Oral History

John Komski describes Krakow after the outbreak of World War II

John, who was born to a non-Jewish Polish family, graduated from an art academy. Following the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, John was in Krakow. Food became scarce in Krakow, with long lines of people waiting for whatever food was available. John decided to join the resistance against the Germans. By early 1940, he and two of his friends felt that they were in danger and decided to try to escape to France. John was caught and arrested during this escape attempt. He survived imprisonment in the Auschwitz camp, where he was classified as a political prisoner and his uniform was marked with a red triangle.


So first, I was, uh, in Krakow after I have come, uh, a few days after the war. And, it just, uh, very miserable life because, uh, there was, uh, actually no food. Uh, we had to go, in order to buy a loaf of bread I had to stand up, get up at four o'clock in the morning and go to the bakery, and stand in line for several hours before I got a loaf of bread. Absolutely nothing to buy immediately. And, of course, uh, you have to have a spectacle of seeing all those, uh, soldiers running around, you know, in the streets. Uh, I, uh, I faced the first encounter with the soldiers, you know, when, uh, I was stop on the street, and, uh, I had the impression that he wants to, uh, ask me a question, and instead he kick me, you know, without reason, you know, and, and this is where I realize that the Poland is in war, that we have been occupied, that the things are not normal anymore, you know. Something now, it struck me as something so unjust that he struck me, you know. I didn't do anything to him, and I, I remember it almost vividly today as it was then.




  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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