When we think about the Auschwitz concentration camp, we think about the suffering, the atrocities, and all the lives taken away, 1.1 million, to be specific. That is why the idea of this camp being a place of life for some babies born there sounds odd. If anything, it was all credited to the Polish midwife who helped deliver about 3,000 babies in the camp. Her name was Stanislawa Leszczyńska.

Desire to Help

Stanisława Leszczyńska (born May 8, 1896, in Łódź, died March 11, 1974), a midwife in Auschwitz concentration camp responsible for the delivery of over 3,000 children. (Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Stanislawa Leszczyńska was born to a Polish Catholic family. Her father, a carpenter, was the primary provider of their family. When he was drafted into the imperial army and sent to Turkestan, her mom had no choice but to work 12-hour shifts at a factory to make ends meet. Because of that, Leszczyńska could get her education from a private school.

When her dad returned, they moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to find a better economic opportunity for the family. Unfortunately, her father was again drafted when World War I broke out. Regardless, Leszczyńska still lived a pretty everyday life. She married a printer named Bronisław Leszczyński and had four children. She still managed to enroll and finish her studies at a midwife college. The knowledge that she would use later on to help pregnant women. Her family relocated to Warsaw in 1920.

When the Nazis arrived and invaded Poland in World War II, they were forced to relocate to Wspólna 3 Street, as the Nazis cramped up the Jews in the ghetto area where they used to live. Perhaps it was her motherly instinct, or maybe helping was natural, but she started delivering food items and falsifying documents for the Jews. She was unfortunately caught red-handed and interrogated by the Gestapo in 1943. Her husband and oldest son managed to escape— the last time they saw them— while she and her three younger children were arrested. Her two sons were sent to the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp as stone quarries laborers, while she and her daughter were left together.

Unbeknownst to her, her husband continued fighting the Nazis and was one of those killed during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.

Born to a Cruel World

Stanislawa Leszczyńska identified herself as a midwife when she found a German doctor who assigned her to work in the “maternity ward,” a set of grimy barracks that did not look like a place intended for pregnant women’s care.

There, she was faced with the grim reality that even innocent infants were not exempted from the cruelties of the Nazis.

Pregnant women only had a few ways to go: sent to the gas chambers, summarily executed, or sent to a doctor called Gisella Perl. First, the doctor would abort the babies before they could be born. Then, if they managed to give birth by a miracle, they would be sent to Sister Klara, a midwife who oversaw the “wards” together with Sister Pfani. They would declare the babies were stillborn and then drown them in buckets in front of their clueless mothers who had just given birth.