Message in a Bottle

Sixty-five years ago, seven men wrote their names and numbers on a scrap from a cement bag and placed it in a bottle, which they then hid in the wall of a bunker they were building. The men did not expect to survive, and they doubted anyone would find the bottle, but they wanted to be remembered.

That was Auschwitz in 1944. Yesterday in Oświęcim, the small city an hour and a half’s drive from Krakow, one of the names on the list, Wacław Sobczak, faced the scrap of paper once again, this time in much different circumstances.

In a ceremony on May 6th, Auschwitz Museum Director Piotr Cywinski received the list in the name of the museum, where it will be displayed in the permanent exhibition on the former Nazi concentration camp’s grounds. From the list the only one present was Mr. Sobczak, though two other men, Albert Veissid, a French Jew, and Kazimierz Czekalski, a Pole, are still alive today. Of the seven names, Mr. Veissid is the only Jew, while the remaining six are Roman Catholic Poles.

While speaking at the handover ceremony, Mr. Sobczak said, “We agreed that we may not survive and that we will make this message in the bottle, and that we will put down our names and camp numbers and we will leave it in the bunker wall.” It then remained hidden until one month ago, when a construction crew discovered it during renovations on what is today a vocational school.

While two other men from the list, Bronislaw Jankowiak and Stanislaw Dubla, survived the camp but died after the war, the fate of the last two names, Waldemar Bialobrzeski and Jan Jazik, remains a mystery.

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