Stella Czajkowska is one of the relatively few Jews who survived the war, despite the ghetto, the gas chambers in Auschwitz, hunger and disease in Stutthof and a gruesome death march. Her story is symbolic of the horror in which the victims of Nazi regime had landed.
Stella Czajkowska grew up in the Free City of Danzig. Even though she was Jewish she studied music in a German conservatory. When the war broke out, she and her family were forced to move to the ghetto in Lódz, renamed by Germans as Litzmannstadt. Subsequently they were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oświęcim. Stella was selected for the gas chambers, but miraculously she survived. Soon after this ordeal she was, together with her sister, mother and other women, transported – hungry and naked – to Stutthof.
Stutthof was a very cruel place, especially during the selections for the gas chambers. One morning Stella found her mother on a pile of dead women… When she went to her ill sister in the camp hospital with a food ration, a German official caught her. Unexpectedly he did not punish her, but even helped her sister with additional food.
Ill with typhoid fever Stella and her sister were forced to leave Stutthof during one of death marches. When they reached the Vistula river, they were all herded onto a boat. Many of prisoners had already died when they eventually landed on a beach in Neustadt (Schleswig-Holstein). There the survivors ran into an SS unit that started to kill all the prisoners. But suddenly an air raid began causing great confusion. Soon afterwards British soldiers entered the town. Stella’s war was over. In an empty house she found a piano and started to play.
After the war Stella became a music professor in Gothenburg, teaching gifted students to play the piano.
The Treaty of Versailles established Gdańsk (Danzig) as a free city under the protection of the League of Nations. This solution was meant to guarantee that neither German nor Polish demands could provoke new conflicts. But frictions increased as Nazi Germany started its efforts to incorporate the free city.
On 1 September 1939 German SS troops took possession of Polish buildings and institutions in the city of Gdańsk. Some 1.500 members of the Polish minority were arrested to be imprisoned, deported or executed. Many others were expelled from their homes and directed to central Poland. That same day the Nazis proclaimed the reunion of Gdańsk with the German Reich.
The obsolete German battleship Schleswig-Holstein played an important role at the outbreak of the Second World War. The ship moored in the port of Gdańsk under false pretences, and then, in the early morning of 1 September 1939, proceeded to bombard the Polish defensive positions on the Westerplatte Peninsula: the first shots of the Second World War.
The Museum of the Second World War was launched in November 2008 and is located in Gdańsk. The museum is situated 200 metres from the historic Polish Post Office and 3 kilometres across the water from Westerplatte Peninsula. The German attack on these places marked the beginning of the Second World War in September 1939.
After the Second World War the former deputy commander of the Military Transit Depot, captain Dąbrowski, initiated the building of a cemetery for the fallen during the German attack. At this cemetery the urn with the ashes of Major Sucharski was reburied in 1971.
The Stutthof camp was planned long before the war broke out. It was built as a regional prison camp, but during the war the Nazi’s enlarged Stutthof and incorporated it in their overall camp system. Finally, Stutthof became a concentration camp that contributed in the attempted extermination of all European Jews.
Museum Stutthof is located in the former German Stutthof concentration camp. The museum preserves, researches and displays archival records and historical artefacts. Exhibitions and videos offer visitors a haunting insight into the lives of the 110.000 people that were imprisoned here during the Second World War.
Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest Nazi concentration and extermination camp, where over 1.1 million men, women and children lost their lives during WWII. The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum was created by an act of the Polish Parliament in July 1947. Several hundred camp buildings and ruins stand on the 191-hectares museum grounds, including the ruins of the gas chambers and crematoria and over a dozen kilometres of fence.
In June 1944, the Germans transformed Stutthof from a prison camp into a concentration camp. Over 50.000 Jews were deported to Stutthof, mostly women from Poland, Hungary and the Baltic states. The vast majority died under horrible circumstances.
The concentration camp in Stutthof was initially founded to eliminate and persecute Poles. Later in the war the role of Stutthof changed as it became an integral part of the planned extermination of European Jews. Before the Soviet Army could liberate Stutthof, the surviving prisoners were send on horrible “death marches”.