“I was so exhausted that I cried and prayed to die” – Halina Cubrzyńska-Kryszkiewicz, a former prisoner of the Przemyslowa camp, says in her memoirs. Similar memories were shared by former prisoners at the exhibition of the Museum of Polish Children – Victims of Totalitarianism entitled “We were taught to cry without tears…”, which was presented on the main square in Zgierz. The event is part of a series of celebrations related to the 80th anniversary of the establishment of a branch of the camp for Polish children in Dzierżązna. The exhibition was accompanied by a historical debate at the Zgierz municipal office.
The exhibition “We were taught to cry without tears…” through the prism of selected biographies of prisoners shows the history of the German concentration camp for Polish children at ul. Przemysłowa. “The exhibition consists of selected biographies of prisoners of the German concentration camp for Polish children in Łódź. Selected biographies of the camp torturers constitute a separate part of the exhibition” – explained Dr. Ireneusz Piotr Maj, director of the Museum of Polish Children – Victims of Totalitarianism.
During the debate, participants told about the latest findings of researchers at the Museum of Polish Children – victims of totalitarianism regarding the creation and functioning of places of execution of the youngest Poles during World War II, the fate of individual prisoners and camp supervisors.
“On the occasion of the transfer of the exhibition “We were taught to cry without tears…” to Zgierz’s John Paul II Square on February 22, 2023, a historical debate was held at the Zgierz Commune Office, devoted to, among others, the history of Polen-Jugendverwahrlager Litzmannstadt. During the debate, the most recent findings of the researchers of the Museum of Polish Children – victims of totalitarianism were briefly presented, related to the management of the camp, and above all to the commandant Camillo Ehrlich (until the Museum discloses his correct personal data in January 2021, the subject incorrectly identified in all literature), his post-war fate: imprisonment, being released from life imprisonment after starting cooperation with the East German State Security Service (Stasi) or being active in the field of popularizing forensic knowledge in West Germany” – the organizers of the exhibition reported to AWPE. “In the context of the branch of the camp in Dzierżązna, during the debate, mention was made of, among others, the findings of the historians of the Museum regarding its manager Heinrich Fuge (such as the fact of his employment after escaping from Dzierżązna in the German youth camp in Moringen in Lower Saxony, the circumstances of positive verification of his activities during war by the Allies, etc.), which are, among others, the result of research conducted on the occasion of the development of the Museum’s latest documentary film entitled “It does not end … The story of children from the camp at Przemysłowa” presented as part of the anniversary celebrations in December 2022.” – they added.
The presentation of the exhibition is part of the celebrations of the 80th anniversary of the establishment of a branch of the camp for Polish children in Dzierżązna. The first transport of Polish female prisoners to the camp took place on March 16, 1943. The exhibition entitled “We were taught to cry without tears…” is the second of four exhibitions developed by the Museum of Polish Children – Victims of Totalitarianism since the establishment of the institution on June 1, 2021.
The first exhibition was presented in September 2021 on the occasion of the reunion of former prisoners of Polen-Jugendverwahrlager Litzmannstadt (the so-called camp at Przemysłowa Street) organized by the Museum. It was entitled “Urszula Kaczmarek – a victim of the German camp for Polish children in Łódź”. On 18 boards, the exhibition tells the story of the death of the first child murdered in the camp. The exhibition is accompanied by a publication in the form of a brochure.
The second exhibition of the Museum was part of a wider project entitled “We were taught to cry without tears…”. As part of the commemoration of the victims of Polen-Jugendverwahrlager, in connection with the 79th anniversary of the launch of this place of execution, in December 2021 a quasi-documentary film, a book publication (including its English version) and a mobile exhibition on 15 boards were presented. The exhibition tells the story of the camp at Przemysłowa St. seen through the prism of biographies of selected prisoners. The exhibition is supplemented with biographies of the camp torturers. In a slightly extended outdoor version, the exhibition was then accompanied by, among others, Central Celebrations of the Polish Children of War Day on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Children of War Association in Poland on May 8, 2022.
On September 2022 in connection with “I research and didactic conference of the Museum of Polish Children – Victims of Totalitarianism. Polen-Jugendverwahrlager Litzmannstadt in the context of German crimes against Polish children during the World War II”, which was associated with the secodnd convention of survivors, a book publication based on the only surviving personal file of a child imprisoned in the camp, obtained by the Museum, was presented. On the basis of this publication, a portable exhibition consisting of 20 boards was prepared, entitled (after the book) “An extraordinary Polish family. The fate of Gertruda Nowak – a child from the camp in Przemysłowa”. The exhibition was presented for the first time in the building of the Seym of the Republic of Poland in connection with the commemoration of the victims of the camp on the 80th anniversary of its opening.
In the same month, i.e. in December 2022, at the temporary residence of the Museum at Piotrkowska St. 90 in Łódź, a permanent multimedia exhibition was presented. “Mom, why aren’t you coming? Letters from children from the camp at Przemysłowa Street”.
In turn, in the second half of March 2023, in the town of Dzierżązna near Zgierz, where there was an agricultural branch of the camp at ul. Przemysłowa, the fifth exhibition of the Museum dedicated to the aforementioned branch will be unveiled.