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December 5, 2012

Yanina Cywinska gets a standing ovation after she tells how she survived the gas chamber at Auschwitz

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 8:18 am

As everyone knows, the lethal gas that was used in the gas chambers of Auschwitz was Zyklon-B, the same gas that was used to disinfect the clothing of the prisoners. But according to Holocaust survivor, Yanina Cywinski, carbon monoxide was originally used at Auschwitz.  Yanina Cywinska was inside the Auschwitz gas chamber, where she watched her father die, before she passed out, but was secretly resuscitated by another prisoner.

If someone survived the gas chamber, it was the policy of the Nazis to allow them to live, never sending them to the gas chamber again.  Thanks to this policy, Yanina is still alive today; she recently gave a talk to students on the Pleasant Valley High School campus in Chico, CA.

Yanina Cywinska, a non-Jew, was sent to Auschwitz, after her family was arrested as Polish Resistance fighters early in World War II.

According to the talk that Yanina gave to students at Pleasant Valley High in November, she was put to work, at the age of 10, dragging bodies out of the gas chamber at Auschwitz. One day, she realized, to her horror, that she was pulling her mother’s body out of the gas chamber.  The Sonderkommandos who dragged the bodies out of the gas chambers were all men, except for Yanina and Greta, another female Sonderkommando who yelled at Yanina to stop whining, which prompted her to continue her grim duties, after the horror of finding her mother’s dead body.

The Sonderkommandos, who worked in the gas chambers, were killed every three months, and replaced by new prisoners.  Strangely, Yanina was not killed along with the others.

This quote is from an article in the online Chico News and Review, which you can read in full here:

Cywinska’s 20-minute speech was the most powerful of the performances. She recounted two harrowing escapes from Nazi execution. Her Polish, non-Jewish family was captured by the Nazis for stockpiling weapons and literally going underground, living in sewers as part of the Polish resistance. Cywinska was separated from her family and forced with other prisoners over five days without food or water to dig an enormous ditch that was to serve as their own mass grave.

She recalled that, while lined up along the ditch, she stepped behind a mother and baby to support them as they stumbled. Her maneuver shielded her from the firing squad’s bullets, allowing her to fall unharmed into the grave. She escaped only to be recaptured and sent to Auschwitz with her family. In the gas chamber she held her father’s hand as he died with the others. She passed out but somehow survived the gas—it was carbon monoxide, not the Zyklon B ordinarily used—and was secretly resuscitated by an inmate.

Her spirit, she said, triumphed after the war, when she went on to fulfill her dreams of becoming an actress and ballerina.

Cywinska’s talk elicited several standing ovations. “I’ve been crying for about an hour now,” exclaimed one woman.

I previously blogged about Yanina Cywinska here.