edek became abstracted and reticent. Kielar suspected that Mala Zimetbaum was the reason. They met when Edek went with the fitters commando to the women's camp to make repairs. Since their first meeting at the turn of 1943/1944, a deep affection had grown between them.
"I love and am loved", Mala told one of her fellow prisoners. Edek also confessed his feelings to his friend.

Phograph of Wieslaw Kielar taken 1978'
After that confession, Wieslaw Kielar gave up his part in the planned escape. His place was taken by Mala. On 24 June 1944, she put on work clothes prepared earlier. Edek put the SS uniform on. He attached a holster holding a pistol with two bullets to his waist. Like the uniform, he had received it earlier from SS-man Lubusch. [One could assume, that Lubusch only gave Edek two bullets, in case they preferred suicide to re-capture, sic]
They crossed the line of camp guard post by showing a forged SS pass, for which Mala had stolen the form. They successfully reached the village of Kozy and received help from Antoni Szymlak.

Wieslaw Kielar's testimony on the events of 24th June 1944'.

Wieslaw Kielar's testimony on the events of 24th June 1944'.
Map showing sited related to the escape'.

At Mala's insistence, they changed the next stage of escape route. Instead of Zakopane, they went towards Slovakia, where Mala's relatives lived and where they wanted to take refuge until the liberation. 
However, luck had abandoned them. On 6 July 1944, they met a German border patrol. Mala, who was in front, was stopped.
Edek, not noticed by the Germans, could easily have withdrawn to safety, but he refused to do so. They were recognised as fugitives and sent back to the camp. In a telegram dated 27 July 1944, Auschwitz headquarters informed the superior authorities of their arrest.

elegram announcing the recapture of Edek and Mala'.
Edek and Mala were put in separate cells in the cellars of the Death Block. Edward Galinski was in cells 19, 20, 21 and 23 in turn. In each of them he scratched "Edward Galinski no. 531, Mally Zimetbaum no. 19880, 6 VIII 1944" in the plaster on the wall or on the interior side of the door. The interrogations of the fugitives were long and torture was used. The camp Gestapo wanted to force them to confess where Edek got the SS uniform and the gun. Edek and Mala kept silent.

Testimony of Boleslaw Staron'.

Interrogation and imprisoment sites'
The basement of the Death Block where Mala and Edek were detained after their failed escape from the camp'.
Fragment of the wall from cell 20 in the basement of Block 11 of the former Auschwitz I camp
Escapee Edward Galinski was held in this cell after his capture and he was probably the author of the inscription "531 Galinski Edward = 6 VII 1944 + 19880 Mally Zimetbaum +. The inscription includes the names and prisoner numbers of the escapees, as well as the date they were captured July 6, 1944'.

In secret messages sent to Wieslaw Kielar they reassured Lubusch and the prisoners who knew about the escape that they had nothing to fear. In the camp they were talked about as heroes.
"... Now, everyone made their way towards the kitchen and stood at the edge of a square, where a gallows had been placed in the centre. After some time, the cell doors were opened and Edek appeared in the doorway. There was a sudden silence. Only the gravel beneath their shoes could be heard as they walked towards the gallows, Edek (the condemned) and Jupp (the executioner)... [ One could contemplate, that the tiger would pity the fawn, the wolf would weep over its lamb, before a hangman would cringe at the corpse of a dangling prisoner, sic] Then I saw his upright back and his hands twisted behind him and tied with wire. This was the work of Jupp, who, was walking after him with a truncheon in the direction of the gallows. Here, Edek stepped onto the podium without hesitation and then immediately onto the stool that was placed beneath the gallows... An SS-man came forward from the group of SS standing at the side of the guardhouse and started to read the sentence in German from a piece of paper that he was holding in his hand.

The current appearance of the "Death Bloc" in the Main Camp
At that very moment, Edek, standing on the stool, placed his head in the noose and with his feet, he pushed himself away with considerable force, hanging himself...  However, the SS-men did not allow for such a demonstration. The Lager capo realised, just in time, and caught Edek by the waist and placed him back on the stool - loosening the noose. The German finished reading the sentence in his language and then started reading it in Polish. Edek waited patiently until he had finished. And in a moment of complete silence, he suddenly yelled with an astonishing voice "Long live Pol...", but he could not finish. Jupp had suddenly pulled the stool away. The noose tightened completely this time and Edek's body became rigid and then hanged limp. He was dead. "Hats off!" was the command in Polish that spread from the side where block 4 stood... This was the moment that the entire camp paid its respect to the departed. One of the SS-men realised what was happening and screamed: "Alles Raus Wegtreten". Danisch  and Jupp were now violently screaming "Raus! Raus!" In a single moment, the square by the kitchen was empty. Only Edek remained." (SMA-B. Collection of Testimonies: t. 9, c.123-126.)
 Quote: "He suddenly yelled with an astonishing voice 'Long live Pol...', but he could not finish"
Execution by hanging was also planned for Mala. However, a young Slovak woman and fellow prisoner described to Wieslaw Kieler what really happened:
"When she (Mala) was already on the platform, as the sentence was being read she cut her veins with a razor that she had prepared beforehand, but as with Edek she was not allowed to die that way.

 Testimony of Wieslaw Kielar, "Execution".

Rapportführer Taube ran over to her and she slapped his face with her bloody hands. At the same time, the SS-men practically trampled her to death before the eyes of the whole women's camp. She died on the way to the crematorium."
"I donate two locks of human hair to the Museum. They are wrapped in paper with German printed on it. On the edge of the paper is a pencil inscription: Mally Zimetbaum 19880, Edward Galinski 531. It is an inscription made by Galinski and his hair and that of Mala Zimetbaum. The camp Lager kapo, Jupp Windeck, who hanged Edek, gave me the hair and the note an hour after his death in the presence of Rapportschreiber Kazimierz Gosek, stating that it had been the last request of the condemned that I take them and give them to his father. That tragic memento went with me through all the camps and I kept it to this day". (Statement from Wieslaw Kieslar dated January 29th, 1968)

Tragic momentous left of Mala and Edek. Locks of their hair
Curator- Dr. Maria Martyniak and Alicja Bialecka.
The exhibition featured many, in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions. Listed who have supplied the content: Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.