Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mr. Jankowski's 2nd letter

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a reader, James in Australia, who had purchased another letter by Mr. Jankowski. He offered photos of it to me to translate. I was thrilled to get the chance to read it, especially since it was accompanied by the envelope. This has provided me with many more details and information than I ever expected to learn about Jankowski.

Here is a quick translation of the letter, which was originally sent from Leschek Jankowski in Buchenwald to his parents.

December 31, 1944
Dear Father and Mother,
I am writing to tell you that I am healthy and to thank you for the parcel that you sent me. I ask that you not send me any more packets since it is difficult for you. My dear parents I am very happy you’re in good health.

I have hope for our reunion and believe (when it comes) that we will all be happy. Uncle Herbert has sent me letters (a letter?). I understand that Zelda had sent you a letter and made you happy, just at the new year.

I am waiting on letters from Franz, Sofi and Halinka, with each letter I get much happiness. My dear Father and Mother I wish you a New Year with everything good, health and the wish that your youngest son can come to you and give you kisses without end. I greet and kiss you all, your dearest (garbled by the censor’s stamp)
Post card from Franz I received with this.
Loving Greetings, Leschek

My initial reaction was surprise that nearly a year after the first letter was written, he was still alive and at Buchenwald. I then focused on the envelope’s address and what more I could learn from it.

His parents were Marianne Elsner born 1874 and Josef Jankowski born 1871. They married in 1894 in the Catholic Parish of Dziewierzewo. Leschek was their youngest son, born on November 28, 1911 in Hohensalza. His last address was listed as Jazewska 38 in Hohensalza. Hohensalza, (now called Inowrocław) was in the county of Hohensalza in Prussia in the province of Posen (which is now Poland). The area of Hohensalza had a predominate population of Catholics, though there were some Protestants and a small minority of Jews. 36% of the citizens were German speakers, 64% Polish speakers in the 1930’s.

Leschek was first imprisoned in Dachau where his prisoner number was 35 777 then he was transferred to Buchenwald where he was issued a new number and held until he was liberated April 11, 1945. In 1944 his parents were still living in Hohensalza.

This new information seems to confirm my initial thought that he was a Catholic Pole and an ethnic German. Much like some people in the US today are culturally Mexican (or any other ethnic group) but are US citizens.

Based on my research he would have been housed in the so-called Tent Camp that was constructed for the Polish soldiers who arrived when he did in September of 1939.

He may have been involved in the Battle of Bzura with the 26th Infantry Division or in a reserve division of the Poznan Army. He was probably captured then or in it’s immediate aftermath. This fits the date of his arrest and the general area where he was arrested in Pila (Schneidemühl in German)

We know his wife was Halinka or Zorinka and their daughter was Sofi. He had an Uncle Herbert and he mentions Franz and Zelda and Heinrich and Forenski.
He had an aunt and an older brother, (who could have been named Franz or Heinrich).

As much more information as I have gained, I’m still curious to know what happened to him. How did he manage to live in Buchenwald for 6 years? What did he do to survive? Many people died in the weeks and months after being liberated from disease and malnourishment. Since he was a soldier, and not Jewish, I expect he may have gotten treated better (more food perhaps) than some inmates. Certainly he would have tried to return to Hohensalza after liberation since his parents, wife and child were there.

Again, I invite anyone with a letter from Leschek Jankowski or any of his relatives who may have more information about his fate to contact me. I’m grateful to James for reaching out to me and sharing this second letter.

Photo of a Polish Political Prisoner patch which was worn in concentration camps to indicate the prisoner's status from from the Polish Forced Labor Collection forum posted by 4thskorpion

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