She killed children in phases

The Nursing Home (DPS) on Widzew Zarzewie is beautifully situated among greenery. Eugenia Pol walked a lot. Always and everywhere alone. Back and forth. With her arms folded behind her back. Upright. Like a soldier. As if standing at attention. She used to have delusions. She would wake up at night. She talked in her sleep. Her roommate could not understand her. Except for one short sentence: "Take this whip" - the story of the guard Eugenia Pol is told by Błażej Torański, author of books about the German camp for Polish children in Łódź.

Polen-Jugendverwahrlager der Sicherheitspolizei in Litzmannstad. The Preventive Security Police Camp for Polish Youth in Lodz, also colloquially known as Kinder-KL Litzmannstadt, was established on 1 December 1942, and the first transport of small prisoners arrived on 11 December 1942..

TVP WEEKLY: Why did Eugenia Pol get justice so late?

Shortly after the war, the trials of two wachmans from the Polen-Jugendverwahrlager der Sicherheitspolizei in Litzmannstadt took place. Sydonia (Isolda) Bayer was hanged in November 1945 and Edward August in January 1946. Bayer, known as Frau Doktor, asked for a presidential pardon but was sentenced to death on 6 September 1945. In the camp she was head of the girls' ward, a 'hygienist' who lubricated open wounds with lisol. She dragged children out into the snow and poured cold water over them. She tortured, flogged with a whip, called a Casimir, kicked and beat them. An exceptional sadist. The SS man August was no less cruel: he used a penknife to cut out the prisoners' genitals, beat and kicked them in the most sensitive places, pushed them into boxes of sand and drowned them in a barrel of water. The third defendant from the camp crew - Teodor Busch, an SS man, Volksdeutscher and employee of the German security police - did not live to see his trial. In July 1946, he was clubbed to death in his cell by fellow inmates.

SIGN UP TO OUR PAGE Łódź judge Sabina Krzyżanowska investigated Eugenia Pol between 1945 and 1949, but was unable (or unwilling) to trace her. She received a reply from the Security Office and the Population Register Office that Genowefa "Pohl is not registered in Łódź". Meanwhile, the former guard was permanently living in Łódź at 16 A Chełmońskiego Street, except that she had reverted to the Polish spelling of her surname Pol. This was a clever trick on her part. An effective masquerade.

However, her fate must be seen in a broader context. After the Bayer and August trials, no one took any interest in the Przemyslowa camp for twenty years. I recently read in the book "Auschwitz. The Nazis and the 'Final Solution'", by the British historian Laurence Rees: "In the chaos of the first post-war years, when the population was adjusting to the rule of new rulers sent from the Soviet Union, no one was interested in bringing to justice the perpetrators of the persecution of former concentration camp inmates." I share this view and also apply it to Eugenia Pol. In her case, another protective umbrella worked. She found a friendly environment within the structures of the communist state. Especially in the Union of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy (ZBOWiD). The communists and the secret police protected her.

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In my book "The Executioner of Polish Children", I publish an interview with Dr Gennady Pluzhnov, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist involved in educational initiatives commemorating the history of the Przemyslowa Street camp. My interviewee hypothesises that: "Pol had contacts with the Security Office, later perhaps with the Security Service". I have not found evidence for this in the archives of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), but perhaps this is the answer to the question of why the justice system only caught up with her in 1970.

Her trial was slipping. The case was a media event?

Never before had there been so much publicity about the Lodz camp in Poland as during the two trials of Eugenia Pol between 1972 and 1975, covered by all local media. But public information about these crimes began to grow from 1968, when General Mieczyslaw Moczar brought the drama of Polish children to light in counterpoint to the crimes against Jews in the Lodz Ghetto. Zbigniew Chmielewski's feature film "The Face of an Angel" also had a ripple effect - the premiere took place in January 1971.

The provincial court in Łódź sentenced Pol in a circumstantial trial to 25 years in prison, but she was released before this term expired in 1989. The court proceedings were extremely complicated. Evidence was repeatedly replaced, witnesses changed their testimonies - they were not confirmed by the evidence. Investigators, prosecutors and judges were subjected to various pressures. In the end, the Wachman woman confessed to the extermination of Polish children, but not to the specific murders attributed to her.

Where did the (anti-)heroine of your book come from? Could her wartime behaviour have been influenced by her childhood?

Origin and upbringing always shape a person. With the help of psychology, anything can be done. From the age of seven to fourteen, it is possible to correct a character which no penitentiary system can later change. This is emphasised by Dr Plumnov, who analysed Eugenia Pol's psyche in detail. First, he quoted the American psychologist William James: give me ten seven- to eight-year-old children from criminal families and the same number from decent, well-educated families. I will change them: the former will become decent citizens and the latter will become criminals. According to Plumnov, Pol's personality balanced on the brink of sustainability. In short, she was a sanguinarian with a touch of choleric. Who goes to work in a camp or prison? - asks the psychotherapist. And answers: Someone who has the conviction that he has power over the prisoners, can trample on their dignity, do whatever he wants with them. Only the mentally strong can adapt to such work, and she was such. But she must also have brought from her home a capacity for violence and contempt. Such qualities do not come from nowhere. She certainly also heard from the SS men in charge of the camp that she had to be ruthless. She must consistently implement the overriding principle of the Third Reich: Ordnung muss sein ("order must be"). If she had not made sure that the norms and the plan were carried out, she would have shared the fate of the prisoners.
Document certifying the entry of Eugenia Pohl on the German national list, 28 October 1941. Photo: AIPN Łd, 503/106, t. 10, k. 5/1
Eugenia Pol, Genowefa Pohl, also used the surname Wróblewska. What was her actual name?

Her mother was née Wróblewska. Her father used the German spelling of the surname Pohl, with a silent 'h'. The Deutsche Volksliste of 28 October 1941 bears the signature of a female guard "Eugenie Pohl". She perfectly sensed the need of the historical moment and used a German-sounding name in the camp. Immediately after the war she blended into the new, wonderful world of communist Poland and on 5 June 1945 she registered at the District Complementation Headquarters Łódź-Miasto as Eugenia Polówna. The Polish spelling of her surname can also be found on the identity card of an administrative and commercial course run by Władysław Poździej. Nowhere in the documents do I find her using her mother's surname, Wróblewska. The return to the Polish spelling of her surname was the result of a brilliant calculation. She believed that she was already a different person, as if she had been born again and was building a new future. Mentally she had dissociated herself from the crimes committed in the camp.

Did she have German origins? Why did she sign the volkslist?

She declared her affiliation to the German nation in October 1941, together with her entire family: father Jan, mother Janina and brother Mieczysław. Her mother was volkslisted six months later. Eugenia Pol was eighteen years and eight months old at the time, so she did it fully consciously! Already in the book "Little Auschwitz", in the chapter "It's not me", I analysed her state of consciousness. She explained that a German official had invaded their home and persuaded, arrogantly forced them to sign the volkslist. "My father said that this was our last resort: either we would sign or they would destroy us." Their fate then improved momentarily. "Then I stopped being afraid that I would be deported to work. We had better food rations, ration cards for butter, meat, clothes". - she testified. From today's perspective, we see the Pol family's decision as a betrayal of the Polish nation. But it is easy to fall into an intellectual trap here. Pol's father came from Koźle, Upper Silesia. He may have had an admixture of German blood. In Silesian-German-Polish families in Upper Silesia, signing the volkslist did not mean treason. The pre-war Bishop of Katowice, Stanisław Adamski, urged people to sign it. The prevailing view was that it would be camouflage to help survive the war. For people like the Pol family, the alternative was a concentration camp, which usually meant death.

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When and under what circumstances did Eugenia become a camp guard?

With the volkslist, she gained security, but also the obligation to work. She was sent to the headquarters of the German criminal police, where she took an oath of allegiance and obedience to Hitler. The oath stated: "to carry out with full knowledge the duties of the service, to submit to all orders of the Nazi state, to keep all circumstances in the greatest secrecy (...) to acknowledge that violation of the obligations assumed risks the death penalty".

Repeatedly interrogated, she testified that the commandant spoke to her in German, even though "he knew she did not speak the language. "I repeated after him, word for word, some oath and signed something, but I did not know what it meant. To this day I am prejudiced against the German language. I swear I don't know it." She lied. Pre-war Lodz was a city of four cultures, even Polish children running around in backyards understood both Russian, German and Yiddish. Certainly Eugenia Pol knew German, at least passively.

From the headquarters of the German criminal police she was directed to the Polen-Jugendverwahrlager der Sicherheitspolizei in Litzmannstad. Preventive Security Police Camp for Polish Youth in Lodz. As she understood it, she did not start there in the service of Hitler, but simply to work. In an educational, correctional centre - as she claimed. She had no awareness of working in a concentration camp. In the meantime, she became a caretaker, a watchwoman. The right hand of Sydoni (Isolda) Bayer, one of the meanest wachmans in the institution. She matched her cruelty.

Did she participate in the extermination of juvenile prisoners?

There was no crematorium in the Lodz camp. Children were not murdered with Zyklon B, they were not shot in the occiput. They were annihilated by slave labour, starvation, beatings, disease, frost. Pol killed the children in stages. Former prisoners, now adults, gave examples of her cruelty in court. Gertruda Piechota-Górska emphasised that the guard beat with everything, even with soup spoons. Apolonia Beda-Szkudlarek testified that she kicked her in the head and tore her ear. The scar was three centimetres long. Kazimierz Stefanski said that she hit him on the head with a pot so that the mark remained. Jan Woszczyk asserted under criminal liability that she stood behind his colleague's back, picked up a brick and hit him on the back of the head, shouting "Die Polish pig". Alicja Molencka-Gawryjołek lamented that for a single Polish word or for taking a rotten potato Pol beat her, kicked her with her shoes and even hit her with a brick. Teodor Tratowski saw her pouring so much hot water over children washing in a tub that blisters formed on their skin. Zygfryd Żurek enumerated that she beat him several times, because "she beat at every chance she got". Once she hit him in the face with something hard. When he fell down, she kicked him. He suffered a concussion. Jadwiga Pawlikowska saw how Pol inserted a stick-like whip into Ursula Kaczmarek's abdomen, in a wound the size of a fist, and turned her insides over. Is that enough? Shall I continue to enumerate?
1972. The case against Eugenia Pohl/Eugenia Pol at the Provincial Court in Łódź. Photo: PAP/Witold Rozmysłowicz
And in communist Poland she also took care of children....

In 1956, she found employment as an intendant in the crèche of the Lodz Cotton Industry Works. There were more than a hundred children there, aged from three months to three years (sic!). She worked there for a dozen or so years.

What was her life like after her release from prison?

After years of imprisonment in Fordon in Bydgoszcz, her sentence was reduced in 1989 and she regained her freedom. The last two years of her life, alone and childless, she spent in a Nursing Home (DPS) on Zarzewie in Łódź. She lived in one double room with Henryka Sikora, born in 1936, whom I reached. The ladies became friends. Pol did not say a word about her stay in the camp. She was only willing to talk about her brother, who was no longer alive. On the other hand, she did not want to say anything about either her parents or the war. In private matters, she was very secretive. Mysterious. She kept to herself. She did not use any names. When her roommate asked her why she did not marry, she would cut her off: "We won't talk about it. My fiancé died in the crash".

In relationships she was friendly, cheerful and liked by the staff. She could imitate musical instruments. " Gienia, play the mandolin", Sikora asked her, and she pretended to play a concert. She imitated sounds. She sang. She danced. Two cousins visited her. A mother and her daughter. They brought chocolate sweets, which she immediately offered.

Nursing Home in Widzew Zarzewie is beautifully situated among greenery. Eugenia Pol walked a lot. Always and everywhere alone. Back and forth. With her arms folded behind her back. Upright. Like a soldier. As if standing at attention. She used to have delusions. She would wake up at night. She talked to herself when she was asleep. Energetically, but her roommate could not understand her. Except for one short sentence: "Take that whip".

In 2003, the former wachman had an accident. A van pulled up to the DPS shop. She approached. The driver reversed and hit her. She died in hospital of brain swelling. She was buried in a grave with her parents and brother.

– interviewed by Tomasz Zbigniew Zapert
-Translated by Tomasz Krzyżanowski

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

Blazej Torański is a journalist and author of the books: "The Gag. Censorship in the People's Republic of Poland', 'The Manufacturers. The Turbulent History of the Families of Łódź Industrialists", "Little Auschwitz. Children's camp in Lodz' (co-authored with Joanna Sowińska-Gogacz) and 'The executioner of Polish children'.
Main photo: Children in the camp in Dzierżązna, in the background Eugenia Pohl . Photo: AIPN Łd, 503/106, t. 25, k. 2/2.
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