In memory of Czesława Kwoka

Czesława Kwoka (15 August 1928 Wólka Złojecka – 12 March 1943 Auschwitz) was a Polish Catholic child who died in the Auschwitz concentration camp at the age of 14. She was one of the thousands of child victims of German World War II crimes against Poles. She died at Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Poland, and is among those memorialized in the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum indoor exhibit called Block no. 6: Exhibition: The Life of the Prisoners.

Czesława Kwoka was born in Wólka Złojecka, a small village in Poland, to a Catholic mother, Katarzyna Kwoka. Along with her mother (prisoner number 26946), Czesława Kwoka (prisoner number 26947) was deported and transported from Zamość, Poland, to Auschwitz, on 13 December 1942. On 12 March 1943, less than a month after her mother died (18 February 1943), Czesława Kwoka died at the age of 14; the circumstances of her death were not recorded.

She was one of the “approximately 230,000 children and young people aged less than eighteen” among the 1,300,000 people who were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau from 1940 to 1945. The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum’s Centre for Education About the Holocaust and Auschwitz documents the wartime circumstances that brought children like Kwoka and young adults to the concentration camps in its 2004 press release announcing the publication of an album of photographs of some of them, many years in development, compiled by its historian Helena Kubica; these photographs were first published in the Polish/German version of Kubica’s book in 2002. According to the Museum’s press release, of the approximately 230,000 children and young people deported to Auschwitz, more than 216,000 children, the majority, were of Jewish descent; more than 11,000 children came from Romani (Roma) families; the other children had Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Russian, or other ethnic backgrounds.

Most of these children “arrived in the camp along with their families as part of the various operations that the Nazis carried out against whole ethnic or social groups”; these operations targeted “the Jews as part of the drive for the total extermination of the Jewish people, the Gypsies as part of the effort to isolate and destroy the Gypsy population, the Poles in connection with the expulsion and deportation to the camp of whole families from the Zamość region and from Warsaw during the Uprising there in August 1944”, as well as Belarusians and other citizens of the Soviet Union “in reprisal for partisan resistance” in places occupied by Germany. Of all these children and young people, “Only slightly more than 20,000 … including 11,000 Gypsies, were entered in the camp records. No more than 650 of them survived until liberation [in 1945].

After her arrival at Auschwitz, Czesława Kwoka was photographed for the Reich’s concentration camp records, and she has been identified as one of the approximately 40,000 to 50,000 subjects of such “identity pictures” taken under duress at Auschwitz-Birkenau by Wilhelm Brasse, a young Polish inmate in his twenties (known as Auschwitz prisoner number 3444). Trained as a portrait photographer at his aunt’s studio prior to the 1939 German invasion of Poland beginning World War II, Brasse and others had been ordered to photograph inmates by their Nazi captors, under dreadful camp conditions and likely imminent death if the photographers refused to comply.

These photographs that he and others were ordered to take capture each inmate “in three poses: from the front and from each side.” Though ordered to destroy all photographs and their negatives, Brasse became famous after the war for having helped to rescue some of them from oblivion. Such acts of courage as Brasse’s and his colleagues enabled many like Kwoka not to become forgotten as mere bureaucratic statistics, but to be remembered as individual human beings.

17 thoughts on “In memory of Czesława Kwoka

  1. It is a touching idea and good work. But I don’t like the idea to make money and copyright potos from Auschwitz victims. It is totally appreciated to do work like that but keep it free and not for your business portfolio.

    1. Hi,
      1) This photo is in the public domain – that’s why this one is restored and colored while the others are not.2) This photo is not in my portfolio (check the "portfolio" tab), but rather in a tribute post in my blog.
      Many thanks,Marina

  2. Antoni Słonimski – Ten jest z ojczyzny mojej
    Ten, co o własnym kraju zapomina.Na wieść, jak krwią opływa naród czeski,Bratem się czuje Jugosłowianina,Norwegiem, kiedy cierpi lud norweski,
    Z matką żydowską nad pobite synySchyla się, ręce załamując żalem,Gdy Moskal pada – czuje się Moskalem,Z Ukraińcami płacze Ukrainy,
    Ten, który wszystkim serce swe otwiera,Francuzem jest, gdy Francja cierpi, Grekiem -Gdy naród grecki z głodu obumiera,ten jest z ojczyzny mojej. Jest człowiekiem

  3. Excellent colorization and informative description of the history behind these photos of Czesława. I will look at the rest of your website.

  4. One other comment–change the typeface of the text! The type is gray and too thin, making it hard to read. Not enough contrast with the white background. Choose a typeface like Century Schoolbook, or Times New Roman.

    1. Tak, jak większość Polaków z łapanki i ujętych w podobnych okolicznościach była zakwalifikowana jako więzień polityczny.

  5. Unfortunately there have been and will continue to be those that deny the holocaust. We need 6 million of these stories to show what happened.

  6. Genial o seu trabalho Marina, todos ficaram muito bons – Contudo o que mais gostei foi a colorização da Czesława Kwoka.O brilho do olhos mirando diretamente na objetiva da câmera de Wilhelm Brasse consegue transmitir, mesmo depois de décadas, o pavor que está linda menina estava sentido no momento da foto.

  7. By the grace of God I was born in Germany after the war in 1954. When I was a child I was always afraid of my grandparents. They both seemed strange to me. I never saw them laughing, hardly speaking and kind of being in their own world, especially my grandfather. One day I felt brave enough to ask my grandmother why hers and grandpa’s thumbs were so flat and without nails. My dad wanted to stop me but grandma said it would be ok. She told me that she and grandpa were part of the underground resistance trying to help people who would otherwise taken away by Nazis to the concentration camps. One day the Nazis took my grandparents and deported them to the concentration camp in Bergen-Belsen because of a tip from a neighbor. Both were tortured for month but kept saying that they didn’t do anything because they believed in the system and would not put their and their 4 children (age 10-16) at risk for anything. First they let my grandma go back home to the children and a few weeks later my grandpa. Both kept working in the resistance and hid their 3 sons (12, 14 and 16 years old) in a cave in a nearby forest when in December 1944 the Nazis wanted them to fight for them. Grandma said that the war, the torture and what they saw in the concentration camps changed their lives forever. They both left church right after the war saying that they lost their faith because of the horror. I grew up with the hate for the Nazis and was spit at when I visited Paris in 1980 just because I am German. I was not mad but I was very sad. They had the right to hate Nazis and didn’t know that I hated them too and that my family helped many people to escape. During my life I saw many images of life in concentration camps and those haunting black and white images were making me always very sad but your colored image of this beautiful 14 year old girl made me cry ….. it feels like it will not just stay forever in my mind but also in my heart and soul.

  8. letter to CzesiaIt broke my heart to see your beautiful face full of terror and pain – and you are only fourteen.I touched your chicks and wiped your tears. I asked God to hold you tight.I can’t stop my tears.Rest In Peace Little Girl. Your only fault is being Polish.Your beautiful face will forever be in my heart, your tragic story in my mind.
    KrysiaSydney 19 March 2018.

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