On 5 August 1947 in Kraków, a member of the Main Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland, Deputy Prosecutor of the Court of Appeal in Kraków, Edward Pęchalski, acting in accordance with the procedure provided for under the Decree of 10 November 1945 (Journal of Laws of the Republic of Poland No. 51, item 293), with the participation of a reporter, Trainee Judge Krystyna Turowicz, and pursuant to Article 20 of the provisions introducing the Code of Criminal Procedure, in connection with Article 107 and 115 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, heard the person named below as witness, who testified as follows:
|Name and surname||Maria Gątkiewicz|
|Date and place of birth||5 September 1897 in Rzeszów|
|Parents’ names||Piotr and Maria, née Jawienia|
|Citizenship and nationality||Polish|
|Religious affiliation||Roman Catholic|
|Place of residence||Kraków, Floriańska Street 45|
On 30 November 1941 the Gestapo arrested me and my husband Zygmunt, a private clerk, on charges of carrying out political activity against the Germans. On the evening of the same day, our 15-year old daughter, Barbara, was also arrested, as at the time when we were arrested early in the morning she was not home. We were incarcerated in the prison at Montelupich Street after the three of us had been tortured during an interrogation at Pomorska Street. Three weeks later our daughter was released. On 11 June 1942, my husband was sent to the Auschwitz camp, where he was finished off 17 days later. I was deported to Auschwitz on 11 July 1942.
At first I was incarcerated in the parent camp. In August, the prisoners from that camp were transferred to the newly-established women’s camp in Birkenau. There, in the autumn of 1942, I came across Oberaufseherin [senior overseer] Maria Mandl. Our first encounter was as bad as it gets. I have the most horrific and traumatic memories of Maria Mandl; none of the Auschwitz camp crew evokes such memories. Her behavior was marked with peculiar sadism in maltreating and beating the prisoners. The prisoners couldn’t understand where this beast-like disposition came from. She always cast hateful looks at us and took every opportunity to take it out on us, beating us. She would storm into the block out of a sudden and carry out a search, or would frisk a prisoner she chanced upon on the camp premises for hidden food or warmer clothes under the prison garb. If she found anything, Maria Mandl would first punch the prisoner in the face, and then – the prisoner would usually fall to the ground after the first blow – she would kick her victim unconscious. Then she would send the prisoner to the punitive unit or the bunker or would mete out some other severe punishment, most often flogging. She was the scourge of the camp, and even the SS men didn’t dare oppose her. Wherever she appeared, she always had to find a victim among the prisoners whom she would then beat and kick. She took part in all selections in the camp, during which prisoners were selected and sent to the gas chambers. During the selections, she personally chose which prisoners were to be gassed. She also took part in selections which were carried out when new transports arrived at the ramp in Auschwitz-Birkenau, and where the majority of new arrivals were sent to be gassed, and only one fourth or one fifth were sent to the camp.
I myself fell victim to Maria Mandl in the following circumstances: one night in October 1943, in the block in which I worked at the time (block 9 at section B in the women’s camp in Birkenau), one of the prisoners wanted to make food for herself since she had managed to “organize” some for herself by pure chance. She had prepared the meal before the evening roll call, at her own bed. During the evening roll call, Maria Mandl carried out a search of the blocks and saw the food; then, she sent both the prisoner in question and the personnel of the block composed of prisoners, that is, the block elder and several room leaders, 13 women in total, to the punitive unit, and before that, we had been badly beaten by Hössler and Drechsel. Due to the fact that I was one of the room leaders in that block, I was also assigned to the punitive unit, although neither I nor the other prisoners from the personnel of the block were to blame, since we didn’t know anything about the fact that this prisoner prepared some food.
I stayed with the punitive unit until 22 July 1944, and I suffered all the bad effects of it. In the punitive unit, we received even worse food than the rest of the prisoners, we had worse clothes, and our work was especially strenuous. As a result, the majority of the punitive unit “went Muslim”. I would have been saved by death very soon – I was on the verge of collapse – if I had not been transported together with other prisoners from the punitive unit to the Ravensbrück camp on 22 July 1944. As a former prisoner from the punitive unit, I was assigned to the worst kommando there, but nevertheless, I was better off than during my stay in the punitive unit in Auschwitz. When I was in the punitive unit in Auschwitz, I also developed a heart condition and a serious deterioration of sight. Three other prisoners from among the thirteen women whom Maria Mandl sent to the punitive unit didn’t survive in these horrible conditions and perished in the camp. Since we all considered ourselves innocent and wronged by Maria Mandl’s decision to send us to the punitive unit, we petitioned her to at least grant us a hearing. All this, however, was to no avail.
In the Auschwitz camp I had no. 8567.
At this point the report was concluded and, after being read out, signed.