Time In A Bottle

Ken AshfordHistoryLeave a Comment

On September 9, 1944, Waclaw Sobczak, a Polish Catholic confined to the horrors of Auschwitz, was on work detail.  Very quietly, he fashioned a scrap of paper from a cement bag and scrawled his name, camp number, and hometown.  Six other prisoners names were also on the paper.  The paper was placed in a bottle; the bottle was placed inside a wall and perhaps covered with cement.

None of the inmates whose names were on the paper expected to survive the brutality of the Nazi concentration camp.  That's why they the message was created – as a way to say, "Hey, I'm a person and I was here."  The note also said they were "all between 18 and 20 years of age".

That bottle was recently discovered by a construction crew renovating a vocational school in Auschwitz (now Oswiecim).  That, located a few hundred yards from the actual camp.

Remarkably, Waclaw Sobczak and two others who signed the small piece of paper not only survivied the Holocaust, but are still alive today.

It is extremely rare to find original "documents" from concentration camp prisoners.  Full story here.

Another article details the story of another man whose name is on the list:

But possibly the most interesting name on the list, and the one who sheds the most light on its background, is that of Albert Veissid, 84, a Jew who lives in Marseille, France. 

Veissid stashed stolen marmalade for his six fellow prisoners in an Auschwitz bunker, and in exchange, the Christians gave the Jew their extra soup – and included his name on their list.  Veissid told an Associated Press reporter that he never knew about the list of names in the bottle.  "I'm so very, very surprised," he said. “A bit troubled, too.”

Veissid, a retired mason and clarinet player, told AP that he was born in Turkey, arrived in France as an infant, and was picked up at age 18 by the Gestapo. He was then sent to a string of prisons and camps before landing at Drancy, a transit camp northeast of Paris from where 76,000 Jews were sent to concentration camps; only about 3,000 returned.

Currently the site of a memorial to the deported Jews, Drancy was in the news just three weeks ago when it was vandalized and painted with swastikas in an anti-Semitic incident.

 "I'm surprised that these Poles put me in this bottle," Veissid said. "I knew their faces, but didn't remember the names." The Christian Poles worked on building sites while Veissid worked beneath them, securing a bunker. They would steal marmalade and other provisions during the day, give them to him for safekeeping, and come at night to retrieve them, he said.

In exchange, they brought him some of their left-over soup. "They brought it to me,” Veissid recounted, “and there was still so much that I gave it to others. I imagine they [included me on their list] out of recognition that by hiding [their supplies], I risked my life.”

In April 1945, seven months after the list was written and hidden, the Nazis sensed impending defeat and forced Veissid and many others to walk without food for nearly three weeks to another camp. Many survivors have described these ‘death marches’ as even worse than the preceding years of torture. "If the war had lasted one more week, I wouldn't be here," Veissid said.